Bobotie – A Classic South African Casserole

AfricaSouth AfricaBobotie – A Classic South African Casserole

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.

Bobotie in a cast iron skillet

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!

FAQs

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.

Bobotie in a cast iron skillet with bay leaves and a side of yellow rice

About Rebecca

Rebecca Bourhill

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.

Learn more about Rebecca HERE.

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South African Bobotie

Bobotie – A Classic South African Recipe


  • Author: Rebecca Bourhill
  • Total Time: 1 1/2 hours
  • Yield: 4 to 6 1x

Description

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!


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 3 slices of bread
  • 1 cup + 1/2 cup milk, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large onions, roughly chopped
  • 4 teaspoons medium curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried herbs (whatever you’ve got around – oregano, basil, marjoram, etc.)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 cup fruit chutney
  • 1 tablespoon apricot jam
  • Zest and juice of one medium lemon, divided
  • 4 teaspoons tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 bay leaves


Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
  2. Soak the bread in 1 cup of milk.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a wide skillet set over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onions, and cook until soft.
  4. 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.
  5. Add the ground beef, and cook, stirring frequently to break up any big chunks, until browned.
  6. 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!
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Bake, uncovered, at 350°F for 45 minutes, or until golden brown.

Notes

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.

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!

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.

Are you interested in trying more African recipes? This recipe for Kenyan Beef Curry is a favorite and goes perfectly with Ugali, a Kenyan cornmeal dish.

Would you like to make your own fruit chutney from scratch? Check out our recipe for Mango & Pineapple Chutney!

  • Category: Entree
  • Cuisine: South Africa
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Bobotie lovers – this one is for you! The Taste Of The Place cookbook includes a full meal to go with your bobotie, including a zingy curried fish, classic yellow rice with raisins, and a decadent malva pudding for dessert.

Comments

24 responses to “Bobotie – A Classic South African Casserole”

  1. Rona Gregory Avatar
    Rona Gregory

    I have been looking for a recipe for Bobotie for ages. I remember supporting a client who’s family came from South Africa and I was invited to try some. The thing is though I have developed an allergy to Mango of all things … full on swollen lips and difficulty swallowing/breathing! Can you suggest a substitute for the Mango Chutney please? I make a really nice spiced Apple chutney … do you think that would work?

    1. Julie A. Cockburn Avatar

      Hi Rona! Thanks for stopping by! I bet your apple chutney would be lovely in the recipe! Tomato chutney is a great substitute, also. I’ve even skipped the chutney entirely – the flavor isn’t as complex but is still tasty.

      Enjoy!

  2. KayDee Campbell Avatar
    KayDee Campbell

    I was just watching bizarre foods on the Cooking Channel. And they had Bobotie. I would love the recipe!
    Thank you 🙏🏻
    God bless you and your family!!!
    Amen 🙏🏻

    1. Julie A. Cockburn Avatar

      Thanks for stopping by KayDee! It is definitely a tasty dish. So funny they featured it on Bizarre Foods – I may have to watch the episode.

      If you give the recipe a try, let me know. It’s a favorite in my house and hopefully it will be in yours, too.

      God bless you and your family, as well!

  3. Susan Powderly Avatar
    Susan Powderly

    I loved this recipe. Having lived in SA for a few years, it brought back memories. I served it with a simple salad and everyone loved it. I could have eaten the whole thing myself. Thank you.

    1. Julie Cockburn Avatar
      Julie Cockburn

      Thank YOU, Susan! I’m glad you enjoyed! I know the feeling – I sometimes think I could eat the whole dish myself, too!

  4. Ian Roberts Avatar
    Ian Roberts

    This is a great recipe, we tried an interesting variation in South Africa last year. Bobotie wrapped in pancakes with curry sauce, amazing!

    1. Julie Cockburn Avatar
      Julie Cockburn

      What an interesting idea – pancake wrapped bobotie! I imagine it was amazing! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Carol Abodeely Avatar
    Carol Abodeely

    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!

    1. Julie Cockburn Avatar

      Hooray! I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Carol! That fragrance is amazing, isn’t it?!

  6. Viola Roman Avatar
    Viola Roman

    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.

    1. Julie Cockburn Avatar
      Julie Cockburn

      I love this story! Thank you for sharing! I’m so glad you and your South African guest enjoyed. <3

  7. Marianne Winter Avatar
    Marianne Winter

    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.

    1. Julie Cockburn Avatar

      This sounds like an amazing recipe, Marianne! I may have to try your version one of these days. Thanks for sharing!

    2. Marco Avatar
      Marco

      Sounds stunning……

      1. Julie Cockburn Avatar
        Julie Cockburn

        Marco, Bobotie is one of my favorite meals to make – so much flavor and so satisfying! And Marianne’s version sounds divine!

    3. Jonelia Theron Avatar
      Jonelia Theron

      I am South African, still live here. I have never heard of the bobotie recipe where you use red wine 🤷🏻‍♀️ Maybe it’s the true traditional way and I just don’t know about it? but I do agree on the chutney and banana sides. We serve it with yellow rice. So excited to see people around the world enjoying our meals.

      1. Julie A. Cockburn Avatar

        Thanks for stopping by, Jonelia! I agree – so cool to see people around the world enjoying meals from locations that are new to them!

  8. Venice Avatar
    Venice

    Delicious A taste of home

    1. Julie Cockburn Avatar

      I’m so glad you enjoyed, Venice!

  9. Claragh Avatar
    Claragh

    Delicious, I did however add a cooking apple and honey instead pf apricot jam. Thank you for the rest xx

    1. Julie Cockburn Avatar

      What a great idea, Claragh! Thanks for sharing!

  10. Jay Lynne Kimball Avatar
    Jay Lynne Kimball

    Delicious and the house smells wonderful with the aroma of this dish!

    1. Julie Cockburn Avatar

      Hooray! I’m glad you liked it. It is certainly one of my favorite dishes!

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Hi! I’m Julie

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