Thursday, 15 January 2015

Botswanan beef and lemon casserole

Hi everyone! I’m back again after an extended Christmas/summer break! It certainly has been nice to have some time off and just relax! Now I thought I would pick up where I left off, with the next course of my special four-course meal.

For my third (main) course in my four-course meal assignment, I decided to do a meal from an unfamiliar culture. This one was tricky, because the requirement from our lecturer was that if we had regularly eaten the food before, it doesn't count as unfamiliar, even if that food is from a different cultural background to our own. As someone who loves food and who has certainly tried a lot of food, I realised I would need some inspiration!

Luckily, I am an an avid reader, and it is through books that I travel to new and exotic locations, and learn about different places, and different foods, around the world (and of course I also love reading food blogs from around the world!). One of my earliest literary-inspired food memories was from The Chronicles of Narnia, in which the White Witch tempts Edmund to betray his siblings with Turkish Delight (of course, this then magically made me love Turkish Delight).

More recently, I have been enjoying The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, by Alexander McCall Smith. These books are set in Botswana and tell the story of Mma Ramotswe, who starts the country’s first ever female-owned detective agency. I have actually always been rather intrigued by Botswana since learning about the Okavango Delta in high school. These beautiful stories, with their strong, wise, and funny characters, and the depiction of a delightful, genteel culture, inspired my imagination further. Food of course features prominently in the stories, particularly as Mma Ramotswe gathers her family around the dinner table. So I wanted to cook a meal that would be right at home at Mma Ramotswe’s house.

One prized ingredient in Botswana (as I learned from the book series) is beef, with the size of a family’s cattle herd reflecting a family’s wealth.  After a thorough search online, I found a Botswanan beef and lemon casserole, which in its simplicity and homeliness I thought would be right at home in Mma Ramotswe's kitchen. I served the beef with a spicy Botswanan cabbage and Mealie Pap, which is essentially like polenta.

I received some mixed reviews about the various parts of the meal. We all enjoyed the beef, which was very tender, with a tasty, tangy sauce. Our uncle said “the beef is nice and soft, melts in the mouth, and is a good casserole for a cold day.” However, the cabbage rather divided the crowd. Our 14 year old cousin gave rated it 4 out of 10, explaining that she thought it was too spicy! Luckily, the mealie pap was fairly well liked, with the family deciding that the pap soaked up the beef sauce nicely.

I hope that this dish brought a little bit of Botswana to Australia, and I am looking forward to trying out some more new exotic recipes!

Beef and lemon casserole

Recipe adapted from Celtnet

Serves 6

1.4 kg gravy beef, cut into strips
2 x 130g unwaxed lemons, thinly sliced (remove any pips)
2 small onions (180g), sliced into thin rings
200ml water
2 tbps (40ml) olive oil
1 tbsp (10g) plain flour
Salt and pepper, to taste


Preheat oven to 160°C. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan. Fry beef until brown on both sides. Layer beef into a casserole dish, separating each layer of beef with a layer of onions and lemon slices. Finish with a layer of lemon slices on top. Pour in water and season with salt and pepper. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 90 minutes. Remove foil, then mix plain flour with 2 tbsp water to a smooth slurry. Stir this into casserole. Return to oven and cook for a further 15 minutes. Serve with mealie pap and cabbage.

Botswanan cabbage

Recipe adapted from Celtnet

1 tomato, finely chopped
1 onion, sliced
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried chilli
½ small white cabbage, shredded
2 tbsp olive oil


Heat oil in pan over medium heat. Fry onion and tomato for five minutes, then add herbs and spices. Stir well until a thick paste forms. Add cabbage and sauté for 2 min to combine. Then cover and cook for 5-10 min or until cabbage is soft.

Mealie pap

Recipe adapted from Global Table Adventure

170g polenta
1 L water
1 vegetable stock cube


Heat water in a medium pop and bring to boil. Add stock cube and stir to dissolve. Stream in polenta slowly. Whisk to keep mixture from lumping. Simmer mixture gently, stirring constantly, until cooked to desired consistency, about 5-10 min.

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