From an Immigrant's Oven: A Casserole of Our Family's Potted History from the Vantage Point of My Stomach

From an Immigrant's Oven: A Casserole of Our Family's Potted History from the Vantage Point of My Stomach

by Arthur Gardiner


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781532012457
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 12/16/2016
Pages: 154
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.33(d)

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From an Immigrant's Oven

A Casserole of Our Family's Potted History from the Vantage Point of My Stomach

By Arthur Gardiner, Garry 'Sasquatch' Peck


Copyright © 2017 Arthur Gardiner
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5320-1245-7



Easter Eggs 2
Turkish Delight 3
Coconut Ice 4
Watermelon Konfyt 5
Fudge 6
Marshmallows 8
Mebos 9
FDR Candies 10
Peanut Squares 10
Almond Crescents 11

At the tender age of seven I was consigned to a boarding school that was very similar to Hogwarts, without the magicians. Ah, what a school that was: up at six every morning; sprint down, bare-bummed, to the outdoor pool, summer and winter for a quick couple of lengths; then back to the dormitory to change for matins and one class before breakfast. They tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to turn us into young English gentlemen by beating an appreciation for literature, the classics, religion and the love of God into our bums with a birch cane.

There, I was ever envious of all my peers, whose 'tuck-boxes' were always filled with 'shop-bought' candies; while I had to make do with what my doting mother and grandmother had made for me. My peers, in turn, were all insanely jealous of the fact that my family took the time to make candies for me; whereas their parents had merely turned the task over to a mail-order factor.

What follows in this section are samples of my mother's, my grandmother's and my great grandmother's recipes.

Cure for Smoker's Cough

To cure a persistent cough, my mother recommended a dose of Epsom salts to her friend, a pack-a-day smoker. When her gullible friend tried the prescribed medication, it did cure the cough, temporarily. Her friend was too nervous to cough, in case she "spilled the beans", as my mother put it.

The friendship soured thereafter.

Easter Eggs

These were always a big hit! They aren't difficult to make, merely finickity (that's granspeak for finicky-pernickety).


1 egg per child plus 1 egg per adult
Adult eggs are served as soft boiled eggs.
Kids' eggs are made as below.


Make a hole about twice the size of a match head in the blunt end of a raw egg, then using a straw, blow the egg. This means you blow into and across the hole very gently, and the guts of the egg comes out. Be sure you get it all out, then wash the inside of the egg thoroughly and dry it.

That was the easy part!

The difficult part is to fill the eggs. The easiest is either Turkish delight or marshmallow, both of which are poured in as a liquid, from the recipes below.

My father was shy, serious and straight-laced; mother was anything but. At cocktail parties she always made some trick canapés: among the delicate ham sandwiches, you could be sure there would be one where the ham was replaced by a carefully trimmed triangle of pink surgical lint. On a plate of sausage rolls, at least one would be filled with the cork from a wine bottle, or popcorn that squeaked when bitten. A carefully crafted marzipan mouse often found its way into our tuck boxes, to our delight and the dormitory matrons' horror.

To Peel A Hard-Boiled Egg.

Prick a tiny hole in the blunt end of a raw egg. Boil for 7 to 10 minutes. Plunge into icy water to chill, leave for a minute or more. Crack the shell and it will peel perfectly every time, immediately, or hours later.

Turkish Delight

Traditionally, these are flavoured with rose water: now there's a challenge. Collect a very large quantity of roses, strip off the petals, then steam them. Alternatively, buy a bottle of rose water from a Middle Eastern shop. It's a prime export from Persia (Iran).


2½ cups sugar
1 cup icing sugar
½ cup gelatine
1 cup corn flour
l-2tblsp rosewater (depends on quality)
¾-1 cup water (or cheap rose water, then you don't need flavouring)


Put sugar, rose water and gelatine into pot, heat, stirring as you go, until all sugar and gelatine are dissolved. Boil for about 10 minutes, then add colouring and flavouring. Pour into shallow square metal baking tray. Liquid should be about an inch deep. Leave to cool and set.

Put icing sugar and corn flour into brown paper bag, shake thoroughly (keep bag tightly shut, or you'll be covered). Tip about a quarter of bag's contents onto a sheet of wax paper and spread out thickly. When gel is cool and fully set, dip bottom of tin into hot water briefly, then flip onto the waxed paper. Tip next quarter of bag's contents onto top of the gel, and spread around. Slice gel into cubes by dipping blade in hot water. Put all cubes into paper bag and shake them around to get them coated thoroughly with icing sugar/corn flour.

My mother's great friend, Helena, was Greek. Because of the traditional enmity between Turkey and Greece, she could never call this anything but its Greek name, loukoumi.

A philosophical question.

How can a guinea-pig show he's pleased, if he hasn't got a tail to wag?

If it quacks like a duck, and it walks like a duck, it needs another five minutes in the microwave." Me

Coconut Ice

No kids' party was complete without coconut ice. Although there is no difference in taste, the best was always two-tone pink and white. Helena made it green and purple once, but we refused to eat it because it looked gross.


2 cups sugar
1 cup desiccated coconut
½ cup milk


In a double boiler (which is very important, or you'll burn the milk) mix milk and sugar, heat and boil for 3 minutes without stirring. If you stir, the sugar will crystallize out very rapidly. Take off the stove and stir in the coconut. Turn out onto a lightly buttered tray, lined with wax paper. Repeat, but put cochineal in the second layer: it looks nifty! When completely set, cut into 1 inch squares.

Although we lived in the tropics, coconuts were an exotic fruit for us, because the country was high altitude and land-locked. For some strange reason, no-one ever thought of growing pineapples or bananas on a commercial basis in the country either, so they were also exotic and rather expensive.

We had bananas growing behind the house on the mine, but although we obtained lots of fruit from them, they were regarded with suspicion, because the banana grove housed a thriving rat and frog population, both of which attracted snakes.

Garnish Vert-Pré: Grilled Meats

Bunches of water cress (or some call it garden cress) with a mound of crisp julienne French fries, served with a dab of maître d'hôtel butter or café-de-Paris butter on the meat.

"The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it." Oscar Wilde

Watermelon Konfyt

At first appearances, this is goofy: throw out the meat of the watermelon and keep the rind. However, one can eat the meat! Just keep the rind to make the konfyt.


1 watermelon.
2 tblsp calcium hydroxide
12 cups cold water
¼ cup fresh ginger root
Equal weight of sugar to the weight of the rind


Cut open melon, scoop the guts into a bowl. Smoosh this up to get juice, strain and toss pulp

(alternatively, eat the melon, and forget about the juice).

Peel green skin off white rind. Toss skin; keep rind. Cut rind up into ½ x 1 x 1 ½ inch chunks, prick with a fork. Mix calcium hydroxide into water, toss in rinds and leave steeping 12 hours. Drain rinds, wash with fresh water, then boil in water for about 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, put sugar in another pot; add juice plus water to equal about 3 cups of liquid per cup of sugar.

Now comes a very brief fun part.

Put ginger in muslin bag, whack it several times with mallet to get it thoroughly bruised, chuck bag into sugar-juice, mix and heat to get sugar dissolved.

Drain rind, drop into sugar-juice concoction and simmer gently until rind is clear and translucent.

Either bottle with syrup, or remove rinds, let them dry and keep in a tin in the crystallized form.

No question: weird as it may sound, this is really the best use you can make of a watermelon.

Garnish Vert-Pré: White Meats And Duck

Green peas, French beans and asparagus tips, mixed in melted butter. Served with clear gravy.

"Tell the truth. It's the funniest joke in the world." G.B Shaw


I have never admitted this to my dear mother: she always made sure we had a good supply of fudge in our tuck ... but I really didn't like it. Rather than appear an ingrate, I accepted courteously, then traded it at school for "shop-bought" candies. I had much the best of the deal, as I traded two squares of hazelnut fudge for a Mars bar.


2 cups sugar
1tblsp butter
½ cup chopped hazelnuts
2tblsp cocoa
1 cup whole milk
½ cup raisins or sultanas


Mix everything but nuts and fruits in double boiler, then simmer until mixture hardens when dripped into cold water. Stir in hazelnuts, raisins, sultanas, pour into well buttered dish and cut into 1 inch squares.

At high school, there was always some entrepreneurial kid out to make extra pocket money. Some were the school barbers, some traded stamps, some were cracker-jack anglers, selling their catch. Then there were the fudge makers, who did a roaring trade. One particular lad, Stan, had a secret method of boiling unopened cans of sweetened condensed milk, to form the most incredible caramel. Alas, one day when his attention strayed doing homework, one can blew up, coating his study with a sticky brown residue that looked like the contents of an exploded diaper. Save for his dignity, Stan was relatively unharmed, but his confectionary career ended abruptly.

In Brazil, at the mine near Ouro Preto, Marta, the cook in the Casa Grande, made a dessert called doce de leite that tasted very similar to Stan's fudge. She made it by slowly simmering sugar and milk until it set. Did she add anything? I never did discover, but I think not.

Raw And Cooked Eggs

Spin an egg on the counter, then stop it, and release immediately. If it stays still, it's cooked: if it starts to move again, it is raw.

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food." G.B Shaw


Nothing store-bought quite equals the exquisite taste and consistency of homemade marshmallows, of which I have fond memories. The candy dates back to the time of the pharaohs, from whom my family probably learnt it (it's been in the family that long).


½ cup cornstarch
3tblsp gelatine
2 cups berry sugar
½ cup hot water
2 eggs
½ cup frosting sugar
½ cup cold water
½ cup light corn syrup
¼ tsp salt
1-5tsp rosewater (depends on quality


Grind gelatine in pestle and mortar to fine flour, then sprinkle over cold water in large bowl. Leave to soften. Mix together frosting and cornstarch in brown paper bag. Line base of baking pan with waxed paper; lightly oil, dust bottom and sides with part of frosting-starch mix. Heat berry sugar, corn syrup, and hot water gradually, stirring constantly, to dissolve sugar, then bring to boil, without stirring, for about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat, add rosewater, pour over gelatine mixture, stirring until gelatine dissolves. Whip briskly until volume triples and mixture thickens +10 mins. Separate the eggs. Beat whites and salt until stiff. Fold into sugar mixture until just combined. Pour into baking pan; dust with frosting-starch mix. Chill until firm (3-12 hrs). Run knife round edge of pan; invert onto cutting board. The concoction should just drop out; remove waxed paper. Cut into 1 inch cubes, then shake with remaining frosting-starch mix in brown paper bag to coat completely.

Café-de-Paris Butter

Knead 4oz butter with ½ tblsp chopped parsley, ¼ tsp salt, good pinch of coarse ground pepper, juice of 1/4 lemon & 1 full bulb crushed garlic.

"If you are going through hell, keep going." W.S. Churchill


When we were children, Christmas was never white, nor a blizzardy festival, with chestnuts roasting on an open fire. December is midsummer, when it is as hot as Hades, made almost pleasant by constant monsoonal rainfall. That was when we were treated to inexpensive high quality imported South African fruit, such as peaches, nectarines, sweet brown-green hanepoot grapes and apricots by the tray. But best of all was the mebos, the dried salty-sugary apricot candy. As kids, we were very strictly rationed on this delicacy, because too much had disastrous effects on our digestive tracts.

The recipe is simplicity itself!


Equal quantities (1 lb) dried apricots and berry sugar.
Salt to taste replacing an equal amount of sugar.
(the salt makes it interesting)


Wash, but do not soak the apricots. Dry then mince them thoroughly. Keep about ½ cup sugar to one side, then mix the apricots thoroughly with all the remaining sugar and salt, and pass through the mincer again. Knead the mixture well, then spread onto sugared waxed paper. Cut to 1 inch cubes Roll in berry sugar to coat the cubes.

The etymology of mebos is a testament to the eclectic nature of Afrikaans: It comes from the Japanese umeboshi which refers to dried salted ume plums. The basis of the language is Dutch, but the word for furniture is meubels, from the French meubles; the word for jerky is biltong, which comes from Malay. Tangerines are naartjes, from the Portuguese naranja for orange.

Paw Chewers

To stop a dog chewing his paw, put oil of cloves or tea tree oil on the spot he's chewing.

"Nothing that is worth knowing can be taught." Oscar Wilde

FDR Candies

These were good standbys for our tuck-boxes, but it took me a while to figure out why mother insisted on limiting my intake. In a way, they are another take on mebos. Where and when the recipe originated is not hard to guess: the dirty thirties in USA. When I asked her why they are called FDRs, my grandmother grunted: "They get things going again. "The ingredients may also have had a part in the name.


1lb dried figs
1lb raisins or sultanas
salt to taste
1 lb pitted dates
¾ cup berry sugar


Mix fruit together in a large bowl, sprinkle with salt, put it through mincer, mix again, and mince again. Shape into thumb-joint sized balls; roll in berry sugar.

Peanut Squares

These peanut squares were great trade goods; but, as I rather fancied them myself, the counteroffer had to be quite substantial.


2 cups hot roasted peanuts
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 cup sugar
salt to taste


Melt sugar and salt in iron skillet, stirring to prevent burning. As soon as sugar melts, stir in bicarb then mix in peanuts, remove from heat and pour quickly onto buttered, waxed sheet on baking tray. Roll out smooth and cut immediately into squares.

Quick Sauce

Heat ½ cup each of water and golden syrup; add ½ oz butter, a pinch or 3 of ground ginger, zest of 1 lemon. Excellent on pancakes.

"Half the lies they tell about me aren't true." Yogi Berra

Almond Crescents

These are not actually from my mother. I don't recognize the handwriting on the faded scrap of lined paper, but it is very precise. My guess is that it comes from Linda, the daughter of one of the neighbouring farmers. She was the head sister at the obstetrics ward at the General Hospital, who should have become matron by right of seniority, but political correctness and affirmative action required that the position go to a black lady, several rungs down the ladder. The unfairness must have hurt Linda deeply but it never affected her friendship with the woman.


1 cup salted butter
1 cup flour
1/3 cup chopped almonds
¼ cup berry sugar
2/3 cup ground almonds;


Mix together dry ingredients except chopped nuts, then gradually work in the butter by rolling back and forth on a floured pastry board. When fully mixed, roll out onto waxed paper, cut with cookie cutter into crescents, sprinkle with chopped nuts. Bake in slow oven until golden yellow, but do not brown, as they then taste awful! Why crescents? Why not?

In Brazil, Marta, the cook on the mine at Passagem da Mariana made much the same candy using cashews instead of almonds. No breakfast in Brazil was complete without a glass of juice from the cashew fruit, which is grey, wet and sweet, with an astringent aftertaste: not the greatest gastronomic experience.

Cashew is a strange fruit, bearing a single nut encased in a poisonous oxalic acid impregnated shell outside the fruit that looks like a golden-orange capsicum (Aussie-speak for sweet bell peppers).


Beaten egg-yolk brushed over cream buns or éclairs then sprinkled with berry sugar before baking makes a fine gleaming finish.

"How many biscuits can you eat, this mornin', this mornin'?" "Forty-nine, and a ham of meat!" Grandpa Jones


Excerpted from From an Immigrant's Oven by Arthur Gardiner, Garry 'Sasquatch' Peck. Copyright © 2017 Arthur Gardiner. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


SOUPS, 57,
SALADS, 126,
INDEX, 133,

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