Out of the Frying Pan And Into the Antipodes--
Recipes & reminiscences from 70-plus years of New Zealand & Australian food; with some of the loves, some of the lovers, and some of the culinary & social history.
(A few names & places have been changed to protect the guilty)

Monday, 28 October 2019

From Fruit of the Tree to Gone Troppo


From Fruit Of The Tin to Gone Troppo
How We Used Fruit In Australian & New Zealand Cookery


It’s the early 1980s. Stan the Man has come to dinner. He’s gonna make the pudding. Ooh, good! –You can do all the cooking, if ya like. Wouldn’t like to do the vacuuming as well, wouldja? (Don’t say any of it.) He goes into the kitchen. Given that it’s Wellington, New Zealand, in flaming midwinter, I’m not expecting much. Have I got any brandy? (Yes, aged lover, I have, but I only buy it for you—don’t say it). I fetch the Cognac. –This is gonna be a waste of expensive Cognac.
    I have got butter, yes. Have I got any bananas? No, I blimming well haven’t, and in my opinion bananas are barely food, they’re certainly not pudding! (Don’t say it). I let him forage in the strangely-shelved big cupboard that by earlier generations might have been called a larder, but as this is a very new flat, isn’t. Finds a tin of apricots. Good! Heats the butter in my heavy, copper-bottomed frying pan. In go the apricots. Fried apricots? Huh? In goes the brand— Help! Light blue touchpaper and stand back! Whoomph! Blue flames shoot up. Quickly douses them, grinning that macho grin, with some of the extremely sweet syrup from the tin. Stirs and serves…
    Omigod! Ambrosia!
    Grin, grin. “Knew you’d like it!”

Yes, well, by that time you could get fresh fruit in winter, even in Wellington, NZ, but it was mainly apples and pears, plus imported bananas and oranges. I never actually bought much tinned fruit even back then, but I loved those tinned Otago apricots, soused in heavy syrup as they were…
    Sadly, the Otago Daily Times of Saturday, 27 October 2018 tells us that you can no longer buy “canned Central Otago apricots—or, indeed, any canned New Zealand apricots”.
    And these days, you’d be hard put to it to find any New Zealand or Australian fruit tinned in heavy syrup. It’s all done in juice.
    Tinned fruit in desserts had become a norm, though not flambéed in brandy, well before then. In fact, as we’ll see, tinned pineapple got a mention in the cookbooks of the 1890s.
    But apart from the ubiquitous apple, fresh fruit, whether cooked or raw, was rarely part of an Antipodean meal for about a hundred years. If you read the earlier New Zealand and Australian recipe books, you’d conclude that the only fruit that was widely grown in either country was the apple. There are thousands of recipes for dessert dishes using apples. Other fruits occasionally appear, yes, but in dessert recipes these are usually dried (apricots) or tinned (peaches, pineapple and apricots again). Dried fruits abound in cake recipes (raisins, sultanas, currants, dates, lemon peel, plus glacé cherries for special occasions). They read like English cookery books and, in fact, they are. That’s where the recipes used by the colonial housewife originated.
    Apples do grow well in New Zealand, and in Australia Tasmania is known as “the apple isle”. But other fruits do well in New Zealand, too; large stretches of Australia are ideal for citrus; Australia started growing pineapples and bananas quite early on; and many other fruits, we now know, flourish in its widely varying climates. Of course in the early days fruit storage and transport was always a problem, so there’s some excuse for the recipe writers. Also, most unlike today, where most published recipes in both print and online form seem to be aimed at the affluent middle class, the authors were writing for the home cook who had to keep a strict eye on the budget, and apples were plentiful and comparatively cheap. But you can’t entirely forgive them for ignoring both the climate and the social conditions for which they were writing. In both countries most people had home gardens, with fruit in season.

The root of the problem?
In an English meal for the better-off classes of the 19th century fruit was served as part of the “dessert” course, which wasn’t what we think of today as dessert.


    “Dessert” came after the course that included what today we call pudding or dessert, as we can see from Mrs Beeton’s menus for dinner parties from 1861. It was best foot forward, of course; nevertheless to us they seem overwhelmingly elaborate. In the picture below I’ve illustrated one of her listings; as it’s only for 8 people it’s actually one of the less elaborate menus (believe it or not!).


Here’s how to serve your fruit as part of the dessert course, from Mrs Beeton’s Chapter 31 on “Preserves, Confectionary, Ices, and Dessert Dishes”. (A “pine” is a pineapple):

Dish of Mixed Fruit.
    For a centre dish, a mixture of various fresh fruits has a remarkably good effect, particularly if a pine be added to the list. A high raised appearance should be given to the fruit, which is done in the following manner. Place a tumbler in the centre of the dish, and, in this tumbler, the pine, crown uppermost; round the tumbler put a thick layer of moss, and, over this, apples, pears, plums, peaches, and such fruit as is simultaneously in season. By putting a layer of moss underneath, so much fruit is not required, besides giving a better shape to the dish. Grapes should be placed on the top of the fruit, a portion of some of the bunches hanging over the sides of the dish in a negligé kind of manner, which takes off the formal look of the dish. In arranging the plums, apples, &c., let the colours contrast well.
    Seasonable.—Suitable for a dessert in September or October.

But that was posh nosh. Most of the time the comfortable middle class, to which Mr and Mrs Beeton belonged, ate simpler fare. I chose the menus for “plain family dinners” shown below, at random; but they’re all very similar. Many of the dishes in them in fact have survived till this day on family dinner tables in Britain’s former colonies.


    In August you do get fresh summer fruits in England, and as you can see Isabella does let raspberries and currants in. Both cooked, though. And boy, that Saturday menu’s depressing!
    This sparing use of fruit that was in season for family recipes was going to typify our recipes for another hundred years.

Creeping up on us
Certainly you can find examples of different fresh fruits in the recipe books, if you hunt for them. But as a regular thing, fresh fruits other than apples, whether used raw or cooked, took about a century to feature in the meals on New Zealand and Australian tables.
    Things might have changed as the transport infrastructure improved, the populations grew, and horticulture both expanded and improved its methods; except for one significant factor. As the 1890s devolved into the new 20th century, tinned fruit was creeping up on us, about to oust fresh fruit in the pudding stakes.
    The progression is best seen through the recipes.


Early fruit salads… Exceptions to the rule
Fruit salad (not necessarily under that name) did exist in the 19th century, but it was pretty much of an anomaly. Mrs Beeton’s monumental and popular work tried to cover everything, so we do find a couple of fruit salad recipes in her Chapter 31, on “Preserves, Confectionary, Ices, and Dessert Dishes”.

Orange Salad.
Ingredients.—6 oranges, 1/4 lb. of muscatel raisins, 2 oz. of pounded sugar, 4 tablespoonfuls of brandy.
Mode.—Peel 5 of the oranges; divide them into slices without  breaking the pulp, and arrange them on a glass dish. Stone the raisins, mix them with the sugar and brandy, and mingle them with the oranges. Squeeze the juice of the other orange over the whole, and the dish is ready for table. A little pounded spice may be put in when the flavour is liked; but this ingredient must be added very sparingly.
Average cost, 1s. Sufficient for 5 or 6 persons. Seasonable from November to May.
(Isabella Beeton. The Book of Household Management. [London], S.O. Beeton, 1861.)

The dish, available “from November to May”, might have been served around Christmas: oranges and raisins typically appeared at Christmas in England in the 19th century, on the tables of those who could afford them.

Raspberry And Currant, or any Fresh Fruit Salad.
(A Dessert Dish.)
Mode.—Fruit salads are made by stripping the fruit from the stalks, piling it on a dish, and sprinkling over it finely-pounded sugar. They may be made of strawberries, raspberries, currants, or any of these fruits mixed; peaches also make a very good salad. After the sugar is sprinkled over, about 6 large tablespoonfuls of wine or brandy, or 3 tablespoonfuls of liqueur, should be poured in the middle of the fruit; and, when the flavour is liked, a little pounded cinnamon may be added. In helping the fruit, it should be lightly stirred, that the wine  and sugar may be equally distributed.
Sufficient.—1-1/2 pint of fruit, with 3 oz. of pounded sugar, for 4 or 5 persons. Seasonable in summer.
(Isabella Beeton. The Book of Household Management. [London], S.O. Beeton, 1861.)

… Available in the Antipodes (with a little help from the tin)
By 1891, when Mr Payne’s vegetarian cookbook was published in Melbourne as well as London, tinned pineapple was already on the market. Although he gives a recipe for a fruit salad, the cookery-book conventions of the day meant that he didn’t know where to put it! It’s ended up in Chapter V, “Salads and Sandwiches”:

Salads, Sweet.
Apples, oranges, currants, pine-apple, and bananas are sometimes served as salads with syrup and sugar. They make a very nice mixture, or can be served separately. When preserved pine-apples in tins are used for the purpose, the syrup in the tin should be used for dressing the salad. Whole ripe strawberries are a great improvement, as also a wineglassful of brandy and a lump of ice.
(A. G. (Arthur Gay) Payne (1840-1894). Cassell's Vegetarian Cookery: A Manual of Cheap and Wholesome Diet. London; Melbourne, Cassell, 1891)

That “wineglassful of brandy” is a pretty good indication that he knew Mrs Beeton’s recipe!
    Intriguingly, the next two early Australian recipes were still not quite recognised officially as pudding: they’re from 1894, in The Art of Living in Australia’s Chapter XXI, “Fifty Recipes For Salads And Sauces”:

Banana and Orange Salad
Peel and slice up some ripe bananas and oranges, removing the pips from the oranges, but saving the juice. Take a deep glass dish, lay at the bottom some bananas, then a layer of oranges. Sprinkle well with sugar, then some more bananas and oranges and  sugar, until all the materials are used up. Cover and let it stand for an hour, then serve as a sweet. [I.e. as pudding.]

Cosmopolitan Salad
Take any fruits in season, such as oranges, mandarins, passion fruit, apricots, nectarines, pineapples, bananas, &c. Peel and slice them up, and put them into a glass dish in layers, with plenty of sugar between each layer. Stand in a cool place for an hour covered over, and it is ready to serve.
(Philip E. Muskett and Mrs H. Wicken. The Art of Living in Australia, by Philip E. Muskett; Together With Three Hundred Australian Cookery Recipes and Accessory Kitchen Information by Mrs. H. Wicken. London, Eyre and Spottiswoode, [1894])

This second recipe proves that Australia had a wide variety of fruits available even before the 20th century began. However, in the half-century that would follow, only sporadic efforts were made to include them in the recipe books.

Into the new century
Did people in fact eat more fresh fruit than the cookbooks of the first 60 years of the 20th century suggest? Those with decent home gardens did, I’m sure, but often fruit was an extra, or a snack for the kids, rather than part of a meal. A lot of the home-grown fruit in those days was made into jam, jelly or even chutney, or in the case of the stone fruit it was bottled.
    Some of the locally-grown fruits on both sides of the Tasman did get into the recipes, but they were in the minority for well over half a century. It was much easier to open a tin—and then, tins keep; fresh fruit doesn’t.

Fresh and very English… Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb
Rhubarb’s an old English favourite, and the early settlers brought it out to the Antipodes. It’s much more suited to the New Zealand climate than the Australian but nevertheless it was eaten on both sides of the Tasman—in winter, when fruit was scarcer except in the northern half of Australia. It would nearly always have been home-grown. This pie recipe (it’s not a tart) is an Australian one from the late 1940s:

Raisin and Rhubarb Tart
One pound cherry rhubarb, half packet seeded raisins, half cup sugar.
Cut rhubarb into small pieces, and stew for five minutes with raisins and sugar. When cool, place between short pastry in pie plate. Bake in a hot oven. —Mrs. H. R. Adamson.
(Green and Gold Cookery Book: Containing Many Good and Proved Recipes. 15th ed. (rev.), Adelaide, R.M. Osborne, [1949?])

We sometimes had rhubarb during the 1950s and 1960s but it was never popular with us kids. Rhubarb and apple crumble was Mum’s best effort by far, but stewed rhubarb was not greeted with cries of joy. My friend Susan’s mother, who worked at the big Auckland city produce markets, often used to make stewed rhubarb—but there was more excuse for her, she was English.
    The fruit—or is it a vegetable?—anyway, it was used quite a lot for chutney and even jam in the days when housewives used to make their own. Rhubarb chutney is lovely but I don’t know that I’d recommend the jam with dried figs added! But here it is anyway, an interesting relic from the 1950s, which is all that the New Zealand home cook’s bible, the Edmonds book, offers us for rhubarb:

Rhubarb and Dried Fig [Jam]
6 lbs rhubarb;  6 lbs sugar;  1 lb dried figs
Wash rhubarb and cut into pieces; cover with sugar and leave overnight. Next day, put into preserving pan, add finely-chopped figs, and boil about 1 hour or until it will set. Test and bottle.
(Edmonds Cookery Book. De luxe ed., [Christchurch, N.Z.], T.J. Edmonds Ltd., 1955 (1968 printing) (First published as The Sure to Rise Cookery Book, 1908))

I think the Edmonds book assumed that no-one would need instructions on how to stew rhubarb: stewed fruit was such a norm that everybody knew how to make it.

Early tinned troppo days with the “Weekly”: popular pineapple
Tinned pineapple has been hugely popular in Australia for decades. The fresh fruit hasn’t been so popular, perhaps because it wasn’t as widely available in the more populated areas, where pineapples don’t do well or won’t grow at all. Also, perhaps because it’s a pest to prepare, entailing a lot of wastage, and even then you can't be sure of getting all the prickles out of it. And then, the older varieties were much more acid than those grown today, and the acid and the prickles together made your mouth very sore. While the tinned pineapple, right up until the later 20th century, came in lovely rich, sugary syrup.
    However, as far back as the 1930s, Australian home cooks were being encouraged by the cookery gurus to use fresh pineapple. It didn’t always work, as a set of recipes from the Australian Women’s Weekly of 10 November 1934 shows. They won the competition for best pineapple recipes which, as we can see from the initial announcement, was a quest for dishes using fresh pineapple, the fruit being in season:


    Six of the winning recipes specified only fresh pineapple; one suggested replacing it with candied pineapple; three of the remaining six specified tinned pineapple; and the others either gave you the choice or apparently didn’t care. I don’t think we can declare the fresh choice the outright winner!


Classic… Topsy-turvy with the tropical fruit of the tin


The famous “Pineapple Upside-Down Cake”, which uses tinned pineapple rings, is sometimes claimed as an Australian native. ’Tisn’t. According to Gil Marks on the Tori’s Kitchen website, it was originally American. The article explains that “upside-down” dishes of various sorts had a long tradition in British and European cuisine, the famous French “Tarte Tatin” being the example best known today, but a variety of other interesting dishes once existed. In America by the 1920s cooks were using al sorts of fruits in this way.
    “However, the paradigmatic upside-down cake appeared when around 1923 someone substituted canned pineapple slices. No one knows the identity of the first person to use pineapple in this cake or where this occurred. Canned pineapple initially became commonplace on the American mainland after World War I and was still an exotic item in the 1920s. The earliest recipe for the pineapple variation may have been in A Book of Practical Recipes by the Chicago Evening American, which unfortunately lacks a copyright date (the newspaper was published from 1914-1939) but the accepted date among book collectors is 1923.”
(Gil Marks. “American Cakes – Pineapple Upside-Down Cake”, Tori’s Kitchen)
    In the early 1950s upside-down cakes became very popular in Australia. Recipes appeared indifferently in the Calendar of Cakes, like the recipe below, and the corresponding Calendar of Puddings, both of which date to around 1951-1952. I’ve collected two others from these cookbooks: “Upside-Down Apple Ginger” (using fresh apples, powdered ginger, and golden syrup), and “Upside-Down Peach Pie” (using “Fresh or Preserved Peaches”—i.e. fresh or home-bottled).
    Perhaps this author wanted to be different, as she doesn’t use the name by which we now recognize the cake:

Pineapple Wheel Cake (Served Upside-down)
Use large round tin and melt in it 2 ozs. butter. Sprinkle 1 cup light brown sugar evenly over surface. Open small tin preserved pineapple and place one whole slice, well drained, in centre of tin. Cut remaining slices in halves and arrange in circle around central slice. Have rounded edges all facing in one direction. Fill hollows with crystallised cherries and walnut halves. Grease sides of cake tin and press decorations firmly in place.
For the Cake: 1/4 lb. butter, 5 ozs. sugar, 2 eggs, 1/2 lb. S.R. flour, 1 teacup milk (about), pinch of salt.
Cream butter and sugar and beat in yolks of the eggs. Sift flour twice and add alternately with the milk. Lastly, stir in stiffly beaten egg-whites. Spoon into decorated cake tin and bake in moderate oven about 45 minutes. Allow to stand for 3 or 4 minutes before turning out.
Serve fruit side up. —MRS. A. DREWER (Murray Bridge).
(Calendar of Cakes. [4th ed.], Adelaide, South Australian Country Women's Association, [1951?])

Getting there… Fruit of the tin, touched with freshness
The fascinating recipe below from the early 1950s exemplifies several trends in Australian home cooking. Tinned fruit is still used—when the contemporary recipes say “crushed pineapple” they mean the sort that came and still comes chipped with juice or syrup in tins. But it’s used alongside fresh bananas and orange juice (freshly-squeezed at that period).
    It’s also a very early example of the crushed biscuit base in a dessert recipe which in another twenty-five years or so would become a staple in that go-to dessert of the Australasian home cook: the “slice”; and into the bargain exemplifies the eagerness with which the cooks of the 1950s leapt on the rotary eggbeater for puddings and cakes. (See the earlier articles, “Condensed Cholesterol & Sugar Blindness: the Australasian ‘Slice’ (1)” and “Snap, Crackle- Slice? The Australasian ‘Slice’ (2)”; and “A Christmas Pudding From Katherine”)

Refrigerator Fruit Pie
Filling: 1/4 cup crushed pineapple;  1 sliced banana;
1 stiffly beaten egg white;  1/2 cup whipped cream;
1 dessertspoon gelatine;
1/2 cup orange juice (Substitute any fruit juices in season.)
2 tablespoons lemon juice;  3/4 cup hot water
1/2 cup sugar; 1/4 teaspoon salt
Crust: Beat together 1/2 cup butter and 1/4 cup sugar. Work in 1 1/2 cups biscuit crumbs. Knead on sugar-dusted board and roll to shape desired.
[Filling]: Dissolve gelatine in the hot water, add sugar and salt, and stir till dissolved. Cool slightly and add fruit juices. When mixture begins to set, beat with rotary egg beater and fold in fruit, whipped cream, and egg white. Pour into piecrust shell. Chill pie several hours in refrigerator. Decorate with whipped cream.
FEB. 27 –MRS. C. W. HANNAFORD (Riverton).
(Calendar of Puddings: A Pudding a Day for the Whole Year. [5th ed.], [Adelaide], South Australian Country Women's Association, [1952?])

Fruity but untinned… Trying hard, or, Ba-na-na-na.
Meat recipes which incorporate fruit are few and far between in the Antipodes before the 1970s-1980s, but here’s an Australian wartime one which uses bananas, plentiful in Australia, with rabbit, which was cheap.
    For more on rabbit in Australian and New Zealand cuisine, see the earlier article, “The Rabbit It Was That Died.”

Rabbit and Banana Loaf
One rabbit, 1 onion, pepper and salt, 1 cup breadcrumbs, 2 mashed bananas, 1 egg, 1 cup milk, 1/4 lb bacon, 2 sliced bananas.
Wash rabbit and soak in cold, salted water for 1 hour. Cover with tepid, salted water, and simmer until tender, about 1 hour. A small bunch of herbs may be added to the cooking water.
    Remove meat from bones and put through mincer. Combine with finely chopped onion, breadcrumbs, beaten egg, mashed banana, and milk. Season with pepper and salt, and pack into greased loaf-tin. Put strips of bacon with rind removed on top, and top with sliced banana. Bake in a moderate oven for 1 hour. Serve hot with vegetables.
—First prize of £1 to Mrs P.C. McCann, 12 Franklin Ave, Flinders Park, S.A. (The Australian Women’s Weekly, Sept.22, 1945)

Bananas were also readily available in New Zealand, and some ten years later, and again 13 years after that, in a reprint edition, the Edmonds Cookery Book offered such delights as “Apricot or Banana Marshmallow”, “Banana Mould”, and “Banana Sponge” in its section on “Cold Sweets and Jelly Desserts”. But other fruit is barely mentioned except in the section on “Jams and Jellies”, which has recipes using sixteen different fruits! It was a different world…

Fruit of the tin… Going up-market, with a drop of booze
The recipe below from 1978 is reminiscent of Stan the Man’s treatment of my tinned apricots only a couple of years later. He’d spent some time in France and in any case was too liberal-minded to share the prejudice against alcohol that was still current for his generation of New Zealanders, the War generation. Teetotalism was a strong influence on the cookery of all the former British colonies throughout the 1920s and 1930s—though New Zealand and Australia didn’t go as far as the Americans and institute Prohibition. The women were the strong movers in the Temperance push against alcohol—hardly surprising, as they were the ones that got beaten up when the men reeled home from the pub, having drunk up all their wages. And as the recipes were written for women, and by this time by women, they reflect women’s attitudes.
    But by the 1970s we were much more liberated, and so alcohol makes its reappearance in the recipes. Mind you, wines, spirits and liqueurs were still expensive, and you certainly wouldn’t use a liqueur in your cooking as a matter of course. But you would for a treat—just as you might buy a Vogue Living for a treat. (We were still innocent, though: a “quickie”? Oh, dear!)

Last-Minute Mandarin Quickie
Open a can of mandarin segments, pour into glass bowl, add any orange liqueur to taste. Place in freezer for 15 minutes.
Serve topped with cream in glass goblets, or plain.
You can use other canned fruit too: mangoes are great like this.
(From Annette Woods. Vogue Living, Vol. 12, no. 1. Sydney, Bernard Leser Publications. mid-Feb./mid-Apr. 1978)

1980s into the new century… Freshly troppo, with some backsliding


David Burton’s Delectable Fruits Cookery for New Zealanders of 1985 exemplifies the new trend in fruit cookery, as those who'd been through Flower Power, burning their bras, and marching against the Vietnam War began to settle down to domesticity, awareness of the environment, and healthy eating. –Relatively healthy: this was still New Zealand, and there’s a notable preponderance of dairy products alongside the fruit in these recipes. But Burton deserves an A for effort nonetheless: there are recipes for babacos, blueberries, figs, gooseberries, kiwifruit, mangoes, passionfruit, rockmelon, tamarillos, and more.
    Fresh fruits, then, were starting to move into main meals—usually as desserts, but occasionally with meat. However, tinned and even dried fruits still frequently cropped up, too.
    I’ve arranged the recipes below by the name of the fruit, and tried to pick out those which demonstrate the trends of the last four decades in Australia and New Zealand, from the 1980s through to the 2010s.

Babacos: new fruit, new drink
The babaco is a huge cooler-climate relative of the papaya or pawpaw, originating in Ecuador. It’s actually a hybrid (ya wanted to know that). It's sometimes called the champagne fruit, the juice being claimed to be slightly fizzy. The picture shows why David Burton describes it as “Zeppelin-shaped”. It’s a very, very juicy fruit, slightly acidic and not over-sweet.
    It's still an uncommon fruit, but I’ve included this recipe because it’s an example of the new drink which was to be adopted eagerly by health-food enthusiasts and commercial “juice bars” alike: the “Smoothie”. Sometimes they include milk, yoghurt or ice cream, but this one is dairy-free:

Babaco Smoothie
1/2 babaco;  2 bananas;  juice of 1 tangelo;  sugar if desired;
1 cup chopped nuts (e.g., almonds, macadamias, cashews)
Place babaco, bananas and tangelo juice in a blender with a little sugar if desired and puree until smooth. Pour into bowls or glasses and sprinkle over the chopped nuts. –Serves 4
(David Burton. Delectable Fruits Cookery for New Zealanders. Auckland, Reed Methuen, 1985)

Cherries: the foodies’ Christmas rush
Over the past few decades the cherry season has become a big thing with the Australian foodies, especially in South Australia, where the cherries are grown in the cooler microclimate of the Adelaide Hills. You have to buy fresh cherries at Christmas if you’re a nice, respectable matron (apparently). Crowds of ’em rush the  city markets, and the prices are shocking. Most years the cherries are not actually that exciting, raw, popular myths to the contrary. So they’re often stewed.

Cherry Summer Pudding
1 large panettone or brioche, sliced;  1 kg cherries, pitted;
sugar, to taste;  4 tablespoons kirsch or brandy;
1 teaspoon almond essence;
double cream and grated dark chocolate, to serve
Stew the cherries in the sugar and a few tablespoons of water until soft. Remove from the heat and add the almond essence and kirsch.
Line a large pudding basin with slices of panettone or brioche and drizzle with some of the cherry liquid.
Fill the lined bowl with the cherries then finish with another layer of panettone or brioche.
Refrigerate when cool and leave overnight before serving.
Serve with the double cream rippled with chocolate. –Serves 8-10.
—Emily Hill, Mt Rowan, VIC
(Homecooked Feasts: Favourite Celebratory Recipes From Australian Kitchens. Sydney, NSW, ABC Books, 2008)

Very typical of its period. The traditional dish known as “Summer Pudding” has a long history in English cuisine, and is made with bread, not a fancy foreign sweetish substance halfway between a light bread and a cake that we have to use because otherwise we’d look untrendy: BREAD. Ordinary white bread. It may use any combination of raspberries, strawberries, cherries and redcurrants. Just for once I’d have liked to see an Australian cookbook acknowledge the derivation of one of its recipes!
    That said, I’m sure this trendy dish of the 2000s—extremely reminiscent of Jane Grigson’s “Summer Pudding In The Florentine Style” of 1983, except that she used raspberries—would be delish. You probably need to weigh the top layer down before refrigerating.

Figs: off the tree, but how to use them?

This is a recipe from Margaret Fulton, who for decades was the doyenne of Australian cooking, providing reliable, useable family recipes along with touches of the new and exciting, and taking quite a traditional, classic approach. If anybody was going to give an edible recipe using fresh figs, she’d be the one. True, the modern cookery gurus of the mags and the TV screens do do things to figs, off and on, but you’re better off not knowing. Well—“Grilled Brioche with Paté and Caramelised Fig”? (Donna Hay Magazine, Issue 42, Dec. 2008-Jan 2009.) Please!

Fresh Fig and Mascarpone Tart
2 cups plain flour;  1/2 cup caster sugar;
185 g unsalted butter, melted and cooled;
a few drops of vanilla essence;
1 1/2 cups of mascarpone, chilled, sweetened and flavoured with honey and vanilla essence or orange blossom water;
6-8 fresh figs;  extra sugar for caramelising (optional)
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Sift the flour into a bowl and stir in the sugar. Make a well in the centre and add the melted butter and vanilla. Mix together to make a stiff dough. Press the dough into a 25cm flan tin with removeable base, working up the edges evenly. Prick the base well and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely.
Whip the chilled mascarpone until it holds its shape. Spread the mascarpone in the tart case as evenly as possible.
Quarter the fresh figs and arrange them cut side up in the tin, as tightly as possible. Serve as is or sprinkle with extra sugar and place under a very hot grill for a minute or so. Alternatively, use a gas torch to caramelise the figs. Serve cut into wedges. –Serves 8-10.
(Margaret Fulton and Suzanne Gibbs. Margaret Fulton's Kitchen: The Much-Loved, Essential Recipes from a Lifetime of Cooking. Prahan, Vic., Hardie Grant Books, 2007)

The book has some lovely recipes, though to use it’s impractical: its print should be a lot darker, not cheap 21st-century pale grey. And the index is appalling. This recipe is listed under “fruit”, and there’s nothing under “figs”. Impossible to find anything!

Grapes: to drink, to eat with fish or just in a fruit salad?
We never even saw table grapes when I was a kid in New Zealand. They did start to appear in the supermarkets round about the late 1970s-1980s: big, round Californian ones, at unaffordable prices. Today in Australia the home-grown ones are used a lot in fruit salads when they’re in season. When you’re not popping them in a fruit salad, you can always drink them—not that! Well, that, too. But I meant grape juice: it’s always from a bottle or a carton.

Grape and Ginger Cup
1 pint (600 ml) ginger ale;  1/4 pint (150 ml) grape juice
8 oz (250 g) sugar;  juice of 1 lemon
Chill the ginger ale and grape juice.
Make a syrup by boiling together the sugar and water for 2-4 minutes. Allow to cool.
Mix the grape juice and lemon juice into the syrup and then add the ginger ale just before serving.
(Jeffrey Thomas. Drinks For a Southern Summer: A New Zealand Recipe Book. Wellington, N.Z., Port Nicholson Press, 1981)

    Grapes with fish or meat are not unknown in European cuisine but you wouldn’t have found the combination in the Antipodean fare of the first three-quarters of the 20th century. This next recipe, from the 1980s, signals the fact that the cookery writers were going up-market. Fish with grapes—and wine! Gosh!

Orange Roughy Chardonnay
1 orange roughy fillet per person;  6-8 white grapes per fillet;
1/4 glass dry white wine per fillet;  1 tablespoon butter per fillet;
1. Melt the butter in a frying pan and lightly cook the fish, one minute on each side.
2. Add the wine and grapes and poach for a further two minutes but do not overcook.
3. Serve with French bread.
This recipe can be made with fillets of snapper, terakihi, John Dory or sole.
(The New Zealand Kitchen. Auckland, N.Z., Burgess Friedlander Publishing, between 1984 and 1989)

Kiwifruit: on a pav, in a fruit salad… or with custard?
A word of warning: don’t cook kiwifruit! (or “kiwis”). They’re disgusting hot. The best way to serve them is in a simple fruit salad or, for a big treat, on top of a pavlova.
    The recipe below combines two trends in Australasian cookery. Cornflour-based sauces and custards were a huge favourite in the 1950s, and had been standard for a couple of decades, served with stewed fruit or steamed puddings. But here we see a newer trend: fresh, raw fruits are favoured with the custard.

Kiwifruit and Banana Caramel Cream
8 small bananas;  8 kiwifruit;  800 ml cream;
125 g butter;  1 cup brown sugar;  1 cup water;
2 tb golden syrup;  1 1/2 tb cornflour;  1 tsp rum (optional)
12 toasted, blanched almonds, chopped
Combine the butter and sugar in a small saucepan. Stir over low heat until the butter is melted and the sugar dissolved. Bring to the boil and simmer for 3 minutes. Combine the water, cornflour and golden syrup in a bowl. Stir until smooth. Add to the brown sugar and butter. Bring to the boil stirring constantly. Simmer for 2 minutes. Remove form the heat, add the rum and allow to cool.
Peel bananas and kiwifruit and slice into 8 dessert glasses. Carefully pour the sauce over the fruit in each glass. Whip the cream and pile it on top, Sprinkle with almonds. –Serves 8.
(Mary Browne, Helen Leach & Nancy Tichborne. The Cook's Garden: For Cooks Who Garden and Gardeners Who Cook. Wellington, [N.Z.], A.H. & A.W. Reed, 1980)


Kiwifruit are a winter crop. Growing up in New Zealand in the 1950s and 1960s, we only knew them as “Chinese gooseberries” (their botanical name being Actinidia deliciosa). Then the horticulture whizz-kids from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries got going. By the 1980s the New Zealand industry had developed a fruit that was once little more than a curiosity to the stage where your doctor would bore on about his investment in a kiwifruit farm (or should it be orchard?—they grow on vines) while you sat there thinking “Nice for some”, and “What about my prescription?” So many affluent idiots jumped on this investment bandwaggon that there was a huge glut of the things, and Woolie’s were selling them off for a dollar a bucketful, keep the plastic bucket—no kidding. I made kiwifruit jam but it wasn’t a success, didn’t keep, and like all cooked kiwifruit efforts, tasted sort of sicky.
    These days we see them in the Australian supermarkets even in summer (for a price), which enabled “Kaz” to post a recipe for “Salad of Eden” in January 2007 on the BestRecipes website, possibly labouring under the misapprehension that they’re a summer fruit, as the dish is described as “Australia's gorgeous summer fruits with yoghurt on the side.” It contains rockmelon, honeydew melon, peaches, apricots, grapes, strawberries and cherries, as well as the kiwifruit.

Mangoes: “the Apples of the Hesperides are but Fables to them”
After a lot of mango research and development by the Queensland DPI (Department of Primary Industry) in the 1980s-1990s, and a strong push by the marketing board, this lovely tropical fruit, unknown by the general public in Australia a couple of generations back, has become a favourite. And rightly so: “‘When ripe, the Apples of the Hesperides are but Fables to them; for Taste, the Nectarin, Peach and Apricot fall short’, wrote an employee of the East India Company, Dr John Fryer, in 1673.” (David Burton. Delectable Fruits Cookery for New Zealanders (op.cit.).)
    I don’t think you can beat a fresh ripe mango, just sliced, but you might like to try this yummy dish from the Heart Foundation’s Real Food—it’s gotta be good for you!

Mangoes with Hot Brown Sugar Syrup
and Lemon Ricotta Cream
4 large mangoes, unpeeled and sliced;
Hot Brown Sugar Syrup:
1/4 cup brown sugar;  1/2 cup (125 ml) water)
Lemon Ricotta Cream:
1/2 cup low-fat ricotta;  1/4 cup low-fat plain yoghurt;
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. Place the mangoes on a plate and refrigerate.
2. To make the hot brown sugar syrup, combine the sugar and water in a pan and bring to a boil. Cook until syrupy; about 5 minutes.
3. To make the lemon ricotta cream: combine the ricotta, yoghurt and lemon juice in a processor and whizz until smooth.
4. Serve the fruit straight from the fridge, with the hot syrup poured over and the lemon ricotta cream on the side.  –Serves 4.
(Loukie Werle. Real Food. Sydney, NSW, ACP and Media 21 [for National Heart Foundation of Australia], ©2005)

Don’t eat the peel: it won’t poison you but it tastes bitter and rather peppery. I think this is meant to be a fork-and-spoon job: eat it nicely, dear. Personally, I’d peel the mangoes first (yes, it can be a messy job), and add some grated lemon zest to the ricotta mixture.

Nectarines: becoming available
An example of a fruit which was beginning to come onto the market in larger quantities in the 1980s and with the development of the new yellow variety would soon be a common summer fruit in the supermarkets, instead of a treat from a lucky friend’s or relative’s garden:

Nectarines with Honey Lime Cream
6 nectarines, peeled and sliced;
1/2 cups unsweetened yoghurt;  1/4 cup sour cream;
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice;  1 teaspoon grated lime rind;
hint of grated nutmeg;  1 tablespoon liquid honey
Mix together yoghurt, sour cream, lime juice, lime rind, nutmeg and honey (you can use hardened honey but it will need to be melted first) until all ingredients are well blended. Chill. Pour this mixture over the sliced nectarines in individual bowls. –Serves 8.
(David Burton. Delectable Fruits Cookery for New Zealanders. Auckland, Reed Methuen, 1985)


    The next recipe perfectly illustrates the mélange of cuisines, not always fortunate, with which we’re being bombarded in the 21st century. Here we have European fruits added to what is essentially an Asian dish: rice with coconut. This one, however, is worth trying, though you may find it too sweet. Just use short-grain rice, if you can find any these days that’s not masquerading under the name arborio (Italian, not Asian, actually) at sixteen times its original price.

Coconut Rice with Stone Fruit and Vanilla Honey
3 nectarines, sliced;  3 peaches, sliced;
2 cups (400g) arborio rice;  1.5 litres water;
2 cups (500ml) coconut milk; 1/2 cup (110g) caster sugar;
2/3 cup (240g) honey; 1 vanilla bean, split & seeds scraped
Place the rice and water in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to the boil. Cook for 10 minutes or until almost all of the water has been absorbed. Add the coconut milk and sugar and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to low, cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook for a further 5-8 minutes or until the rice is cooked.
Place the honey and vanilla bean and seeds in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook for 3 minutes; set aside to cool. Remove vanilla bean.
Serve the rice warm or cold, topped with the nectarines, peaches and vanilla honey. –Serves 6.
(Donna Hay Magazine. Issue 42, Dec 2008-Jan 2009)

Passionfruit: fresh—with some backsliding
Oops! Nice fresh passionfruit, but dried apricots?

pulp of 12 passionfruit;  100g dried apricots;
3 teaspoons gelatine;  3/4 cup cream
2 teaspoons sugar;  1-2 drops cochineal (optional)
Barely cover the dried apricots with water in a saucepan, cover, and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer until soft.
Save about a quarter cup of the hot water used to boil the apricots and sprinkle gelatine over this, stirring briskly to dissolve.
Put the rest of the liquid into a blender/food processor with the apricots and blend until smooth. Stir in the gelatine and the passionfruit pulp, and colour with cochineal if desired.
Whip cream with sugar. Fold in the apricot and passionfruit mixture, then turn into a wetted mould or basin and chill until set. –Serves 4.
(David Burton. Delectable Fruits Cookery for New Zealanders. Auckland, Reed Methuen, 1985)

And from 2006: passionfruit, or fruit of the tin? This “slice” is a prime example of the survival of tinned fruit in Australasian cookery in the 21st century.

Passionfruit Slice
1 cup self-raising flour;  1 cup coconut;  1 cup sugar;
125 g butter, melted;  1 small tin passionfruit pulp;
1 tin (395 mL) condensed milk;  Juice of half a lemon
Mix flour, sugar and coconut together.
Add melted butter and mix well.
Press mixture into a 20 cm x 30 cm slice tin lined with baking paper.
Bake at 170°C for 13 minutes. Remove from oven and pat down gently with the back of a spoon to make level.
Spread combined condensed milk, passionfruit and lemon juice over cooked base and return to oven for 5 minutes.
You can use a bit less sugar if desired.
(By: Jenny Sapphire, May 13, 2006, BestRecipes)


Pomegranates: gone completely troppo
Pomegranates are THE in thing of the second decade of the 21st century. The TV cookery gurus sprinkle the seeds on anything you care to name and some things you wouldn’t, they splash the syrup here, there and everywhere… Thus, BestRecipes in November 2018 presented “10 recipes bursting with pomegranate”.
    For a long time, although the trees grow well in large parts of Australia, they were ignored. But oddly enough, back in the late 1970s-1980 someone had noticed them! As with all the recipes in this book, this one’s age is uncertain, in spite of the volume’s title. It could, like others, be contemporary with the date of publication, though its style suggests it’s earlier:

A Dish of Pomegranates
Take all the inside from 6 pomegranates and mash them into a silver bowl. Sprinkle with rose-water, lime juice and sugar and serve very cold.
(L. Pescott. Early Settlers' Household Lore. Rev. ed., Richmond, Vic., Raphael Arts, 1980)


This second recipe exemplifies the modern trend:

Tabbouleh and Chickpea Salad with Pomegranate
Great salad on its own or for barbecues.
    4 cups tabbouleh;  1 1/2 x 400 g tins chickpeas
    1 large pomegranate (ripe);  Haloumi cheese
Combine tabbouleh, chickpeas and pomegranate seeds, mix with a spoon. Slice Haloumi cheese approximately 2 cm thick and fry on both sides. Place salad ingredients on a platter and top with Haloumi cheese. –Serves 2-6.
(By NelsBels, September 18, 2013, BestRecipes)

Rockmelon
For the full gen on rockmelon (or rock melon, take your pick) and other melons, see the earlier blog article, “Revivals and Survivals: Melon with the Meal?

Strawberries: seasonal
These days recipes for using strawberries in desserts abound. I’ll just give you one example from the 1980s, because it demonstrates some interesting trends.

Strawberry Yoghurt Tart
Biscuit crumb shell: 2 cup crushed vanilla biscuits (225 g packet)
115 g butter, melted;  1/4 tsp grated nutmeg, optional
1/2 tsp cinnamon, optional
Combine the ingredients thoroughly. Press into a 20-25 cm diameter tin with a removable base, or use an aluminium-foil pie plate. Chill for 1 hour.
Filling: 20 hulled strawberries ;  2 tb honey;
1 cup plain yoghurt;  225 g cream cheese;  1/2 tsp vanilla
Slice each strawberry in half. Reserve eight halves for decoration. Cover the base of the shell with strawberries. Warm the honey and, when sufficiently liquid, pour over the strawberries. Whip the yoghurt, cream cheese and vanilla until it is thick and smooth. Spoon this over the strawberries. Chill thoroughly. Just before serving, decorate with the reserved strawberry halves.
(Mary Browne, Helen Leach & Nancy Tichborne. The Cook's Garden: For Cooks Who Garden and Gardeners Who Cook. Wellington, [N.Z.], A.H. & A.W. Reed, 1980)

This recipe is typical of the mid-years of the revival in Australasia of the old English tradition of using cream cheese or cottage cheese in a dessert. Here we have cream cheese, as in the recipes from the first period of revival (late 1960s and early 1970s), but—the Seventies/Eighties syndrome—with healthy yoghurt as well!
    Strawberries, though it's hard to envisage it now, were once a delicacy in the Antipodes, and very expensive—and they were seasonal. For the first twenty-odd years of my life in EnZed we only ever had them at Christmas. Usually topping a pavlova, as in “A Christmas Pudding From Katherine”.
    But by the end of the 1970s growing and storage techniques had improved and harvests were much bigger, and so the price came down, and you could envisage using them for more than just a pav topping or, in the case of the fervent jam-makers, using the bulk-packed “jam strawberries”, the discards, not big enough or shapely enough for selling in punnets.

Tamarillos: no longer tree tomatoes
On both sides of the Tasman it wasn’t uncommon to have a tree tomato tree in your back garden, certainly up until the 1970s. Once the New Zealand horticultural researchers had got going on them and renamed them “tamarillos” for marketing purposes, they started to appear in the shops as well as in your granny’s back garden.
    I won’t give you David Burton’s recipe for “Wild Pork with Tamarillo”: wild pork  was pie in the sky even back in the NZ of the 1970s! The wild pigs were already hiding deep in the bush and three days' tracking (no kidding) seldom resulted in anything but a frayed temper and a sheepish bloke. (I have this from the horse’s mouth: Stan The Man was very keen on hunting: it might be “pig” or deer: see the earlier blog entry, “The Deer Hunter”).
    Here are some doable recipes for tamarillos:

Tamarillo Dessert
To serve as a simple, uncooked dessert or breakfast fruit, slice peeled tamarillos into a bowl and sprinkle the layers with castor sugar (1/2 cup of castor sugar to 500 g tamarillos). Leave in a cool place. After 8 hours they will have formed their own juice.
(Mary Browne, Helen Leach & Nancy Tichborne. The Cook's Garden: For Cooks Who Garden and Gardeners Who Cook. Wellington, [N.Z.], A.H. & A.W. Reed, 1980)

Tamarillos In Port
      8 tamarillos;  3/4  cup port;  1/2 cup sugar
Leave tamarillos in boiling water for 30 seconds, remove and peel, leaving stalks intact.
Place in a saucepan with the sugar and port, and add just enough water to cover. Simmer for 20 minutes, uncovered.
Remove the tamarillos. Boil the liquid vigorously until it has reduced to a thick syrup, then pour over the tamarillos.
This dish can be served either hot or cold. Serves 4.

    Fresh tamarillos can go topsy-turvy just as well as tinned pineapple:

Tamarillo Upside-Down Cake
Topping: 6 tamarillos;  30 g butter;  100 g brown sugar;
Cake: 50 g butter;  100 g sugar;  1 egg;  1 tsp vanilla;
170 g flour;  2 tsp baking powder;  1/4 tsp salt;
1/2 cup milk
Peel and halve the tamarillos. Melt 30 g butter and mix with the brown sugar. Spread over the base of a greased ovenproof dish (20 cm square). Arrange the tamarillo halves evenly on top.
Cream 50 g butter and sugar. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt. Fold into the creamed mixture alternately with the milk.
Spoon carefully over the tamarillos. Bake at 180°C for 30-40 minutes. Loosen the sides and invert on to a plate. Serve hot with cream.
Serves 6.
(Mary Browne, Helen Leach & Nancy Tichborne. The Cook's Garden: For Cooks Who Garden and Gardeners Who Cook. Wellington, [N.Z.], A.H. & A.W. Reed, 1980)

More on tamarillos in “Vini Vidi Vinegar”.

Tangelos
Tangelos are so tangy and juicy and delicious that you probably won’t want to waste them in cooking, but here’s one recipe that typifies the “up-market or bust” ambiance of the 1980s, but isn’t too over-the-top:

Lamb with Tangelo Sauce
1 kg leg of lamb, diced into large pieces;
450 ml fresh tangelo juice, plus 1 1/2 teaspoons grated rind;
juice of 1 lemon;  150 ml chicken stock powder;
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce;  1 bay leaf;
3 egg yolks [to thicken];  1 tablespoon butter;
1 tablespoon oil;  black pepper; 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
Sprinkle lamb with salt and pepper and brown on all sides in the butter and oil. Transfer to a heavy saucepan or cast iron casserole dish and pour over the tangelo juice, tangelo rind, lemon juice, Tabasco sauce, bay leaf and stock.
Bring to the boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer gently for about an hour, until tender.
Transfer meat to a warm oven and keep covered. Strain off the cooking liquid and return it to the pot. Boil vigorously until the liquid has reduced to about 300 ml. Beat a few tablespoons of this into the egg yolks, then gradually stir into the rest of the cooking liquid. Heat to thicken, stirring constantly, but do not boil. Pour over the lamb. –Serves 4-6.
(David Burton. Delectable Fruits Cookery for New Zealanders. Auckland, Reed Methuen, 1985)

I wouldn’t thicken the sauce with egg: a thinner sauce would be nicer. Try just adding a little cornflour well mixed with water.

Going, going… Gone troppo
Mango Popsicles” from BestRecipes, circa 2018, represents the far end of the “Gone troppo” syndrome—the opposite end of a long chain from the “Fruit of the tin” syndrome. The mango, though still seasonal, has now reached the stage in Australia where in a good year there’s a glut. So, what to do with all those extra mangoes?
    The answer is, shove them in the blender with cream, add sugar and turn the result into ice cream. Put layers of this and of vanilla ice cream into your popsicle moulds and freeze. Voilà!

P.S. “To go troppo” is an Australianism meaning to go crazy. Ya knew that? Good on ya!