The sunshine’s been (for the most part) rolling in, I’m off on a week’s holiday with the Taste of Dublin Festival inclusive, my laptop is back from its own little excursion and in general, the summer’s turning out to be an almost perfect one! Well, I say almost perfect for a reason, one that almost everybody in Ireland no doubt understand over the next month. That’s right, it’s time for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa; minus the boys in green, sadly. Most of the nation will probably adopt the ABF (anyone but France) approach instead of the usual gloating over England’s routine failure, but since very few of us will see the point in making a trip to support a generic team, I figured it would be a good idea to bring a bit of South Africa up to Ireland instead. Just so, y’know, we don’t all feel left out for the next four weeks. What I discovered in my research was bobotie; not only the purported national dish of South Africa, but an extremely rewarding and versatile recipe. It also has a reputation for being excellent comfort food, which is exactly what all the disillusioned Irish football fans out there could use I’m sure!
What follows is my own assembly of ingredients based on averaging several different versions of bobotie from across the internet.
1kg fresh Irish pork mince
2 medium onions
3 cloves of garlic
2 slices of plain, white bread
2 large Eggs
Several bay leaves
A handful of seedless sultanas
2 tbs vegetable oil
2 tbs malt vinegar
2 tbs chutney
1 tbs curry powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cardamom seeds
1 tsp ground allspice berries
Roughly chop the two onions and finely slice the garlic cloves, then add to a large, deep frying pan. Cook over a medium heat until the onions begin to soften and become transparent. Now add the minced pork, stirring well to break down any chunks; a very fine texture is what you’re looking to achieve.
Once the minced pork had been suitably broken down and has begun to brown, add the malt vinegar, curry powder, turmeric, cardamom seeds and allspice berries. Stir well until all of the ingredients are well mixed. Now add the chutney (I stuck with mango in this case, since it was all I had available but there are any number of varieties to choose from!), sultanas and squeeze in the juice of the lemon, again stirring until properly mixed. Salt and pepper to taste, then set aside.
Pre-heat the oven to 170˚c and grease a large baking dish. Spoon the minced pork mixture into the dish and spread it out evenly. Place in the oven for approximately 30 minutes, until it begins to turn a golden brown colour.
Whilst waiting for the minced pork to cook, prepare the topping for the bobotie. Remove the crusts from both slices of bread and soak in half of the milk. Squeeze to retain any excess milk out of the soaked bread and pour it back into the other half measure of milk. Mash the bread into a smooth paste, then add the eggs to the milk and beat until properly mixed. Finally, add the mashed bread paste to the egg and milk, stirring until fully broken down and the mixture thickens. Set aside.
Slice the banana thinly into several segments and place them evenly across the top of the minced pork. Pour the egg, milk and bread mixture evenly across the entire top surface, ensuring that it is completely covered. If not, simply repeat the topping steps with half measures to produce some extra mixture. Add several bay leaves to the topping and replace the dish into the oven until it begins to brown slightly.
Remove the bobotie and serve immediately with rice, chutney or a salad. Traditional bobotie is eaten with yellow rice and a chilli sauce called Sambal. It’s a wholesome and warming dish, so the perfect time to cook it (especially in this country!) would be the depths of winter. Nonetheless, its simplicity means that it’ll be a hit on any given day of the year. So whilst the rest of the world is having a taste of South Africa over the next month, get yourself involved instead of feeling left out and rustle some bobotie up!