#30 Date selected: 25/4/16 Date completed: 4/5/16
Country selected: South Africa
Dining Selection: Cooked Own
What was on the menu/recipe address:
- Traditional Cape Malay Bobotie
- Souskluitjies (cinnamon dumplings)
Tuesday 26th April 2016, 2.16pm
I’ve had a bit of a fascination for South Africa ever since I read the novel ‘The Power of One’ when I was a teenager. It’s one of those places I’ve always wanted to visit but never quite made it there so I’m looking forward to seeing what this challenge uncovers. My sister-in-law mentioned that there are some stores in Melbourne that specifically stock South African foods so I’m hoping I might get a chance to go check out some produce at some point too!
The coast of South Africa covers 2,798kms stretching along the South Atlantic and Indian Ocean. It’s home to a very diverse set of cultures and has some of the highest numbers of official languages in the world (11 are recognised in the constitution). Along with a number of African ethnicities, the country also has significant influences from Dutch and English cultures.
South Africa was subject to international scrutiny during the 20th century for its attempts to institutionalise racial segregation. Under apartheid, white minority rule was maintained and the rights, associations and movements of the non-white inhabitants were curtailed. As a result of these policies, the vast majority of black South Americas were not enfranchised until 1994. A lengthy and sometimes violent struggle by anti-apartheid activists helped to bring about the abolishment of many of the discriminatory laws.
Amongst these activists was a revolutionary, Nelson Mandela. He served as President of the African National Congress (ANC) from 1991-1997 after his release from prison in 1990. He had served 27 years on a conviction of conspiracy to overthrow the state in his fight against apartheid. He was pivotal in the negotiations with President F.W. de Klerk to abolish apartheid and establish multiracial elections in 1994. It was at this time he became the country’s first black president. Over his lifetime he received more than 250 honours for his activism including the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize and became known in South Africa as the ‘Father of the Nation.’
The traditional culture of South Africa’s black majority is predominantly upheld by the substantial number of rural inhabitants who lead largely impoverished lives. Increasingly they are becoming urbanised and Westernised.
The cuisine, as per the culture, is diverse and foods from many cultures are enjoyed by all. The diet is heavily meat based and South Africa has also developed into a major wine producer. The Braai is a distinctively South African social gathering in which is meat is cooked outside in a similar fashion to the Australian, New Zealand or American barbeque.
Wednesday 4th May 2016, 10.44pm
My choice of recipe went through a bit of an evolution for this challenge. The range available online was plentiful and I knew that I wanted to make a couple of dishes that represented at least a couple of the different cultures that have influenced South African culture. Beyond that I was open to suggestion.
I did really want to visit the South African store that my sister-in-law had mentioned and had planned a meal around doing a BBQ. My plan was to pick up some Boerewors (traditional sausage) from the store, grill that on the BBQ at home and serve with a couple of different sides. Life ended up getting in the way however. Cash is tight at the moment and time was in short supply I was also invited to attend a couple of job interviews in the city – I live over an hour away from the CBD via public transport so these took the good part of the day to attend. The weather over the past couple of days has also turned particularly bad with gale force winds and storms (not the best for cooking outside!).
I decided to scrap the BBQ idea entirely and instead went with a menu that I could source locally and cook indoors. It ended up for the best however as, not only were the dishes I ended up choosing very tasty, but one of the people I interviewed with have offered me a job! Winning all round!
The first item on my amended menu was a Cape Malay Bobotie which is kind of like a spiced meatloaf topped with a layer of egg. It is thought to have arrived in South Africa with the advent of slaves and political exiles (mainly Javanese) and was chosen by the Women’s League of the United Nations as South Africa’s national dish.
Bobotie is actually a dish I have made before. I have a vague recollection of making it when I was a teenager however the recipe I used was very different than this one. I have no idea of the origins of the first. This one however, is supposed to be a rather more elaborate, fruity version of the traditional recipe so perhaps that goes some way to explaining it.
The dish itself is quite easy to make. It’s a case of mixing ground beef (the recipe calls for beef fillet that you mince prior to cooking but I simply bought pre-minced beef for convenience) with a large array of spices, some sultanas, flaked almonds, chutney, garlic and fried onion. It is baked in the oven for half an hour until the meat is cooked then a mixture of egg and milk is poured over the top. The meat is then put back in the oven until the egg mixture sets on top.
Wow does this meatloaf have a kick to it! It’s almost like a flavoursome curry wrapped up in meatloaf form. It’s got a nice amount of oil that creeps out and mixes with the liquid from the meat so it’s all lovely and juicy and the egg mix on top gives it a gorgeous golden look. Every now and then you get a hit of sweetness whenever you bite into a sultana and the occasional bit of crunch from the almonds.
Bobotie is nothing like a traditional European style meatloaf and you could easily serve it at a dinner party if you wanted to add a bit of ‘comfort food’ to the menu. I’d actually like to see how it would go if you were to split it up into little oven proof bowls so each guest got their own mini meatloaf. I suspect it would look quite spectacular.
I ate mine with a bit of tomato sauce (as I used the last of the chutney in the meatloaf itself) and it went beautifully. The recipe also suggests accompanying it with Sambels and I could see how that would work also. Simply delicious!
For dessert I decided on an eighteenth century dish that obviously has a strong Dutch influence. Souskluitjies are cinnamon dumplings that are boiled rather than baked or fried.
Again, it’s a very easy recipe to follow. Simply rub butter into a flour mixture, add beaten egg and milk to make a thick batter. You put spoonfuls of the batter into boiling water, cover the saucepan and leave them to simmer for around 10 minutes. After removing the dumplings, you lightly butter them and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. You can also make a sauce by adding cinnamon sugar and butter into the water in which the dumplings were cooked.
The dumplings have a bit of a gelatinous texture to them and are even a little chewy. They go nicely with the butter and cinnamon sugar however and I made the sauce which I found gave it a bit more complexity in texture. The recipe didn’t actually state how much butter and sugar to add to the sauce so I simply went by taste. I held back on the sugar a little but you could make it as sweet as you’d like.
I wouldn’t call this a sophisticated dish but it was tasty and very easy to make. It’s a dessert that would suit summer or winter and something that you could whip up quickly. I imagine it would be something that could also appeal to kids who are still working on developing their palettes. There’s flavour there but it’s not too complex and I think the textures would appeal to some of the kids I know.
Overall I was very happy with the choices I ended up making for this challenge. I would happily make both of these dishes again and the Bobotie in particular was a great success.
Now onto our next challenge….