Saturday, July 22, 2006

Food as anthropology : Cocktail Meatballs with Chutney

This recipe was one Mum served year after year at "Principal's Cocktails", the annual Christmas event, when my Dad, or the other Principal hosted the staff and their partners for drinks and nibbles. It's always been a great favourite.

It comes from the Glennys Raffles Cookbook "Microwave the New Zealand Way". When we first got a microwave in 1985, this was a best seller. Although it didn't reach the biblical status of the Edmonds Cookbook, it was a classic of its time. It seems to be available only on Trade Me these days.

It's quoted in this link to a paper by Helen Leach of the University of Otago's anthropology department entitled What Do Cookery Books Reveal about the Evolution of New Zealand Pavlovas? . I don't make pavlovas (not my specialty), so I'm not posting any recipes for them! Read the paper for recipe evolution.

Alison Holst has also written in the past about fashions in food - think fondues and quiche in the 70s, Pizza with tinned spaghetti on it in the 70s and 80s, and Italian and sushi in the 90s.

Anyway, the recipe! I've added comments based on my experiments over the years, so blame me and not Glennys if this doesn't work.

Recipe part 1: the Meatballs
500g topside steak mince
1/2 c fresh breadcrumbs
1/4 c milk
1/2 c coconut (the secret ingredient!)
1 small onion finely chopped
1 egg
2 teaspoons Worcester Sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt,
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Mix all ingredients with wet hands, shape the mixture into 1 inch balls. Arrange half the meatballs in a flat dish or roaster, cover with waxed paper, and cook on high (100%) for 2 minutes. Stir to rearrange them, and continue cooking until meatballs are no longer pink inside (1-2 minutes). Then cook the other half!

They also cook fine in an oven - maybe 20 minutes - haven't timed it recently. As a general rule, use your nose. Mum always said, if you can smell something, it's probably cooked. It works for cakes anyway.

Recipe part two: the chutney sauce

1/2 cup tomato chutney or sauce (either works well)
1/3 cup plum (or other jam)
2 Tablespoons orange (or other fruit juice)
2 teaspoons mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

My general rule: trust your tastebuds! Varying the ingredients a little for the sauce won't be fatal - go on, experiment!

Cook gently on the stove or microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir in meatballs, and continue cooking until meatballs are hot.

This freezes really well (we'd do huge batches for the cocktails).

It's also quite yummy with pasta, although you might want to tone down the sauce a bit (or maybe not!).

You could saute some finely chopped celery and onion and grated carrot. When they are softened add chopped tomatoes or tomato puree. Simmer that a bit, then add the chutney sauce ingredients. Adjust to taste. Eat with pasta - yum!

There's also a chilli cheese sauce, based on cheese, sherry and chilli sauce, but I've never made it. It looks a bit rich for my taste.

Simple, cheap, yummy extra moist chocolate cake (and it's even vegan!)

This is the world's simplest, and quite possibly cheapest, chocolate cake. It always gets rave reviews, and the recipe is nigh on indestructible. It takes me less than 5 minutes to throw together when I do it on my own. My nephew and I have made it together since he was 2 years 10 months old (which takes a little longer). Even with his "measuring" (i.e. some strange sized tablespoonfuls, teaspoons and cup measures) it still works every time.

It's also vegan- so you can cook it for your vegan cousin***. It can be doubled in quantity (with a longer cooking time). We make a cake on similar principles almost every day at yoga plus for guests (but quadruple the quantity). I'll post that exact recipe later.

The Recipe

Sift* dry ingredients into a mixing bowl.
1 1/2 c flour (that's 250ml cups, although see above for this recipe's indestructibility)
1 c sugar
2 T baking cocoa (or regular cocoa)
1 teaspoon mixed spice and 1 teaspoon ground ginger (or when you run out of either of these 2 teaspoons of a combination of mixed spice, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger - they all work fine)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Add to the bowl

1/2 cup soybean, corn, canola or other vegetable oil. I wouldn't use olive, but you could.
2 teaspoons white vinegar (hmm sometimes I add a bit more- I misread this as tablespoons for a long time and the cake still worked out well....)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence.
3/4 cup water.

Mix ingredients together. Don't overmix**.

Spoon or pour into a greased and lined tin.

It can be a ring tin (but who wants to line a ring tin?) I mostly use a 20cm square tin, and put a sheet of baking parchment which I fold at the corners.

Bake 30-40 minutes at 190celcius / 375farenheit. Leave in tin for 5 minutes before removing.

Let cool, and then ice with chocolate icing. Although if you ice it slightly warm (3 year olds aren't that patient) the icing kind of sets into the cake, which is yummy in itself, particularly for dessert.

Serve as a cake or dessert, with whipped cream or ice cream if you have no regard for calories. Or get creative and decorate with lollies, coconut, blueberries, candy mushrooms. Give your inner three year old full rein.

Enjoy! And let me know if you make it.

*If you don't have a sieve, or can't be bothered washing it then whisk dry ingredients with a large whisk - much easier and pretty much as effective as a sieve, although you may need to squash cocoa and baking soda lumps with the back of a spoon. I got this trick from Graham Kerr, and I've barely used a sieve since.
** It's important not to overmix cakes and muffins, as it makes them tough and texturally less appealing. Just mix till all the flour is damp and it's combined - no need to beat the batter. However, I do not hold with the theory that lumps of flour in a cake are OK. They are not!
***Hi to Dan and to his vegan cousin. I was prompted to post this particular recipe after talking to Dan at the Court Theatre. See Court Jesters for information on Scared Scriptless, a really cool and fun improv show in Christchurch featuring Dan and other people, many of whom are also called Dan. In fact most men in their 20s in Christchurch are called Dan (Dan Carter is but the most famous example).

Monday, July 17, 2006

Carrot mixed bean hummus


Today's recipe - a hummus type dip that I'm taking to the screening of our 48hour film re-edit.

Very simple. I've just whizzed up 2 cooked carrots, and a tin each of chickpeas and 4 bean mix, with lemon pepper, lemon juice and a bit of olive oil (not much, just a spoonful).

To be served with celery and carrots - let's see what the reviews are!

Dad tried some with his steak - and thought it had zing. He's not usually one for dips, so that's a good sign.



Reviews: not bad, 2 small carrots better than 3 large ones. More chickpeas would be better I think.

Welcome to the recipe zone

Hello all!

This is my blog, specially for recipes and thoughts about food.

In a few weeks I'll be a cook at YogaPlus ( in Crete, and I thought I'd put a few recipes here, for anyone who is interested.

I've cooked all my life. One of my earliest memories was of filling milk bottles to measure a pint of water when making Maggi packet soups for lunch with my mother as a toddler.

I got my first cookbook the Christmas I was 4 - the "Mary Mouse Cookbook". I still have it!

At times I've stopped cooking - when I lived in London and worked as a lawyer, and was out every night I ate out a lot, and lost the urge to cook.

My favourite kind of cooking challenge is to take a limited range of ingredients, including leftovers, and put them together in an unusual way. Cooking at YP is right up my sleeve, as the supply of the usual vegetarian and vegan food staples is limited (no soy products, for example).

Anyway, here is the blog - let's see what comes of it!