Monday, December 31, 2007

A few Christmas 2007 Photos!

1 comment:

Briony C said...

Dear Debbie,

We have come back from a holiday in Ohakune (a Maori name meaning “place to be wary of”). We went to Ohakune because it had connections with our family history. My mother spent the first four years of her life living at a shack near its famous viaduct, which we took plenty of photographs of. However the shack has gone now, as has the tailor shop my great-grandfather had in the main street of Ohakune.

Ohakune is famous for many things, not least of which is its landmark carrot. This great big concrete carrot was erected in 1984 in tribute to Ohakune’s fame as a market-gardening area and the soil is favourable for growing cauliflower, parsnips, potatoes and carrots. The soil where I live is not suited for root vegetables (silt soil) so I have long since given up growing carrots and parsnips.

Ohakune is popular for skiers in the winter. Since we are in the southern hemisphere we don’t get snow – but it does snow on the high mountains. So when winter comes, skiers come to ski on Mt Ruapehu which dominates the landscape. Ohakune has a very alpine feel to it – not least because it has plenty of fir trees. These have been planted to feed the sawmilling industry. In the old days they felled native forests (we could still see the stumps) but now it is more eco-friendly by planting fir trees for the industry and regularly planting new seedlings. Mt Ruapehu is also an active volcano, and I remember one year the volcano started erupting just as the skiing season started. The eruption made the news, annoyed the people who depend on the ski season for business and inspired a dessert.

Mt Ruapehu was quiet when we gave it a visit. You could still see some snow on the volcano (not enough for skiing). We used the ski lift to go up the mountain. This was a challenge for me as I hate heights. Indeed it was scary for the first few moments but I soon found it peaceful, eerie and enjoyable – except for those bits where it stopped for a moment and we were swinging in mid-air!

Another thing Ohakune is noteworthy for is its railway history. This was when they were constructing the track to link up the North Island from Auckland (top) to Wellington the capital (bottom) and workers were building the aforementioned viaduct. The Overlander (as the train is called) takes twelve hours to make the journey. Just one stop away from Ohakune is National Park. National Park is the half-way point; the train stops for 50 minutes and passengers can have lunch at the station cafe. Coming to the station to watch the train come in was a popular pastime and still is. We were doing it; we just had lunch at the cafe and we were on the platform to watch the Overlander arrive. I have been on the Overlander myself and at one point I made the full journey on it.

Now here is another favourite recipe. As the name suggests, it is rich. It is also crumbly, so is best eaten as a dessert. Measurements are in English Imperials.

8oz plain dark chocolate (baking chocolate)
8oz butter
6oz caster sugar
6 eggs
8oz ground hazelnuts
4oz fresh breadcrumbs, brown or white
Finely grated rind of 2 oranges
A little orange marmalade

For the glaze:
4oz plain dark chocolate
1 dessertspoon honey
2oz butter

1. Heat the oven to 375.
2. Butter two 8-8 ½ inch sandwich pans and line with discs of buttered greaseproof paper. Dust with flour.
3. Melt the first measure of chocolate using a double boiler, a bowl set over a pan of hot water or the microwave. Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly.
4. Whisk the butter until soft, and then whisk in the sugar a bit at a time until light and fluffy.
5. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. The mixture may look curdled but it does not matter.
6. Whisk in the melted chocolate and then ground hazelnuts and breadcrumbs on the lowest speed until just evenly mixed. Finally, add the grated orange rind.
7. Spoon the mixture into the sandwich pans and smooth the tops.
8. Bake in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes, until they are firm to the touch.
9. Cool the cakes. Loosen the edges with a knife and gently turn one cake out onto a serving plate (the cakes are delicate). Remove the paper and spread with a thin layer of marmalade.
10. Carefully turn the other cake onto a board, and with the help of a wide spatula, turn it onto the other cake so its top is uppermost. If necessary, cut the edges of the cake to make it straight for frosting.
11. Put the second measure of chocolate, honey and butter into a double boiler or bowl set over hot water, and stir until melted and smooth. Replace the hot water underneath with very cold water and stir the glaze until it thickens. Pour it over the top of the cake and spread the frosting all down the sides. Clean excess glaze from the plate with a damp paper towel. If liked, before the glaze is quite set, decorate with toasted hazelnuts (whole or chopped).