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Regional food specialities: Cape Cuisine

October 7, 2011

Cape cuisine is a rich fusion of many cooking styles which reflect the region’s rich and varied past. Methods, tastes and customs of many countries including Dutch, Flemish, English, German, French, Italian, Portuguese and Oriental culinary cultures mingle with African ingredients in the Cape kitchen.

Of these diverse influences, the Oriental association is undoubtedly the strongest.  Malay cooks, uprooted from Java in the 17th century, continued their rich, exotic and frequently spicy cooking style, settling as they did at the foot of Table Mountain.  Today, traditional Cape Malay dishes are widely found and enjoyed in homes and restaurants throught the Cape.

Bobotie is one of my favourties.  Here’s how to make it:


  • 2 slices white bread
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 25g butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1kg packet lean minced beef
  • 2 tbsp madras curry paste
  • 1 tsp dried mixed herbs
  • 3 cloves
  • 5 allspice berries
  • 2 tbsp peach or mango chutney
  • 3 tbsp sultanas
  • 6 bay leaves

For the topping:

  • 300ml full-cream milk
  • 2 large eggs


  1. Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Pour cold water over the bread and set aside to soak.
  2. Meanwhile, fry the onions in the butter, stirring regularly for 10 mins until they are soft and starting to colour. Add the garlic and beef and stir well, crushing the mince into fine grains until it changes colour. Stir in the curry paste, herbs, spices, chutney, sultanas and 2 of the bay leaves with 1 tsp salt and plenty of ground black pepper.
  3. Cover and simmer for 10 mins. Squeeze the water from the bread, then beat into the meat mixture until well blended. Tip into an oval ovenproof dish (23 x 33cm and about 5-6cm deep). Press the mixture down well and smooth the top. You can make this and chill 1 day ahead.
  4. For the topping, beat the milk and eggs with seasoning, then pour over the meat. Top with the remaining bay leaves and bake for 35-40 mins until the topping is set and starting to turn golden.


The dish is traditionally served with yellow rice, chutney and sambals (a chilli-based sauce, usually made with tomato and onion).  Of course you need a wine to accompany it too. Try a fresh chenin blanc or perhaps a pinotage.



From → Food and drink

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