Project Food Blog Challenge 2: Stepping outside my comfort zone with comfort food!!

Challenge 2 of Project Food Blog calls for contestants to step outside their comfort zone and make a dish or use an ingredient from another culture. French and Italian were taken off the table, leaving the 400 remaining contestants researching and strategizing about what dish or foods or cuisine would most impress the judges. Since I often try dishes from other cultures, my selection process took me back to my readers and what it is they look for from Play with Food. While it is fun to search down and experiment with exotic ingredients, it can be prohibitively expensive and the whole idea of my blog is to encourage my readers by making good food, even the exotic and unfamiliar, seem approachable and attainable. So I chose a dish, that is comfort food in another culture, one that will seem vaguely familiar if you have eaten Irish shepherd's pie, or Italian lasagna, or Greek pastitsio, or even American chili!

Bobotie, is a sweet-spicy-savory South African dish that has as its base ground meat, usually lamb, onions, bay leaf, chutney, numerous spices including curry powder, coriander and turmeric. While many authentic dishes were hard to find in South Africa, with the end of apartheid, many indigenous dishes are now re-emerging, even becoming fashionable! This dish appealed to me because I really like lamb, but think many of my readers may not have tried it and this dish is a very non-intimidating way to try lamb. The dish is simple enough to make on a work night and unique enough for company. It has layer upon layer of flavor, complex and yet familiar. I found numerous recipes, each one a bit different, but many of the basic components were similar so I combined them in a way that appealed to me, yet kept the dish authentic.

The dish turned out amazing, but comfort food needs a carb so I also made Buss Up Shut, a Trinidadian (checking out their tourism site, made want to try it there-see photo left- but alas, no time to travel)bread with a name that represents this roti-type bread's resemblance to a busted up shirt. This bread is an awesome accompaniment to bobotie, adding a rich and savory component that complements the spicy-sweet flavors of the meat dish. And given that our country is a melting pot, I think it is perfect to combine dishes from two different cultures to make an amazing meal so delicious it crosses boundaries!


1 lb ground lamb or beef (you should really try the lamb, it has a sweeter, richer flavor)
1 stalk celery chopped
1 large carrot chopped or shredded
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup chutney
1 cup beef broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tbsp sweet and hot peppers chopped
1 tbsp curry powder (I used Jamaican hot, but Indian would work fine too)
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 cup almonds (I used whole, but I think next time I would use slivered or sliced)
1 tsp grated lemon rind
Salt and black pepper

Put oil into a pan, and brown lamb, until caramelized and brown, then add chopped vegetables, bay leaf, peppers, garlic and spices, stirring until the veggies start to brown. Add chutney, broth, and raisins and let cook for 10 minutes. Add almonds and taste. Salt and pepper to taste and add 1 tsp of grated lemon rind. Adjust seasonings or add more sweet hot peppers to get the heat you want. Serve in a bowl Serves 4

Note: Traditionally bobotie is served with either yellow rice or topped with a thin omelet made with egg whipped with half and half.

Buss Up Shut (Busted-up Shirt) Roti

2 cups white wheat flour (King Arthur, of course)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
5 tbsp softened butter
3/4 c water

1. In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Using your fingers, work 3 tablespoons of the butter into the flour, then add the water and knead in the bowl to form a smooth, soft dough.

2. Cover the dough with a towel and set aside for 30 minutes.

3. Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Roll the pieces into balls and set them on a floured surface to rest again.

4. Roll each ball of dough on the floured counter as thinly as possible into a 9-inch rounds. Spread each round with a thin layer of butter and dust with flour, then roll each round into a tight cone. fold each end into the center and flatten . Sprinkle with more flour, cover with a clean towel and let rest again for 30 minutes.

5. Heat a large well-seasoned heavy pan or griddle over medium heat. Add a drop of oil. Place the dough on the hot griddle. Brush with melted butter and watch as the dough puffs and swells. Cook for 1- 1 1/2 minutes and flip with tongs. then cook on this side for about a minute. Cook all four dough rounds this way. Serve warm. Note: I sprinkled my buss up shut with zatar, a middle eastern spice blend.

Bobotie and buss up shut: exotic-yes,delicious-yes, difficult-no. Enjoy these two great dishes from the Caribbean and South Africa... no passport needed!

So what is harder than making an exotic dish including bread in a food blogging competition including some of the best cooks around? Doing it with two of your fingers taped together!! That was my challenge after an accidental fall on an escalator on the DC metro left me with a damaged tendon in the joint of the middle finger of my left hand. Not sure what was harder- chopping or typing, but seeing the final dish, and especially watch the roti puff up exactly the way it was supposed to was a real thrill.


Poker Star said…
this thing is pretty delicious, thanks :D

"The guy who invented poker was bright, but the guy who invented the chip was a genius." My site: Poker gry
Jeanne said…
Wow! You definitely went above and beyond on this challenge. It all looks spectacular!
Anonymous said…
very interesting combination of Cape Malay cuisine and Durban Indian cuisine - must have been a great taste sensation. Not sure how leaving the egg custard off makes it taste though. You get my vote :)
Such a trooper even with the injury. I love your dish as I am a fan of this type of cuisine, perfect for fall
Anne said…
Deborah - once again, parallel lives just a bit - I spent my week laid almost flat after an ER visit on Monday. I came in with 40 minutes to spare on this challenege! WHEW!

You ROCK and your dishes look perfect!
HA, we both made Roti! Great job! Sending some Foodbuzz ♥ your way. Hope we both also make it to the next round ;-)
Anonymous said…
Fabulous post and great step by step pictures. Hope you're feeling better with that injury!

Sending a vote your way and good luck to you!
Anonymous said…
Very inventive take on it - and ambitious, especially with a hurt finger! Hope it heals quickly and best of luck with PFB!
Sheila Norman said…
Deb, you inspired me. I'm making this for dinner tonight and will keep you posted on the results. So far, I've run into a bit of a snag since I didn't have the chutney, I thought I did. Desperation leads to new discoveries so we'll see what happens....

Rick said…
All of that looks so good!
Lick My Spoon said…
Hey Deborah, this looks delicious! I haven't really cooked South African food or Trinidad cuisine but now want to give a try. Thank you for sharing :) You got my vote!

Lick My Spoon
sweet swallows said…
Aw man, finger injuries are the worst. They don't always hurt that much, but they make doing everything difficult! Looks like you did a pretty swell job, none-the-less. You've got my vote!
Deborah Dowd said…
Poker Star- It would bebgreat for poker night!

Jeanne- Thanks so muc- I hope othes will try both of these dishes, because they are amazing! - As it turns out, we added the egg custard whenwe were ready to eat this dish but I was sure I couldn't freeze it with the egg on it!

Cheap Ethnic Eatz- My job as a mom and a blogger makes being a trooper essential. Thanks!

Anne- I am so sorry to hear that. Hope you are doing better. You would never know by your moussaka!!
fresh vending said…
This is the most exotic and delicious cuisines i have come across. Great post one is surely going to increase the appetite after having a look at this blog.
Really looking spectacular. Am going to try a hand in this to enjoy its delicious taste.
Ms. Morgan said…
Hurt fingers or not your bread looks amazing.
It looks so delicious, i will try it NOW :)
Kelly said…
Mmm this looks delicious!! So glad to be your newest follower! :)