WanderSups: Take a culinary trip to South Africa
We’re going on (culinary) safari this month, as Hannah Gregory puts her version of a South African staple on our plates
Can we talk about Africa? For those who know me, Africa is my end goal. The physical love affair began with my first trip to South Africa when I was 16, but I think the seeds may have been planted from a far younger age.
My mum read me so many African tales as a child, the Rudyard Kipling ‘Just So’ stories shaping my understanding as to how the rhino really did get his skin or how the leopard actually got her spots so fully, that even when I have been lucky enough to go on safari as an adult, I always chuckle to myself when I see those animals and think: “That elephant really shouldn’t have stuck his trunk in the water if he didn’t want the crocodile to stretch it.”
Mummy dearest spent her late teens living in Zimbabwe (Rhodesia back then - sorry Mum) and I would beg her to tell me stories from her time there; I still do. My favourite of course being when she got arrested and my poor grandparents had to fly into South Africa to sort it out. This was 1972 - my grandfather is white British, my grandmother is Jamaican - the two of them travelling to SA as a married couple was not a small deal. (My mum didn’t do anything wrong FYI - just wrong place, wrong time, carrying contraband sort of vibe - and by contraband I mean Cosmo magazine. What a ledge.)
I digress: what I’m trying to say is the love affair with Africa runs deep. I feel connected to the continent in a way so strong it is hard for me to describe. And so, as always, what better way to transport myself to the country of dreams than with authentic food?
Bobotie is a traditional South African dish with Dutch origins, adopted by the Cape Malay. I’ve heard the dish referred to as South African cottage pie or moussaka, and similar to those dishes, I think everyone has a slightly different version that is basically the same. This is the dish that was on the table at least once a week in our house: comfort food if I was sick, celebration food served at my return from uni or in more recent years, stints away at work.
However, I have had to slightly doctor the recipe as it usually calls for dried fruit such as raisins or apricots and a chunky fruit chutney. Now given my utter repulsion of dried fruit, I had to omit these (Mum never did it for me - I think she took pleasure in my gag reflex), but I find with the use of Mrs’ Balls chutney, a wonderful lightly spiced smooth peach chutney, the sweetness levels are hit without any of that dried fruit texture. If for some reason, you are a fan of dried fruit then chuck in a handful of raisins and dried apricots when you stir through the almonds.
Traditionally beef or lamb is used - sometimes a mix of both. However, the best ever Bobotie I have eaten (apart from Mum’s of course) was made with kudu, a type of antelope seen all over the plains of Africa. Funnily enough, I have struggled to find Kudu on British shores, so I opted for the next best thing and tried it with venison and it was equally delicious and using venison makes this dish incredible healthy, for us (venison is incredibly lean) and for both local butchers and the environment (using ethically-sourced, locally-shot venison is about as good as it gets for low food miles and sustainable meat eating), so I really do urge you to give it a try.
Serves 2 (very generously)
Tipple of choice: A dry, full bodied South African red. For me, this recipe is the perfect excuse to crack a bottle of Chocolate Block.
Spotify Playlist: WanderSups Africa
What you need :
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small onions
1 fat clove of garlic minced
3 bay leaf
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
Big pinch of dried chilli flakes
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon ground cumin
A teaspoon of dried herbs - I use a mix of basil, thyme and oregano but whatever you have is fine.
2 tablespoons jalfrezi curry paste
500g venison mince (you could replace this with lamb or beef)
50ml red wine vinegar
50g flaked almonds
40g Mrs Ball's peach chutney (if you can’t find this, another sweet fruit chutney will do)
Large handful of fresh breadcrumbs
Salt and peps
1 large egg
250 ml whole milk
How you do it:
Preheat your oven to 180C, warm an oven proof dish over a medium heat and when hot add, 1tbsp of olive oil.
Dice your onions and throw into the hot oil with salt & peps and sweat for 5-20 minutes until soft. Throw in the garlic, 1 of the bay leaves and dry spices and cook for another 5 minutes until everything is fragrant.
Scrape the mixture into a bowl and set aside. Return the spicy pan to the heat and add in the remaining oil. Fry the mince until brown all over and starting to get crispy in places. (Do this in batches if needed, if you overcrowd the pan it will stew itself).
Once the mince is browned all over, return the onions to the pan along with the vinegar and curry paste.
Turn the heat down low and simmer for about five minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the chutney, almonds and breadcrumbs and check the seasoning.
Transfer the mix into your oven proof dish and pat everything down with the back of the spoon. Leave to stand for 5 minutes.
Beat the eggs and milk together and pour over the mince mix. Pop the bay leaves on top and place in the oven to cook for 30 minutes.
Traditionally bobotie is always served with rice but I love it with a fresh green salad.
Hannah reached the quarter finals of BBC MasterChef last year. She hosts WanderSups supper clubs serving meals created with love, inspired by journeys around the world, dished up on home turf. Her ethos is simple - have fun, enjoy it, make it an occasion. To find out more follow @WanderSups or visit wandersups.com
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