Christmas Under the African Sun

by | Dec 27, 2010 | Food and Drink, Johannesburg, Melville and Surrounds | 10 comments

We had a quiet Christmas Day at the Lucky 5 Star. The most notable thing about it, for me at least, was the weather — it was about 30 degrees Celsius (that’s upper 80s for you Americans) with blinding bright sun. It was a beautiful day, but I felt a little unsettled. It just didn’t feel like Christmas to me.

Christmas morning at the Lucky 5 Star.

Joe’s family was scattered across Southern Africa and mine was 8,000 miles away in the States, so it was just the two of us and Leslee, our neighbor from the cottage next door.

I decided to make roasted red pepper lasagna, which is my favorite thing to cook for Christmas dinner back home. After two or three hours over a hot stove in a kitchen with no air-conditioning, I started to wonder if a nice fruit salad would have been better. But once it came out of the oven, all three of us were happy with my choice.

You can’t really tell from the picture, but the lasagna noodles are green. I didn’t even realize this until I opened the package. It was a Christmas miracle.

As we settled ourselves on the deck in the afternoon sun, with a delicious meal and a perfectly chilled bottle of Cape Point Sauvignon Blanc, I started thinking I could get used to this Christmas in summer thing.

After digesting the lasagna for a couple of hours, it was time for the finale — Christmas pudding.

For an American girl like me, pudding is a creamy chocolate/vanilla dessert, sold by Jello and packaged in cute plastic cups. Christmas pudding is, well, not that. It’s an English/South African tradition — dense fruit cake that’s heated up, doused in brandy, lit on fire, and then smothered in vanilla custard or cream.

I was suspicious of the pudding. It had been sitting in the back of the pantry, in its neat Woolworth’s box, since I arrived here five-and-a-half months ago. The package said best before 22 February…2009.

“It’s not a problem,” Joe assured me. “The brandy will cook out anything that can hurt us.”

It did look lovely when set alight, especially with the edible nasturtiums from the garden.

The custard also came from a box. It was yummy but I couldn’t finish my pudding.

My verdict: Christmas pudding is tolerable with lots of custard. But I’d rather have a Christmas chocolate cake.

Joe must have been right about the brandy because we all survived the meal with stomachs intact.


  1. Tilly Bud

    That lasagne looks delicious! I’m a pepper fan myself.

    I think Christmas Pudding is disgusting; we never have it. It was traditional to put coins in it to find when eating. People stopped doing it because it’s not much fun choking on a sixpence on Christmas Day (or any other day, come to think of it).

    Thanks for sharing your day with us. It is fascinating to see how people have their own traditions for the same holiday.

  2. lisa@notesfromafrica

    My kind of Christmas: simple and relaxing.

    How would you have celebrated Christmas back home?

    • 2summers

      That’s an interesting question…My Christmas has always depended on which parent I’m visiting, who my significant other is, etc. But if I’d been home this year I would’ve done one of two things: 1) spend the day on my grandmother’s farm in Maryland, with cousins, aunts, uncles, dogs, chickens and crazy gag gifts; or 2) visit my mom in Hilton Head, South Carolina, open presents in the morning with my mom and sister and have a late dinner with my mom and her friends. I guess there has never really been a “normal” Christmas for me — this was just one of many interesting ones 🙂

      • lisa@notesfromafrica

        Growing up our family was usually travelling the whole of December – often camping in remote areas – so we never did the traditional Christmas thing. I still prefer a quieter Christmas.

  3. Serene32

    30 degrees sounds divine- we had 43 in our spot in Oz, but we still managed the BBQ without fainting from heat stroke and a swim in the neighbours lake was a nice way to finish the afternoon! Congratulations on your first Southern Hemisphere Christmas! 🙂

    • 2summers

      Thanks! We really had nothing to complain about with the weather. Soooo much better than the ice and snow that my friends and family are dealing with back home. I hope you have a happy new year down under 🙂

  4. Slowvelder

    Yum that lasagne looks so good – do you use a special recipe?

    I really dont enjoy christmas pudding but forced myself to eat it as a child because my gran hid money in it. Nowdays I just pour a bowl of custard 🙂

    • 2summers

      Ha! I think you’re on to something there. Next year I will skip the pudding altogether and just have custard.

  5. jrivera4

    It was warmer there, than it was here in Florida…while we had “our traditional Ham”, the lasagna sounded good. I LOVE roasted peppers, and green noodles sound like fun, A look at your recipe is in order, you tease. I have no knowledge of that pudding, but it looks awful…sorry. Keep posting, I’m enjoying it.

    • 2summers

      Hahaha! I appreciate your honesty regarding the pudding. I think you have to be British (or South African of British descent) to enjoy it — might be a genetic thing 🙂 Although as you can see from the other comments there are many South Africans and Brits who also dislike it. Joe and Leslee both love it.

      The lasagna recipe is actually pretty simple, although time-consuming. Here is a URL: I change it up a bit though. I double the amount of tomatoes and the other ingredients in the red pepper sauce — the amount in the recipe isn’t near enough. I use whole milk instead of skim for the white sauce, and I also add some kind of meat to the red sauce. Ground turkey is good, but it’s impossible to find in South Africa so this time I used Italian sausage, which was even better. I took it out of the casing and browned it before adding the other ingredients for the red sauce.

      Thanks for reading and for all your nice comments!


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