Something Special

From Ngaire’s journal, 24th September 1953
This afternoon a class of students from Lincoln College came for instruction from Gerald. I served afternoon tea which they apparently enjoyed. I had made scones, sausage rolls, chocolate eclairs etc.’

choc roll2My grandfather Gerald had a long association with Lincoln Agricultural College.  The college was quite close by, and Gerald was a member (and President for a period) of the NZ Fruitgrowers Federation. Although he came to agricultural life somewhat by accident, and not entirely by choice, he was serious and very knowledgeable about orchard life.

Lincoln College Woolclassing school 1958

Lincoln College Woolclassing school 1958

Students visiting Prestons Road might have learnt about grafting techniques or perhaps new varieties, but however fascinating those visits were, I suspect afternoon tea was the highlight  – especially if it included ‘chocolate eclairs, etcetera’. Ngaire seemed to think the vast majority of men were under-fed, and would have seen students as an especially needy group.

Gert Simpson's Chocolate Roll

Gert Simpson’s Chocolate Roll

Anyway, today as promised I made Something Special to mark Ngarie’s birthday. Gert’s Chocolate Roll (Gert being Ngaire’s stepmother), with no etcetera required.

The result – OK, but not fabulous. The family demolished it of course, but I thought it was a bit ‘cakey’ so back to the drawing board. There’s another recipe in Ngaire’s book which I’ll try out tomorrow.

And a final aside. My father Stan attended Lincoln College as a woolclassing student during his 1957/58 wife-finding tour of New Zealand. He’s on the far left in the front row of the graduating class photograph, having set the auto-timer on his Voigtländer and raced back into position.


Happy Birthday Caroline

From Ngaire’s journal, 4th February

My mother Caroline with her father Gerald and Grandfather Henry Mottram(top left), with Ngaire (top right) and celebrating her birthday with friends at the orchard (second from left, back row).

Carol’s 11th birthday.  A party was out of the question on account of the Infantile Paralysis epidemic.

Caroline’s 18th birthday. We gave her a Glory Box.

Carol’s 21st birthday. We were busy all day preparing for the party. Phyllis came in the morning and I don’t know what we would have done without her help. She made the fruit punch and the fruit salad and did other things.
Cain’s caterers did the supper which included sandwiches, savouries, cakes and Pavlovas, and it was delicious.


Mottram family party, 1950s

Mottram family party, 1950s

Happy Birthday Mum!

For those of you with a crowd to entertain, here are Ngaire’s quantities for Fruit Punch.
Keep in mind that these quantities are based on very lady-like 30z servings — she may have used Champagne saucers or even small tea cups.

Ngaire’s Fruit Punch for a party

Number of servings*:




Cold tea

8 cups

4 cups

2 cups


900 gms

450 gms

225 gms

Pineapple juice

4 cups

2 cups

1 cup

Lemon juice

4 cups

2 cups

1 cup

Orange juice

4 cups

2 cups

1 cup

Grapefruit juice

4 cups

2 cups

1 cup

Lemons for garnish




Also need mint for garnish.
*Based on delicate 3 oz (85 ml) servings.

Polite Society

From Ngaire’s journal, 9th September 1964
This evening we spent a very pleasant evening with Dr and Mrs. Frank A’Court at their home. Dr A’Court has lent his Plus 4 trousers to the Durham Street Church Drama Club for their Centenary Play.”

The last time I was on the stage was in 1976 in Warracknabeal High School’s production of Trial by Jury. I was in the chorus, or perhaps I was a juror –  I can’t remember. What I do remember is Mum taking me to the Dalmonte Hair Salon to have my hair put up in a sort of beehive, and that I wore lashings of light blue pot-o-gloss eye shadow. I was very pleased with the result, though it’s possibly not a look either Gilbert or Sullivan had envisaged.

But back to polite society, golfing pants and (cunning segue) Petites Fours. I spent a very pleasant afternoon puddling about in the kitchen, and have several lovely if imperfect Petites Fours to show for it. By several I mean three.  It took me a little while to master the art of drizzling the fondant icing on and by the time I’d sorted out the timing (the first 20 appear to be wearing green beanies) I was almost out of icing. They are very pretty little cakes, the three of them, but another time I might settle for a batch of Melting Moments.

For those of you not put off by my ineptitude, you’ll need to bake a square Madeira Cake first. Once it’s completely cooled, cut it into small squares and trim the edges. I put my cake in the freezer for 1/2 hour before cutting. It makes it easier to cut cleanly – crumbs are your enemy when icing’s involved.

I used Martha Stewart’s fondant icing recipe. The icing works well so long as you don’t let it cool down too much – it needs to be warm enough to run down the sides of the cakes when you drizzle it on, but not so warm that it becomes thin. I kept mine sitting in a saucepan of very hot water. There are loads of instructions and clips on the internet for making and icing Petites Fours, and I’m sure you’ve gathered that you’d be much better looking there than listening to any advice I might have. I do recommend Ngaire’s Madeira Cake though.

Madeira Cake

220 gms softened butter, 1 large cup of sugar, 4 beaten eggs, 1/2 cup lukewarm milk, 1 heaped tsp cream of tartar, 1 level tsp baking soda, 1 large cup flour.

Cream the butter and sugar. Dissolve baking soda in 1 tsp of boiling water then mix with warm milk. Add to butter and sugar. Add eggs then fold in flour and cream of tartar.
Bake in moderate oven approximately 45 minutes.

Also great for lamingtons and trifle.

Battle of the Bulge

Letter from Ngaire on board RMS Rangitane II en route to England, 19th May 1958
‘Today is warm but pleasant. I have discarded all unnecessary undies but will continue the “battle of the bulge” when we dress for dinner.’

1958 was the year of Ngaire and Gerald’s ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe. Ngaire firmly believed in keeping up appearances (who knows what she’d make of me discussing her underwear here) and took so much luggage, including a small suitcase of hats, they could barely move in their cabin. It must have been very warm in the tropics for her to have dropped her standards to this degree. The officers on the other hand, were clearly keeping themselves nice.

17th May 1958
‘The ship’s officers changed into tropical kit today – all white, mostly with shorts. The dining room stewards wear white coats with dark trousers and other stewards all white.’

In fairness, I should make it clear that the underwear she found to be ‘unnecessary’ would only have been her corset. Not that this diminishes the significance of her ditching it. I have travelled in the back of an un-airconditioned Holden Kingswood from Warracknabeal to Broken Hill sandwiched between Mum and Ngaire and can clearly remember the bones in her undergarments sticking into me. If the ship was hotter than the back of that car it must have been unbearable.

Fortunately, the ship’s captain wasn’t going to let things get out of hand.

15th May 1958
‘The Captain is very fussy over dress, and has given us all to understand that we are to be decently covered while at meals in the Tropics. Perhaps he is afraid of the wandering eyes of the young waiters.’

Back on with the all-in-one then.

Obviously the only sensible response to a story about battling the bulge is to cook something devastatingly delicious and almost certainly bulge-making: Chocolate Éclairs. The surprise is that they’re devastatingly easy to make. Who’d have thought.

Chocolate Éclairs

1 cup water,  100 gms unsalted butter,
1 cup sifted flour,  4 lightly beaten eggs

Put the water and butter in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add all the flour and stir very quickly until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan and forms a smooth ball. Cool for about 10 minutes, then beat in the eggs one at a time. I transferred the mixture to my mixer to do this.
Put the mixture into a piping bag and pipe 10 cm lengths onto a baking tray (lightly greased or with baking paper). They should be 3 or 4 cm apart.  Bake in a very hot oven (I used 230°C) for 10 minutes then turn down to 180°C for a further 10 minutes. Take out and, when cool enough to handle, cut in half lengthwise. Return to the oven for a further 3 or 4 minutes to dry out. They should be golden and crisp. Cool on a wire rack.

To assemble, fill with whipped cream (add 1/2 tsp vanilla essence and 1 tsp of icing sugar if desired) and ice with chocolate icing. To make the icing beat together 1 cup icing sugar, 2 teaspoons butter, 2 tablespoons cocoa and about 1 tablespoon boiling water.

Best eaten without your corset.