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Archive for June, 2008

The Battle of The Soups

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

I visited my dad 2 weeks ago on a windy wet Saturday. The day before I had bought a bacon hock to make soup and I mentioned this and told him I’d bring him some once I made the soup. And then we reminisced about the great pots of comforting soup my mother used to make and how they virtually kept us alive throughout winter – we like to reminisce about such things, and although his mind is as sharp as a tack, we allow each other to exaggerate a little, as you do. I duly made a big pot of soup with the bacon hock and split peas. It smelled so good while it was cooking, and tasted delicious, full of memories and goodness. Over I went to dad’s with enough soup for three meals. What do you think I could smell when I walked in his house? Soup! Pea soup! WHAT? I thought I must have spilled some and that was what I could smell.

He was sitting down on the couch so I went up to him, gave him a cuddle and showed him my containers of soup, expecting the usual praise ‘you shouldn’t gone to so much trouble, etc, etc, but he just started laughing, guffawing even, which is more than a smirk or a chuckle, and a trifle annoying when you’re not in on the joke. I followed his eyes and glanced over to the kitchen, and there lined up neatly for all to see were a dozen containers filled with a thick soup-like concoction. The cheeky devil! He’d gone ahead and made his own big batch of soup, in fact he’d made enough for Africa by the look of it (the pot was still more than half-full). You’re probably thinking, so what… but the remarkable thing about this event is that my dad is 97 years-old. He still lives on his own, as he has done since my mother died 26 years ago, and he still cooks for himself, too. And he’d decided he fancied soup after we’d talked about it, and he wasn’t waiting for me to bring him any just in case I forgot. He was suspicious of my soup at first, claiming his had more ingredients and had been cooked longer than mine, but mine had a better colour, and there was meat in it, which he is partial to. And I reckon his soup was too thick –no challenge at all to the proverbial ‘so thick you can stand a wooden spoon in it upright’. Without wanting to lose ground, but feeling a bit humbled, and maybe secretly thinking my soup did look better than his because of the chunks of bacon, he suggested that I freeze his containers of soup, which I did, labeling them and stacking them so he could find them easily, and leave mine in the fridge for his dinner that night. He had it for dinner and more for lunch the next day. When I spoke to him yesterday, he said he’d enjoyed it, but, ‘Do you know what? I’m over soup. I’ve gone off it. I get a craving for something these days, make enough for an army, then go off it.’ I think mine tasted better than his, and he knew it!

If you’ve got a soup story you’d like to share with me and other readers, send it in. And if you’ve got a fabulous soup recipe you’d like to share, email it to me. Maybe we should have a competition for the best soup…you’ll need to send in a picture, too. And, I’ll send an autographed copy of Sizzle Sensational Barbecue Food to the winner. Get those soup pots a-bubbling!

A Fine Tradition – taking time for tea

Monday, June 16th, 2008

Tea TimeStopping work for a cup of tea and a natter during working hours is something most of us indulge in regularly, but an invitation to a formal afternoon tea served in the home is rare these days. But after enjoying a few special hours at the Langham Hotel in Auckland on Tuesday, I’m thinking of reviving the tradition. It’s cheaper than entertaining in the evening – the invitation is to drink tea, after all, not Champagne – and you can specify the time your guests arrive and leave. If you’ve ever suffered guests who just don’t know when to go home, this could be a blessing!

But back to the Langham Hotel. The invitation was to come and enjoy the Langham’s signature afternoon tea for the same price that was paid for it 143 years ago: one shilling six pence. How could I refuse?

The Langham London was able to establish that she was the first grand hotel to serve afternoon tea after an original hotel tariff dated 10 June 1865 was uncovered showing afternoon tea billed as ‘Teas, Plain’ consisting of simple but dainty items including cakes, sweets, bread and butter and, of course, tea.  Other popular afternoon tea establishments such as The Ritz and Savoy were not in existence at this time.

To honour this part of dining history, Langham hotels around the world – in Auckland, Boston, Hong Kong, London, Melbourne and Pasadena – served afternoon tea in grand style for little more than a few cents on Tuesday 10th June. (For New Zealanders one shilling six pence equates to .18c NZD.)

The Langham Auckland afternoon tea consists of petite scones, smoked salmon pinwheels, tomato, cucumber and egg sandwiches, chocolate-coated tuxedo-dressed strawberries, fresh fruit tartlets, lamingtons, English fruit cake, and spice cake accompanied by crème fraiche, strawberry preserve, butter, and of course, tea and coffee. What a treat! 
My first formal afternoon tea was taken at The Farmer’s department store in Auckland with my mother. It was a hat and gloves’ affair and while I remember steaming pots of tea, sandwiches and scones, I remember much more clearly the hushed words from my mother asking me to be on my best behaviour. That meant asking for food to be passed rather than reaching and grabbing it, otherwise speaking only when spoken to, eating with one’s mouth closed, and never talking while eating. Afternoon tea at the Langham this week was a far cry from those days. My daughter Ilaria and friends Sue and Liz and I relaxed in the soft squishy armchairs, and while doing our best to hold on to some decorum, we started with Champagne (why not, we chorused?) laughed louder than we should, ate more than we should, and had way more fun than I ever did as a girl in those tight little afternoon teas. Highly recommended.

Father’s Day Treat

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

Help your kids cook something special for dad on Father’s DayAvocado, Bacon & Corn Baps
A little birdie told me that Father’s Day is just around the corner… well, in the US at least (we celebrate it in September in New Zealand). I remember making treats for my father on his special day, usually inappropriate sticky gooey things which he didn’t much like, but he ate them all the same! But here’s a much tastier idea -a fresh and scrumptious Avocado, Bacon & Corn Bap (a bap is a soft bread roll). The great thing about this recipe is that kids of all ages can take part in making it – removing husks and silks from corn, chopping cilantro, grilling bacon and slicing tomatoes and avocado, then layering it up – and the best bit, presenting it to dad. Check out the yummy photograph (from my book Sizzle, Sensational Barbecue Food) and help the kids make dad a delicious lunch this Father’s Day.