“Once upon a time, you learned from watching your mother and you cooked because you had to. But children aren’t doing that anymore. It’s common now to hear of people who can’t cook at all.” – Tui Flower, 2010

Tui Flower, one of the most influential figures in New Zealand food, died last week aged 92. Tui never ran a restaurant and never shouted at anyone on a TV food show, but she determined what was served up for dinner in many households for several decades. As food editor of the New Zealand Woman’s Weekly from 1965 to 1984, Tui introduced ‘exotic’ ingredients to families who previously existed on a dull diet of meat and three veg.

Her magnum opus, The New Zealand Woman’s Weekly Cookbook, contains a buffet of recipes that range from the classic to the (now) unpalatable – ham-wrapped bananas in cheese sauce, or swan casserole, anyone? – but every single one is meticulously written with a clear understanding of its audience. If you can find one in an op shop, snap it up at once.

My own copy gets dragged out at least once a week, usually for a Saturday morning pikelet session. I never met Tui but in a phone conversation we once had – I now can’t remember why, I must have been interviewing her about something with no small amount of trepidation – I thanked her for teaching my husband how to make pikelets. She was tickled pink (though probably shocked that he didn’t know already). Thank you, Tui, for passing on your wisdom. You will be missed.

Pikelets a la Tui Flower

I’ve written about pikelets before, in homage to my great-aunt Makiri, who would make cat pikelets (and choux pastry swans, though not at the same time). Tui’s recipe, from the aforementioned New Zealand Woman’s Weekly Cookbook, is a never-fail classic. Extensive testing in our household has proven that you need to use ordinary cow’s milk (most emphatically NOT almond) and plain white flour for best results. This is not the time to go all alt-ingredient-y, ok? I’ve doubled the quantities specified by Tui, because one batch is not quite enough for our small but greedy family. Leftovers can be frozen and reheated in the toaster, but there are very seldom any left hanging around.

 

2 eggs

4 Tbsp caster sugar

1 cup milk

1 1/2 cups plain flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp cream of tartar

butter

Whisk the eggs and sugar together, then add the milk. Sift over the dry ingredients and whisk together until smooth. The batter should slide off the spoon with ease, but not be too runny.

Grease a large, heavy pan with butter and set over medium heat. Cook spoonfuls of the batter until bubbles form and pop on top, then flip over carefully and cook for another minute or two (they will puff up as they cook). Transfer to a rack or a plate covered with a folded teatowel and keep warm until the rest are done (warning: you will need to fend off all-comers). Regrease the pan as necessary, but don’t overdo it.

Serve the pikelets with lashings of whatever you fancy. Tui suggested “grilled bacon or sausage or marmalade”, I favour cream and jam. This makes about 20.

There’s a long weekend on the horizon and – though the weather is unlikely to be playing ball – I’m still hopeful that there will be enough sunshine for a picnic.

Photo: Ross Giblin/Fairfax Media

This week’s Three Ways With… has a trio of picnic-friendly recipes for you to try. If all else fails, eat them while sitting on a picnic blanket in the lounge. Add lashings of ginger beer and some spy-catching for a frisson of Famous Five-style fun.

Happy weekend!

One of the happiest winters of my life was spent in Whanganui, where my lovely friend Anna and I amused ourselves with sewing, cooking, art projects and soaking in the fire bath in our garden. If it sounds all a bit Little House On The Prairie, that’s because it was. The house we rented felt very much like an idyll from the rest of the world, kept warm by the hum of sewing machines and a constantly-boiling kettle.

Life seems to have become a lot less idyllic of late, but I’ve decided there is still room in my life for little projects.  Especially slightly ridiculous ones as soothing as knitting an egg cosy.

Very Easy Egg Cosy Knitting Pattern For Beginners

Lucy’s Easy Egg Cosy

I devised this pattern after knitting my daughter a woolly hat – essentially a rectangle that you draw up at the end. This lacks the absolute charm of a more complicated pattern but it’s an excellent confidence booster for amateur knitters. The one in the picture is a little bigger than it’s supposed to be – or perhaps I bought shorter than average eggs – but this pattern should make one that’s just the right size.

You will need:

8mm knitting needles

Double knitting wool – use up any scraps you have, as long as they’re the same ply

Wool needle

Cast on 28 stitches. Knit one row, then purl the next. Continue in this fashion until the work measures 6.5cm, changing colour as your wool supplies allow.

Thread a wool needle (as in, a sewing needle, not a knitting needle) with wool and slip it through the stitches as you slip them off the knitting needle. Gather both ends of this wool together and pull tightly – the knitted work will come together like the opening of a drawstring bag. Knot together tightly.

Carefully turn the egg cosy inside out and stitch the open side together. Trim any loose threads and hey presto, your eggs will never grow cold again. For added style at breakfast time, add a tiny fork pompom on top. Instructions follow below…

How To Make Fork Pompoms

How to make a fork pompom

When I made my daughter’s hat, making the fist-sized pompom for the top seemed to take nearly as long as the knitting did (and it used nearly as much wool!)

These tiny pompoms are much faster than the traditional cardboard donut method. All you need to do is to wind the wool around the tines of a fork – I’ve used a cake fork in the image above – until you have a fat wodge of wool. Slip another piece of wool between the tines and the wrapped bundle, then tie tightly in the middle (I’ve used a different colour here for display purposes). Slip the tied bundle off the tines, then snip the ends of the pompom as usual. Be careful not to trim it too agressively if it’s a very little pompom as it may fall apart.

Have you got a winter project on the go?

It has become very fashionable for recipes to appear in the post-Easter sugar haze exhorting ways to use up excess chocolate eggs. But because I usually give up chocolate before Easter – or at least try to – and I’m a bit fussy about the chocolate I eat, any nice Easter eggs are usually cracked and dispatched pretty quickly. This year, with a 5am wake-up call from the youngest member of our household, I spent the day eating any chocolate I could get my hands on in a bid to stay upright. By Easter Monday, I couldn’t bear the sight of it.

I got fairly sick of hot cross buns this year too – spending a day making endless batches will do that to a person – and so by the time the weekend was over I wanted something light and non-fruity, but with a hint of real chocolate (not the Easter egg kind).

These fluffy brioche buns were the result. They’re most excellent with a generous splodge of cream cheese and a dollop of marmalade – and with a long weekend coming up, you should think about adding them to your repertoire.

Chocolate Brioche Buns
The instructions below detail how to make these with a stand mixer – it can be done by hand, but it’s a bit more labour intensive.  I’ve designed this recipe so the buns are ready for breakfastIf you don’t want the buns for breakfast, the dough will rise in about an hour at room temperature.

275ml milk (I use Zany Zeus ‘blue’)
500g high grade flour
1 1/2 tsp dried yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
50g unsalted butter, soft but not melted, diced
80g good quality dark chocolate, melted (I use Whittaker’s 60 per cent cacao)
100g good quality dark chocolate, smashed into little bits (I use Whittaker’s 60 per cent cacao)

Egg wash: 1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp milk

Sugar glaze: 1/4 cup boiling water mixed with 1/4 cup brown sugar

Scald the milk and set aside to cool to lukewarm. Add the eggs and stir to mix.
Put the flour, yeast, salt and sugar into the bowl of a freestanding mixer and stir until combined, then pour in the egg and milk mixture and mix well.
Using the dough hook, mix on low-medium speed (about 3 or 4) until the dough is shiny and elastic, about 5-8 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary (turn the mixer off first!).
Keeping the mixer on medium speed, drizzle in the melted chocolate. When it has all absorbed, start add the butter, one piece at a time, until it is all mixed in.
Cover the bowl with plastic and put in the fridge overnight, during which time it will double in size.
In the morning, tip the dough out on to a lightly floured worktop. knead in more choco
Cover with a cloth for 15 minutes, while you make a cup of tea and heat the oven to 180C.
Shape the dough into 10-12 balls and place on a lined baking tray. Brush each one with egg wash and bake for 15-20 minutes, until risen and cooked through. Brush with the hot sugar glaze and remove to a rack to cool (though they will probably all be eaten before that happens).

The chocolate and egg component make this the perfect opportunity to link up with two of my favourite bloggers, Karen of Lavender and Lovage and Dom of Belleau Kitchen. This month both Karen’s Tea Time Treats and Dom’s latest invention, Simply Eggcellent, have a chocolate theme. Click the links to find more chocolatey, eggy goodness.

There comes a time in everyone’s life when they get that sinking feeling. In fact, particularly unlucky people may get it several times a week. It usually strikes on their way home from work, when they realise that they have forgotten to arrange anything for dinner.

Some people shake this off and simply order takeaways, go out to eat or become a sudden devotee of fasting. Others turn to their fridges, brush the cares of the day aside and get busy with whatever they can find.

Making a meal out of ‘nothing’ (a relative term, I know) is one of my greatest strengths. It should be on my CV. Instead, here’s an example to inspire you the next time you’re in the dreaded position of Not Knowing What To Have For Dinner.

Easy All In One Vegetarian Frittata Recipe And Image By Lucy Corry

Easy Frypan Frittata
This can be customised to suit your requirements and ingredients. It fits my criteria for an ’emergency’ style dinner – we always have eggs, cheese and potatoes hanging around – AND it involves very little attention or washing up afterwards. It’s also a good way to rehome leftovers.

6 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 peppers, cored and sliced
2 cups diced cooked potato (leftover roast potatoes are good here)
3/4 cup diced feta
two handfuls grated cheddar or Parmesan cheese
8 eggs
salt and pepper
fresh herbs, if available

Turn the oven to 200C. Heat three tablespoons of the oil in a heavy cast iron frying pan (that can go in the oven later). Add the onion and peppers and cook for five minutes, until beginning to soften. Add the potato and cook for another five minutes. Add any suitable fresh herbs if you have them.
Crack the eggs into a bowl and add the feta, stir lightly to mix. Add the remaining three tablespoons of oil to the pan, then tip in the egg and cheese mixture. Sprinkle the grated cheese on top and season well with salt and pepper. Put in the waiting oven and cook for 20 minutes, until golden, puffy and set. Let sit for five minutes before slicing. Hey presto – dinner for four – with leftovers for lunch the next day if you’re lucky. Bon appetit!

What’s your current favourite emergency dinner?