The Spice Is Right

One of the things I was really looking forward to at Jamala Wildlife Lodge was the food. The South African inspired menu sounded wonderful, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat much of it. Being allergic to the capsicum/chilli family and being sensitive to tomato and eggplant meant many dishes were going to be off limits. I discussed my dietary requirements when I booked. The staff were lovely and assured me that the chef would prepare special dishes for me. I couldn’t wait! Happily I wasn’t disappointed 🙂 Tangy salads, succulent prawns and mouthwatering salmon were some of the dishes that arrived especially for me. I could indulge in the cheese platter without worry, accompanied by some tasty wines. The hot chocolate to end the night was rich and soothing. I had no complaints or worries about the food. My only regret was that I couldn’t try the bobotie.

Malva pudding and bobotie are two traditional South African dishes that I had heard about and really wanted to try. They were both on offer at Jamala but I could only have the malva pudding. But what a pudding! A sumptuous cake is soaked in a sweet, rich sauce made with butter, sugar and cream. If that’s not enough it’s served with hot custard. I was in heaven. As much as I loved the pudding, I couldn’t help staring at my partner Paul while he devoured his enormous serve of bobotie. The best way I can describe bobotie is that it’s like a spicy, fruity shepherd’s pie. But, rather than being topped with potato, it’s topped with an egg and milk custard. It is the spices and chutneys that made it impossible for me to try. Paul did assure me it was delicious.

Suffering from bobotie envy, I created my own version as soon as I got home. I tried to stick as close to an original recipe as I could, whilst making a few tweaks and eliminating the spices I couldn’t have. I’m pretty happy with my efforts. I finally got to try bobotie!



for the mince
1 slice white bread, crusts removed and torn into small pieces
2 tablespoons milk
3/4 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small, tart apple, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped
1/2 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
500g beef mince
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
good crack of freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons flaked almonds, toasted
1/2 tablespoon apricot jam
1/2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

for the custard
3 eggs
1 cup milk
good pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 bay leaves

Preheat oven to 165C / 325F.
Lightly oil a baking dish, approximately 28cm x 20cm.
Place the bread and milk in a small bowl. Allow to stand until the milk is absorbed.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium to medium-high heat. Add the onions and apples. Cook until the onions are soft and golden brown, stirring occasionally.
Add the ginger, cumin, coriander and turmeric. Stir until combined and aromatic.
Add the meat, salt and pepper. Stir until cooked, breaking up large pieces with a wooden spoon as you go.
Add the almonds and cook for 2 minutes.
Add the bread mixture and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 – 2 minutes or until the bottom of the pan begins to brown.
Stir in apricot jam and lemon juice, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan.
Remove from heat and taste for seasoning. Add more salt or pepper if needed.
Spoon the meat mixture into prepared baking dish.
In a medium sized bowl whisk the eggs for 2 minutes.
Add the milk, nutmeg and lemon zest and whisk until combined.
Pour custard over meat mixture.
Add the bay leaves and press into the custard.
Bake for 35 – 45 minutes or until set around edges and centre is no longer runny.
Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.


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