In the Kitchen
Crockpots change lives – well, they changed Joan Bishop's life. Dunedin-born Bishop first saw a crockpot in California in the 1970s, and though she didn't buy one, when they hit New Zealand a few years later she bought one of the first available.
Later, she worked as a demonstrator for Sunbeam and Ralta, extolling the virtues of the appliances that every 70s and 80s household had to have – the crockpot, the electric frypan, the food processor.
"Everyone wanted to know how to get the best out them, particularly food processors. It was the very heady days of demonstrating; I could have 100 women in front of me if I was at the winter show or an A&P show.
"I realised after a year or so that I knew a huge amount about food processors, so I wrote the Food Processor Cookbook, which Whitcoulls published." But it was the humble crockpot that made Bishop a cooking star. Joan Bishop's New Zealand Crockpot and Slow Cooker Cookbook has sold 120,000 copies.
After 25 years of writing a monthly cooking column in the Otago Daily Times, those recipes have been collected into a book, A Southern Woman's Kitchen. It includes a section on slow cookers, crockpots and what she calls "speedy" slow cookers.
Each recipe is a labour of love. Writing only once a month is what Bishop calls "ladies' hours" and it gave her enough time to really hone her recipes.
"I will get an inspiration for something I want to do. If things don't go right it might take me six months working at it on and off, and I'll just tuck it away to one side. The Anzac biscuits in the book took me months and months and months, because I was trying to replace the butter with oil. I'm not fanatical but I'm fairly conscious that we need to watch what goes into our bodies ... I try and cut the butter if I can."
About 15 years ago, Bishop and her husband, Tony Reay, decided to make some lifestyle changes, including watching what they ate. "His cholesterol was up and my blood pressure was up and I thought, `We have to do something about that'. I was a much more casual eater than I am now." With the couple sometimes testing a recipe eight or nine times to make sure it's perfect, it has to be healthy but without compromising the flavour and texture.
Bishop likes using her crockpot – updated once since her original purchase, though Tony still uses the original to make porridge – because it allows her to get on with other things while dinner is being prepared.
"I like that lovely feeling of knowing when I'm out and about doing things, even if I'm just in the garden, that dinner is totally organised. I may have to throw together a salad or something but the main part of the meal is organised and it's such a good feeling."
A crockpot is especially good for making puddings, says Bishop, especially if the oven is being used for a roast or casserole.
So is there something in A Southern Woman's Kitchen that other kitchens don't have? Bishop admits she had her arm twisted about the name of the book. "I wasn't sure I wanted to call it A Southern Woman's Kitchen, but I couldn't think of anything better. It's a celebratory name, in a way, celebrating what the south has to offer, like our wonderful farmers' market. We have a great hinterland with amazing fruit and wines coming out of Central Otago, and Bluff oysters, of course."
A conspicuous omission from her repertoire might be the cheese roll, but she doesn't eat them much any more. "I do sometimes but I'm more careful these days. I might share the other half with Tony."
LOLLY SCRAMBLE CUPCAKES
Brightly topped tiny cupcakes are fun to bake and decorate. They are very, very good – densely chocolatey and smoothly sharp. Quickly and easily assembled, a dozen or two can be whipped up in double-quick time.
Whenever I serve these they become a conversation piece. Everyone enthuses over these gaily decorated little cakes. I have served them in place of a dessert to accompany coffee at a very casual dinner.
Children adore them and all our grandchildren aged 6-15 years have enjoyed making them. Without a doubt the decorating is the major attraction. I buy a selection of lollies from the supermarket bins. Buy more than you think, you will need to allow for artistic freedom and a certain amount of consumption along the way.
Many of us prefer tiny cupcakes but it's a matter of personal choice. Most supermarkets have paper cases, either small or regular size, that fit into mini or regular-sized muffin pans. You can use the paper cases by themselves if you don't have muffin tins. Use two paper cases, one inside the other, for a more rigid case.
For a sophisticated adult version, ice with liqueur-flavoured icing and top with a chocolate-coated coffee bean.
While the decorating is kiddie-inspired, the cake beneath tempts grown-ups, too. Light, moist and intensely flavoured with chocolate and blackcurrant, these are truly delicious little mouthfuls.
100g dark cane or muscovado sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup plain yoghurt
2 large eggs, size 7
1/4 cup blackcurrant or boysenberry jam
130g self-raising flour
4 tablespoons cocoa powder (20g)
2-3 tablespoons milk
250g icing sugar
4 tablespoons orange or lime juice, approximately
Selection of lollies to decorate
Preheat the oven to 190C. Place about 30 small paper cases into mini muffin pans or 12 regular-sized paper cases into regular-sized pans.
Put all the ingredients except for the milk in a food processor. Process until the mixture is smooth, about 10 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and process again very briefly. Add the milk a tablespoon at a time, pulsing after each addition, until you have a dough with a soft dropping consistency.
To make without using a food processor, beat the sugar, oil, yoghurt, eggs and jam together until thick and creamy. Sift the flour and cocoa powder together and fold into the wet ingredients. Add the milk.
Spoon the mixture into the paper cases, filling each two-thirds full. Bake for 12-14 minutes in the preheated oven until the cakes are springy to the touch.
Remove from the oven and cool in the pans for 5 minutes. Slip out the cakes in their paper cases and place on a wire rack until completely cool.
To make the icing, sift icing sugar into a bowl. Add the juice and combine until smooth. Ice the cupcakes, leaving each one to dry only slightly before sticking on the lolly. Cut to size if need be.
Store iced cupcakes in an airtight container for up to 4 days. When decorated with lollies, however, the colour tends to run after several hours.
Makes about 28-30 small or 12 regular cupcakes.
Recipe reproduced with permission from Random House.
- © Fairfax NZ News