A life inspired by my grandmothers

Leave a comment

Eltham Slice

Eltham Slice holds a special place in my memories, it was a friend’s grandmother who introduced me to it.  When I was 10 or 11, I went to stay with a family friend on a farm near Eltham in Taranaki for the holidays.  When I went home,  I demanded my Mum make two dishes!  One was this slice,  I don’t know what it is really called but our family called it Eltham slice, we spent quite a bit of time visiting my friend’s grandmother who lived in Eltham and we watched her bake everyday and she always gave us a little package of these slices to take home, but we would stop at the overbridge, get off our bikes and sit down and scoff the lot!  It was the other recipe that make me change from just eating to thinking about how food is cooked.  It was baked apples!  I told my Mum that Carol’s Grans baked apples were much better and please could she cook them that way.  The awakening of a cook?


  • 100 grams (4oz) butter
  • 3/4 cup (6oz) sugar
  • 1tbsp golden syrup
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 cup (4oz) flour (all-purpose)
  • 4tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 cup desicated coconut
  • 1 cup mixed fruit

Oven 160 C
Line a swallow baking tin (12×8 inches) with baking paper.  Melt butter, sugar and golden syrup and cool, add vanilla and beaten egg.  Beat well, sift flour and baking powder and stir into wet mix with the coconut and mixed fruit.   Spread into tin and bake for 25 – 30 minutes.  Stand in tin for 10 minutes.  The slices can then be coated with just icing sugar or you can add a sour cream icing as shown in photo. Slice into bars.

Sour Cream Icing.

Take 1 cup icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar), sift and add sour cream till it is the consistency you desire.  If using  spread on cake and sprinkle heavily with coconut.


Leave a comment

Comfort Food


Flowers from my garden that brighten up a dull day

This week is all about comfort food, great for those days that are damp and dark, or just those busy days when you want to get something ready without too much fuss, but feel sustained.  I know that both my grandmothers cooked these dishes, perhaps without my tweaks.  I was looking at my pile of winter squashes – pumpkins here in NZ and I realised that I had better start using them before they started to spoil.  So I chose the biggest pumpkin, an Italian heirloom variety I obtained from Kings Seeds.  Its flesh is sweet as and nice and dense. 

ImageAs it is raining and miserable outside so I decided to make soup.  To make the meal more special I am going to share a pudding that my Grandmother Phylis always made.  Very yummy and slightly decadent, just the job for a dark day, well any day!

Spicy Pumpkin Soup


This is a variation of the classic Kiwi soup that all New Zealanders are weaned on!  I suppose every family has their variation.  In our family there was always bacon or ham and it was left chunky rather than purreed.  Our family always had a dash of cream or milk added at serving, but that is purely a personal preference.  The spices are my generation’s addition, our grandparents would never have added spices, maybe parsley that’s about it.
800 gm small pumpkin, squash or butternut approx peeled. (TIP put pieces of pumpkin in the microwave for a minute or two and it is so much easier to peel).
200 gm potato peeled.
1 onion sliced.
Half leek sliced.
2 rashers of smoky middle bacon cut into pieces.
Clove garlic crushed.
Vegetable stock cube crumbled, or your favourite stock.
Half teaspoon cumin and 2 teaspoons coriander both ground.
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash of milk or cream (optional)
Chilly flakes or grated cheese for garnish

Fry onion and leek in tablespoon of oil, add garlic, then add spices and fry for a minute or so.  Add diced bacon.  Chop pumpkin and potato into small chunks add to pan, stir and then add stock cube and cover with water.
Cook at a slow simmer for twenty minutes, do not overcook as you want the pieces of pumpkin to stay whole.
Thats it.  You can add cream, or a sprinkling of chilly flakes or some grated cheese.
Have with chunky home made bread.

Chocolate and Banana Bread Pudding

ImageThis is the deluxe version!  I loved it whenever Grannie (Phylis) would start gathering all the stale bread and reached into her stash of chocolate.  It meant yummy Posh Bread and Butter Pudding as we called it.  Sometimes, it had banana in it sometimes not. 
These days whenever I want a chocolate fix and and need good ole comfort food, this recipe is what I turn to,  Hardly any work and ready in no time!
It is great as it can be translated into a massive dish for lots of people or a dish for one greedy person or two more restrained diners.  I have given amounts for 2 people (for every two people increase accordingly).
Ingredients – 2 servings
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 tbsp sugar
as many choc bits (buttons)
 you can handle
1 small banana (optional)
marg or butter to spread on bread
3 slices stale bread, approx I sometimes use a stale large burger roll, whatever needs using up.  The amount of bread determines how custardy it is.
Beat egg and sugar together and add milk.
Butter bread with choice of spread, (Butter makes the top crunchier)
Put a layer in a greased dish, sprinkle some chocolate bits and slices of banana if using on the bread.  Add the eggy mixture to the level of the layer and then add another layer of bread chocolate etc. Then some more of the egg mix.  Try and do no more than three layers, it would be better to use a shallower dish if you need more layers.  Finally, sprinkle some extra sugar over the top and a few more chocolate bits.  At this stage I usually start heating the oven up as the pudding is better if the bread can absorb some of the egg mix before baking,  but if you are in a hurry it can go into an already heated oven without any serious damage to the finished dish!
Bake in at 160 C for 30 minutes or till well risen and gold and set.



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

1 Comment

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.