A life inspired by my grandmothers


Fish Chowder



Seafood Chowder

 I love fish, do you?  New Zealand is slowly becoming awake to the fact that it is an island nation that is surrounded by yummy fish.  In my childhood there were fish and chips on Friday night, which was usually lemon fish, and no choice of type of fish.  I think the fish mongers sold snapper and cod, and of course whitebait, oysters and crayfish in season.  Today when I go into the fish shop or look at the fish stand in the supermarket I am bewildered by the choice.  I would dearly love a chef to put a book out on NZ fish or there be a chart or something that can be used so we can match our fish with classic recipes.

Anyways, I was luckier than most my father and grandfather were keen fishermen.  Where ever we lived we would in the weekends go with Dad on his fishing sorties.  I think to give Mum some peace!  I remember snapper and whitebait when we were living in New Plymouth and an encounter with a shark!  Yep I was out with Dad in our little yellow tin dingy near the sugarloaf and a shark started to nudge the boat, I was petrified!  Needless to say it took me ages before I would go out again.  Living in the Waikato there was trout and I learnt to enjoy smoked fish in the smoker Dad built.  In the Bay of Plenty, there was flounder and pipis (clams), Toheroas (this was before they were protected).  I was a teenager then, and we would build a fire out of driftwood after putting the Contiki out and then digging for Toheroas or gathering pipis depending where we were and having a feed then pulling the line in much later and having whatever was caught with fresh bread that Mum had baked that morning.  Wonderful memories.

At the moment Hoki is in season and real cheap.  I brought a lot at the fish truck that parks itself nearby every Thursday. Hoki is a wonderful flaky fish and can be quite meaty.  It is the favourite for fish and chip meals these days.  I had crumbed fish for the last two nights and this morning was looking at the rest thinking I wonder if it fresh still, however, no fish smell, so sorry cats! So Fish Chowder it is for today.



Fish Chowder

 This is more of a method than a recipe, but there are given ingredients no matter how you vary it.

Essential ingredients

– Fish whatever you have to hand, potatoes, onion, corn, bacon – rind taken off and preferably smoky, milk, vegetable stock or fish stock (I prefer vegetable it is hard to get good fish stock)  The variations come in what other vegetables you might add beans, peas etc.  Today I added celery, Florence fennel and pumpkin (not a lot and put in at the last minute so the soup wouldn’t go too orange!)


Fry the onion, celery and fennel in a little butter till transparent, add the chopped bacon and fry for a few more moments, then add the potato stock and boil for about 15 minutes.   Add the peas, and pumpkin or whatever vegetables you are using.  Cook till they are all tender then add the fish and cook till nearly opaque and add milk, taste and season as necessary, heat through and serve.  Some people thicken it with corn flour (starch), I prefer a thin milky liquid.  I added fennel as a garnish because I had used fennel as an ingredient.  Parsley is also a good garnish.


Florence Fennel

 N.B I have not given measurements as it varies each time I make it.  But as a guide I made enough for two people, I used ½ onion, 2 rashers of bacon, 1 potato, 1 stick of celery, ½ a fennel bulb, handful of peas and corn.  1 stock cube, and covered everything with water and at the end I usually add the milk to make it the consistency I want.

Other variations – sometimes I use smoked fish instead of bacon.

I used fennel today for the first time, as I am the proud grower of Florence Fennel.  I have tried a number of times and have failed!  This year success!  It gives the soup an extra special something and strangely it lost the strong aniseed flavour.  There was just a hint.



Apple and Walnut Cake

My recipe today is Apple and Walnut Cake. A cake that my grandmother Alice used to bake regularly



½ cup butter, cut in small cubes and softened in microwave

1 ½ cups flour self raising or if not add 2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

¾ cup sugar2 eggs beaten

½ cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla essence (opt)

1 cup chopped apple

For streusel topping

½ cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

½ cup walnuts

3 tablespoons butter



Blend butter, sugar and remaining dry ingredients till well combined.  Add eggs, milk and vanilla if using, mix till combine and then add apples.  Spread into tin .  Make topping by either chopping walnuts up small and mixing with melted butter spice and sugar, or by whizzing in food processor.  I prefer the first option as the walnut pieces are larger and sink down into the cake creating a lovely marbling effect. The second way the mix stays on top of the cake. Sprinkle the streusel mix on top and bake at 180 degrees C. for 40 minutes.


I haven’t always liked apples.  It is only in the last 10 or so years that I have started to appreciate them.  I was mulling over this fact when I suddenly realized why.  As a toddler I spent a lot of time with my maternal Grandparents.  On one visit, my Grandparents realised that I was very quiet, so went in search of me.  There, in the wash house they found me.  I was siting amongst apples that covered the floor, each apple had a bite taken out of it.  There were about three apples left in the crate!  Apparently I turned to them and said in a bewildered tone, “They are all sour!”  Needless to say that night I had a bad case of gripe, and kept them up all night with my groans and wails.  It is a different story today, I love apples. 

 I pruned my apple trees today,  I woke up realizing that July was flying away on me.  (It’s alright it’s a southern hemisphere garden.)  Not too soon. I noticed that the buds were starting to swell.  I have a Fuji, my favourite of all time and a Golden Delicious.  I want to get a green cooking apple, I really would like a Bramley, but I have never seen them for sale in NZ.  So will probably make do with a Granny Smith, which are lovely baking apples.   I’ll have to get my skates on as I want to buy a bare rooted tree as you can determine its shape right from the beginning.

Here is a photo of some jonquils flowering alongside my driveway, a lovely bit of colour to brighten up the dreary weather!


Ginger Kisses

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Ginger Kisses

Ginger Kisses
1 cup (125gm) s/r flour (or plain flour and 1tsp baking powder)
¼ cup corn flour (starch)
1 tbsp. ground ginger
1tsp ground cinnamon
125 gram butter softened (slightly over 4oz)
¼ cup (50gm) sugar
2 eggs beaten
1 tbsp. golden syrup (I think in US it is light corn syrup)
Mock cream (recipe below)
Oven – 190 C.

Sift flour, corn flour, ginger and cinnamon together. Beat butter and sugar together till light and fluffy. Add beaten eggs slowly to butter mix. Beat in golden syrup and then fold in the dry ingredients. Drop dessert spoons on to greased tray or tray lined with baking paper. Bake 10 – 12 minutes.