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‘A priceless gem that should be on every Kiwi bookshelf’ – Sarah Kate Lynch New Zealand Woman’s Weekly

– New Zealand Herald

Alexa Johnston

After completing a master’s degree in Art History at the University of Auckland, Alexa Johnston spent 19 years as a curator at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Ta¯maki and is now a freelance writer and curator. In 2002 she was the curator of the exhibition Sir Edmund Hillary: Everest and Beyond for Auckland War Memorial Museum and her authorised, illustrated biography, Sir Edmund Hillary: An Extraordinary Life was published by Penguin in 2005. Her first cookery book Ladies, a Plate (Penguin, 2008) became an instant bestseller and has been reprinted several times. For Ladies, a Plate and A Second Helping she made all the recipes – and photographed all the results – in her home kitchen in Auckland.

A Penguin Original Cooking Cover photograph: Arch MacDonnell Cover design:

– Sarah Beresford Foodtown Magazine

More from Ladies, a Plate

‘One of the culinary delights of the year – for many reasons . . . If you had a mother or grandmother who baked, the recipes will bring a pang to your heart’

‘Alexa has done us all an immense favour by writing Ladies, a Plate – a delightful recipe book that is equal parts reminiscence, celebration and DIY guide’


Praise for

Ladies, a Plate

In response to the enthusiastic reception for her bestselling cookbook Ladies, a Plate, Alexa Johnston has gathered together another tempting selection of traditional recipes for the home baker. A Second Helping has many more old favourites including Sponge Kisses, Melting Moments, Tan Squares, Lemon Bars and Cream Lilies as well as a few savoury treats. And a new section, with fail-safe recipes for home-made sweets like Russian Fudge, Coconut Ice and Hokey Pokey, will help ensure the success of any community sweet stall. Like its predecessor, A Second Helping celebrates the accumulated wisdom of past generations of skilled home cooks in a beautiful book which will bring continuing pleasure – and an assurance of baking triumphs – to your kitchen.


More from Ladies, a Plate Alexa Johnston

‘. . . the best versions of the best classics of New Zealand home baking . . . Every Kiwi cook deserves a copy’ – Sally Butters, NZ House and Garden


Hokey Pokey Biscuits For the biscuits 4 oz 4 oz 1 tbsp 2 tsp 1 tsp ½ tsp 1 cup*

butter sugar milk golden syrup baking soda vanilla essence flour

115 g 115 g 1 tbsp 2 tsp 1 tsp ½ tsp 170 g

* large

Not quite as toothachingly sweet as the honeycomb toffee they are named after (see page 139 for that recipe), these crisp biscuits do have the slight fizz on the tongue created by baking soda combined with golden syrup. They are light and pleasant and undemanding and with the addition of some chopped chocolate – my sister Fiona’s inspired embellishment – they are very hard to resist. I’ve given the traditional recipe here, but add ¾ cup of chocolate chips at the end if you wish. Getting ready Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Line two baking trays with baking paper or grease them lightly. Bring the butter to room temperature and sift the flour. Mixing and baking the butter and sugar until soft and light. Put the milk and golden syrup in a small saucepan and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Add the baking soda and stir quickly with a wooden spoon. When the mixture froths up pour it onto the butter and sugar and mix well. 2. Add the vanilla followed by the flour (and the chocolate chips if you are using them). 3. Place teaspoonfuls on the trays, allowing room for spreading, and flatten them slightly with a fork. Bake for 10–15 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a rack and store airtight. Makes about 24. 1. Cream

The revised edition of the Ideal Cookery Book was published in 1933. In her foreword Ethel Cameron wrote: ‘The success and popularity of the first edition of the “Ideal Cookery Book” has proved that even in these days when Cookery Books are very numerous there is always room for a Cookery Book of special merit containing good, unusual and tested recipes, catering for all tastes.’ This copy was given to me by Robyn Kelly.

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Mexican Wedding Cakes INGREDIENTS 8 oz butter ½ cup icing sugar ½ tsp vanilla essence 14⁄5 cups flour ½ tsp salt ½ cup walnuts 2 cups* icing sugar, extra * approximately

225 g 60 g ½ tsp 225 g ½ tsp 50 g 250 g

These little sugar-coated balls of tender walnut shortbread are nothing like our New Zealand wedding cake, but they look so pretty they could be served at almost any festive occasion. Versions of them are found in Russia, Portugal, Italy and Spain, and they began appearing in New Zealand around the mid-1970s when my cousin Marion Kitchingman found this recipe in a 1976 New Zealand Woman’s Weekly. She made them when I was visiting Dunedin recently and I was immediately hooked. They make a very fetching gift; in an icy crystal bowl they look like a pile of snowballs; and, having tasted one, few people can resist a second – or a third. It’s a good idea to make them fairly small as the icing sugar coating can deter people who are wearing dark clothing . . . a small biscuit is a single mouthful and less threatening. You could also make them with pecans or toasted hazelnuts – all are delicious. GETTING READY Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C and line two baking trays with baking paper, or grease them lightly. Bring the butter to room temperature. Chop the nuts finely with a knife – you can do this in the food processor, but they quickly get too small and too soft, with the corners knocked off the little pieces of nut. Using a knife gives you better control and ensures the walnuts are a discernible presence in the biscuits. Sift the icing sugar. MIXING AND BAKING the butter, icing sugar and vanilla until very light and fluffy. Sift in the flour and salt and mix until well combined, then mix in the nuts. 2. Use a teaspoon to make small, equally sized mounds of dough on your bench. Roll them into little balls and place in rows on the prepared baking sheets – they won’t spread very much. 3. Bake for 10–12 minutes until they are firm to the touch, but not browned. Rotate the trays after 5 minutes to ensure the biscuits cook evenly. They will be a very pale golden colour when cooked. While the biscuits are in the oven, sift about 2 cups of icing sugar into a shallow dish. 1. Cream

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FINISHING Toss the biscuits in the icing sugar as soon as you can handle them – they should still be quite hot. Roll them around a few at a time, then place them on a cooling rack. Not much icing sugar will stick to begin with, but persevere. Once you have gone through the whole batch, toss them all again. More icing sugar will be sticking now and they’ll look more white than golden. 2. Let them cool on the rack and then toss them in the icing sugar again. They will be looking fairly snowy by now. 3. Store airtight and dust with yet more icing sugar before you serve them. Makes about 48. 1.

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Boston Bun FOR THE DOUGH 1 cup ¾ cup 2 cups 2 tsp ¼ tsp 1 cup 1 cup

mashed potato sugar flour baking powder salt milk dried fruit*

1 cup 150 g 250 g 2 tsp ¼ tsp 225 ml 140 g

* mostly sultanas and maybe some mixed peel

A soft, white, fruity ‘tea bread’ with a good layer of fluffy icing on top (pink or white) and desiccated coconut pressed into the icing, this is a New Zealand favourite. Although iced, it is perfectly proper to spread it – lavishly – with butter. I found this recipe in the 1981 Catholic Women’s League, Dunedin Diocese Cookbook, contributed by Dorothy (Dot) Lavelle of Winton, near Invercargill. Her recipe ends, very accurately, with the word ‘Delicious!’ The mashed potato in the dough makes the bread soft and springy and keeps it fresh for several days. This will make two shallow round loaves: one to eat at home and one to give away – an honourable tradition.

FOR THE TOPPING 2 oz butter 2 cups icing sugar 1 2 tbsp milk 2 3 drops red food colouring ½ cup desiccated coconut

55 g 240 g 1 2 tbsp 2 3

GETTING READY Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C and grease and flour two shallow round sponge tins, 8 in/20 cm in diameter. Make sure the potato is cold and lump-free. Push it through a sieve if you need to. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together.

40 g

MIXING AND BAKING the mashed potato and sugar in a bowl until smooth, then add the sifted dry ingredients, the milk and lastly the fruit. Divide the mixture between the prepared tins and smooth the tops with a flat-bladed knife. 2. Bake for 30 minutes, rotating the tins after 20 minutes. When the buns are golden brown and springy to the touch, remove them from the oven, let them rest for a few minutes and then turn them out onto a wire rack. Ice the tops while they are slightly warm – not hot, or the icing will run off. 1. Beat

Boston Bun Note When I first made this recipe I was a little disappointed that the buns were so shallow, and putting the dough into a deeper tin didn’t help since it made the texture too heavy. But Boston Bun remained a favourite with my tasters at Inhouse Design and I was reassured by Jason Mildren’s (unsolicited) comment that the shallowness was an advantage, since the problem with bought Boston Buns is that you can’t bite into them without getting icing on the end of your nose.

FINISHING Cream the butter with the sifted icing sugar and a little warm milk and keep beating until the icing is really soft. Colour it pale pink – or bright pink – if you wish, spread it thickly on the tops of the buns, then press lots of desiccated coconut into it. Serve cut into slices with butter for spreading.

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Items to be Buttered

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NOTE Commercial versions of these buns, made with yeast, are called Boston Buns in the South Island and Sally Lunns in the North. None bear any resemblance to an English Sally Lunn or Soleilune Cake, as baked in Bath, which is a yeast bread enriched with egg and cream and glazed with a sweet syrup after baking – but with no sugar in the dough, no sultanas, no icing and certainly no coconut, according to Elizabeth David.† I haven’t found the source of the name Boston Bun, but it seems to appear in New Zealand and Australia. In the 1976 edition of the P.W.M.U. (Presbyterian Women’s Missionary Union) Cookery Book, first published in Melbourne in 1904, I found a recipe for a Boston Bun Loaf, made from a very similar mixture, but un-iced. David, English Bread and Yeast Cookery, Penguin, 1977, page 467.

† Elizabeth

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Nancy’s Apricot Jam Ingredients 1 lb 5 cups* 5 cups 2

dried apricots water sugar lemons

450 g 1125 ml 1 kg 2

* 225 ml cups

Apricot Cake Here is another way of enjoying your jam. The recipe was contributed by Bernice Vowell to the Manawatu Red Cookery Book: Tested and Tried Recipes, published in Palmerston North in 1926. This was a ‘New, Revised and Enlarged Edition’ and the copy I have was inscribed by Mrs M.W.M. Stewart on 11 October 1927. Cream 4 oz/115 g butter with 5 oz/140 g sugar; beat in 3 eggs and then fold in 8 oz/225 g flour sifted with 1 tsp baking powder. Lastly stir in 3 tbsp of apricot jam. Bake in a 7 in/18 cm greased and floured tin at 350°F/180°C for about 45 minutes. Ice with lemon icing.

Since not all of us are fortunate enough to live in Central Otago where we could enjoy the unparalleled taste of fresh, ripe apricots, we have to make do with the dried variety. Luckily these are available all year round and they make the very best jam with all the concentrated flavour of the dried fruit. Jams need sugar as their preservative so, unless you want to keep them in the fridge, you need a good amount of sugar, but I do not like apricot jam that is too sweet. This recipe is the answer. It comes from Myra Lawrie’s sister Nancy Yarndley, the source of the Lemon Loaf on page 68. As with that recipe, Nancy has fine-tuned the amount of sugar to ensure a wonderful tart flavour, a good set and excellent keeping qualities – although it is hard to leave a jar of beautiful apricot jam sitting in the cupboard for long. Getting ready Heat the oven to 300°F/150°C. Wash about 4 jam jars in hot water, rinse them and place in the oven to dry. Put a couple of small saucers in the freezer to use when testing the jam for setting. Squeeze the juice from the lemons. Making the jam the apricots into smallish bits and place in a preserving pan with the water. Bring to the boil, stirring, then cover and simmer for 30 minutes. 2. Add the sugar and lemon juice, stir until sugar dissolves and bring the jam to a fast boil, stirring often. It is not a good idea to leave the kitchen when making jam, so have your book at the ready or music on before you start. 3. The jam should take about 20 minutes to reach setting point, but start testing for a set after 10 minutes. Put a drop of jam onto one of your chilled saucers, wait about 15 seconds, then push a finger gently through it. If the surface wrinkles slightly in front of your finger the jam is ready. Turn off the heat, remove the hot jars from the oven and put them on a board. 4. Skim any froth from the top of the jam – or drop in about a teaspoon of butter which, as it melts, magically makes the froth disappear. Ladle the jam into a heatproof jug and pour into the jars. Cover the jars immediately and try not to move them until the jam is cold and set. Label and store in a cool, dark place. Makes about 4 x 400 ml jars. 1. Chop

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Jams and Preserves

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A Second Helping