She lives in Alaska but can't find Russia on a map

May the Norse be with you

Kids paying it forward

Mary Christmas

Heston Blumenthal goes big

Traditional Christmas Pudding: AA's worst nightmare

“Little Jack Horner sat in the corner, eating his Christmas pie; He put in his thumb, and pulled out a plum, And said, ‘What a good boy am I’!" – Mother Goose.


My childhood hero was Genl. Christiaan de Wet, the Anglo-Boer War hero – the Afrikaner’s Nathan Bedford Forrest. One of his famous victories occurred on Christmas Day 1901, when his commando overran a British camp on Groenkop in the Eastern Free State. Apart from weaponry and ammunition, his men captured Christmas gifts and delicacies destined for a sumptuous lunch, included Christmas puddings. No wonder they renamed the hill “Krismiskop”!

Christmas pudding is a deeply Anglo-Saxon dish. Traditionally served as part of the Christmas dinner in the UK and many parts of Ireland, it is ubiquitous in many other countries hence it was brought by British emigrants. It has its origins in Medieval England, and is sometimes also called “plum” pudding or just "pud", although the latter name may also refer to other kinds of boiled pudding involving dried fruit. Despite the name "plum pudding," the pudding actually contains no plums due to the pre-Victorian use of the word “plums" as a term for raisins. 

A Christmas pudding is usually aged for a month or more - even a year. The high alcohol content of the pudding prevents it from spoiling during this time. It is very dark in appearance - nearly black - as a result of the dark sugars and treacle in most recipes, and its long cooking time. The mixture is moistened with the juice of citrus fruits, brandy and/or other alcohol. A practice that endeared Christmas pudding to me as a child was to include small silver coins in the pudding mixture, which could be kept by the person whose serving included them. The coin was believed to bring wealth in the coming year. I am going to revive this tradition in my family this year – my balance sheet could use it!


Preparation time: At least 8 hours

Cooking time: 8 hours

Serves 8


3 Large eggs

1 Medium tart apple, peeled and grated

150g Currants

150g Sultanas

150g Prunes, chopped

150g Suet or clarified lard

150g Dark brown Muscovado sugar

125g Fresh breadcrumbs

100g Cake flour

175ml Full cream sherry or tawny port

150ml Brandy or Spiced Gold rum

2 Tbsp. honey

Grated zest of 1 lemon

1 Tsp. ground cinnamon

¼ Tsp. ground cloves

1 Tsp. baking powder


The basic process:

  • Combine the currants, sultanas and prunes with the sherry in a bowl.
  • Swirl the bowl a bit, then cover with cling film and leave to steep overnight or for up to 1 week.
  • When the fruits have steeped, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, or heat some water in a conventional steamer.
  • Butter a heatproof 1.7L plastic pudding basin (or basins), remembering to grease the lid, too.
  • Combine all the remaining pudding ingredients (except the brandy) in a large mixing bowl and stir thoroughly.
  • Add the steeped fruits, scraping in every last drop of liquor with a rubber spatula, and mix to combine thoroughly.
  • Fold in some sterilised coins or heirloom charms. If you are worried about wrongful death law suits after choking-induced fatalities, feel free to skip this step.
  • Scrape and press the mixture into the prepared pudding basin, squish it down and put on the lid.
  • Wrap with a layer of foil so that the basin is watertight, then either put the basin in the pan of boiling water (to come halfway up the basin) or in the top of a lidded steamer.
  • Steam for 5 hours, checking every now and again and ensuring the water level stays constant.
  • Remove the basin carefully (you don’t want to burn yourself!) and allow to cool a bit.
  • When manageable, unwrap the foil, and store the pudding in its basin in a cool place until Christmas Day.

The finishing touches:

  • On the big day, rewrap the pudding (still in its basin) in foil and steam again, this time for 3 hours.
  • To serve, remove the pudding from the pan or steamer, take off the lid and put a large plate on top.
  • Turn it upside down and give the plastic basin a little squeeze to help unmould the pudding.
  • Remove the basin and decorate the pudding with a sprig of holly on top.
  • Heat the brandy in a small pan, and the minute it’s hot, but before it boils turn off the heat, strike a match, stand back and light the pan of brandy.
  • Pour the flaming brandy over the pudding and serve as soon as the flames go out.
  • Note: If it feels less dangerous to you, pour the hot brandy over the pudding and then light the pudding.

“A Christmas Carol' is an extravagantly symbolic thing - as rich in symbols as Christmas pudding is rich in raisins.” – Michel Faber.


Mince pies: where's the beef?

“Women used to have time to make mince pies, but faked orgasm. Nowadays the orgasms are real, but we have to fake the mince pies. And they call this progress?” – Allison Pearson.


I will always remember my surprise when I discovered that the mince pies English friends of my parents’ served on Christmas Eve contained no mince! Nevertheless, once the shock had worn off I wolfed down several of these tasty treats. They remain one of my favourite Festive snacks. Mince pies have been eaten as part of a traditional British Christmas since the Middle Ages. Then, they were made of meat but are now made with sweet mincemeat; a mixture of dried fruits, sugar, spices and brandy. Its ingredients are traceable to the 13th century, when returning European crusaders brought with them Middle Eastern recipes containing meats, fruits and spices.

The early mince pie was known by several names, including “mutton pie" and "Christmas pie". Ït had religious undertones; the traditional “mince” consisted of 13 ingredients that were representative of Christ and his 12 Apostles. Another notable feature is that the pastry is traditionally made using suet - the hard fat found around the loins of beef and mutton. Its high smoke point makes it ideal for deep frying and baking. The pie was apparently derived from an old Roman Catholic custom whereby senior clergy in the Vatican were presented with sweetmeats during Saturnalia. Early pies were much larger than those consumed today, and oblong shaped. This was presumably a methaphor for Jesus's crib. To this day, the crust of a mince pie is known as its “coffin”.

During the English Civil War Cromwell’s Puritan authorities outlawed the Christmas Pie (as it was then known) because they associated it with supposed Catholic "idolatry". Nevertheless, the tradition of eating Christmas pie in December has continued unabated. Over time its recipe has become sweeter and its size markedly reduced. It remains a popular seasonal treat enjoyed by many across the United Kingdom; one wholesale bakery in England sold nearly 10 million pies last Christmas!


Preparation time: 1 hour

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Yields 24 pies


600g Ready-made “mincemeat” (or make your own)

375g Cake flour

80g Suet or clarified pork fat

80g Butter

½ Tsp. salt

¼ Cup milk

Icing sugar for decorating


  • Pre-heat your oven to 200°C.
  • Grease two muffin pans.
  • Make the pastry by sifting the flour and salt into a mixing bowl and rubbing the fats into it until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.
  • Add just enough cold water to make a dough that leaves the bowl clean.
  • Leave the pastry to rest in a zip-lock bag in the refrigerator for 20 - 30 minutes.
  • Roll half of it out as thinly as possible and cut it into two dozen 7.5cm rounds, gathering up the scraps and re-rolling.
  • Repeat with the other half of the pastry, this time using a 6 cm cutter.
  • Line the hollows in the muffin pans with the larger rounds.
  • Fill these with mincemeat to the level of the edges of the pastry.
  • Dampen the edges of the smaller rounds of pastry with water and press them lightly into position to form lids, sealing the edges.
  • Brush each one with milk and make three snips in the tops with a pair of scissors.
  • Bake near the top of the oven for 25 - 30 minutes, or until light golden brown.
  • Cool on a wire tray and sprinkle with a pinch of the icing sugar.
  • When cool, store in an airtight container.


“The future... Seems to me no unified dream but a mince pie, long in the baking, never quite done.” – Edward Young.


Soetkoekies: the temptation in the jar

“Christmas is the only time of year where you can sit by a dead tree and eat candy out of socks without looking silly.” – Bob Hope.


One of my favourite festive treats as a child was the humble soetkoekie – a sugar-and-spice cookie shaped variously as a Christmas tree, a star, a reindeer, holly leaves or just plain round. Needless to say, the Rossouw kids were of the opinion that Grandma Joey made the best ones in the whole world! They were delicately spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon, and just heavenly dipped in warm coffee or tea. Soetkoekies are traditional Boere fare, especially loved by older generations in SA. There are hundreds of variations on the basic theme; some plain and others elaborately decorated. My gran’s were of the former kind, and what they lacked in appearance they made up in taste.

Modern Christmas cookies originated in medieval Europe, when traders introduced Westerners to exotic spices like cinnamon, ginger, cloves, pepper and nutmeg. By the 16th Century Christmas biscuits had become popular across the Continent, but especially in the North. From here it was introduced to North America by the Dutch settlers of New York in the early 17th century, and later by Amish and Mennonite immigrants from Germany. The Dutch also brought their spekulaas and spice cookies with them to the Cape, where they became part of the Afrikaner repertoire. Towards the end of the 19th Century, cookie cutters with Yuletide shapes made their debut in South Africa and soon recipes began to appear in cookbooks designed to use them. The following recipe is loosely based on one found in the “Bible” of Afrikaans cuisine, Kook en Geniet.


Preparation time: 90 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes per batch

Makes about 240 cookies


8 Cups cake flour

2 Cups sugar

½ Cup unsalted butter

½ Cup purified pork fat

2 Eggs

150ml White Port

3 Tsp. baking soda

2 Tsp. Cream of Tartar

2 Tsp. ground cinnamon

1 Tsp. ground ginger

1 Tsp. ground cloves

1 Tsp. orange zest

½ Tsp. ground nutmeg

½ Tsp. salt


  • Sift all the dry ingredients – except the sugar – together in a mixing bowl.
  • Add the sugar and mix thoroughly.
  • Rub the butter and fat into the mixture with your fingertips.
  • Beat the eggs, and add 2 tbsp. of the beaten egg and the orange zest to the batter mixture.
  • Stir in the liquid and keep adding more, always stirring the added egg in completely before adding more.
  • When all the egg has been absorbed, knead the batter thoroughly and allow to rest for an hour.  
  • Meanwhile, arrange your oven racks to accommodate 2 baking trays and pre-heat to 200⁰C.
  • Grease 2 large baking trays.
  • Cut off about ¼ off the batter to roll out, and leave the rest in a cool place.
  • Roll out the batter to a thickness of about 5cm, and cut out cookie shapes with a cookie cutter(s) dipped in flower.
  • Arrange the cookies about 2cm apart on the baking trays with a spatula.
  • Bake for 15 minutes.
  • Remove the cookies and allow them to cool on a wire rack.
  • Repeat the process until all the batter has been used up.
  • Store the cookies in air-tight containers.


“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?” - Bob Hope.


Bûche de Noël: keeping warm until the Twelfth Night

“Holiday and Holy Day, Christmas is more than a yule log, holly or tree. It is more than natural good cheer and the giving of gifts. Christmas is even more than the feast of the home and of children, the feast of love and friendship. It is more than all of these together. Christmas is Christ, the Christ of justice and charity, of freedom and peace.” – Francis Spellman.


It is common cause that the Christian Christmas we know today contains many elements of non-Christian origin. Take the date, for instance: it is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible – it coincides with the ancient Winter Solstice festivals of the Vikings, Celts and Goths, known as Yule. At its heart was the ritual burning of the “Yule Log”. The Log was originally an entire tree; carefully chosen and brought into the house with great ceremony. The largest end of the log would be placed into the fire hearth while the rest of the tree stuck out into the room! The log would be lit with the remains of the previous year's log, and then slowly fed into the fire over a period of twelve days (which gave rise to the Twelve Days of Christmas). 

The rationale for this tradition was the belief that, for twelve days at the end of December, the sun stood still (which is why the days were so short). If they could keep yule logs burning bright for those twelve days, then the sun would be persuaded to move again, and make the days grow longer. If a Yule Log went out, then there would be terrible luck. For Christians, the symbolism of the Yule log was that it represented the need to keep the stable warm for the Infant Christ. Over time, more and more people became urbanized, and the tree was reduced to a log. Eventually the custom died a quiet death during the first half of the 20th Century. In its place came the dessert named after the tree, which originated in France (where it is known as Bûche de Noël). It soon spread to the French-speaking parts of Belgium and Switzerland, and later to Quebec and other French territories. Today it is enjoyed in many parts of the world.

The modern-day dessert is made of sponge cake, and decorated to resemble a miniature Yule log. It is often served with one end cut off and set atop the cake, or protruding from its side to resemble a chopped off branch. A bark-like texture is often produced by dragging a fork through the icing, and fine sugar sprinkled on it to resemble snow. Other common decorations include actual twigs from trees, fresh berries and mushrooms made of meringue or marzipan; give your creative spirits free rein as you make this storied dessert this Festive Season.  Note: The cake roll can be made the day before and refrigerated overnight. Frost just before serving.


Preparation time: 90 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves 8


For the cake:

6 Large egg yolks, at room temperature

5 Large egg whites, at room temperature

¾ Cup granulated sugar

½ Cup unsweetened cocoa powder

¼ Coarse salt

For the Kirsch syrup:

¾ Cup sugar

½ Cup water

1 Tbsp. Kirsch liqueur

For the filling:

2 Large egg yolks, at room temperature

½ Vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped and reserved

1 Cup pitted brandied cherries, drained

½ Cup thick cream

4 Tbsp. full-cream milk

1 Tbsp. cold water

1 Tsp. unflavored gelatin

1 Tbsp. granulated sugar

For the topping:

1 Cup thick cream

1 ½ Tsp. confectioners' sugar

Unsweetened cocoa powder for sifting


  • Begin by preparing the cake mixture.
  • Pre-heat your oven to 190ºC.
  • Line a 22 x 32cm rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Place the egg yolks and half the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk.
  • Beat at high speed until the mixture is pale and fluffy and leaves a ribbon trail when the whisk is lifted, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
  • Thoroughly wash and dry the mixer bowl and whisk.
  • Add the egg whites and salt to the bowl and beat at moderately high speed until soft peaks form.
  • Gradually add the other half of the sugar and continue beating until the whites are stiff and glossy.
  • Using a rubber spatula, stir ¼ of the beaten whites into the yolk mixture, then fold in the remaining whites until no streaks remain.
  • Working in 2 batches, sift the cocoa over the batter and fold gently until fully incorporated.
  • Spread the batter on the prepared baking sheet in an even layer.
  • Bake for 18 - 20 minutes, until the cake feels springy and dry; rotate the pan halfway through baking.
  • Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
  • While the cake is baking, make the syrup and custard filling.
  • Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil over high heat.
  • Reduce the heat to moderate and simmer just until the sugar is completely dissolved, about 1 minute.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the Kirsch.
  • In a small, microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand until softened.
  • Combine the milk with the vanilla bean and seeds in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over moderately high heat.
  • Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar in a small bowl.
  • When the milk comes to a simmer, discard the vanilla pod.
  • Slowly whisk the milk into the yolk mixture until thoroughly blended.
  • Transfer the mixture to the saucepan and cook over moderately low heat, stirring constantly, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, about 1 - 2 minutes.
  • Strain the custard into a medium bowl.
  • Melt the gelatin in the microwave for 15 seconds; stir it into the custard and allow to cool.
  • Meanwhile, whip the cream until firm.
  • Stir ¼ of the whipped cream into the custard until incorporated, then fold in the remaining whipped cream.
  • Run the tip of a knife around the edge of the cake. Cover with a clean sheet of parchment and a second baking sheet and invert the cake.
  • Remove the first baking sheet and peel off the parchment. Brush the kirsch syrup evenly onto the cake to soak; reserve any extra syrup for future use.
  • Using an offset spatula, spread the custard filling evenly over the cake.
  • Scatter the cherries over the filling.
  • Use the parchment to carefully roll the cake to form a 20cm-long log with the seam on the bottom.
  • Fold the parchment over the log so the ends meet.
  • Using a ruler, squeeze the cake in the parchment to tighten the roll. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  • Finally, make the topping just before serving.
  • Whip the cream with the confectioners' sugar until firm.
  • Transfer the cake to a serving platter and frost with the whipped cream.
  • Sift the cocoa powder on top.
  • Slice and serve.


“The Romans had, like other Pagan nations, a nature festival, called by them Saturnalia, and the Northern peoples had Yule; both celebrated the turn of the year from the death of winter to the life of spring - the winter solstice. As this was an auspicious change the festival was a very joyous one... The giving of presents and the burning of candles characterized it. Among the Northern people the lighting of a huge log in the houses of the great and with appropriate ceremonies was a feature.” – Samuel L Jackson.


Baked Alaska: a dessert that blows hot and cold

“Rose: ‘I did learn that Baked Alaska can actually be baked locally.’ Dorothy:
‘Rose, I have an even bigger scoop for you. Mars Bars are made right here on earth.’” – The Golden Girls.


Most people probably associate Alaska with salmon and grizzly bears, and news junkies would no doubt add oil spills and Sarah Palin to the list. I first became aware of Baked Alaska at the age of 10, when I won a book prize for English (Second Language) in primary school. It was a children’s cook book, intended for a girl who was the best Environmental Studies pupil (sorry, Ma Angie, “girl child learner”) which I had quietly switched for the book actually destined for me, one about fishing! Rugby-playing Afrikaans boys weren’t supposed to be interested in cooking in those days, so the operation was a clandestine one…

The cook book was a treasure trove of recipes I couldn’t wait to try. My mother allowed me considerable latitude – and the odd flop – which I appreciated since my parents were frugal and hated any form of wastage. I had a number of successes: sausage rolls, roly-poly, chocolate cake and peppermint crisp tart. My attempts at (inter alia) fudge and chocolate mousse were abject failures. The one “known unknown” was Baked Alaska – Mom flatly refused to let me try making it, because she felt that it was too extravagant to begin with and that my attempt at something that technical would end up in an expensive failure. She was, as usual, right. When I tried making it for my own account as an adult, I paid my fair share in “school fees” before I finally got it right. Try this recipe for dessert on a festive summer’s day – it is almost completely fool proof…


Preparation time: 8 hours

Cooking time: 1 hour

Serves 12


For the ice cream dome:

6 Cups mint chocolate chip ice cream, softened

6 Cups vanilla ice cream, softened

2 Cups peppermint ice cream, softened

For the brownie base:

4 Eggs

250g Dark, bittersweet chocolate

2 Cups sugar

1 ¼ Cup all-purpose flour

1 Cup butter

2 Tsp. vanilla

1 Tsp. baking powder

½ Tsp. salt

For the meringue:

8 Egg whites, room temperature

1 Cup sugar

¼ Tsp. cream of tartar


  • Line a 2.5l bowl with cling wrap.
  • Fill the base of the bowl with peppermint ice cream; layer with mint chocolate chip ice cream, then finish with a layer of vanilla ice cream.
  • Cover the surface with plastic wrap and freeze until ice cream is very hard, at least 4 hours.
  • Pre-heat your oven to 180°C.
  • Spray a 25cm cake pan with non-stick cooking spray, line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and spray the parchment paper with cooking spray as well.
  • Place the butter and chocolate in a medium glass bowl over a saucepan of hot water (or a double boiler) and stir the butter and chocolate until melted.
  • Note: this can also be done in a microwave by placing butter and chocolate in microwave-safe medium glass bowl and microwaving on High for 1 - 2 minutes or until melted, stirring once.
  • Set aside to cool.
  • In a separate large bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla until well combined.
  • In another medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt until combined.
  • Add the cooled chocolate mixture to the eggs and whisk to combine.
  • Add the flour to the chocolate mixture and whisk to combine. Pour into the cake pan.
  • Bake 50 minutes - 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean.
  • Allow the brownie to cool completely, about 1 hour.
  • Turn the brownie out onto a large flat, ovenproof plate.
  • Unmold the ice cream dome on top of the brownie layer. Return to the freezer.
  • Whip the egg whites and cream of tartar with an electric mixer, fitted with a whisk attachment, for 2 minutes on medium-high speed.
  • Increase the speed to high and add the sugar in a slow stream until stiff, glossy peaks form.
  • Remove the ice cream dome from the freezer, and remove the plastic wrap.
  • Cover the ice cream dome with the meringue, covering it completely, using the back of a spoon to make swirly peaks.
  • Freeze for at least 3 hours.
  • Just before “H Hour”, heat your oven to 230°C.
  • Bake for 3 - 5 minutes, or until the peaks start to turn a golden brown color.
  • For easier slicing, let the cake stand for 30 minutes.
  • Slice and serve.


"Try as I might, I could never feel any great affection for a man who so much resembled a Baked Alaska - sweet, warm and gungy on the outside, hard and cold within." - CP Snow.


It lacks some of my sister Dolly's upside down cake...

South American dicktater

No, they were actually asked if they'd ever had COBBLER

Rice to Riches. Trump can kiss their fat asses.

Lucky Iranian girls with hot dates

Sticky Date Pudding: before Tencent was worth more than Twenty Cents

“Be like the date palm, above the hatred: they throw stones at you, and your answer is even more good deeds.” – Arabic saying.


Date palms are synonymous with the arid lands of the Middle East and Near Asia. Their fruit has been a staple food in the Arab World and the Indus basin for thousands of years. There is archaeological evidence of date cultivation in Egypt between 5530 – 5320 BCE. They are believed to have originated around what is now Iraq, and their cultivation reached the Nile valley from ancient Mesopotamia. In antiquity, before Shar’ria law forbade it, Egyptians also used the fruits to make date wine. As the Muslim caliphate spread to most parts of the Known World, dates were introduced to many cuisines.

Even in far-off South Africa, dates have aficionados. As a primary schoolboy, I received the princely sum of 20c per week as pocket money. Proof of how much the purchasing power of the ZAR has been eroded is that this was enough to buy three treats on Saturday morning: a litre of Coke, a bag of salt and vinegar chips and a block of dried dates! The good old days are long gone, but my love for dates remains. This dessert evokes vivid memories!


Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves 4


For the sponge:

2 Large eggs

170g Pitted dates

100g Butter

1 Cup cake flour plus ¼ cup extra

½ Cup caster sugar

½ Cup brown sugar

½ Cup water

1 Tsp. baking powder

1 Tsp. ground cinnamon

½ Tsp. nutmeg

For the sauce:

¾ Cup brown sugar

¾ Cup butter

⅔ Cup double thick cream

1 Tsp. vanilla extract


  • Pre-heat your oven to 180ºC.
  • Grease a 24 x 24cm oven dish (or any dish of approximately the same size).
  • Roughly chop the dates and put them in a saucepan with the water.
  • Bring to the boil, leave for about 30 seconds, and then turn off the heat.
  • Cream the butter in a mixer until it is light and fluffy.
  • Add the flour, sugars, spices and baking powder, and mix until everything is combined and sandy-looking.
  • Add both eggs and mix until just combined.
  • Add the dates and water, and mix again until everything is smooth and combined.
  • Scrape the batter into the baking dish, and bake in the oven for 20 - 25 minutes, or until the cake springs back when lightly touched.
  • While the cake is baking, make the sauce by combining all the ingredients in a saucepan and bringing them to the boil (you can use the date saucepan).
  • Boil for about 1 minute, and then set aside to cool slightly.
  • When the sponge is ready, drizzle with about ¼ of the sauce.
  • Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream, as well as the rest of the sauce to pour over as you go.

It is the nature of the strong heart, that like the palm tree it strives ever upwards when it is most burdened”. – Philip Sidney.


Rice pudding: loved from Bali to Bolivia

“I don't know -- maybe the world has two different kinds of people, and for one kind the world is this completely logical, rice pudding place, and for the other it's all hit-or-miss macaroni gratin.” – Haruki Murakami.


Rice pudding is found in nearly every part of the world, and there are myriad different varieties – so much so that recipes vary even within a single country. It can be boiled or baked, and different variants are eaten either as desserts or dinners. The former are more common, and some of the world’s most popular puddings are to be found among them. These include arroz con leche (Hispanic), milchreis (Germany), riz bi haleeb (Lebanese), orez (Israeli), riz bil laban (Arab), bubur sumsum (Indonesian) and put chai ko (Cantonese).

Unlike the rest of the world, where rice pudding is largely consumed as a dessert, Scandinavians commonly eat it for dinner, and sometimes even breakfast. It is made as a warm dish from rice cooked in milk. When served for breakfast, it is commonly sprinkled with cinnamon, sugar and a small knob of butter, and served with milk or fruit juice. As dinner, it is sometimes served with slices of liver sausage or ham. Rice pudding has also long been a part of Nordic Christmas traditions, A particular Christmas tradition that is often associated with eating rice pudding or porridge is hiding a whole almond in the porridge. Popular belief has it that the one who eats the almond will be in luck the following year.

In the United Kingdom, rice pudding is a traditional dessert and used to be known as “whitepot”. Charles Dickens relates an incident of shabby treatment in A Schoolboy's Story: "it was imposing on Old Cheeseman to give him nothing but boiled mutton through a whole Vacation, but that was just like the system. When they didn't give him boiled mutton, they gave him rice pudding, pretending it was a treat. And saved the butcher." Latin Americans absolutely adore rice pudding, and pretty much every country has its own version. In the East, Buddhist sutras state that Gautam Buddha’s final meal before his enlightenment was a large bowl of rice pudding. Here is a quick and easy recipe for a traditional dessert-style rice pudding.


Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 25 minutes

Serves 4


1 Large egg, beaten

1 ½ Cups milk, divided

¾ Cup uncooked white rice

½ Cup cream

4 Tbsp. raisins

2 Tbsp. white sugar

1 Tbsp. butter

½ Tsp. vanilla extract

¼ Tsp. salt

A pinch of ground cinnamon for garnishing


  • Bring 1 ½ cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan.
  • Add the rice and stir it in.
  • Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, combine the cooked rice, with 1 ½ cups milk, sugar and salt in a separate saucepan.
  • Cook over medium heat until thick and creamy, 15 - 20 minutes.
  • Stir in the cream, beaten egg and raisins.
  • Cook for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Remove from the heat, and stir in the butter and vanilla.
  • Serve warm, sprinkled with cinnamon.


“Quotations can be valuable, like raisins in the rice pudding, for adding iron as well as eye appeal.” – Peg Bracken.


Blackberry Cobbler: a tale of grunts and doughboys



“If a tooth be broken by eating pudding, it is of no consequence.” – Hindustani proverb.


The term “cobbler” has no single meaning; it refers to a variety of dishes, consisting of a fruit or savoury filling covered with a crust. There is no standard crust either – it can be made with a batter, crumbed biscuits or dumplings. Its roots are Colonial American, when English settlers were unable to make traditional suet puddings due to a lack of suitable ingredients and cooking equipment. Undeterred, they started making a dish consisting of a stewed filing topped with a layer of uncooked plain biscuits. The origin of the name, first recorded in 1859, is uncertain: it may be related to the archaic word cobeler, meaning "wooden bowl".

Today cobbler is mainly made and eaten in Anglophone North America and the UK. In Eastern Canada and New England, the predominant variety is called a “grunt”, reportedly after the grunting sound they make while cooking. The topping consists of biscuits or dumplings called “dough-boys”. Dough-boys are used in stews and cobblers alike. In the central United States, additional varieties of cobbler include the apple “pan dowdy” (an apple cobbler whose crust has been broken and  stirred back into the filling), the “buckle” (made with yellow batter), the “dump”, the “slump”, and the “sonker”, a deep-dish version of the traditional cobbler. In the Deep South, cobblers most commonly come in single fruit varieties and are named as such, such as blackberry, blueberry, and peach cobbler.

In the UK and the Commonwealth the scone batter-topped cobbler predominates, and is found in both sweet and savoury versions. Common sweet fillings include apple, berries, and peach. Savoury versions, such as beef, lamb or venison, consist of a casserole filling, sometimes with a simple ring of cobbles around the edge, rather than a complete layer, to aid cooking of the meat. Cheese or herb scones may also be used as a savoury topping. My personal favourite is made English-style, and it is filled with blackberries.


Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour

Serves 4


2 Cups fresh (or frozen) blackberries

1 ¼ Cups sugar, plus 2 tbsp. extra

1 Cup self-rising flour

1 Cup full-cream milk

2 Tbsp. melted butter, plus extra for greasing the pan

Whipped cream and/or ice cream, for serving


  • Pre-heat your oven to 180ºC.
  • Grease a 2l baking dish with butter.
  • Whisk 1 cup of the sugar with the flour and milk in a medium bowl.
  • Next, whisk in the melted butter.
  • Rinse the blackberries and pat them dry.
  • Pour the batter into the baking dish and sprinkle the blackberries evenly over the top of the batter.
  • Sprinkle ¼ cup sugar over the blackberries.
  • Bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 1 hour.
  • When 10 minutes of the cooking time remains, sprinkle the remaining 2 tbsp. of sugar over the top.
  • Serve hot, topped with whipped cream or ice cream - or both!


“It could be argued that there is an element of entertainment in every pie, as every pie is inherently a surprise by virtue of its crust.” – Janet Clarkson.


Sweet Potato Soufflé: rise to the occasion

“At Thanksgiving, my mom always makes too much food, especially one item, like 700 or 800 pounds of sweet potatoes. She's got to push it during the meal. ‘Did you get some sweet potatoes? There's plenty of sweet potatoes. They're hot. There's more in the oven, some more in the garage. The rest are at the Johnson's.’ " – Louie Anderson.


Soufflés evoke mixed feelings. To some, they are among the peaks of the hate cuisine range. Others – usually inexperienced cooks - are intimidated by them after experiencing flops. Mostly, thanks to how they are depicted in cartoons, comedies and children's TV programmes, they are a source of merriment. The archetypal scene involves a loud noise as a soufflé collapses, causing embarrassment to the chef and dejection to the guest about to be served.

A soufflé is a fluffy baked dish based on eggs, which originated in Eighteenth-Century France. The word soufflé means "to breathe" or "to puff" in French. While its invention is usually attributed to French chef Vincent de la Chapelle, its popularisation was largely due to the doyen of classical French cuisine Marie-Antoine Carême who became famous in the early Nineteenth Century.

There are a number of both savoury and sweet soufflé variations. Savoury soufflés often include cheese, vegetables (such as spinach or carrots) and herbs, and may sometimes incorporate poultry, bacon, ham, or seafood for a more substantial dish. Sweet soufflés may be based on chocolate, fruit or sweet vegetables (like pumpkin or sweet potato), and are often served with a dusting of powdered sugar. My favourite sweet soufflé is made with the humble sweet potato.


Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Serves 4


3 Large eggs, at room temperature and separated

1 Cup sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed

½ Cup full-cream milk

2 Tbsp. cake flour

2 Tbsp. maple or cane syrup

1 Tbsp. butter, plus more for the soufflé dish

Sugar for lining the soufflé dish

½ Tsp. ground nutmeg


Whipped cream (optional)


  • Pre-heat your oven to 190ºC.
  • Butter a 1l soufflé dish and dust the inside with sugar.
  • Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add the flour and cook, stirring, until golden, about 2 minutes.
  • Gradually whisk in the milk and simmer, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 1 minute.
  • Remove the saucepan from the heat and mix in the sweet potato and egg yolks.
  • When mixed, stir in the syrup and nutmeg, and set aside.
  • Beat the egg whites and a pinch of salt with a mixer until stiff peaks form.
  • Whisk ¼ of the whites into sweet potato mixture.
  • Gently fold in the remaining whites with a spatula.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared dish and place it on a rimmed baking sheet.
  • Bake until puffed, 35 - 45 minutes.
  • Serve immediately, topped with whipped cream (if desired).


"The only thing that will make a soufflé fall is if it knows you are afraid of it." - James Beard.


Cranberry Upside Down Cake: it somersaults in the mouth

“My favourite Aspen memory is saving an upside-down cake that had exploded from the high altitude.” – Emeril Lagasse.


Upside down cake has a fascinating history. The idea of cooking a cake upside down, is an old technique that started centuries ago when cakes were cooked in cast iron skillets. It was easy for cook to place fruit and sugar in the bottom of the pan, pour a simple cake batter on top and put it over the fire to cook. When done, the cake would be flipped over onto a plate, showing off the pretty fruit and let it sink into the cake as well.

Two variations on the basic technique have become legendary worldwide: the French Tarte Tatin (made with apples) and America’s beloved Pineapple Upside Down Cake. These, along with other versions containing cherries or berries, were perhaps the 20th century's most notorious retro-chic desserts. Pineapple Upside-Down Cake flips the traditional notion of a baked sweet on its head, pairing a spongy, yellow cake bottom with a glistening spread of fruit and/or cherries on top. My personal favourite – with cranberries as the main attraction – is described below.


Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 40 minutes 

Serves 8


1 ¾ Cups cranberries

1 Cup sugar

1 ¼ Cups cake flour

½ Cup milk

1 Large egg

8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature

1 ½ Tsp. baking powder

1 Tsp. vanilla extract

½ Tsp. ground cinnamon

¼ Tsp. allspice

¼ Tsp. salt


  • Pre-heat your oven to 180⁰C, with the rack in the middle.
  • Rub the bottom and sides of a 20cm round cake pan with 2 tbsp. butter.
  • Whisk together ½ cup of sugar with the cinnamon and allspice.
  • Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan.
  • Arrange the cranberries in a single layer on top.
  • Cream the remaining 6 tbsp. butter and ½ cup sugar with an electric mixer, until light and fluffy.
  • Add the egg and vanilla and beat until well combined.
  • Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in another bowl.
  • With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk, until well combined.
  • Spoon the batter over the cranberries in the pan, and smooth the top with a spatula.
  • Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake for 30 - 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean,
  • Allow the cake to cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes.
  • Run a knife around the edge of the cake, then carefully invert it onto a rimmed platter.
  • Slice and enjoy with a dollop of whipped cream.


“Sweet little upside-down cake / Cares and woes, you've got 'em / Poor little upside-down cake / Your top is on your bottom / Alas, little upside-down cake / Your troubles never stop / Because, little upside-down cake / Your bottom's on your top.” – The Reluctant Dragon.


Uncle Buck: go big or go home!

The Apfelstrudel here is simply wunderbar

Governor Patten's favourite tea time snack

In Chile, even a drink called "Pisco Sour" is sweet

Nick & Chocolat Mousse suffer from Deja Vu

Chocolate Mousse: Vive la Resistance!

"The greatest tragedies were written by the Greek Sophocles and the Englishman Shakespeare. Neither knew chocolate." - Sandra Boynton.


Whenever I see or hear chocolate mousse mentioned, I am reminded of one of my favourite spoof movies: “Top Secret”. The hero, Val Kilmer, was aided and abetted by a band of bumbling French Resistance fighters with names like Dèja Vu, Latrine, Croissant, Escargot, Soufflé and (the only black fighter) Chocolat Mousse. The latter looked mean, but turned out to be quite sweet (sic). The same can be said of the eponymous dessert.

Mousse is the French word for "foam", while Chocolat is of course French for "chocolate". Consequently, Mousse au Chocolat translates as "foamy chocolate" All chocolate mousse recipes have two ingredients: chocolate (the essential element of the dessert) and egg white, which is whipped into a foam and then added to the melted chocolate to provide the light and foamy texture, which is the essence of the recipe. To this, depending on the recipe, additional ingredients like sugar, cream and butter can be added to change the taste and texture of the dessert.

As chocolate mousse contains only two key ingredients, so it is crucial to use the best you can get. To make a great chocolate dessert you need to start with great chocolate. The higher the percentage of cocoa solids, the better. Because bittersweet chocolate is high in pure chocolate (at least 35% cocoa solids), it is best used on special occasions when a deep chocolate flavour is called for. If you are on a tight budget, don’t despair: semi-sweet chocolate - which has more sugar and fewer cocoa solids than bittersweet - can usually be substituted in recipes without significantly affecting the flavour or texture. Whatever you do, don’t even think about using milk chocolate!


Preparation time: 20 minutes

Refrigeration time: 1 hour

Serves 4


175g Bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

400g Cold thick cream

3 Large egg whites

30g Sugar

Sweetened whipped cream for garnish

Shaved bittersweet chocolate for garnish


  • Place the chocolate in a large bowl set over a bain-marie or in a double boiler at a low simmer.
  • Stir the chocolate until melted. Turn off the heat and let it stand.
  • Beat the cream over ice until it forms soft peaks.
  • Set aside and keep at room temperature.
  • Whip the egg with a mixer until soft peaks start forming. Gradually add the sugar and continue whipping until firm.
  • Remove the chocolate from the bain-marie and, using a whisk, fold in the egg whites all at once.
  • When the whites are almost completely incorporated, fold in the whipped cream.
  • Cover the mousse and refrigerate for approximately 1 hour or until set.
  • Serve in goblets topped with more whipped cream and shaved chocolate.


“My wife can't cook at all. She made chocolate mousse. An antler got stuck in my throat.” -  Rodney Dangerfield.


Torta de Mil Hojas: Cake of a Billion Calories

"Condensed milk is wonderful. I don't see how they can get a cow to sit down on those little cans."  - Fred Allen.


While every nation in South America has a distinct culinary tradition, shaped by local crops and waves of immigration, there is one element that unites them all: a serious sweet tooth. It's no surprise that these countries love dessert: this is, after all, where cane sugar comes from! Each region's unique specialties reflect the area's history. Brazil's native fruit and coconut-laden sweets pop up in preparations influenced by Portuguese and African traditions. In Argentina and Uruguay, inspiration comes by way of Italy, and gelato is on sale on just about every corner. Peru's desserts echo traditions from all over the map: the Incan legacy, Spanish colonists, and more recent Chinese and Japanese immigration. The Chileans in turn benefitted from an influx of German settlers, and küchen are common; either as dessert or accompaniment to a cafecito.

Where milk and sugar are staples, and sweetened condensed milk reigns supreme, nothing figures more heavily in desserts than caramel and its kin. Dulce de leche, which translates to "milk sweets" is found across Argentina and Uruguay. It's made by simmering milk, sugar, vanilla, and baking soda until the milk turns brown, thick, and gooey. Chileans and Ecuadorians love their manjar  - made by slowly heating a can of condensed milk in a pot of boiling water. It resembles dulce de leche without vanilla. Peruvians and Bolivians also call it manjar, but retain the vanilla.

One of the best ways for an uninitiated gringo to experience manjar is in the Torta de Mil Hojas (“Thousand Layer Cake”). It is popular throughout South America, but particularly in Chile. This cake might not literally have one thousand layers, but it's still a dessert of gargantuan proportions. It is the ultimate manjar overload, plus crunch, with flaky pastry bits in each bite.


Preparation time: 45 minutes

Cooking time: 3 ½ hours

Serves 12


2 x 400g Tins sweetened condensed milk

4 Cups cake flour

3 Egg yolks

1 Cup chopped walnuts

1 Cup milk

225g Butter

¼ Cup brandy

¼ Cup water

2 Tsp. baking powder


  • Pre-heat your oven to 180° C.
  • Mix the flour and baking powder and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy.
  • Blend in the egg yolks, one at a time.
  • Beat in the flour mixture, alternating with the milk. The dough should be stiff, like a cookie dough.
  • Divide the dough into 10 pieces and shape them into balls.
  • Roll each ball into a 20cm circle.
  • Place on cookie sheets and prick with a fork in several places.
  • Bake the cookies in batches in the preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow them to cool.
  • Boil the unopened cans of sweetened condensed milk in a pot of water for 3 hours. Monitor the water closely to make sure there is always water covering the cans.
  • Remove the cans from the heat and let them cool for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Combine the brandy and water in a measuring cup.
  • Place one cookie layer on a serving plate. Brush with the brandy mixture, then spread with the now thickened condensed milk and sprinkle with the nuts.
  • Continue stacking until all the layers are used.
  • If you like a luxurious finish, “ice” the outside with manjar and sprinkle with icing sugar and/or nuts.


“La mujer es un manjar digno de dioses, cuando no lo cocina el diablo.” (A woman is a dessert fit for the gods, when not cooked by the Devil) – Chilean proverb with Shakespearean origin.


Chinese custard tarts: a tale of fusors and fusees

“Trying to make things work in government is sometimes like trying to sew a button on a custard pie.” – Adm. Hyman Rickover.


Many cynics grumble that “fusion” food is just an Oriental plot to get the rest of the world used to eating their food before they take over. Whether you take this seriously or not, if it were true it would be poetic justice – the people of the East were once on the receiving end of a European cultural invasion. Just imagine how different the Asian diet would have been were it not for the chillies, potatoes, tomatoes and peanuts Western colonisers brought with them!

Another foodstuff hitherto unknown in the East was custard. Spike Milligan once quipped that the reason why the Chinese hadn’t invented custard was their use of the chopstick… Jokes aside, the egg custard tart is a ubiquitous example of a dish the English and Portuguese brought with them that became part of the everyday Chinese diet. First introduced by the colonisers to Hong Kong and Macao, it soon reached the mainland and - through Chinese expatriates - to Singapore. They are sold in bakeries, coffee shops, dim sum houses and especially by street vendors.

The Hong Kong and Macau versions of the custard tart differ slightly. Macau’s version has Portuguese ancestry – pasteis de nata - and they have more of a scorched, caramelized exterior. When it eventually made its way to Hong Kong, it was influenced by British custard tarts, which are a bit more glassy and smooth. This recipe can therefore be classified as of the Hong Kong variety.


Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Makes 12 tartlets


6 Egg yolks

2 Sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed

150ml Fresh cream

125ml Full cream milk

100g Caster sugar

2 Tsp. vanilla extract


  • Pre-heat your oven to 180°C.
  • Grease a 12-hole muffin pan.
  • Combine the egg yolks, sugar, cream, milk and vanilla in a jug and set aside.
  • Cut one pastry sheet in half and place one half on top of the other.
  • Roll them up from the shortest end to form a log.
  • Repeat with the other pastry sheet.
  • Cut each log into 6 roundels.
  • Roll each roundel out on a floured surface to make a 10cm circle.
  • Press each pastry circle into a greased hole of the muffin pan.
  • Fill the pastry shells with the custard and bake for 20 minutes until puffed at the edges and pale golden on top.
  • Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.


“Bureaucrats: they are dead at 30 and buried at 60. They are like custard pies; you can't nail them to a wall.” – Frank Llioyd Wright.


As Austrian as Apfelstrudel...

“Ducking for apples -- change one letter and it's the story of my life.” - Dorothy Parker.


Apple pie is a quintessential American dish; so much so that people and things are often described as “as American as apple pie”. Americans are not alone in their affection: the Brits aren’t called “pommies” (from the French pomme) for nothing. They love their apple tart, and the French their  tarte tatin, but the European apple-based dessert with by far the largest following is apple strudel (Apfelstrudel in German). Although viewed as a traditional Viennese pastry, it is popular not only in Austria but all over Central Europe.

The name "strudel" is German for “whirlpool”. Historians claim that the dish is a derivative of Turkish baklava, which the Ottomans introduced to the Balkans. As the Habsburg Empire expanded into these former Turkish territories, dishes like strudel were absorbed into Imperial Austrian cuisine. Today apple strudel is regarded as one of the national dishes of Austria, along with Wiener Schnitzel and Tafelspitz (boiled beef).

Many cooks avoid making strudel because getting the dough right is time-consuming and complex. Traditional strudel is made with unleavened dough, which should be thin and elastic dough. The dough is kneaded by flogging, often against a table top. After kneading, the dough is rested, then rolled out and stretched until it reaches a thickness similar to phyllo. Purists insist that a single layer should be so thin that one can read a newspaper through it! Being someone dislikes unnecessary PT, I substitute store-bought puff pastry for the Real McCoy, and devote my energies to making a great filling instead.


Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 35 minutes

Serves 6


2 Large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

1 Sheet (25cm x 25cm) frozen ready-rolled puff pastry, thawed

1 Large egg

2 Tbsp. raisins

2 Tbsp. caster sugar

1 Tbsp. cake flour, plus extra for dusting

¼ Tsp. ground cinnamon

Icing sugar for dusting


  • Pre-heat your oven to 190°C.
  • Combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon in a bowl.
  • Add the apples and raisins, and toss to coat.
  • Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper.
  • Place the pastry on another, lightly floured, sheet of baking paper.
  • Dust the pastry lightly with flour and roll it lightly in one direction to form a 30cm x 40cm rectangle.
  • With one short side facing you, spoon the apple mixture over the bottom half of the pastry, leaving a 2cm border around the edges.
  • Roll the pastry into a large log. Place, seam side down, on the baking tray and tuck the ends under the roll.
  • Combine the egg with 1 tablespoon of water.
  • Brush the strudel with the egg mixture.
  • Cut several 2cm-long slits, 2cm apart, in the top of the roll.
  • Bake for 35 minutes or until golden.
  • Transfer to a wire rack lined with baking paper for 30 minutes to cool.
  • Dust with icing sugar and serve.


"I have no truck with lettuce, cabbage, and similar chlorophyll. Any dietician will tell you that a running foot of apple strudel contains four times the vitamins of a bushel of beans." -
SJ Perelman.


Pumkin pancakes: they won't leave you feeling flat!

“I don’t have to tell you I love you. I fed you pancakes!” – Kathleen Flinn.


Growing up, I associated pancakes with three events: church bazaars, school sports days and rainy nights at home. The pancakes were always made on a gas stove, and served with sugar and cinnamon. Later on, when I was a young adult, pancake restaurants opened in my old stamping grounds on the Mpumalanga Escarpment and I discovered the joys of savoury pancakes filled with mushrooms, chicken livers of mince curry. The cherry on the top, so to speak, was my first Crepe Suzette. Comparing my first bazaar pancake to a Suzette was like taking a tinned Vienna to a twelve course dinner!  

The recipe below represents the most recent addition to my pancake pantheon, and was inspired by a trip to the USA in 2013. Americans love pumpkins with a passion, and it features in all their important festive meals. Adding some pureed pumpkin to traditional pancakes was a stroke of true genius, as you’ll see when trying it out.


Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Serves 6


2 cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups milk

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 egg

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 Tbsp. white sugar

2 Tsp. lemon zest, grated

2 Tsp. baking powder

1 Tsp. baking soda

1 Tsp. ground cinnamon

½ Tsp. ground ginger

½ Tsp. ground allspice

½ Tsp. salt

2 Tsp. sunflower oil plus 1 Tsp. extra


  • Combine the flour, brown sugar, white sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl and whisk together for two minutes to aerate.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, egg, milk, 2 Tbsp. oil, lemon juice, and lemon zest.
  • Transfer this to the bowl containing the flour mixture, and stir just until moistened. (Do not over-mix).
  • Coat a frying pan with the remaining vegetable oil over medium heat.
  • Pour the batter into the pan ¼ cup at a time, and cook the pancakes until golden brown, about 3 minutes on each side.
  • Serve with pecan nuts and honey or syrup.


“The laziest man I ever met put popcorn in his pancakes so they would turn over by themselves.” - W. C. Fields.


I didn't know trifle contained beef?

These Southern Belles are nuts about pecan pie

Oprah meets Malva

Yaya still makes the best baklava on the island...

You're as sweet as the carrot cake we got over there!

Carrot Cake: The Comeback Kid

"Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie." - Jim Davis.


Carrot cake is one of those desserts that make you feel slightly less guilty about your sweet tooth – carrots are vegetables after all! It closely resembles a banana or date loaf in terms of its preparation (all the wet ingredients, such as the eggs and sugar, are mixed, all the dry ingredients are mixed, and the wet are then added to the dry) and final consistency (which is usually denser than a traditional cake and has a coarser crumb). As the cake is relatively moist, it can be conserved longer than many other types of cakes.

Carrots have been used in sweet cakes and desserts since medieval times, when sweeteners were scarce and expensive. Carrots, which contain more sugar than any other vegetable besides sugar beet, were much easier to come by and were used to make sweet desserts. With the discovery of the New World and cane sugar, carrots reverted back to being just another root vegetable.

Shortages and rationing in Britain during WW II led to a revival in the popularity of carrot cake there. Carrot cakes first became commonly available in restaurants and cafeterias in the USA in the early 1960s. They were at first a novelty item, but people liked them so much that carrot cake became standard dessert fare. In 2005, the American-based television channel Food Network listed carrot cake with cream-cheese icing as number five of the top five fad foods of the 1970s. In a survey in Radio Times, carrot cake was voted as the favourite cake in Britain in 2011.

I am (fortunately?) not endowed with a sweet tooth, so carrot cake is one of my favourite desserts. The following recipe is one I can vouch for.


Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Serves 8 - 10


For the cake:

140g Carrot, grated (about 4 medium carrots)

100g Sultanas

175g Self-raising flour

175g Light Muscovado or Demerara sugar

3 Large eggs, lightly beaten

Zest of 1 orange, finely grated

1 Tsp. ground cinnamon

1 Tsp. bicarbonate of soda

½ Tsp, grated fresh nutmeg

½ Tsp. ginger (powdered)

175ml Sunflower oil

For the frosting:

175g Icing sugar

2 Tbsp. orange juice


  • Pre-heat your oven to 180°C.
  • Oil and line the base and sides of an 18cm square cake tin with baking parchment.
  • Tip the sugar into a large mixing bowl, pour in the oil and add the eggs. Lightly mix with a wooden spoon.
  • Stir in the grated carrots, sultanas and orange zest.
  • Mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices, then sift into the bowl.
  • Lightly mix all the ingredients – when everything is evenly amalgamated stop mixing. The mixture will be fairly soft and almost runny.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 40- 45 minutes, until it feels firm and springy when you press it in the centre.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes.
  • Turn it out, peel off the paper and cool on a wire rack. 
  • Beat the frosting ingredients together in a small bowl until smooth – you want the icing about as runny as single cream.
  • Set the cake on a serving plate and boldly drizzle the icing back and forth in diagonal lines over the top, letting it drip down the sides.
  • Slice and enjoy!


“Did you ever stop to taste a carrot? Not just eat it, but taste it? You can’t taste the beauty and energy of the Earth in a Twinkie.” – Astrid Alouda.


Baklava: Greek Gift or Turkish Delight?

“You know you’re a first generation Greek-American when your dad insists that the home repairman sit down and eat two pieces of baklava before going home for dinner.” – Olympia Dukakis.


Baklava richly deserves its popularity. It is pleasing to the eye, and tastes wonderful, yet it is remarkably easy to make. In essence it consists of layers of phyllo pastry filled with chopped nuts, sweetened with honey or syrup. Baklava is widely regarded as one of Greek cuisine’s great gifts to modern civilisation, but do a bit of research and it turns out that baklava has a similar history to Budweiser beer; one country invented it but another usurped the credit.

The Greeks and Turks argue about pretty much everything, including over which dishes were originally Greek and which Turkish. Baklava is a case in point. Greek and Turkish cuisine both built upon the cookery of the Byzantine Empire, which was a continuation of the cooking of the Roman Empire. After 1453, the new Turkish masters of the Levant blended the cuisine they found in Constantinople with recipes and techniques they brought with them from Central Asia and Mesopotamia.

Although there is much controversy over the history of baklava, its current form seems to have been developed in the imperial kitchens of the Ottoman Empire. According to a number of historians, the Sultan presented trays of baklava to his staff on the 15th day of the month of Ramadan in a ceremonial procession called the Baklava Alayi. The name “baklava” has since been used in many languages with minor phonetic and spelling variations. ,

Several versions of the dish feature in the cuisines of the Eastern Mediterranean, Caucasus, Balkans, North Africa and Central Asia. In its Greek form, baklava is a traditional Easter treat, and devout Orthodox mothers make theirs using 33 layers of phyllo to represent the number of years Christ spent on earth. The following recipe is from the Greek tradition, but I can’t guarantee that you’ll end up with 33 layers...


450g Phyllo dough (I use store-bought frozen pastry, and slowly thaw it in my fridge beforehand)

450g Chopped nuts (I prefer pistachio, but walnuts, hazel nuts or even cashew nuts can also be used)

200g Butter

200g White sugar

150ml Honey

1 Tsp. ground cinnamon

1 Tsp. vanilla extract

1 Cup water


  • Pre-heat your oven to 180⁰C.
  • Butter the bottoms and sides of a 22 x 32cm baking dish.
  • Toss the nuts and cinnamon together. Set aside.
  • Unroll the phyllo dough and cut the whole stack in half to fit your dish.
  • Cover the phyllo with a dampened cloth to keep from drying out as you work.
  • Place two sheets of dough in the pan, and butter thoroughly.
  • Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered.
  • Sprinkle 2 - 3 Tbsp. of the nut mixture on top.
  • Top with two sheets of dough, butter and nuts, layering as you go. The top layer should be about 6 - 8 sheets deep.
  • Using a sharp knife, cut the assembled baklava into diamond or square shapes all the way to the bottom of the pan.
  • Place the dish in the oven and bake for about 50 minutes until the baklava is golden and crisp.
  • Make the sauce while the baklava is baking by boiling the sugar and water until the sugar has dissolved.
  • Add the vanilla and honey, and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  • Remove the baklava from the oven and spoon the sauce over it immediately. Allow the dish to cool.
  • Serve and enjoy!


“I experience each moment like baklava: rich in this layer, and this layer, and this layer.” – Ram Dass.


Malva Pudding: the long walk to overnight success

“Success doesn’t happen all at once. In life, there is no instant pudding.” – Donald Trump.


Malva pudding is as South African as bobotie or koeksusters. It is a sweet dessert of Cape Dutch origin, and many South African restaurants offer it. As White settlement expanded it was transplanted to many parts of the country and local variants developed. Two of the best-known derivatives are the Cape brandy pudding - which contains brandy and dates - and the tipsy tart, which contains only brandy. The pudding gained overnight popularity in the USA after Oprah Winfrey’s personal chef, Art Smith, was shown serving it to the pupils of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in Gauteng as part of their Christmas dinner in 2006. 

There are various theories on the origin of the name. According to the Oxford English Dictionary it comes from the Afrikaans malva, meaning "marshmallow". This may arise from a resemblance between the pudding's texture and that of a marshmallow. Malva is also Afrikaans for geranium, and another theory is that the batter was originally flavoured with the leaves of the lemon- or the rose-scented geranium (an indigenous South African plant). Art Smith said that according to Colin Cowie, his hospitality ambassador in South Africa, the pudding was named after a woman called Malva. To me, the most sensible explanation is that the pudding’s name is derived from Malvacea wine from Madeira, popularly known as simply Madeira. The dessert and dessert wine used to be served together after the main course at Cape tables.

The following recipe is not just delicious, but also stays true to the traditional ingredients and techniques.


Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Serves 6

Tastes best accompanied by a White Port


For the pudding:

150g Bread flour

180g White sugar

2 Large eggs

1 Tbsp. apricot jam

1 Tbsp. butter

80ml Milk

1 Tsp. baking powder

1 Tsp. vinegar

½ Tsp. salt

For the sauce:

200ml Fresh cream

120g White sugar

100g Butter

2 Tsp. vanilla essence

90ml Hot water


  • Pre-heat your oven to 180⁰C.
  • Grease an 18 x 18 x 4.5 cm Pyrex oven dish.
  • Whip the sugar and eggs in a food processor, or with electric beaters.
  • When thick and lemon coloured, add the jam and mix through.
  • Melt the butter (don't boil) and add the butter and vinegar to the mixture.
  • Sieve together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  • Add this mixture, along with the milk, to the egg mixture in the processor or mixing bowl. Beat well.
  • Pour into the oven dish and bake until pudding is brown and well-risen -- depending on your oven and dish this will be between 30 - 45 minutes.
  • Melt together the ingredients for the sauce in a pot over medium heat, and stir well.
  • Pour it over the pudding as soon as it comes out of the oven.
  • Leave the pudding to rest for a while before serving, but don’t let it cool all the way down – it must still be warm when served.
  • I don’t believe a dessert this rich really needs enhancement, but if you have a really sweet tooth, serve it with vanilla ice cream.


“The proof of the pudding is in the eating. By a small sample we may judge of the whole piece.” – Miguel de Cervantes.


Pecan Pie: Dixieland Delight

"Nothing rekindles my spirits more than a visit to Mississippi... and to be regaled as I often have been, with a platter of fried chicken, field peas, collard greens, fresh corn on the cob, and to top it all off with a wedge of freshly baked pecan pie." - Craig Claiborne.


It’s no secret that 2 out of 3 Americans are overweight; half of them obese. This is hardly a surprise, given how much and how often they eat. What’s more, Americans love sugary treats and candied confections, many of which are at the heart of their country's food culture. Desserts also play an important role in the way Americans celebrate special occasions and mark important days like Independence Day and Thanksgiving.

These traditional treats are beloved by the masses, recognised around the globe as all-American, and have been referenced repeatedly in pop culture for decades. Just think about the red velvet armadillo cake in Steel Magnolias, the famous pie-eating contest scene in Stand by Me, or even Homer Simpson's donut obsession. Today, chocolate chip cookies, cheesecake, pumpkin pie, brownies and pecan pie are household names in many parts of the world.

To me, primus inter pares is the Southern jewel, pecan pie. Especially one that is really loaded with nuts, has a little verve from orange zest, and isn't overly sweet, i.e. just like the one described below!


Preparation time: 1 hour

Cooking time: 1 hour

Serves 8

Tastes best accompanied by some chilled Amaretto


1 Sheet of ready-made short crust pastry dough, big enough to make a 30 cm disc

250g Pecan halves

3 Large eggs

1 ¼ Cups light brown sugar

¾ Cup light corn or golden syrup

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

2 Tsp. pure vanilla extract

½ Tsp. grated orange zest

¼ Tsp. salt

Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for topping


  • Preheat your oven to 180°C, with a baking sheet on the middle rack.
  • Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin.
  • Cut out a 30 cm round and fit it into a 22 cm pie dish.
  • Trim the edge, leaving a 1.5 cm overhang.
  • Fold the overhang down and press it gently against the rim of the dish, then crimp it decoratively.
  • Lightly prick the bottom all over with a fork.
  • Chill until firm, at least 30 minutes (or freeze for 10 minutes).
  • Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add the brown sugar, whisking until smooth.
  • Remove from the heat and whisk in the corn syrup, vanilla, zest, and salt.
  • Beat the eggs in a medium bowl, then whisk them into the syrup mixture.
  • Place the pecans in the pie shell, then pour the syrup mixture evenly over them.
  • Bake on the hot baking sheet until the filling is set – this should take 50 minutes to an hour.
  • Allow to cool completely.
  • Serve topped with cream or ice cream.

Note: The pie can be baked the day before and kept chilled. Bring to room temperature before serving.


“Family is like a pecan pie: something sweet and sticky holding all the nuts together.” – Jim Carrey.


Xmas dessert: no trifling matter

“Some of the sweetest berries grow among the sharpest thorns.” – Gaelic proverb.


Despite my Afrikaans heritage, a lot of my early memories involved Anglo-Saxon culture. I grew up among the pine and eucalyptus forests of Mpumalanga, and many of my parents’ colleagues and friends were English-speaking. Thanks to their influence, some of the tastes and smells I remember most vividly include lime cordial, roast beef, rhubarb pudding, cream scones and trifle.

Many of the customs and dishes the British brought with them to South Africa were completely unsuited to our hot climate. The fact that we are in the Southern Hemisphere made things worse; the hot, hearty fare of the traditional English Christmas lunch on a hot summer’s day being a prime example. Trifle is an exception to this rule. It can be made light and fruity, and it is served chilled. It is also very versatile – a myriad ingredients and combinations can be used.  This year, end off your Christmas lunch with something light and refreshing: a three-berry trifle.


Preparation time: 40 minutes

Cooking time: 3 minutes

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a Ruby Port


The fruit:

1 ½ Cups blueberries

1 ½ Cups strawberries, cut into thick slices

2 Cups raspberries

1 Lemon, juiced

¼ Cup white sugar

1 ½ Tsp. Maizena corn starch

Lemon cream:

1 Sponge cake, sliced 1/2-inch thick

1 ½ Cups whipping cream

1 Tbsp. white sugar

350g Lemon curd

½ Tsp. vanilla extract


  • Place the berries in a large bowl and sprinkle with half of the lemon juice. Toss gently.
  • Combine the berries, sugar, corn starch and remaining lemon juice in a saucepan over medium-high heat.
  • Bring to a simmer and cook just until the berries begin to break down and give up their juices, about 3 minutes.
  • Remove the berries from the heat and allow them let cool.
  • In a clean bowl, whip the cream with the sugar and the vanilla to soft peaks.
  • Put the lemon curd into a second bowl and stir in a little of the whipped cream to loosen it.
  • Fold in the rest of the cream. 
  • To assemble the trifle, spoon a layer of the lemon cream into a large glass bowl. Add a layer of sponge cake, breaking the slices into pieces that fit.
  • Soak the cake with a layer of berries and their juices. Repeat this step until you have 3 or 4 more layers, depending on the size of the bowl.
  • Finish with a layer of lemon cream.
  • Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.


“On the motionless branches of some trees, autumn berries hung like clusters of coral beads, as in those fabled orchards where the fruits were jewels.” – Charles Dickens.


Memory Lane...

Maples in autumn colours, Quebec

Back when the air was clean & sex was dirty...

Young Donald learns to flip-flop...

Come on, take me to the Mardi Gras...

Bananas Foster: the taste of the Big Easy

“I can carve a judge with more backbone than you out of a banana!” – Theodore Roosevelt.


If you are worried about your weight, you shouldn’t visit New Orleans under any circumstances. Everything they serve you there seems to invite obesity and heart disease. Take Bananas Foster for example: it is a dessert consisting of bananas and vanilla ice cream, served with a sauce made from butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, dark rum and banana liqueur. Talk about a second on the lips and a lifetime on the hips! It is nonetheless one of the world’s great desserts, and one worth enjoying at least once.  

Bananas Foster was created in 1951 by Paul Blangé at Brennan’s in New Orleans. At the time, New Orleans was a major hub for the import of bananas from South America. The dish was named after Richard Foster, the chairman of the New Orleans (anti!) Crime Commission, and a friend of restaurant owner Owen Brennan. Even though The Big Easy is no longer a major banana port, the tradition lives on and Bananas Foster is still served at numerous restaurants in New Orleans. In posher establishments, the dish is often finished off with a tableside flambé. This is how you make it:


Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 5 minutes

Serves 4


3 Ripe bananas, peeled and sliced; first  lengthwise then crosswise

350 ml Vanilla ice cream

125 ml Demerara sugar

4 Tbsp. butter

3 ½ Tbsp. dark rum

2 Tbsp. banana liqueur

2 Tbsp. chopped walnuts

1 ½ Tsp. vanilla extract

½ Tsp. ground cinnamon


  • Dish up the 4 portions of ice cream before you begin.
  • Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat.
  • Stir in the sugar, vanilla and cinnamon.
  • When mixture begins to bubble, add the banana liqueur and place the bananas and walnuts in the pan.
  • Cook until bananas are heated through - 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Add the rum and flambé.
  • Serve at once over the vanilla ice cream.


“A stockbroker urged me to buy a stock that would triple its value every year. I told him: 'At my age, I don't even buy green bananas.'” - Claude Pepper.


Lemon & Ricotta Crepes

“Haunted French pancakes give me the crepes.” – Bumper sticker.


I have yet to meet someone who admits to not liking any form of pancake/crepe/galette/tortilla/ khubz/roti/injeera. Flat “bread” in some incarnation can be found in countless cultures, and they make handy containers for saucy fillings. The following dish is ideal for people who do not have a particularly sweeth tooth, and very easy to make as well.


Preparation time: 1 hour (at least)

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Serves 6


1 Cup cake flour

4 Large eggs

1 ½ Cups full cream milk

1 Cup ricotta cheese

½ Cup of white sugar, plus 1 Tbsp. extra

3 Tbsp. melted unsalted butter, plus extra for the pan

1 Tbsp. honey, plus extra for serving

2 Tsp. lemon juice

½ Tsp. lemon zest, finely grated

½ Tsp.coarse salt

1 Lemon, sliced thinly


  • Blend the milk, eggs, flour, butter, salt, lemon juice, and 1 Tbsp. of sugar in a blender until very foamy. Transfer the batter to the refrigerator and let rest, at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.
  • When the batter is ready, boil ½ cup of water in a large saucepan with the remaining ½ cup of sugar, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
  • Add the lemon slices and simmer until tender and translucent, then let the mixture cool.
  • Grease a medium non-stick frying pan with butter and heat over medium heat.
  • Add ¼ cup of the crepe batter and swirl the skillet so the batter completely covers the bottom of the pan.
  • Cook until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Gently loosen the edge of the crepe with a spatula and, using your fingers, flip the crepe.
  • Continue to cook until cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer to a plate.
  • Don’t be disappointed if the first crepe does not come out well; the batter makes enough for 13!
  • Repeat with the remaining batter.
  • In a small bowl, combine the lemon zest, ricotta, and honey.
  • Spread the ricotta mixture evenly over the crepes (about 1 Tbsp. each) and roll up.
  • Serve topped with the lemon slices and drizzled with the additional honey.


“They say blood is thicker than water, but honey is thicker than blood. Therefore my loyalties lie with pancakes.” – Amy Grimes.


Souskluitjies: sweet memories

“Dumplings are most succulent when heading in the direction of the mouth.” Grand Mufti Nasir Xheng Xiao Mohammed of Shanghai.


Souskluitjies (literally “saucy dumplings”) as a dish is older than Afrikanerdom. They reached our shores with Jan van Riebeeck’s Dutch settlers, and have become part of the Boerekos pantheon. I remember vividly how we as children had to finish our Sunday lunch main course of leg of lamb, rice and three veg if we wanted dessert – often souskluitjies.

There is nothing glamorous about this simple dish of flour dumplings with a buttery sugar and cinnamon sauce. It harks back to the unpretentious, hearty food of my ancestors. Made properly, it is the perfect end to a generous meal. Souskluitjies are at their best when they are freshly made and still piping hot, but they can be reheated the next day and still be a treat.


Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Serves 4


1 ½ Cups cake flour

2 Eggs

1 Stick Cinnamon

5 Tbsp. butter

2 Tbsp. sugar

1 Tsp. baking powder

½ Tsp. Salt


Sugar and cinnamon to sprinkle

½ Cup melted butter


  • Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together.
  • Rub in the butter into the flour with your fingers until it has the consistency of bread crumbs.
  • Whisk the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Fold the beaten eggs into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon.
  • Pour the water into a saucepan to a depth of about 5 cm, add the salt and cinnamon and bring to the boil.
  • Spoon teaspoons of the dough into the boiling water until all the batter is used up.
  • Simmer, covered over low heat for 10 minutes. Take care that the mixture does not boil over.
  • Regulate the temperature so that the saucepan’s contents are simmering very slowly.
  • Remove the dumplings with a slotted spoon and arrange in a serving dish.
  • Sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar (you will need more than you think, because the batter is not sweetened) and drizzle with the melted butter.
  • Let the dish rest for 5 minutes to give the sugar some time to melt, then serve at once.


“Dumplings from a lover are better than flowers.” – Japanese proverb.


Butternut and maple soup: Oh Canada!

“I love sweetening my dishes with maple syrup. It has a slight bitter kick at the end that works wonderfully in savoury dishes.” – Nadia Giosia.


I fell in love with maple syrup in May 2013. Jakki and I were staying at a fishing lodge in the forests of Central Quèbec, where I was hoping to tick a box on my bucket list by catching walleye, pike and perch. After a long day’s drive up from Quèbec City, we were treated to a a superb dinner on arrival – butternut soup and pan-seared Walleye (the same fish as the famed European Zander). I love fish, but butternut soup had never really blown my hair back, but I can honestly say that the dish that has stayed with me ever since was the soup! The secret ingredient was the maple syrup used to sweeten the soup – if you’ll excuse the tired cliché, it added a certain je ne says quoi to the dish!

Maple syrup is as Canadian as ice hockey or Celine Dion. It is obtained by tapping the sap of the maple tree. In cold climates, these trees store starch in their roots before the winter; and in early spring the starch is converted to sugar that rises back up into the trunks. Maple trees are tapped by drilling holes into their trunks and collecting the exuded sap, which is processed by heating to evaporate much of the water, leaving the concentrated syrup. Maple syrup was first collected and used by the indigenous tribes of North America, and the practice was adopted by European settlers, who gradually developed large-scale production methods. Quèbec is by far the world’s largest producer, responsible for 75% of global output.

In countries with currencies stronger than the ZAR, maple syrup is widely used. It is most often eaten with pancakes, waffles, French toast, oatmeal porridge or as a sweetener in myriad otherwise savoury dishes like butternut soup. Maple syrup is also used as an ingredient in baking or as a flavouring agent. Culinary experts everywhere praise its unique fruity flavour. However much I loved the soup at Club Fontbrune, maple syrup is too expensive in South Africa to fritter away in the background. I recommend that you rather utilise it in a dish that places it front and centre, like this simple yet delectable pumpkin pie.


Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 75 minutes

Serves 8


1 Store-bought short crust pastry, defrosted and fitted into a 22 cm pie dish

2 Large eggs

450 g Cooked pumpkin, pureed

350 ml Double cream

175 ml Pure maple syrup

1 Tsp. ground cinnamon

½ Tsp. ground ginger

5 Cloves, ground

½ Tsp. coarse salt


  • Set an oven rack in the lowest position in your oven, and pre-heat the oven to 180ºC.
  • Bake the pie crust blind; first under wax paper for 10 minutes, then uncovered for another 5.
  • Whisk together the eggs, pumpkin, cream, maple syrup, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and cloves in a large bowl.
  • Pour the pumpkin mixture into the crust and bake until the filling has set. This should tale about an hour.
  • Allow the pie to cool to room temperature before serving.
  • Serve with a small dollop of whipped cream.


“A sad sort of vulnerability was wafting from her, making the night smell like maple syrup.” – Sarah Addison Allen.


Baked quince: a dish of bitter-sweet memories

“They dined on mince, and slices of quince, which they ate with a runcible spoon; and hand in hand, on the edge of the sand, they danced by the light of the moon.” – Edward Lear.


In Afrikaans lore, the quince has a special place. Schoolteachers on the “platteland” (i.e. in the rural heartland) did not suffer naughty or lazy pupils gladly, and corporal punishment was meted out at the slightest provocation. The weapon of choice was the dreaded “kweperlat” – a supple twig from a quince tree. As a result, many kids grew up hating the quince’s tasty fruit, because they would forever associate it with hidings they got at school!

Although I was deemed a “naughty” boy (ADHD had not yet been discovered in those days) and got more than my fair share of “Quince Ritalin” I have no such problem – I adore this “old-fashioned” fruit. With such a deluge of exotic fruit readily available in greengrocers’ and supermarkets, quince has almost disappeared from the public consciousness. Fortunately, chains like Pick & Pay still stock it when in season, and the season happens to be late autumn! Do yourself a favour and get hold of a few if you can; this recipe is dead simple and absolutely delicious!   


Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Serves 8

Tastes even better accompanied by a light, fruity dessert wine.


8 Ripe quinces

150 g Chopped walnuts

2 Tsp. lemon rind, finely grated

4 Cinnamon sticks, about 5 cm each

8 Cloves

½ Tbsp. honey

1 Tsp. cinnamon

½ Tsp. powdered ginger

100 g Brown sugar

80 g Soft butter

150 ml Port-style wine (I prefer Tawny)


  • Pre-heat your oven to 180°C.
  • Rinse the quinces, and dry them vigorously with paper towel to remove the “hair”.
  • Core the fruit and halve lengthwise.
  • Place them, skin side down, in a baking disk.
  • Mix all the remaining ingredients - except the Port, cinnamon stick and cloves - and fill the quinces with the mixture.
  • Pour the Port evenly over the quinces, reserving about a third.
  • Arrange the cinnamon sticks and cloves on top of the fruit.
  • Bake for 45 minutes, basting occasionally with the remaining Port.


“Then hath thy orchard fruit, thy garden flowers, Fresh as the air, and new as are the hours. The early cherry, with the later plum, Fig, grape, and quince, each in his time doth come: The blushing apricot, and woolly peach Hang on thy walls, that every child may reach” – Ben Johnson.


Cherry orchards near Mont Ventoux, Provence

Annabel Langbein & S Otago Heritage apples

Only in Orania...

Baking off

HRH Prince Charles gives Mrs Smith an Order

Bread and Butter Pudding: less is more

“In moments of considerable strain, I take to bread-and-butter pudding. There is something about the blandness of soggy bread, the crispness of the golden outer crust and the unadulterated pleasure of a lightly set custard that makes the world a better place to live in.” – Clement Freud.

English food used to be regarded (for the most part justifiably) as bland and unimaginative. The French, unsurprisingly, have always taken a dim view of Anglo-Saxon cuisine, so much so that they describe food simply boiled in water or stock as à l’Anglaise. The English have also done themselves no favours by giving many traditional dishes have bizarre names which don’t exactly inspire confidence like Toad-in-the-hole, Bubble and Squeak, Spotted Dick, Faggots and Pond Pudding.

Much damage was inflicted on English cookery by the two World Wars. The war effort claimed most available goods and services, leaving little for private consumption. During the Second World War food rationing of the most basic ingredients - meat, sugar, butter and eggs – was introduced, and this continued until the early 1950s. It was during this era that England gained a reputation for poor cooking and became a gastronomic joke worldwide. The influx of people from former colonies in the Subcontinent, Africa and the Caribbean also introduced new, exotic competition. Today, Chicken Tikka Masala is the official national dish of Britain!

Despite all the bad press, traditional English food is hearty, wholesome and tasty. Thanks to celebrity chefs like Delia Smith, Keith Floyd, Nigella Lawson, Gary Rhodes and Rick Stein (to name but a few) it has enjoyed a powerful resurgence. Today, iconic restaurants like Simpson’s in the Strand pride themselves on serving British dishes made with fresh, seasonal ingredients. One of these is a dessert beautiful in its simplicity: Bread and Butter Pudding. Here is my interpretation of this English classic.  


Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: 40 minutes

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a Tawny or White Port


8 Slices of white bread

2 Large free range eggs

50 g Sultanas

350ml Full cream milk

2 Tbsp. double thick cream

2 Tbsp. butter, plus extra for greasing

1 Tbsp. white sugar

2 Tsp. ground turmeric

½ Tsp. vanilla extract

½ Tsp. ground nutmeg


  • Preheat your oven to 180°C.
  • Grease a 1l pie dish with a bit of butter.
  • Cut the crusts off the bread. Spread each slice with on one side with butter, then quarter them diagonally.
  • Arrange a layer of bread, buttered side up, in the bottom of the dish, followed by a layer of sultanas. Sprinkle with a little cinnamon.
  • Repeat the alternate layers of bread, sultanas and cinnamon until you have used up all of the bread. Finish with a layer of bread and set aside.
  • Gently warm the milk and cream in a pan over a low heat to scalding point. Don't let it boil.
  • Crack the eggs into a bowl, add three quarters of the sugar and the vanilla extract and lightly whisk until pale.
  • Add the warm milk and cream mixture and stir well, then strain the custard into a bowl.
  • Pour the custard over the prepared bread layers and sprinkle with nutmeg and the remaining sugar and leave to stand for 30 minutes.
  • Place the dish into the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the custard has set and the top is golden brown.

“If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.” – Robert Browning.

Lemon Pound Cake

“A compromise is the art of dividing a cake in such a way that everyone thinks he got the biggest slice.” – Ludwig Erhard.

The term “pound cake” refers to a type of cake traditionally made with a pound (450 g) of each of four ingredients: flour, butter, eggs, and sugar. However, any cake made with equal portions of the ingredients may also be called a pound cake, regardless of its weight. Pound cakes are often baked in a ring-shaped Bundt mould, and served either dusted with powdered sugar, lightly glazed, or sometimes with a coat of icing. Lemon Pound Cake makes a perfect dessert for entertaining and special occasions, with its attractive appearance and perfect balance of sweet and tart tastes.


Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 1 ½ hours

Serves 12

Tastes best accompanied by chilled Limoncello


For the cake:

3 Cups cake flour

6 Eggs

225 g Cream cheese

3 cups sugar

1 ½ Cups butter

The zest of one lemon

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

1 Tsp. salt

For the glaze:

1 Tbsp. buttermilk

1½ Cups icing sugar

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

The zest of 1 lemon


Baking the cake

  • Preheat your oven to 175°C.
  • Grease the inside of a Bundt (ring-shaped) pan with butter, and give it a light sprinkling of flour. Set aside.
  • Ensure the butter, cream cheese, and eggs are at room temperature.
  • Cream the butter, cream cheese and sugar until fluffy.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, stirring continually.
  • Add the lemon juice and zest and combine well.
  • Add the flour, salt and vanilla, and mix until just well-combined but not over-mixed.
  • Pour into the prepared Bundt pan.
  • Bake until golden brown and sufficiently cooked that a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. This should take about 1 hour and 15 - 30 minutes.

The glaze

  • While the cake cools, whisk all the ingredients of the glaze together.
  • Allow to rest until the cake has fully cooled, then drizzle over the top.
  • Let the glazing set properly before serving.

“I ate a pound cake today, but I gained two.” – Jarod Kintz.

South Africa's Twisted Sister dessert

“Dessert is to a meal what a dress is to a woman.” – Beatrice Peltre.

The koeksuster is an iconic South African sweet, equally popular as a dessert or tea time treat. Although traditionally a “Boere” dish, it has become a generally liked sweet snack among most of us. It is surprisingly easy to make if one sticks to the recipe. The feedback from your guests will be reward enough for the bit of effort involved.

Preparation time: 24 hours

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Resting time: 1 hour

Serves 6 - 8

The dough:

2 Cups cake flour
1 Large egg

4 Tbsp, unsalted butter
3 Tsp. baking powder
½ Cup of water
½ Tsp.salt
Sunflower oil for frying

The syrup:

1 Kg white sugar
2 Cinnamon sticks, each about 10 cm long
½ Tsp. ground ginger
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Making the dough:

  • Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together.
  • Rub in the butter and mix until pliable.
  • Mix this with the egg and water (adding the water a little at a time).
  • Work the dough well. If the dough appears to be lumpy and sticky, continue to work the dough until it balls up.
  • Let the dough rest at room temperature for about three hours (under an inverted mixing bowl).

Making the syrup:

  • NB: Prepare the syrup a day before (it needs to be very cold).
  • Dissolve sugar in 1 ½ cups of water.
  • Add the spices and lemon juice to this and simmer together for about 10 minutes.
  • Leave the syrup cool in the fridge overnight.

Putting it together:

  • Heat the oil to medium-hot in a large pot.
  • Roll out the dough to a thickness of about 5mm.
  • Cut the dough into strips of 6cm x 2cm.
  • Cut each of these strips into three lengthwise, not all the way through - leave the strips connected at one end.
  • Plat each strip, and pinch together at the end of the strip.
  • Deep fry until golden brown.
  • Remove and drain quickly, then dip the hot koeksusters in the cold syrup. The secret is to keep the syrup cold and the koeksusters hot, this way it will draw just the right amount of syrup.
  • You can keep the syrup cold by keeping the syrup bowl in another container filled with iced water.
  • Allow the koeksusters to rest for an hour at room temperature before serving them.

“I’m beginning to think that memories are like a dessert. I eat it, and it becomes part of me, whether I remember it later or not.” – Erica Bauermeister.

Apple Cheesecake

“Sometimes I wrestle with my inner demons, other times we just hug and eat cheesecake.” – Ellen DeGeneres.

For people like me, born without a sweet tooth, cheesecake is Heaven-sent. It is just sweet enough to pass muster as a dessert, and – with the right ingredients – it can be fruity, light and refreshing. It can be made in so many different ways that anyone can find a version to his/her liking. My two personal favourites are blueberry and apple, with the latter my preference for a hot summer’s day.


Preparation time:

Cooking time:

Serves 6 – 8

Tastes best accompanied by an Ice Cider or Noble Late Harvest.


100 g Tennis biscuits, crushed

150ml Unsweetened apple purée

350 g Plain cottage cheese, sieved

50 g Sultanas

3 Large eggs

1 Tbsp. Maizena corn flour

1 Tsp. lemon rind, finely grated

50 g Butter, melted

100 g Caster sugar

50 g Whole butter


  • Pre-heat your oven to 150°C.
  • Grease the base and sides of a 20 cm diameter tart dish,
  • Mix the crumbed biscuits, 50 g caster sugar and the melted butter in a bowl.
  • Form a pie crust by pressing the mixture evenly onto the base and sides of the dish.
  • Cream the whole butter and the remaining caster sugar.
  • Add the cottage cheese, apple purée and lemon zest, and mix thoroughly.
  • Beat the eggs in gradually, then add the corn flower and sultanas.
  • Spoon the filling over the base.
  • Bake for 1 ½ hours. The filling should be firm to the touch.
  • Allow to cool for 45 minutes, then remove from the dish.
  • Refrigerate prior to serving.
  • For an attractive appearance, top with whipped cream and poached tart apple slices, and sprinkle with crushed nuts.

“The only way cheese is dessert is when it is followed by the word ‘cake’” – Michele Gorman. 

Cherry Clafoutis

“Don’t give cherries to pigs, or advice to fools.” – Irish proverb.

 This recipe resonates with me because – like many other in the French repertoire - it is simple and versatile, yet elegant. When you bake a clafoutis, it will puff up like a little soufflé, browned on the edges, but creamy within. It will eventually deflate - but that is natural and it is just as delicious anyway. You can substitute your favourite fruit for the cherries, and you can also either make it in a single pie dish or in individual ramekins. With summer fruit appearing on the shelves everywhere, do yourself a favour and try this out ASAP!


Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 40 minutes

Serves 6

Tastes best accompanied by a Noble Late Harvest (botrytis) wine or Ice Cider


2 Cups pitted black cherries

3 Eggs

2 Tbsp. butter, melted

1 Cup full cream milk

½ Cup cake flour

½ Cup sugar

1 Tsp. vanilla extract


  • Preheat your oven to 180°C.
  • Whisk the milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and butter together in a large bowl until the sugar has completely dissolved.
  • Add the flour and whisk until smooth.
  • Pour the batter into a suitable-sized greased pie dish.
  • Scatter the cherries over the batter so that they are evenly spread.
  • Bake until the clafoutis is puffed and golden – this shouldn’t take more than 40 minutes.
  • Serve hot – you might want to decorate it with some cream or ice cream.

  “You can’t pick cherries with your back to the tree.” – John N Mitchell.

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Roly Poly - Beatrix Potter (and her many fans) loved it

"Blueberry Hill" in New Hampshire

Lemons under the volcano; Sicily

A well-known tart was born here...

Tarte Tatin: the flop that wasn't

“If you truly wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” – Carl Sagan.

Apples are one of my favourite fruits. They also feature in some of my favourite foods and beverages, to wit Apple Crumble, Poulet Vallée d’Auge, Calvados and Québec’s nectar of the gods, Ice Cidre. Another special treat with apple front and centre is Tarte Tatin, the French riposte to Upside Down Cake. The concept dates back to the 1880s, when it was invented (by accident) in the Hôtel Tatin in Lamotte-Beuvron in Central France, owned by the Tatin sisters. The Chef, Stephanie Tatin had - according to legend – overcooked the apples that were supposed to fill a conventional apple tart. She decided to hide the slightly burnt apples by placing the pastry on top and baking it the wrong way round, and Voila! A star was born.  

Preparation time: 45 minutes (plus the apples must spend at least a day in the fridge beforehand)

Cooking time: 75 minutes

Serves 6

Really Good

8 Granny Smith apples

80 g Soft salted butter

135 g Light brown sugar

1 Sheet of puff pastry

  • At least one day before cooking the tart, prepare the apples. Slice off the bottom of each apple so it has a flat base, then peel and quarter the apples.
  • Using a paring knife, trim the hard cores and seeds from each quarter.
  • Transfer the apples to a bowl and refrigerate, lightly covered, for at least a full day – two or three are preferable. The more moisture the apples lose, the firmer and tastier the end result.
  • When ready to cook, pre-heat your oven to 180˚C.
  • Coat the bottom of a 25 cm diameter ovenproof skillet, preferably non-stick metal, with butter. Sprinkle sugar evenly on top.
  • Cut one piece of apple into a thick round disk and place in the middle of the skillet to serve as the “bull’s eye”.
  • Arrange the remaining apple pieces, each one standing on its flat end, in concentric circles around the middle.
  • Keep the pieces close together so that they support one another, standing upright. They will look like the petals of a flower.
  • On a floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to around 3 mm thick.
  • Place an upside-down bowl or pan on the pastry and use the tip of a sharp knife to cut out a circle about the same size as the top of your skillet.
  • Lift out the circle and drape gently over the apples. Use your hands to tuck the pastry firmly around the apple pieces.
  • Place the skillet on the stovetop over medium heat until golden-brown juice begins to bubble around the edges.
  • Keep cooking until the juices are turning darker brown and smell caramelized. This should not take longer than another 10 minutes.
  • Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the pastry is browned.
  • Let it cool for five minutes, then carefully turn it out onto a round serving plate.
  • If any apples remain stuck in the pan, gently use your fingers or a spatula to retrieve them, and rearrange on top of the pastry shell.
  • Cut in wedges and serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

“Good apple tart is a considerable part of our domestic happiness.” – Jane Austin.

When life gives you lemons...

“In all my work, I try to say: ‘You may be given a load of sour lemons, why not try to make a dozen lemon meringue pies?’“ – Maya Angelou.

I may not have a classical sweet tooth, but combine tartness with something sweet and suddenly I’m interested! This is particularly true of dishes based on lemon - my idea of dessert heaven is Key Lime Pie accompanied by a Pisco Sour! Another dessert in this category is Lemon Meringue Pie, which is not just sweet/sour but also has the wonderfully fluffy texture of a meringue. Try it; it is not as difficult to make as it seems.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour

Serves 8

Tastes best accompanied by a tawny port or ice cider


1 Rolled-up Pie crust (Short crust pastry) of 450 g, defrosted


1 Cup of sugar

¼ Cup Maizena corn starch

¼ Tsp salt

4 Large egg yolks

2 Cups of milk

1/3 Cup of fresh lemon juice

3 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 Tsp lemon rind, grated

½ Tsp vanilla extract


6 Egg whites

6 Tbsp sugar

3ml Vanilla extract

Preparing the crust:

  •  Pre-heat your oven to 200˚C.
  • Unfold and place pie crust on a lightly floured surface. Roll into a 30 cm diameter circle.
  • Fit the crust into a 23 cm diameter tart dish (about 3 cm deep), fold the edge over and crimp.
  • Prick the bottom and sides of the crust with a fork, and place the dish in the freezer for 10 minutes.
  • Cover the crust with wax paper and weigh it down with pie weights or dried beans.
  • Bake the crust at 200°C for 10 minutes. Remove the weights and wax paper and bake for 12 - 15 more minutes, or until crust is lightly browned.

 Preparing the filling:

  • Whisk together the sugar, corn starch and salt in a medium-sized saucepan.
  • Whisk together the egg yolks, milk, and lemon juice in a bowl, then whisk it into sugar mixture in pan over medium heat.
  • Bring to the boil, and boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute.
  • Remove the pan from the heat; stir in the butter, lemon rind, and vanilla extract until smooth.

 Baking the pie:

  • Pour the filling into the crust. Cover with plastic wrap, placing it directly on the filling. (Proceed immediately with the next step to ensure that the meringue is spread over the pie filling while it is still warm.)
  • Beat the egg whites and vanilla extract at high speed with an electric mixer until foamy. Add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and beat 2 to 4 minutes or until stiff peaks form and the sugar dissolves.
  • Remove the plastic wrap from the pie, and spread the meringue mix evenly over the warm filling, sealing the edges.
  • Bake at 175°C for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
  • Allow the pie to cool completely on a wire rack before serving.

“When life gives you lemons, slice them and have them with tequila. Or make lemon meringue pie.” – Fran Lebovitz.


The thrill from Fats' hill

“Better than any argument is to rise at dawn and pick dew-wet berries in a cup.” – Wendell Berry.

This dish has fascinated me ever since I first heard Fats Domino croon “I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill...” almost 50 years ago. As you may have gathered by now, I don’t have a sweet tooth. I am nevertheless a sucker for desserts of subtle sweetness, balanced by tartness, fruitiness, saltiness or spiciness. Blueberry cheesecake ticks all of these boxes for me. Here’s how easy it is to make:   

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour

Refrigeration time: 6 hours

Serves 8

Tastes best accompanied by a Noble Late Harvest wine, Ice Wine or Ice Cider (my personal favourite)

2 Cups of frozen fresh blueberries, or else tinned berries.

3 Large eggs

250 g Softened cream cheese

250ml Whipping cream

75ml Créme Fraiche (sour cream) for the filling

75ml Créme Fraiche for the topping

250ml Tennis Biscuit crumbs

1 Tbsp sugar (for the crust)

1 Cup of sugar (for the filling)

2 Tbsp butter, melted

3 Tbsp cake flour

1 Tsp vanilla extract

1 Tsp lemon extract

½ Tsp salt

  • Mix the Tennis Biscuit crumbs, melted butter and sugar with a wooden spoon.
  • Press the mixture into bottom and onto the sides of a 22 cm tart dish. Bake at 180 ˚C for 5 minutes.
  • Remove and let it cool.
  • Beat the softened cream cheese with the cup of sugar, the flour and salt until blended.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, and blend in.
  • Fold in half of the sour cream, plus the vanilla and lemon extracts.
  • Gently stir in the in blueberries.
  • Pour the mixture into the cooled crust.
  • Bake at 150 ˚C for approximately 50 minutes. The cheesecake will be done when it still jiggles in the middle.
  • Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in it with the door open for 20 minutes.
  • Remove and let it cool.
  • Cover and chill the cheesecake in your refrigerator.
  • Lightly mix the whipping cream and the remainder of the sour cream.
  • Spread it over cheesecake and refrigerate the cake for at least 6 hours before cutting it.

 “To expect both freedom and fairness is like eating a cheesecake hoping to lose ten pounds. The one does not encourage the other.” – Richelle E Goodrich. 

Roly poly: back to the future

“I blame my dad for my sweet tooth. He used to say: ‘Life is short; eat dessert first.’ I was an obedient child.” – Wendy Mass.

The first dessert I ever made – at the ripe old age of 11 – was a baked roly-poly. I got the recipe from a children’s cook book I bartered from a girl friend after the school’s year-end awards evening. In those days it was highly unusual for straight boys in the platteland to cook, so book prizes we got were invariably about more macho topics. I desperately wanted the cook book, and had to offer my friend both the books I had won in return. Having closed the deal, I had to make her swear not to tell any of our school mates that I was a closet cook! Here is my modern-day version of this retro classic:

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Serves 6

Tastes best served with a white or tawny port-style wine.


500ml Cake flour

125 g Butter

2 Eggs, whisked

4 Tbsp apricot jam

150ml Milk

3 Tsp baking powder

1 Tsp salt


375ml Boiling water

250ml Sugar

2 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 Tsp vanilla essence

  • Preheat your oven to 180˚C.
  • Grease a suitable oven dish; I use a rectangular Pyrex one.
  • Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together into a mixing bowl, and rub in the butter.
  • Add the beaten eggs, and then some milk, tablespoon by tablespoon, stirring continually. Stop once you have a fairly firm dough.
  • On a floured surface, roll the dough out thinly – no more than 3 mm thick.
  • Form a rectangle by cutting off excess bits and rolling them back in.
  • Spread the dough evenly with apricot jam.
  • Starting with one of the long sides, roll the dough up like a Swiss roll.
  • Cut this roll into 25 mm-thick slices, using a serrated knife. Don’t panic if some jam oozes out.
  • NB: You could, of course, keep the roll whole and slice it after it has been baked. The choice is yours.
  • Pack the slices, cut sides up, closely together, in the greased dish.
  • Scoop the jam which oozed out from the working surface, and drop blobs onto the slices.
  • Mix the boiling water, sugar, butter and vanilla and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
  • With a tablespoon, ladle the sauce evenly over the slices of pudding.
  • You should have a bit more sauce than the baking dish can take - probably about ¾ cup. Keep this handy.
  • Bake the pudding for 45 minutes.
  • When the pudding is ready, take it out of the oven and carefully pour the extra sauce over the middle of the dish.
  • The hot pudding will absorb much of the leftover sauce in seconds and the excess sauce will thicken.

Serve hot, with custard, ice cream or sweetened whipped cream.

“Marriage is a dinner that starts with dessert.” – Toulouse-Lautrec

Tiramisu: Italian delight

“Dessert is like a feel-good song, and the best ones make you dance.” – Edward Lee.

I must confess I am not blessed with a sweet tooth. Nevertheless, there are a few desserts which I tuck into with gusto; Tiramisu is one of those - perhaps because it is not particularly sweet. Made properly, it is an object of both beauty and satisfaction. This is how easy it is to make:

175g Sponge finger biscuits

30g Dark chocolate

500ml Double cream

250g Mascarpone

75ml Marsala wine

5 Tbsp golden caster sugar

300ml strong filter coffee

2 Tsp cocoa powder

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Setting time: 12 hours

Serves 6

Tastes best accompanied by a sweet dessert wine or coffee liqueur

  • Deposit the cream, mascarpone, Marsala and sugar in a large bowl.
  • Whisk until the cream and mascarpone have completely amalgamated and have the consistency of thickly whipped cream.
  • Put the coffee into a shallow dish and dip in a few sponge fingers at a time, turning for a few seconds until they are nicely soaked, but not soggy.
  • Layer the soaked biscuits in the dish until you have used half the biscuits, then spread over half of the creamy mixture.
  • Using the coarse side of the grater, grate over most of the chocolate.
  • Repeat the layers (you should use up all the coffee), finishing with another creamy layer.
  • Cover and chill for 12 few hrs or overnight.
  • To serve, dust with the cocoa powder and grate over the rest of the chocolate.
  • The finished tiramisu can now be kept in the fridge for up to 2 days.

“Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart?” – Erna Bombeck.

A wee laddie with a brave heart

The Key to Happiness

Koekedore about to make milk tart

Things are going pear shaped

Up in flames...

Dijon-style pears in red wine

“Don’t let the farmer know how good cheese is with pears.” – Italian proverb.

This dish is all Burgundy – great raw ingredients, great wine, great combinations. Its beauty is in its simplicity.

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes
Serves 4

4 Medium pears, peeled

750ml Medium-bodied red wine

150ml Crème de Cassis liqueur

1 Stick cinnamon

5ml Vanilla essence

250 g Castor sugar

250 g Apricot jam

  • Pour the wine into a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan.
  • Add the cinnamon, vanilla and cloves.
  • Bring to the boil slowly and keep at the simmering point.
  • Cut the pears into halves, core and set aside.
  • Add the Cassis liqueur to the wine.
  • Place the pear halves in the syrup and cook slowly until cooked but still firm.
  • Remove the pears, and allow to cool.
  • Add the apricot jam to the cooking syrup, and whisk it into the mixture.
  • Reduce the juice, stirring regularly, until creamy and smooth.
  • Slice the pears thinly, coat with the syrup and serve.

“The roots of education are bitter, but the fruits are sweet.” – Aristotle.

Crêpes Suzette

“No matter how flat you make a pancake, it still has two sides.” – Dr Phil.

I cannot think of a more old-worldly dessert than Crêpes Suzette, and I love the ritual involved: the pouring of liqueur (usually Grand Marnier) over a freshly-cooked sweet pancake and igniting it. This makes the alcohol in the liqueur evaporate, resulting in a fairly thick, sticky sauce. In a restaurant, a Crêpe Suzette is often prepared on a trolley (called a gueridon) in front of the guests. The origin of the dish and its name is disputed. One claim is that it was created from a mistake made by a fourteen-year-old assistant waiter Henri Charpentier in 1895 at the Maitre at Monte Carlo's Café de Paris. He was preparing a dessert for the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII (commonly known as “Dirty Bertie”) when the liquor-topped dessert caught alight by accident. “Bertie’s” guests included a beautiful French girl named Suzette who loved the flamed crêpes.

The other claim states that the dish was named in honour of French actress Suzanne Reichenberg, who worked professionally under the name Suzette. In 1897, Reichenberg appeared in the Comédie Française in the role of a maid, during which she served crêpes on stage. Monsieur Joseph, owner of Restaurant Marivaux, provided the crêpes. He decided to flambé the thin pancakes to attract the audience's attention and keep the food warm for the actors consuming them. Joseph subsequently publicised his invention as Director of the Paillard Restaurant in Paris, and later the Savoy Hotel in London.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Serves 6 people

Tastes best with a citrus-flavoured liqueur like Grand Marnier 

For the crêpes:

110 g Plain flour, sifted

2 Eggs

200ml/ Milk mixed with 75ml water

50g Butter

The zest of 1 medium orange

1 Tablespoon castor sugar

 For the sauce:

Juice of 2 oranges

Zest of 1 orange

175g Butter

75 g Castor sugar

80 ml Grand Marnier, Cointreau or Orange Curaçao  

  • Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl with a sieve held high above the bowl so the flour gets an airing.
  • Make a hollow in the centre of the flour and break the eggs into it.
  • Whisk the eggs, incorporating any bits of flour from around the edge of the bowl.
  • Gradually add small quantities of the milk and water mixture, still whisking continuously.
  • When all the liquid has been added, use a rubber spatula to scrape any bits of flour from around the edge into the centre, then whisk once more until the batter is smooth, with the consistency of thin cream.
  • Now melt the butter in a pan.
  • Spoon 2 tbsp of the melted butter into the batter and whisk it in.
  • Pour the rest into a bowl and use it to lubricate the pan, using a spatula to smear it round before you make each pancake.
  • Stir the orange zest and castor sugar into the batter.
  • Now get the pan really hot, then turn the heat down to medium and make a test pancake to see if you're using the correct amount of batter.
  • The little crêpes should be thinner than the basic pancakes, so when you're making them, use ½ tablespoon of batter at a time in an 18cm pan.
  •  It's best to spoon the batter into a ladle so it can be poured into the hot pan in one go. As soon as the batter hits the hot pan, tip it around from side to side to get the base evenly coated with batter.
  • It should take no more than half a minute or so to cook; you can lift the edge with a palette knife to see if it's tinged gold as it should be.
  • Flip the pancake over with a pan slice or palette knife - the other side will need a few seconds only - then simply slide it out of the pan onto a plate.
  •  If the pancakes look a little bit ragged in the pan, don’t worry - they are going to be folded anyway.
  • As you make the pancakes, stack them between sheets of greaseproof paper on a plate fitted over simmering water, to keep them warm.
  • Pour the orange juice into a saucepan, and add the zest, butter and sugar. Bring to the boil, and then turn the heat down to a simmer, cooking for a further 10-15 minutes, until the sauce becomes syrupy.
  • Fold the crepes into quarters and then arrange them in a large pan, or any flameproof dish, in a circular pattern and slightly overlapping each other.
  • Pour the warm syrup over the crepes while keeping them warm.
  • Warm the orange liqueur of your choice in the emptied but still syrupy saucepan. When the crepes are hot in the orange sauce, pour the liqueur over them and set light to the pan to flambé them.
  • Serve immediately, spooning crepes and sauce onto each plate.

“He was so lazy; he put popcorn in his pancakes so they would flip themselves.” – WC Fields.

Milk tart

“My love is in a naartjie; my granny is in cinnamon. There’s someone in aniseed; there’s a woman in every aroma.” – Dr AG Visser.

Milk tart is a fixture in the pantheon of Afrikaner cuisine, along with potjiekos, boerewors, bobotie and koeksusters. I grew up with it, and to this day it remains one of my all-time favourite desserts. This how I make it:

Preparation time: 25 minutes.

Cooking time: 35 minutes.

Serves 12 as a dessert or tea time snack.

Tastes best accompanied by a sweet white or tawny Port.



125g Unsalted butter

500ml Cake Flour

60m White sugar

1 Large egg

10ml Baking powder

5ml Salt



1 ½l Milk

60ml Unsalted butter

4 Large eggs

250ml White sugar

150ml Maizena

125ml Cake Flour

5ml Salt

5ml Vanilla essence

1 Tablespoon cinnamon

  • Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together.
  • Melt the butter over low heat.
  • Stir in the sugar and egg.
  • Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in as well
  • Press the dough evenly onto the bottom and sides of two standard tart dishes, and prick the dough in several places.
  • Bake the crusts for 12 minutes at 180˚C.
  • Boil the milk and butter in a heavy-bottomed por or saucepan.
  • Whisk the eggs and sugar together until light and spongey.
  • Add the flour, Maizena, salt and vanilla essence, and whisk until smooth.
  • Whisk about 1 tablespoon of the milk mixture into the egg mixture, and then whisk all the egg mixture into the milk mixture
  • Return the mixture to the hob, and stir quickly while bringing it to the boil.
  • Once it has reached boiling point, remove from the stove, cover and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  • Pour the warm mixture into the crust-lined dishes and sprinkle with the cinnamon.
  • Bake the tarts for another 10 minutes.
  • When done, chefs with a sweet tooth can sprinkle some sugar over the filling.

 “Life is short. Eat dessert first.” – Ernestine Ulmer.

Key Lime Pie

“A prosthetic leg with a Willie Nelson bumper sticker had washed up on the beach, so it had to be Florida.” – Tim Dorsey.

Key Lime Pie is one of the most evocative desserts around. It tastes of citrus, sunshine and Spring Break. It conjures up images of Hemingway, The Right Stuff, tarpon, alligators, stone crabs and manatees. Oh, and Jerry Seinfeld’s parents. The good news is that it is very easy to make.

Prepation time: 1 ½ hours.

Serves 6 people.

Tastes best accompanied by a White or Tawny Port.


1 ½ Cups Baker’s Tennis Biscuits broken into small chunks.

5 tablespoons melted, unsalted butter.

1/3 cup sugar.


3 egg yolks.

Grated zest of 2 limes (about 1 ½ teaspoons).

1 x 400g tin condensed milk.

5 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice.


1 cup whipping cream, chilled.

3 tablespoons castor sugar.

Finely grated zest of the limes.

Making the crust:

  • Preheat the oven to 180˚C.
  • Butter a 9-inch (225 cm) tart pan.
  • Place the crumbs in a food processor and blitz into crumbs.
  • Add the melted butter and sugar and pulse until combined.
  • Press the mixture onto the bottom and sides of the pan with your fingers. The crust should  form a neat border of even thickness around the edge.
  • Bake the crust until set and golden; this should take about 8 minutes.
  •  Set aside on a wire rack.
  • Leave the oven on.

The filling:

  • Meanwhile, in an electric mixer with the wire whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks and lime zest at high speed until very fluffy.
  • Gradually add the condensed milk and continue to beat until thick - 3 or 4 minutes longer.
  • Lower the mixer speed and slowly add the lime juice, mixing just until combined, no longer.
  • Pour the mixture into the crust and bake for 10 minutes, or until the filling has set.
  • Cool on a wire rack, then refrigerate.
  • Leave in the fridge for at least 20 minutes before serving.


  • Whip the cream and sugar until nearly stiff.
  • Cut the pie in wedges and top each wedge with a large scoop of cream.
  • Sprinkle lightly with the lime zest.

“I live in Florida, so people often ask me how close to the beach I am, I say:  ‘Twelve minutes or twelve hours.’ It depends on which beach you want to go to.” – Jarod Kintz.

Tipsy Laird Trifle

"Life is short. Eat dessert first." - Ernestine Ulmer.

I love Scotland and its people, but I am generally not wild about their food - especially not haggis. Like most members of my family, I really enjoy offal and tripe, but the oatmeal in haggis sticks to my pallet and the boiled stomach reminds me of walrus blubber. The “Tipsy Laird” trifle has however become a family favourite.

Preparation time: 1 hour.

Cooking time: 25 – 30 minutes.

Serves 4 -6 adults.

Although the trifle already contains alcohol, I enjoy having it with a small Drambuie or Glayva.


1 Sliced Victoria sponge cake 

300g Raspberry jam

1 wine glass of sherry

2 tablespoons whisky

Home-made egg custard (see below)

300g Raspberries

2 Sliced bananas

250 ml Whipped double cream

1 Tablespoon castor sugar

½ Cup of toasted almonds


250 ml Milk

150 ml Double cream

2 Egg yolks

50 g Castor sugar

A few drops of vanilla essence

  • Place the sponge in the base of a large glass bowl and spread with the raspberry jam.
  • Mix the sherry and the whisky together and gently spread over the sponge until it is soaked in.
  • Add a layer of raspberries and sliced bananas.
  • To make the custard, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla essence together until pale and creamy.
  • Heat the milk and cream together in a saucepan until boiling point then stir into the egg mixture.
  • When it is thoroughly blended, return to the pan and stir continuously over a low heat until the custard thickens.
  • Pour into a dish and allow to cool.
  • When the custard is cool, pour it over the layer of fruit, spreading evenly.
  • Add sugar to the whipped cream.
  • Cover the custard with the whipped cream.
  • Decorate with toasted almonds.

“Work is the meat of life; pleasure the dessert.” – B.C. Forbes

Look what the clever North wind blew in

Sailing away to Key Largo

I prefer this Scotland to the one in Trainspotting

These Brazilian passion fruit look the part

Child labour on Blueberry Hill Farm