Fetes were such fun. School fetes, Church Fetes, Round Table fetes … we went to them all. sofaparents would give us each 50cents and tell us “now go and play” and we would drag the small kids around from stall to stall. Eating our way through coconut icing, fudge, spook asem (ghost breath – cotton candy) and bags of multicoloured popcorn.
We’d take our chances on tombolas and raffles. Place our bets on tin horses racing around wind up tracks and throw darts at playing cards stuck to green felt. We’d scare the kids shitless in the homemade ghost tunnel, and compete in various novelty races. “Can the Can” would be crackling from a tinny tannoy, and I’d sing along nonchalantly to “Life on Mars”, thrilled that I knew all words.
There were no weirdos wandering around trying to steal kids. No-one bought alcohol and got wasted. People’s parents were still married. We were (always) new in town and we’d hide and watch the hip kids smoking Peter Stuyversants behind the bicycle shed. “Disgusting, I’m never going to do that”, until three years later it was me.
On the way back to the car we’d pool our money to see what we could afford to take home: koeksisters, coconut balls, jam crumble tarts, or these …. my favourites: rice crispie treats. They’d be just a little bit melty from being in the bag all day, but they were perfect after they’d spent the night in the fridge. We’d drive home, the kids falling asleep as soon as we pulled out of the parking lot, and have government loaf, iceberg lettuce sandwiches with liberally salted cold butter for supper. There was no TV (for Safricans anyway), so we’d listen to something on the radio and go to sleep early. “More is nog ‘n day*” my mother would say. The only Afrikaans I think she knows. Good times.
We were heading to McGregor for the weekend and I wanted to take something with – and (this part always makes sofasister cackle) I just happened to have the ingredients to hand. I’d read a recipe somewhere that used dark chocolate to adultify the treats, so I thought I would try it. And they are spectacular. The brown butter makes them nutty, and the dark choc balances out the sweetness. They’re lovely – a bit salty, a lot chocolaty and ideal with a mug of coffee after a long day touring wine farms.
Or cold, for breakfast.
Brown Butter Rice Crispie Treats
4 tablespoons/56 grams salted or unsalted butter
1 pound/454g bag of cheap and cheerful marshmallows
6 cups/100g Rice Krispies must be crisp and fresh
1/3 teaspoon salt (leave this out if you use salted butter)
5 ounces/142g bittersweet chocolate (at least 70%)
- With butter or nonstick baking spray, grease a baking dish (about 8″x10″/20x25cm).
- Lightly grease a piece of parchment paper- should be about the size of your hand. Set both aside.
- In a medium-sized pot, melt the butter over medium heat. It will take a few minutes to brown. But stick around. It will sizzle for a bit. Once a wonderful nutty smell hits your nostrils, watch carefully.
- The foaming and sizzling will slow down and brown bits will drop to the bottom of the pan. At this point, turn the heat down to low. Add the marshmallows. Stir until they’re all melted. Turn off heat and stir in Rice Krispies and salt.
- Quickly pour mixture into the greased baking dish. With the piece of greased parchment, press down firmly until it is flat and even. Allow it to cool for about 15 minutes.
- Loosen by working your way around with a spatula. Slowly pry the firmed up block out of the dish. Be patient. This can take a few minutes. If it falls apart, you can always press it back together. Place on a cutting board.
- In a double boiler or over low heat, melt the chocolate. Drizzle melted chocolate over the Rice Krispie block. Keep the bowl aside with a drizzle left in it.
- Put Krispies in the fridge to set up for about 20 minutes. Cut into squares.
- Store squares at room temperature for a day or two. Or freeze for a few months.
But before you do that, eat a square or three. Drizzle over the chocolate you kept separate. They’ll still be a little bit warm, bendy and fresh. Nigella Lawson calls this ‘the cook’s treat’. Amen to that.
(Image of “the Perishers” and the Tombola tickets found in the public domain. My photos of the treats came out badly so I borrowed this one from the public domain.)