Wednesday, August 14, 2013

South African Malva Pudding and an Epic Dinner Party

Since my first bonfire side experience eating Malva pudding, the incredibly indulgent and moist South African sponge cake lathered in sweet sauce, I’ve yearned for a worthy occasion to recreate it at home. Finally, months later I found the perfect opportunity when I volunteered to make dessert for an epic dinner party with all of my favorite foodies — the team at NoshOnIt.

Malva pudding is a ubiquitous South African dessert of Cape Dutch origin brought to the country during the 1600s and adapted to incorporate apricot jam made from sweet local apricots that were plentiful each summer. The jam gives this pudding a soft, velvety texture and a subtle sweetness that melts in your mouth. Served warm with cream sauce poured over top, this has become the go-to dessert for natives and visitors of the country.

Nicknamed “rainbow cuisine,” South African cuisine stems from a variety of multicultural origins and influences (English, Dutch, German and French), and exempting dessert, the majority of food preparation takes place on a stovetop or over an open fire (as opposed to in an oven). For these reasons, the oven-free worldly dishes that Vijay, co-founder and Chief Nosher at NoshOnIt, prepared for our dinner party could not have been more perfect preludes to my traditional South African dessert.

A dynamic duo, Alex, co-founder and CTO of NoshOnIt, set up a beautiful 9-person table on the back porch and mixed up Blackberry Moscow Mules in mason jars for the rest of us as Vijay put the finishing touches on each dinner item. In a matter of hours, he whipped up a grilled potato and red onion salad with whole grain mustard dressing ; panzanella (a Tuscan bread salad) with cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, and sherry vinaigrette; sous vide steaks topped with chimichurri (Argentinean sauce made with parsley, mint, cilantro, garlic, olive oil, and red wine vinegar); and awesome chicken for me (because I don’t eat red meat and Vijay is thoughtful like that).

To accompany my Malva pudding, Vijay also made an incredibly rich and delicious Goat Cheese Ice Cream that called for 12 egg yolks for a quart’s worth. For comparison, the Coffee Oreo Ice Cream I shared recently was also quite rich, made that way with only 5 egg yolks. The extra 7 yolks in Vijay’s goat cheese ice cream elevated it to a whole new level of decadence!

Throughout our meal, we sipped on wine, chatted about life experiences as well as our favorite topic (food!), and enjoyed a really wonderful evening until someone pointed out that it was nearly midnight on a Wednesday and perhaps time to call it a night.

Enjoying my favorite African recipe in the safety and comfort of Boston was vastly different from being in Africa, but nicely reminiscent of the food-centered community feeling I enjoyed each evening as all of the visitors came together for a family-style outdoor dinner after a day of animal watching.

I’ll still have to venture back to Africa one day, because even though I can recreate the food at home, nothing can ever replace the thrill of getting up close and personal to wild animals as they carelessly go about their business. For instance, on my last night in Botswana, I’d barely scooped up my first bite of dessert when a fully-grown male hippo wandered into sight, happily noshing on the grass near our riverside camp.

For all of the wildlife, beautiful scenery and awesome people, I will definitely return to Africa one day! Until then, I’ll keep making my new favorite dessert!

To read more on my culinary adventures in Africa, check out my Travel Diary at NoshOnIt. Then, make your own Malva pudding - you won’t regret it!

South African Malva Pudding (adapted from
Serves 10
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar 
  • 4 eggs 
  • 2 tablespoons apricot jam 
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups (300 grams) flour 
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda 
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 2 heaping tablespoons butter 
  • 2 teaspoons vinegar 
  • 2/3 cup whole milk 
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 9x12 baking dish 
  • In a medium bowl, mix together eggs and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy 
  • Add apricot jam and mix until incorporated 
  • Melt butter (but do not allow to boil) 
  • Add butter and vinegar to mixture and mix until incorporated 
  • Sift together flour, baking soda and salt 
  • Add dry ingredients and milk to the mixture and mix until incorporated 
  • Pour into prepared dish and bake for 25-40 minutes or until pudding is brown and well-risen (a toothpick should also come out clean) 
  • Pour about half of your sauce slowly over the pudding just after it comes out of the oven and allow to rest for a bit before serving (reserve the rest of your sauce to spoon on top of individual portions) 

Cream Sauce:
  • 2 cups heavy cream 
  • 8 ounces butter 
  • 1 scant cup sugar 
  • 1 cup hot water 
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
  • 2-3 tablespoons brandy (optional)

  • In a medium sized pot, melt all ingredients together over low heat 

Serve both pudding and sauce warm, reheating separately if they’ve cooled before you’re ready to enjoy. I filled two coffee mugs with the reserved sauce so that everyone could spoon extra onto their individual portions. I like mine drenched in excess sauce so I can soak it up with each bite of pudding!

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