The bunch of red grapes were looking at me accusingly. They’d been sitting on the bench for a few days and were starting to get that tired look, though still OK. I’d eaten a few and then forgotten them.
The vinegar flies were already gathering.
I’ve been a bit bogged down with work and other matters lately, and playful cooking has had too little space. It was time to get constructive!
I love making use of leftover bits and pieces and turning them into something wonderful, and I figured this was just such an occasion. And so …
I started browsing. The recipe I found was so exactly perfect, I was a bit blinded by the glory of it for a moment.
Rotegrütze. It’s an old German recipe that I had a few times in my childhood. It wasn’t one of my mother’s, but one of my aunts-by-affection. My Tante Ada (a post-war migrant from Germany, like my parents) was a remarkable woman in many ways – loud and overbearing and charismatic, with a huge laugh and also an amazing warmth and gentleness on occasion. She had five children (most of them grown up by the time I came along) and the house was always full of great food and treats.
And rotegrütze was one of the things she would cook occasionally as a treat. Forty-five years later, I could not have told you anything at all about the dish except for two things – that it was red and that it was delicious.
The contents, texture, taste – all of that gone from memory. But that name instantly called up a feeling that was warm and delicious and comforting. It was obvious I was going to have to explore it.
Once I looked at the recipe (from Stephanie Alexander’s Cook’s Companion) I realised I would not get enough juice out of the grapes I had, so I added in a slightly tired pomegranate (the seeds were still in good shape) that had been waiting for me to come up with an inspiration for its use. The recipes suggested any red fruit would do, so I figured it should work.
Sago was what was asked for, but I had tapioca and figured there’s really not enough difference to worry about, except that tapioca is generally considered the healthier version.
Because of my limited quantity of fruit, this recipe only made enough for two. I served it with yoghurt, but I think we usually had custard as kids.
Take the grapes and pomegranate seeds and put them through a blender or food processor and then strain through a wet muslin cloth. I let that sit for a couple hours (because time wasn’t an issue and I could) and then squeezed the cloth hard to get all the juice out.
I ended up with 1 cup of liquid.
Put that in a saucepan and add:
1/6 cup of sugar (I measured 1/2 of my 1/3 cup measure)
1/6 cup of tapioca (usual proportion is 6 cups liquid to 1 cup tapioca)
1/4 cup of red wine (I have no recollection if it had wine in it when we were kids, but it is entirely possible)
Bring it to the boil and cook until it’s thick. This should be no more than 10-15 minutes. Stir regularly.
Pour it into individual dishes or a bowl and let it sit until cold and set.
Given that I was using a 1/2 of a 1/3 cup measure as my guide and that’s a little bit of a guesstimate, I suspect I had a bit much tapioca in the end. But it was a really minor quibble because it was fantastic.
Verdict: OMG delicious! I loved this so much, and it was so easy to make.