Friday, May 18, 2012


The heady flavour of curry is found outside of India in places like the Caribbean, but did you know that there are curries as far away as South Africa?  It’s an interesting story about how exotic foods like Sosatiese (kebabs) and Bredie (stew) became popular in South Africa. They were brought there by Dutch captives from the Malay Archipelago 300 years ago.

The giant Dutch East India Company opened a station in South Africa in 1652 to refresh supplies for its ships traveling to the Far East. They needed workers but were forbidden by Dutch law from enslaving the southern African natives. The political exiles or prisoners from places like Java, who had opposed the colonization of their homeland, were brought by the Dutch to South Africa as indentured servants or slaves.

By 1669, the Dutch East India Company was the richest private company in the world; with over 150 merchant ships, 40 warships, 50,000 employees and a private army of 10,000 soldiers. It had almost absolute ruling power in Dutch colonies from Africa east across the Pacific.

In Cape Town today, the Cape Malay culture still thrives, especially with its distinctive food. Cape Malay cuisine is stimulating, often consisting of exciting combinations of fruit, spices, vegetables and meat. The Cape Malay people spiced up European fare with zesty sambals and chutneys. An important contribution was their introduction of the sweet and sour flavour, now a characteristic of South African cookery.

A traditional Cape Malay dish is the classic Bobotie, a curry type of stew with fruit overtones. It might be the national dish of South Africa. The Dutch introduced the minced meat, but the Cape Malay introduced the spices.  Here is the last Bobotie version I made. We enjoyed it and I’m sure you will also.

From: The Farm Kitchen, Colette Comins, Struik, 2006

Bobotie                                            Serves 6


1 large onion, chopped coarsely
2 inch length of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
7 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon turmeric
3 cardamom pods, crushed, or 1 teaspoon powdered
2 tablespoons commercial curry powder
½ stick of cinnamon, broken up

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2-1/4 pounds ground lamb or beef
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon apricot jam
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon cake flour

1 thick slice white bread
1 cup plus 2 teaspoons milk

4 eggs
3 drops real almond extract
¾ teaspoon grated nutmeg
6 bay leaves


  • Preheat oven to 325F/163C
  • Put first 8 ingredients in food processor
  • Pulse them until chopped
  • Heat oil in a big saucepan
  • Add processed ingredients
  • Fry until onion is soft
  • Remove and put into a large bowl
  • Add the ground meat and next 4 ingredients to the bowl
  • In a separate bowl soak bread in  milk
  • Squeeze out the liquid and add the bread to the meat mixture, reserving liquid

  • Pack the meat mixture into an 8x12 inch rectangular casserole dish
  • Beat eggs into the reserved milk
  • Add almond extract and nutmeg
  • Pour milk mixture over meat mixture
  • Arrange the bay leaves on the top
  • Bake for one hour until firm to the touch

This fragrant beauty is now ready to serve. Traditionally it is served with yellow rice but that’s up to you. A green salad would be a nice accompaniment as well.

Prepare this wonderfully tasty dish and see for yourself why Cape Malay fare is recognized far and wide as an unparalleled aspect of South African culture, via Indonesia.


Anonymous said...

I may never buy a cookbook again. Curry is a favorite around our house and I'm trying this recipe as soon as I can. Thanks Anthony.

Angela Felsted said...

This looks delicious.

anthony stemke said...

GENE POOL DIVA: Thank You Gene, I bet you will love it.

anthony stemke said...

ANGELA FELSTED: Tastes as good as it looks.

Susan Oloier said...

As a non-meat eater, would it work to substitute something for the beef/lamb? I really do like curry a lot.

Lynn Proctor said...

i have missed your wonderful food! this looks amazing--i just love curry!

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

With the mixture of spices in this dish, the smell has got to be absolutely amazing when it's cooking. I will definitely have to give this one a try. Thank you. Last thing I had from South Africa was an unusual drink some visitors gave us. Amarulla. They brought it all the way over from South Africa as a gift, and now it's actually available at the local package goods store.

Joyce said...

Sounds fabulous! I just had a thai green curry last night. That's my favorite but I pretty much love most curry dishes.

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a very flavorful dish!

Misha Gericke said...

Hehehehe sorry. Ahem. As a South African I can promise you that Bobotie (while ABSOLUTELY delicious) is not our national dish.

That would be the Braai. We even call our National Heritage Day, Braai Day.


Misha Gericke said...

And yes... while the Braai consists of lots of food... that's the one that makes all of us think of home when we're away. :-)

cookingvarieties said...

hi anthony, wow, a curry dish from south africa. never knew theirs is also very heavily loaded with spice varieties.
the unique ingredients like apricot jam, grated nutmeg and cake flour..
combine well with spices.. hmmm would like to try this ..have a nice day

Purabi Naha said...

Anthony, this recipe is completely new to me. I am really surprised that even South Africans use curry powder like Indians. This dish is packed with spicy flavours, and I loved this. Awesome post, Anthony!!

anthony stemke said...

SUSAN OLOIER: There is a product called TVP - Textured Vegetable Protein, which is made from soybeans. Some people use it to "extend" ground beef but vegetarians use it to replace ground meat. Back in the 1970's, when meat prices went through the roof, you could find it easily everywhere. I suppose now one could find it in "health food" stores or such. If you use it I guess you could flavour it with beef broth or some vegetarian alternative. That is one substitution you could make.
This dish is really delicious, I hope you find a way to try it.
Best regards to you and Zane.

anthony stemke said...

LYNN PROCTOR: Thank you for your kind words, I hope you will prepare this wonderful dish.

SUSAN FLETT SWIDERSKI: I guarantee that you will love this bobotie.
I am unfamiliar with Amarulla but am an alcoholic anyway. It sounds like a cordial (fruit based liquer).
Best rergards.

JOYCE: I love green curry too. I insist on seasoned food and curried foods use spices and herbs galore, which is fine with me.

MISHA GERICKE: OK dear, but I did NOT say bobotie was South Africa's national dish. I used the qualifier (I think that is what it is called) "might be". Regardless, it almost could be, it is so good.
I was moreso talking about Cape Malay folks as opposed to South Africa overall,I hope I did not offend anyone.
Braai is new to me I must learn about it, thanks for mentioning it. I do know Matzoh Brei, it's good.
Good luck Misha with your impending tome.

COOKING VARIETIES: I was surprised myself the first time I heard of bobotie.
I hope you will try it. Have a wonderful day.

PURABI NAHA: Bobotie is fabulous tasting. The cape malay people brought to S. Africa from Indonesia.
Thank you so much for your compliments.

My Journey With Candida said...

I like how you usually give us a little history along with your recipes.

So many great spices in this recipe

Lynda R Young said...

I've been recently reading about the history of food. It's fascinating.

This Bobotie sounds so yum! I love cooking with lots of spices.

Missed Periods said...

A recipe and a history lesson. Thanks!

Dawn @Lighten Up! said...

I really, really like how you give history/background with each dish, Anthony. Awesome. :)

Anonymous said...

I've never heard of Bobotie. I have had Boboli though. Looks might tasty. I love just about anything baked in a casserole dish.

anthony stemke said...

MY JOURNEY WITH CANDIDA: Thank You for your kind words. This is a delicious dish for sure but I'm not sure you could have it.
Take care and best regards.

LYNDA R YOUNG: The history of food definately is interesting. My spouse's English cousin has children who live in New Zealand but I've never heard of any curries there. I love spices too.
Thank You for calling, best wishes.

MISSED PERIODS: Thank You. I guess my grammer was ok,you didn't correct anything. cm

DAWN @ LIGHTEN UP: Thank you for the lovely compliment; coming from you I feel honoured.

STEPHEN TREMP: Yes, casseroles used to be vastly popular here in the U.S. because you could make a tasty dish. I remember when a marriage would be impending we would give them a casserole dish.
Now boboli, is that the pre-baked pizza crust? Stephen, pizza dough is so easy to make at home, especially with a food processor that there is no reason to purchase boboli; except it has a cool name.
Thanks for calling.

Lizzy said...

Nice history of how curry arrived in South Africa...I never knew this!

Joanne said...

I love the spices in this soup! So tasty.

anthony stemke said...

LIZZY: I love the study of history, glad that you appreciate it too. Thanks.

JOANNE: It is actually not a soup per se, but yes the spices make it spectacular. Good luck with your races Joanne.

Pat Hatt said...

Looks really good, trying new foods every day so give this a go I should.

M Pax said...

Mmm. That sounds and looks delicious.

Divya Pramil said...

Delicious recipe :) Happy to follow you!!

Sonali Pradhan said...

what a flavorful dish....looks very delicious !!!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

With veggie substitutes, I could make this! I like a good curry dish now and then.

Malli said...

This version of a South African Curried dish sounds absolutely delicious...the story is interesting too!

anthony stemke said...

PAT HATT: Bobotie is a dish that can satisfy your culinary wish.

M PAX: Thank You you are absolutely correct, it is.

DIVYA PRAMIL: Happy to meet you.

SONALI PRADHAN: Thank You Sonali.

L DIANE WOLFE: With vegetable substitutes this would still be a fabulous meal.

MALLI: The history is very interesting and the dish is quite delicious. Thank You.

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