Come Into My Kitchen

Bobotie, a savory South African curry dish, is a versatile winner

Edwena Kaplen-Jacobs’ Bobotie.
Edwena Kaplen-Jacobs’ Bobotie. The Kansas City Star

Edwena Kaplen-Jacobs, originally from South Africa, travels extensively, and her travels influence her cooking and the ingredients she uses. She and her husband, Glen Jacobs, live in Leawood, where they raised two sons.

Q: How has travel influenced your cooking?

A: I have always loved to cook, and while we left South Africa 22 years ago, my homeland, family and the places I travel to influence my cooking.

My father’s family was Mediterranean, so I grew up with those foods and influences. When we moved from South Africa, we lived in the Caribbean for five years, and while there I enjoyed cooking fish and seafood.

Now, I travel to see family and for my work, and I purchase spices and other ingredients on my trips, and I enjoy using specific curries and spices from other countries. I also enjoy using distinctive and beautiful kitchen utensils and serving pieces, and many are artisan-made in South Africa.

As a birthday gift, I was able to travel to southern France to study cooking. That was an incredible opportunity, and I learned much about French cooking.

CIMK Kaplen-Jacobs 041818 0 (2)
Edwena Kaplen-Jacobs’ flavorful and versatile Bobotie is in great demand from her family and friends. Allison Long The Kansas City Star

Q: Tell us about Bobotie, the dish you are sharing.

A: It is one of my signature dishes. Twice, when my sons were in elementary school, I offered to prepare a five-course dinner for 10 people and donated the dinner to their fundraising auctions. Bobotie was the main dish. The dinner raised $1,000 each time it was auctioned. Then, when my son’s fraternity at KU, Phi Gamma Delta (or Fiji), held an auction, that dinner sold for $1,500.

The dish is very popular in South Africa, and my neighbors beg to come to dinner when I prepare it. While the dish may typically feed about six people, when my sons are home, the two of them enjoy it so much they can almost eat it all.

The ground meat is flavored with curry, then covered with a creamy yogurt and egg topping, so the dish is as beautiful as it is richly flavored. It takes just about 20 minutes to assemble before going into the oven, so it is not difficult or time-consuming.

It is a versatile recipe, and you can adjust the flavor to fit your preferences. Sometimes I add the silvered almonds or chopped, dried apricots to the meat, but it is still very good if you leave them out. While many top the classic casserole with buttermilk, I enjoy a thicker topping made with Greek yogurt.

The sambals, or toppings, are colorful, and you can choose the ones you prefer. If you omit the bread in the recipe and the accompanying rice, it is a low-carb, high-protein (keto and paleo) friendly recipe.

Q: Do you have tips for people who want to add flavor to their home cooking?

A: I keep a variety of wonderful olive oils and vinegars right by the stove and use them often. Don’t buy typical bottled vinaigrettes or salad dressings at the store. Experiment with flavored oils, top-quality flavorful olive oil and flavored vinegars to make your own vinaigrettes.

Roxanne Wyss and Kathy Moore are cookbook authors and food consultants that make up The Electrified Cooks. They have published 11 cookbooks and thousands of recipes. They are members of Les Dames d’Escoffier and blog at Email them at

South African Bobotie

Makes 6 servings

2 tablespoons butter

1 pound ground beef (or 1/2 pound ground beef and 1/2 pound ground lamb)

2 onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 (4-ounce) container unsweetened applesauce or 1 cup grated carrot or apple

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons curry powder

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon dried Herbs de Provence

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon garam masala

1 teaspoon salt

Dash pepper

1 tablespoon date vinegar or cider vinegar

2 slices white bread, soaked in milk, lightly squeezed and mashed with a fork, optional

1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted, optional

1/2 cup chopped dried apricots, optional

2 bay leaves

1 cup plain Greek yogurt, sour cream or buttermilk

2 eggs

Turmeric Rice (see recipe)

Sambals (toppings): Sliced banana, shredded coconut, finely diced tomato, finely diced onion, chutney, preferably Mrs. H. S. Balls peach chutney or other jarred chutney

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the ground meat and cook until browned, stirring to crumble. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent. Add the garlic and applesauce.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, stir together the olive oil, curry powder, coriander, ginger, Herbs de Provence, turmeric, cinnamon, garam masala, salt and pepper. Heat, stirring frequently, just until warm and the seasonings dissolve. Stir the seasoned olive oil mixture into the beef. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until hot and blended.

Stir in the vinegar. Stir in the mashed milk-soaked bread, and if desired, the almonds and apricots. Mix well. Spoon the mixture evenly into an 3-quart ovenproof oval casserole (approximately 10-by-17-by-2 inches.) Tuck in the bay leaves.

Whisk together the yogurt and eggs. Spread the yogurt mixture over the meat mixture, spreading evenly with a knife, much like frosting a cake. Bake, uncovered, 30 to 40 minutes. Serve with turmeric rice and sambals.

Turmeric Rice

Makes 6 servings

1 cup basmati or long-grain rice

2 1/2 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons turmeric

2 sticks cinnamon or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup raisins

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons butter

Combine rice and water in a medium saucepan. Season with salt, turmeric and cinnamon. Cook according to package directions until rice is tender. Stir in raisins during the last 10 minutes of cooking. Just before serving, stir in honey and butter.