I fell in love with so many things while living in South Africa, it’s sometimes hard to remember the little things that brightened my day.
But one of those little expat joys keeps cropping up, many thousands of miles and several years removed from when I first encountered it. I’m talking about Malva Pudding. As hard as it is to move away from a place you love, the one thing that connects you to it in all eternity is food. I can always conjure up a tiny bit of the magic of of a fiery African sunset, the awe of watching a dazzle of zebras approach a waterhole, or the heart-stopping shock of hearing the hadeda’s first cry in the morning by making this consummate South African dessert.
What is Malva Pudding
It’s easy: Just whip together a little flour, sugar, butter, milk, apricot jam, vinegar, baking soda, egg, and cream, pour it into a baking dish, cover it with foil, and bake it for about an hour (precise recipe to follow). Oh, wait, I forgot to mention the secret ingredient, the one that is the most likely culprit in sending me down memory lane each time I prepare Malva Pudding. It’s another consummate South African delicacy that comes in a bottle decorated with elephants walking along a riverbank in front of the setting sun. As you might have guessed by now, it’s Amarula. I don’t think Amarula necessarily belongs in the original Malva Pudding recipe, but trust me, it’s a match made in heaven, much like peanut butter and chocolate in a Reece’s cup.
Since we’re talking about desserts, this is the time I’d like to mention a few South African quirks when it comes to the sweet stuff: They call cookies biscuits, biscuits are scones, pancakes are crumpets, and then there are rusks and koeksisters, an odd pair marking the far outposts of what one might still call edible, the former flavorless and so hard you might break a tooth on one, while the latter ensnare you with such syrupy stickiness that you’ll vow to never touch sugar again in your life after taking a single bite.
Oh, and in South Africa every dessert is a pudding. It could be an apple pie, a flourless chocolate cake, or Crepes Suzette: When the lamb chops and the boerewors and the fillet (pronounced like “millet”) have been devoured, your South African host will tell you it’s time to serve pudding. Maybe that’s another reason I’m partial to Malva Pudding – it is much closer to an actual pudding than anything else that passes for dessert in South Africa.
The Magic of Exotic Recipes
I have several such recipes in my possession, each bringing with it its own special set of memories. If Malva Pudding is my spiritual connection to Africa, then fried rice with real Lap Cheong (Chinese sausage) will forever transport me back into the overgrown, almost jungle-like neighborhoods along Bukit Timah Road in Singapore, where we’d sit on cheap plastic stools watching scrawny hawkers flip rice in steaming fire-blackened woks while the sing-song of Chinese conversation filled the sweltering night air. When I want to conjure my German childhood, I peel a big batch of onions, slow-sautée them for an eternity until they are almost as sweet as a koeksister, pile them into a yeast-dough lined form and top it off with a rich mix of sour cream and eggs. If I close my eyes, the aroma from the Zwiebelkuchen (onion cake) baking in the oven takes me into a medieval town square ringed with booths selling gingerbread hearts, hand-dipped beeswax candles and wooden figurines, with crowds of people in bulky winter coats clutching white solo cups of steaming mulled wine while stomping their feet in the first December snow.
But enough, or this post will take 5 months to finish and evolve into a full-fledged international cookbook. If I live to be a hundred years, maybe there will be a time for that.
Today, let me leave you with the best – and only – Malva Pudding recipe you’ll ever need. I’ve never brought this to a “Tannies Tea” or served it to my dinner guests without loud “oooh” and “aaaah” erupting after the first spoonful. And the thing is, it’s embarrassingly simple to prepare. Every ingredient goes into the Kitchenaid, you beat the whole mess until its well mixed, pour it into a dish, and let the oven take care of the rest while you prepare the coup de grace, a topping made of cream and butter and Amarula to be poured over the still steaming pudding until it has soaked into its very last pore.
Malva Pudding Recipe
• 220 g sugar
• 1 egg
• 1 Tbsp apricot jam
• 2 Tbsp butter, softened
• 160 g all-purpose flour
• 1 tsp baking soda (you will find this as bicarbonate of soda in South Africa)
• pinch of salt
• 250 ml (1 cup) milk
• 1 tsp vinegar
• 125 g (1 stick or 4 oz)
• 200 ml heavy cream
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 80 ml (2.7 fl oz) Amarula (American liquor stores typically carry it)
- In a stand-up mixer with the paddle attachment, beat egg and sugar until creamy, then add jam and butter and keep beating to combine thoroughly.
- Sift together the dry ingredients and pour them into the egg-and-sugar mixture. Stir to combine.
- Pour in the milk and stir slowly, scrape the sides well, and beat again until well combined, then add vinegar.
- Pour into a baking dish (no need to butter) and cover with foil. Bake at 180°C (350 F) for about 45 minutes.
- Remove foil and bake for a further 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Be careful, it can burn quickly.
- In the meantime, make the sauce: Combine the butter, cream and sugar in a saucepan over low heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved and the sauce thickens; this will take a few minutes.
- Take the sauce off the heat and stir in the Amarula.
- Pour the sauce slowly over the pudding as soon as it comes out of the oven. Once the pudding is saturated with sauce, pour the remainder into a jar for guests to add. Serve immediately. Typically, Malva pudding is served with vanilla custard on the side, but you will have enough Amarula sauce left to use it instead. It’s much better than vanilla custard. It’ll taste even better if you park one of your beautiful Amarula bottles next to it for your guests to admire.
This recipe first appeared on the getaway.co.za blog. Enjoy!
If you say pretty please, I’ll also share my Zwiebelkuchen recipe. But first you’ll have to pronounce the word correctly.