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Recipes and Memories From a New Zealand Table
By Rosie Belton
Allen & UnwinCopyright © 2014 Rosie Belton
All rights reserved.
I remember my mother, a dutiful and perfectionist New Zealand housewife, for her cooking. She perfected the Kiwi gastronomy of the 1950s and 60s, turning out three meals a day — it was before eating out became common. Her pavlova, the classic special-occasion dessert dish of our childhood, was hard on the outside but soft and slightly chewy on the inside. This plateau of meringue we saw as a symbol of our Kiwiness (although the dessert's provenance is hotly contested by our trans-Tasman neighbours).
Here is my daughter-in-law's adaptation of my mother's recipe.
8 egg whites
550g caster sugar
1 tbspn cornflour
1 tspn balsamic vinegar
½ tspn rose water
1 Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
2 Beat the egg whites until stiff.
3 Add the sugar, a little at a time, and continue beating for 20 minutes or until the mixture is shiny and stiff.
4 Carefully fold the cornflour, balsamic vinegar and rose water into the beaten egg whites and sugar.
5 Use a spatula to spoon the mixture into a 23cm circle, taking care to avoid any air bubbles. (While the meringue looks small at this stage, it will almost double in size as it cooks.)
6 Put the tray in the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 150°C and bake for one hour.
7 After an hour, turn the oven off and leave the pavlova in the oven as it cools for a further 30 minutes.
If not using the pavlova straightaway, cool and store in an airtight container.
SERVES 8 — 10
* * *
Brandy snaps were English treats made from a mixture of butter, golden syrup, sugar and flour, flavoured with powdered ginger. The brandy, if indeed it was ever there, seems to have disappeared over the years. I remember my mother carefully shaping the still-warm soft lace-like biscuits around a scrubbed broomstick and leaving them to cool to form tubes. When cool and crisp, they were filled with whipped cream, which had been flavoured with vanilla and sweetened with sugar. You bit into the crisp tube and had to be careful to avoid dropping blobs of cream on your best dress — it was a wonderful experience.
I also remember plates of butterfly cakes, their upturned wings sprinkled with icing sugar, and sponge cakes, light and fluffy as promised on the baking powder packet. When the tea trolley was loaded with these delicacies and my mother had dressed in her floral best, she was ready to greet afternoon tea guests.
Roast beef emerged at lunchtime on Sundays, accompanied by Yorkshire puddings, and we ate the golden delicacies with great delight as they soaked up the rich brown gravy surrounding the beef.
This was an unquestioned part of our English heritage, consumed with the Sunday roast. It can cook while the meat rests and the gravy is made.
6 tbspn flour
milk, approximately 200ml
1 Put the flour in a bowl and make a well in the centre.
2 Drop in the eggs and stir, gradually adding milk until the texture is thick as cream. Beat well.
3 Pour into a preheated dish or greased muffin tray with a little hot butter and bake in the oven for 10 minutes.
SERVES 6 (MAKES 12 SMALL PUDDINGS)
The Sunday roast would often be followed by a pudding, usually fruit sponge made with cooked Golden Queen peaches, Black Doris plums or apples. It's a very filling dessert, especially good for cold weather.
Fruit sponge pudding
The spongy sweet topping is now a favourite with my grandchildren. This works with most fruit, but the favourites in this household are plum and apple. Serve it with cream, yoghurt or ice cream, or all three.
½ cup sugar
2 cups plain flour
2 tspn baking powder
pinch of salt
1 cup milk
4 cups stewed fruit
1 Preheat the oven to 160°C.
2 Soften the butter and sugar together and beat in the eggs. Add the sifted flour, baking powder and salt in three lots, alternating with the milk. Beat until smooth after each addition.
3 In a baking dish, place the stewed fruit.
4 Pour the topping mixture over the fruit until there is an even coverage.
5 Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until cooked. (When testing, a skewer should come out clean.)
SERVES 6 — 8
* * *
Porridge with cream and brown sugar was the offering from our dad in the mornings. Oatmeal porridge, cooked well, smooth on the plate and warm in the stomach, was our winter breakfast staple.
Other favourites in my mother's repertoire included Gregg's instant puddings. Just a pint of cold milk and sweet, powdery flavoured stuff from a packet, which you would beat up with the hand-held egg beater. Like magic, it would set in minutes. It came in a variety of flavours, including chocolate, which is the one I remember most.
And the Gregg's fruit cordials that came in exciting colours for children — lime green, bright orange and cherry red — and were mixed with pounds of sugar into an appealing syrupy cordial. Not surprisingly, school dental clinics in the 1950s did a roaring trade.
My brother and sister and I had two homes feeding us; the other belonged to our maternal grandmother, who lived just down the road. With her adherence to old values and tastes and her love of gathering people around the table, it was in Gran's kitchen I learnt about bread-making and apple dumplings and we collected fresh eggs from her back yard. Chickens later arrived in our back yard as well, but ours were white chooks — Gran's were black and speckled, and ranged free in the sheep paddock outside her kitchen.
At Gran's I also learnt about animal husbandry — that turkeys sat on eggs from which chicks hatched, that sheep dogs produced puppies and horses foaled.
My earliest memories of my Gran and Fuffa's horses were the big Clydesdales in the bottom paddock, still being used for ploughing (as a child 'Fuffa' was my word for Grandfather, and he remained Fuffa for all the family for the rest of his life). I also remember the major annual harvest of vegetables, flowers and fruit. From the orchard, both my mother and grandmother made jam and bottled all kinds of fruit to preserve the taste of summer and to help the family budget.
Mum's tomato sauce was a favourite, the colour and texture so different from the thick, dull red ketchup in a squirty plastic bottle that we all later came to accept.
Mum's tomato sauce
Well, actually, this is my sister-in-law Anne's version of Mum's recipe. It won't disappoint — it makes a nice red sauce and, if you double the ingredients, makes a good quantity. Once tried, you won't want to buy ketchup again. I collect tomato passata bottles and have 6 warming in the oven ready to bottle the sauce.
3kg tomatoes, cut into chunks
550g onions, chopped
350ml malt vinegar
40g whole spice berries or pickling spice mix, tied in a muslin square
1 Put all ingredients into a large preserving pan and boil for 3 hours or until it has reduced by one-third. Stir occasionally to make sure it doesn't catch on the saucepan.
2 Remove muslin with pickling spice.
3 Cool and put through a Mouli or sieve.
4 Reheat to simmering before bottling into hot clean bottles.
MAKES APPROXIMATELY 4.5 LITRES.
The relationship between growing things, keeping farm animals and keeping a good table to satisfy the appetite was bedded in early and unconsciously. This awareness of the strong link between labouring in the garden, pride in growing food and preparing and eating that food also came from my father's side of the family. There weren't many areas of connection for me with my paternal grandparents, but food was one of them. From them I learnt all about apples, onions, carrots and the home-spun wisdom that went with them — an apple a day keeps the doctor away and carrots make you see in the dark. Onions, well, they make your hair curly, don't they?
No thought was given in the early 1950s to the fact that individuals may have different sensitivities and reactions to food. All that mattered was putting flesh on the bones, pinkness in the cheeks and energy in the gait. At that time in New Zealand, the Truby King and post-war baby-boom babies were being grown like cabbages. There was free health care, free dental care in schools, government subsidised housing and free and compulsory school milk supplied by the well-meaning leaders of the day.
It was at my maternal grandmother's I first learnt to drink weak tea with no milk. She didn't like milk except when she used it in her cooking. Maybe too many years spent dairy farming meant that the smell of the milk put her off — it was a great relief to me that I didn't have to have milk at her place. My mother also disliked milk and milk products but not to the same extent. I don't recall how I avoided those dreaded quarter pints of milk at school morning tea that were forced upon children, but I know I would have found a way to get rid of the contents of that bottle.
Then there were the apples, stored in the cool outside my brother's bedroom window. Granny Smiths, bright green with dew droplets shimmering on their perfect skins, and Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and Cox's Orange. My father and his father treasured them all. It was part of the ritual of our daily life to reach out of my brother's bedroom window for another apple during the night. The memory of the taste of those apples drives me to continue planting heritage apples in my house orchard.
I can't remember an exact time or date when food, including its tastes, textures and smells, first became a passion for tastes, textures and smells, first became a passion for me. Maybe being passionate, in general, was a way of being for me from an early age. The long table in the dining room at my grandparents' was the site of many a heated debate, political and otherwise, and many delicious meals. And there was always a pudding, usually made with home-grown fruit — apple dumplings were a particular favourite.
Finding this recipe after many years brings back happy memories of after school treats at my gran's. We ate these warm for pudding and cold the next day, after school, from where they sat on a plate in the 'safe' — the cool cupboard that was where Gran stored food that needed to be kept cool before she had a fridge.
For the pastry
150g plain flour
½ tspn salt
pinch of sugar
1 tspn baking powder
120g butter, cut into small pieces
4 — 4½ tbspn cold water
For the apples
6 Granny Smith or other cooking apples, cored and peeled
6 tspn butter (1 tspn per apple)
¾ cup brown sugar
1 tspn cinnamon
½ tspn ground nutmeg
For the sauce
3 cups water
2 cups white sugar
1 tspn vanilla extract
4 tbspn butter
1 Heat the oven to 200°C. Butter a large baking dish.
For the pastry
2 Place the dry ingredients into a bowl and add the chopped cold butter.
3 Rub the butter into the flour using the tips of your fingers to ensure the breaking up of the butter and then add the water. Continue to work the mixture until you have achieved a pliable dough.
4 Roll out the pastry and cut into six square pieces, each big enough to enclose one of the apples.
5 Place a whole apple in the centre of each square of pastry.
6 Cut the butter into six pieces and insert a piece into the opening of each apple.
7 Divide the sugar between the apples, and spoon at least one teaspoonful into the cavity of each apple.
8 Sprinkle the cinnamon and nutmeg over each apple.
9 Bring the pastry up and around each apple, making sure the dough completely covers each one and is sealed well at the top, and place them in the baking dish.
10 For the sauce, place the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil, simmering for 5 minutes until all the sugar is dissolved. Pour over the dumplings.
11 Put into the oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes.
12 Serve warm with cream or ice cream.
SERVES 6CHAPTER 2
The times, they are a changin'
The 1960s had arrived — they were times of change as the wider world was beginning to re-enter the New Zealand consciousness. First it came creeping in through music and fashion, bringing new faces to our place — faces from overseas, people with different eating habits and different expectations. We were young and keen to take on the world. The alcoholic drinks available to us, as young teens, were mostly spirits stolen from parents who didn't bother to lock their alcohol cabinets, apple cider and Asti Spumante.
For the first time, you could buy yoghurt. That first yoghurt was a sensation in late-1960s Nelson. It was mixed with local boysenberries — not raw as we were used to eating, but slightly heated with syrup and then bottled and poured over the yoghurt. This was a hit with us. And there was coffee using real coffee beans, not instant powder. Suddenly there were coffee houses and cafés, like 'Chez Eelco'.
The coffee culture was born. Nelson, our small quiet town in the north of the South Island, renowned for its sunshine hours, became a breeding ground for new ideas, artistic experiment and exploration of new ways. Food was part of this and so Chez Eelco, fondly called 'the Chez' or 'the House of Eelco', named after its founder and owner Eelco Boswijk, a Dutchman remembered for his character, became a place where the young enthusiasts of life would gather to share ideas, taste new food, listen to new music, make music, and fall in love.
European immigrants were bringing new options to our diets and education to our palates. We tasted our first olive oils. And salami ... well, that was just fantastic. It was our first taste of the world outside. We flocked in during the heady times of the 1960s to have our senses awakened.
There were fruit salads with large pieces of all varieties of fresh fruit, so unlike the finely diced cooked fruit we had at home. There were salad dressings that weren't made with sweetened condensed milk, malt vinegar and mustard — they were made with new ingredients, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Here's my favourite vinaigrette recipe. I keep a bottle on the kitchen shelf at all times.
2/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 crushed garlic cloves
2 tbspn honey (I use clover)
1 tspn mustard (choose your favourite)
salt to taste
1 Place all the ingredients in a screw-top jar or clip-top bottle and shake. Taste and adjust seasoning and the proportions of oil and vinegar if required.
* * *
I still sometimes have a yearning for the creamy salad dressing made with sweetened condensed milk from my childhood, so here's that recipe as well.
Condensed milk salad dressing
Stored in the fridge, this will keep indefinitely.
4 tbspn vinegar
1 tbspn sugar
1 tspn salt
1 tspn tspn dried mustard powder
1 x 400g can sweetened condensed milk
1 Mix all the ingredients except the condensed milk together.
2 Gradually add the condensed milk, stirring to combine.
MAKES 2 CUPS
* * *
Later in the 1960s and into the 70s, 'flower power' hippie influences began to arrive in New Zealand, bringing a new social — political movement and experimentation with every aspect of life. Like so many others in our cultural milieu, we changed our diet and became vegetarian, celebrating pulses and vegetables. Some of us learnt how to grind our own wheat for bread-making and how to make soft cheeses from the goats we grazed. We grew vegetables, spray free of course, and organic, although the term wasn't used during that era. We just were organic gardeners, using compost and animal manure to enrich the soil. We juiced our organically grown apples and kept chickens for free-range eggs.
Excerpted from Wild Blackberries by Rosie Belton. Copyright © 2014 Rosie Belton. Excerpted by permission of Allen & Unwin.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Childhood down-under,
Chapter 2 The times, they are a changin',
Chapter 3 Idealism is in the air,
Chapter 4 Self-sufficiency and the daily grind,
Chapter 5 Living in Australia,
Chapter 6 The return home,
Chapter 7 First taste of Europe,
Chapter 8 A taste of Italy at home,
Chapter 9 Flavours of the Pacific,
Chapter 10 Hungry for life,
Chapter 11 Turkish delights,
Chapter 12 Travel at all costs,
Chapter 13 Jam,
Chapter 14 Cora Lynn,
Chapter 15 Winter and summer solstice,
Chapter 16 Celebration,
Chapter 17 Grandchildren arrive,
Chapter 18 Forestry tour and a long lunch,
Chapter 19 A new millennium,
Chapter 20 Fish and forest,
Chapter 21 Morocco bound,
Chapter 22 At home with friends,
Chapter 23 Beef, beef, glorious beef,
Chapter 24 The art of cooking,
Chapter 25 Fungi fever,
Chapter 26 Autumn harvest at Ribbonwood,
Chapter 27 Comfort food,
Chapter 28 En Provence,
Chapter 29 Going gastronomique,
Chapter 30 Return to Paris,
Chapter 31 Keeping it simple,
Chapter 32 It's nearly Christmas,
Chapter 33 Fruit de la mer,
Chapter 34 Sheer delight,
Chapter 35 When all else fails, cook,
Rosie's reading list,