I trust this book

I’ve got a 1970’s copy of the Edmond’s “Sure to Rise” cook book in front of me as I write. It’s dirty and covered in plastic. The front page has been ripped out and lost. This is a book that’s been thoroughly thrashed. But when I look at this book, I still wanna lick the page!

I grew up in the 1960’s and the Edmond’s Cook Book is the only cook book that I can remember from that time. We weren’t rich, we didn’t eat flash food, but food was important to us because we loved eating. And if you loved eating in those days, you had to know how to cook. There were no other options.

We lived in a small house with a small kitchen and this was in the useful drawer. Not the junk drawer, but in the drawer where you kept your notebooks and matches and pens — where things that you didn’t want to go missing were kept.

This book is so important because it does what it always did; it teaches you how to cook. But not only that, it passes on really good traditional wisdom about the sort of cuisine that New Zealanders ate for generations, and still do eat today.

You’d open up the jams and jellies section and, at the bottom of that page, it just says ‘do not slam the oven door’. It doesn’t actually say why but if I was looking at that as a novice cook, I would never slam the oven door ever again because I trust this book. That’s the whole thing about any food writing and something I’ve carried with me through my own career; the most successful food writing is the stuff that people trust.

I go back to this book to make things like banana cake. Why would I want another banana cake recipe, when this is the banana cake recipe? This is the lemon delicious recipe. This is the neenish tart recipe. It’s the steamed pudding recipe. It’s the Christmas cake recipe

I’ve only mentioned baking so far, but baking is a very important part of what New Zealand is good at. All cook books tell a cultural tale; I think this book is absolutely one of the most important transmitters of cookery knowledge for New Zealand. It’s competent with flashes of outstanding. It’s unpretentious. It doesn’t rely on outlandishly expensive or exotic ingredients. It’s just good, practical cookery.

The Edmond’s “Sure to Rise” cookery book contains about 570 everyday recipes and cooking hints. It was written by T.J. Edmonds and first published in 1955.

Dalmatian sweet treats

At this Saturday’s World on Your Plate, you will have the chance to taste the Dalmatian sweet treat, fritule, pronounced ‘freetooleh’.

Fritule is a deep-fried morsel of dough, flavoured with citrus and brandy/dark rum, traditionally served at Christmas.

Here’s my personal fritule recipe for you to try.

Fritule. Yum!

Fritule (Prsule)
In a small bowl combine:
1tsp dry yeast
1tsp sugar
1tsp flour
½ cup warm milk
Set aside until it becomes frothy.
In a large bowl combine:
1 egg
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 cup flour
1 tbsp grated lemon rind
1tsp brandy
½ C water
½ C milk
Stir the active yeast mixture into the bowl with the egg, flour etc.  Once combined to a stiff batter leave it to rise and double in bulk. (at least 15-20 minutes) .  Sprinkle a handful of sultanas over the surface of the dough.
Meanwhile heat the cooking oil in a deep pot or fryer (the oil should be at least 6 cm or 2 1/2″ deep). When the oil is hot enough (test by dropping in a small piece of the batter, which should sizzle, but not burn), drop in the batter by well-rounded 1/2 tablespoon measures. You will have to dip the measuring spoon in oil between spoonfuls of batter to clean it off. You may also have to coax the batter off the spoon.
Do not overcrowd the frying pot. Ensure the fritters are turned so that all sides are golden. When browned, transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels, let cool slightly, and then roll in sugar.
Arrange on a serving platter.

Do you cook Croatian food too? What’s your favourite dish?

Chinese food recipes

I’m doing a Chinese cooking demo this Saturday at Auckland Museum, as part of the Kai to Pie ‘World on your plate’ series of events. Hopefully I’ll see you there.

One of the dishes I’ll be demonstrating is Duo of Pork and Mushrooms (a fancy way of saying pork and mushroom mince spring rolls and lettuce cups).

Clay Pot Chicken Rice is the other dish, and I’ve given you the recipe here so that you can try it at home. Let me know how it goes, or share your favourite Chinese food recipes below!

Clay Pot Chicken Rice

Claypot Chicken Rice


300 gm  boneless chicken cut into bite sized pieces
2tbl   oyster sauce
2tbl   spare rib sauce
½ tbl   soy sauce
½ tsp   sesame oil
½ tbl   cornflour
Pepper to taste
5 dried Chinese mushrooms – soaked in water for 1 hour, then squeezed dry. Remove stalks.
1 Chinese sausage (available in most Asian Food Stores) – cut into bite sized pieces – this is optional
1 ½ cups uncooked Jasmine Rice
1 ½ cups water
100 gm mustard greens (Choy sum) or any green leafy vegetable.


Pre heat the oven to 180 C

Marinade chicken pieces with the oyster sauce, spare rib sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, cornflour and pepper.  Stand for 10 minutes.

Put the marinaded chicken and any residual marinade, sausage, rice and water into a 2 litre clay pot, put the lid on and bake in the oven for 1 hour or till all the water is absorbed and the rice is cooked.

Remove lid, fluff up the rice with a fork, and put the mushrooms and mustard greens on the top of the rice.  Replace the lid and return the clay pot to the oven for a further 15 minutes.

Stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Serves 4
Preparation time: ½ hr
Cooking time: 1 ¼ hr

About a Great Lady

By any standard, 62 years is a remarkable track record. I reckon that The White Lady pie-cart has seen more than enough to fill the gap a million-fold between her birth in 1948 and 2010.

The White Lady pie-cart on Shortland St in Auckland

The White Lady pie-cart on Shortland Street in Auckland, captured by photographer Robin Morrison in 1988 (Image courtesy of the Trustees of the Robin Morrison Estate)

Last year I was writing a speech about the White Lady to present to owner Peter Washer with the Lewisham Lifetime Achievers Award. I asked for comments about her from heaps of people – the over 40’s, the under 25’s, the hospitality crowd, the corporate brigade, the journos, the broadcasters – and everyone had something to say, everything fantastic.

Here’s a selection:

“Great case study in effective branding we could all learn from.”

“The exec chef of Ruth’s Chris Steak House visited Auckland a few years ago and went there seven times in 24 hours. How’s that for a testimonial.”  (Ruth’s Chris Steak Houses, an upscale fine dining establishment since 1960, is the largest luxury steak company in the US.)

“She is always there and always running. And if she wasn’t there, you would go looking for her. “

“In the days of 3am closing, and nothing else open, except Stan Gordon’s Cats, which was far too dangerous to attempt as you would never get out until 8am, this was the final port of call to refuel before heading home.”

“She creates a micro society in the early hours – something very collegiate about sharing a burger then, sitting snugly  on a crate with whoever, doing the same thing. I love them, those burgers.”

The White Lady has fed and watered late night diners for the last 61 years, many of whom come from hospitality when their own kitchens have closed, since Peter Washer’s dad established it in the days of the six o’clock swill.

My first visit would have been in 1998 en route home from the Elton John / Billy Joel Face to Face concert at Western Springs. It’s etched in my mind like cut crystal. I was wearing black leather jeans, a black sleeveless lacey top and my RM Williams steel capped needle toe boots (which I still wear to this day – the boots I mean). I felt ravenous after fending off an Irishman who ostensibly only wanted to share a cab but really wanted me to also get off at his stop. The cabbie deposited me at The White Lady after I protested about McD’s and, at that moment, a whole new world opened before my eyes.

I ordered a toasted ham and cheese sandwich, sat on an upturned milk crate and watched the night unfold. Spectacular. It was a terrific toastie – whether it was because I was starving, it was very late, or I had the early morning munchies, I could not recall having had better. Tuxedos juxtaposed with frayed levis, ball gowns as backdrops to mini skirts and mile high stilettos – it really didn’t matter. Everyone had a spot, everyone was welcome, everyone had a burger or a toasted sarnie and no one felt strange.  Can’t think of a place which serves up hospitality like that as easily and which has survived as long.

When did you have your first White Lady burger? Do you have your White Lady story to tell?

June 9, 2010

Posted by:

Greg Meylan



Peering into old photographs

As one of the Kai to Pie exhibition label writers, I’d like to talk about how a caption can draw people to look a little deeper into a photograph.

Photograph of the Lush family on a picnic, about 1884

Take a moment to look closer... (ID:B4338)

There they are, the Lush family, 1884, pouring tea into china cups in the bush near Thames. The women are all seated or reclining, their skirts voluminous about them, wide brimmed hats hold floral decorations as the wind shakes the fronds of a ponga into a fixed blur.

The three men frame the family group like apexes of a triangle. Two are standing in top hats, one is seated, with his legs almost ladylike and daintily drawn up about him; he scowls somewhat as he offers something to… his sister?

Our first glance at the picture is often perfunctory. Our brain whirrs and whizzes, ruthlessly efficient in removing extraneous detail, it presents us with just enough information to tell us that this is a photo of people having lunch in the bush, and that it was taken some time ago.

But this picture is filled with curious components.  Odd little things that reward a longer look. The image caption that appears in the exhibition reads:

Walking into the bush in long skirts and fancy hats, while carrying fine china cups, ornate teapots and circular-handled umbrellas (look at the one on the right), once made eating outdoors a more complex affair than it is today. On public holidays in late 19th century New Zealand, even picnickers wore their Sunday best.

The circular handled umbrella gets a mention in the hope that visitors revisit the picture to look for it, curiosity piqued, and then search their eyes through the other objects, while the mention of Sunday best encourages another look at the people, who’ve set out in all their finery.

A caption cannot attempt to tell everything. And most people don’t have hours to peer into each photo untangling the details from the whole. But a good caption should encourage just that, while also setting some context.  That’s the attempt, anyway.

The caption tells us the photographer was John Martin Hawkins Lush (1854–1893), who would have been about 30 when he took the photo of his family members.

We can imagine the moment of the photo. John, having lugged the camera over his shoulder to this sunlit clearing, would have set it up atop the tripod, arranged his family, called for silence and stillness, put his head under the black cloth and pressed open the shutter for a second or two. Done.

Days later they’d get to find out who couldn’t manage to sit still. The two at the back as it transpires. The man’s face is nought but a smudge of moustache but you can detect merriment in the movement of the woman’s face (or can you?). Was she disappointed to discover her features rendered out of focus?

June 9, 2010

Posted by:

Russell Briggs



Hello world, it’s Auckland Museum

Slumbering up here in the sun on Pukekawa Hill, the Museum stirs, opens one eye, yawns, stretches, checks the year.

2010? And no Auckland Museum blog yet??!!

Yes, it’s taken us a bit of time to get here, and meanwhile every major institution with an internet connection and a couple of university graduates have blogs, Twitter accounts, Flickr pages, Facebook pages, and pretty much everything the modern world has on offer. And we have all those things as well, yes we most certainly do thankyouverymuch.

Except one.

Except a blog. So why in the world has it taken us so long? For one thing, we wanted to get it right, and we mostly saw a lot of places doing wonderful things, none of which seemed right to this Museum in this place, in this time.

Auckland Museum has evolved dramatically in the last few years. We’re a lot more closely connected to our city now, through forum-style debates, late night events, an enhanced lifelong learning and schools programme, an invigorated War Memorial calendar, and a recent set of exhibitions that focused on bringing our enormous collections to light.

Emerging from all this has been, we believe, a more relevant cultural institution. Now it’s time to allow you to get to know the people who bring this marble edifice to life. We’re an unusual, eclectic bunch united by a shared passion: we love museums, we love this Museum, and really would do most anything to make it the best Museum in the world. Those are big words, but I don’t think we would want to be here if they weren’t true.

I hope you’ll join us as we introduce you to some of our fascinating people, as well as guest bloggers from time to time. You’ll have the chance to interact with them, ask questions, offer opinions, or help us learn how to make this a better place for you.

It takes a while to populate a blog with enough interesting content to make it a compelling place to visit, so we hope you’ll be patient with us. We’re starting off our main topic area with something everyone has an opinion about: food.

Our new special exhibition Kai to Pie opens Saturday, and we can’t wait to share some of the stories that didn’t make it into the exhibition hall, and to explore further some of the intriguing things that did. Kai to Pie is also more than just an exhibition; it’s a series of public events built around a celebration of the diversity of food and the diversity of Auckland.

Link to Kai to Pie exhibition website

Our new exhibition Kai to Pie opens on Saturday. Entry is free!

Every weekend you’ll have the chance to immerse yourself in the traditions of the different cultural communities that make Auckland such a wonderful place to live. It’s going to be a great Winter and Spring here, though we may have all gained a stone or two by the far end of it.

So, welcome again. Haere mai, nau mai. This is our blog, and yours as well. Enjoy it.