Nathalie Moolenschot adopted her grandmother Thelma Avery (née Simsion) when she was a tiny three-year-old. “When we came out from Holland, our first home was four doors down from hers.
As my mum was walking up the street with me, we saw her and I called out ‘Oma!’ – Dutch for grandma. She took my mum under her wing and has been my grandma ever since,” Nathalie says.
Thirty-one years later, Nathalie (34) and Thelma (in her eighties) share a special bond, which is Thelma’s domestic science notebook from 1944. “She gave me the book on the advice of my mum who knows I love to cook. And I always admired my grandma’s cooking,” says Nathalie.
The gorgeous old book is full of traditional recipes, but with a wartime tinge. Ingredients were scarce and so there are lots of recipes for eggless cakes, instructions on how to use soya flour instead of wheat and lots of ways to use up leftover food.
“My grandma is an exceptional cook. I frequently ring her for cooking advice and she used to make wedding cakes. I once stole the iced roses she had made for a cake, causing a bit of a panic,” says Nathalie, “and she always made my birthday cakes.”
I’ve tested two recipes which caught my eye in Thelma’s book. One was for cheese frizzles, which were so delicious my family begged me to make more. They cook up like a cheese crisp and I’ve doubled the original recipe so that you have plenty to go around.
They should make a comeback as the perfect nibble to have with drinks. I also made potato parkins – spicy little biscuits which are lovely spread with butter and jam. They’re a great way to use up leftover mashed potato.
I hope you enjoy trying out Thelma’s recipes from 1944 and if you know someone with a lovely old notebook full of recipes, why not ask if you can look after it for them and pass it down the generations?
Nathalie says she’ll be keeping Thelma’s notebook as part of her legacy. “It tells me another part of her story.”
- 50g flour
- 50g oatmeal
- 50g mashed potato
- 1 tsp sugar
- ½ tsp ginger
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp mixed spice
- ½ tsp baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- 25g cooking fat (lard or butter)
- 40g golden syrup
1. Mix all the dry ingredients including the potato together.
2. Melt the fat and syrup and add to the mix. Form into small balls and place on a greased tray. Flatten out with the back of a fork and cook in a 180°C oven for 20 minutes.
If you can’t find fine oatmeal, just whizz up normal rolled oats in the food processor.
- 4 tbsp fine oatmeal
- 4 tbsp grated cheese (I used tasty)
- 2 tbsp flour
- ¼ tsp mustard powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- Ground pepper
- 4 tbsp fat for frying (I used lard but olive oil or butter will do)
- 2 tsp baking powder
1. Mix all ingredients together except the baking powder and frying fat. Add enough cold water to mix into a stiff batter. If it looks like porridge, it’s too liquid and the frizzles will flatten out in the frying pan. If this happens, as it did to me, just add a bit more oatmeal.
2. Melt the fat in the frying pan until it spits if you put a drop of water in it. Add the baking powder to the mix just before you are about to start cooking.
3. Drop teaspoonfuls into the hot fat – they will bubble a bit like crumpets. Turn over and cook until golden on both sides.
4. Drain on paper towels and serve on their own, or spread with fish or meat paste.
Do you have a Nana recipe you’d like to share with me? I’d love to hear about it. Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Nana’s Pantry, NZWW, PO Box 90119, Victoria St West, Auckland 1142.