A grandmother is a little bit parent,
a little bit teacher,
and a little bit best friend.
I have been blessed to have grown up, and grown older, with two amazing women as my grandmothers. Now both of them are gone, although I feel them around me often, and I frequently draw on their wisdom and the things they taught me.
Marga, my mother’s mum, was the doyenne of style in our family. A stay-at-home mother and grandmother from a good family, we often referred to her home as ‘the Palace’. As a cook she was adventurous, passionate and into World Food long before exploring cuisine from other countries came into vogue. She was an amazing cook, and from that old-school tradition of elegant tables, dressing for dinner, candles and music.
Joycey or ‘Nana’, my dad’s mum was an entirely different grandmother. She worked for much of her life, travelled extensively and was into plain home-style cooking.
Marga would serve an exotic Chicken Marengo, and Almond Torte with Praline and Coffee Cream, accompanied by Flamenco music. Nana would cook Apricot Chicken and Apple Crumble with store-bought ice-cream, served up to the six o’clock news.
So who did I turn to for inspiration last weekend at the farm, when my husband announced that he’d invited friends to ‘pop round for dinner’?
It was Sunday morning when he mentioned it, and I was feeling less than my best. Dinner needed to be easy, and made from what I had in the cupboard. I managed lamb chops, home-made coleslaw and sweet potato mash for a main, but I was racking my head for a dessert. Until I spied a lonely packet of gingernut biscuits at the back of the pantry. It inspired me to make Nana’s Gingernut Roll. It was one of her ‘fancy’ recipes, that she taught me when I was about twelve. It’s easy enough for kids to master, but it’s a recipe that is enjoyed by everyone. Here’s how to make it:
1 x 300ml bottle of cream (just over a cup), 1 x tablespoon of honey, 1 x packet of gingernut biscuits (ginger snaps for my American friends), 1/2 cup of fresh orange juice and 1/2 cup of sweet sherry (if making alcohol free use 1 cup of orange juice!)
There’s no cooking here – it’s a dessert that you assemble!
Firstly find a serving plate long enough to accommodate your packet of biscuits and then some.
Whip your cream, adding in the tablespoon of honey. When it is nice and thick, use a little to make a strip down the centre of your your serving plate. This will help anchor your biscuits.
Pour your orange juice and sherry into a wide shallow bowl. Working methodically, drop a biscuit into the bowl and allow it to soak for a moment or two. Fish it out, and drop the next biscuit in to soak as you smear a spoonful of cream on the first biscuit and place it in position at the edge of your cream strip.
When you’re done, cover the entire assemblage in the remaining cream, smooth off and refrigerate for several hours so that the biscuits can soften and the flavours will amalgamate.
To serve the log you can dress it up with some shaved chocolate or toasted almonds, but I went for decadence and topped it off with home-made slightly salty caramel sauce. Yum! Oh, and I suppose I should give you that recipe too…
Easy Caramel Sauce:
3/4 cup butter, 1 and 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar, 2 x tablespoons water, 1 x teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 to 1 cup of cream.
Put the sugar, water and butter in a saucepan over low heat and dissolve all together, stirring constantly. Then raise the heat and bubble away for three to five minutes to reduce the sauce a little. Please do stir during this time so it doesn’t catch on the bottom!
Take off the heat and add in the half cup of cream, stirring constantly. This sauce will thicken more upon cooling, so check your consistency. Do you want it runnier? If so, add more cream. Finally give it a good grind of salt. Or not, if you don’t like the whole salted caramel thing.
This sauce is magic over ice-cream, poached pears or just about anything else you can imagine.
Cool the sauce to luke-warm before pouring some over your gingernut roll or you will melt all your whipped cream. If you wanted to be totally over the top you could add grated chocolate, toasted nuts or crushed up praline on top of the caramel sauce. As you can see, I didn’t quite go to that extreme.
Serve with a good ice-cream or on its own.
Hint: I know this is a simple offering, but boy is it good. Just remember to dunk your biscuits long enough that they are properly moistened so you don’t get hard lumps of dry biscuit in your dessert!