An artist’s gotta eat: suprise you’ve got visitors!

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It’s what we in New Zealand call “the Christmas Holidays” – that period from late December to early January when we try to have a big lie down. We like our big lie down to be somewhere far from our home, by the sea and involving hours spent in traffic queues of similarly minded New Zealanders. So, it’s also become a great time to stay at home and enjoy the company of visitors.

Apparently we New Zealanders have a uniquely antipodean attitude to visiting. No formal visiting cards or notes in appointment diaries, we like to “show up” – I do it all the time.. While it doesn’t seem to bother the locals, apparently it’s considered quite disconcerting, even rude if you do it in longer established European communities. I wonder whether it’s a hangover from the early days of New Zealand when isolated rural dwellers would be delighted to have someone, anyone, dropping by for a “cuppatea” and a chat. Traditionally scones (sweet and savoury), pikelets or home biscuits, slices etc were the absolutely expected and easily provided treat of choice for unannounced arrivals. .Societal changes, working women and increasingly busy lives mean some are now less excited by the unexpected visitor. I’m also thinking that apartment living with its swipe cards and security door pad codes is going to impact on our carefree attitude to unexpected company.

Showing up” at my place is somewhat limiting for visitors as I live high in the hills of Whakamarama, 17 minutes outside urban Tauranga. It’s just sufficiently far away to make those I’ve foisted myself on unannounced, think twice about driving north-westward without checking that the toilet and the tea will be available at chez moi. It reminds me of the time a contingent (think multi-generational horde) on a scalloping expedition to Clarke’s Beach suddenly appeared at my former rural front door for a barbeque. I was doing the monthly Law Society trust account return and unfortunately the horde’s communications specialist had omitted to advise any of my family that they would be appearing to loll about my house with sandy feet. As I was more scared of the Law Society than the “Ponsonby Boys” I left them, their wives, children and assorted associates outside in the garden with access to all facilities while I continued to use my fingers on my tragically small calculator.

This of course is my version of the event. Those appearing at my home may recall a somewhat harassed and sour-faced young woman looking in amazement at the never-ending, happy-faced arrivals with the same enthusiasm one would at the arrival of a highly contagious disease or news that you were living in a methamphetamine contaminated home (did we have methamphetamine then?). They may also recall a “slightly heated” discussion by the wider group with their supposed female communications specialist who, in the face of group numbers, felt constrained to blame the writer’s former husband – “but I told him”. On the day it was impossible to apportion blame “beyond reasonable doubt”. Relying on gender-biased ,established domestic law, one could say that it would be unwise of anyone travelling from Auckland to Clarke’s Beach to not include “the woman of the house” in any domestic arrangement involving the arrival of a rugby team.

The nature of the food on offer may have changed but despite individual personalities and social change the lingering tradition of an open door and a welcome at the table continues.Two regular ARTbop contributors, professionally and commercially successful women with strong creative backgrounds also are great cooks and hostesses in the established rural New Zealand tradition. I’ve got the recipes for some useful easily created little treats these two have provided to ARTbop events. Easy to make from simple store-cupboard ingredients while you smile benignly from the kitchen over the breakfast bar at the expectant unexpected.

Diane Hume-Green Photo Rosemary Balu

Diane Hume-Green Photo Rosemary Balu

Diane Hume-Green is insistent I tell you that the scrumptious, tiny nut tarts she bakes are a recipe from the legendary Jo Seagar. Jo transformed cooking and home entertainment cooking for New Zealand. Her strap-line “easy peasy”. A girl my Mother would have described as “well covered” Jo Seagar had a bubbling, appealing and relatable public personality. Jo lines up with the Edmonds Cook Book and Alison Holst in the history or New Zealand toothsome importance. There are websites and books which catalogue her culinary delights.

Jo Seagar’s Christmas Nut Pies

Jo Seagar calls the Hume-Green baked, mini-pecan pies we unashamedly scoffed “Christmas Nut Pies”. What ever they’re called they are super-delicious.

You’ll need some mini muffin baking tins, grease them well.

For the pastry you need:

125 grams of butter, 1 cup of flour and ½ cup of icing sugar.

For the filling you need:

1 cup of mixed nuts – macadamia, hazelnuts (skin removed) pecans and blanched almonds roughly chopped (at least cut in half), 60 grams melted butter, 1 egg, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla essence.

Pastry: Put the pastry ingredients (butter, flour, icing sugar) in the food processor and run until pastry clumps in a ball round the blade. Divide into 16 balls and with floured hands press pastry into base and up sides of well-greased mini muffin tins. Put the tins into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Bake cold like this.

For the filling: Divide the mixed chopped nuts between the chilled pasty cases. Mix melted butter, egg, brown sugar and vanilla together until smooth and gluey and spoon or pour carefully over the nuts. Do not overfill.

Bake in oven preheated to 180 degrees C for 20-25 minutes until pastry is golden brown. Leave in the tins for a few minutes then give each pie a twist and lift out to cool on a wire rack. You could make these pies in bigger tins and serve with cream ice-cream or natural yoghurt.

Mini Bacon and Egg Pies

Another DHG specialty:

For the Pastry you Need:: Sheets of flaky or puff pastry (yes you can buy it!)

For the Filling you need: 3 rashers of bacon, 4 sliced spring onions, 5 eggs, ¾ cup of cream, little grated nutmeg, salt and pepper

Pastry: Defrost and cut each slice into four pieces. Push each piece into greased or sprayed Texas Muffin tins (smaller pies can be made in the usual or mini muffin tins but keep and eye on them as they will cook faster).

Filling: First saute chopped bacon until golden, remove drain on crumpled paper towel and leave to cool. Mix together the 5 eggs, cream, grated nutmeg and salt and pepper.

Divide the bacon and chopped spring onions between the pastry cases. Pour in the egg and cream mixture. Then fold the pastry corners to make rustic edges.

Bake for 25 minutes in moderate oven (180 degreesC) for 25 minutes or until golden. Remove and cool on wire rack.

And a very refreshing non-bake treat I’ve eaten with Diane and Phil Hume-Green. A plate of small chunks of watermelon with a squeeze of lemon and/or lime juice – just yum!

Illus6The TPC also known as Beth Bowden ARTbop contributor and The ARTbopSHOW conversationalist spent some time in France this year as part of the Te Puna contingent. Beth has a sophisticated, easily prepared spread redolent of Provence and Spain. All the ingredients are predominantly store-cupboard items.

TPC Delight

Method and Ingredients:

Mix together in a bowl:

125 grams (1 pot) cream cheese, 185 gram drained tin of tuna in oil, ½ cup of kalmata olives stoned and chopped, 1 Tablespoon of capers, 5 sun-dried tomatoes chopped, ½ cup parsley, zest of 1 lemon and a squeeze of its juice. Beth uses a fork to mix all this. She says if you want a smoother texture use the food processor (but it’s more washing up!)

This is delicious on crackers and spectacular on warm, freshly baked or heated bread. It would also be totally toothsome on toasted pita bread. I carefully cut them apart so there are two separate rounds – you can either tear these into bits and toast in the oven under the grill or use larger sections in the toaster. Home made crostini with any left over bread or a stale french stick will smile when you spread them with this mixture. It would also be delicious served in individual little pots on plates with a pile of crostini and a simple green salad. Chilled chardonnay or sparkling wine would be great.

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                                 Enjoy the summer and take note of the Fire Service advice

Photo0408Rosemary Balu. Rosemary Balu is the founding and current editor of ARTbop. Rosemary has arts and law degrees from the University of Auckland. She has been a working lawyer and has participated in a wide variety of community activities where information gathering, submission writing, community advocacy and education have been involved. Interested in all forms of the arts since childhood Rosemary is focused on further developing and expanding multi-media ARTbop as the magazine for all the creative arts in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand.

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