Behold the kerkbasaar (church fete). Tables as far as the eye stretches packed full of cakes, knitted toys, secondhand goods, and tiny sets of clothes for all the little girls' dolls. Lucky draws (the so-called 'tombola tafel'), the heady aroma of pancakes (crepes) sprinkled liberally with cinnamon and sugar, the sizzle of vetkoeke frying in hot oil and the comforting flavour of a good old kerrie (curry) wafting in the air. Served alongside generous spoonfuls of sliced bananas, desiccated coconut and Mrs Balls chutney of course.
And what basaar (fete) is complete without a table (or two!) groaning under the weight of homemade sweets? Marshmallows rolled in toasted coconut, creamy fudge and sweeter than sweet klapperys (coconut ice). The familiar two-tone colouring is like a beacon for the under 10 year-old set, who seizes upon the cellophane-wrapped packets before handing over their silver coins. The pretty ribbon will land unceremoniously on the floor, the cellophane will be pawed at greedily to get one's hands on the pink and white delight that is inside. Sugary sweet beyond belief with that rich coconut-y taste, it's all too easy to pop one, two and even three into your mouth within a matter of mere minutes.
Many years after my 10th birthday, I still go crazy at the sight of these tempting little bites. Even if they aren't as firmly entrenched in the South African culinary history as I would've liked to believe. Yes, coconut ice actually originates in post-war England, when sugar was once again in abundance and palates were eager to indulge after the war time restrictions. There are two versions of this recipe, one has you boil sugar and water to create a syrup before mixing in the desiccated coconut, while the other is a shortcut, using condensed milk and icing sugar in lieu of the sugar syrup.
Truth be told, I prefer the condensed milk recipe both for convenience, flavour and texture. It is much less crumbly than the first version and consequently has a much more pleasant mouth feel and smoother appearance. And how can the sweet flavour of creamy condensed milk ever be bad? Word of warning though: these are super sweet. Let me repeat that: they are sweeter-than-sweet. So unless you're a true blue sugar addict, you might want to give these a skip. Or give them to someone who truly appreciates full-on sugary goodness. You know where to find me.
Klapperys (Coconut Ice)
Adapted from Eg Afrikaans
Makes 36 - 49 blocks (depending how big you make them)
1 tin (397g) sweetened condensed milk
400g desiccated coconut*
500g icing (confectioner's) sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
few drops red food colouring
1. Mix condensed milk, coconut, icing sugar and vanilla essence together in a large bowl, using a wooden spoon until thoroughly combined. I found this became quite difficult towards the end using only a spoon, so I dug in there with my hands and kind of kneaded it lightly. Worked like a charm, although you do end up with coconut-caked hands.
2. Divide the coconut mixture in two, pressing half down into a greased, square (20cm x 20cm) dish.
3. For the remaining coconut mixture, add a few (literally only two or three drops) of red food colouring to the mixture and, using your hands or a spoon (I found hands easier again), work into the coconut ice mixture, until the whole ball is an even light pink colour.
4. Spoon on top of the white layer and again, press down evenly, ensuring the top is fairly smooth. Place in fridge until firm (this takes an hour or two), then cut into small squares and serve.
*In some countries this is available in sweetened or unsweetened versions. Use the unsweetened version.
For a twist on the traditional, replace the red food colouring with any colour of your choice. You could also replace the vanilla essence with any flavour of your choice. Adding cocoa powder to the bottom layer and green food colouring and peppermint essence to the top one, makes for a great flavour combo as well.