When my dear friend Bronwyn and I used to live next door to each other back in 2001, we'd often spend hours drinking red wine on her balcony and talking late into the night. Sometimes we'd play 3 of a kind (for example what 3 countries would you most like to visit; if you were forced to choose; or what 3 crimes would you commit); sometimes we would reminisce about our student days; and sometimes we'd talk about how we wanted our futures to turn out.
One fantasy future that we loved to embellish was one in which we both stayed in our hometown, married gorgeous, fabulously wealthy yet down to earth and intelligent guys and lived in beautiful houses on the same street, and took turns inviting each other round for Sunday lunch. Very Desperate Housewives, long before DH had even been written
Something else we talked about a lot was tradition. Both of us had grown up with all sorts of family traditions that we had always cherished – some lavish and some simple. Her family used to have a braai (BBQ) every single Saturday night. Somtimes it would be just her parents and brother; other nights there would be aunts and grannies and cousins. But the point was that if you showed up at their house on a Saturday, there would be a braai in progress and everyone would be welcome. My family had a myriad of little traditions: Easter holidays in Plett; Christmas eve at La Fontaine restaurant; omelettes for lunch on Saturday and soup for dinner on Sunday. Sometimes rituals die out of their own accord, sometimes they stop abruptly when somebody moves away, or sometimes they die together with the people who created them. Whatever the reason, losing a tradition is like losing an old friend. It creates a void and breaks a link in the chain that connects your past to your present and your future. Bron had by then already lost her father (and with him, the Saturday night braai tradition) and I knew I was due to return to the UK and leave behind my beloved family and their traditions, so we talked a lot about the idea of creating new traditions. For me to try and recreate the traditions of my childhood here in London would be a futile exercise. But creating new traditions has proved to be relatively easy. Our annual Henley picnic. Our annual Big South African Braai at home. And Cecil's annual summer deck braai.
Looking back at my archives I see this is the third year that I have written about the braai, so in my book this counts as a new tradition, and it's one that is definitely worth keeping up. There are few things that are better for your general feeling of wellbeing than an afternoon spent in the fresh air with good friends, eating good food, drinking impossibly adorably named wine - and knowing that next summer you will be able to do it all again.
For more pics of the day, see my Flickr album.
This year, I volunteered to bring dessert. I went on a bit of a rhubarb binge earlier this simmer, buying bunches of the stuff and making crumbles. But man cannot live by crumble alone and I started looking around for other ways to cook my rhubarb. A fruit dessert that I'd never made before is a fool – stewed fruit which is then pureed and stirred into whipped cream. Simplicity itself! So I went trawling the blogosphere for recipes and when I found this one from Seasonal Ontario Food that featured both my favourite cranberries and ginger in addition to the rhubarb, I was in the kitchen so fast it made my head spin.
The recipe is simplicity itself, and the best thing is that if you make the recipe just up to the compote stage, you can freeze it, meaning that this dessert can be ready in the time it takes you to defrost your compote and whip your cream. I went a step further, though, and made a fool with oodles of decadent whipped cream. To me, the best thing about this is its tart, spicy flavour. Served in brandy balloons it makes for a very grown up summer dessert, and definitely a tradition worth keeping.
2 cups chopped rhubarb
1/4 cup dried cranberries
2 Tbsp minced ginger
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp cornstarch/cornflour
1/4 cup cranberry juice
250ml double cream (if making a fool) – or plain yoghurt for a healthier option
Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan, mixing well. Bring to the boil and then simmer gently until the rhubarb starts to disintegrate and the sauce thickens.
You can now use this as a compote and serve it with ice cream, or freeze the mixture for later use.
For a fool, allow the rhubarb mixture to chill to room temperature. Whip the cream until stiff peaks form, then fold the rhubarb mix into the cream. It's up to you whether you want visible streaks of fruit in your cream, or whether you go for the fully integrated look like I did . Serve in brandy balloons or wine glasses garnished with a sprig of mint and a couple of dried cranberries (if you have).
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