a plate of cinnamon oysters
Food, Recipes

Cinnamon Oysters


These are the most delicious, light as air little cakes that ever flew off a plate and into your mouth. Delicately spiced with cinnamon and ginger and filled with softly whipped cream, they retain that slight golden syrupy chew when they’re fresh from the oven, before melting into marvellous nothingness.

This recipe is from Lois Daish, published in her 1989 book Good Food, so it’s completely reliable.

They’re speedy to make so you could have them on the table within 30 minutes if you had to produce a last-minute dainty. If you’re organised and have cast-iron willpower you can make them the day before you need them. Fill straight away and pop in the fridge overnight. Or you can fill them and store them in the freezer ready to pull out for a future treat.

Cinnamon oysters

2 eggs
1 tablespoon golden syrup
100g castor sugar
70g flour
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch baking soda
cream, icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Lightly butter and flour 16 round bottomed patty pans (the flour helps, trust me).

Whisk the eggs, golden syrup and castor sugar together until the mixture is very high and light. Sift the dry ingredients together and fold in carefully.

Divide the mixture between the tins and bake for 6-8 minutes (original recipe calls for 8-10 minutes but 7 is usually about right if you’re using a fan bake).

Remove from tins while still warm. When they are cold split the oysters halfway through using a serrated knife. Fill with lightly whipped cream and sprinkle with sifted icing sugar.


I love how they really do look like oysters.

When you serve these, at least one person will sigh with delight and say something along the lines of, “Oh, my nana used to make these. I haven’t eaten them for years.” And then you will point them to this post for the recipe, and they will make them for someone else to sigh over. Hooray!

Food, Recipes

Deliciously retro

Alison Steadman and some mustachioed bloke in a still from 1977 TV production of Abigail's Party

“Tone? A little cheesy-pineapple one?” – Alison Steadman and some mustachioed bloke in Abigail’s Party

A new pop-up shop is bringing a touch of splendidly hip Scandinavian style to Wellington.

Just a hop and a skip from the city in the beachy southern ‘burbs, Skandi purveys quality 50s and 60s furniture and lights that will make you swoon with their awesomeness.

You can check it out online – though if you’re in the capital of cool I strongly suggest you get yourself along to Island Bay toot sweet (and while you’re there you can do your weekly meat shop at the fabulous Island Bay Butcher, just across the road).

In keeping with the shop itself, the opening night shindig called for canapés that were a little bit Danish, and a little bit retro… cheese straws, liver pate and gherkin, smoked eel and horseradish on rye, salmon and vodka tartare, mustardy-mayo-dipped frikkadelle (that’s meatballs to you and me) and devils on horseback.

In keeping with human nature, the cheese straws were the first to be snaffled up. And why not? They’re everything you could possibly want in cocktail food and more: able to be held and eaten with one hand, keeping the other free for liquor; unlikely to ruin your party frock; AND delivering on the essential salty-crispy quotient of downright deliciousness.

Cheese straws

one-and-a half cups of rat-trap cheese, grated – in other words, whatever bits of strong cheese you’ve got lurking in the fridge, parmesan, cheddar, blue…

60g butter, diced

three-quarters of a cup of flour, plus more for dusting

half a teaspoon of Maldon salt

half a teaspoon of crushed chilli

one-and-a-half tablespoons milk or cream

Turn oven on to 180C fan bake.

Chuck everything except the milk or cream in a food processor. Mix in short bursts until it looks like coarse breadcrumbs, then add the liquid and process until the dough forms a ball.

Lightly flour the bench and rolling pin and roll out the dough into something vaguely resembling a rectangle, about 5mm thick.

Cut the dough into thin strips, as short or as long as you like, and carefully prise them up and peel them off the bench and on to a baking tray. This is one of those wonder-doughs that can be pressed back together and rerolled umpteen times without coming to too much harm, so just keep going til it’s all gone.

Bake your straws in the middle of the oven for 8 to 12 minutes, until they’re beginning to turn a burnished gold. At this point the kitchen will smell amazing and you can take them out of the oven and transfer them to a wire rack to cool.


Woolly thinking

When was the last time you called something shoddy?

And… do you know the term has its origins in the wool industry?

This morning I happened on this entry in Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand: Shoddy is woollen cloth that is torn up, shredded and made up into new fabrics.”

It set me off on a lovely journey musing on how amazing wool is – and how it was once so all-pervasive in European culture that words derived from it are still in use today, even when their original meanings have fallen into obscurity.

♥ etymology

♥ it’s now not completely and utterly gratuitous for me to share this splendid short film of the inimitable Godfrey Bowen shearing a sheep


Don’t forget the pickle…

♥ Love it.


Meals most men prefer

Don’t forget the pickle…♥ Love it.

Food, Recipes

…and lashings of ginger beer

Every now and again I get a craving for an ice-cold sugar rush with a kick of heat and spice. So I’m having a go at making my own ginger beer. So far, it’s as easy as (eating) pie.

I remember Mum making it when I was a kid, using a bug a friend had given her, feeding it and tending it daily like a sourdough starter.

The recipe I’ve found seems to involve considerably less faffing about. As you’d expect from Alison Holst. And to prevent the other thing I remember – random bottles exploding in the garage, it’s decanted into used plastic softdrink bottles rather than glass.

for 4 1.25l bottles
1 teaspoon dried yeast granules
2 teaspoons sugar
half a cup of tepid water

5cm piece of fresh ginger root
1 large or 2 small lemons
half a teaspoon of citric acid
2 cups sugar
2 litres hot water
2 litres cold water

Stir together the first three ingredients in a glass and leave them to stand in a warm place while you get everything else ready. The yeast will start fizzing during this time, so you can be quite sure it’s active.

Cut up the root ginger roughly, skin and all, and put it in the food processor with the zest of the lemons, removed with a potato peeler, the citric acid, and half the sugar.

Process, using the metal chopping blade, until very finely chopped, then add the lemon juice.

Measure out the hot water. Tip some of it into the lemon mixture, then tip the lemon mixture into a clean bucket. Use the rest of the water to rinse out the processor bowl. Add the remaining sugar to the hot lemon mixture, stir well, then add the cold water, to bring the temperature of the liquid in the bucket to lukewarm.

When you have checked that the mixture is lukewarm and cannot possibly kill the yeast, stir in the yeast mixture. Cover the bucket loosely and stand in a warm place for 24-48 hours. The beer should bubble during this time. Leave longer in cool weather.

Mine didn’t seem to bubbling at all, and it is winter, so I left it five days. The finished brew tastes great, but was so fizzy I lost a third of it down the sink. So I guess it doesn’t need to be too bubbly after all. Though… the fizziness could also have been due to me forgetting to strain it at the decanting stage – I don’t recommend you do the same. Chewy.

Strain into four thoroughly clean 1.25l plastic softdrink bottles, topping each bottle up to within 3cm of the top with extra cold water. Put 1 teaspoon water of sugar in each bottle and screw on the well-washed tops. Shake to dissolve sugar.

Leave to stand in a warm place until the bottles feel absolutely rigid when you squeeze them. This will take from 1-5 days, depending on the temperature, yeast etc.

Refrigerate the bottles for at least two hours before removing the lids. Plan to drink all of the brew within 3-4 weeks.

Food, Recipes

A bit of a squeeze


Are we there yet? The question would be repeated, a high pitched whine, at 10 minute intervals between Palmerston North and Hastings.

First the winding road through the Manawatu Gorge, waving out to the train as we spotted it on the other side of the river, speeding in and out of tunnels, high above the rushing water. Then Dannevirke, Norsewood, Waipukurau … all manner of one-petrol-pump, one-pub towns … on and on until we got to Hastings.

Grandparental hugs and kisses followed, washed down with glasses of Nana’s homemade lemonade; the painted pop-art patterned glasses as integral to the experience as the syrupy tart cordial within them. Ahh. Bliss. We’d arrived.

Sheila’s lemonade (who says happiness can’t be found in a bottle?)

zest of six lemons, taken off in strips with a potato peeler

1.2 litres water
1kg sugar
600ml lemon juice

Add lemon peel to water and sugar and heat gently until sugar is dissolved, stirring often. Strain and add lemon juice. Mix well and pour into bottles. Dilute the lemon syrup with water, sparkling or still, depending upon how festive you’re feeling. If you’re a grown up, a tot of vodka wouldn’t go amiss. If there’s a nip in the air, substitute whisky and boiling water for an instant lemon toddy.

The very thought of lemons is a promise of summer to come – a glimpse of that sunny yellow on a dark day takes me back to an idyllic week house-sitting for my sister, who is fortunate enough to possess a backyard lemon tree – for five blissful days I gave in to the impulse to do nothing much other than laze in a shaded spot in the garden, buried in a book, gin at the ready, listening to cricket on the radio.

I couldn’t help myself. The lemons made me do it. Their charms were irresistible. And while I daydreamed, their scent carried across the lawn towards me, whispering sweet nothings of curd and meringue-topped pies and sticky semolina cakes drenched in syrup and pancakes and other, more savoury delights … mussels, roast chicken, risotto …

A bit of a squeeze, you see, is never a bad thing.

But back to Hastings again. At the end of the journey, there would be lunch. Which always meant pudding. Sometimes it might be icecream and Nana’s bottled apricots. More often it would be something hot. Lemon Delicious was a firm favourite, the mixture magically separating into a light sponge with lemony custard underneath.


three large eggs, separated
half a cup of self raising flour
one cup of sugar
grated zest of one large lemon
quarter of a cup of fresh lemon juice
four tablespoons of melted butter
one and a half cups of milk

Preheat oven to 180C. Separate eggs. Beat whites until stiff. In another bowl, beat together the yolks, flour, sugar, lemon zest and juice and melted butter. Gradually stir in milk. Slowly pour lemon batter onto beaten egg whites, folding through lightly. Pour into buttered casserole. Stand dish in a roasting tin or cold water and bake for about 1 hour. Cover loosely with foil during the last 15 minutes if the pudding is browning too much. Serve warm with runny cream. Makes enough for four to six people.

Food, Recipes




kaimoana – seafood, Maori

I’m on my way to London, but the journey starts with five days in Whangamata. It seems the best route to take, providing rest and relaxation and a nugget of Coromandel sunshine to take out and polish during the bleak winter ahead.

It’s perfect. Nothing to do but sleep, read, bodysurf, eat and drink, and then eat some more. Aside from our stomachs, the only thing governing our days is the tides. Sprawled on a deck at the mouth of the harbour, gin and tonic to hand, we watch the water rise and fall, the boats slowly turning together in a graceful dance of summer.

And at low tide, we head off to the beach, smothered in sunscreen and carrying sacks, to gather tuatua for tomorrow’s tea. Scrabbling in the shallows, doing the tuatua shuffle, we dig deep in the sand, waggling our butts and wiggling our toes in search of dinner.










People strolling along the beach point. They stop to look. They have no idea what we’re doing, sniggering at the freaks dancing about in the surf. But we will have the last laugh. Cos we’re not aerobics fanatics who couldn’t bear to go cold turkey, we’re not there just to tone our thighs, and tomorrow night when they’ll be grazing on overpriced kai in some poncy cafe, we’ll be feasting on barbecued kaimoana.


Tuatua fritters to start with, then whole Tarakihi baked over glowing coals, their bellies split and stuffed with fresh coriander and slices of lemon. Four-year-old Jake, spurred on by the Worzel-hunting exploits of Pooh and Piglet, has become expert at climbing over the wall to the neighbours’ and collecting fat juicy lemons from their very fine tree.



But first we have to catch our kai, so it’s back to the beach at low tide for that frantic scrabble under the sand before the next wave breaks. The kids are alternately fascinated by the tuatua squirting jets of water as they squirm back into their shells, and nervous, lest their seeking toes should find a crab instead.


The tuatua find cold comfort in a bucket of seawater which will be changed three times in the following 24 hours. Time passes in a haze of cards and cryptic crosswords. Every so often I peer into the bucket to see how they’re doing, little sphincters opening and closing and spitting jets of sand. When we eat them there will be no grit.


Finally, we’ll steam them open to dig the flesh from the shells, all cream and pink and white. We could just eat them like that, but we’ve got a lot of people to feed, so fritters it is.


Tuatua fritters
Use one egg and two heaped dessertspoons of flour for three handfuls of steamed and shucked tuatua. Throw it all in a food processor and pulse until you’ve got a relatively fritterish looking mixture which will hold together without spreading too much. Cook gently on an oiled barbecue griddle, turning once.