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A South African Soirée

Despite my feelings about new year's resolutions in general, here's one that I really enjoy: to expand my culinary repertoire, I will plan and cook a dinner whose foods are new to me. Last year I managed a Cuban dinner, a Basque dinner, and a few others. This year, I'm aiming for twelve.

I kicked off 2010 with a South African Soirée to celebrate Brian's 37th birthday. I made: boontjiesop, bobotie, geelrys, three different sambals and melktert and cordials of Amarula liqueur for dessert.

I was a little surprised that everyone said this was - by far - the best meal they've ever had at my house. But I can see why. The layers of flavors exploded in your mouth and were sensational.

And because, as stated, I cannot follow a recipe to save my life, here's my version of the bobotie...

I browned minced shallots with ground beef and ground pork, then I seasoned the cooked meat with a mild curry and turmeric. I stirred in some apricot jam, homemade tomato chutney, slivered almonds, and a mixture of golden and regular raisins. Then I spread that along the bottom of a baking dish and topped it with beaten eggs mixed with chopped fresh herbs; I used mint, Italian parsley, and chives. I placed half a dozen bay leaves onto the top of the dish and baked till the egg custard was firm.

I served the bobotie with a carrot sambal, an apple sambal, and a cucumber sambal. My sambals were fast and loose, really just fresh relishes. My sauce was a mixture of apple cider vinegar and sugar, simmered till it begins to thicken to a syrup, then stirred with a dash of hot chili peppers. Then I poured that syrup into three dishes to dress the shredded carrots with chives, shredded apples with Italian parsley, and chopped fresh cucumbers with mint.

Up next month, a Palauan Feast.

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