This week a Brainpickings post was doing the rounds on Facebook. One on grief. I didn't want to read it but I'm glad I did. In four months time my mother will have been dead for two years. I miss her every fucking day. I try not to go on and on about it, because I think people get tired of hearing of your sadness. Those who have never experienced loss believe grief should have a time limit. Those of us who grieve, know that it goes on and on and on. The slighest thing will trigger a memory which sets the longing off again. By now my grief has taken the form of longing, not so much sadness and shock anymore, but a longing. A longing to talk to her. A longing to share a cup of tea. A longing for her to know my son. A longing for her to be here with me. A longing to return to Kyoto with her. I don't remember my ma or our relationship with anything other than the truth. We fought bitterly, hurt one another at times, but there was nothing about me that my ma did not know. And I think I knew her better than most... We were more than mother and daughter; we were friends. And her loss is devastating. Still.
So I read this article on Brainpickings and was comforted. Because I am not alone in my grief. None of us are.
Anyway how does this relate to Buttermilk pudding? Well my friend Tania Roux of manythingsiam posted a beautiful piece of buttermilk pudding writing by Errieda du Toit/Huiskok on her Facebook page asking the question 'Who remembers this from their childhood? It might me more of an Afrikaans thing...' So I thought of my ma, my Afrikaanse ma, who taught me to make buttermilk pudding.
And so tonight I made Marie's karringmelkpoeding. Om myself te troos...
What follows is a column I wrote for TASTE a few years ago.
When it comes to pudding my hearts only knows one language.....
THE PROOF OF THE PUDDING.
I like puddings. I particularly like traditional Afrikaans puddings. For while my heart may be evenly divided into two languages (English father, Afrikaans mother), when it comes to puddings, I don’t believe the English stand a chance. For me, a Malva poeding will always trump a Sticky Toffee pudding. Syrupy souskluitjies will always be preferable to raisin-studded Spotted Dick. Yes, bread and butter pudding is fabulous when made with croissants and a good apple crumble and cream is very nice but it’s no match for the cinnamon-infused sweet milkiness of melkkos. But most importantly, the English don’t have Buttermilk pudding. And the Afrikaners do. Battle won.
Buttermilk pudding, or rather Karringmelkpoeding, if it is to be referred to by its cultural name, is the pudding I grew up with. Its key ingredient is obviously buttermilk which makes this a diary-based pudding and one which is lighter, more subtle and less sweet than the usual baked puddings served around tables where Afrikaans is spoken, but that small matter is soon rectified by the addition of various syrups or fruit preserves. There are many variations of this recipe and every family claims to have the best one; some are more cakey than others, some, (the ones I prefer) are almost soufflé-like and is the result of adding stiffly whipped egg whites in at the end. But all agree that it should be served straight from the oven. It is a pudding that rises to a golden puff, but soon deflates with a sad sigh if not given immediate attention and adoration. As a child I adorned my mom’s karringmelkpoeding with lashings of Golden Syrup and (shop-bought, of course) vanilla ice-cream. The heat of the pudding would quickly melt the ice-cream, but I loved how the temperatures and flavours - cold, hot, sweet, slightly tart felt and tasted in my mouth.
It is also the first pudding I learned to make as a newly-wed. In the early days of our marriage I was keen to entertain, but courage would fail me at the last minute. Yet I knew I could always make a buttermilk pudding and with the voice of my mother ringing in my ear, ‘Sif hoog, suster, sif hoog.’ (Sift high, sister), I would recreate the dessert of my childhood.
It is an old-fashioned dessert and for some reason, slightly lesser-known that the other traditional puddings. Many of my friends deny any knowledge of it, but upon being served it, they smile, remembering the forgotten flavours of their childhood. If only for this reason alone, I believe that karringmelkpoeding should be celebrated. So a while ago, I texted a few Afrikaans friends; creative, talented, well-adapted-to-the-city-
types, telling them that the pudding would be coming out of the oven at 5pm on that cold rainy Sunday afternoon and that they were welcome to join us. Later, at the appointed hour, everyone sat around our dining room table. A fire had been lit, candles burned in coloured Murano bowls, my treasured crystal glasses were being used, chilled dessert wine had been poured into small vintage goblets and the fragrance of baking permeated the air. And when the buttermilk pudding came out of the oven, she was fluffy and golden and I knew she would behave beautifully for a minute or two before she tired of all the attention and sulkily slipped back into the dish. I had, of course, put Golden Syrup on the table, but because we were all grown up and apparently sophisticated, I’d made a rooibos and clementine syrup as well. And so amid the laughter, creative energy and happy conversation on that cold Sunday afternoon, we ate karringmelkpoeding and were sustained by the reminder of our roots.
I found this recipe in a fabulous book ‘Aan Tafel Met Nettie Pikeur’ by Madelein Roux. It comes from the chapter titled ‘Mans is Mal oor Poeding’ (Men are crazy about pudding) I have two treasured copies of this book as one was given to me by my mother and the other by my mother-in-law. Great minds thinking alike and all that...
2 tablespoons of butter, softened
¾ cup of sugar
3 eggs, separated
¾ cup of self-raising flour, sifted (or cake flour, it really makes very little difference)
pinch of salt
500ml of buttermilk
Mix the softened butter and the sugar well.
Separate the eggs and beat separately.
Add the egg yolks to the butter-sugar mixture, then add the sifted flour and salt.
Add the buttermilk and mix well.
Lastly fold in the stiffly beaten egg yolks and pour into a buttered dish and bake in a preheated oven for 40 minutes at 180 degrees C
Rooibos and Clementine Syrup
This is my version of a Phillippa Cheifitz’s recipe from her beautiful book ‘South Africa Eats’
2 Clementines (or Naartjies if you prefer)
1 cup of sugar
2 cups of rooibos tea (I like to make mine strong)
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
2 tablespoons of honey
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
Scrape the pith from the peel of two Clementines (keeping the segments aside for later use)
Then boil the Clementine peel, sugar, rooibos tea, cinnamon and star anise for about 15 - 20 minutes.
Then add the honey and lemon juice and simmer for another 5-10 more minutes.
Once done remove from heat and add the segments of the two Clementines. Allow to cool.
Once cooled, strain the mixture to remove the segments, peel and spices and refrigerate. (Don’t throw the Clementine segments away as you’ll want to eat the syrup-infused half-moons to reward yourself for your fervent domesticity.)
(A version of this was riginally published in Taste August 2012)