Following the March Wednesday over Water (aka, WOW) I found myself picking up a couple late night impromptu foodstuffs for my family at Wholefoods; whereupon I had the fortune of running into iconic restaurateur, food writer Crescent Dragonwagon, who was also shopping after hours. After a few minutes of catching up, chatting, culinary pontificating, I mentioned that I had just completed a WOW show inspired by the Soul of a Nation exhibition at Crystal Bridges, where we served the traditional one pot South African dish, Bobotie. I pronounced it “Ba-boo-tee” with an emphasis on the second syllable, almost as if to say, “shake your ba-boo-tie” Crescent, smiled and phonetically uttered the word COMPLETELY different than I had just seconds before – she said, “Bah-Ba-Dee” with more of an inflection on the first syllable, with a cadence of “zip-pa-dee” that could be the beginning or end to a funky, cool scat.
I immediately blushed; and said, “Wait, is that really how you say it?” And of course, being the socially gracious, well read, published writer that she is, Dragonwagon winked and said, “Oh, I guess, that’s how you say it…” I realized that more than likely, the famed James Beard award winning cookbook writer that stood before me, was correct; and that I had just spent an hour and half in front of an audience of 200 museum guests mispronouncing the evening’s featured dish.
It seems that I’ve spent a lifetime mispronouncing or misusing words; and not just the culinary variety; at fifteen years of age, I excruciatingly remember telling my parents that my new high school girlfriend was an “intellect” rather than an “intellectual,” and in hindsight, honestly, she was neither, or wait, is it either? And that’s not even breaking the surface of the scores of artist names and painting titles I’ve butchered during my eight year tenure at Crystal Bridges. As a chronic “word butcher,” my advice to anyone who accidentally mispronounces or misuses a word in an embarrassing social situation is to either completely “own” your mistake like a badge of honor, or just simply grin and bare it with just a pinch of humility, which I guess is what this blog is when you get right down to it.
Regardless, the WOW audience swooned over the centuries old South African minced meat dish that is traditionally made with exotic spices, herbs and an egg topping, similar to Greek Moussaka or British Shepherd’s Pie, sans the potatoes. It’s really a casserole that can be easily made into one pot, then finished in the oven, a perfect dish for entertaining or feeding the family on a weekday, like perhaps, Wednesday. We served it alongside a delicious, bright citrus slaw and a slightly spicy mango relish designed with fresh mint and medium heat peppers; the chilled slaw successfully cut through the rich, meatiness of the Bobotie, while the mango relish triggered the myriad herbs and brown spices layered throughout. The recipe listed here will ensure that your next dinner party will impress even the most discriminating, finicky guest…wait, or is it insure? Either way, they’re going to love it!
2 tsp coriander seeds, roasted
1 tsp cumin seeds, roasted
½ tsp ground allspice
Pinch of salt
1 tsp curry powder
1 T ginger root, peeled and roughly chopped
1 t turmeric
4 garlic cloves, chopped
½ long green chili, sliced
1/2 small habanero pepper
2 slices bread
3t vegetable oil
2 onions, finely chopped
1 ½ lb. ground chuck
½ lb. ground lamb
1 green apple, peeled finely diced
1 tbsp. mango Chutney, plus extra to serve
½ c golden raisins, soaked in warm water, drained
½ lemon, juiced
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ c toasted sliced almonds
2 large eggs
1 c milk
4 fresh bay leaves
Use a spice grinder to ground the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, allspice and salt to a powder. Add the curry powder, ginger, turmeric, garlic and chilies, and pound until a fine paste forms.
Soak the bread in the milk for about 10 minutes, then strain and fluff up bread up with a fork.
Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 5–6 minutes, or until soft. Add the spiced chili paste and cook for 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Increase the heat to high, then add the beef and lamb cook, stirring to break up any lumps, slowly simmer for 30 minutes.
Add the apple, chutney, raisins, lemon juice and mashed bread. Season with salt and pepper and spoon into a shallow baking dish.
To make the topping, whisk together the eggs and milk and pour over the meat. Place the bay leaves on top and bake for 20 minutes at 325 or until custard is just set. Garnish with toasted almonds