Thursday, September 29, 2011

It's Jewish New Year - time for a piece of honey cake (or two!)

(from Nicki Levy)

Rosh Hashanah Honey Cake (Temple Sinai Bulletin)

3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup oil
1 cup honey
3 tablespoons cocoa
2 ½ cup flour
1 teaspoo bicarb of soda
1 Granny Smith apple (opt)
1 cup boiling tea

Grate apple if using (Mum says use it!). Combine all ingredients  in order listed, mixing well. Pour into large, well greased tin. Bake at 160C for 1 ¼-1 ½ hours.

Jewish New Year Honey Cake

When Mum died in 2004 , I asked Adam and Emma if I could take Mum’s recipe books. Mum had (like I do too) collected recipes from magazines, newspapers but, most interestingly, her friends, Carole Charles, Maureen Baruch, Barbara Treister, Sandy Myers (oh, and Alison Holst of course). She always credited them next to the recipe.

There are quite a few recipes in my own child’s hand-writing that Mum must have asked me to write out – or maybe because they were recipes I wanted her to make – anyone that knows me won’t be surprised that on one page I have written out the recipes for Chocolate Fudge and Chocolate Blancmange.

I love to flick through and find recipes she made regularly, like Chocolate Crunch, which I think Emma and I had as our nutritional afternoon tea when we got home from school most days. I try not to think about the half pound of butter that went into it!

But the best thing about the recipe book is at the back where in the early 1970s she listed menus for her dinner parties and who attended. On 15 May 1971 (when she had three children under the age of five) she lists: Entrée - pancakes filled with smoked salmon & cheese/mushrooms & cheese. Main - Argentinian Steak, Mushrooms a la Greque, Tossed Salad, Cauliflower Gratin, Baked Potatoes. Dessert - Cheesecake with Boysenberry Topping. Those that were lucky enough to enjoy this feast were the Baruchs, the Hyams, the Brickmans and the Myers.

The honey cake recipe is probably not the one we grew up with as it came from the Temple Sinai bulletin. Mum only joined the Temple after Dad died, probably in the 90s. I accidentally left out the cup of tea when I made this yesterday and I’ve never had so many compliments on the cake. Try it with and without! Bon appetit and Shana Tova!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Grandma's Tan Fingers

(from Emma Levy)

170g butter
285g flour
290g sugar
½ tsp vanilla

Cream butter and sugar.
Add vanilla, then flour.
Roub 2/3 of the mixture in buttered sponge roll tin and cool in the fridge.

55g butter
1 Tbsp golden syrup
½ tin condensed milk
chopped walnuts

Heat in saucepan and stir until blended.
Cool and spread over shortcake base.
Crumble remaining mixture with the walnuts.
Put in oven at 350F.
Bake until a milky tan colour for about 35 mins.


Rita Levy was known throughout Lower Hutt.  Well it wasn’t a big place at the time, and she was in the “rag trade”, running a women’s clothing store on High St for many years.  A working grandmother!  To my brother and sister and I, she was Grandma, and she was a heap of fun.  

Many afternoons we would sit in her lounge room chatting and being fed food we’d NEVER have been allowed at home.  One of ten children from south London, she held on fast and tight to her English accent and the proper English ways.  She disapproved of much that went on in modern families and modern times, and she loved a good gossip.  She wasn’t much of a cook, and the few things she made, were made repeatedly.  No matter – we loved them!  Her Tan Fingers are the only biscuit or cake I even remember her baking.  I could gobble up many Tan Fingers in one afternoon.  

Grandma died in 1987, one month after her only child, my father, passed away.  Life without him was just too hard for her.  For years we talked about the Tan Fingers, and I often looked for them in old-style cafes, hoping to find them nestled in between lamingtons and vanilla slices.  They never were.  Then one day, early in 2011, I opened one of her old cookbooks that I have opened many times before, and saw a slip of paper between two leaves of the book.  Taking it out, I screeched as I realized that I was holding the beloved Tan Finger recipe.  I dashed to the computer and converted all the ounces to grams, and emailed it to my siblings.  

All three of us made it – it was both joyous, and incredibly sickening to gobble them down all these years later - they are VERY SWEET!!  My 43 year old palate is not my 11 year old palate!  But they are worth a try – they are a yummy, old fashioned biscuit, and the kids will love them!  Thanks Rita.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Aunty Nina’s Iced Jaffa Coffee

(from Johanna Knox)

2 or 3 oranges
A plungerful of hot coffee
1 heaped tablespoon of cocoa
1 heaped tablespoon of sugar
¼ cup water
Vanilla ice cream

Slice unpeeled oranges into rounds and place in bowl or jug.

Boil cocoa, sugar and water together and mix with the freshly brewed coffee to make a mocha mix.

Pour hot mocha mix over sliced oranges and leave to steep. When cool, place in refrigerator to continue steeping till morning.

Remove orange slices and serve the iced jaffa coffee over scoops of icecream. (You can also eat the mocha-infused orange slices.)

Alter ratios to taste.

My aunt Nina had died two days ago. Shaken and restless, I ranged between the two rooms of her bedsit, peering into cupboards, rifling through drawers. I apologised:  ‘I don’t know what I’m looking for, but I’ll know it when I find it …’

I didn’t want to elaborate to my father or sister, who were industriously sorting books, clothes, and crockery. I was embarrassed at the sudden narrowness of my focus, and the terrible childish drive that had taken over: Nina had loved to cook, and I wanted to be the one who found her recipes. 

But what did they look like? Were they handwritten cards? Books? Clippings? I couldn’t remember. When I finally gave up and joined the sorting, I confessed my folly.

The next day, my sister and father, excavating deeper, rang to say they’d hit recipes afterall and, being kind and careful archaeologists, had left them for me in situ.

I was excited, until I saw the small, grubby pile they were talking about. Free recipe cards from the supermarket, clippings cut from Tegel chicken wrappers, yellowed appliance manuals ... Not  a single recipe I remembered Nina using.

‘But didn’t she mostly cook from her head?’ my partner Walter reminded me that evening.

Of course!

Thinking back, I'd rarely seen a written recipe in her hand. Her repertoire consisted of family dishes she’d had down pat for years, party foods her friends had shown her, and numerous of her own inventions and adaptations. Wherever Nina had now gone – somewhere or nowhere – she’d taken her recipe file with her.

So now I search my own memories trying to bring up details of recipes she showed me, or cooked while I watched from her kitchen table. I’ve pieced together five so far, and this is the first I’ve written down.