Local Heart, Global Soul

July 31, 2009

Bran Date Muffins from Linette at Plum Tree Cottage

So where exactly is Plum Tree Cottage? .. that’s easy , it’s in Hanmer Springs.

….And where is Hanmer Springs? Well, first you need to head down under to New Zealand, once there , go to the South Island and if you are in the city of Christchurch then you take State Highway 1 North until you reach Waipara, turn left inland on State Highway 7 heading towards the Lewis Pass until you come to the Hanmer turnoff.

Once you have passed the bridge that straddles the gorge and checked out any bungy jumpers who may be about to leap off it, it’s then just a short drive into the village. So, what so Cool about Hanmer?

Well “ cool” isn’t exactly the right word for it.. “Hot” would be a far better one. This small alpine village with a permanent population of 900 souls play host to many visitors who flock to the town’s main attraction: geothermal hot pools, that occur naturally in the area.

There’s a large rectangular pool that’s a cool 25 C (77 F) and then the properly warm stuff: a multitude of smaller pools ranging in temperatures from 36 – 42 C ( 96- 107 F). That means no matter what kind of heat you can mange there will be a pool to suit your personal preference.

I can attest that these pools are simply divine in soaking away jet lag, and if you have been taking advantage of the many walking and mountain biking trails in the large forest areas that almost surround Hanmer, or the skiing in winter in the ski fields nearby,, then your tired and weary limbs will adore the respite of the soothing heat of the pools waters.

Linette , one of the permanent residents of Hanmer Springs makes the very best Bran Date Muffins…. … she and I swapped some recipes and I have made these for many a subsequent visitor to rave reviews.

If you don’t wish to make 18-20 muffins then this mix can be used to make 12 muffins and 1 small loaf. Sultanas can be mixed into the date amount if preferred. Mixture can be made up to 2 days in advance and covered, refrigerated until use. Thanks Linette!

bran muffins (Small)

(photo © kiwidutch)

2 ½ cups plain flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 cup sugar

3 ½ cups unprocessed natural bran

1 ½ cups pitted dates (chopped)

1 cup vegetable oil ( for example – light olive)

2 ½ cups low fat milk

2 eggs ( lightly beaten)

Pre-heat oven to 190 C (375 F)

Sift together the flour, baking soda and cinnamon.

Stir in the chopped dates, unprocessed bran and sugar.

Mix together the lightly beaten eggs, milk and vegetable oil, and then gently stir into the flour, dates etc mix until only just combined.

Spoon into a muffin pan and bake in a moderate to hot oven (190 C / 375 F) for about 20 minutes or until cooked.

Moi ? … I like my muffins warmly broken open and dubbed with a pat of real butter… yum!!!

July 5, 2009

Standing out from the crowd of buffet table “usuals” …

Need a recipe for a school fair, work event or church gathering? Want something that stands out from the crowd of “usuals” on a crowded buffet table, will please both young and old, is easy to sling together and which is made with just a few standard store cupboard ingredients? If so, have I got the recipe for you… one of my all time favourite recipes: “Gabrielle’s Apricot Slice” which I got many years ago from a friends in New Zealand.

Gabrielle's Apricot Slice (photo © Kiwidutch)

Gabrielle’s Apricot Slice (photo © Kiwidutch)

First a small note: I usually double all of these ingredients simply because using only half a tin of condensed milk is really messy to measure and secondly because in the rare event that there is any left over, friends, family or neighbours are always very happy indeed to relieve me of it very quickly indeed with a very big smile… 🙂
Warning: a double mix makes a LOT…

Second, some very handy tips from years of making this:
– I line my dish with plastic cling wrap and then press the mixture in, once it’s been in the fridge and firm, all you have to do is to cut it down the middle first and gently ease it out on both ends.. peel off the plastic wrap and cut it easily into squares on a cutting board.
– the best way to mix everything together is to wait until the liquid has cooled a little so you don’t burn yourself, then with scrubbed clean hands get in there and mix it by hand in a large bowl by hand, a double mix will take some mixing ! ( this is the workout to burn off a few calories) press into a large container as firmly as you can.
– lastly, try and make this the evening before you want it.. the result will hold together a LOT better and somehow a night in the fridge improves it… don’t ask why, ¨cos I don’t know….it just does LOL
plain sweet biscuits = Superwine or Roundwine in NZ/ Maria biscuits in NL. ( watch out Maria’s come in smaller packets of 200g!)


1 (250 g) packet plain sweet biscuits (Superwine or Roundwine in NZ/ Maria biscuits in NL)
1 cup dried apricot (chopped)
4 ounces butter (113g)
3 ounces light brown sugar (85g)

1/2 of one (395 g) can of sweetened condensed milk

180 g chocolate chips

1) Crush the biscuits ( make some into very small crumbs and keep some still in quite big-ish bits) and mix with the chopped apricots.

2) In a pot, melt the butter then add the condensed milk, and brown sugar together (Do not boil). LOW HEAT and stir well or it will burn. The butter will start out as a separate layer on the top, keep stirring until the butter becomes a small ring around the edge of the pot and then disappears completely. ( if you don’t melt the butter first then it will sit on the top of the condensed milk in lumps that are stupidly hard to mix in with the rest later)

3) Mix the liquid mix into the biscuits & apricots. Add chocolate chips if using… try and wait a few minutes whilst your liquid mix cools a little, before putting them in our they will melt completely instead of staying as chips.

4) Press firmly into a straight sided container.
5) Refrigerate and cut into blocks when cold.

… and if it’s for a gathering outside home, hide it from your family so that it makes it to the stomachs that it’s intended for…

Gab's Apricot Slice (photo © Kiwidutch)

Gab’s Apricot Slice (photo © Kiwidutch)

Gab's Apricot Slice (photo © Kiwidutch)

Gab’s Apricot Slice (photo © Kiwidutch)

apricot slice5 (Small)

Gab’s Apricot Slice (photo © Kiwidutch)

Gab's Apricot Slice (photo © Kiwidutch)

Gab’s Apricot Slice (photo © Kiwidutch)

Gabrielle's Apricot Slice (photo © Kiwidutch)

Gabrielle’s Apricot Slice (photo © Kiwidutch)

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