Marvelous Malva

I can’t remember the first time I ate this dessert.  It’s one of our favourites – when I “do” dessert.  I don’t often.  I don’t have a sweet tooth.  I am was not much of a baker.  My chef friend and market pal reckons mine are among the best she’s tasted.  I brimmed with pride when she said that.  


I do remember thinking that its name confused me.  I knew that malva(lekker) is a marshmallow (sweet) in Afrikaans.  In my head (and mouth), the dessert bore bears no resemblance to marshmallows.  

That’s just the beginning.  Because, of course, I am fascinated by words and need to know how things get their names.  

When I developed an interest in herbs – edible and medicinal – I discovered that Malva is a plant genus into which the mallow falls.  This includes the indigenous South African geranium – scented and otherwise.

The red geraniums one sees in Mediterranean window boxes, as I did in my trip to Mallorca in 1999, all originate not far from where I grew up.  I remember them from the regular trips between boarding school in East London and Grahamstown.  They grow wild through the cracks in the road cuttings on either side of the Great Fish River.  Some of the scented ones grow in our garden.  I use them for iced teas and garnish in summer, but that’s another story. 

All of that’s a long way of saying that nobody, least of all me, has any idea as to why this pudding is called “malva”.

Many roads lead to The Sandbag House

Of course, I’ve digressed.  I had wanted to tell the “proper” story behind this recipe last week – ahead of South Africa’s Heritage weekend and having already “done” some heritage food.  I was derailed by having to revisit this post to give the context I needed:  Sunday Suppers @ The Sandbag House and the smorgasbord of guests who sat around our tables. 

The note in the banner for this post is from guests from Germany.  They insisted on a photograph with me, and which they subsequently sent via WhatsApp:

Malva pudding was also on that evening’s menu, and as I recall, they also went home with a jar of my spicy plum jam. 

January 2020

Unexpectedly, last February, and before lockdown, I received a WhatsApp message.  It went along the lines of…

Hello, we so enjoyed our dinner.  The Malva pudding was the best we had in South Africa.  We are planning a dinner with a South African theme.  Would you be able to send me the recipe?

Well, I had to scrabble around a bit.  My recipe is not in any of my books.  I wasn’t sure if I’d ever typed it up.  It’s in my very tatty, dog-eared file.  Too tatty for a photo.  Typing it up had been on my ever-growing “to-dos” forever.  Now, I had to do it.  I did. 

It went, through cyberspace to Sweden.  

The thanks:

Thank you so much! I’m very grateful. I will make Boboti and Malvapudding for my guests. I will share photographs.

Then the pandemic was declared.  I don’t know whether they had their South African dinner.

Another back story

Our Sunday Suppers were a thing.  That delightful Swedish couple joined us for the penultimate supper at which we had guests:  January 26th, 2020.  There were two other diners.  A couple who live in America. She is South African and they are were annual visitors to South Africa to see her mother and family.  During the evening’s conversation, we learned that they’d tried to join us before Christmas, but we’d been full.  This time, they were determined and drove from another town. 

The menu and our Swedish guests’ note in our book, that evening.

The proof of the pudding

Malva pudding is, as I’ve already said, a baked dessert.  I have no idea why I offered this menu in mid-summer because all of those are winter dishes.  We must have been having an unseasonal cold snap.  

I don’t know where my recipe comes from, or who gave it to me.  For years, this was a dessert I didn’t do because a chef friend of ours in Cape Town is the Malva King.  It was often his contribution to one of our gatherings. 

Traditionally, it’s baked in a large square dish and served in squares with custard, cream or ice cream.  Personally, I prefer custard.

Perfect Practice

They say two things:  practise makes perfect and with practise comes the confidence to experiment.  This was case with much of Sunday Suppers, especially the desserts – and my graduating to individual desserts.  As I did with the Malva Pudding.

Mini Malva puddings: just out of the oven (left) and then ladled with the sweet, creamy syrup (right)

Fortunately this recipe serves ten, and I use the ten little enamel cups I bought a few years ago.  Much to The Husband’s confusion.  I used these often during the time of Sunday Suppers.  They, along with a few other bits and bobs have gathered much dust on shelves in this time of disuse. 

Enamel “crockery”

One finds enamel mugs and flatware in virtually every South African kitchen.  In my childhood, in middle class and white households they were reserved for the servants.  Perish the thought.

Before that, though, and now, they are the sensible utensils for camping and the fireside (braai).  I remember them in piles in the trading stores of my childhood and youth in the Eastern Cape. 

Using them to serve Malva pudding, a traditional Afrikaans dish, which probably harks back to the great trek, just makes sense to me.  Sometimes they sparked conversations.  Sometimes not.

Regardless, this traditional South African favourite is a hit every time.  Download the recipe here and if you do, please buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post script
If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:

  • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I am adding them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
  • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts.

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