We weren’t very well organised for the last bank holiday weekend so it was Sunday morning before one of the boyfriend’s friends and his girlfriend came over and we tried to figure out where to go for the night. Despite fears that all accommodation would be booked solid for the weekend, a quick scoot through the Rough Guide to New Zealand and a few calls later and we had rooms for the night at Formerly The Blackball Hilton in the wee town of Blackball on New Zealand’s West Coast.
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When I was a kid, Bread and Butter Pudding was the desert that we all loved. I wasn’t too impressed with other traditional milk puddings like Farola or semolina and often would walk away from the dinner table with my pockets full of secreted spoonfuls rather than actually eat a bowl of the insipid stuff.
As I’m still buying about two kilos of apples a week – I never can resist those markets – I decided, after my success with the French Apple Cake, that it was time to chance an Irish version. I turned to Clare Connery’s Irish Cooking for inspiration and took her version of White Soda Bread as my base.
When I was a little one, with a voracious appetite for books and cooking, one of the books that I devoured was my Nana’s well-used copy of Full and Plenty by Maura Laverty. The distinctive blue and yellow covers contained a treasury of old Irish recipes but the icing on the cake for me were the stories with which Laverty started each chapter.
Ginger is big business in New Zealand. Whether it’s the pieces of ginger slice available in every café and bakery, gingernut biscuits beloved by the boyfriend’s parents, the many brands of commonly available ginger beer (not in the least bit like the insipid ginger ale mixer common in Irish bars) – the best of which is always a hotly debated topic of contention in the boyfriend’s household – or Ginger Bear sweets (like gummy bears, but with a ginger kick) it seems like the Kiwis just can’t get enough ginger.
Sometimes familiarity breeds contempt and that has surely been the case with one of my trademark dishes – Lemon and Garlic Chicken. This is a dish that I have been cooking for years. It gets trotted out at regular intervals if friends are coming round for dinner and for many years it, and a variation on Apple Crumble, were my fail-safe dishes for those occasions.