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)

Friday, 23 September 2016

On Golden Pond - Of Marmalade and Puddings

On Golden Pond...
Of Marmalade and Puddings

Vignette: Late 1960s. Two very naïve twenty-one-year-olds from New Zealand, staying with her aunties in California. A beaming aunty sits us down to breakfast, in the strange Californian kitchen with the dinky frilled curtains drawn over the windows and the lights on, ignoring the beautiful mild California December morning out there. We goggle at what’s proudly presented to us: “Danish,” never heard of them, they look like some sort of sweet sticky cakes. Mum would have fits at the idea of eating sweet cakes for breakfast. And...
    “We thought you might like grapefruit this morning!” beams the aunty.
    Gulp. Delicate pink-tinted skins, the fruit cut open to display beautiful glossy pink segments, centred by a preserved cherry!
    They were the “ruby” grapefruit favoured in America, of course, but I’d never even heard of them. Pink grapefruit? And it tasted so mild!

Hair On Your Chest
Nah, those aren’t grapefruit! New Zealand grapefruit are deep yellow as to the outside and dark yellow as to the flesh and they’re lusty, tangy, juicy things that hit you with a hammer, POW! ...Whew! Guaranteed to put hair on the smoothest chest. They make wonderful marmalade; three decent-sized ones are enough for pots and pots of marmalade, so much that you need a preserving pan to cook it in.

    David Burton writes in Delectable Fruits Cookery for New Zealanders (1985):

“Sir George Grey brought the grapefruit to New Zealand, establishing on Kawau Island the forerunner of the New Zealand grapefruit which can be grown in conditions colder than those normally required. It is thought that Grey’s plant was either a pomelo, a sour orange hybrid, or a hybrid between the sour orange and the mandarin. Since 1981 these have been sold as ‘goldfruit’.”

    Whatever. Why so many New Zealanders need to authenticate stuff with reference to Sir G.G. is beyond me. Maybe he brought them. It’s hard to imagine a posh Englishman bothering about a strange variety of citrus, or any citrus, actually: he came from a land where lemons need to be strawed up and kept in your glasshouse all winter to have even a chance of surviving.
    Burton’s best effort with the EnZed grapefruit is the traditional appetiser, a grilled half-grapefruit, sprinkled with rum and sugar or maybe honey or, redundantly, marmalade. I’ve been offered this at a dainty dinner party. A complete waste of effort.
    They’re much nicer not grilled, for breakfast. But you have to catch them at that crucial instant when they’re just ripe, no longer terrifically bitter and sour, but both sweet and tangy, just before they start to taste of sick and the skins go soft and turn blue-grey with mould. “Goldfruit”? Not what I’d call a viable commercial crop, mate.

The Golden Mountain
Imagine a bright gold puddle of marmalade.

    Mmm, on warm toast... Now imagine it on a steamed pudding, eaten with a milky custard. UGH!
    I’ve got 24 recipes with marmalade in them in my recipes database and I’d eat at the most one or two. The rest are curiosities, mainly historical curiosities, from the days when the provident Antipodean housewife always had marmalade in the cupboard, almost inevitably homemade, and was desperate for something to jazz up the family puddings. The only other possibilities being jam or golden syrup, or, more rarely as the 20th century passed its thirties, treacle.
    Yes, we did have steamed pudding with marmalade when I was a kid, though I don’t remember it past the age of about ten. Bought jam was expensive. If you had established fruit trees it was really economical to make your own, but in a very new, raw suburb, we didn’t. True, the horrible little red NZ guavas flourished like the proverbial—either fiercely sour or, when ripe, totally sicky, there was no intermediate stage when they were actually edible. A bit later, the banana passionfruit vine on the trellis would burst into exuberant fruit every year, but even Mum couldn’t think of anything to do with the blimming things. But that was it. We had a small apple tree and a small peach tree but it was several years before they grudgingly produced a couple of fruit a year.
    Oranges were quite dear in the New Zealand shops—navel oranges had to be imported. But in the North Island almost everybody had a grapefruit tree: they bear so prolifically that people would be begging you to take some, and if the greengrocer could be persuaded to take some off the local home gardeners they’d be very cheap.

    The milder varieties were unknown. There was an alternative, however: my grandfather grew them: huge, very, very bitter but very juicy things. “Weenies,” that was it! His joke—inevitably, us kids recognised—was that they were called that because they were weeny. Back then I never saw the name written down, but I’ve seen it since as “Wheeny,” the claim being that they are Australian and sweet. These were not sweet! Nanna never did anything with them except bestow them on the descendants. I do remember eating them—fruit was fruit. But they were pretty horrible.
    In Australia citrus fruit was plentiful, with much a warmer climate, offering more choice for your homemade marmalade; and so the kitchen cupboards would be stuffed full of it, if slightly different-tasting, on both sides of the Tasman.
    And thus we find the early recipe books of Australia bursting with economical recipes using marmalade: “Golden Pudding,” “Shirley’s Golden Pudding,” “Marmalade Pudding,” “Princess Pudding,” “Mount Lofty Pudding,” “Snowdon Pudding” (oops, where did that come from??). You could also put it in biscuits (“Pernatty Cookies”), little cakes (“Marmalade Cakes,” “Myra Cakes”), and “Welsh Cakes.” And of course in big fruit cakes: “Wedding Cake”, circa 1951, in Calendar of Cakes from the South Australian Country Women’s Association.
    In New Zealand the Edmonds Cookery Book (De Luxe edition 1955, 1968 printing) had marmalade along with the dried fruit and peel in one of its recipes for “Fruit Cake.” Its “Mysterious Pudding” (a light version of steamed pudding, incorporating stiffly beaten egg whites) offers you the choice of either jam or marmalade in the bottom of the basin.
    Which was how to do to it. Grease the pudding basin, put the marmalade in the bottom (if being mean a tablespoon, more if generous), pour in the pudding mix, tie it up and steam it for about an hour. Then tip it out onto a good-sized serving plate and you’ll find it gilded with golden globules running down its mountain-like sides into a golden pond...
    “Ugh, marmalade?” the kids cry.
     Yeah, well.

Princess Marmalade in the Sky
I found 2 almost identical recipes for “Princess Pudding” dating from the late 1940s to early 1950s. As usual at this period the cookery books have no date of publication on them, but we can date them fairly well from internal evidence. The name was probably a contemporary curtsey to Princess Elizabeth, as she was then. What makes a pudding “princess?” Your guess is as good as mine.
    The coconut apart—it’s a fixation of Australian recipes of this era—these recipes for a marmalade-flavoured bread and butter custard are similar to the bread and butter pudding in that hilarious episode of Pie in the Sky called “The Mild Bunch.” Its secret was the marmalade that the bread and butter was spread with.

Princess Pudding
(Circa 1949, Green and Gold Cookery Book. 15th ed. (rev.),
from the section "Milk Puddings and Custards")
Three thin slices of bread, marmalade, desiccated cocoanut, two eggs, one pint milk, 1 oz. sugar.
Spread the bread with marmalade, put into a buttered piedish and sprinkle with cocoanut and sugar. Add the beaten egg and milk and bake in a moderate oven till set. -K.S.

Princess Pudding
(Circa 1952, Calendar of Puddings,
published by South Australian Country Women’s Association)
2 slices bread, 2 eggs, 1 pint milk, 1 tablespoon sugar, marmalade, cocoanut.
Spread the bread with marmalade and cut into fingers. Put in layers in a buttered piedish. Beat eggs with the sugar, add milk, and pour over the bread. Let stand 1/2 hour. Sprinkle with desiccated cocoanut and bake in slow oven about 1 hour, until custard is lightly set.
--MRS. E. LANG (Wirrulla)

Golden Mount Lofty
Of course the boiled or steamed pudding jollied up with marmalade derives from the British tradition. In The Book of Household Management (1861) Mrs Beeton puts marmalade in quite a few dishes—though as she uses “marmalade” in the older sense, a jam made from a firm-fleshed fruit such as apples or quinces, as well as in the modern sense of a citrus jam, you have to read the recipes carefully to be sure of what she means. Here are two of hers. First, her steamed batter pudding: I think it would turn out much, much lighter than many of the later versions favoured by the Antipodean cookery writers:

1249. INGREDIENTS.—4 eggs, 1 pint of milk, 1-1/4 oz. of loaf sugar, 3 tablespoonfuls of flour.
Mode.—Make the batter with the above ingredients, put it into a well-buttered basin, tie it down with a cloth, and boil for 1 hour. As soon as it is turned out of the basin, put a small jar of orange marmalade all over the top, and send the pudding very quickly to table.
Time.—1 hour. Average cost, with the marmalade, 1s. 3d. Sufficient for 5 or 6 persons. Seasonable at any time; but more suitable for a winter pudding.

    Below is the classic heavier version, to be reprised, with or without the suet, in thousands of Australasian households for the next hundred years:

1282. INGREDIENTS.—1/4 lb. of bread crumbs, 1/4 lb. of suet, 1/4 lb. of marmalade, 1/4 lb. of sugar, 4 eggs.
Mode.—Put the bread crumbs into a basin; mix with them the suet, which should be finely minced, the marmalade, and the sugar; stir all these ingredients well together, beat the eggs to a froth, moisten the pudding with these, and when well mixed, put it into a mould or buttered basin; tie down with a floured cloth, and boil for 2 hours. When turned out, strew a little fine-sifted sugar over the top, and serve.
Time.—2 hours. Average cost, 11d. Sufficient for 5 or 6 persons. Seasonable at any time.
Note.—The mould may be ornamented with stoned raisins, arranged in any fanciful pattern, before the mixture is poured in, which would add very much to the appearance of the pudding. For a plainer pudding, double the quantities of the bread crumbs, and if the eggs do not moisten it sufficiently, use a little milk.

    If you want direct proof of Mrs Beeton’s continuing influence on the cooking of the British Commonwealth well into the 20th century, you only need read “Snowdon Pudding” in the Green and Gold Cookery Book: that terrifically dainty aside about the raisins in Isabella’s note is leapt on with enthusiasm: this contributor to the book was clearly even more of a control freak than Mum was, fixated on the dainty and dinky:

Snowdon Pudding
Quarter pound raisins, 3 oz. suet, 3 oz. marmalade, grated lemon rind, one pinch salt, 1/4 lb. bread crumbs, 3/4 oz. ground rice, two eggs, 1/2 gill milk, 3 oz. sugar.
Ornament a greased basin with the raisins. Mix together suet, crumbs, ground rice, sugar, salt and lemon rind. Add marmalade, eggs and milk. Put in the prepared basin, cover with greased paper and steam one hour.

The first sentence is the crucial one. And if that pudding doesn’t look like a mountain daintily covered with rocks when it’s turned out, there’ll be Hell to pay!

British from Seville?
For well over a hundred years “Dundee” marmalade has been cited as the best British marmalade. Seems weird: oranges don’t grow in Scotland? Read on:

“Legend has it that in the 18th century a Spanish ship took refuge from a raging storm in the sheltered harbour of Dundee, Scotland. Its cargo included Seville oranges which were purchased on speculation by a Dundee grocer called James Keiller. It was Mrs. Keiller who saw the potential of these bitter Spanish oranges. She boiled the oranges with sugar and the resulting product was the delicious preserve now known as Dundee Orange Marmalade.”
(“James Keiller & Son Dundee Marmalade, Orange”, Wegmans),

Spreading to the Colonies...
We find Mrs Wicken giving a version of Mrs Beeton’s “Golden Pudding” for the Colonies as early as 1894 in Chapter 22, “Fifty Recipes for Sweets,” of The Art of Living in Australia:

Yankee Pudding
1 Egg, and its Weight in Flour;  Sugar; Bread Crumbs;
1 tablespoonful Marmalade; 1/2 teaspoonful Carbonate of Soda;
1/2 gill Milk
Total Cost—4d. Time—One Hour.
Mix the flour, sugar, and bread crumbs together; stir in the marmalade. Make the milk just warm, dissolve in it the soda. Beat up the egg and mix together, pour this over the dry ingredients, beat for a few minutes; turn into a buttered basin. Tie over it a cloth, plunge into boiling water, and boil one hour. Serve either hot or cold.
A spoonful of marmalade placed on the top of this pudding just before serving is an improvement.

Just don’t ask what was “Yankee” about marmalade!
   You’ll note that already the recipe is bowdlerised: where Isabella generously poured a small pot of marmalade over her pudding, the parsimonious Mrs W., mindful of the desperate Colonial housewives who were her readers, only uses a spoonful.
    Fifty-odd years later similar recipes abound in both the Green and Gold Cookery Book (around 1949) and the Calendar of Puddings (1952 or so): in fact it would be fair to conclude, judging from the books alone, that steamed or boiled pudding was the Australian favourite of the time. The kids of the time wouldn’t have agreed. Here’s one of the South Australian Green and Gold Cookery Book’s prize exhibits (it actually has 2 recipes under this name):

Mount Lofty Pudding
Two eggs, their weight in butter, sugar and flour, tablespoonful of marmalade, teaspoonful baking powder.
Method.—Beat the butter to a cream, and add to it the sugar, then the flour, in which the baking powder is added, then the marmalade. Beat eggs well, yolks and white separately. Add the whites last. Pour into a well-greased basin. Steam for one and a half hours. Serve with sweet sauce.

Like its predecessors it puts the marmalade in the mixture. The kids might have eaten it, with that “sweet sauce” on it. (Kind of a whitish sweetened glue.)

    The name? Mt Lofty is a landmark in Adelaide, South Australia. Presumably the reference is to the shape of the turned-out pudding, though the actual Mt Lofty (not much more than a hill) looks nothing like that rounded volcanic cone shape. Sorry, but “Mount Eden Pudding” would be a better name: a turned-out pudding is very much the same shape as the volcanic cones all over the Auckland isthmus!
    No, it doesn’t tell you to turn it out! This is the “Everybody Knows” syndrome, very, very common in the cookery books of the period. Actually it’s not uncommon in Adelaide today: you get myriads of ads on TV about some exciting event, which never explain where the venue is. Provincial? Parochial? You betcha!
    There are myriads of recipes which put jam in the bottom of the pudding bowl: “Mum’s Delight,” for May 8, or “Waterfall Pudding,” for March 31, from the Calendar, “Aunt Margaret’s Pudding,” “Marguerite Pudding” (2 versions) and the other version of “Mount Lofty Pudding” from the Green and Gold Cookery Book, and “Steamed Sponge Pudding” from the Edmonds Cookery Book.
    It’s the marmalade version that was inflicted on us at home that sticks in the memory, however. It was probably the Edmonds recipe, which is fairly obviously a hybrid, copied from a recipe that used jam:

Mysterious Pudding
2 ozs. Butter;  4 ozs. Flour;  2 ozs. Sugar; 
1 teaspoon Edmonds Baking Powder;
1 tablespoon Grated Lemon or Orange Rind;
1 tablespoon Marmalade or Jam;  2 eggs
Grease a basin and put jam in the bottom. Cream butter and sugar; add rind and egg yolks, beat well. Then fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Stir and fold in flour and baking powder. Steam 1 1/2 hours. Serve with jam or Edmonds Custard.

    “Ugh, marmalade?

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Revivals & Survivals: Flor de Jamaica (Roselles)

You say Rosellas, I say Roselles…
Revivals & Survivals: Flor de Jamaica

Home made Rosella jam is unbeatable, easy to make as well.”
--David O’Bryan - Mansfield, QLD 18-Oct-2008,
Daleys Fruit Tree Nursery, http://www.daleysfruit.com.au/

Every so often someone pops up with a great new food discovery— Only on closer inspection, oops! It isn’t new, someone else published it years ago. Or it’s only new to us, elsewhere in the world it’s being consumed every day.

This is certainly the case with the “fruit” or “flower” of Hibiscus sabdariffa, the “roselle” or “jamaica” (“ha-MY-kah”). I came across references to it in a very old American cookbook published in the early 20th century and was quite intrigued when I realised I also had a reference to it from the Australian website, Daleys Fruit Tree Nursery (http://www.daleysfruit.com.au/), where it’s called the rosella, described as:

“An attractive annual bushy shrub with flowers and fruit used to give colour and flavour to jams, fruit punches, sauces and desserts. A relative of the hibiscus family, best grown in rich soil in a sunny position.”
The picture supplied (above) isn’t very clear. Small red buds?? The early recipes varied between “flowers” and “fruit”. Many varieties of hibiscus are grown in New Zealand and Australia as decorative plants and I knew them as garden flowers, so I assumed that the bright red colour must be from the crimson flowers with which I was familiar. Wrong…

Let’s look at the recipes: you’ll see why I was confused. The Khaki Kook Book: a collection of a hundred cheap and practical recipes mostly from Hindustan, by Mary Kennedy Core, Bareilly, India, was published in 1917 by an American missionary and contains mostly Anglo-Indian recipes which she gathered during her time in India in the 19th century. Many of them are typical of the food eaten by the British Raj, and the book is fascinating reading. However, there are some, like the ones for roselles, which definitely have an American origin.
Mary Kennedy Core writes:
“Roselles are a fruit belonging to the sorrel family. ... Long before the season is over the bushes are vivid with wine-red flowers. From the waxen petals of these flowers very delicious sauces, jams, chutneys, and jellies are made. ...
    “The fruit is very rich in pectin, and not only gives a beautiful color when combined with any other fruit, but also adds much to the flavor. Combined with peaches or strawberries, cherries or guavas, or any other fruit that is deficient in pectin, the roselle has very satisfactory results. When used by themselves a fine jelly is made which is far superior to currant jelly.”

Roselle Jelly.
Remove the petals of the flower from the seed; then mince finely by running through the meat grinder. To every cup of minced petals add three cups of water. Boil quickly as the color is much better if it does not stand around. After boiling about five minutes it will be ready to strain. Strain and make as any other jelly. In flavor and appearance this jelly can not be surpassed.
Recipe no. 83.

Roselle Sauce.
Remove petals from the seed, and for every cup of petals take two cups of water. Stew gently for a few minutes, then add a cup of sugar for every cup of fruit. These two things must be remembered if one wishes to get the best results from the fruit. It must be well diluted and it must be cooked quickly, as it is apt to lose its bright color if it stands around.
Recipe no. 84.

Can you see why I was confused? She calls them both “fruit” and “petals”. They can’t be both!

Well, at this stage I just assumed that “roselles” or “rosellas” were the flowers and that the Daleys website users like David O’Bryan were an interesting example of the first “Survivals and Revivals” syndrome above: great new food discovery, except someone else published it years ago. –Incidentally, in Australia rosellas are small native psittacine birds, so don’t ask why the word got used for the flowering plant!

More Confusion…
The perils of watching foodie programmes on the idiot box. I was following an SBS series and looked up “Egyptian Cuisine” on their website—more fool me, what did I want the stuff for, I already owned Claudia Roden’s classic, A Book of Middle Eastern Food. In addition to a revolting recipe for a mess of greens, this is what I got:

“Karkade. The delicious refreshing red tea called karkade made with dried hibiscus flowers ... This Hibiscus tea is sought after for its medicinal properties. Drunk hot or cold, it is said to reduce high blood pressure and cool you down on a hot day in the desert.”

Hibiscus flowers eh? Hmm, intriguing, as Data would say, didn’t know that hibiscuses grew in— Hang on! Isn’t this the same as— Ooh, yes, hibiscus flowers are also roselles! Um, rosellas in Australia, pardon.

It was Agony, Ivy
I should have left it at that, but it kept nagging at me. Were they flowers or fruit?
    Well, yeah, I might have left it, but guess what I came across when looking for something else entirely on Epicurious.com?

“Agua de Jamaica. A non-alcoholic drink from Mexico made with jamaica flowers. Recipe from Rick Bayless ‘Authentic Mexican’.” This tells you to use “jamaica flowers (dried hibiscus flowers)” which you boil in water with sugar, steep and strain, “pressing on the flower solids to extract as much liquid as possible.”

Well, that sounds clear, eh? Definitely flowers. Wrong. I conscientiously checked on GourmetSleuth.com and found:

“Jamaica. Other names: Hibiscus flowers, roselle, Jamaica sorrel. Spanish name: jamaica. Although referred to as ‘jamaica flowers’ these are actually hibiscus calyxes (the cover over the blossoms before they open). The flowers are used in Mexico for a tangy deep red ‘cooler’ called Agua de Jamaica. Other names for the ‘jamaica flowers’ include ‘hibiscus flowers’, ‘roselle’ and ‘Jamaica sorrel’. In Mexican grocery stores the common terms are either ‘jamaica’ or ‘flor de jamaica’. The plant is native from India to Malaysia and is now widely grown throughout the tropics and subtropics.”

WHAT? Do they really mean calyxes? (If you already know, you’ll know that this is correct, but by now I was totally confused.)

So I just thought I’d clarify it, on reading over what I’d collected so far—I mean, finding out the stuff was used in Egypt was extra-fascinating: meant it was a “Survival and Revival” of both types! I then found some very confusing sets of instructions online. None of the recipe sites explained what the “flowers” are, and one very modern health-food website talked at me, ugh!

Searching for Jamaica
I’ll spare you the agony. I finally got the dinkum oil from Wikipedia, though it took quite a lot of searching before I struck the right article. Do NOT search under “jamaica”, it’ll take you straight to the country and you’ll be stuck. Look up “Hibiscus tea” or “Roselle (plant)”. The initial definition was not that encouraging:  “Hibiscus tea is a herbal tea made as an infusion from crimson or deep magenta-coloured calyces (sepals) of the roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) flower. It is consumed both hot and cold.”
    Um, yeah. Well, my Concise Oxford Dictionary defines “calyx” as “Whorl of leaves (SEPAL) forming outer case of bud”, and none of my sources talked about buds, but then I had a good look at the excellent photos both Wikipedia sites provide and remembered what I’d read on that talking website:

“After the petals fall from the flower, the remaining deep red calyces (cup-like structures formed by the sepals) grow into seed-containing pods that resemble flower buds. It’s these red calyces that are used to make hibiscus tea.” http://products.mercola.com/hibiscus-tea/

Oops, yes, it had the dinkum oil after all! I’m not recommending it as a website, but this description is definitely the clearest and best. You have to remove the actual seed pod before using the calyces/calyxes (the Concise Oxford accepts both spellings). This can be done with a little implement, as in the entrancing picture below from Wikipedia, or you can wait until the roselles dry out a bit and then peel the sepals off.

Poke the seed pod out with your little implement. What is left is the Mexican “flor de jamaica,” the American “roselle” or “jamaica”, the Australian “rosella”, or the “hibiscus flower.” It is used in many other parts of the world under many other names, too.
    What’s it taste like? Very tart, is the word, rather like cranberry juice: it needs sweetening.

Wikipedia also supplies a picture which includes both the flower (very insignificant) and the calyces:

“Roselle plant at Wave Hill, Bronx, New York, 2014,
showing leaf, flower, bud and dark red calyces”
by Invertzoo - own work. (Wikipedia)

In Conclusion, Let Me Say Just This…
It didn’t help, interesting and informative though Daleys is, that one of their correspondents had described the plant as H. sabdarifa (one F) instead of Hibiscus sabdariffa. To sort that one out without any possibility of mistake I had to consult the USDA. Ya never heard of them? No, well, at one stage in my inglorious career I worked in an agricultural research library. That’s the United States Department of Agriculture, folks, and if they’re wrong on botany the whole world is wrong.

Hibiscus sabdariffa L.   roselle
Kingdom  Plantae – Plants
   Subkingdom  Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
     Superdivision  Spermatophyta – Seed plants
       Division  Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
         Class  Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
           Subclass  Dilleniidae
            Order  Malvales
              Family  Malvaceae – Mallow family
                Genus  Hibiscus L. – rosemallow
                  Species  Hibiscus sabdariffa L. – roselle

Obsessive? You betcha. It’s from both sides of the family, too.

Glass of iced roselle tea