Languages aren’t my strong point...
...but for some reason I can remember the very first word I learned in Latin - mensa meaning ‘table’. The whole class was puzzled by the declamation of that noun - it went Mensa, Mensa, Mensam or a table, o table and so on. Aged 13 we thought it was bonkers to be learning how to speak to a table. Well, it has been some 40 years but at last I have found a reason to address that table!
Tables are at the very heart of Feather Edge - places where friends and family gather to share great food and silly stories and enjoy beautiful things. Our big old African teak table sits in our barn and I wanted to share its origins with you.
At the time...
...old railway sleepers were dirt cheap and were not creosoted softwoods but rather hardwoods that were retired from service looking battered and bruised but - with a bit of love and care - could be made to look fabulous. Many different types of wood were used but African teak - creamy yellow, brown and jarrah (deep warm shades of red) - were pretty common. So with the judicious application of a chain saw and huge amounts of sweat, I made the dining table you see here.
Over the years...
...it has seen many different dishes as I experiment for my long suffering family and friends who pitch up and take pot luck or rather ‘potjiekos’ - literally (cast iron) cauldron food - as we say in South Africa. I’ve chosen one of my favourite rustic recipes to share with you - something a bit different that you may not see elsewhere. Bobotie (which is pronounced ba-boor-tea) is a Cape Malay dish that is similar in some ways to shepherd’s pie but served with a baked omelette topping rather than mashed potatoes. It’s savoury and comforting - great for the time of year.
Bobotie - Serves 6
For the mince:
1 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions finely chopped
½ tsp crushed garlic
0.8kg/1lb 7oz lean beef or lamb mince
250ml/9fl oz beef or lamb stock
1 cup milk
2 thick slices of bread brushed with butter and garlic, lightly toasted and crumbled
½ cup raisins
½ cup chopped dried apricots
1 tsp apricot jam
1 tbsp hot chutney
½ tbsp curry powder
1 tsp salt and ground back pepper
For the omelette:
2 large eggs
½ cup cream
1 pinch salt and pepper
1 bay leaf
1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees C. and lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.
2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat and cook the onions until soft. Break the mince into the frying pan and cook until brown.
3. Place the milk in a shallow dish. Soak the breadcrumbs in the milk. Squeeze the excess milk from the breadcrumbs and add them to the beef mixture. Stir in the raisins, dried apricots, apricot jam, chutney, curry powder, garlic, salt, black pepper and stock. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish, ensuring that you pack it down well and leave a flat surface.
4. Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour.
5. While the bobotie mince bakes, whisk together the cream, eggs and seasoning. After an hour, remove and discard the foil and pour the egg mixture over top of the dish. Lay the bay leaf on the top of the mixture.
6. Return the bobotie to the oven until the top is golden brown and has a slight wobble - 20 to 25 minutes.
Serve with savoury rice, fresh vegetables and a bottle of red.