Happy New Year, I hope your festive season has been as food-filled and sunny as mine has.
One of the things I look forward during lazy summer days is reading. And usually not from the book club list, but a random title picked up off a dining table in someone else’s home. This is how I came across Supermarket Companion by Wendyl Nissen. I like Wendyl. She calls it as it is, doesn’t pretend to be anything she isn’t, and writes well. And, like me, she can be a tad obsessive on chosen topics (I prefer to call it passionate). I often refer to Wendyl’s A Home Companion for chemical free home-made cleaning solutions.
I found myself on my favourite (possibly New Zealand’s finest) beach, Matapouri Bay, devouring every word of my sister’s Christmas gift. I’m not sure I should be shocked by what I read, after all common sense would suggest that a cheap bright blue ice block is not going to be coloured with fresh blueberries. The realisation suddenly hit me that I’ve largely been ignoring parts of food labels if I don’t understand them (mind you, they are written in 1-point font). With a toddler forming lifelong eating habits, I’m more aware than ever about what we put in our mouths. It is probably time for me to take notice and stop ignoring what looks scary.
This is where Wendyl is so helpful, having done the research on a large number of common food additives and colourants. It doesn’t always make for comfortable reading (I’m sure any teacher of hyperactive six year olds will back up her findings). I like the way the book is chunked into easy to read stand alone chapters. Naturally, I moved pretty quickly to the biscuits and cakes section where I found my all-time favourite slice featured. Sadly, not favourably. You’ll never eat store-bought Raspberry Slice again when you read the review.
This got me thinking about why I’d never made it before. As Wendyl points out, her Aunt Daisy recipe has only eight ingredients (as opposed to 45 in the store-bought one) so it couldn’t be that hard. I searched Mum’s cupboard of old school cook books and looked online. I was surprised to find very few recipes – maybe it’s a rarely made-at-home Kiwi thing? Here’s the recipe I tried out, which is a combination of several I came across.
What you’ll need
125g butter (preferably at room temperature)
120g sugar (I use caster but regular sugar is perfectly suitable)
1 tsp vanilla essence
230g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
For the icing:
250g icing sugar
1-2 Tbsp soft butter
2+ Tbsp boiling water
Pink food colouring (if desired)
To create it
Divide the mixture into two and pop one half back in the fridge. Roll the other half, between sheets of lightly floured baking paper, with a rolling pin. Then lift into the tin from the baking paper (sort of ‘roll’ it off the paper (see photograph on the right). It’s OK if you need to do a patch job, as is sometimes the case, as you won’t see it.
Cover the base with several good dollops of raspberry jam – I use Barkers as it’s New Zealand made using largely New Zealand berries and is crammed full of fruit. I usually put blobs across the base, then spread out with a knife.
Roll the second piece of pastry, in the same way as the first, to fit over the jam. Bake for about 20 minutes (check at 18) until beginning to change colour.
Sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Make a well in the centre, adding the butter and boiling water (and colouring, if using). Mix with a spoon, adding more boiling water if required. You want a runny-ish consistency (not completely pourable though – so you use a knife to spread it). Spread the icing over the slice and wait until it has set before cutting.
After several days of reading about artificial colours, I decided to go natural and use some pomegranate juice from the pomegranate I’d bought that day. Alas, it wasn’t enough juice and I ended up with a winter white/almost soft pink colour. Of course, it didn’t effect the flavour or texture – we’re just conditioned to having pink icing. The result was just like the bought one – but fresh and better – and I enjoyed a slice or 10 with cups of tea while reading another book that belonged to someone else!