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Archive for July, 2007

This dish has a very fruity and exciting name :)!

The recipe calls for a packaged, commercial strawberry jelly (or ‘gelatine’) and tells you to follow the directions on the package. I’ve commented in numerous entries on this blog about the usage of commercial food products as a sign of changing times, and also written about about pineapple here.

Pineapple Strawberry Island

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Grandmother originally titled this recipe ‘Marmer Cake’ and later changed it to ‘Marble Cake’. A search for Marmer Cake recipes on the internet threw up mostly Indonesian websites and a couple of Dutch ones, so I used some online dictionaries and confirmed that marmer is indeed the Dutch word for ‘marble’. I wonder if this cake has Dutch origins? In any case, it has firmly passed into the staple of local kueh – I remember regularly eating slices of marble cake in the primary school canteen.

Some Indonesian recipes for Marble Cake use the word kue, which simply means ‘cake’, but this made me think how when we use of the word kueh (or kuih) in names of foods whilst speaking English, it emphasises the very local origins of the cake; mostly, it’s nonya or Malay/Indonesian desserts that have names which include the word kueh, such as kueh bangkit, kueh lapis, kueh bengka, kueh Ambon etc. But then kueh is really a Hokkien Chinese word 粿, think of ang ku kueh, soon kueh, huat kueh, chye tow kueh, char kway teow (and note the different spellings that have become the norm for different dishes – plus Malaysians and Indonesians each have their own way of phoneticising Hokkien which I’m not so familiar with). [See entry on ‘kueh‘ at SinglishDictionary.com]

And so the name Marmer Kue leads us on a historical journey through the making of hybrid (food) cultures and languages in a Southeast Asia shaped by immigration and multiple European colonialisms.

Condensed milk – another off-the-shelf commercial food product with a very long history, the first successfully canned condensed milk dating to 1885. Read about the history of condensed milk and how it is prepared, how the need for hygenic, shelf-stable milk led to the popularity of condensed milk at the turn of the century, how condensed milk can improve cooking, and the history of brands that are still sold today from two American-origin companies: Eagle (1856) and Carnation (1899, acquired by Nestlé in 1984; Nestlé had previously merged with the Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company in 1905).

Do have a look at this wonderful digitised book, The Story of Carnation Milk (1915), which includes all kinds of recipes. Here is the cover:
Carnation Milk Story 1915

Here are some advertisements for evaporated and condensed milk that I’ve found in Singapore newspapers from 1931. The variety of international brands, and the existence of even local trademarks indicates what a popular food product it was. Click on the links for images:
Libby’s Evaporated Milk
Milkmaid Sweetened Condensed Milk
Nestle & Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company
and local trademarks of the East Asiatic Company (Aktiselskabet Det Oestasiatiske Kompagni)

What this looks like is the original recipe written up first, and then after experimentation, grandma revised the quantities and noted down the new version on the left hand side page (indicated with arrow). I’ve appended this at the bottom of the main recipe. That is a scary amount of eggs! I never realised Marble Cake was so rich :/….. Plus there are no instructions for cocoa powder to create the marbling effect (*puzzled*)?

[15/1/08 Update: do check grandmother’s alternative recipe for Marble Cake here.]

Marble Cake A

*********

Marble Cake B

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Please don’t be fooled – this is not the recipe for traditional, nonya pineapple tarts made for Chinese New Year. This is a western pie recipe for which the filling is pineapple. Grandma also had a recipe for Pineapple Pie Filling that you might want to have a look at.

Interesting food journeys are hinted at in this recipe. My guess is that it is an American recipe as pies are a more prominent part of American cuisine than British cooking. As I’ve mentioned before, my grandmother read McCalls, an American women’s magazine famous for its recipes, and learnt about American food from ladies in the YWCA such as a Mrs Armstuz.

The pineapple is a plant native to the Americas, so Americans might have obtained their pineapples from Hawaii or Latin America. However, Europeans got their pineapple in canned form, often from Southeast Asia. The European colonial presence – Portuguese and Spanish from the 15th-18th centuries – brought the pineapple from the New World to tropical Southeast Asia. Under British colonial rule in the 19th century, Malaya became a major world exporter of canned pineapple. [Bibliographic note: The Pineapple: The King of Fruits by Fran Beauman is extremely informative on the Hawaiian canned pineapple industry, but disappointingly only has brief references to Malaya on a couple of pages, despite the importance of Malayan pineapple exports in the world market.]

In the early twentieth century, the famous industrialist and philanthropist in Singapore, Tan Kah Kee (陳嘉庚), had a massive business producing canned pineapple (continuing from his father, Tan Kee Peck, who had secured 70 percent of the Malayan export trade in pineapples by 1900). Here is an interesting description of Tan Kah Kee’s pineapple business:

…[Tan Kah Kee] made daily contact with European agency houses and found out for himself the overseas demand for various types and styles of canned pineapples (for example, sweetened or unsweetened, with different slice shapes and sizes), so that he could manufacture products according to specific demands or changing tastes.

[Reference: C.F. Yong, Tan Kah Kee: The Making of an Overseas Chinese Legend (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1987), pp. 21, 44-46]

This recipe calls for ‘drained pineapple’ and making use of the juice, which indicates that it’s canned pineapple that’s required, not the fresh type that was so easily available in Singapore/Malaya — another hint at the foreign origins of this recipe, yet using a very homegrown ingredient which became popular around the globe.

Also, a pie crust is required but there are no instructions for this. Perhaps try grandma’s Graham Cracker pie crust recipe here.
[22/9/07 update: Grandmother’s recipe for shortcrust pastry for the pie crust here.]
[19/12/07 update: another shortcrust pastry recipe from grandma here.]
Pineapple Pie Tart

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“Pea-nut” as an alternative spelling is very cute :)!

Anyway, this recipe (which grandmother penned in turquoise fountain pen ink so is clearly from the 1960s or 70s) got me thinking about when commercial peanut butter became available. A quick check on the internet revealed that some of the popular brands today, Skippy and Peter Pan, were in fact first marketed in the USA in late 1920s and early 30s! However, in my extensive research through early 20th century Singapore newspapers, I’ve not seen any advertisements for commercial peanut butter in Singapore during those pre-war decades, so I think it might have still been a fairly novel thing when grandmother started baking these cookies :).

Which leads to another question: where did she learn this recipe from? My guess: foreign women’s magazines, such as the American McCalls magazine that is mentioned in other recipes in this notebook, or from expatriate ladies in the YWCA where she learnt her baking skills.

The recipe doesn’t specify what kind of shortening is to be used, but as I have discussed elsewhere, given the context of the times, I guess this would refer to hydrogenated vegetable shortenings such as Spry or Crisco.

Honey Peanut Butter Cookies

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This is not in my grandmother’s handwriting and it’s indicated in the title of the page that this is ‘Aunty Rosie’s’ recipe. Wonder if this was Aunty Rosie’s handwriting? This is way before my time as I have absolutely no idea who ‘Aunty Rosie’ is!

The use of ballpoint pen and self-raising flour (when was that introduced in shops?) indicates that this recipe was added in later years.

Pandan Cake A
Pandan Cake B

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The instructions here don’t give the precise oven temperature, so you might want to check out this chart of oven temperatures.

It also doesn’t specify what kind of cheese, but I would assume it’s a hard cheese like cheddar that can be grated.

Cheese Straws

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Many people have been waiting for me to put up grandmother’s baking recipes. I’ve now completed uploading the savoury recipes from the 1957 notebook, so it will be cakes and sweet stuff after this.

To start with, here are some general notes she copied into her notebook. I can imagine my grandmother carefully weighing out the 1 level cup and tablespoon measures, and noting them down to make her baking easier. I wonder if she got the idea after reading a household tip in a ladies’ magazine like McCalls? I often remember her cutting out household tips from magazines and newspapers.

1) Oven temperatures for different types of foods. Farenheit only.

Oven Temperatures

2) Weight of 1 level cup in ounces. [I’m not sure what sort of cup grandmother was using, it may not have been the standard cup measure of 200ml/250ml, as I remember her often using a rice bowl or a teacup from our everyday crockery set to measure out ingredients. Incidentally, all the teacups from that set have now become small bowls as they were of such fragile porcelain that the handles broke quite easily; given that the set is more than fifty years old, and that we still use it everyday, there are many fewer pieces as compared to before!]

Level Oz cup

3) Approx no. of level tablespoonsful to 10oz.

10oz Tablespoon

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