Orange Chocolate Truffles

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Perfect for Valentine’s Day

Christmas comes but once a year and for that we are very thankful. Many years ago in England during the war, my mother and grandmother scrimped and saved their rations to get enough ingredients to make Christmas puddings. They made the puddings in October to give them time to ripen but when Christmas came, the puddings were mouldy and unusable, the product of poor quality ingredients in wartime.

Some years later, my family lived in Malaysia and one Christmas when my grandmother was visiting from England, she and my mother sweated away in 30-degree heat making a traditional pudding according to Great Aunt Polly’s recipe. The Chinese cook was fascinated.

Before dinner, mother pointed out the brandy to pour over the pudding and told Cookie to light it before bringing it to the table. When the cold consommé and roast turkey had been eaten, he whispered urgently to her that he couldn’t get the brandy to light. She said, “Never mind, Cookie, bring it in just the same.” He placed the pudding in front of my father for him to serve it, while at mother’s end of the table were fruit salad and mince pies. Father served out twelve portions, which Cookie passed round. My father was the first one to taste the pudding. He grimaced and said, “Something’s wrong with this pudding!” Cookie brought in the bottle of “brandy” he had used. It was Shell Teepol cleaning fluid, a new product that my father had been given to try. Cookie thought he would keep the best brandy for after-dinner drinks. Luckily, they could safely eat the fruit salad and mince pies. It was yet another memorable Christmas.

Instead of sweating over a hot stove, I recommend something completely different: orange chocolate truffles. They are great for gifts both to others and yourself.

4 oz (114 gm) of milk chocolate, in pieces

2 oz  (57 gm) of grated plain dark chocolate or powdered drinking chocolate

2 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk

1 oz (30 gm) of butter

1 orange (for the zest)

1 lb (454 gm) of icing sugar

Your choice of Cointreau, brandy, crème de cacao, orange liqueur

In a mixing bowl put the pieces of chocolate, butter and condensed milk. Put the bowl into a larger bowl of hot water to soften the chocolate and butter. Stir until well blended and smooth. Grate the rind of the orange and add to the mixture. Stir icing sugar gradually into the mixture until it is firm enough to roll into balls without sticking to the fingers. We wouldn’t want that to happen! Adjust icing sugar and liqueur to get the right texture. This could take hours if you are really diligent! Make balls about the size of a walnut (or a mouth) and roll in grated plain dark chocolate or powdered cocoa or drinking chocolate. Put the balls on waxed paper on a baking tray and put in the fridge to harden. Then wait!

New Zealand’s Favourite Cookies

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Where are they?

AFGHAN BISCUITS

These small round cookies have a blob of icing on top with a half walnut on top of that. The whole thing looks like a turban, which is probably what prompted the name.

Makes 20 small cookies

1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup caster sugar

1 1/4 cups flour

2 Tbsp cocoa powder

1 1/3 cups cornflakes

1/2 cup walnut halves, to decorate

Heat oven to 350 (180°C) and line two baking trays with wax paper.

Place butter and sugar in a bowl and beat until pale and creamy.

Sift flour and cocoa powder over creamed mixture; stir to combine.

Stir in cornflakes.

Place tablespoonfuls of mixture on baking trays.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until firm and golden brown.

Cool on wire rack.

Ice the cold biscuits with chocolate icing and a walnut half.

Chocolate Icing

Mix a cup of icing sugar with a tablespoon of cocoa and a dash of water in a saucepan on low heat; stir. Add more ingredients to get the right quantity and firm texture.

ANZAC BISCUITS

No one really knows the history of these biscuits but one story is that when Australian and New Zealand soldiers joined forces in World War I (becoming the ANZACs), someone decided to make a biscuit to celebrate.

Another story says that, as the biscuits are economical to make, nourishing, and store well, families could send these biscuits in food parcels to ANZAC troops overseas. They survive rough handling and go well with the strong hot tea that was a standard ration for the soldiers, so this is possible.

The biscuits are like Scottish oatcakes and no doubt early settlers brought the recipe to New Zealand. In World War I, the biscuits were sold to help fundraise for the Red Cross and the Returned Servicemen’s Association, which seems the probable origin of the name.

½ cup (4 oz) butter

1 tablespoon golden syrup

2 tablespoons of boiling water

1 1/2 tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda

1 cup of rolled oats

3/4 cup desiccated coconut

1/2 cup (4 oz) plain flour

1 cup (8 oz) of sugar

Combine all dry ingredients except soda.

Add melted butter.

Stir in soda mixed with boiling water.

Place in spoonfuls on greased tray.

Cook in moderate oven about 20 minutes. Cool.

Store in airtight container.

PIKELETS or SCOTTISH PANCAKES

1 egg

¼ cup caster sugar

1 cup flour

1 tsp baking powder

Pinch salt

¾ to 1 cup milk

1 Tbsp melted butter

Oil for frying

Jam and whipped cream, to serve

In a bowl, beat egg and sugar together until thick.

Add dry ingredients alternating with milk, adding enough milk to form a smooth, thick batter. Stir in the melted butter.

Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add a film of oil and cook tablespoons of batter in batches, for about 2 minutes or until bubbles appear on the surface. Turn pikelets over to brown the other side. Remove to paper towels.

Serve pikelets warm, topped with jam and whipped cream.

  • The batter will thicken upon standing; if necessary, add a little extra milk to thin the mixture before frying.
  • Fry one pikelet to make sure the pan is at the right temperature to turn the pikelets golden brown.