This recipe for Babotie comes from my Curry cook book. Babotie is a spiced minced meat baked with a savoury custard. According to the book, it was brought to South Africa by Southeast Asian slaves in the 17th Century. Babotie is a tribute to Cape Malay cooking styles and Islamic culinary influences. Boer settlers would bake their babotie in a hollowed out pumpkin. You can add sultanas, raisins or dried apricots to this babotie recipe to give it your own unique twist.
Babotie / Bobotie
for the mince
- 2 slices white bread, crusts removed, roughly torn up
- 125 mls milk *
- 30 mls olive oil
- 50 g butter
- 2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 red chillies, deseeded and chopped
- 4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 600 g lamb mince **
- 12.5 mls mild curry powder
- 3.75 mls ground cinnamon
- Generous grind of black pepper
- 1 lemon, juice and grated zest
- 15 mls mango atchar / chutney
- 5 mls fructose
- 15 g blanched almonds, roughly chopped
for the savoury topping:
- 6 bay leaves
- Reserved milk * plus extra to make it up to 100mls
- 2 large eggs
- 100 mls cream
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to season
- Ground nutmeg for sprinkling
for the mince
- Place the bread into a small bowl and add the milk
- Leave to stand while you prepare the mince
- Heat the oil in an stove and oven proof casserole dish over a medium temperature
- When hot add the butter and leave to melt
- Sauté the onions and chillies until the onions are soft and golden
- Add the garlic and mince and continue cooking until the mince is browned, stirring frequently
- Season with the spices, black pepper and lemon zest and cook for a further 5 minutes
- Squeeze the excess milk from the bread (*reserving the milk) and add the bread to the mince
- Stir well to break up any lumps
- Add the lemon juice, chutney, sugar and almonds and stir well
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool
- Preheat the oven to 180° Celsius
for the savoury topping:
- *** Place the bay leaves into the mince so that they stick out
- Whisk together the milk, eggs and cream
- Season generously before pouring the mixture over the mince
- Sprinkle the top with ground nutmeg
- Set the dish into a roasting pan and fill the roasting pan halfway with hot water
- Bake for 35 minutes until the top is set
- Serve with boiled rice, baked sweet potato, or in a hollowed out bread roll
*** at this stage you could transfer the mince to an oven proof dish but I prefer to bake it in the casserole dish
Ingredients for my Babotie | Bobotie:
- Bread – I am a fussy bread buyer and only ever buy ciabatta, baguettes or rye bread when I do not feel like baking. If a recipe calls for white bread I use ciabatta, or whatever white bread I have recently baked.
- Milk – I use UHT full cream milk for all of my recipes.
- Olive Oil – I only purchase extra virgin cold pressed oil and use this for all my recipes. I don’t buy the most expensive there is but I try to buy in bulk, in a tin to save money, and preserve the oil. If it smells rancid you need to throw it out. This could be due to exposure to sunlight.
- Butter – I always use unsalted butter in my recipes if it is available in the shops. If not, be sure to keep in mind that you need to reduce the amount of salt you use in a recipe.
- Onions – be sure to buy firm onions, with the paper intact. Store them at room temperature and when cutting try keeping the stem intact to prevent tears.
- Chillies – I use whatever is growing in my garden, or dried Calabrian chillies that we bring home with us from Italy. If I have to buy chillies then I prefer the serenade ones to any others.
- Garlic – be sure you buy firm cloves where the paper is white. If they sprout they are still OK to use. But if this bothers you then plant the cloves that have sprouted to grow your own.
- Lamb – I only buy free range lamb which is farmed as close to where I live as possible.
- Curry powder – be sure to buy or make only what you will use before it goes stale. If you make your own, use whole spices and temper them before grinding.
- Cinnamon – I use a lot of ground cinnamon so I buy this spice already ground. If it has no smell when you open the bottle, throw the spice away.
- Black pepper – I buy mixed peppercorns and grind as needed. I like the variety offered by the pink and white peppercorns in the mixture. And if I ever just need those, I pick them out. However, all my recipes call for black pepper as this is what most people have at home.
- Lemons – make sure you buy firm lemons, and they can still be a bit green when you buy them. If they are waxed be sure to scrub the skin before you take off the zest. I roll them firmly before cutting in half, and then use a juicer to crush all the juice out.
- Mango atchar – I am not sure if you can buy this ingredient anywhere other than South Africa. If not, use mango chutney instead.
- Fructose – I am sucrose intolerant and use fructose in my recipes where possible. You can replace the fructose, gram for gram with sugar.
- Almonds – if a recipe calls for blanched almonds I tend to buy them already blanched. This is much easier than doing the process yourself in my opinion. Otherwise, I use whole almonds which are raw and toast them as needed. I also buy almond flour already ground as it is more cost effective. If you need to grind up almonds for a sweet recipe do it with the sugar otherwise you will end up with nut butter.
- Bay leaves – I buy a dozen at a time and use them for all sorts of recipes. Fresh bay leaves can be added to rice and cornflour to keep weevils out of the containers.
- Eggs – In South Africa extra-large eggs weigh between 59g and 66g. I use free range eggs, and always in this weight range. When separating my eggs I do them one at a time. This way I never end up with egg yolk in the whites. If I am not using the egg whites for the recipe I store them in the freezer in bags. Be sure to write on the bag how many egg whites are in each one. Defrost your egg whites in the fridge overnight.
- Cream – I buy whipping cream to use in my recipes. In South Africa this is a fairly thick cream but not as thick as clotted cream. I use either fresh or UHT depending on the quantity needed.
- Nutmeg – use this spice sparingly as it tends to numb your tongue if you use too much. If you can get hold of whole nutmeg this is far better to use as it can be ground up as and when you need it for a recipe.