Saturday, January 30, 2010

Just Dessert

Sometimes it's nice when you just have dessert to think about and not the main meal as well. Recently we had a little 'Mum, Dad and 3 kids' family join us for a 'fish n chips' dinner. I decided that since I didn't have to cook dinner as such I would take the time to make a tasty dessert that required a bit of fuss and fiddle. We don't have any kids at home now but I do know that they are always up for a bit of dessert - us adults don't need it but a wee sweetie after a meal is rather nice for us too!

This recipe has been lurking in the depths of my recipe book almost since time began - it's years since I've made it - probably 20 plus years actually but it is a 'keeper'. Got the recipe off some lovely people who had us at their place for a meal and had made this for dessert! That's just how recipes get around isn't it?

Lovely and fresh and lemon-y. The Corn Flakes add a bit of quirky texture - throw a couple of summer strawberries at it and voila - something delicious to delight the children and satisfy the adult sweet tooth as well! Even though we were only having easy old 'fish n chips' for dinner I enjoyed making our guests feel a bit special by whipping up something yum for our dessert.

It fills a reasonable sized dish so it meant we had enough to share with one of our darling girls and her hubby the next night! She remembered us having it more recently than 20 years ago and enjoyed having it all over again!

Frozen Lemon Crunch.

Base -
Melt together 75 gms butter and 1 TBLSPN sugar then add 2 cups of crushed cornflakes and mix together. Press it into a dish and sit in the fridge.

Filling -
3 eggs
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tsp grated lemon rind
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup cream

Lightly whip cream. Separate eggs. Beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually add sugar, beat until stiff. Beat egg yolks until pale, fold into whites. Mix all carefully with whipped cream, lemon rind and juice. Pile onto base. Sprinkle with Cornflakes. Freeze about 1 hour - maybe a bit more actually! Serves 10.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Thousands of Tarts

In Jane Austen's 'Mansfield Park', Fanny Price the eldest daughter of a mother from a wealthy family who chose to marry for love and live in poverty is at the tender age of 10 sent to live with her mother's wealthy sister and her family. There is a tender scene in the movie version where Fanny and her sister say their goodbyes before she sets off on the journey to her rich relatives. Fanny says to her younger sister, 'Be a good girl and brush your hair - but not all off.' And the golden-haired younger sister replies - 'Eat thousands of tarts.' I love that - it's so sisterly sweet!

Our girls and I love Jane Austen's works - to read or to view! We often adopt lines from her stories to fit our own real life situations. 'Eat thousands of tarts' is one of my favorites - the essence of it - from my point of view is - 'enjoy all the lovely things that there are to see and do and I'll see you again soon.' By the way the l o n g two set, video version of 'Pride and Prejudice' is sort of like an initiation that the girls put their guys through to test their staying power for romance !!!!

These are not tarts in the strictest sense but one of my versions... they look real strawberry-summery to me with the sunny, shiny yellow, pineapple glaze. Especially when they are sat there winking at the Pohutukawa flowers which are totally 'summer' flowers!

Summer Strawberry Tarts

Base -
1 1/2 cups of crushed biscuits
50 gms butter
1 tsp finely grated orange rind

Crush biscuits until reasonably fine. Melt butter and honey then add orange rind and crushed biscuits. Mix well until all are moistened. Press into paper cupcake case lined muffin tins to make individual tart cases. Set hard in the freezer.

Filling & Glaze -

Fresh, perky strawberries
2 TBLSPNS sugar
1 TBLSPN arrowroot
1 cup of Pineapple juice (I used Charlie's which was yum)

Fill cases the day you want to eat them - pop a strawberry half into each case. Make the following glaze - mix together sugar and arrowroot in a small pot then gradually add the juice - heat slowly on the stove until it bubbles and thickens. Allow to cool (but not set) before pouring a little over each strawberry tart. These are best made the day they are to be eaten as they go a bit soft by the next day. You can make the cases a day or so ahead and keep in the freezer though. Once tarts are made and set - keep refrigerated until serving.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Morning Tea at Jessie's

Popping out to Jessie's was always destined to be something special - being transported to another world where women were content with home and hearth - loving their husband and family. Slow, careful, detailed stitching of quality cloth to create beautiful, understated domestic art - pieces that can tell a tale or two of morning and afternoon teas shared with family and friends. Old school baking, gorgeous worn, old plates, tea and a natter punctuated with little 'gems' like - 'Och, it was just a kit that you bought and ironed on the transfer and stitched to the lines' when I complemented her on her lovely handiwork and 'Well it (the loaf) is supposed to have chopped walnuts in it too but George can't eat them at the moment so I leave them out' as I was writing out the recipe.

A thumb through her lovely 30yr old recipe book - a minefield of tried and true, handwritten recipes. One in particular I recall was 'Apple Sponge' - she said it was her Mum's recipe that she used to make for pudding for the Doctor's children that she looked after when she was single. Now that was some long time ago because she and George have already celebrated their Diamond Wedding Anniversary which is 60 years of marriage!!! She told me that the whole of the wedding party was present to share in their celebrations! Woh- that's pretty amazing! Jessie isn't only an accomplished 'domestic goddess' she was a representative netball player in her time and is still very perky and actively about her business!

We saw beautiful needlework stitched by her mother - lovely white pillowcases with her 'maiden name' initials and the most delicate of crochet edging! Oh the amazing historical family treasures people have stashed in their cupboards! My friend was certainly pleased to learn from her Mum, Jessie about the story behind this exquisite piece of work!

We saw her slice the loaf that had been cooked in a tin lined with a butter paper - she declared that the recipe didn't 'work' if she didn't use the butter paper - that recipe and her fruit cake recipe - both must have the butter paper!

The loaf was delicious - Jessie gave me the recipe - you may like it too -

Weetbix Loaf

4 crushed weetbix
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup sugar
2 oz butter
1 cup sultanas
1 tsp mixed spice
(remember you can add walnuts too if your husband can tolerate them!)

Over these ingredients pour 1 cup boiling water. Stand for 5 minutes. Mix then add 1 already beaten egg, 1 cup flour and 1 tsp baking powder. Cook 30 - 40 minutes at 180 deg C.

Jessie tells me she never checks it at 30 minutes she just leaves it in the oven for the full 40 minutes then takes it out smartly!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Caravan Holidays

My memories of caravan holidays include glass milk bottles of grapefruit juice from the mobile 'milk man', a large box of 'Sampler Biscuits', hungrily tucking into ham sandwiches after a morning in the surf and burning up in my sleeping bag after a little too much sun! Buckets and spades, polystyrene flutter boards and nylon quilted dressing gowns and 'sponge bags' to go dashing off to the camping ground ablution block for a shower! eeeekk!
This photo is taken at Maketu Beach where a few of our caravan holidays were had back in the days! Others were had at a Bach at Pukehina Beach. I got chatting to a lovely old Maori chap at the dairy the other day and he said he was off to Pukehina and did I know where that was... well yes I did! I think he was a little surprised and delighted!

I think it is our own good memories of summer, beach, camping/caravaning type holidays that motivate us to want some similar sort of experience for our own children. We used to take our children to Fletcher's Bay, right at the tip of the Coromandal Peninsula for many a beach holiday. We didn't 'camp' as such but stayed in the Woolshed which was very adequately decked out - just a step up from camping which meant Mum (being moi) had a holiday too. A few home comforts don't go amiss when you are an hour from the nearest store at Colville! I loved the isolation - it was like the beautiful, rugged Pohutukawa clad coastline magically transported you to this 'other world'. A world of sun, surf, sand and fresh fish - rest, relaxation and family recreation - all tucked in safe & snug by these HUGE hills up behind us! Early tomorrow morning me and my darling man are heading up there for a couple of nights. I am looking forward to some 'sea bathing' and we hope to catch some fish!

There's a new New Zealand book out called 'Let's Go Camping' by Sarah Bennett & Lee Slater VIEW Sarah and her husband Lee took a 20,000 km road trip around NZ to research this project which is a guidebook to some of the best campgrounds in the country.

The Taupo Museum has a very cute display called KIWIANA CARAVAN which is really worth a look if you are ever in Taupo.
as a button!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Practicing Patience

'See it as an opportunity to practice your patience' - that's what we used to say to our kids when they were in a hurry for something to happen or they were frustrated with delays or just plain sick of waiting! We figured that patience was one of those fabulously useful things worth having in your life kit - but there doesn't seem to be any shortcut to getting it - you simply develop it by practicing.

I had an opportunity to practice it myself recently when I was baking my Mum's delicious Walnut Slice. All went well and according to plan until I was making the icing and realised I would need some instant coffee to flavour it which I didn't possess. Plan B - cadge some from my lovely neighbor. (I nearly burnt the cake cause we got chatting.) She obliged with some freeze dried coffee which I promptly dumped into my icing as we chatted, all too quickly realising it was N O T going to mix in easily at all! Oops, it became very speckled and pale - not the look I was going for - nor the texture for that matter! I had to stir and stir and melt and stir and smooth and squish against the side of the bowl until every little itty, gritty bit of freeze dried coffee was dissolved into the icing! Phew! It all came good in the end. So parents beware - if you give your kids a 'tip' be prepared to hear that same tip coming right back on you just when you need it most!

I couldn't decide which 'old school' plate to use so I have used both! When I was a teenager I had this really cool enameled copper pendant on a leather thong (when thongs were for necklaces - not undies) so this wee plate takes me right on back to the '70s! Darling Man and I use the wee plates to convince ourselves that we are just having a wee sweetie after dinner. I popped this wee sweetie on his wee table by his chair for him to have after a hard days work. He deserves it!

Walnut Slice.

120 gms butter
1 tin condensed milk
1 TBLSPN golden syrup
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 pkt vanilla Wine Biscuits (crushed)

Melt the butter and condensed milk and stir in the golden syrup, then the chopped walnuts and crushed biscuits. Press mixture into a tin and bake at 170 deg C for 25 - 30 minutes. This slice should be golden brown on top and soft to touch. Cool in tin. Ice with coffee icing and sprinkle with extra chopped walnuts.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


The Baby Blankie is finished! After its squares lay, set out in place on the spare bed for weeks on end - I finally tackled the job of sewing it up. I had even made the edging already. I must admit the thought of all that sewing up seemed a little overwhelming - which is the main reason I did LOT of procrastinating! I reasoned that there are not any grand-babies in sight yet so I have plenty of time! Now its all finished and I am rapt with my own little make-shift edging scheme that I dreamed up. It has worked just fine. I simply continued with the garter stitch thing, only on large needles, increasing at each end initially to create a mitre-d corner, then increasing in every alternate stitch a couple of rows on to get a slight 'ruffling' effect.

So the blankie is done and dusted. I threw it over my Darling Man since he was snoozing on the couch - to show him my handiwork - I told him it was for one of his mokopuna's so he gave it a big cuddle in anticipation! He's gonna be a FANTASTIC grand-daddy!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Birthday Love

I love hearts because I love LOVE. Love is just the greatest thing! It wins over every time... if in doubt, do the loving thing I say. Love overlooks an offense and love always seeks the other persons best. Love just works! Especially with husbands and children, super-especially when they are teenagers! Love even works with enemies!

So a gift of hearts from one of our darling girls and her man on my birthday was well LOVE- ly!
I had to open it 'the eve of' as they were heading away on holiday.

My birthday was special in so many ways - I feel that a big wave of LOVE just came my way and crashed right over me! It began early with this really soft, sweet, loving phone message from one darling girl who was also heading off on holiday. I saved it so I can listen to it again! I got lots of beautiful presents... another wee heart for my wall from my wee-est sister, handmade soaps, Ferrero Rocher chocolates, suitably domestic cupcake-y note cards, a journal with 50's sewing pics, a gorgeous nightie - just what I was thinking I needed - that little bit extra dashing cause it came in the mail from France! Alexa Johnson's next baking book times two! Fantastic! My Mum & Dad and our darling girl KNOW how I like to bake! No problems, I will send one copy to family in France and buy myself something else to replace it!

I got an especially beautiful bunch of honoring, loving WORDS from Darling Man that were just spot on the button and underwear and perfume to go with them! We had a lovely arvo at Raglan with our friends including Fish n Chips for early dinner. On the way home we called on one of our darling girls and her hubby and had 'tea' which included delicious, freshly baked 'Madelines' (wee French sponges) that she has been perfecting since her time in France. Her hubby says the raw mixture is real tasty too! Lovely, lovely! And it just keeps going on - another darling girl called in a couple of days later with her fiance presenting me with a SCRABBLE game and a happy, HAPPY card that he choose! Darling girl is real particular with cards and takes some long time to choose very carefully and he just whipped right alongside her, in no time at all and said, "What about this one?" And that one it was - great choice too!

A long conversation with my sister in France - not in French like the wee "Sister's" book she sent me which happens to match the English version she sent me in 2002! A text message from a neat friend I haven't heard from for ages and some nice Birthday emails about brings the birthday love to a close for another year... however the wave of love just keeps on rolling over me. I do just love LOVE - it's a good thing to give heaps of it away and very now and then it's real nice to be on the receiving end of a huge wave of it too!

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Do you sometimes wonder whatever becomes of your Christmas gifts? Well I know that one little niece living in France made jolly good use of the hottie cover I sent her for Christmas!

It is the perfect size for a snug little sleeping bag for her dolly and since it is VERY cold in France at the moment, I am sure dolly is very happy with the make-shift arrangement! Perhaps next year the whole family would like giant sized hottie covers to snuggle into and escape the winter cold!

Very CUTE and enterprising - watch this space! A designer in the making!

Friday, January 8, 2010


While the rest of NZ seems to be off on some sort of a holiday, Darling Man and I are happily settling ourselves back into a work routine. His long 'off work' period of 'shoulder surgery and recovery' is now over and he's transitioning back to work! For most of the time he was off work he was really un-well due to post-op complications with his stomach... so our days were quiet and careful and restful.

However, for the last bit he started to feel much better and did some lovely jobs around our home which included lots of painting of doors, door frames, skirtings and other generally grotty areas. I still enjoy the daily reminders of his loving, humble service to me, to make our home look nice - 'It's your workspace', he would say, 'so I want it to be nice for you'! One of the bits he tackled was a corner between the laundry and toilet that was ugly - he pulled off a yukky cupboard and boarded up and painted the area it vacated. It looks so much better, so much so that I felt inspired to make some nice hand-towels to hang on the wall by the tub where we wash our hands.
I cranked up my sewing machine and used some fabric scraps I have kept over the years (I am a self-confessed hoarder of fabrics) - scraps from past sewing projects - a blouse of mine, a skirt I made for a friend and one of our daughters 'best' dresses'. I cut and layered heart shapes and left raw edges so that as they're washed they fray beautifully giving them a 'rag rug' look which suits our home quite well! Oh and while I was 'on a roll' I forced myself to make three of them the same - one to use, one in the wash and one clean in the cupboard.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Funny Foods

My Dad used to eat what us kids considered to be the 'oddest, funniest things' (back in the mid '60's-'70's) however we would all line up for a taste. Things like Crayfish, Oysters, Whitebait, 'Black Sauce' on his steak, dark, musty field mushrooms that us kids used to collect for him from a neighboring farm... and among other things - Asparagus! He encouraged us to stretch our taste buds into new culinary arenas. He would let us have a sip of his beer if we asked him - I didn't do that very often - I didn't really like it... though it did taste better on a really HOT day! He would sometimes have pickled onions and cheese and crackers with his beer. We thought the pickled onions were pretty weird!

Now that I am all grown up I appreciate some of those foods a lot more (except beer) and I do still like to try new things. When we were in France we enjoyed lots of new tastes including snails and White Asparagus! My sister tells me that my little niece, Little Miss 5, now LOVES to eat Snails! They live in France where there are snails aplenty! I imagine a conversation - 'What would you like to eat for your Birthday Dinner Darling?' 'I'd like snails please Mummy'. We always encouraged our girls to at least 'try' different foods. If we were out and they didn't like something we taught them to say, 'It's not my favourite.'

My Mum and Dad bought some lovely Chicken Liver Pate this Christmas time which was kind of 'new fangled food' in NZ in the early '80's. Tasting it again reminded me that I really like it - I had quite forgotten about it!! Darling Man is not fond of the concept but I think it's really nice on a grainy cracker and good for my iron levels!

Here in the Waikato Asparagus is grown in abundance and it's really fresh and tasty. While I was trying to think of something yum for our lunch I remembered that it goes well with eggs and I fancied myself making some Hollandaise Sauce. Thought it all seemed like a slightly posh departure from the common sandwich arrangement. Especially now that all our Christmas leftovers are long gone! Darling Man enjoyed it very much and me too, especially thinking of my Dad and all the lovely taste tests he gave us kids when we were growing up! Nice - thanks Dad!

The heart tea-towel is a Christmas gift from my 'forever friend' - I love its 'waffle-ness' and the hearts of course! I am concerned it will become stained and grotty though... any sign of a mark and it gets whipped off into the Napisan for a soak!
A few Asparagus tips that have been passed on to me -
Fresh Asparagus should have nice tight heads at the spear end and they should squeak when the spears are gently rubbed.
Snap off any woody ends and plunge it into already boiling water for about 4 minutes so that it doesn't overcook and go soggy!

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Trifle to me is Christmas food. For as long as I can remember my Mum would say, "I'll make a trifle - Dad likes his trifle." So now I make it too, partly for Dad and also because others of us have come to like it too - AND associate it with Christmas - for our family it's a case of - what's a Christmas meal without Trifle for dessert?!!!
Justify Full
I wasn't real pleased with my trifle last Christmas - it was OK but it seemed just ordinary - no stand out flavours - so I decided to do a bit of research. I found a long version of 'Proper English Trifle' in one of Nigella Lawson's cook books. I decided as she suggested, that the use of raspberries, combined with orange juice and Grand Marnier liqueur might be just the right things to give some perky flavour.

This year things went much better. I popped into the wee booze shop by our supermarket and encountered an Indian bloke in a turban and upon asking for a small amount of the booz-y substance for my trifle - it all ended up with me explaining the trifle tradition which he was most interested in! Prior to that he was concerned that such a small amount of the liqueur was NOT going to be enough for 'dessert'..... which would have been well-founded if we were going to drink it!!!

I waited for Mum to turn up so she could give me a hand in the construction of the trifle. She added some key 'intelligence' to the job - a recipe in the good 'ol Edmond's cookbook for egg custard which is completely free of custard powder. She whipped that up while I prepared the sponge pieces, lathering each in our home-made plum jam and setting it into the bowl with locally grown, fresh raspberries tucked in around them. I then soaked the whole thing in beautiful sweet orange juice from our own back-yard oranges and my precious Grand Marnier liqueur. I have never before paid $8 for what is effectively an 'essence' and used it all in one hit! A Christmas luxury! Trifle making was completed with a layer of whipped cream, sprinkled with sliced almonds. Mwah! I was much happier with this year's Christmas Trifle and have made notes so I can do the same thing next year! Mum's gorgeous, creamy custard was certainly an excellent improvement!

I enjoyed repeating the whole trifle-making process a few days later to take around to our friends for dinner (minus the booze this time!) instead I added a lot more orange juice and used up the remaining raspberries. We all tucked in and they confessed to polishing the remains of it off later in the evening after we had gone home!
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