A Bit Colonial, a Bit Pre-War

After giving my ye olde culinary chops a rest, I’m back to diving through old cookbooks looking for the hysterical and frightening. The next few weeks are going to be fun (for you) and perhaps indigestible (for Paul). The first meal comes courtesy of a slim volume procured by my father entitled ’Round the World Cook Book: 200 Favorite Recipes from Thirty Foreign Lands. Yes, that’s correct: The term is ’round, rather than around. The quaint language is due to the fact that this cookbook was published pre-war (that would be before World War II, whipper snappers). The 1936 publication date explains why Palestine is listed as Fatherland of the Jews. But, I’ll get to those recipes in a later post.

Because now, I’m about to bring you the cuisine of Africa and India as seen through the lens of 1930s America. There are only 64 pages in this cook book, but France and Spain get three pages each. Hell, Scotland gets its own page. (Scotland?!?!) The entire continent of Africa gets two pages. Of the six recipes, four are South African dishes that may or may not be native to Africa and one is couscous. India fares a bit better with nine recipes. But, again, most are colonial favorites (or rather favorites of the white folks oppressing the native people).

What is remarkable is that the recipes call for ingredients such as curry powder, ground ginger, or saffron. Items that we can easily find at the grocery store, but I would have thought a bit exotic for the 1930s home cook. I chose the African dish bobotie (spelled bobotee in the cookbook) and it said you should serve it with chutney, so I hopped on over to the India section and found a tomato chutney recipe.

Bobotie or Bobotee

This dish comes to South Africa via the Dutch.

  • ¼ C meat broth
  • 1 slice bread
  • 1½ lbs minced cooked meat
  • 4 T butter
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • ½ C blanched and pounded almonds (I pulverized them in a food processor)
  • 1 T curry powder
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 C milk
  • Fresh lemon leaves or 1 bay leaf (I used a bay leaf)

Save a little of the broth in which the meat was cooked and in it soak the bread. (OK, so already I’m diverting a bit from the norm. I had beef stock so I used that to soak the bread.) Mix the soaked bread with the chopped meat; melt the butter, fry the onion and add the meat mixture. (I am so happy to have a cookbook that isn’t afraid to use the word fry. Sauté? What is sauté? We put it in fat, it’s frying. Anyway, I melted the gorgeous amount of butter, cooked the onion and then added the meat to cook it. I drained off a bit of the fat before adding the soaked bread.) Add the almonds, curry powder, lemon juice, salt and pepper and, after mixing well, put in a greased deep pie dish. Beat the eggs with the milk and pour over the meat, adding 1 or 2 small fresh lemon leaves or 1 bay leaf to the custard. Stand in a basin of water and cook in a moderate oven (350°F) until the custard has set. Serve with chutney and boiled rice.

Results

I found that it took about an hour or so for the custard to set (and I still ended up cranking my oven to 400° halfway through). But, here is the little guy just out of the oven in his water bath. Notice the nice sheen of oil at the top. This may be due to cooking the meat with the onions (rendering more fat) or it might be because of all the butter. At any rate, it tastes fantastic. Not overly spicy. All of the recipes for bobotie that I have seen add raisins, but I think that this version is very pleasant—even if the consistency is a bit odd. Like a ye olde version of Hamburger Helper (WHOA! Stop yelling at me. I have never knowingly eaten Hamburger Helper. I just thought that the consistency might be what you’d get with that stuff.)

Bobotee or bobotie

Bobotee/bobotie, tomato/tomahto

Tomato Chutney

The cookbook uses up an awful lot of valuable space telling the reader about the spiritual nature that cooking has for Hindus. The editors devote four paragraphs to how cookery is a sacred ceremony linked to ritual life. And, then, in true European fashion, go on to give recipes such as Mulligatawney Soup. Anyway, here is the chutney recipe which I halved.

  • 6 large red tomatoes
  • 6 large green tomatoes (I did not have green, so I just used 6 red)
  • 3 C sugar
  • 2 ¼ C seedless raisins
  • 2 C almonds, sliced
  • 24 buds garlic (or cloves… buds… you funny 1930s people!)
  • 1 t ground ginger
  • 2 t red pepper
  • 1 C vinegar
  • Salt to taste

Scald and peel the tomatoes. Add a small amount of water to the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes. (Let’s stop right here. I cut the tomatoes into rather large chunks. If you don’t, it’s going to take a while to render these suckers down.) Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Add the remaining ingredients and cook slowly until the mixture thickens. Pour into sterilized glasses and seal. (Yeah, I don’t can. I put it in a Pyrex and stuffed it in my fridge.)

Results

Love how this cookbook doesn’t give you times! I started this one cooking an hour before I started the bobotie. So, two plus hours of stove top time and I came up with a pretty good consistency. It looks evil in the pot, but it comes out rather sweet. I’m guessing it would have been tarter if I had had green tomatoes. As it was, the half recipe was enough for Paul and myself with plenty of leftovers.

Tomato Chutney

Kind of vile looking, but seriously delish! (Those aren't beans, they're raisins.)

Here is what our goop on a plate looked like with the rice. (And, by the way, even though the recipe called for boiled rice, I think you can get away with a steamed version. This is where I’d insert a winky face so you know that I’m being sly and kind of funny. But, I’m also trying to be professional so, no winky face for you!)

Bobotie, chutney, and rice

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