Bobotjie is a traditional South African mild fruity curry bake, very similar to a meatloaf – but covered with a layer of savoury egg custard. It is normally served with a side dish of yellow rice and raisins and makes a delicious quick and easy meal for when you are looking for ‘something different for dinner tonight’
What is Bobotjie?
Bobotjie (pronounced bo-boor-ti and sometimes mis-spelled without a ‘j’ as bobotie) is a traditional South African dish, with a mild fruity curry flavour. It is made by frying beef mince and onions along with a variety of spices. Sultanas and almonds are stirred in, and then the mixture is covered with a custard made from beaten eggs and milk before being baked in the oven.
Bobotjie is normally served with a side dish of yellow rice and raisins, and a dish of tomato and onion sambal. Some people like to sprinkle a little grated coconut over their bobotjie, or top with a spoonful of chutney or a few sliced bananas.
Once cooked, the texture is very similar to a meatloaf. The meat is moist and juicy, perfectly complemented with the fruity flavour of the sultanas. The almonds add additional texture, while the spices provide a mild hit of curry.
There are many variations of bobotjie. And as long as you stick to the basic method of frying the mince and onions, and baking the dish with a covering of egg custard, you can adjust the ingredients and spices to your own taste.
Traditionally, bobotjie contains chopped dried apricots. I find this makes the bobotjie too sweet for my liking. For this reason I substitute the apricots with grated carrots.
And, if like me, you prefer a little more heat, you can add extra chilli to provide a bit more oomph!
There are many versions of bobotjie out there. This is my version, I hope you enjoy it.
How to make Bobotjie
Ingredients you will need
This is just a list of ingredients, with my notes on them. You can get the exact measurements from the printable recipe card at the end of this post.
A mixture of beef and pork mince. You can use all beef mince if you prefer. I like the combination of beef and pork because the pork provides extra flavour and prevents the beef from becoming too dry.
Onion and carrot – the onion should be quite finely chopped because the mince is finely cut and you want the onion to blend in. You don’t want large chunks of onion in this dish. The carrot should be grated for the same reason.
Bread soaked in milk. A slice of bread with the crusts cut off is all you will need. This is soaked in milk, and then added to the mince to aid in binding the mixture together.
Fruit chutney or smooth apricot jam. I like to use my own homemade chutney, but you can use your favourite brand. I you don’t have fruit chutney in your cupboard you can use the same amount of apricot jam.
Sultanas and flaked almonds. The sultanas swell up during cooking, providing little pops of fruitiness in the finished dish. The almonds provide additional crunch and texture.
Curry powder and chilli paste. This is for the heat. If you want more heat use a hot curry powder, or less heat use mild or medium to your own taste. The chilli paste is optional. I like to add a small amount as I like the heat it provides.
Ginger and garlic. If you have fresh ginger and garlic to hand you can use these, or you can just use bottled (paste or chopped). I use brands called ‘Lazy Garlic’ and ‘Lazy Ginger’ which is sold pre-chopped in bottles.
Lemon juice – which helps to balance the sweetness of the dish.
Eggs and milk – mixed together to form a custard which is poured over the dish prior to baking.
Salt and pepper – to your own taste.
Sunflower oil – which is used for frying the meat, onions and spices.
Instructions for making bobotjie
- Soak the bread in a little milk until the milk is absorbed, then squeeze out the milk and mix the bread with the meat. Reserve the milk to add to the mince with the spices.
- Fry the onions gently with the ginger and garlic in the sunflower oil, until the onions are translucent. Don’t allow them to brown, they should just be starting to soften.
- Add the mince and bread mixture, and the grated carrots, and stirfry with the onions until the mince is crumbly and no longer pink.
- Add the chutney, lemon juice, curry powder, chilli (if using), reserved milk from the bread, sultanas, almonds, salt and pepper and stir through.
- Allow to simmer gently, with the lid OFF, until all the moisture has mostly evapourated. The mixture should be dry when it is transferred to the baking dish, as too much liquid in the mince will cause the egg custard mixture not to set.
- Transfer the mixture to a baking dish and press down evenly.
- Mix the eggs with the milk and pour over the meat. The meat should fill the dish to a depth of about 1.5 inches (3 cm), with sufficient room left to hold the custard mixture as it is poured on.
- Place the baking dish in a preheated oven (190C / 375F) and leave for approximately 40 minuttes until the custard has set. To test that the custard has set, press the top of the bobotjie with your finger. If it does not ‘jiggle’ then it is set and can be removed from the oven.
- If you are unsure that the bobotjie is ready, just leave it in the oven for another 5 minutes – it won’t come to any harm.
What do I serve with bobotjie?
Bobotjie is normally served with yellow rice and raisins (see next section), or if you prefer you can serve it with plain white rice. See my recipes for rice baked in the oven or microwave rice if you are unsure of how to cook rice.
Traditionally bobotjie is served garnished with any (or all) of the following:
- top with 1 teaspoon fruit chutney and/or a few slices of bananas
- sprinkle with 1 teaspoon grated coconut
- serve with a helping of spicy tomato sambal, made by finely chopping equal quantities of fresh tomato and onion, and mixing together in a bowl with a sprinkling of salt and pepper, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and 1 tablespoon white spirit vineger. You can use white wine vineger, but don’t be tempted to use brown malted vinegar, the taste will be wrong.
Bobotjie goes well with a sweet vegetable such as peas or mashed sweet potato, but you could serve with your vegetable of choice.
How to make yellow rice with raisins
If you would like to make your own yellow rice with raisins to go with the bobotjie, here’s how to do it. If your family doesn’t like raisins then you can leave these out. I normally use basmati rice, but you can use any long grain rice.
Follow either of my rice recipes above, but add approximately 1/2 teaspoon of tumeric to the rice with the water. Stir to mix through. If you are using raisins, add approximately 1 tablespoon raisins per cup of rice, then cook as per the recipe instructions.
Be careful when adding the tumeric. If you add too much you will end up with orange rice instead of yellow rice. You are looking for a nice pale yellow colour.
If you are cooking rice on the stove, place one cup into a pan, add 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, 1 tablespoon raisins and 1 teaspoon salt (or to your own taste). Cover with 2 cups cold water. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan with a tightly-fitting lid and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes until all the water has been absorbed. Fluff with a fork and serve.
Can I freeze this dish?
I would not freeze the finished dish as the egg custard would be inclined to split on defrosting.
However, you can freeze the cooked mince mixture for up to 3 months.
To use, defrost in the fridge, then place the meat in a baking dish. Pour over the egg and milk custard and bake as per the recipe instructions.
What do I do with leftovers?
Store any leftovers in a covered container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
You can reheat the leftovers in the microwave and have them as a quick lunch.
Bobotjie makes a delicious filling for a toasted sandwich, or you could use it as a filling for curried dough balls.
How can I vary this dish?
There are many variations of bobotjie. Here are just a few of the ways you can vary this dish.
- Add 2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce.
- Substitute the carrot with grated apple, or use a mixture of the two.
- Add 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric to give the bobotjie a bit more colour.
- Add 1 teaspoon of cumin and/or ground coriander.
- For a richer custard use half milk and half cream beaten with the eggs.
Other popular curry recipes
Curry is a firm favourite in my family. Here are some of my other recipes you may enjoy.
- Easy lamb curry
- Lamb curry in pita
- Chicken bhuna with bombay potatoes
- Bunny chow
- Vetkoek and curried mince
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- Large frying pan – for browning the meat and onions.
- Ovenproof baking dish – you can use either a round, square or oblong baking dish. The meat should fill the dish to a depth of about 1.5 inches (3 cm), with sufficient room left to hold the custard mixture as it is poured on.
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Recipe – Traditional South African Bobotjie
Traditional South African Bobotjie
- 250 g beef mince
- 250 g pork mince
- 1 large onion chopped
- 1 large carrot grated
- 1 slice bread
- 1/4 cup milk to soak the bread
- 1/2 small lemon juiced
- 2 tablespoons fruit chutney (or smooth apricot jam)
- 2 tablespoons sultanas
- 2 tablespoons flaked almonds
- 2 tablespoons hot curry powder or mild, or medium, to your own taste
- 1 teaspoon chilli paste optional
- 1 teaspoon garlic paste
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger paste
- 2 large eggs beaten
- 1½ cups milk mixed with the eggs
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons sunflower oil for frying meat and onions
- Pre-heat oven to 190°C / 375°F
- Soak the bread in 1/4 cup milk for a few minutes until the milk is absorbed, then squeeze out the milk. Reserve the milk.
- Place the meat in a mixing bowl and add the squeezed out bread. Mix well to combine.
- Fry the onions, garlic and ginger gently in 2 tablespoons sunflower oil until the onions are translucent.
- Add the mince and carrots to the onions and stirfry until the mince is well separated and no longer pink.
- Add the rest of the ingredients, including the reserved milk from bread, season with salt and pepper and stir thoughly to combine.
- Let the mixture simmer with the lid off until most of the liquid has evapourated. The meat mixture should be quite dry when it is placed in the baking dish.
- Taste for flavour and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Transfer the mixture to a deep baking dish and press down evenly.
- Mix 2 eggs with the milk, season lightly with salt and pepper, and pour over the meat mixture in the baking dish.
- Place the baking dish in the pre-heated oven and bake for approximately 40 minutes until the custard is set.
- Use 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots in place of the carrots
- Use an equivalent amount of smooth apricot jam in place of the fruit chutney
- Use mild, medium or hot curry powder to your own taste)
I am not a nutritionist. The nutrition information has been calculated using an on-line calculator, and is intended for information and guidance purposes only. If the nutrition information is important to you, you should consider calculating it yourself, using your preferred tool.
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