Where Ngaire and Gerald return from their Tour of Europe,
the National Party is re-elected
and Ngaire celebrates her birthday.

From Ngaire’s and Gerald’s travel letters

21st September 1958, from RMS ‘Strathmore’
We arrived at Bombay at 12.30 pm and went ashore at 2.45 pm when we commenced the Bus Tour organised by the British Women’s League of Mercy (£1 each)…The heat was slightly more bearable that that of Aden.
The Taj Mahal Hotel is a tremendous establishment…
In the centre of a public square were the Men’s conveniences, shielded only by a trellis fence – one better than Paris…
The Hanging Gardens were beautiful…

StrathmoreWe passed the Tower of Silence and saw the huge vultures…
There were men selling beautiful crochet cloths of all sizes…
We passed the Laundry where all the citizens send their washing. Men stood in the water and beat the clothing against concrete slabs. How on earth anything comes out white is a mystery, but our courier assured us that she sends her sheets and pillowcases there and they are returned washed and ironed, beautifully – 1/6 for a week’s wash.

Further along we heard some cheering and musical instruments and found a bridal procession. The bridegroom was arrayed in glittering gold and flowers…He was being led along the main street by his friends and followers, to the home of the bride.

Ngaire's 21st

Ngaire on her 21st birthday (1927)

23rd September 1958
At 1.15pm we passed the ‘Stratheden’ sailing northwards. Poor things. They have to pass through the Red Sea.
The SW coast of India seems to be covered with jungle and very seldom is a house seen.
We are due to arrive at Colombo at 6am; the pilot is to come aboard at 4.30 am. We have bought tickets for a tour, so should see a little more of the Mystic East.

Thank you so much for your birthday greetings. Daddy has given me some beautiful pearls and I am very thrilled.
My cotton frocks are getting a good wearing and washing so I suppose I shall need some new ones for home.

We haven’t entered the Deck Games on this ship. There is no Deck Golf and I am hopeless at the other games.”

I’ve been jolted into blogging action by Ngaire’s birthday (she would be 108 tomorrow), and the return of the NZ National Party. My very one-eyed grandmother would have approved (she even linked Labor with a shortage of nice dressmaking fabrics at one stage).

Tomorrow I’ll bake something suitable in her honour, or perhaps just iron the pillowslips.

A Nice Simnel Cake

Simnel CakeFrom Ngaire’s journal, 10th April, 1952
‘I have made a nice Simnel Cake for Easter’

And so have I. Made a nice Simnel Cake that is, complete with eleven marzipan balls – one for each of the disciples (excluding Judas). The exclusion of Judas, by the way, is tradition, not a decision on my part.

Simnel Cakes originated in Britain and date back to medieval times. Some sources say it was convention for young women in service to bake the cake as a gift for Mothering Sunday. Since this fell during Lent, the cake couldn’t be eaten immediately and therefore came to be associated with Easter.

It’s an odd sort of cake, with a layer of marzipan baked in the centre, and the marzipan topping and balls, which you toast under the grill or with a torch. Who knows what the significance of that is, particualrly in the absence of Judas. Perhaps it just makes it taste better. I’m taking my cake to friends in the country tomorrow and  plan to toast it when we get there.

There’s no recipe for a Simnel Cake in Ngaire’s book, so I went searching on the web. Originally different towns had their own recipes and even shapes of the cake, so there are many variations on the theme. The Shrewsbury version is the one that has endured. I used a recipe from the BBC site but, being Good Friday,  couldn’t run to the supermarket for ingredients so had to improvise a little. Instead of mixed peel I used marmalade (and a bit of extra flour) and to compensate for mixed spice I added a dash of strong Chai plus cinnamon and nutmeg. Fortunately I had plenty of blanched almonds in the pantry so was able to make my own marzipan paste.

Easter Simnel Cake

For the almond paste: 250g caster sugar, 250g ground almonds, 2 egg whites, beaten, 1 tsp almond essence.

For the cake: 175g butter, 175g soft brown sugar, 3 eggs, beaten, 175g plain flour, pinch salt, ½ tsp ground mixed spice, 350g mixed raisins, currants and sultanas, 55g chopped mixed peel, zest from ½ lemon, zest.

To assemble: Apricot jam, 1 egg white, beaten.


  1. For the almond paste, place the sugar and ground almonds in food processor. Add enough beaten eggwhite to mix to a fairly soft consistency. Add the almond essence and pulse  until the paste is smooth and pliable. Divide  into thirds, and roll out one pice into a 18cm circle (the size of your cake tin).
  2. Preheat oven to 140C. Grease and line an 18cm tin. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs then sift in the flour, salt and mixed spice  a little at a time. Finally, add the mixed dried fruit, peel and grated lemon zest and stir into the mixture.
  3. Put half the mixture into the greased and lined cake tin. Smooth the top and cover with the circle of almond paste. Add the rest of the cake mixture and smooth the top leaving a slight dip in the centre to allow for the cake to rise. Bake in the preheated oven for 1¾ hours, until a skewer comes away cleanly. Cool on a wire rack.
  4. Brush the top of the cooled cake with the apricot jam. Take another third of your almond paste and roll out a circle to cover the top of the cake. Make 11 small balls with the remaining paste. Place the circle of paste on the jam glaze and set the balls round the edge. Brush the cake topping with a little beaten eggwhite.
  5. Preheat the grill to high. Place the cake onto a baking tray and grill for 1-2 minutes, or until the top of the marzipan begins to brown. Alternatively, lightly heat the cake topping using a cook’s blow torch, until the marzipan is golden-brown.

Happy Easter everyone.



From Ngaire’s journal, 25th February 1959
At 3.45 pm we all left home and accompanied Carol to the Airport. She was very excited and looked beautiful in her crème colour coat, crème shoes, gloves and bag, apricot frock and pale green hat. The plane, piloted by Geoff White, left at 5pm and was due at Melbourne at 9.30 pm.’

I’m sticking with the aviation theme this week.

My parents met in Christchurch in 1958. Dad  – an Australian  – was there on a working holiday, and pursued Mum after spotting her in the Durham Street Methodist Church choir. In early 1959, my mother flew to Melbourne to be reunited with him and to see (with a view to marriage) what she thought of Australia.  It was to be the first of many Tasman crossings, backwards and forwards between Christchurch and Melbourne.

My mother Carol and her brother Warwick at Essendon airport Melbourne, 1960

My mother Carol and her brother Warwick at Essendon airport Melbourne, 1960

It’s hard not to feel a little envious of a time where passengers dressed so well and where you may know the pilot by name.  Melbourne readers looking carefully at the photo of my mother and uncle at Essendon airport may also envy the helicopter service into town. For those of you not from here, getting to our city’s airport is a journey that is neither convenient nor glamorous.

Geoff White went on to become a distinguished pilot with Air New Zealand, flying their first DC-8 into Wellington for the initial trials. I think he may now live in Australia.

And a post script. My father was hours late to pick Mum up in 1959, and she was left sitting on her suitcase outside the shed that served as a terminal at Essendon. A cleaner, locking up for the night, told Mum he doubted her  beau would show, but he did and the rest is history. He has never been on time for anything since.

The Hello and Goodbye Place

Christchurch Aiport terminal

Christchurch International Airport, C 1960
Source: Christchurch City Libraries

22 February,  1960
Opening of the new Christchurch Airport terminal, designed by Paul Pascoe.

CCF11102009_00020 - Copy

Leaving Christchurch with my parents and brother Nigel, 1965

Yesterday, February 22nd, was the third anniversary of the devastating Christchurch earthquake. As is always the case with these sort of milestones, the time frame is hard to comprehend — it seems much more recent and far more distant all at once.

Airport departures

From Christchurch to Melbourne, 1960s

Coincidentally, February 22nd was also the date the new Christchurch airport terminal opened in 1960. The terminal building, designed by Christchurch-born architect Paul Pascoe, is a timely reminder of the very modern face of New Zealand design. While the building has now been replaced — its sleek and much-needed replacement opened last year — photographs reveal a design that reflected the confidence, optimism and glamour of the time.

My memories of the Christchurch airport are tied up entirely with my grandparents. Of finally seeing Granny after a year or more, and of saying goodbye again. In those innocent days, when passengers and those farewelling them wandered out to the tarmac, I could cling to her legs until the very last minute.

A Very Hot Day

From Ngaire’s journal, 9th February 1949
‘Another very hot day. There was a sharp earthquake at 5.30 am and Mt Ngauruhoe is in eruption. I bottled plums and made jam, and went to choir practice in the evening.’

Mt Ngauruhoe postcardI must say that my first inclination on a very hot day – and we’ve had more than our fair share lately – is not to crank up the bottling or make jam. Not that bottling is something that can generally wait. I remember as a teenager (not desperate to help) that cases of fruit always seemed to appear on the hottest days. Mum had the Vacola set up in the laundry, which was outside, but I’m not sure how much difference that made. Warracknabeal in February is hot, and before we had air-conditioning installed in the late 1970s we relied on a portable evaporative cooler, sometimes with a huge block of ice perched on a stool in front. Of course, in 1949 Ngaire wouldn’t have had anything remotely advanced in the way of cooling, especially in Christchurch where the summers are generally much milder. I don’t imagine she would have lowered her dress standards too much either, no matter what the temperature.

While I’m keen to walk in Ngaire’s footsteps, I really couldn’t be bothered bottling today and since I didn’t have any fruit waiting to be dealt with I made a pudding involving plum jam instead. Homemade jam of course, though not by me. Thanks Andrea Webster!

Baked Cinnamon Crumb Pudding

Cinnamon Crumb PuddingBase: 2 oz (60 g) butter, ¾  cup sugar,  1 egg, 1 ¾  cups flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tbsp cinnamon,  ½  tsp salt, ¾ cup milk, ½ tsp lemon essence

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and beat well.
Sift in flour and other dry ingredients.
Add milk and lemon essence and mix well.
Turn into well-buttered and floured baking dish then make topping.

Cinnamon Crumb Pudding 2Topping: Rub 1 tbsp butter into 1 tbsp cinnamon and ½ cup sugar. Sprinkle over the cake mixture.
Bake at 180° for approx. 30 mins.

Sauce: Combine 6 good tbsp jam with 1 cup of water and heat. Allow to reduce until thickened but still easy to pour.
Pour the sauce over the warm cake, reserving some for serving.
Serve with cream or ice cream then have a nice lie down and congratulate yourself on having cooked anything at all on such a hot day.

Postcard found at Skufan Postcards.

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.

Bathtime at the Waitomo Hotel

From Ngaire’s journal, 29th January, 1955 (holidaying in Waitomo)
This evening we visited the Waitomo Caves which are very beautiful, the highlight being the wonderful glow-worm caves which we saw from a boat which was taken along by the guide. It was like fairyland.

Ngaire's sketch of Gerald in the hotel bath

Ngaire’s sketch of Gerald in the hotel bath

The Waitomo Hotel is just luxurious and we only wish we could have stayed here a week. In a large cupboard in our room is a sitting bath. It is about 4 ft long and 2 ½ feet wide and shaped like a seat. It is very comfortable. A spray shower may be used in it as well.’

As far as I can tell, the Waitomo Hotel hasn’t changed very much since the Mottram family visited in 1955, though the rooms don’t feature baths in cupboards any more. There may be a reason for that. Apparently the hotel is the ‘fourth most haunted spot, and the most haunted hotel, in New Zealand’. Reported paranormal events include bathtubs dripping blood, the noise of a maid’s trolley in the hallway and the ghost of a Maori princess ‘stalking the corridors’.
All of which makes the sketch of my grandfather in a sitting bath seem rather ho-hum.

Royal Family’s Favourite

Christmas 1952 - Warwick

Warwick (my uncle) with Christmas presents, 1952

From Ngaire’s journal, 22nd January, 1954 (holidaying in Akaroa)
‘I brought my typewriter with me so have written a number of letters and have finished entering
recipes into my loose-leaf recipe book, which Warwick gave me for Christmas 1952.

Royal Family's Favourite - Egg & Tomato Pancakes

Royal Family’s Favourite – Egg & Tomato Pancakes

Given that WE SAW THE QUEEN OF ENGLAND only a few days ago, it’s seemed fitting to cook the ‘Royal Family’s Favourite’ from Ngaire’s recipe book.

A correspondent recently asked me what Ngaire would have made of contemporary attitudes to the royals, and sent an irreverent clip of the Windsors on the couch.
Well John, Ngaire would have been appalled, but these Egg and Tomato Pancakes do make an excellent TV dinner.

I followed the recipe exactly but was fairly liberal with the salt and served the pancakes with a salsa of diced tomato and basil.  Another time a bay leaf in the bechamel wouldn’t hurt.

Royal Family's Favourite

Today we Saw the Queen of England

From Ngaire’s journal, 19th January, 1954

Queen visits ChCh 1954“We arose at 5am, breakfasted and left Akaroa at 6.45am arriving in Christchurch at 8.30am. I had packed sandwiches and pies on Monday evening and filled Thermos flasks with hot tea tea this morning so we were well prepared…
At 11.45 we all had lunch and settled down to wait. Carol and I did a lot of knitting. I am afraid the men folk were very bored.
At 2.45pm everyone became excited, and 5 minutes later, preceded by police and other cars, the Queen and the Duke passed by in their black Daimler car. It was all so sudden, they went by in a moment, that we were rather disappointed and settled down to wait for another 1 ½ hours.
At 4.10 pm cheers were heard again and along came the Queen and the Duke again, this time more slowly so that we had a better look. The Queen was beautiful and the Duke handsome. They were followed by cinema cars taking movies.  It was all over and we had seen Royalty.
We had some “Thermos” tea and sandwiches on some lawn beside the footpath and then journeyed 53 miles back to Akaroa. Carol and Warwick had bacon, eggs and tomatoes as they were hungry.
We all retired to bed, extremely tired but very happy, because for about 1 ½ minutes we had set our eyes on the Queen and the Duke.”

A January Wedding

From Ngaire’s journal, 9th January, 1965
A January Wedding‘We went to Hawarden, arriving at the little Methodist Church at 2.30pm. It was a lovely wedding. The bride looked beautiful in an embroidered white satin dress and the bridesmaids wore pale pink, rose-pink and mahogany pink.
The weather was perfect. Fruit punch and savouries were served on the lawn in front of Mr Wright’s home and at 5pm the guests adjourned to the marquee in an adjoining field. It was a delicious wedding breakfast: ham, salmon and potato salad, curry and rice, stuffed eggs, cucumber, lettuce and tomatoes. The sweets were fruit salad, piles of strawberries and cream.
There were 40 telegrams, including a cable from Warwick and several from Melbourne. Speeches were made and items were given – two humorous recitations, a violin solo, two vocals solos (one by an uncle, aged 83, which was excellent) and a vocal duet by the mother and an uncle of the bride. Hubert (the bridegroom) made an excellent speech of thanks. The telegrams were read by the best man and two groomsmen alternately, which was a very good idea.
Herbert and Ruth left on their honeymoon at about 8.30 pm. The bride wore a beautiful outfit of peacock-blue, with black accessories.’

What better way to start the new year than with an elegant wedding and piles of food — Ngaire’s two favourite things. As it happens, stuffed eggs are high on my list of favourite things. Happily, they’re practically carb free and are packed with protein so no New Year’s resolutions need be broken. Just don’t think about the fat.

A good stuffed egg must include just the right quantity of excellent mayonnaise (for flavour and for texture) and, in my opinion, must be presented simply and without any attempts at modernisation.

6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled; 2 tbsp very good whole egg mayonnaise;1 tbsp sour cream; few chives and a little dill, finely chopped; good pinch dry mustard, salt and pepper
Cut the eggs in half lengthwise and scoop the yolks into bowl. Set whites aside.
Mash the yolks with a fork, gradually adding the mayonnaise and sour cream. The mixture should be creamy but not too moist — it should hold its shape. Add the seasonings then gently stir through the chopped dill and about half of the chives.
Fill the whites with the yolk stuffing. You can use an icing bag to do this or just spoon it in. Sprinkle with remaining chives and garnish with some flat leaf parsley.
Tip: If the eggs are a week or so old the shell will come away easily, leaving the white smooth.

By the way, Ruth and Herb now live in Auckland and, amongst other things, conduct tours of the WWI battlefields in France. Ruth is as elegant as ever.