Thursday, February 18, 2010

another brief hiatus

Hi folks,

It's been quiet on Diamond Dame for the past week - my mother has been sick and I've been back out to Canada to see her. Cancer finally got the better of her and she passed away on Monday.

So, I just wanted to let you know I'll be 'off the air' for at least another week or two until I'm back in NZ.

In the meantime, here's a couple of my favourite photos of Mom from the 1940s and 50s:

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Vintage Milk Lemonade recipe

I made this for the first time to have at my Vintage Picnic Party and it was a big hit. I got the recipe from my beau's brother's wife - she'd been at a party where it was served and she raved about it and convinced me I simply MUST try it.

Turns out the recipe comes from famous food writer Jane Grigson, and is in her book 'Good Things'. I'm not sure where/when it may originally date from, but it definitely has that oldy-worldy feel to it.

Jane herself describes it as:
"...belonging to the Tennysonian nineteenth century we prefer, not to the north of England and its whitened doorsteps. Its light, interesting flavor was popular on vicarage lawns, under the cedars on hot days of middle-class leisure. In our more strenuous lives, it makes an excellent long drink — very refreshing."
I have to say that I found the original recipe sickeningly sweet and not altogether lemony, so I changed the proportions to increase the lemon juice and decrease the sugar content to make it appropriately sweet yet tangy and lemony. If for some reason you find it's not sweet enough for you, you can always add more sugar at the end.


6 lemons
2 cups dry white wine
250g caster sugar
6 cups whole milk (e.g. full-fat milk, or milk with as much cream in as you can find)

Peel the lemons thinly and put the peel in a large bowl. Pour 1/2 cup boiling water over the peel and leave overnight.

Naked lemons, their rind left to steep

Next day, add the juice of three of the lemons, plus the wine and sugar.

In a large saucepan, bring the milk to just reach boiling point and quickly pour into the other ingredients (the milk will separate when you do this).
Yes, it looks like vomit. You'll have to trust me that it will all turn out spectacularly!

Leave to cool. The milk has now turned to nursery-rhyme authentic 'curds and whey' (I know, right? Next I'll be sitting on a tuffet!) Strain the lemonade through a cheesecloth or muslin two or three times to remove all the peel and curds.

Post-straining - it's looking a lot more appetizing now!

************** SIDE NOTE ****************
You can dispose of the curds, or, if you're keen, you can make a sweet lemon paneer. To do this, pick out as much lemon peel as you can then squeeze the curds in the muslin/cheesecloth to get as much water out as possible.
making sweet lemon paneer from the leftover curds

Flatten into a fat slab, wrap in muslin and press overnight (I did this by placing it on the countertop, putting a chopping board on top and piling cookbooks on top of that). Refrigerate after pressing. You can probably do all kinds of inventive things with the sweet paneer, but I chopped it into small cubes, fried it in oil until all sides were brown and added it to a salad - it was like sweet lemony croutons.

Taste the lemonade and add juice from another 1-3 lemons if desired. I added juice from 3 more lemons and also added the lemon pulp as I felt a bit of pulp makes it more 'old fashioned' looking.

I decanted my lemonade into a number of rubber-stoppered glass bottles and kept it in the fridge. The recipe makes around 2 litres.

Serve chilled. You can drink it neat in a small cup, over ice, or diluted with a bit of soda water/sparkling mineral water for fizz.

The original recipe uses 500g sugar and only 3 lemons, which I found tasted like syrupy sugar water rather than lemonade. But feel free to experiment and find the proportions that you like best!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Summertime Strawberry Pie

Since holding my vintage picnic party I've had a number of recipe requests. They will all be going up on Diamond Dame and will also be wrapped up in a larger article with all the tips and how-to for throwing your own vintage picnic, but in the meantime I'll get the Strawberry Pie recipe online as it's strawberry season here in NZ and this pie is just about the best thing that can happen to a strawberry!

I should also mention this is my mother's recipe and was a favourite of mine as a child.


store-bought sweet shortcrust pastry, or
make your own pastry from 1 cup flour, 1/4lb butter and up to 1/4 cup cold water

250g cream cheese (the full strength stuff, not 'lite' - for heaven's sake live a little!)
250 ml whipping cream
1 cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Lots of ripe strawberries (2-3 punnets, I always err on the side of 'too many')
1-2 tbsp sugar
cornstarch or gelatin for thickening

1. Pastry
Either roll out the store bought pastry or make your own by following a basic recipe off the internet or combining the pastry ingredients above to make a pastry dough (keep the butter cold - cut it into small pieces and then work it into the flour with your hands until it looks like breadcrumbs, then add a tiny amount of water at a time until you get a doughy consistency)

Grease and flour a pie plate (I use a 9.5"/24cm pyrex one) and line with the pastry. Trim any excess away around the rim.

Prick it all over with a fork and bake blind at 350 F (180 C) until light tan. Remove and let it go completely cold. (For blind baking it can be helpful to put baking paper overtop of the pastry and fill with rice or baking beads to stops the pastry from 'poofing up' while cooking. I often don't bother and just keep and eye on it and prick any poofy bits with a fork during cooking).

2. Filling
Let the cream cheese soften in a bowl. Mix in the icing sugar - I do this by 'creaming' it with the back of a fork until it's thoroughly combined and quite fluffy/squishy.

In another bowl, whip the cream until quite thick but not overly stiff. Add vanilla and blend briefly to incorporate.

Now you need to combine the whipped cream with the cream cheese. You can do this by hand with a wooden spoon - it's hard to get the substances to 'blend' so you end up with a more rustic mixture.

Or, you can slowly add the cream cheese to the whipping cream while blending with a hand mixer. This is what I did last time and it worked pretty well, you just have to be careful to do it fairly gently and not overblend it into a soup.

Pour the above concoction (it should be quite thick) into the baked and cooled pie shell and smooth out with a spoon. It will not completely fill the pie case because we have to leave room for the topping! Put in the fridge to set.

3. Topping
Wash, hull and thinly slice the strawberries. When the pie filling has set (gone quite stiff) cover the top of the pie with a generous layer of sliced strawberries. You can do this randomly for the 'rustic' look, or you can attempt a variety of pretty concentric circle or swirl designs.

Reserve a handful of strawberries and put in a small saucepan on medium-low heat and cook until they melt into strawberry goo (I help the process along by mashing then with a fork once they get soft). Add a bit of water to thin, and sugar to taste. I actually used a dollop of cream last time instead of water which tasted nice but made it a slightly funny looking cloudy colour.

Add either a bit of cornstarch or gelatin and stir until completely dissolved. Remove from the heat, decant into a chilled bowl and let it cool down without setting. When cool, pour it all over the top of the pie. Sometimes I'll bang the pie dish and wiggle it to help the goo go into all the crevices. Put in fridge to fully set.

Serve slightly chilled. At my picnic it was out of the fridge for a couple of hours and softened up quite a bit but was still edible and delicious.

It's really a sort of strawberry cheesecake, and the astute among you will have already figured out that you could top it with things other than strawberries: raspberries, blueberries, kiwi, or even lemon curd. But for me there's something so incredibly classic about the strawberry/cream combination that I can't bring myself to make it any other way.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Vintage Picnic Party Photographs!

After postponing for a week due to calamitous weather (NZ is having a bit of an 'off' summer this year), I finally got to throw my Vintage Picnic Party this past Saturday. I'm so pleased we had a lovely sunny day and I got to use my near-endless supply of cutesy teacups. I spent all of Friday evening busily baking and preparing all manner of treats and decorations - but it was all well worth it!

When Brence and I were setting up the picnic area we had loads of passers-by stop and comment on how lovely and exciting it all looked. I think all kinds of people would enjoy this style of event, whether they are die-hard vintage enthusiasts or not.

There were around 20 attendees at our picnic, and we spent a lovely sunny afternoon sitting on the grass under the dappled shade of trees, eating lovely picnic food and having a gay old time: Angel Cake, Strawberry Pie, Milk Lemonade, Tea Sandwiches, plus Games and General Genteel Conversation.

I won't go into scads of detail here, as I'm going to write a very thorough post about 'How To Throw a Vintage Picnic Party' with complete instructions for decorations, recipes, games, etc, but for now I just wanted to get some pictures up for you to see. Enjoy!

A lovely day for a picnic under a tree!

I used a vintage steamer trunk and a
white linen tablecloth for the main 'table'

Pastel coloured balloons decorate the branches of our selected tree

My grandmother's 2-tier serving plate with
roast beef and horseradish tea sandwiches

I made two Angel Food cakes to have as birthday cake.
I don't like to ice Angel Food cakes (I serve them with strawberry sauce),
so I decorated them with fresh roses from my garden

Old-fashioned homemade 'milk lemonade' served in lovely china teacups

Strawberry pie and old-fashioned sugar candies

I provided a selection of vintage reading material
(yup, that's an Esquire from the late '40s,
complete with bikini-girl pull out centrefold!)

Wooden badminton rackets, and some
'not very vintage' plastic hoops for hoop rolling

Next to the wicker picnic basket is an old wooden valve radio that I brought for general theming. We had an iPod tucked discreety away playing a selection of 1920s music

Brence and Neil have a hoop rolling race

I can't tell you how excited I am that this is the man I get to call my boyfriend

Badminton, anyone?

A competitive round of p├ętanque

Croquet (that's me trying to look like I've done this before!)

Laura shows off her colour-coordinated croquet outfit