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There is no other name in any language for this popular traditional Malay dish. At first glance it looks like ordinary lamb stew, but it has a delicious sweet-and-sour flavour and an enticing aroma. It was a component of the Bride’s Dinner Basket. Of all the Cape Malay feasts, weddings are still the most elaborate. Traditionally, the bride is presented with a “dinner basket” – a sign of affection when the bridegroom’s family sends her dinner. This basket comprises traditional foods, wrapped in cellophane and beautifully decorated. Nowadays many couples choose to forego this expensive custom. The menu would include the following: bobotie, denningvleis, sosatie chops, mutton curry, leg of lamb and mutton breyani as meats. Then there would be an assortment of sides and salads such as mashed potatoes, puris, gem squash, carrots, yellow rice, beetroot salad, tomato salad and mixed vegetable salad. Desserts would typically include trifle, stewed fruit, strawberry angel pudding, jelly, potato puddings and lots of cookies and an edible bread basket. A huge assortment of foods by any standards.

Serves 4 to 6


1 leg of lamb, about 1kg / 2 lbs
3 large onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup water
5 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon red chilli flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 bay leaves
5 whole allspice or 1/2 teaspoon allspice powder
2 teaspoons sugar (or to taste)
20 ml / 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar


Cut the meat into small cubes
Combine all the marinade ingredients together and rub into meat
Set aside for about 2 hours
Heat the oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium high heat
Sauté the onions and meat
Once browned, add water, cover and simmer until the meat is tender, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours
Check regularly to ensure there is still enough moisture and stir
You can add water bit by bit if it appears too dry
Serve with rice