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Malva Pudding is an Afrikaans dish, popular all over southern Africa and  I have tried out this particular recipe especially for my friend Tom who is also Zimbabwean.

Memories of his grandmother’s baking were triggered when I posted about crunchies and he wanted to know if there was also a recipe for Malva Pudding in my grandmother’s cookbook. I have checked carefully and sadly our family cookbook does not have a

Ready for the oven

recipe for Malva Pudding. On one hand this is not surprising because I don’t remember ever having Malva Pudding when I was a child, only much later when I was at university in South Africa. On the other hand even though our family never had it, there are probably loads of southern Africans like Tom who had grandmothers who did make Malva Pudding frequently, so our cookbook should have featured it somewhere.

Hot out the oven

Not wanting to let Tom down, I did some reading, found out a bit more about the puddings origins and looked at a few different versions before I decided on the one below.

Apparently the name comes from the dessert wine Malvacea from Madeira because the pudding and the wine were served together after the main course at Cape Dutch tables. The pudding

consists of a sponge cake with a caramelized crust and is usually made using apricot jam. In the version below a brandy syrup is poured over the sponge which is reminiscent of two other Cape Dutch puddings – Cape Brandy Pudding and Tipsy Tart and unsurprisingly, I think the brandy makes it :)

Usually it is cooked as one big pudding but I loved the idea of making little, individual puddings which I did using a muffin pan.

Malva Pudding (for Thomas)

Adapted from Justin Bonello’s recipe in ‘Cooked in Africa’

  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 Tbsp Apricot Jam
  • 1 and 1/4 Cups Plain Flour
  • 1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2 Tbsps Butter
  • 1 tsp White Wine Vinegar
  • 1/2 Cup Milk

The Syrup

  • 1 Cup Cream
  • 125g Butter
  • 1/2 Cup Brandy
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar

Nom, nom, nom

Beat the sugar and the eggs until the mixture is fluffy and the sugar has dissolved, then add the apricot jam and mix in. In another bowl sift the flour, bicarb, and salt together twice. Melt the butter and allow it to cool completely (this is important!). Once the butter is cool, add the vinegar and the milk (if the butter is not cool this mixture will curdle). Add the dry mix and the butter mix to the egg/sugar mix folding in well.

Pour the mixture evenly into a butter-greased 12 cup muffin tray. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees C for 40-45mins. Melt the syrup ingredients together and simmer over low heat (do not allow to boil) until muffins are ready. When the little puddings come out the oven pour the syrup over them so that it sinks in. Serve hot.

When I took these with me on a visit to my cousins, their only comment was why I had failed to bring more than 1 each :)

My New Years resolution to post more to my blog got off to a good start and then life rapidly took over as usual. There are not enough hours in the day to do what I have to do, let alone the things I just want to do. Despite this modern affliction that affects us all, a few weekends ago I managed to bake one of the cakes I have wanted to bake since the idea for this project first came to me – gingerbread.

Anyone paging through the family cookbook (as I do fairly often) will notice gingerbread recipes, a lot of gingerbread recipes. In fact the ‘G’ section of the index is completely dominated by gingerbread recipes. Most of these recipes are in my Great-Grandmother Dodo’s writing and all of them are splattered and stained – very well used. The one most splattered and well used and  the page the recipe book naturally falls open to if left to it’s own devises is ‘Auntie Kath’s Gingerbread’.

With gingerbread obviously being a firm favourite, dare I say, a weakness of Dodo’s, it would have been a good place to start this blog – if only I had had the key ingredient in the house the day I wanted to start – ginger! I know any of you who have seen my spice cupboard will be surprised that any spice could be missing from that cupboard, let alone one as common as ginger, but Christmas is a gingery time and I was out. So, it was left to Crunchies to start my new project and being such a central part of every Zimbabwean child’s upbringing, filled the post admirably, but now on to Dodo’s favourite.

Birthday treats - crunchies, gingerbread, cupcakes and fruit cake

I know who Auntie Kath is in the family tree, she is Dodo’s sister (my great-great-aunt), but apart from that, I didn’t know much else. My mission therefore when next speaking to Polly was to discover firstly, what was with all this gingerbread and secondly, her memories of Auntie Kath.

The answer to the gingerbread question was as we already surmised from the numerous entries in the recipe book – Dodo loved it and made it a lot (not just gingerbread, anything ginger). Polly also had lots of memories of Auntie Kath and her baking which by all accounts was legendary. Apparently her scones, as well as her Gingerbread were famous in the family and both were included amongst the refreshments for her tennis parties which she held every Sunday. Polly mentioned that she was very close to Kath who was a figure in her life that she could always confide in and ask advice. Her cookery advice at least has been recorded for us all and now it was my turn to give it a go.

Ingredients assembled, ready to go

I followed the recipe exactly as it is below and it illustrates an important point about my family. Dodo and Polly were baking for large families – very large. Dodo had 6 children, 31 grandchildren and a number of great-grandchildren when she died. Polly has 5 children,10 grandchildren (all of whom are remiss in providing great-grandchildren) and a ridiculously large number of nephews, nieces, great-nephews etc. I am not even going to bother to count, it would take too long. My point is – this recipe is designed for numbers.

Auntie Kath’s Gingerbread – pg34

  • 110g sugar
  • 110g margarine (I used butter)
  • 3 Cups Flour
  • 1 Cup Syrup
  • 1 Cup Milk
  • 1 Cup Warm Water
  • 2 tsps Ground Ginger
  • 2 tsps mixed spice (I did not have mixed spice either and used 1/2 tsp each of nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice and cloves)
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 tsp Bicarb Soda (Dodo’ notes also say to add 2 tsps cinnamon if you are not using brown sugar)

Pg 34


Melt the sugar, marg and syrup until all melted and combined (warm). Beat the eggs and add them to the milk. Mix your dry ingredients (in your biggest mixing bowl), then add syrup mixture and then egg/milk mixture. Beat altogether. Dissolve the bicarb with the warm water and add this to your batter. Beat well. Cook in the oven at 180 degrees C or Gas Mark 4 for about 45mins.

Notes:

I used a 22cm bread loaf tin which was too small for this quantity of batter. It all fitted in and rose nicely but had to be cooked for 20mins longer (a toothpick inserted should come out clean). A larger loaf tin should mean you only need to bake for the suggested 45mins.

Dodo, Polly and her twin Peter - 1928

Since my last blog post (an age ago!) I have moved house, changed jobs twice and kept up with usual day to day life. Alas, these events have meant my blog has been very sadly neglected. However, a new year has now begun and with life feeling a bit more settled I feel like it is about time I let the inspiration flow again.

A few months ago my Grandmother Polly gave me something I will treasure forever. It is a scrapbook started by my Great-Grandmother Dodo (the women in our family have never gone for being called Grandma!). The scrapbook is filled with recipes collected over the years, first by Dodo and then by Polly. They come from friends, magazine cuttings, newspapers, cuttings from the Rhodesian and Zimbabwean papers (did I mention my family is Zimbabwean?). Some are written in Dodo’s writing, some in Polly’s, some in an unrecognisable hand from an old friend. I have always loved this book – as a child I spent hours paging through it and when I was 10 I indexed it. It took me ages but I too had made my mark in my childish, 10year old scrawl.

These days it is held together with tape, some of the recipes that have been pasted in are coming unstuck and it smells of vanilla and Polly’s kitchen. Opening it takes me back to afternoons spent in the kitchen with Polly baking scones or making pork schnitzel and garlic sauce which was one of my favourite dinners.

So now that I am the proud keeper of this treasure, I intend to try out and share with you some of what’s inside, some of the memories it evokes and maybe learn some bites of  my own family history along the way.

I started my project yesterday morning with something nice and easy, a very Southern African recipe – Crunchies. Crunchies in Zimbabwe are a bit like flapjacks in the UK but, well, crunchier (Zimbabwean flapjacks are like drop scones or griddle cakes in the UK). Crunchies were a staple of Zimbabwean afternoon tea, good for filling up hungry children and I consumed my fair share of them. From our family I think the person who made them the most, well at least where I remember eating them the most, was at my Great-Aunt Prudie’s – she may have used this recipe, but if not she certainly used one similar.

Crunchies – pg13

Mix the following together in a bowl:
1 cup plain flour
2 cups oats
1 cup dessicated coconut
3/4′s cup sugar

Ready for mixingMelt together the following:
110g margarine (I used butter)
1&1/2 Tbsps syrup

Dissolve:
1 Tbsp bicarbonate of soda in 1 Tbsp milk and then stir it into the melted mixture

Combine this with the dry ingredients and turn out the mixture into a greased baking tin and press out smoothly to fill pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 180 Degrees C for about 10mins until brown. Sprinkle with sugar and cut into squares while they are still hot.

Notes:

1. I used a 22cmx22cm square baking tin which was a good size for the recipe.

2. Once you have mixed everything together, the mixture looks very dry – this is normal and as long as you press the mixture down to fill the pan, they should come out as expected.

Crunchie anyone?

A few weekends ago it was the Putters turn to host Come Dine With Me. The Putters, weren’t too happy when they pulled Bosnia out of the hat, but Bosnia it was and we were all in for an evening of Slavic fun!

On arrival we were all treated to a glass of Austrian white wine – the link between Austria and Bosnia coming from the days when Bosnia was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. (Bosnian wine, grown in the Herzegovina region is hard to come by in Putney!). It was a light crisp wine – a good drink to start on, on a breezy spring evening. We were also all introduced to our Bosnian selves – I became Kata.

For Predjela (Starters), we had a spread influenced by Turkish mezze -Krastavac ijogurt juha (Chilled yoghurt and mint soup), served as a shot in little shot glasses. Very refreshing! Cevapi (Traditional lamb and beef sausage), Zeljanica (Spinach and borek cheese phylo pastry), Hummus and Avjar (Roasted aubergine and sweet pepper).  With the Zeljanica, which was one of my favourites, you could see the mediterranean influence of Greece. The hummus which was home-made from scratch was also delicious – no shop bought variety can beat home-made and once you have the right ingredients it is much easier to make than you imagine it to be. The Avjar had a lovely smokiness that comes from roasting the aubergines, but with a hint of the sweetness from the roasted peppers – I ate too much and there were still two courses to go.

When the Mrezni (Main course) arrived, it wasn’t very hard to find space for more. We were presented with Janjetina Kotlet with salate.  Lamb chops and salad. This was a good example of the balance that exists in Bosnian food between the influence from Central Europe (from the time of the Austro-Hungarian empire) and the Turkish, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean influence. A light salad was also needed to counteract the over indulgence in all other areas.

Finally to round the whole meal off, we had Pustinje (pudding). For pustinje, we had Tufahija (filled apple). I would be hard pressed to tell you what the cored apples were filled with (by this stage that crisp Austrian wine was giving everything a fine haze), but they were delicious never the less. Despite all the Putters concerns a triumphant feast.

With all that eating, everyone needed a little exercise to work off some calories. As mentioned previously, the Austrian wine had taken its toll too and it was at this stage when chatting about the Putters recent 90′s party, that someone (PM/JM?) decided it would be good to crack out the 90′s playlist again and take ourselves down memory lane. So, we transported ourselves back to being awkward teenagers with Nirvana, Ace of Base, the Cardigans, Dr Alban, Boys to Men, Pulp (the list goes on and on) and danced the night away – like it was 1999!

P.S Photographs to come, as soon as I get them off JM’s camera!

A few years ago, inspired by the TV show Come Dine with Me, a group of us started a supper club along the same lines . There are 3 households, PM and I, the Putters (based in Putney) and the Zimbledons (you guessed it, Zimbabweans living in Wimbledon).

We usually choose a theme, something that will provide a challenge and get us out of our comfort zones and then once a month we get together and take it in turns to host the meal. So far the themes have included a round of braais (BBQ for those not familiar with Southern African lingo). Everything had to be cooked on the braai – starters, mains and dessert. Another round we each put an unusual ingredient into a hat and each group chose two ingredients they had to cook with – we had cinnamon and custard, the Putters had kiwis and blue food colouring and the Zimbledons had pomegranates and biltong.

This round we decided to do cuisine from unusual countries.  Not your normal cuisines like French, Spanish, Mexican – but food from somewhere less familiar. Everyone put a country into a hat and then each household pulled one out. PM and I got Kenya, the Zimbledons got the Philippines and the Putters got Bosnia. We were up first and a few weeks ago everyone came round for a taste of Kenya.

We started off proceedings with two kinds of samoosas. When the British set themselves up in Kenya, they imported a lot of labour from one of their other colonies – India. As a result there is a big community of Indians living in Kenya and they have had a big influence on Kenyan cuisine, hence the popular street food samoosas. (Dont tell me it should be spelled samosa – I am an African and we call them samoosas :))

PM and I made two kinds, curried beef  and mixed veggie with onion, potato, ginger, peas and a hint of mint. They were pretty time-consuming to make but PM and I did them together and I was so pleased with how they came out.  We accompanied  our samoosa starter with the one and only Kenyan beer – Tuskers. PM did his research and managed to track some down on the interwebs and we can certainly recommend it – it rounded off our meal perfectly.

We then moved on to the main course. As is Kenyan tradition, we sent a bowl of water round for everyone to wash their hands because I was encouraging everyone to eat the meal with their hands, as they would do in Kenya. I was really pleased because everyone entered into the spirit of the meal and ate with their hands, except for PM who wasn’t too keen, but eventually gave in to peer pressure.

The main was made up of Kuku Paka, Mtuzi wa Samaki and Sukuma Wiki. All accompanied by Ugali. Kuku Paka is chicken cooked in a coconut curry sauce. The curry sauce does have chilli in it, so the dish has a bit of a kick, but is not too hot. Mtuzi wa Samaki is fish cooked in a coconut curry and I think this was my favourite dish of the meal. When we did a practice round I used cod but PM said we needed to find something more African than that. I thought this would be easier said than done, but actually I found just the thing.

At Waitrose they were selling a fish called Tilapia which had been farmed in Zimbabwe of all places. The fish monger said it is becoming a popular, sustainable substitute for cod in this country. it has been farmed in African for centuries and in fact has its own hieroglyph in ancient Egypt. With a little more research, I also discovered that it is used in Kenya to control malaria, since the fish eats the malaria larva in the water. Tilapia was just the thing for our curry.

Apart from the tilapia what made the curry stand out was the tamarind. When I made it the first time I couldn’t get the tamarind, so I substituted lemon, but for the actual day I managed to track some down and it made a massive difference – such an unusual flavour – absolutely delicious.

Sukuma Wiki is Swahili for ‘Stretch the week’ and is the vegetable dish you find everywhere in Africa, usually eaten with ugali (also known as sadza in Zimbabwe and pap in SA). I ate these two together quite often when I was a child and I really struggled to get the flavours right for the dinner – you just don’t get the right vegetables here to make it. I used curly kale and it was quite close but not perfect. I think something like collard greens would be better, but I didn’t find anything close to the right thing here.

Finally, to end the meal we had a dish called Coupe Mount Kenya. Homemade mango ice cream topped off with pineapple pieces that has been soaked in rum – nice and refreshing after what was a lot of food. With the dessert we served a pot of Kenyan loose leaf tea, amongst the highest quality teas in the world and the sole reason for buying our new tea-pot. On that note I leave you all to go and eat left over mango ice cream with a nice pot of tea. mmmmm

PS. Watch this space for the upcoming dining in Bosnia experience.

Spring is finally making itself known in London  - the daffodils are out and the temperatures have hit a high of 17 degrees. With the rising temperatures I feel my own mood rising too – my mood and everyone around me. It is such a magical time in London, so much hope and expectation for all the summer festivities ahead. I love it and the past two days have felt like a holiday. The most mundane things become inspiring again – like our hamburger dinner.

My plan for dinner was to make some home-made burgers – nice and simple, for a relaxed Friday evening. In a moment of inspiration I decided that not only would I make the burgers, but I would make the rolls as well. Two birthdays ago I gave PM a bread maker and although we have made a lot of bread, we have never really experimented with making anything other than bread, it was about time we tried something different. Five minutes and the dough was on the go and I set about persuading PM to join me for a walk on Clapham Common.

PM had very little enthusiasm for the idea until I mentioned walking to The Windmill pub on the common, but with a Guiness as incentive, I finally persuaded him. Before setting off I rolled my dough into rolls, left them to prove a second time and we set off.

Clapham Common this evening was a good example of London coming alive when the sun shines – people picnicking, a dog chasing a ball,  children running races, runners and my favourite, a father and his family flying an electric model plane. I wanted that model plane – we watched it for ages. We also made it to the Windmill for the promised Guiness before heading home to make our dinner.

We arrived back to perfectly risen rolls which went straight into the oven and then set about making our burger patties. At this point PM took control of the kitchen – he likes making burger patties and likes the chance to boss me round the kitchen even more :) Before long, with a little team effort we had hot rolls, burger patties, cheese, spicy BBQ sauce, avo, gherkins and tomato.

Freshly baked bread

Freshly baked bread

Sometimes it is the simplest evenings that are the best – fresh air, a little sunshine, freshly made bread, delicious burgers and great company have all made for a wonderful spring evening. It bodes well for summer – bring it on..

Burgers

Hmm..burgers

Every time I mutter about the need to stretch myself in the kitchen and become a little more creative, my friends chant ‘Ready, Steady, Cook’. Their idea is very much along the lines of the TV programme – they will choose some ingredients, turn up at my house and I shall cook them, without a recipe book and within a time limit. The idea appeals to me as a challenge, but it has taken us a bit of time to get our acts together, put a date in the diary and actually do it. So, last Friday was the first time.

Luckily for the first time round, we kept the group small which suited me – less pressure. The girls arrived with their shopping and much excitement. I think they had a whole menu set out in their heads already, from their shopping, so I started to feel nervous about expectations, whether I could deliver on them and what I had set myself up for.  There was much fanfare around the ingredient unveiling – puff pastry, pancetta cubes, pomegranates, creme fraiche, spring onions, red romano peppers, swede, mango and goats cheese. The rules went that I could use any of the basics I already had in the kitchen – as long as I did not embark on a full shop just before the competition, so there was some leeway and as my mind got to work on what to create out of those lovely ingredients, I was relieved to have that leeway.

Choice ingredients

So many choices...

I had an idea for dessert immediately – I would use the puff pastry, creme fraiche and pomegranates to make a fruit millefeuille. This was pushing the boat out creatively for me – quite uncharacteristic in fact – because I have never made a fruit millefeuille, I don’t think I have even read a recipe that tells you how to make it, I certainly can’t pronounce it. My only inspiration was a picture I saw of one and a very vague recollection that it was made with puff pastry!

I started rolling out the puff pastry straight away while I stewed over my other ingredients and what I could use them for. My immediate thoughts on seeing the peppers, was to do a stuffed pepper starter type dish with the goats cheese, pancetta and spring onions but I didn’t think my guests would be filled up with just a starter and a dessert. I felt they needed something a bit more substantial to fill them up on a Friday evening. As I started cutting my pastry into rounds, ready for the oven it dawned on me. A frittata – peppers, pancetta, spring onions, goats cheese with the additional ingredients of red onion and new potatoes all held together in a lovely puffy frittata. I popped the pastry in the oven and set to work on a frittata straight away!

My end result, I like to imagine, would bring a little bit of mediterranean sunshine into any gloomy winters Friday night in London. A slice of red pepper and goats cheese frittata, served with a rocket salad and finished off with KL’s surprise – a very tall, not very millefeuille like, millefeuille, filled with vanilla creme fraiche and  pomegranates. Although not perfect, something to be proud of as a first attempt to break my recipe following shackles and it felt good.

Finished product

Pepper and Goats Cheese frittata

So, off the back of that, Ready, Steady, Cook round 2 is booked in – maybe we will include one or two more people next time – and in the meantime, I intend to learn how to make a proper millefeuille!

Millefeuille

A not very millefeuille, millefeuille

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