My mother had a tried and true everyday scone recipe, based on that in the Edmonds Cookery Book, that won her prizes at the farming district’s local Flower Show in the 1950s. The aroma of date scones for afternoon tea fresh out of the hot oven wafted from the house as we four children walked from the school bus across the paddock to the house. Dad always had afternoon tea before milking the cows. No leftovers.
The scones were made with pure New Zealand butter cut into six cups of white flour, Edmonds “sure to rise” baking powder, salt and sugar using a knife then mixed with creamy unpasteurised farm milk. Chopped dried dates were layered on half the dough that was folded over before being cut into large squares before being brushed with milk and sprinkled with cinnamon flavoured white sugar. Mum taught my sister and I to have a light touch with the dough and to not over-mix the ingredients. Our measurements were approximate and remain so to this day.
My own scone making has evolved through the years. With a type-2 diabetic in the family, ingredient adjustments to tried and true recipes are necessary. Himself loves home baked goodies.He has found it useful to be able to grab a scone from the freezer for an after-gym-workout snack when his sugar level tends to get low. Hence I make a double quantity.
Essentially I still start with six cups of flour, which could be a mix of white with buckwheat or wholemeal flours, and baking powder. I add spices such as cardamom or cinnamon and no longer add salt or sugar to the scone dough. A rice bran spread with no palm oil is cut into the flour. Chopped succulent Medjool dates and grated apple are mixed with fresh orange juice before being added with buttermilk to the dry ingredients. I cut the dough into smaller shapes than in the past. The top of the dough is brushed with milk and finished with a light sprinkling of cinnamon mixed with raw sugar before being baked in a hot oven.
I like to think Mum would be pleased how her date scone recipe has evolved. Simple everyday baking, a fresh scone with a cup of tea or coffee is hard to beat.
5 cups of white flour
1 cup of buckwheat flour
12 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cardamom
150 grams rice bran spread
2 cups buttermilk – about
¾ cup chopped medjool dates and ½ grated apple with skin on, soaked in juice of 1 orange
cinnamon mixed with raw sugar
Sift the dry ingredients.
Cut the spread into the flour until it is like breadcrumbs.
Mix buttermilk and fruit mixture to form a soft dough.
Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead lightly
ANZAC Biscuits is a New Zealand classic recipe. Crunchy outside, chewy inside, Kiwi kids love these delicious rolled oat-based biscuits which are quick and economical to make. They keep well – well, that is, if they do not get devoured by ever-hungry kids who prowl the pantry in search of food.
There is a blend of fact and fiction surrounding the origin of this legendary biscuit recipe. We grew up with the story that during World War I, people back home baked and sold goodies to help raise funds in support of the New Zealand war effort. Military historians found that these were not the biscuits that were sent to and eaten by the ANZAC soldiers at Gallipoli.
“Biscuits! Army Biscuits! Consider the hardness of them. Remember the cracking of your dental plate, the breaking of this tooth, the splintering of that.”From Army Biscuits by Ormond Burton.
Staff at the National Army Museum did some research and found that contrary to popular belief there were no ANZAC biscuits at Gallipoli. The standard Army biscuit at this time was a rock hard tooth breaker also called the ship’s ANZAC biscuit.
Like many home cooks, I sometimes modify the recipe by adding dried fruit, nuts and seeds and adjust ingredient quantities to suit. It is a beginner-cook-friendly recipe. It is 25 April and in keeping with the spirit of our national remembrance day, I used the recipe from another Kiwi icon, Edmonds Cookery Book, to make a batch of ANZAC Biscuits.
Measuring the ingredients
Stirring the biscuit mixture
Edmonds Cookery Book recipe
Fresh-from-the-oven, the biscuits got the seal of approval from youngest grandson and his two brothers.
In 1958, we were given a small textbook, Home Science Recipes when we were taught cookery in Standards 5 and 6, or what is now called Years 7 and 8. Words and phrases used then make me smile now.
“all parts of the dominion”, “domestic instruction”, “helpful to the small family”, “young housekeeper”, “apron”, “never waste anything”, “Housewifery and Laundry Work”
Wordy echoes of strong colonial and emotional ties to England, preparation of girls for marriage and motherhood, and always, a vivid memory of want and hunger experienced by our parents’ generation during the depression and war years. New Zealand as a country grows food well. This text was compiled by a generation of educators intent on building a nation of self-sufficient citizens and healthy families.
The ingredients then reflected the predominant farming and small country town lifestyles we lived in the 1950s. I shudder now at the thought of using animal fats of “lard”, “dripping”, “suet“. Beef and mutton were staple foods. Home killed meat roasted in a fat was common. Dad would butcher a sheep about once a week. I recall how my brothers, sister and I lined up as he did so waiting to grab the knucklebones so we could play the game. No sentimentality then. That is how it was.
My mother and mother-in-law always kept a bowl to store the dripping from roasted beef. My grandparents and parents all loved spreading dripping on bread in preference to butter. They had lived through food rationing. As if that was not enough to fill growing large baby-boomer families, New Zealand mothers served baked goodies for morning and afternoon teas and puddings. All recipes used great quantities of animal fats and sugar. Unpasteurised, creamy milk collected as the cows were milked was drunk daily. Thank goodness our outdoor lifestyles meant we were physically active and hardworking compared to present day.
Essentially, we their daughters in the school cookery classes, were cementing household practices of generations before the 1950s. Incidentally, the Window Cleaner recipe in Cleaning Materials, still works a treat and is cost effective.
“Is chutney a savoury jam, or is jam a sweet chutney?”
The answer according to New Zealand foodwriter, the late Digby Law on page 11 of his Pickle and Chutney Cookbook (reprinted in 1992), my go-to recipe book for many years, is that chutney is a savoury jam. Chutneys, cooked or uncooked, savoury or sweet, add great flavour bursts to many dishes.
Earlier this morning, while it was still cool enough to work in the kitchen, I processed ripe tomatoes picked last night to make Tomato Chutney using a tried and true recipe. Himself thinks it “smells good”. When preparing tomatoes, I always scald the fruit with boiling water and remove the skins. I used white sugar, which gives the chutney a lighter colour, simply because I had no brown sugar in my pantry.
Overnight it seemed, the cucumbers became my new garden triffids, too big to make dill pickles. Flip to page 30 of Law’s cookbook and I note I can use 3kg of peeled cucumbers to make a light, refreshing chutney. Vegetables are now salted and standing in a glass bowl until tomorrow.
Meanwhile, back in the garden, the Mangere Pole beans were soaking up the morning sunshine after drinking up lots of rain yesterday. About midday, I picked one bucket load. Back in the kitchen, the beans were topped ‘n tailed, sliced, blanched in boiling water, drained, plunged into cold water, drained, dried, sealed in large, labelled ziplock plastic bags then put into the freezer 30 minutes after being picked.
Another wet weather forecast for yesterday meant another Sunday indoors. Time to cook some comfort food. Toddler grandson bustled about and pushed the step-stool against the bench and climbed up just like he’s seen older brother do. ‘Me’ in toddler-speak translated means it’s my turn to have fun at the kitchen sink. Older brother, now three, was happily ensconced in front of the computer (I’m amazed how easily he uses the mouse and function keys). So, it was Toddler’s time to have the kitchen bench to himself and learn some kitchen skills.
Mix 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 cup coconut, 1 cup rolled oats, 1/2 cup raisins into a mixing bowl. Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda in 2 tablespoons of boiling water and add to 125 grams butter that has been melted with 1 tablespoon Golden Syrup. Pour liquid into dry ingredients and stir in. Place spoonfuls onto a greased or lined baking tray. Flatten slightly with a fork. Bake about 12 minutes at 180 C.
Tonight, while half asleep in front of the fire, Himself mentioned the ‘frost’ word. Oh! Early potatoes – should I risk it? Should I stir myself from my comfort zone? It’s dark, cold and soggy outside. Should I trust the forecasted 5C overnight temperature not to fall any further? Cat was snuggled on Himself’s lap and is a mean critter when disturbed. Himself wasn’t moving. So it was pull on the dampish socks and gumboots and don a jacket. Grab a torch and then slosh down to the shed to grab the frost covering. Clear sky tonight – lots of stars and a new moon – could get frosty. Who knows? Since the first frosty encounter, the early potato plants seem to have recovered and have grown to about 12cm high. They are now snuggly wrapped for the night. A dark shadow darted towards me as I shone the torch-light over the garden. It was the cat. Chasing shadows like a kitten he’s not. Remind me – why do I garden?