Destination South Africa

It all began with Tannie Maria and Recipes For Love and Murder. Based on Sally Andrew’s book of the same name, I really enjoyed the series when it was streamed on Acorn last year. (As an aside, the books are really hard to get hold of!) Set in The Karoo, a semi-desert area, and starring the wonderful Maria Doyle Kennedy as Maria, Tannie Maria solves her reader’s problems with recipes (my kind of woman) and her own with cake (I far prefer scones, but that’s by the by…) and accidentally ends up in a murder mystery (as you do).

As I watched I googled – both the smattering of Afrikaans and the recipes Tannie Maria makes.

Then, while we were on our cruise through the fjords of Norway last October (if you’re interested, I’m blogging the trip over at andanyways…) we spent a lovely afternoon tasting South African wines.

The next sign came when a South African colleague of Sarah’s joined us for Christmas. Aware she’d probably be feeling homesick at such a family time of the year I wanted to fill her Christmas stocking with the taste of South Africa and bake her something that would remind her of home.

The former was easily taken care of – there are now three good supermarkets selling South African pantry items, treats, and biltong. The latter wasn’t so easy and sent me back down the google rabbit hole. Finally, with the advice of a Kiwi-based South African colleague of mine, I landed on Melktert – something Tannie Maria had featured.

Anyways, it had the desired effect and, if you’re interested, the recipe I used is here.

Finally, when we were visiting Sarah in Hervey Bay in January she took us to The Potjie Pot, a South African restaurant her and her colleagues go to. (A potjie – pronounced poi-kee- is a cast-iron pot used to cook meat and veg slowly over an open fire, but most South Africans refer to the dish itself as a potjie too.)

While the food wasn’t terribly instagrammable, we shared some samosas, Sarah and Grant both had Bunny Chow (which is lamb curry served in bread and not how it sounds) and I had vetkoek (pronounced fet-cook) with bobotie (pronounced ba-boor-tea) – essentially fried dough cake with curried mince.

Healthy it certainly wasn’t, but it was tasty and the leftovers (taken home in a doggie bag) were enough to keep Adventure Spaniel very happy for a few nights.

So when South Africa came out of the Destination Decision Bowl the other night, while Grant was pushing for a veto or redraw, I figured the signs were clear – plus we still had a couple of bottles of South African wine that Sarah’s friend brought in for Christmas. Destination South Africa it was.

Like Australia, South Africa’s cuisine has been influenced by those who were already there and those who came after – both freely and against their will. There is therefore the mix of pre-colonial diet – mostly cooked grains, roasted and stewed meats, gathered fruit, and plant products – and that which came later under British colonial rule with influences from Asia, India, and The Netherlands. Obviously it’s a lot more complicated than this, but this blog is, after all, about food, not politics.

The dish we’ve chosen to make is Bobotie – often considered South Africa’s national dish. It’s a mixture of curried meat and fruit topped with a bay leaf studded egg custard and baked.

The first bobotie recipe appeared in a Dutch cookbook in 1609. Dutch traders set up camp in the area that is now Cape Town as a stopping point on their journeys back and forth to Indonesia. The traders brought spices, cooking techniques, and recipes with them. The original bobotie recipe probably came from Indonesia and was adopted by the Cape Malay community and adapted to fit the available ingredients.

Anyways, the recipe I used was this one. I did, however, halve the quantities as I was feeding just the two of us and didn’t want to be eating it for the rest of the week. We also opted to leave the fruit out; even though it works in tagines I’m not big on the whole fruit and meat thing. Besides, there’s fruit chutney in the mince (any fruit chutney would probably do but we managed to pick up a South African one from the South African shop) and that’s enough sweetness as far as I’m concerned and some recipes I found didn’t include dried fruits at all.

We served it with turmeric rice, Chakalaka – a spicy vegetable relish that I cheated a bought in a can from the South African shop – more of the Mrs Ball’s chutney that was in the mince, and a simple tomato and red onion salsa. It all worked really well together.

For dessert we went with Malva Pudding, a sweet pudding cake made with apricot jam and a little vinegar that cuts through the sweetness. As soon as it comes out of the oven you poke holes in it with a skewer and pour a heavy cream sauce over it while it’s still in the tin. A pretty pudding this is not, but a satisfying one it is.

We served it with custard but only because I thought there was still some ice cream in the freezer from the last time I made it and by the time I realised that it was gone it was way too late to make more. Such is life. Anyways, you’ll find the recipe here.

Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

11 thoughts

  1. I’ve had a go at making babootie before – it had mixed reviews from the family who weren’t too keen on the eggy topping. i now make it slightly adapted with more of a cheesy topping, I might give the puddings a go though. I love following your destination nights and getting new ideas


    1. I had a really thin topping, but it was the accompaniments that made it… Thanks for following along… we’re in Hervey Bay this weekend, but who knows what the next destination will be!


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