Last week's column about the intriguing "Charleston Hobotee" dish created some buzz that has helped solve most, but not all, of the mystery about this curried meat custard.
To refresh, recipes for Hobotee appear in the "Charleston Receipts" and "The Glory of Southern Cooking" cookbooks. In the latter, author James Villas talks about his grandmother's sacred Hobotee recipe that was served with sherry as a prelude to a seafood meal.
But where did Hobotee come from? Several readers shined a light on its origins.
Diana Black of Johns Island was one. "I grew up in Zimbabwe and lived for many years in South Africa, where Bobotee, not Hobotee, is a classic and very popular Cape Malay dish. Bobotee is almost identical to both the recipes in your article, and I am wondering when and where the 'B' became an 'H' or the 'H' became a 'B'. Perhaps you know the answer?"
No, I don't know about the linguistic switch. That's the part that remains unknown to me. But reading on, you'll see other variations in spellings.
Alysia Lucas of Goose Creek also weighed in. "I was struck by hobotee's resemblance to South Africa's national dish, spelled 'bobotie.' If you read the Wikipedia entry for it, you'll see that it likely came to South Africa from the Dutch East Indies and may originally be of Malay origin. If you pull up a few recipes, you'll see that they all have meat, bread, nuts and curry as ingredients.
"Could the dish have come to Charleston via the Dutch settlements in the Caribbean?"
Graham Scott wrote, "I grew up eating Babotee in Africa. It is a dish much prized by the Afrikaners of South Africa, and well-known throughout the old British Empire. I have forwarded your article to many in the hopes that they will quickly respond as to the origins, and history, of the receipt. Safe to say that they were eating Babotee in South Africa in the early 1800s."
Amy Hahn of Albany, N.Y., used to live in Charleston but still follows this column. (Thank you!) She shared some information she found on the web. Bobotie's name derives from the Indonesian "bobotok," and the dish was likely adapted by Dutch traders and brought back to the region around Cape Town. Also, Bobotie is typically served with geelrys (yellow rice) and a side of mango chutney.
From R. Scott Pearson of Summerville, who teaches business and economics at Charleston Southern University:
"I was fascinated to read the discussion of Hobotee in today's (Sept. 18) Post and Courier. I had never heard of a Charleston connection for this recipe, but I can, perhaps, help trace it back at least a few years further. It bears a striking resemblance to a recipe my family used to enjoy when we lived in the Caribbean. We found it originally in a 1936 cookbook called 'Round the World Cook Book,' published by Culinary Arts Press. I still have the cookbook, and it provides a few more details, along with an additional version, under a slightly different name. Dubbed 'Bobotee,' the cookbook suggests that it is an African recipe, and says that 'this dish is particularly popular on farms and in older sections of the Dutch community.'
"... I've really enjoyed this dish, and it brings back good old memories, albeit, not in Charleston."
The recipe follows:
1/4 cup meat broth
1 slice bread
1 1/2 pounds minced cooked meat
4 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped fine
1/2 cup blanched and pounded almonds
1 tablespoon curry powder
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper
1 cup milk
Fresh lemon leaves or 1 bay leaf
Save a little of the broth in which the meat was cooked and in it soak the bread. Mix the soaked bread with the chopped meat; melt the butter, fry the onion and add the meat mixture. 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 lemon leaves or 1 bay leaf to the custard. Stand in a basin of water and cook in a moderate oven (350 degrees) until the custard has set. Serve with chutney and boiled rice.
Cathy Damron even points us to a similar vegetarian recipe, tofu instead of meat, found in the "Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant" cookbook. Also thanks to Dorian Gleason and Susan McSwain, both of Mount Pleasant.
Now, I wonder, will any of our Charleston chefs have the desire or the nerve to revive Hobotee?
Nancy Metts of Moncks Corner has been searching for a particular lemon cake recipe for years, which she describes as a delicious yellow scratch cake and cooked icing made with fresh lemon juice. "The icing comes out almost like a candy glaze on the cake. My mom made this cake back in the '40s and '50s and it was wonderful."
Thomas Tindell of Harleyville says this recipe comes from way-way back:
Lemon Pound Cake With Lemon Glaze
3 1/2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 sticks butter, softened
1/2 cup butter-flavor Crisco
3 cups sugar
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons lemon flavoring
Lemon Glaze (recipe follows)
In a medium bowl, combine flour and baking powder and set aside.
In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream butter and Crisco; gradually add sugar, beating for several minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat until batter is smooth, but do not over beat. Sir in lemon flavoring. Pour into greased and floured 10-inch tube pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour or until done (use the toothpick test). Remove from oven. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes and invert onto serving plate. Glaze if you wish.
1 cup of sugar
Juice of 2 large lemons
1/3 cup water
In a medium saucepan on medium-high heat, stir sugar, juice and water until well-combined. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer. Simmer, stirring continuously, until the glaze reaches a syrup consistency. Remove from heat. Be sure to spoon the hot glaze over the warm cake, allowing it to drizzle down the sides. Can be doubled for volume.
Pat Lindenmeyer of Summerville also responded. She says if it's not the recipe Nancy is seeking, "It sure is good. Try it."
Prepare (spray) oblong metal pan
1 (3-ounce) package lemon Jell-O
1 cup hot water
1 box yellow cake mix
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon lemon extract
2 cups powdered sugar
Juice from 2 lemons
Dissolve lemon Jell-O in 1 cup hot water, set aside.
Beat the cake mix with the eggs and oil until combined then add the Jell-O and lemon extract.
Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. When done, immediately poke lots of holes in the cake with a kitchen fork of ice pick. While cake is hot, combine the powdered sugar and lemon juice and slowly pour it over the cake and spread so that it drips down into the holes. Cool, cover with foil to keep moist.
Who's got the recipe?
--A Charleston reader seeks recommended recipes for pecan-encrusted fish (or chicken).
Looking for a recipe or have one to share? Reach Food Editor Teresa Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org, 937-4886 or 134 Columbus St., Charleston, SC 29403-4800.