Thursday, January 11, 2007

One Perplexed Sous-Chef

Mark dutifully peeled, seeded and diced the butternut squash and cracked and whisked some eggs. After searching the countertop for other ingredients that needed to shed their skins, he quietly commenced paring a carrot. Like most nights, Mark had identified an ideal soundtrack for our dinner preparations – one of my favorite bands, Patty Hurst Shifter. As one song ended and another began, he looked up from his labor and asked, “So, what are we making anyway?”

My first thought: Oh, what a horrible cook (and wife) am I, putting my sous-chef/husband to work without the common courtesy of telling him what we are making!

My second thought (verbalized): “So, what do you think we are cooking?

Mark: “Squash pot pie?”

Me, nose crinkling: “Squash? Pot pie? With eggs?”

Mark: “A frittata?”

Me: “A more appetizing guess, but still no.”

Mark, spotting the curry powder, chickpeas and yogurt: “Chickpea and squash curry with raita?”

Me: “Hmm, not a bad idea.”

Mark: “I give up.”

So, what are we making?

We are making bobotie, a traditional Cape Malay casserole from South Africa. Its sweetly spiced flavor comes from mixing curry powder with raisins, apple and spoonfuls of jam. These ingredients are combined with crumbled pieces of milk-soaked bread and also, typically, minced meat. Since Mark and I don’t eat meat, the version I cook employs a golden trifecta of chickpeas, carrot and butternut squash. The entire wholesome, warming dish is topped with custard and speckles of paprika.

You can easily adjust bobotie to meet your preferences. So, for example, you could substitute lentils for the chickpeas, add slivered almonds, or trade the squash for more carrot. Just one warning, though: unless you want to risk making squash pot pie – I advise informing your sous-chef about your dinner plans!

Golden Bobotie
Adapted from
Quiet Food: A Recipe for Sanity
Serves 6

3 slices wheat bread (soft crust, or no crust)
1 cup / 250 milliliters milk
2 tablespoons / 30 milliliters vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced
2 medium carrots, grated
1 tablespoon / 15 milliliters mild curry powder
1 teaspoon / 5 milliliters ground turmeric
1 teaspoon / 5 milliliters ground ginger
4 teaspoons / 20 milliliters white vinegar
1 green apple, grated (skin on or off)
2/3 cup / 80 grams raisins
1 14-ounce / 400-gram can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 eggs, plus 3 more eggs for the topping
2 tablespoons / 30 milliliters smooth apricot jam
2 teaspoons / 10 milliliters salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
4 bay leaves
1 cup / 250 milliliters yogurt

Soak the bread in the milk. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for five minutes until the onion has begun to soften. Toss in the squash and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Stir in the curry powder, turmeric and ground ginger, and cook for another two minutes. Take the pan off of the heat.

Crumble the soaked bread and add it, along with the white vinegar, apple, raisins and chickpeas to the pan. In a small bowl, whisk together two eggs, the jam and the salt and pepper. Add this to the saucepan, too, and then thoroughly combine the contents of the saucepan. Spoon everything into a medium-size casserole dish with sides at least 3 inches / 7.5 centimeters high. Press the bay leaves down into your casserole.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 3 eggs and the yogurt, and add a pinch (or grind) of salt and pepper. Pour this topping over the squash-carrot-chickpea mixture that is in the casserole dish. Sprinkle with paprika.

Bake, uncovered, for 35 minutes until the topping is set and very lightly golden. You can serve bobotie by itself or with rice. It is traditionally served with yellow rice.

For a meat-eater version of bobotie, accompanied by yellow rice, check out Cook Sisters’ recipe here.

P.S. A big thank you to everyone who voted for me as Best Food Blog Rural in the 2006 Food Blog Awards. Your support was very, very appreciated! Congratulations to the winner Farmgirl Fare. (An excellent blog it is!)


Anonymous said...

love the SHIFTER too - had to be fun music to cook to!

Jeanne said...

Wow - what a cool idea! I imagine Mark's concerns evaporated once he tasted the final product ;-)

Do you every get the Nice & Spicy spice packs in Zim? They are made in South Africa and I wondered if they ever find their way across the border... If so, their balti chicken curry pack is fantastic when made with chickpeas, butternut, zucchini or just about any veg you have sitting around in your fridge.

Ruth W said...

Makes me want to go home to your house after work -- not mine.

Also, thanks for putting both metric and western measurements. I'm getting the hand of the one I don't know so well and your dual language system helps a great deal.

Finally, congrats on running a fine rural race. We did what we could!

Carolyn said...

Anonymous - I tend to be a slow cook: I think my husband plays PHS to speed me up!

Jeanne - I'll start looking for those spice packs - we do get a lot of products from South Africa, especially at Spar, so it is quite possible. Sounds like they would help me make some quick weeknight dinners!

Ruth - My brain does not take to math well: keeping U.S. and metric measurements straight is about the limit of what it can handle. Glad it has been of use to you! And thanks so much for your support in the food blog awards. BTW, I am posting about your cake tonight....