It’s the age-old question—which came first, the chicken or the egg? In this case, I asked Koen which came first, the jar of mango chutney he bought at Tait Farm or the idea to make Bobotie for dinner.
Most definitely the chutney, he said. It brought back memories and tastes of South Africa.
The mystery dish was new to me. Marina and Koen said the name once or twice, but until I see a word written down, it often doesn’t register. That afternoon, I helped Koen assemble what he needed to do the cooking.
We had many of the ingredients in the kitchen: turmeric, garlic, golden raisins, almonds, onions, eggs, milk.
We put a shopping list together for the missing ones: dried apricots, Granny Smith apple, lemon, white bread, and bay leaves. (Marina and I reminisced about Aunt Leslie bringing us bags of bay leaves she harvested from the shrub at her Virginia Beach home.)
We stopped by the Boalsburg farmers market for a pound of locally raised ground beef and a pound of chopped veal.
After the ingredients were secured, I sat down on the deck with a gin and tonic, and relaxed on my staycation. Koen was in the kitchen, preparing dinner. My mom and Marina took care of the table setting and later, the dishes. I could get used to this!
I’ve only been to Africa through books—“The Poisonwood Bible” (novel about the Belgian Congo), “The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency” (a who-done-it series that takes place in Botswana) and “Land of a Thousand Hills” (memoir of Rwanda). Koen has traveled to South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana. He didn’t actually eat Bobotie until he returned to Belgium but he likes the casserole and added it to his cooking repertoire.
Bobotie is the national dish of South Africa. The melding of meats, fruits, and spices from Eastern and Western cuisine came about when the Dutch West Indies Company set up an outpost at the Cape of Good Hope for its trade. Boats loaded with spices from Indonesia stopped in South Africa on their way to Holland. The Dutch and Malaysian settlers living in Cape Town mixed local goods with imported spices, thus creating Bobotie. According to several sources, the casserole can be pronounced bo-bo-tee, bo-boo-tie, or ba-boor-tee, and is served with yellow rice (white rice with turmeric) and blatjang (pronounced blud-young), an apricot and chili pepper chutney.
Tait Farm in nearby Boalsburg “celebrates local gifts from the land” and has a variety of chutneys, from Koen’s choice, mango, to apple, cranberry, rhubarb, ginger-peach, and tomato. Although Koen and I live on different continents, we share an attitude and appreciation for food and travel. There’s a saying in South Africa, “local is lekker”. In Dutch, the word lekker means delicious. No matter where you live, local foods paired with international recipes provide a delicious menu for cultural exchange. Laurie Lynch
While Koen was visiting he used a recipe found on Epicurious, added a few random spices from my mom’s spice rack, such as cumin, and whatever else caught his fancy. This is a dish you can tailor to your taste as well as the supplies in your pantry.
2 lbs. minced lamb or beef, sautéed lightly until the pink is gone
Butter, vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 T curry powder
1 tsp. turmeric
2 slices of bread, crumbled
¼ c. milk
Grated rind and juice of half lemon
Salt & Pepper
3 oz. dried apricots, chopped
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored & chopped
¼ c. golden raisins
1 ½ oz. slivered almonds, roasted in dry frying pan
6 lemon, orange, or bay leaves
1 c. milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a large casserole. Heat butter and oil in saucepan and fry onions and garlic until translucent. Stir in curry, turmeric, and other spices, cooking quickly until fragrant. Remove from heat.
Combine the onion and spice mixture with meat in a large bowl. Add bread, milk, lemon rind and juice, egg, salt, pepper, apricots, apple, raisins and almonds, and mix well. Pile into casserole and smooth top. Roll up the leaves and bury them at regular intervals. Seal with foil and bake 1 ¼ hours.
Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees. Remove foil, mix custard topping and pour over casserole. Bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes until cooked and lightly browned. Serve with yellow rice and chutney.
Botanical Treasure Hunt: Several years ago, when I was visiting Belgium in early summer, I noticed gin and tonics (my summer drink) were getting fancy. Cucumber slices or sprigs of rosemary look the place of lime wedges. Not only did you select a brand of gin at the bar, you selected a type of tonic. I thought tonic was tonic. In Belgium, I was introduced to Fever-Tree tonic.
A few weeks ago, Koen, my mom, and I had a few errands to run while Marina did some computer work. We got our bottles of gin (Tangueray and Hendrick’s) and were looking for tonic. I’ve always gone with Schweppes, but since Koen and Marina were visiting, I thought I’d make it special. I asked a friend if she was familiar with Fever-Tree. She said I’d be able to find it at Wegmans. Wegmans is on the other side of town but I figured this was worth the trip. When we got there, the Fever-Tree shelf was empty. We tried Giant. Success—but very expensive. A few days later, while shopping at Weis, my go-to supermarket, I looked for Fever-Tree and found the best selection of all: Indian, Premium Indian, Mediterranean, and even Elderflower tonic water.
All of the driving and scouting out Fever-Tree got me thinking. “Fever-Tree. Quinine. Malaria. Fever.”
I was on a quest. The botanical name for fever tree is Cinchona officianalis, a native of the Andes Mountains of South America. It is the national tree of both Peru and Ecuador, and the evergreen belongs to the same family as coffee, Rubiaceae. “Peruvian bark” was used by the native Quechua to treat hypothermia and fever. By the 1630s, Jesuit missionaries followed suit and began using the powdered bark of Cinchona to treat malaria, introducing it to other Spanish colonies. The English and Dutch picked up on this medicinal herb and smuggled it into Asia and Africa. As the centuries zipped by, Charles Rolls and Tim Warrillow researched quinine sources in an attempt to come up with the best mixer for gin. In 2005, Rolls and Warrillow introduced Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water to the world.
Not Written on Slate, But Should Be: “If ¾ of your gin and tonic is tonic, make sure you use the best.” – Tim Warrillow
Baa-Baa-BAAAD! The other morning I awoke to some loud baa-ing. I knew something was up. Gary and Freckles were trapped in my asparagus patch, tromping around, and pulled down the wire fence where my snow peas/sugar snaps were climbing. Gruff, black sheep of the bunch, was standing in the barn—either innocent or crafty enough to escape the scene of the crime.