Last shot on the card, March 2021

Brian at Bushboy’s World had the fun idea of posting our last photo of each month, without editing or explanation.

The rules are simple:
1. Post the last photo on your SD card and/or last photo on your phone for the 30th November.
2. No editing – who cares if it is out of focus, not framed as you would like or the subject matter didn’t cooperate.
3. You don’t have to have any explanations, just the photo will do
4. Create a Pingback to Brian’s post or link in the comments
5. Tag “The Last Photo”

The colour green

Close up shot of fern frond. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Fern frond. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Green is the colour of the month at Jude’s Life in Colour photo challenge.

It’s a colour heavily encumbered with association; denoting renewal, nature, harmony, freshness, and the environment — while at the same time being associated with money, greed and jealousy.

Seen from space, New Zealand looks like a series of small jade islands in the vast Pacific. It would be easy to fill a post with the landscapes and flora familiar to me, but instead I’ve sought green in other realms of life.

Food for example (unexpected I know!)

Eat your greens. Image: Su Leslie

Feijoas. Image: Su Leslie

Making tarragon vinegar. Image: Su Leslie

Mint slice al fresco. Image: Su Leslie

And of course art …

Glass chandelier. Image: Su Leslie

Art class. Image: Su Leslie

Light sculpture. Image: Su Leslie

Taking it outside. Fence at artist’s studio. Image: Su Leslie

And life’s small treasures

Vintage water glasses. Image: Su Leslie

A kiwi classic, Fun Ho! toy truck. Image: Su Leslie

The intersection of art and nature. Image: Su Leslie

Morning walk. Image: Su Leslie

If you’d like to join in, pop over to Travel Words and read Jude’s introduction.

Virtual Afternoon Tea, March 2021

Cup of tea and a slice of cake? Image: Su Leslie 2021

Wherever you are, and whatever is happening in your world, Kia ora koutou katoa  (Greetings. Hello to you all)

After our recent see-sawing in and out of lock-down I’ve been feeling the need for a wee celebration cake. And in our household, that means banana cake with (lashings of) coffee buttercream.

Banana cake with coffee buttercream icing. Image: Su Leslie 2021

Do you have a go-to cake (or other sweet treat) that’s your family favourite? What is the story behind it? How does a particular cake cake come to take on the mantle of “celebration”?

In my case, I have my late mother in law, Joy, to thank. My mother didn’t bake banana cake, so my early memories of it are from cake stalls and “ladies a plate” events (see below).

Joy made banana cake for the Big T’s birthdays, and then later for mine. They were unfailingly moist and tasty, had a generous, but not overwhelming, application of coffee-flavoured buttercream, and were often decorated with walnut halves.

First attempt at candied walnuts to top the cake. Image: Su Leslie 2021

For me this is the perfect banana cake, and I’ve never understood why other people’s versions seemed to be coated with anemic and thoroughly unappetizing chocolate icing.

Until last week.

I always bake banana cake from the recipe in the Edmonds Cookery Book — something of a cooking bible in NZ. What I had never noticed before is the last line of the recipe — “When cold ice with Lemon or Chocolate Icing or dust with icing sugar.”

Well, as you can imagine that got me thinking (and quizzing T) about his mother’s coffee buttercream, and about the history of banana cake generally.

Is banana cake a “thing” where you live? If so, what sort of cake is it. Is it iced? Coffee buttercream???

Sorry to bombard you with questions; I really want to know.

My banana cake is basically a butter cake with mashed bananas folded into the mixture. Practically all banana cake recipes in New Zealand are variations on this, and have been for many years. However, one local recipe — from (the delightfully named) Bush Advocate in 1906 — included currents and coconut, while one published in Britain’s Daily Mail published a recipe in 1928, was more of a sponge. In several early recipes from both Australia and New Zealand the banana component is basically sliced banana between layers of cake.

What’s really amazed me about this is a) how old some of the recipes are (1891 in both New Zealand and Australia); and b) how often NZ newspapers printed recipes for banana cake: 136 times between 1891 and 1950, which is the last year for which newspapers are available online through Papers Past.

Image: Su Leslie 2021

But enough of my Musa musings. Pull up a chair, grab a plate and help yourself to some cake.

Tell me what you’ve been up to? What’s happening in your world?  Your comments make blogging so much more interesting.

And if you’d like to contribute a post of your own — even better. Maybe a shot of your cuppa and/or whatever you’re having with it. A recipe if you like.

I’ll update each of my posts with a ping-back to everyone’s in the same way as I do with The Changing Seasons.

#virtualteaparty2021 for anyone on Instagram who wants to post images (or video?)


The term “ladies a plate” was ubiquitous in New Zealand when I was growing up, and referred to the convention that catering for social gatherings involved all of the women bringing food. As a new immigrant to this country, my mother suffered the embarrassment of arriving at her first such gathering carrying — literally — a plate, having assumed that the hosts must be short of crockery.


Update

My lovely co-host Del from CurlsNSkirls has baked soda bread, in honour of St Patrick’s Day. You can find her recipe here.

Pop over to see Margaret at Pyrenees to Pennines for a slice of lemon drizzle cake and a cashew nut butter cookie.

Irene at My Slice of Mexico has baked banana bread and shared her recipe. Please check it out.

Have some chicken pasta salad with Ladyleemanila.

Carrot cake is particularly popular, and Ju-Lyn from Touring My Backyard has not only made one (and posted the recipe), but shares a new perspective on what “carrot cake” means in Singapore.

Deb at The Widow Badass has made some fabulous blueberry lemon oatmeal muffins (with recipe).

Save the date: Thursday 18th March

Yep, it’s coming up to that time again. Del (Curls n Skirls) and I are hosting another virtual tea party next week.

Although I bake a lot, I seldom make cakes— birthdays and Christmas being the main exceptions. But having just baked our family’s old favourite, the sociologist/historian in me got thinking about how recipes evolve, and the ebb and flow of their popularity. Naturally, I’ve now wasted spent far too much time reading old recipe books and newspapers.

Curious? I’ll tell you all about it next week (and share a slice or two of cake with you).

We hope you’ll be able to join us. I’ll kick off at 3pm next Thursday (Kiwi Time = GMT+13), and Del’s post will be up a bit later.

Scottish oatcakes

Scottish oakcakes and butter. Image: Su Leslie 2021

There are as many recipes for oatcakes as there are bakers it seems. The type and proportions of oats varies between them. Some specify wheat flour as well as oats. Some include a raising agent; others not. Some contain sugar (ugh). The proportions of dry and wet ingredients varies; as does the ratios of different kinds of oats. Most include butter or lard.

I’ve experimented with a variety of these recipes, and this is what works best for me.

Ingredients

100g rolled oats / quick oats (see here for quick guide to different ways of processing oats)

100g pinhead (or steel cut) oats

25g plain flour

40g butter

5g salt

Just boiled water – around 4-8 tablespoons, as needed


Method

Preheat oven to 160°C

Mix oats, flour and salt in a large bowl. Add melted butter and stir to combine. Slowly add water, a tablespoonful at a time, until the mixture holds together but isn’t too sticky.

Turn the mixture onto a floured board or baking parchment and knead briefly to bring it all together. Roll out (use another sheet of baking paper on top) to a thickness of about 5mm.

Cut to preferred shape and size and place on parchment on a baking tray. Cook in the middle of the oven for around 20 minutes, or until crisp.  Turn half way to ensure even baking.


Notes

It would seem that oat processing produces a variety of slightly different products with different names depending on where you are. The products you use, and their relative composition, will affect the texture of the dough and that is why you need to add water gradually, in small quantities. The aim is a firm but not to too sticky dough that will hold together while being rolled, cut and placed on the baking tray.

Traditional oatcake recipes I’ve found do not contain wheat flour. I’ve found that adding this small amount helps the dough to hold together better. This is likely due to the kind of oats I’ve used. I suspect that “quick” oats in place of wholegrain rolled oats would remove/diminish the need for flour.

I have made flour-less cakes, and they tasted just as good. The dough was a bit crumblier and the taste a little grittier, but they were still enjoyable. I also cut them slightly thicker (6-7mm) because of the crumbly texture.

My recipe uses slightly more butter than others I’ve found, but as with the flour, I find that this quantity of butter gives a nicer texture and a bit more crunch.

I use a 7mm diameter cookie cutter, and that produces about 12 oatcakes from the quantities above. It has occurred to me that instead of cutting rounds then having to rework the scraps, I could cut the whole, rolled piece of dough into “squares” and ease each piece apart a little. I’ll let you know how that works.

Obviously, cooking time will depend on the thickness (and moisture content) of the dough. I aim for “low and slow” to give a crisper result, but you may find that trial and error (especially as our ovens will undoubtedly be different) is the only way to get them right.

The letter S

Sunset, Christmas Beach, Herald Island, NZ. Image: Su Leslie

Many (many) years ago, I used to watch the TV programme Sesame Street with my baby brother. At the end of each show, the “sponsor” announcement went something like “today’s show has been brought to you by the letters … (take your pick) and the number … (usually a small one)”.

This week’s Lens-Artists challenge, which asks for subjects beginning with the letter S, reminds me of that (and how convenient that the show was called Sesame Street).

So of course we have a sunset.

And how about some sea, sand and sky?

Kakanui Beach, Otago, NZ. Image: Su Leslie

Or sunflowers.

Image: Su Leslie

Perhaps something sweet …

Image: Su Leslie

Or do you prefer savory?

Image: Su Leslie

I like to sew …

Image: Su Leslie

But I’ll leave singing to others.

Image: Su Leslie

Amongst the visual arts, I’m particularly fond of sculpture.

Sometimes serious …

‘Gretchen’ Sam Harrison, 2014. Exhibited at NZ Sculpture OnShore, Devonport, New Zealand. Image: Su Leslie

Sometimes a little bit silly?

‘Damien Hurst Looking for Sharks’ Cool Shit, 2018. Exhibited at Sculpture by the Sea Bondi, NSW, Australia. Image: Su Leslie

Just like Smurfs on a road trip …

Image: Su Leslie

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge subjects beginning with the letter S

Virtual Afternoon Tea, February 2021

Peach galette. Image: Su Leslie 2021

Wherever you are, and whatever is happening in your world, Kia ora koutou katoa  (Greetings. Hello to you all)

I don’t know about you, but I really need this cuppa. What a week it’s been.

First of all, some minor eye surgery I was meant to have on Monday was rescheduled … to this afternoon. Then Auckland went into a mini Covid lock-down and I was sure my appointment would be moved again.

It was, but was brought forward to this morning.

So by the time you read this I should be back home, though probably with blurry vision.

Just as well this is a virtual tea party; you won’t be able to see if I drop food or slop my tea.

Homemade oatcakes. Image: Su Leslie 2021

I love Scottish oatcakes and have been thinking for a while I should make some. I found a recipe in Maw Broon’s Cookbook (my bible for Scottish cooking) plus many more online. I also found huge variation.

Some recipes specify wheat flour as well as oats. Some include a raising agent; others not. Some contain sugar (ugh). The proportions of dry and wet ingredients varies; as does the ratios of different kinds of oats. Most include butter or lard, but one suggested goose fat.

Needless to say, I’ve experimented (though not with goose fat). The Big T and I have (stoically) chomped our way through several batches now and I’m generally happy with the results.

Especially with a little bit of brie and some peach and Scotch Bonnet preserve.

Oatcakes, brie, and peach chilli preserve. Image: Su Leslie 2021

You may have already guessed that my favourite golden queen peaches are still in season, still utterly delicious, and still on the menu.

I’m not really a pastry lover, but I found a nice-looking recipe for a peach galette, which was also ridiculously simple. And since the Big T made such positive noises when I suggested it, what could I do?

Just baked. Peach galette. Image: Su Leslie 2021

I confess I modified the pastry slightly, replacing some of the flour and butter with almond meal. That accounts for the slightly darker, mottled colour and crumblier texture — which I liked — but I think T would prefer it if I just stuck to the recipe.

I also baked some banana walnut bread, which turned out super-moist and more like cake. You could butter yours, but I think I prefer it without. Just a nice flat white.

Banana bread and a flat white. Image: Su Leslie 2021

Pull up a chair, grab a plate and help yourself. Tell me what you’ve been up to? What’s happening in your world?  Your comments make blogging so much more interesting.

And if you’d like to contribute a post of your own — even better. Maybe a shot of your cuppa and/or whatever you’re having with it. A recipe if you like.

I’ll update each of my posts with a ping-back to everyone’s in the same way as I do with The Changing Seasons.

#virtualteaparty2021 for anyone on Instagram who wants to post images (or video?)

Update

Despite a fierce storm, my co-host Del (CurlsnSkirls) has made some delicious cranberry bread, and shared the recipe.

Tracy at Reflections of an Untidy Mind has baked what looks to me like a wonderfully gourmet damper — which is Australian bush-bread.

Fellow Kiwi Leanne joins us this month, with a wonderful Blueberry Lemon Verbena Bundt Cake. Please visit her at The Herbalist’s Cottage and say hello.

Janet at This,That and the Other Thing has made some totally yummy-looking macaroons (not macarons).

Sarah from Art Expedition has baked some oat shortbread cookies which look utterly delicious. Pop over to try one, or some pomegranate turkish delight. You can also find out what Sarah’s been reading — a great source of book recommendations don’t you think?

Irene at My Slice of Mexico is celebrating her third anniversary blogging, and has shared an absolute feast with us. Do visit her post to see the yummy dishes and recipes.

Jo at RestlessJo is sharing treats from Valentine’s Day and a special family birthday.

Ladyleemanila is enjoying a slice of apple crumble cake amidst some beautiful flowers.

Deb at The Widow Badass has not only created a wonderful comfort food feast (hint, pasta, pancakes and rice pudding), but has wrapped it all up in a lovely, funny post with lots of photos. Go and see for yourself.

ReginaMary at Cosmicknitter has some very elegant-looking tea and chocolate chip scones.

Streusel-topped blueberry muffins from Ju-Lyn at All Things Bright and Beautiful. What can I say ….. yuuuum.

Yvette at Priorhouse Blog has found a delicious combination of English Breakfast tea and Frooze Balls — a little sweet treat made here in Auckland. How cool that Yvette can buy them in a shop near her place.

Yesterday

Image: Su Leslie 2021

Yesterday.

The sun was shining and my kitchen was full of lovely, yellow corn cobs. Thoughts turned to inviting friends round for a barbecue.

Today.

The rain has arrived. And Auckland has gone back into (so far a very temporary) Covid lock-down.

I’m happy about the rain; the garden looks greener already.

The lock-down; not so much. But I appreciate our government taking such a proactive stand.

And I still have lots of lovely yellow sweetcorn to enjoy.

Not to mention a post for Jude’s Life In Colour project.