Ginger’s up: Sam Woulidge gives a Christmas twist to blondies

By Sam Woulidge, 21 December 2023

The original Christmas spice comes into its own in Sam Woulidge’s recipe for festive blondies sweetened with artisanal fudge – perfect as edible gifts

I’m a bit conflicted about ginger. While she’s a flavour I love, she isn’t one I often desperately crave. On her own she can be a bit overpowering, but she’s great in a crowd. If I’m honest, I like her when she’s sweet but when she’s salty I sometimes find her a bit much. Yet every time we meet I think to myself that we really should do this more often. We shouldn’t only get together for Christmas.

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Because, yes, at Christmas time this rhizome and I tend to overdo it. Christmas is not complete without my smoked gammon cooked in ginger beer. The sweet, salty, smoky, delicious fattiness of the meat owes a lot to the ginger flavouring of the bottled cooldrink. And shop-bought cooldrink it has to be, because I live in mortal fear of exploding glass bottles of home-made ginger beer filled with swollen raisins. I will never attempt to make it in our home, no matter how great the taste. I am, however, fearless with the raw ginger root and will grate
it into the accompanying Asian slaw of cabbage and peanuts with abandon. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. And Christmas baking is all about the ginger. But because I am not at all artistic, I find absolutely no joy in the making of Christmas gingerbread houses and icing little gingerbread families.

Ginger fudge blondies

Find the recipe for ginger fudge blondies here.

Instead, I buy packets of gingery German lebküchen from speciality delis and hope we are gifted some gingerbread men that we can eat by biting their heads off, and dipping their bodies into our morning tea. But ginger fudge blondies I can do. And I make a great batch of these. Laden with sweet fudge and bits of crystallised ginger, they’re not decorative, nor are they meant to be, so I serve them without shame, to lend some sweetness to the occasion. With a bit of a bite. Because, for many, the festive season can be a little fraught; not always as sweet as one would hope, and we need a little something to hang onto. Ginger can also be seen as medicinal, because it is good for nausea and indigestion, both of which can be induced by festive feasts – and families.

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Seb absolutely loves these, and he is a child who will otherwise look in abject horror at the gifted boxes of chocolate- dipped glacé ginger or the preserved ginger in syrup that I serve with strong cheese. Yet he devours these chewy blondies, even going as far as to say he likes them more with ginger than without. You see, this is the thing with ginger: it evokes strong feelings, often complex and conflicting. But as is learnt in many hours of therapy, two things can be true at the same time. Like the root (see what I did there?) word “ginger”, which when used as the adverb “gingerly”, means to do something in a cautious or delicate manner. Yet the old English expression “ginger up” means to excite or enthuse. Both meanings are true at once, which also holds for how many of us are feeling around this time of year. Cautiously excited. Delicately enthusiastic. Go on, ginger. It’s your time.

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Sam Woulidge

Article by Sam Woulidge

Cape Town-based writer Sam Woulidge is a regular TASTE columnist, blogger and author of 'Confessions of a Hungry Woman'. Follow her on Twitter @samwoulidge
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