A criticism of South Africans (and pretty much all antipodeans in London) is that we arrive from sunnier Southern climes, find jobs, find accommodation and then proceed to live in little self-imposed ghettoes, socialising only with other South Africans, eating only out of South African shops, drinking in South African-themed bars, wearing Sprinkbok rugby jerseys everywhere, and generally spending time slagging off the English – our hosts! And I do have to say that there is some truth in this. It is very hard to stick out your finger in Wimbledon/Earlsfield/Southfields and not poke a South African, because a lot of us really do congregate there. And I have spent many a night talking to South Africans in London and thinking “good grief – you’re in LONDON! Stop carrying on about the weather – you didn’t come here for the weather!!”
But let’s not forget that there is always an exception that proves the rule. Since we arrived here, Nick and I have been Eastenders. We have never lived west of Canary Wharf and am not aware of any South Africans in our street. Sure, you do hear Afrikaans on the train occasionally, but we are more likely to bump into our Lithuanian, Irish, Indian, Finnish or West-Indian neighbours than other Saffers. Although I get terribly homesick, I also experience moments of such intense joy at being in London that I want to run laughing through the streets yelling “Hey, everybody, look! I actually live here in one of the most exciting cities in the world!!” On the other hand, you are what you are: there’s no denying your roots. And so, like clockwork, once a year Nick and I host a Big South African Braai. Not to surround ourselves with only South Africans, but to give all our friends a little taste of what home means to us.
We usually have between 10 and 17 people in our tiny garden and we have a rich mix of natinalities and backgrounds. This year we had 3 Brits, 5 Saffers (including me and Nick), 2 Aussies, 2 Kiwis. a German and a Mexican. So naturally we felt compelled to educate them on the finer points of South African cuisine In the past, we have treated them to chakalaka, seven-layer salad, sosaties, braai sarmies and snoek. And this year we treated them to not one but TWO South African delicacies: chicken sundowners (will be blogged in a later post, I promise) and Peppermint Crisp fridge tart.
I don’t know what it is about this desert that makes grown men go all misty-eyed and women look wistful, but it is one of those desserts that everyone seems to like. It is absolutely not fancy, pretty, clever or remotely sophisticated. But I can guarantee you that every South African reading this has tasted it because it is one of those things that every South African mom has at some stage made when catering for masses of people… say, at a braai. Some people whom I invited but could not make it were upset not about missing the braai, but about missing the pudding! In fact, it has become so ingrained in the South African culinary psyche that I was amused to see on my visit home in June that it has become a chocolate flavour! Cadbury’s Dairy Milk has brought out a range of “Local is lekker” chocolates in flavours like milk tart and… mint crisp fridge tart. Jawellnofine.
So what is this ambrosial pudding? OK, don’t wince when I tell you. Many moons ago, a South African company called Orley Foods developed a range of non-dairy cream substitute products. The flagship product was (and still is, apparently) Orley Whip which looks like single cream, whips up to three times its original volume and can be stored in the fridge for up to three months. My recipe for this pudding was copied down from a package insert in a pack of Orley Whip a long time ago, probably much like every other South African I know. The recipe combines Orley Whip with Caramel Treat (caramelised condensed milk) and Peppermint Crisp (a chocolate bar from Nestle that features a filling of tightly packed, long and very brittle tubes of BRIGHT green mint-flavoured candy – looks like Kryptonite and tastes madly minty), layered with Tennis biscuits (shortbread-ish coconut-flavoured cookies). It struck me that it is in some ways a South African take on tiramisu, minus the culinary history and the fashionability . The final product is not overly sweet, thanks to the peppermint and the fairly neutral biscuit layers, but is rich enough to go a long way. And I distinctly remember seeing plates licked clean.
So clearly, local is lekker, even if you have never set foot in South Africa!
PEPPERMINT CRISP FRIDGE TART (serves 6-8)
250ml Orley Whip, whipped
2 packets of Tennis biscuits (although you will probably use less)
375g caramelised condensed milk
20ml caster sugar
3 Peppermint Crisp bars, crushed
3-4 drops of peppermint essence (more, if you like))
Whip the Orley Whip and then add the caramelised condensed milk castor sugar and peppermint essence. Beat until well mixed and then stir in 2/3 of the crushed Peppermint Crisp.
Place a layer of whole tennis biscuits in a buttered 29x19x5cm dish. Spoon 1/3 of the caramel mix over the buscuits and spread evenly. Continue in layers, finishing with a layer of filling on top.
Refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Decorate by sprinkling the remainder of crushed peppermint crisp on top. Cut into squares and serve.
You can substitute whipping cream for Orley Whip, but the outcome may be even richer than this pudding already is! I used Elmlea, a half-dairy cream available in the UK. Apparently the American Cool Whip is a near-identical product. For caramelised condensed milk, you can use dulce du leche or you can make your own by boiling a tin of normal sweetened condensed milk (warning: hazardous!!). The Tennis biscuits may prove problematic, although I have seen forums in Australia advising the use of a typr of Arnott’s coconut biscuits or Nice biscuits. Any other suggestions welcome. And as for the peppermint crisp… sadly, for that you will have to bite the bullet and buy it from a South African shop. Not sure if anything else like it exists. Maybe start campaiging for Nestle to produce it worldwide?
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