‘Gatvol’. Most of my compatriots would need no explanation. But to my readers in other countries, it’s kinda like fed up – times a thousand. And that’s exactly what I was last week. Because why? Because load shedding. (For my foreign readers ‘load shedding’ is our quaint, euphemistic term for electricity blackouts.)
Now normally this would not make much of an impression on me. After all, it happens pretty much every day and, clever sausage that I am, I invested in a take-no-prisoners 5-burner gas hob. But then we ran out of gas. Not a whiff of it to be found anywhere in all of Cape Town – for like two weeks. Digging through the assorted detritus in my mouldy, spider-infested cellar in search of the camping primus, I finally had a total sense of humour failure – and threw a tantrum that would leave a two-year-old in awe.
The fact that I had four Australian guests coming to dinner the next day may have contributed somewhat. They wanted to eat local. So I obliged with an elegant little bobotie starter done in individual phyllo cups. I served it with traditional tomato salad and Mrs Ball’s chutney, of course.
So here it is, a no-power/no-gas-proof recipe that’s elegant enough to entertain with. If need be the filling can be made beforehand on your camping cooker, and the phyllo cups assembled at the last minute in a muffin tin that you chuck on the Weber. Because daahling, in true South African can-do spirit, one should never let inept officialdom ruin a good party.
All you need is…
2 tbs cooking oil
250g beef mince
250g lamb mince (or replace with beef)
1 cup finely chopped onions
1¼ tsp turmeric
1 tsp powdered ginger
2½ tsp medium-strength curry powder (I prefer good ol’ Rajah)
1 slice crustless white bread, soaked in a ¼ cup milk
1 sachet good liquid beef stock (I used Woolworths’ Demi Glacé Concentrate Beef Stock)
grated zest of one lemon
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 tbs brown grape vinegar
4 tbs fine apricot jam
¾ cup water
½ cup seedless raisins
¼ cup blanched almonds (i.e. no skin) plus 6 extra for on top
1 cup buttermilk (or natural yoghurt)
2 extra large eggs
3 bay leaves, cut in half lengthwise
¼ cup melted butter
Fry the onions in the oil until golden brown. Add the spices and fry for a few seconds. Add the meat and fry, stirring until caramelised and brown. (Add a bit of extra oil to the pan if it gets too dry.)
Add the beef stock, bread, lemon zest, salt, pepper, jam and vinegar as well as the water. Cover and cook over low heat for 30 minutes. Add the raisins and almonds for the last 5 minutes of cooking. The meat mixture should be nice and thick. If it’s still watery, simply boil for a minute or two with the lid off. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.
Paint the muffin tins with melted butter. Lay out one sheet of phyllo pastry and paint it with the melted butter. Cover with another sheet and pain this one as well. Continue this process twice more until you have four layers of pastry stuck together with the melted butter. Now cut this sheet into squares large enough to protrude 1.5cm past the edge of the muffin cups. (I find scissors work better than a knife.)
Line the cups with the pastry. Fill the cups ¾ way with the meat mixture, then top off with a large spoonful of the egg mix. Stick half a bay leaf in each muffin cup and top with an almond for the pretty. Bake in a 175 degree Celsius oven until the eggy mixture is cooked through, golden and puffed up – about 25-35 minutes. Serve immediately with Mrs Ball’s chutney and an old-fashioned tomato and onion salad. If you’re using a large muffin tin, this mixture makes six individual bobotie-phyllo pies.