Archive for January, 2011

My New Years resolution to post more to my blog got off to a good start and then life rapidly took over as usual. There are not enough hours in the day to do what I have to do, let alone the things I just want to do. Despite this modern affliction that affects us all, a few weekends ago I managed to bake one of the cakes I have wanted to bake since the idea for this project first came to me – gingerbread.

Anyone paging through the family cookbook (as I do fairly often) will notice gingerbread recipes, a lot of gingerbread recipes. In fact the ‘G’ section of the index is completely dominated by gingerbread recipes. Most of these recipes are in my Great-Grandmother Dodo’s writing and all of them are splattered and stained – very well used. The one most splattered and well used and  the page the recipe book naturally falls open to if left to it’s own devises is ‘Auntie Kath’s Gingerbread’.

With gingerbread obviously being a firm favourite, dare I say, a weakness of Dodo’s, it would have been a good place to start this blog – if only I had had the key ingredient in the house the day I wanted to start – ginger! I know any of you who have seen my spice cupboard will be surprised that any spice could be missing from that cupboard, let alone one as common as ginger, but Christmas is a gingery time and I was out. So, it was left to Crunchies to start my new project and being such a central part of every Zimbabwean child’s upbringing, filled the post admirably, but now on to Dodo’s favourite.

Birthday treats - crunchies, gingerbread, cupcakes and fruit cake

I know who Auntie Kath is in the family tree, she is Dodo’s sister (my great-great-aunt), but apart from that, I didn’t know much else. My mission therefore when next speaking to Polly was to discover firstly, what was with all this gingerbread and secondly, her memories of Auntie Kath.

The answer to the gingerbread question was as we already surmised from the numerous entries in the recipe book – Dodo loved it and made it a lot (not just gingerbread, anything ginger). Polly also had lots of memories of Auntie Kath and her baking which by all accounts was legendary. Apparently her scones, as well as her Gingerbread were famous in the family and both were included amongst the refreshments for her tennis parties which she held every Sunday. Polly mentioned that she was very close to Kath who was a figure in her life that she could always confide in and ask advice. Her cookery advice at least has been recorded for us all and now it was my turn to give it a go.

Ingredients assembled, ready to go

I followed the recipe exactly as it is below and it illustrates an important point about my family. Dodo and Polly were baking for large families – very large. Dodo had 6 children, 31 grandchildren and a number of great-grandchildren when she died. Polly has 5 children,10 grandchildren (all of whom are remiss in providing great-grandchildren) and a ridiculously large number of nephews, nieces, great-nephews etc. I am not even going to bother to count, it would take too long. My point is – this recipe is designed for numbers.

Auntie Kath’s Gingerbread – pg34

  • 110g sugar
  • 110g margarine (I used butter)
  • 3 Cups Flour
  • 1 Cup Syrup
  • 1 Cup Milk
  • 1 Cup Warm Water
  • 2 tsps Ground Ginger
  • 2 tsps mixed spice (I did not have mixed spice either and used 1/2 tsp each of nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice and cloves)
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 tsp Bicarb Soda (Dodo’ notes also say to add 2 tsps cinnamon if you are not using brown sugar)

Pg 34

Melt the sugar, marg and syrup until all melted and combined (warm). Beat the eggs and add them to the milk. Mix your dry ingredients (in your biggest mixing bowl), then add syrup mixture and then egg/milk mixture. Beat altogether. Dissolve the bicarb with the warm water and add this to your batter. Beat well. Cook in the oven at 180 degrees C or Gas Mark 4 for about 45mins.


I used a 22cm bread loaf tin which was too small for this quantity of batter. It all fitted in and rose nicely but had to be cooked for 20mins longer (a toothpick inserted should come out clean). A larger loaf tin should mean you only need to bake for the suggested 45mins.


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Dodo, Polly and her twin Peter - 1928

Since my last blog post (an age ago!) I have moved house, changed jobs twice and kept up with usual day to day life. Alas, these events have meant my blog has been very sadly neglected. However, a new year has now begun and with life feeling a bit more settled I feel like it is about time I let the inspiration flow again.

A few months ago my Grandmother Polly gave me something I will treasure forever. It is a scrapbook started by my Great-Grandmother Dodo (the women in our family have never gone for being called Grandma!). The scrapbook is filled with recipes collected over the years, first by Dodo and then by Polly. They come from friends, magazine cuttings, newspapers, cuttings from the Rhodesian and Zimbabwean papers (did I mention my family is Zimbabwean?). Some are written in Dodo’s writing, some in Polly’s, some in an unrecognisable hand from an old friend. I have always loved this book – as a child I spent hours paging through it and when I was 10 I indexed it. It took me ages but I too had made my mark in my childish, 10year old scrawl.

These days it is held together with tape, some of the recipes that have been pasted in are coming unstuck and it smells of vanilla and Polly’s kitchen. Opening it takes me back to afternoons spent in the kitchen with Polly baking scones or making pork schnitzel and garlic sauce which was one of my favourite dinners.

So now that I am the proud keeper of this treasure, I intend to try out and share with you some of what’s inside, some of the memories it evokes and maybe learn some bites of  my own family history along the way.

I started my project yesterday morning with something nice and easy, a very Southern African recipe – Crunchies. Crunchies in Zimbabwe are a bit like flapjacks in the UK but, well, crunchier (Zimbabwean flapjacks are like drop scones or griddle cakes in the UK). Crunchies were a staple of Zimbabwean afternoon tea, good for filling up hungry children and I consumed my fair share of them. From our family I think the person who made them the most, well at least where I remember eating them the most, was at my Great-Aunt Prudie’s – she may have used this recipe, but if not she certainly used one similar.

Crunchies – pg13

Mix the following together in a bowl:
1 cup plain flour
2 cups oats
1 cup dessicated coconut
3/4’s cup sugar

Ready for mixingMelt together the following:
110g margarine (I used butter)
1&1/2 Tbsps syrup

1 Tbsp bicarbonate of soda in 1 Tbsp milk and then stir it into the melted mixture

Combine this with the dry ingredients and turn out the mixture into a greased baking tin and press out smoothly to fill pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 180 Degrees C for about 10mins until brown. Sprinkle with sugar and cut into squares while they are still hot.


1. I used a 22cmx22cm square baking tin which was a good size for the recipe.

2. Once you have mixed everything together, the mixture looks very dry – this is normal and as long as you press the mixture down to fill the pan, they should come out as expected.

Crunchie anyone?

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