Mary Manion

Bobotie Empanadas + Cape Town

Mary Manion
Bobotie Empanadas + Cape Town

You might be thinking “what the heck is bobotie, and why is it in an empanada?”  Let me try to explain: I am a gal who prides herself on packing light - like three weeks of clothes in one carry-on suitcase light.  So, I don’t haul much home from my travels, other than perhaps the alarming number of photos on my iPhone. I do, however, try to soak up culinary ideas and bring them home to translate them into tasty dishes to feed my friends and family.  Bobotie is a traditional South African dish that I discovered in Cape Town last year. And bobotie in empanadas? Trust me on this. 

Colorful and complicated, set along some of the most beautiful coastline in the world, Cape Town has captured my heart.  This may be in large part due to my discovery of the dreamy, sun drenched Oranjzeheit Market. Overlooking Table Bay, tucked in between the Cape Town (soccer) Stadium and the Waterfront, this meandering collection of stalls pops up on Saturday mornings.  Purveyors of gorgeous foodstuffs abound, filling the hall with heady scents of spices and grilled meats mixed in with the salty ocean breezes.

Cape Town came to prominence in the 1600s as ships stopped there to load up on fresh fruit and vegetables as they journeyed from Europe to East Africa, India, and the Far East.  This tradition of “kitchen gardens” and the lovely produce they harvest continues to today. 

We did not allow nearly enough time to completely enjoy the market - we had swung by on our way out of town to visit the Cape of Good Hope.  I gravitated to sample those things reflective of Cape Town’s complicated culture and culinary history and uncommon in my corner of the world.  I grabbed a selection of morsels to go: little British-influenced sweet and savory pies, Portuguese custard tarts known as pasties de natal, and Indian samosas.  I sampled a bit of Dutch inspired gouda and ogled South African versions of worldwide faves: avocado toast and macarons and waffles and fresh pasta. A barbeque crew had started to grill meats by 9:30am (good morning Kitchen Cowboys!), but I was drawn to the simmering paella-sized pans of shashuka across the way.  I so wished I had the time to linger at one of the many communal tables overlooking the bay, filled with families feasting during weekend shopping excursions.  

As I wandered the world last year sampling all sorts of amazing food, I was constantly trying to work out how to bring these flavors home to my kitchen to share with my friends and family.  Bobotie is a classic South African casserole - ground beef or lamb deeply spiced with Indian flavors, spiked with raisins and a bit of mango chutney. I love a good casserole, but no one else in House Morell does, so that was going to be a tough sell, no matter how delicious the flavor combo.   When I sampled tiny pies stuffed with bobotie in the market, I had a lightbulb moment - these flavors would be amazing stuffed into empanadas. 

The bobotie filling is a breeze to pull together.  Caramelize onions till they’re deep brown, brown your favorite ground meat (I have tinkered with a number of options - I love the beef and lamb best, but just beef, or even ground chicken works well too).  Season the meat with spices and mango chutney and toss in some raisins and almonds. I have discovered empanada wrappers in the freezer section of my favorite Latin market that are amazing, but any frozen empanada wrappers will do (Here is the link to an online source for them, but I suspect you can find them closer to home for far less.)  

It’s a crazy long flight to get to Cape Town, but these dreamy empanadas transport help me imagine a little culinary field trip.


Bobotie Empanadas

Makes about 22

  • 1 tablespoon butter

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 2 onions, chopped

  • 1 lb ground beef

  • ½ lb ground lamb (you can easily use 1 ½ lbs ground beef if lamb isn’t available)

  • 2 tablespoons curry powder

  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves

  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • 2 tablespoons mango chutney

  • 3 tablespoons raisins

  • 3 tablespoons almonds, sliced

  • 1 package La Soltena Empanada wrappers por hornado (22 to a package)

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.

  2. Melt the butter and olive oil on low heat, saute the onions until they are translucent, about 10-12 minutes. Add the ground beef and lamb. Cook until browned, about 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, to break up the meat.

  3. Add the curry powder, cloves, allspice and salt and stir until all the meat is covered in the spices - about a minute.  Add the mango chutney, raisins and almonds. Let the meat cool, until it is easy to handle.

  4. Place a tablespoon of meat onto the center of each empanada disk. Fold the dough over to make a half-moon, and seal with a decorative pattern.

  5. Place the empanadas on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake for 8-10 minutes, until golden brown.

  6. Serve warm, or at room temperature.