Curried Meatloaf – Bobotie (South African Meatloaf)

When I was growing up, we were the kids who ate ‘different’ food. It wasn’t something I noticed or cared about, until we would have a friend for dinner and they would refuse to eat anything. Not even try it. In turn, I would go to their houses and have what I could call very stereotypical North American food. Don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled as it was so completely foreign to what we ate.

As I got older, I became very much aware of the influence of other expats on our upbringing – probably because now, as an expat myself, I am more aware of the immediate bond you form with fellow expats. One of our neighbours’ were a South African and British couple, with a daughter of a similar age to me. It is from them, my mother was introduced to bobotie and we started having it at home. I wouldn’t know, until many years later, that our meatloaf was any different to the ‘American/Canadian’ style.

There are many different types of bobotie, some with dried fruit or chutney, or varying spices and decoration. I must have about 6 different recipes myself. This one I tend to use the most (probably because it is the simplest for my children), although I find the egg and milk topping will differ dependant on the size of dish I use, sometime soaking in altogether – which is apparently the sign of a perfect bobotie. Clearly this one has not met that standard! I also find it amusing that some of these amazing recipes from my childhood would become quite significant for my married life. Having married a South African. This is one of my favourites and one of the easier dishes I can feed the children.


  • 500g Minced Lean Steak (Ground Beef)
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2-3 slices of white bread, preferably stale
  • 1 large Onion, thinly chopped
  • 2 Tbsp Oil
  • 1 cup (450ml) Milk/Soya milk or alt.
  • 1 Tbsp Curry Powder
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, Minced
  • 2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 1 tsp Turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Ground Black Pepper, to taste

Measure the milk out and whisk in one of the eggs. Break up the stale bread into small pieces and place this in the eggy milk to soak. Set aside.

In a medium sized frying pan, heat the oil and sauté the onions for a couple of minutes before adding the garlic. Continue to cook until the onion has gone soft and translucent before adding the lemon juice, curry powder and turmeric. Sauté this until the mixture is fragrant – for another minute or so. Add the minced steak sautéing until nicely browned. (If needed you can do this in batches to prevent it boiling away in its own juice. This will ensure a much better flavour. Once the minced beef is cooked through leave it to cool.)

Go back to the soaking bread and mash this into the milk a bit, to ensure the bread has soaked up the liquid and is soft and mushy. Then drain the bread away from the eggy milk (pressing it to remove most of the moisture), reserving the liquid, and add the bread to the cooled beef, along with the salt and pepper. Mix through evenly and then decant the beef into a lightly greased baking dish. (I prefer to use a porcelain or glass dish, therefore avoiding the need for a bain marie / water bath during the cooking.)

Take the reserved eggy milk and whisk in the remaining egg before pouring over the top of the meat. Place into the hot oven and bake for an hour.





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