I enjoy cooking. It’s an extension of my love and appreciation of food, and a certain mindfulness of my health and what I eat. It began for me when I took it upon myself to cook my folks a paella recipe from my Mum’s Corden Bleu Cookery Course magazine collection. Talk about jumping in the deep end. I don’t know what it was like really, but they were appreciative. I must have been twelve or thirteen.
Although I had been cooking at that time in the Boy Scouts at camp. Over a camp fire and mostly involved boiling tinned beans, tinned vegetables, and potatoes, and frying sausages and eggs. The regular apogee of our culinary tasks was to bake a cake, in an old biscuit tin oven covered with earth. Needless to say, results were random and variable. I think I owe a great debt to my time as a scout.
Anyway, the point of this is should I blog about my cooking? I’m of two minds on this but yesterday I had a go at a Bobotie which turned out well, and so, while the oven’s still hot…
We ate our first Bobotie earlier this year. We were at a charity quiz evening and a South African friend had cooked a huge Bobotie for everyone to have at half-time. (Someone else had prepared a veggie alternative but I can’t remember what it was.)
Some say the Bobotie is South Africa’s national dish. It is a red meat dish, spicy, fruity, slightly sweet and its peculiarity is it’s topped with what is essentially an egg custard before baking in the oven. One good thing is that, after looking over about twelve recipes and videos, apart from the meat, custard and bread, the choice of ingredients varies as many times as there are cooks. So this was my take on the dish, it’s for two people,
The “Curry” Paste
Firstly, prepare the curry paste (some use shop bought Madras powder or paste, so you get an idea). I went the home blend route, using a pestle and mortar.
First grind up the hard ones; a pinch of caraway seeds, a pinch of coriander seeds, 2 dried juniper berries, the seeds from 3 cardamom pods.
Next grind in the medium ones, chopped; 1 medium red chilli, 2 peeled garlic cloves, 1 tsp grated ginger, some fresh coriander stalks
Finally mix in the powdered ones, a good heaped teaspoon each of; cumin, turmeric, cinnamon and a little sea salt and ground black pepper.
If it seems too dry, as mine did, add a little vegetable oil (rape seed, olive etc.) Then give it a good smell: you should get the character of the spiciness right away.
The Spicy, Fruity, Nutty Meat
Next cut the crusts off a slice of bread (I used sourdough), place it in a bowl and cover the bread with a half cup of milk, breaking the slice a little to get it all under. Leave to soak. Preheat the oven to 160 C.
Next, finely dice a large onion. Heat a large pan and melt 25g of butter, then cook the onion until soft and slightly coloured. Add your spice paste and mix in and cook through for a few minutes.
Add 250g of minced beef, breaking it down into the smallest pieces as it cooks. When it’s browned, drain and squeeze the bread slice and add the bread to the mix, breaking it up into crumbs as it cooks. Cook for another 5 minutes, then add 3-4 teaspoons of sweet chutney (I used Mango chutney), and all the fruit, nuts and carrot. Mix and cook for another 5 minutes on a lower heat.
The Baking (with Egg Custard Topping)
Transfer the mix to an oven proof dish and pat in down firm and evenly. Beat an egg and add half cup of milk (you can use the milk the bread was soaked in), whisk into a custard and carefully pour over the meat mixture. Decorate with a couple of bayleaves and pop it in the pre-heated oven, 160 C, for about 30 minutes. The topping should be slightly set and coloured.
As you see, I served it with some fragrant boiled basmati rice, simply cooked with one whole clove and three pierced cardamom pods. Also a chopped cherry tomato, radish and onion (scallion) salad (or salsa). Bon Appetite.
Ingredients for two people.
250g minced or ground meat (beef or lamb)
1 large onion, diced small
1 slice bread
1/2 cup milk
4 tsp sweet fruit chutney
1 small grated carrot (or apple)
8 dried organic apricots, chopped
8 whole almonds, chopped
1 tbs raisins
1 large egg
1 rounded tablespoon approx. of curry paste (see above) or equivalent curry powder.
Prep. time about 20 minutes (allow more for first time)
Oven baking time, 30 minutes. Fan oven, 160 C (no higher else the custard may split)
Notes and afterthoughts; grated apple seems the popular choice in recipes but we didn’t have one so hence the carrot, which was okay but next time I’ll make sure I have an apple.
The almonds don’t feature in most recipes but our friend suggested them and they worked really well, providing occasional delightful crunchiness and nuttiness. They’re staying in.
I used a fresh chilli which while offers more fruitiness, which I like, sometimes doesn’t provide enough punch. Though this dish isn’t supposed to be full on curry hotness, maybe a little more chilli might be required.
It’s a relatively simple dish to prepare, I think I’ll enjoy cooking it regularly. It is like comfort food.