I have very nostalgic and fond memories of my Aunty Jean’s farm kitchen in Grantham, England. Aunty Jean was a bit potty but I loved her with my entire right ventricle. All she ever wanted from life was a daughter but all she ever gave birth to was sons. I profited enormously from this cruel twist of fate and spent many happy hours being pampered and thoroughly spoilt by her.
Being a pig farmer, she was a resourceful woman. Tough as nails, yet with a heart fashioned from a really large Swarovski crystal she would walk me down to the milking shed and give me the job of churning the milk to make butter. She had to walk me to the shed so she could chase away the geese that sensed my fear and delighted in chasing me up the nearest tree. Geese are nasty little buggers when they get going and I will never forget that demonic hissing, gaggle with their wings up and their beaks snapping furiously behind me as they left their signature of purple welts on my bum as I fled wailing and hoiked myself up the nearest tree trunk.
I was the youngest sibling of my family and of my cousins, with a large enough age gap to warrant me being ‘left behind’ with Aunty Jean at which we would go for long walks together. She taught me to look out for food and to pick berries, medicinal leaves and herbs from the hedge rows along the way; and I can remember my very primal ‘gatherer’ pride when we got home with a heavy basket filled with our bounty. From mushrooms to herbs to pretty pink and purple stalks of rhubarb we would get home and wash everything in her really deep farm sink.
Once the rhubarb was clean we would sit together on the kitchen step with a bowl of sugar into which we dipped our long stalks of fresh rhubarb while the rest would be bubbling away in a pot on her wood fired stove. My mouth is watering as I am remembering that mind blowing taste, I am trying to think of words to describe the sweet and sourness that gave a little six year old girly goose bumps and made that little sour spot behind her ears do the happy dance.
After dinner we would each be given a bowl of stewed rhubarb and homemade farm custard and I will never forget my child like wonder at the combination of sweet and tangy rhubarb with creamy farm custard. Oh my heavens what a treasured moment that still lingers in the memory banks of my palette like it was yesterday.
Can you for one second imagine my heavenly, childhood memory fuelled excitement when I was nosing around Woolworth’s Christmas goodies and my eyes fell upon a little old fashioned milk bottle filled with? Drum roll if you please, Limited Edition Woolworths 80th Anniversary Rhubarb & Custard SWEETS!
My hand came out quicker than a ‘bum biting goose’ and snagged me a bottle. I was beside myself with nostalgia and hot-footed it back home to create an Aunty Jean rhubarb and custard moment. I love ‘old fashioned’ and was completely enamoured with this purchase. I could hardly wait.
Once I had steeled my shaky hands I opened the lid, closed my six year old eyes and popped a sugar coated red and yellow, rhubarb and custard boiled sweet into my gob. Unable to open my eyes I sucked away waiting for the sweet and sourness of it all to carry me off into the land of euphoria … and …. NOTHING! Convinced that my taste buds had spectacularly malfunctioned I popped another one in and ….. NADA … BOKEROLI! I tried another one and …..
What I did get was a blob of red and yellow boiled sugar, with not even a hint of flavour – ANY FLAVOUR – not even red flavour or yellow flavour or custard flavour or vanilla flavour or anything. My memory was crushed and my six year old shoulders sank. Over the next week I tested said blobs of sugar out on my sister Sue, my son Max, my girlfriend Carol and even Bubbles looked forlorn at the flavourless blob ….. They unanimously agreed that these blobs in absolutely NO WAY measured up to the label on the bottle.
This is so definitely a VROT …. and get’s the Vrot Banana Badge!
R24, 95 for 180g of tasteless “Rhubarb and Custard” boiled sugar blobs!
This is JUST NOT ON Woolworths! You cannot sell the promise of a childhood memory in a pretty little milk bottle and simply not deliver anything! Traditional hard-boiled sweets se Voet! Shame on you Woolworths, this is bad form!
There was simply nothing left to do but seek out some fresh rhubarb, drag it into this century, give it a makeover with some new herbs and spices and create a new memory. And this is what I came up with …..
Bougatsa with Spiced Poached Rhubarb
Bougatsa are Greek Pastries filled with semolina custard and served with a mixture of cinnamon and icing sugar dusted over the top. I added the spiced poached rhubarb and dusted them with plain icing sugar.
This does remain somewhat faithful to the rhubarb and custard combination, it’s just been given a Durban spices meets Greece fusion make-over.
This recipe will yield 6 portions.
12 sheets of Phyllo pastry
The zest of one nice large lemon
1 cup of semolina
1Tbs of vanilla extract
4 free range egg yolks
4 cups of milk
200g of butter – melted
Icing sugar for dusting
Beat your egg yolks, sugar and 1Tbs of vanilla extract until the mixture is light and fluffy and set aside ready to use.
Slowly heat the milk and lemon zest until its piping hot but not boiling.
Turn the heat down a little now and slowly pour in the semolina and using a whisk keep stirring until it starts to thicken.
Add the beaten egg yolk mixture and keep stirring.
You are really making a semolina egg custard.
Keep stirring on a medium heat until the semolina has cooked.
Be careful not to burn it.
Set your custard aside to cool.
For the Poached Rhubarb
1 glass of Port or 1 glass of cranberry juice
500g of rhubarb – peeled, washed and cut into 4cm chunks
1 knob of fresh ginger sliced
1 piece of cinnamon bark
3 cardamom pods – crushed to release the little tiny seeds inside
1 tsp of all spice
2/3 of a cup of sugar
1 sprig or rosemary
This really couldn’t be easier.
Wash, peel and chop your rhubarb into 3cm lengths.
Place all of the above ingredients into a pot and poach gently for 30 minutes.
Remove the ginger slices and cinnamon bark and set aside to cool.
To assemble the Bouratsis:
Pre-heat your oven to 200d
Take a sheet of Phyllo pastry and cut it in half.
Brush the first sheet of Phyllo all over with melted clarified butter
Place the second sheet on top of the first and also brush this one with butter
Take a handful of the semolina custard, roll it into a ball and flatten it .
Place in the centre of the Phyllo
Place 2Tbs of the Poached Spiced blushing pink rhubarb on top of the custard
Fold over both sides brushing each flap
Then close it up by bringing the bottom and top up and again, brush each flap with melted butter.
Turn them over so that the fold is underneath, brush the tops with butter and
place them on a greased baking tray and bake for 20 -25 minutes at 200d.
Keep an eye on them though – everyone’s oven behaves differently.
Serve warm with a dusting of icing sugar and if you want a nice dollop of double cream.
They really were delicious I don’t mind saying but I will admit that the little six year old in me snuck into the kitchen before going to bed and I just had to have a little bowl of the left over rhubarb with some normal ultra-mel custard!
The more we change the more we stay the same hey!
At the end of the day this product falls short of all it’s promises.
It’s expensive at R24,95 for 180g of boiled sugar – and although I will definately repurpose the glass bottle – the contents
of the bottle – those red and yellow blobs just don’t deliver on any level.
I bestow upon this dismal product the Sad Vrot Banana award.
Next week on, Is it Hot or is it Vrot?
I am putting two brands of fruit mince up against each other and looking into the cost of one of China’s largest
exports at this time of the year …. Christmas Crackers.