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Bobotie is a South African casserole with curried ground beef at the bottom and a thin layer of egg custard on top.
This version comes from my friend Rebecca Bourhill, who shared her delicious recipe (it’s actually her grandmother’s recipe – how cool is that!?) with me as part of her South African contribution to my Taste Of The Place cookbook.
If you would like to learn a bit more about South African cuisine, hop over to Rebecca’s article all about it at A Taste Of South Africa.
A bit of bobotie history
Bobotie’s roots in South Africa date back to the 17th century. Dutch traders set up camp in the area that is now Cape Town as a stopping point on their journeys back and forth to Indonesia. The traders brought spices, cooking techniques, and recipes with them. While the specifics are a bit vague, it is thought by some that the original bobotie recipe came from Indonesia and was adapted to fit the available ingredients.
Today many consider bobotie to be the national dish of South Africa, and it has become popular on menus featuring South African cuisine all over the world.
Notes on the bobotie recipe
In my opinion, it is the curry powder and the bay leaves that impact the flavor of this dish most – so use the best quality that you can. You will see links to my favorites in the recipe below.
I like to prepare and bake this recipe in a cast iron skillet – it can go from stovetop to oven, and even looks beautiful on the table. Plus it makes for fewer dishes to wash later!
This version of bobotie is different than the one I grew up with – why?
Like any older, classic recipe, there are a lot of versions out there. This particular version has been passed down through the Bourhill family for generations and is now a favorite at my family table. If your family has a different version, I would love to know about it! That’s one of the beauties of food – it’s a joy to share the similarities and differences!
Do I have to bake bobotie in a cast iron skillet?
Nope! You can bake it in any oven-safe dish. I like using a cast iron skillet because it can safely and beautifully go from the stovetop to the oven to the table.
Would ground lamb be good in Bobotie?
Yes! In my experience lamb works really well in bobotie! The more gamey flavor of the lamb is excellent with all the zingy flavors of the recipe.
Should I use fruit chutney or tomato chutney?
The recipe calls for fruit chutney, but you can get away with either fruit or tomato chutney. They will both be delicious! If you would like to make your own fruit chutney, check out our recipe for Mango & Pineapple Chutney.
I am a student, and in my spare time, there is no better place to be than in the kitchen and around food. Being welcomed into many top South African Restaurants for work experience has expanded my knowledge about food.
As a Jamie Oliver Food Revolution Ambassador, I keep my recipes homey and simple to follow, to encourage people to cook from scratch. Whether I go out for a weekend away or an outing to our greengrocer, it inspires me to create a new dish.
This classic dish from South Africa, Bobotie (pronounced ba-bo-tea), is made with ground beef seasoned to perfection, and a creamy, decadent topping. It is rich, savory, spicy, aromatic, and zingy. A comforting meal, full of the flavors of Africa!
Heat the olive oil in a wide skillet set over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onions, and cook until soft.
Add the curry powder, mixed herbs, ground cumin, turmeric, and garlic, and stirring constantly, allow to cook for a minute or two until the garlic is soft.
Add the ground beef, and cook, stirring frequently to break up any big chunks, until browned.
Once the beef is browned, remove the skillet from the heat, and stir in the chutney, apricot jam, all the lemon zest, half the lemon juice, tomato paste, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well, give it a taste, and add more lemon juice, salt, and pepper as desired. It should be delightfully zingy!
Squeeze the milk from the bread, reserving the milk for later, and smooshing and tearing the bread into small pieces. Mix the bread into the beef mixture, and spread evenly into an oven-proof dish.
Strain the milk that has come from the bread, and add the remaining 1/2 cup of milk. Beat in the eggs, and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Pour this over the meat, and decoratively scatter the bay leaves on top.
Bake, uncovered, at 350°F for 45 minutes, or until golden brown.
Our host prepared this for our book club discussion of Born a Crime and it was delicious! I had forgotten this but one whiff reminded me I had loved this dish on a trip to South Africa 20 years ago. Spot on!
We made this for the first time for my husband’s coworker. A young man of 29, he is originally from South Africa and as he described his country and its dishes, I could here a bit of homesickness in his voice. My husband and I followed the recipe and it came out beautifully. The best compliment we received was that when he smelled the food, it smelled like his Mom’s dish and that every bite was exactly as he remembered. Your recipe in our hands made it a special day for him.
The bobootie I know uses red wine, equal quantities of pounded pork and mutton, almonds, cumen,onion, garlic, marjoram, bay leaves, milk and eggs. The meat is soaked overnight in the red wine, then placed in a casserole that has been lined with butter, cumin seeds and almonds. The meat is then placed in the casserole after being mixed together with the chopped onion and garlic, bay leaves and marjoram, cumin plus extra chopped almonds and sufficient salt. The casserole goes into a very hot oven until the meat expands, approx. about 10 minutes, then the heat is immediately reduced and the casserole mixture cooked completely in a moderate oven. After about an hour the milk mixed with the beaten egg(s) is poured over the meat and cooked for another 30 minutes or so.(This step may be carried out immediately the meat has expanded but is better later.). Once cooked, extra almonds are added on top and then the bobootie is served with rice (preferably whole grain) and side dishes of hot chutney (mango), hot sauce made from dried apricots (plus brandy if desired), sliced bananas (also powdered with nutmeg) and fresh grated coconut. All is served with a full-bodied dry red wine preferably the same wine used for the overnight soaking.