A Vinegar a Day | 7 January | An Attempt at Asynpoeding

Exploring a surprising South African classic

It's Day 7 of a whole week of novel vinegar recipes...

It seems that no one really knows the origin of Asynpoeding ('vinegar pudding'), a classic of Cape Dutch cooking. Like the related and perhaps more famous Malva pudding, it is a saucy baked pudding, a decadently gooey dessert not dissimilar to sticky toffee pudding.

Most interestingly to me, Asynpoeding is 'self-saucing' with a vinegar syrup. Who woulda thunk?

The earliest recipe for Asynpoeding I was able to find comes from Kook en Geniet (1951), or 'Cook and Enjoy It,' the most successful South African cookbook. This recipe, which seems to be the basis for all the others online, is flavoured with apricot jam, ginger, and nutmeg.

Kook en Geniet's 1951 recipe for Asynpoeding, in the English translation (it's characterically terse; recipes have tended to become ore verbose over time)

Kook en Geniet contains dozens of quite similar variations on the apricot jam-flavoured pudding theme, including the aforementioned Malva pudding. A huge amount of apricots are grown in South Africa's hot and dry subtropical climate, so their bright-orange sweet-sourness finds its way into all kinds of dishes, from Malay-influenced curries to the ubiquitous jam.

One of Kook en Geniet's many menu suggestions

Not being in South Africa or having access to homemade apricot jam, when experimenting with Asynpoeding all this morning, I gave my version a British twist: I used homemade currant jam and replaced the raisins often included in the dough with frozen currants left over from the summer harvest.* I also replaced the basic white vinegar with Artisan Strawberry Vinegar, which took on a lovely jammy-ness when cooked that was somehow reminiscent of banana bread.

I wish I could recommend my new version, which was a combination of the 1951 recipe and this more contemporary one, but I honestly can't — unless you have the world's biggest sweet tooth. Even my reduced-sugar version, seen floating raw in its sugary pink bath and then ready (a bit too ready) in the photos below, was tooth-achingly sweet. I'm all here for a vinegar-centred baked pudding, but I will need to do some more reading and testing first.

Once I've perfected that, I have no doubt it would be delicious; perhaps with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream on top!

That said, I really enjoyed researching and testing this recipe, not least because I previously knew next to nothing about South Africa's many cuisines, including Cape Dutch food. From water lily casserole to all kinds of curried peach sauces and salads, there is so much to explore. I'm also quite tempted to try the wine-soaked pudding given by one blog as the plausible origin of Asynpoeding!

* Fun fact: The currants in my variation would make it, in Afrikaans, Asynpoeding med Aalbessies. 'Aalbessies' are currants, but the literal meaning is 'eel berries'. I have not been able to discover the origins of this bizarre name, but my hunch is that it has something to do with the gelatinous, semi-transparent, seed-encircling curranty orbs looking a bit like fish eggs. Weird.

— Beatrix Swanson

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