bobotie a South African shepherd’s pie+quiche

What is a shepherd’s pie + quiche but a “piche”? A bobotie is a cross between a shepherd’s pie and a quiche which aptly describes this dish from South Africa, with the savoury flavours of a shepherd’s pie and the silky eggy goodness of a quiche. Both are pies, to be sure, and the bobotie (boh-boh-tee?) gets its brilliant yellow hue from the turmeric and curry powder (I didn’t have garam masala). The spices, however, were balanced and flavourful without being overpowering. It was just too sweet to my liking (4 tablespoons of orange preserves. I didn’t have any apricot). And it was too salty for Andy–my adding salt was over compensation for the sweetness. I should have used lemon or lime juice to create some tart notes to balance the sweet and the salt.

Bobotie (adapted from Chef Aliya LeeKong, Food Network)

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Resting time: 10 minutes

Special Equipment: 2 quart oven-ready dish, large roasting pan with deep sides

Meat Filling:

1 slice white bread or brioche (I used multigrain bread)

2/3 cup milk (whole or low-fat)

2-3 tablespoons rice bran oil (can use vegetable)

1 large onion, finely chopped


1-2 green chilies, chopped (seeds removed, if desired)

1/2 to 1 teaspoon minced ginger (to taste)

3-4 large garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon each of turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander, paprika (hot or sweet, is up to you)

1/4 teaspoon each of cayenne pepper, ground garam masala (I used curry powder)

Freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 pounds ground meat or a mixture of beef, pork, and veal

2-4 tablespoons apricot or orange preserves

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 plum tomato, seeds removed, coarsely chopped

Egg Custard:

4 eggs beaten

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream (I used 3/4 cup milk + 2 tablespoons cornstarch)

Large pinch of salt

Scallions, sliced, for garnish (optional)

Heat oven to 350˚F/175˚C. Adjust the oven rack to the middle of the oven.

Place bread in a small bowl and pour in 2/3 cup of milk. Let sit until ready to used. Turn to coat both sides. Set aside.

Heat a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil, onions, chilies, ginger, and a light sprinkling of salt to draw out the water. Sauté 4-5 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Add garlic and spices and saute 30 seconds until you can smell the garlic. If the garlic begins to brown, add 1 tablespoon water.

Increase heat to medium high and push the vegetables to one side of the skillet or wok. If the pan is very dry, add the remaining tablespoon of oil. Brown the ground meat, 3-4 minutes, breaking up the large pieces as it cooks. Add 2 tablespoons of the preserves, vinegar, and tomato. Be cautious adding the preserves. Taste. If not sweet enough to your taste, add more. Season with salt. Lower heat and simmer, uncovered, 15-20 minutes for flavours to develop. Taste and adjust seasoning. I added a dash of fish sauce for the umami. Off the heat and let cool.

Wring out the excess milk from the bread, crumble it over the meat mixture. Mix in thoroughly. Taste, and if necessary, season again. Instead of adding more preserves or salt, add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice and taste. See how it tastes, then add more preserves and salt, but be moderate. Scrape meat mixture into a 2 quart baking dish. Smooth the top and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine 4 eggs, 3/4 cup cream or milk, 2 tablespoons cornstarch (if using milk) and a pinch of salt. Whisk vigorously to incorporate the cornstarch, if using. Pour the egg mixture on top of the meat mixture. No need to mix it in. Put the dish inside the roasting pan. It should fit with enough space around all sides. Put the pan in the oven and carefully pour hot water around the dish until it comes halfway up the sides of the baking dish.

Bake 25-30 minutes or until the custard is just set. It shouldn’t be liquid in the middle; but it should jiggle a bit in the center. Take the pan out of the oven and let the bobotie sit in the water bath 10 minutes to firm up after baking. Remove the baking dish from the water bath and cool slightly. Sprinkle sliced scallions on top if you wish. Spoon it out onto a plate and eat with a large green salad, and some chopped chilies if your partner likes bobotie with his chilies.

one day before christmas: simple bûche de noël


I was crazy ambitious to try Bon Appetit’s recipe for Bûche de Noël two days before Christmas. And I should have been warned; anything that can go wrong will go wrong. I accidentally added too much cream to the mascarpone filling and ended up with cream soup instead of cream cheese. I needed a save. So I did a quick search and found Nick Malgieri’s recipe on Food Network for Bûche de Noël that called for a simple coffee buttercream filling. So I married parts of the two recipes together, using the BA recipe for cocoa syrup and sponge cake, and Malgieri’s coffee buttercream frosting. Figuring I was pushing my luck,  I simply cut the log in two rather than try to decorate it.

Bûche de Noël (adapted from Bon Appetit and Food Network)

Make the Cocoa Syrup (makes 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon rum

Cook sugar and ¼ cup water in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat; add cocoa powder and rum and whisk until smooth. Cool, cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before using.

Make the Coffee Buttercream (makes 3-4 cups)
4 (120g) egg whites, room temperature
1 cup superfine sugar
340g unsalted butter, cubed, room temperature
2 tablespoons instant espresso coffee powder
2 tablespoons dark rum

Dissolve the coffee powder in the rum and set aside.

Put 2 inches of water in a large saucepan on the stove and bring it to a simmer. Put the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk in the sugar. Place the bowl on top of the saucepan of simmering water—the water shouldn’t touch the bowl. Continue whisking the eggs whites until foamy and opaque, and the sugar dissolves. The egg white mixture should be warm to the touch and not at all gritty.

Remove the bowl and attach it to the mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whisk the egg white mixture on medium speed until the egg whites have cooled—the bottom of the bowl will be cool to the touch.

Turn off the mixer and switch to the paddle attachment. Add the butter a tablespoon at a time, beating on medium speed until the buttercream is smooth. Slowly pour the coffee mixture into the buttercream while the machine is still beating. The buttercream will curdle but keep beating because it will come together, about 1-2 minutes to completely blend in the coffee mixture.

Can be made a day ahead and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature then beat with paddle attachment on medium high speed until smooth and it comes together again.

Make the Sponge Cake
Melted butter for brushing the pan
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder plus more for dusting
1/4 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into pieces
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
3 large egg yolks, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar

Increase oven to 400°. Line a 12x17x1″ rimmed baking sheet parchment and brush melted butter on it. Flip it over and brush butter on the other side of the parchment and the pan sides and corners. Set aside

Whisk flour, cornstarch, and ⅓ cup cocoa powder in a small bowl. Set aside.

Bring milk, butter, oil, vanilla, and salt to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Keep warm over low heat. It should be body temperature.

Cake Baker’s Note: If the milk mixture is too hot it will cook the eggs. I tested a drop on the inside of my wrist.

Meanwhile, using the paddle attachment, beat eggs and egg yolks with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Increase speed to high; beat until doubled in volume. With motor running, gradually add sugar; beat until very light and fluffy and mixture falls back on itself in a slowly dissolving ribbon (it should be at least quadrupled in volume), about 5 minutes.

Reduce speed to medium and gradually stream in milk mixture. Stop the machine and remove the bowl. Sift one-third of dry ingredients over the top of the batter; gently fold in until only a few streaks remain. Working in 2 additions, repeat with remaining dry ingredients, scraping bottom of bowl and using as few strokes as possible to keep eggs from deflating (a few streaks are fine). Scrape batter into prepared baking sheet and gently spread to edges of pan with an offset spatula. Tap sheet lightly on counter to pop any large air bubbles.

Bake cake until surface is puffed and springy to the touch, 10–12 minutes. Let cake cool in pan 2 minutes, then run a knife along edges to loosen. Spread a towel on a large work surface and sift cocoa powder on top. Invert cake on top of cocoa powder and carefully peel away parchment. Dust top of cake with more cocoa powder. Starting at one of the long sides, gently roll up warm cake inside towel. Let cake cool, seam side down, 30-35 minutes. Can be made 1 day ahead and stored tightly wrapped in plastic at room temperature.

Assemble the Bûche de Noël

Unwrap the thoroughly cooled cake and brush off any excess cocoa powder. Dab the cocoa syrup all over with a pastry brush. Spread about half of the coffee buttercream in a 1/2 inch layer, keeping away 1 inch from the longer edge opposite. Roll up the cake using the towel, but keep the towel on the outside. Chill, keep the seam side down, until filling is set, about 30 minutes. Don’t worry if there are any cracks in the cake; the frosting will hide it.

Transfer the cake to a serving plate. Evenly spread the remaining buttercream all over the cake. Using a serrated knife, trim 1/2 inch pieces from each end to create clean edges. Eat the trimmings!

If desired, create branches on the log by cutting off a 4 inch piece from one end. Cut it in half at a 45 degree angle leaving 1 inch at the opposite end. Attach the angled ends to the cake by using the remaining buttercream to attach the pieces and to fill in the spaces. Put one piece on top and the other on the side. Use an off set spatula to create the appearance of tree bark. Leave the cut ends unfrosted.


salted caramel brownies

Salted Caramel Brownies (adapted from Food Network Magazine)
A colleague at the office gave me the October edition of this magazine. I promised her I would bake one of the cakes in its pages. I was intrigued by the recipe for silver frosting but that’s for another post.  Instead, I decided to try this brownie recipe. After all, it looked straightforward and simple, perfect for Cake Tuesday tomorrow. That saltiness of the sea salt flakes plays against the sweetness of the chocolate and the gooey stickiness of the caramel. This is a moist and tender brownie, not overwhelming in chocolate or sweetness.

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Total: 1 hour (plus cooling)
Servings: 12 large brownies or 24 square brownies

Have at room temperature:
1/2  pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus 1 tablespoon
8 oz plus 6 oz  semisweet chocolate chips
3 oz unsweetened chocolate
4 large eggs (3 extra-large eggs in the original recipe)
1 1/2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons all purpose flour, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5-6 oz caramel sauce
2-3 teaspoons flaked sea salt

  • Preheat oven to 350˚F. Melt 1 tablespoon butter. Mix in 1 tablespoon flour. Brush the butter-flour mixture on the inside and bottom of a 9×13 inch baking pan. Set pan aside. If the pan has a dark nonstick finish, remember to turn the heat down to 325˚F.
  • Melt the butter, 8 oz of the chocolate chips and the unsweetened chocolate together in a medium bowl set over simmering water. Allow to cool 15 minutes. It is very important to allow the butter mixture to cool before adding the remaining chocolate chips or the chips will melt and ruin the brownies.
  • In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee, vanilla, and sugar. Stir the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature.
  • In a medium bowl, sift together 1/2 cup of flour, the baking powder, and salt. Add to the chocolate mixture. Toss the remaining  6 oz of chocolate chips and the remaining 2 tablespoons flour in a medium bowl and add to the chocolate mixture. Spread evenly in the prepared pan.
  • Shift pan back and forth on the counter to settle the batter. Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Don’t over bake. If you’re using a pan with a dark non-stick finish, test the brownies after 30 minutes. If the toothpick comes out clean, take the pan out of the oven.
  • As soon as the brownies are out of the oven, place the jar of caramel sauce without the lid in the microwave and heat until it’s pourable. I don’t have a microwave oven (still) so I heated the sauce on the stove. Stir until smooth. Drizzle the caramel evenly over the hot brownies and sprinkle with the sea salt flakes. Cool completely. Use a sharp knife and cut into 12 bars or 24 squares.