Where to start? Again, it’s been a while, so I sit here wondering whether I should be wishing you all Happy New Year when the year is six weeks’ old? What a start to the year it’s been: not quite like last year’s which by this time, was really sad, and got sadder.
As I write, I am breaking one of my blogging rules because it’s also one of those days on which many South Africans reflect on where they were on 12th February 1990. I remember that day. Vividly. I was living in Johannesburg and it was also a Sunday. I had for a few years been involved with a street kids organisation in Hillbrow and we had taken the children out for a day in the sunny Magaliesburg. After returning the children safely to their shelter, I parked the Yellow Peril in her spot in a rented garage up the road from my Yeoville flat. Then I went to visit a friend: a fascinating woman, elderly and ailing but in her own way, still young and heart, full of life and hope. It was her birthday and she had stories of the struggle and of her youth in and around Yeoville in the 1950s and 1960s. As she reminisced, we shared a glass or two of something (wine, I suspect), and sat glued to the television waiting for a moment neither of us thought we’d ever see.
Nelson Mandela walking free, down the road from the Drakenstein Prison and then, making his first speech as a free man.
Over the week or so, not unlike then, many of us are glued to the television and now, the social media. Waiting for an announcement of a different nature; one that will finally confirm the end to the Jacob Zuma era.
Many of us set a great deal of store in the man who held the microphone for Mandela on that day and that he will oversee a return to the values that Nelson Mandela espoused and for which he and so many struggled.
So, from the challenge that South Africa faces to a challenge entirely banal. I nailed my colours to the mast when I started this blog: I do not have a sweet tooth, so when I embarked on the Sunday Supper journey, my dessert repertoire was extremely limited, and at best, messy.
A few helpful folk have come to my rescue and have shared recipes with me, but it was a chance conversation with my hairdresser that sent me in search of the recipe for a dessert from my childhood. For some of us, the ginger tart from the 1970’s is as South African as apple pie is American. It was one of the ones my mother made regularly and as summer approached, a hot dessert became less and less attractive. Especially on days when the temperature can exceed 40° Celsius (over 100° Farenheit), and when one can be cooking and serving dinner when the temperature hasn’t dropped much below 30°C. Like it was when fellow blogger and new friend joined us for dinner on one of the hottest evenings of the summer.
Anyhow, back to the ginger tart. No recipe was to be found in any of my South African recipe books, so I consulted GoG* and came across a website – in New Zealand, no less – that is rich with old Saffa favourites. Oh, good, I thought. Until the fruitless quest for a jar of preserved ginger.
I don’t do well being thwarted.
Fresh ginger abounds, at a price, but surely, preserving it couldn’t be so difficult. GoG. Again. This time a local website. So now we were set.
This is really easy to make. However, as with any sugar syrup, be careful not to stir it too much or to cook it for too long. It will crystallise. The recipe I found follows, and which I adapted only so that I had no waste, and made more than the cup this recipe yields:
200g fresh ginger, peeled and diced into ½ cm pieces
2 ½ cups water
2 cups sugar
What to do
Put the sugar and water in a heavy-based saucepan. The recipe says that one should stir to dissolve – I don’t recommend this. Watch the pot and the water carefully – the sugar will dissolve without its being stirred. Then add the ginger and simmer gently until the ginger is soft and translucent – about an hour. The amount of liquid will, of course, also reduce, leaving you with a rich, gingery syrup.
Pot in one or more sterilised jars. Don’t refrigerate. It will crystallise.
Retro Ginger Tart
150 g ginger biscuits
50 g butter
Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat. Blitz the biscuits in a food processor until you have crumbs, add these to the melted butter, and mix together. Then press the mixture firmly into a pie plate and put it in the fridge to firm up – at least half an hour. This is a little counter-intuitive because the mixture is added when it’s still hot, but trust me (really!) this is a better route to go – the crust is much firmer, and the tart is easier to cut and serve.
1 cup (250 ml or 300 g) golden syrup (remember the days of fresh bread, butter and syrup?)
1 cup (250 ml) boiling water
1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) ground ginger
2 tablespoons (30 ml) chopped preserved ginger – reserve the preserving syrup
2 tablespoons (30 ml) custard powder
2 tablespoons (30 ml) cornflour/maizena
2 tablespoons cold water
1/2 cup (125 ml) cream
Chop the preserved ginger – or not – it depends on how chunky you want the ginger. Combine the golden syrup, the syrup from the preserved ginger, ground ginger and boiling water. Add the chopped preserved ginger. Then mix custard powder and cornflour into the cold water. The recipe says to add this to the syrup mixture. I find that if one does that, one can end up with lumps, so what I do, is to use a slightly larger bowl than one would normally, and then to spoon some of the hot mixture into the cold powder and water mix, and then to return the lot to the pot. Boil for 3 minutes and pour the mixture into the prepared crust. Refrigerate the tart to allow the filling to set.
Decorate with whipped cream.
And to end…
This dish was my mother’s and is the same one she used for her ginger tart, a fact that only dawned on me the second time I made a ginger tart. The pile of squiggly cream was necessary because, for some reason, the filling cracked, and has done so each time I’ve made this. Not good for presentation when you have paying diners. I have given you the quantities as they are in the recipe, but the next time I make it, I am going to reduce the quantity of cornflour and see if that solves the problem. If it does, I’ll update the recipe.
PS: New beginnings?
As I finished writing this, I was glued to the television, just as I was, 29 years ago, and watching someone as presidential as Madiba was then, addressing the launch of the Nelson Mandela centennial celebration. Ramaphosa has committed to ridding the country of corruption and state capture, returning us to the values Madiba espoused. Unity of South Africa’s people and what is best for the country as a whole. I do hope so.
*Good old Google
Drizzle and Dip