My kitchen became the centre of a comedy today. Instead of a place of creating culinary delights my meal was met with hilarity! We had visitors and I decided to serve a traditional South African dish - with a few changes. Some argue that Bobotie is our country's national dish It is undeniably a Cape favourite and its origins are believed to have arrived with the slave ships. Undoubtedly the only good that came from slavery. The traditional recipe is a spicey custard casserole with a combination of savoury and sweet, meat and fruit. While I stuck with the spicey custard part I replaced the ground beef or lamb with .... are you ready for it? lentils. And around there is where my visitors starting clutching their sides and giggling convulsively.
Bobotie is a very forgiving dish. It can also be stretched to feed many as it usually gets served on a bed of rice with ensembles. You can increase or decrease certain ingredients. Or even totally replace something! Like I did with the main ingredient. But the basics are what give Bobotie its signature taste. Tumeric, curry and ginger. Lemon. Garlic. Raisins. Tomatoes. Bay leaves. Fresh coriander. Plenty of garlic and onions. Almond shavings. And, of course your egg and milk for the custard.
When we have excess in the garden I like to either dehydrate or freeze the fresh produce. It all depends what it is. In summer we had a glut of tomatoes and were loading the dehydrator almost daily. I also keep plenty of dried peaches, apricots and raisins. The ou boere Bobotie requires white bread and apricot jam. Being my healthy ideology has banned both ingredients in my house. Dried apricots works even better than the sugary spread for that pop of sweetness. A couple spoons of cornflour or tapioca flour does the job replacing bread as thickening.
Because it is important to presoak all legumes, grains, nuts and seeds I measured out my lentils yesterday and soaked them. This morning after a good rinse I cooked them. Once cooked I rinsed my lentils and set aside to prepare the Bobotie custard.
2 cups of lentils (soaked overnight then cooked and rinsed)
2 large onions
3-4 garlic cloves
3 - 4 carrots
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup chopped dried peaches or apricots
8 ripe tomatoes diced OR 1 cup sundried tomatoe paste
3 tablespoons cornflour
1 1/2 cup goats milk (because I have goats)
3 bay leaves
1 chilli (less if you don't want to burn - I used a sprinkle of cayenne)
1 lemon juiced
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon curry
1 teaspooon tumeric
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
A big bunch of fresh coriander
A couple dashes of olive or coconut oil
1/3 cup almond slivers is a delicious optional extra
Chop and saute the onions, garlic, carrots and dried fruit.
Keeping on a low heat add the spices, cornflour, bay leaves, tomato paste and lemon juice.
Turn off your pan. Beat the eggs, milk and salt. Mix your cooked lentils with the pan of spicey fried onion and dried fruit and almond shaving, if you have.
Scoop your Bobotie in a deep casserole dish. Slowly pour the custard part over the lentils.
Our yummy farm eggs give the custard a deep yellow colour, however because I am rather generous with the tumeric and dehydrated tomatoes the Bobotie is more of an orange colour.
Bake your Bobotie for an hour at 160 C. Mine took less time but I always bake according to my nose and not the clock. I chose not to serve the Bobotie with rice as the lentils alone make a scrumptious and filling plate of food. But we picked a wonderful selection of leafy greens in the gardens and made a simple salad with avo, olives and olive oil. Of course each serving received a handfull of fresh coriander leave. Apart from a locally made Scorpion chilli and garlic sauce the only ensemble was our eggplant and red pepper chutney. Which finished the Bobotie off to perfection!
My family and friends may raise eyebrows at my rather extreme ideas about health but they seldom complain about the food I prepare. In fact despite all the hilarity their dishes were licked clean. While everyone was looking around for third helpings I had to whisk away the tiny bit of leftovers for my children to snack on tomorrow. I guess I had the last laugh.