Get Baked: Not Your Grandmother’s Bobotie

Do your food cravings become infinitely more intense just because they’re inaccessible? I’m at the point where I’ll fall asleep dreaming about sashimi and wake up swearing when I realize I’m no longer in Vancouver. Even though the hunger pangs are getting worse, I can take the edge off by eating Montreal’s overpriced offerings. Sadly, this isn’t always the case.

The only food on my mind right now is bobotie. I had a South African family reunion over the holidays and managed to get my first sampling at a padstal on our way to Cape Town. Cape Malay food is known for hearty curries complimented by a punch of fruit. It makes for a polarizing flavour profile that some people adore and others despise. I told myself I’d have the chance to get another bobotie bite before the trip was over, but now I’m about 12,700 kilometers too far.


I feel like all family reunions call for cowboy hats.

What is bobotie? The basic dish calls for a curried mince topped with a creamy, broiled custard. If moussaka and quiche had a baby that went through a spicy, rebellious phase, it would be named bobotie. Given that there isn’t a large Afrikaans population in Montreal whipping these up to satisfy my cravings, I have to make do with the ingredients on hand.

Do I have chutney? No, but I do have jam, vinegar and a fully functional spice rack.

Do I have ground beef? No, but I do have a vegetarian girlfriend that stocks veggie ground round.

Do I have bananas, raisins or sultanas? No, but why the fuck would I want that?

I should probably apologize to the ex-pats for messing around with their national dish. Keep in mind that this really isn’t your grandmother’s bobotie, but it is effing delicious.


2 slices bread
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp salt
3 cloves
2 Bay leaves
3 Tbsp Madras curry paste
1 package veggie ground round
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp Garam Masala
1/2 tsp cinnamon
As much fresh ground pepper as your arm will allow
1/3 cup cranberry sauce or apricot jelly
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp herbs de Provence
2 cups milk
4 eggs
1 tsp salt
1 Bay leaf
1. Get out your day’s frustrations by tearing the bread into tiny chunks. Toss your newly made breadcrumbs with milk and set aside to moisten. (This will not be photo worthy.)
2. Use a wide-mouthed pan or pot to heat your olive oil. Sauté your onions, garlic, cloves and Bay leaves, remembering to add salt to keep it from burning. Once the onions have become translucent, move them to the perimeter of the pot.


3. Fry your curry paste over medium heat (adding more oil if necessary) until your kitchen becomes fragrant. Add the veggie ground round to the pan along with the remaining spices, jelly, vinegar and bread-milk mixture. Continue frying for five minutes. Fish out the Bay leaves (and cloves) if you can. If not, remember to give your guests a pre-meal warning or a post-dinner apology.


4. Spread your pseudo-meat mixture into the bottom of your largest casserole dish. Compress it as best you can and set aside.

5. Whisk the milk, eggs and salt together. Pour your custard over the meat and pop a Bay leaf on top.


6. Bake your bobotie on a sheet pan in the middle rack of a 375°F oven. It’ll be ready once the custard has souffléd, the top has browned and all of the liquid has set. This’ll take about about 75 minutes.


7. The only thing left  to do is serve! If you happen to have steamed gem squash and yellow rice handy, go for it! Otherwise butternut squash and steamed rice will be just fine.

Smaaklike ete! Lekker eet!

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


Hailing from Vancouver, Kristen's still trying to figure out how to survive Montreal's Real Legitimate Canadian Winter. So far she's discovered that warm socks, giant toques and Tabby kittens all play a role in her survival. Her ultimate goal is to rank higher than KStew in the "Kristen + Autostraddle" Google Search competition.

Kristen has written 139 articles for us.


  1. As a South African, I feel obligated to leave a comment. Bobotie is flipping amazing! Here in Durban we have much more Indian food than Cape Malay stuff, but my mom made it once and I loved it! Even so, nothing beats a Durban curry!

    • hi fellow south african! my family immigrated to north america years ago, but i’m still a slave to biltong, bourevoirs, five roses tea, and woolworths crumpets. kristen, MAJOR PROPS on this recipe. i’m going to surprise my parents with it when i go home in a few weeks — they’re gonna be so excited!

      side note: i haven’t visited south africa since 2010 but when i am next there can there please be an autostraddle meetup?

      • I am sad I didn’t get a chance to go to Durban. Apparently I have been there before… but I may have been two. If you have any Durban curry resources/recipes I would gladly indulge!

        Vanessa if you know anyone that makes biltong on the east coast I WILL DIE. I smuggled one piece back but I can’t bring myself to open it just yet.

          • I had a 10 minute bobotie conversation with a guy I met on Saturday. My friend was on tour with a band and their front man just so happened to be Afrikaans. (small world is small)

            My parents used to attempt to make biltong with our dehydrater when I was a kid. It always ended up too hard (and my great aunt would always wonder aloud who brought the terrible leather) so I’ve been a bit too shy to re-attempt. If I can craft a magical drying box I will try that recipe!

            (I was going to try to do an AS meetup when I was there but I didn’t see any groups!)

        • kristen! the best biltong i’ve ever purchased in north america came from toronto! there was a little south african store in thornhill called seedo snacks (sp?) and they have EVERYTHING and that’s where i “import” my five roses tea from still. but omg their biltong. if you can get a torontonian friend to get some of that for you…ugh, JEALOUS.

          • Obviously not on the east coast, but if you’re ever in Los Angeles, I’d highly recommend European Deluxe Sausage Kitchen for all of your boerewors, droewors, biltong needs.

            It’s a tiny family run meat shop, and the owners are actually German (they also have a good selection of German imports), but their South African meats became so well regarded among expats that they started importing other goods (e.g., SA cadburies, five roses, mrs. balls, etc.).

          • omg. just so happens i’ll be in LA for camp in may. i wonder if i can request to stop at this store instead of the liquor store on the way up the mountain…

      • Vanessa, you pretty much listed all the best things about South African food. Woolworths is life-changing!

        I will probably die of a heart attack from excitedness if there is ever a South African Autostraddle meet up!

        Sidenote: If anyone ever comes to Durban, you MUST go to Johnny’s Roti! It’s a bit of a hole but the food is amazing! Super cheap with gigantic portions. No trip to Durban is complete without it!

        I’m not much of a cook myself so recipes are not really my vibe, but I will look just for you Kristen :)

        • Johnny’s Roti is DEFINITELY the place to go to in Durbs for a curry =) Best bunnies in the freakin country! My dad’s an absolute curry fiend, so I could help out with some of his SA based recipes if you’d like. Also, an SA Autostraddle meetup sounds amazing! Hint hint, nudge nudge, wink wink…

          • Shit, ok! I had no idea there were any other SAstraddlers lurking around here! We need to make this happen!

          • SAstraddler right here! I’m from Cape Town, any other CTstraddlers out there??

            I would LOVE an SA meet up! I actually thought about doing one for meetup week but was a bit shy to do it on my own and not knowing any other readers from CT.

        • my mom is from durban and both her brothers still live there so now i’m wondering if i’ve been to johnny’s roti and just don’t know it! ALSO durban indian food is really superb — when i studied abroad in london and my parents visited me i took them to borough market (because YUM) and my mom chose to get indian food. she tasted it and told the woman who made it that it was the best indian food she’d had since leaving durban — turns out the woman’s family had lived in south africa for years and she learned to cook all their family recipes in durban!

          guys i love talking about south africa on autostraddle i am feeling really emotional right now. kristen let’s put together some more south african recipes?

          • as someone who wants to go to South Africa really badly, I’m totally loving all the SA talk on autostraddle.

          • Vanessa, I seriously think you need to do a braai post!!! It will attract lots of SAstraddlers and if there is one thing SA lesbians love, IT’S TO BRAAI!

          • omg maybe this will be a thing!!!

            the other day my roommate asked me what “south african food” is and i was like “ummmm basically a lot of meat?” so.

      • You guys havent mentioned that you’re South African! Whats wrong with you! Anyway, if ever in Johannesburg… ill braai for you!

  2. This looked like something that called for tomatoes BUT IT DOESN’T AND THAT MAKES ME REALLY HAPPY.

    How much does a package of veggie ground round weigh? I would probably sub for actual meats.

    • The package I got was 340g? If you’re going to go the meat route I’d brown the meat first so you can drain the fat and then use said fat to saute.

  3. Why have I never heard of this before? This looks amazing!

    Any opportunity to currify something must always be taken, plus bonus egg on top!

  4. I used to date a South African and lived in Cape Town with her for a summer, and though I can’t say i miss her, I miss the food so much! will definitely be making this and would love to see more recipes from ZA!

  5. So I’ve just realized that I don’t know anything about South African food, but this sounds amazing. Are there any good SA food blogs, or even some place to get this in New York?

    • yes! there are some great south african restaurants in new york!

      weirdly there are two excellent authentic places in hell’s kitchen — braai and xai xai winebar on west 51st street — they used to be owned by a south african couple but have since been sold to an italian family, however the food is still amazing and legit and even my south african born and bred mother pronounced it perfect so that’s high praise. bonus: if you take a south african parent to either restaurant they will spend the entire time eavesdropping on your fellow diners’ conversations and saying, “is that so-and-so’s son? is that so-and-so from joburg?” and it will be so cute you won’t even feel offended that they’re more interested in all the south african accents in the place than they are in your own dinner table conversation.

      there’s also madiba in fort greene but i’ve only been there once and i was 12 so i don’t really remember anything about it.

  6. I’m going to have to try this out very soon.

    Also- the sashimi/sushi withdrawls that any Vancouverite goes through after leaving are possibly the worst thing ever.

    • It has been approximately three months since I last had good salmon sashimi. When I lived in Van I couldn’t go three days. I’m just going to cry and make an avocado roll.

  7. Nou wil ek weer probeer om Afrikaans te leer! (I started a couple years ago, but the interest kinda faded away…)

    Apropos, is there a source for South African imports in Vancouver?

    • Yes! Out of Africa is in Richmond and Africa Trading in Port Moody. My family goes to the PoMo store. If memory serves me right the PoMo chain stocks peppermint crisp. And really that’s all I need.

  8. This sounds fantastical! I spent some time near Pietermaritzburg and in Durban a few years back and thought the food was simply stellar. Now I want to make this/ have a braai/ eat 8000 vetkoek.

  9. Kristen!!!

    Ek het nie geweet jy is van Suid Afrika nie? Is jou familie Afrikaans?

    I’m an autostraddler from Cape Town! Thanks for the amazing recipe!

Comments are closed.