I made rhubarb and apple sponge last week. It was a comfort that we needed. It was a week of new life (congratulations Yav and Chris), illness and death. In our house we had nasty colds but more significantly my grandmother died. A warm pudding is just what she would have made to nurture us.
My grandmother was loving and beautiful till the end. She was feisty and so independent that at the age of 91, just a couple of weeks before she died, she was still living on her own and driving her car to get to the shops. In fact, she didn’t die till she had said her goodbyes and was ready to leave us.
She was a wonderful grandmother. Visiting her house as a child meant playing with the best collection of Barbie dolls and eating her lovely home cooking. After all, it was from her that my mum learnt to make roast dinner and puddings. She was lots of fun, buying us fluffy duck drinks even when they looks so sickly sweet that it was no surprise we couldn’t drink them, screaming at spiders with us, and if we were cheeky she would call us a ‘bold hussy’. She had a warm laugh and a wicked sense of humour.
My grandmother loved to be in the kitchen and, like all good cooks, she made it seem effortless. Her Christmas cakes were the moist with a soft white icing. Her chocolate pudding recipe is a family favourite. We often had barbecues in her backyard, which had a sunken grassy area for entertaining or just relaxing. Beyond was the bush with lots of tea trees, reminding us how close we were to the sea. She loved her garden, encouraging birds to visit and her vegetables and flowers to thrive.
When I admired her tomato chutney recently, my grandmother sent me a jar of it. In recent years she was more conscious of her health and was determined to eat well to keep herself in shape. This was a woman who had hit a hole-in-one on the golf course! She loved a good wholesome loaf of bread but would whip up some scones and home made jam when we visited.
On one of my last visits I remember discussing how when we were young so many desserts had apple in them. My mum and my grandmother reminisced about how much cheaper apples used to be. It was a moment that made sense of some of my childhood. I will miss this window into my family history, back through the generations.
One of the apple desserts my mum frequently made was apple sponge (like this dessert). For the uninitiated, it is a warm pudding of stewed apples topped by a buttery sponge and served with cream to every member of the family except me (I was the fussy one). We also had rhubarb a lot as kids. So when I saw Terry Durack’s recipe for Rhubarb and Apple Sponge in the Good Weekend a few weeks back, I loved the idea. It was like a fancy, richer version of my mum’s apple sponge. We all loved it, including Sylvia.
So I bring you this dessert today as a connection to my past. For it is hard to talk about pudding without remembering my grandmother, always mixing up a bowl of batter, stirring something in a saucepan, bending over her oven to check on what was inside it, or just standing in the archway between her kitchen and lounge to give her opinion on any topic of discussion. She will be remembered fondly.
Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: AWED Butterscotch pudding
This time two years ago: Pumpkin soup and history
This time three years ago: Full Moon Cupcakes
Rhubarb and apple sponge pudding
adapted from Terry Durack in the Age Good Weekend Magazine 26 June 2010
5 apples (3 granny smiths, 2 pink ladies)
½ cup (loosely packed) brown sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 dessertspoons of honey*
* I had a bit more stewed fruit than in the original recipe so I took a bit out to feed Sylvia. I used two bunches of rhubarb due to over sweetening. You could halve the rhubarb and leave out the honey and lemon juice.
¼ cup castor sugar
⅔ cup self raising flour
¼ cup milk
I should have followed the recipe and cooked the apples and the rhubarb for 10 minutes but instead I cooked the apples and about 1 cup of water for about 15 minutes, added the rhubarb, sugar and honey and cooked it another 5-10 minutes. It was too sweet so I cooked another bunch of rhubarb in a separate saucepan with a little water for 5-10 minutes till soft and then added it to the cooled stewed apple and rhubarb. Spoon rhubarb and apple into a greased casserole dish.
Cream the butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, and fold in flour and milk. Spoon over the rhubarb and apple mixture and smooth with the back of a spoon. Bake at 180 C till golden brown and cooked inside. I thought it was done after 40 minutes (the time specified in the recipe) – the skewer came out clean but when I put the serving spoon in it was still uncooked. I put it back in the oven for another 40 minutes and then the sponge was fluffy and lovely.
Serve hot as it is or with ice cream, cream or custard.
On the Stereo:
Ommadawn: Mike Oldfield