Friday, March 29, 2013

Butter is Better

Alexa Johnston writing  in her latest Ladies a Plate Newsletter:

While browsing through recipe books looking for good ideas for using up a surplus of jams and preserves, I became engrossed in a charmingly titled book 'Treasure Trove of Hungarian cookery'by Mariska Vizvari, published in Budapest in 1961. Here is the description from the dustjacket: 'A collection of delicious recipes written by a delightful Hungarian actress, housewife and hostess, this book is an ideal guide for all women - and men - who enjoy the adventure of excursions into the cookery of different nations.' That's me.

The book was a gift from George Haydn, a generous and amusing man, a great raconteur, a wonderful host and a dear friend. After arriving here from Budapest just before the outbreak of the second World War, George built a good life in New Zealand -  his longevity a testament to the benefits of eating large quantities of cheese, meat and butter, with bread on the side of course, working hard, and playing lots of tennis. George always said that it was the allure of unlimited butter that attracted him and his cousin Andrew to New Zealand. . .

In the 'Treasure Trove' I found a 'Jam Cake' in which three layers of buttery, sweet walnut pastry are filled with home made jams - perfect for my purposes, and some tender cheese biscuits made with ground almonds and sandwiched in pairs with a softened butter and cheese filling. I think George would have enjoyed them.

The other two recipes in this newsletter are from Italy and Spain, both sweet treats suitable for autumn eating. Dulce de Membrillo is the best recipe I've found for Quince Cheese or Quince Paste and comes from Anna MacMiadhachain's 1976 book 'Spanish Regional Cookery'. If you have a few quinces ripening slowly at home do try this approach. She uses grated raw quince instead of cooked quince and the result is a beautiful rose-pink, fresh-tasting quince cheese, which cuts easily and keeps very well.

And from Carol Field's 1993 book 'Italy in Small Bites, a very easily made Salame Dolce, or Chocolate Salami. I suppose it is an Italian version of New Zealand's Biscuit Fudge Cake, but the raisins soaked in marsala or rum, the pine nuts and the apricot jam make it extra special.
So none of the recipes this time are traditional Easter or Passover fare, but all make excellent, rich, special-occasion treats and all, except the Dulce de Membrillo, use plenty of delicous New Zealand butter. In memory of George.

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