13 Aug

Winter is just not winter without a couple of favourite puds to finish off a heart-warming meal, writes Ant Ellis.

It’s been decidedly fresher weather in my neck o’ the woods of late. Well, to be more honest, it’s been a bit less hot than usual – but I have seen a few co-workers, friends and family break out something long-sleeved and even have a little whine about it.

For those readers up the hill, I know you’re a good few degrees cooler, and the fireplaces are set to nuclear – yup, that’s a Durban winter for ya. Speaking of, we live in a sub-tropical climate so let’s be super clear about one thing – it’s always balmy enough to eat ice-cream. But before we get there, let’s set the scene.

Consciously or not, when it’s cooler we tend to change the way we eat. For many of us it’s out with the light and bright salads and in with the buttery mashed potatoes. Seasonal eating means hearty, rich and comforting stews, pies, curries and roasts, with carb-heavy sides that fill and satisfy. And it’s the same with dessert – you’ll be wanting something denser, richer and warming, but that still has a sweet bite. Instead of resorting to nasty microwaveable desserts that require 10 litres of custard per square inch to swallow, find 20 minutes to whip up something rocking. Then set it in the middle of the table and let the fisticuffs ensue.

I’ve got a couple of goodies that are really easy, and really worth it. They’ll also make you look learned and experienced. Let’s go for it.


Phillipa’s Crazy Good Self-saucing Chocolate Pud

(Kinda like those tiny chocolate lava things but way easier)


  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¾ cup castor sugar
  • 2 tsps instant coffee powder
  • 5 tbsps cocoa powder
  • 30ml butter, melted
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • ½ cup chopped nuts (optional)

Mix together dry ingredients. Add butter, milk and vanilla essence, mix well. Add nuts if desired. Pour into a greased ovenproof tray or individual ovenproof serving ramekins or bowls. The mixture should be quite stiff – so don’t flap, this is correct.


  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 300ml hot water
  • 2 tsps instant coffee powder
  • 2 tsps cocoa powder

Mix together all ingredients, adding hot water last. Carefully pour over uncooked cake mixture. Bake at 180ºC degrees for 30-40 minutes (slightly less if individual servings). The pudding/s should be soft and gooey with a slight crust. Cool slightly and dust with icing sugar. Serve warm with chocolate ice-cream, an extra sprinkling of nuts and fresh berries if desired.

 Red Wine Poached Pears

If you think this sounds a bit old fashioned and snooty, think again. So aromatic, so easy and a joy to eat with an espresso after lunch.

  • 1 large, firm pear per person, peeled but with stalk remaining (any variety will work)
  • 750ml red wine (I’ve made this with shiraz and with cabernet sauvignon, both top-notch, but avoid the boxed plonk if you can)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • twist of orange peel
  • 1 star anise (optional)

Mix together wine, water, vanilla extract, sugar, cloves, cinnamon, orange peel and star anise in a pot on the stove top. Bring to boil to dissolve sugar. Add pears, making sure the liquid covers the pears. Cover pot, lower heat and simmer until pears are soft and cooked through – about 2 hours – turning pears regularly to ensure even absorption of liquor. Serve as you like, warm with vanilla ice-cream, sweetened crème fraiche or mascarpone, and milk chocolate shavings.


Until next time, nurture that winter sweet tooth. If you don’t think you need dessert every night (your kids might disagree), that’s cool – but when it’s time, make it count with something to remember. And if all else fails, remember that on the East Coast, ice-cream will do just fine.



Talk to me at ant@rockthekitchen.co.za


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