A couple of months ago, I got a surprise parcel from one of my readers – long-lost cousin Satya – all the way from New Zealand! No matter how old you grow, the excitement of opening a parcel, not knowing what it has inside – is well… rather like not knowing the sex of the baby till it is born, right?!
So, in my desire to get it open, I tear at the strings and pull away the cellotape, rather than step into the kitchen and pick up a pair of scissors to do the job neatly! There are three books inside – three lovely cookbooks – all about New Zealand cuisine – of which till now, I know less than nothing except that they probably eat a lot of lamb – based on a picture in one of my childhood books – of a herd of sheep dotted all over the greenest of hillsides… being vegetarian, I haven’t really thought much beyond the lamb!
But these books are beautiful – and I devour them – planning quickly what vegetarian substitute I can use – and oh, I was right – they do eat a lot of lamb!
Which takes me back to what we knew of the world as children – gleaned largely from various Reader’s Digest encyclopaedias, atlases and travel books, supplemented with large doses of Enid Blyton, Richmal Crompton (the creator of the “William” series) and Frank Richards (who immortalised Billy Bunter!) and a few others of the same ilk. Enid Blyton, of course, was past mistress at making the most mundane food sound like manna – when she spoke about tomatoes and lettuce, you literally drooled! Even such hardcore vegetarians as we were, potted meat and steak and kidney pie sounded completely delicious – we had no idea what either of these was!
Of American books, we didn’t really have many – I don’t think these really reached Indian shores till decades after they were published. Louisa May Alcott, as delightful as she was, did not wax eloquent on food. Neither did the westerns that we fell in love with. Other than an occasional reference to beef and beans and something strange called “bear’s paws” (I found out years later that this was another name for doughnuts – not that we knew what doughnuts were back then). Sundry Red Indian (ok, ok, native Americans – we hadn’t heard of a thing called political correctness those days!) stories did provide a clue – to things like pemmican (which sounded more like a fur coat than anything else!), jerky and of course – corn – from the story of the founding fathers! For all we knew, this was what all Americans ate all the time – bread and corn and apples (from all the trees planted by Johnny Appleseed!) and… pemmican!
The word “pizza” had not swum into our ken yet and we wouldn’t have associated it with America if it did!
World cuisine opened up only well into our teens – come to think of it, a lot of North Indian cuisine also entered our lives only about then – and later… like this new New Zealand cuisine, which Satya has opened up for me…
Presenting this really lovely dessert – a sort of hybrid between an apple pancake, an upside down tipsy cake and a waffle – easy peasy to make…
APPLE PAN PUFF (adapted slightly from a recipe in Annabel Langbein’s book)
- Apples – any crunchy, sweet variety – I used Simla – 5 – peel, core and slice. Substitute any other slightly tart fruit too
- Sugar – 2 tbsp
- Butter – 2 tbsp + 1 tbsp
- Cinnamon powder – 1/2 tsp
- Milk – 1 cup
- Eggs – 2
- Baking powder – 1/2 tsp
- Flour – 1/3 cup
- Vanilla essence – 1 tsp
- Any sweetish wine – 3-4 tbsp I used a gooseberry wine someone gifted me and I want to finish!
- 2 tbsp honey
- Whipped cream to serve (yes!)
In a baking pan, drop in 1 tbsp butter and honey. Heat in the oven (at 200 C) or on the burner till it begins to caramelise. Add the apples and cook till they begin to caramelise – about 6-8 minutes. Pour in the wine and cook till it evaporates.
Mix the cinnamon, flour, baking powder and sugar.
Add the milk, eggs and vanilla and whisk till smooth. Pour in the melted butter and whisk further.
Pour over the apple base and bake for 30 minutes till golden and puffy around the edges.
Serve war or cold with cream and sugar sieved over if desired – I didn’t need it. It’s a soft, apple-y cake/pancake.
Will explore further and tell you what New Zealanders eat – by way of veggie food, at least!