Monday, 17 February 2014

Youth: Mum's Magic Mixmaster!

Hands up if you have a Sunbeam Mixmaster! OK.. a few hands went up.

So.. hands up if your mother had a Sunbeam Mixmaster.. yep.. 95%. I thought so!

One of the joys of my wonder years around 13 was watching my mother's Sunday morning ritual as I (supposedly) did my homework on the kitchen table. You see Sunday was mum's baking day. Cakes and biscuits for the week ahead. The old Mixmaster whirred away, the giant oven in the gas range would heat the kitchen as hot as hades (murder in summer) as it discharged tray after tray of biscuits and sponge cakes.. with the finale being a hot apple pie for Sunday lunch.

Now while the old cake mixer was screaming its head off in top gear, I could hear my old man's voice bellowing through a haze of cigar smoke from the lounge… his TV had interference on it from the Mixmaster. How could he watch "Meet the Press?" (It used to be on 7 back then.)

"Shut that damned thing off May!".. he would bellow.

But mother ignored him with a dismissive,"Do you want to have morning tea through the week at work or starve? Well let me get on with it!"

The magic Mixmaster!

And in-between shovelling ingredients into the bowl, she would be loading her "biscuit pusher", an aluminium tube with a handle like a grease gun.. and as she "make see-saw the lever * " biscuit mix would flow through the bottom of this machine fashioned into some stylish shape on her freshly greased pan. I still have that machine today! It must be as old as me I reckon.

Made in Sweden too.. "None of your Japanese rubbish mate!" as my old dad would say!

Mum's biscuits were always Monte Carlos with both halves joined with jam mixed with icing sugar and then there were her "Mt Stewart Biscuits" or "Nutties" as she and her sister Dora called them. These had nuts and dates in them. Yummo! As for the name, you see Aunty Dora and Uncle Jack had a cattle property near Marlborough called "Mt Stewart" and this biscuit mix was a favourite. Aunty Dora (who moved to Clayfield after Uncle Jack died) used to keep her biscuits in old tins that had been painted grey. In fact, I still have one and my Bosch drill now lives in it! Now Aunty Dora's "Nutties" were always soft and chewy and I loved them, while mum's were always a lot harder.. my brother Max liked the hard version!

And these days with both of them having gone to God.. well I guess it's time I fired up the Mixmaster and tried my hand at making some "Mt Stewart" buiscuits. I do have a Mixmaster, not mum's.. it died as did Aunty's too.. and these days they are no longer repairable. So sadly, my Mixmaster is made in China by somebody who probably earns $4 a week.. and it mixes as well.. but the sound is different sadly.

Have never tried my hand at making an apple pie either. Mum's were good with a serve of cold ice cream on top. Every Sunday my mate Wayne around the corner would turn up as the Apple pie was being served.. he could smell it you know. Then we would hear him call out.. "Hey Mark.. is your mum serving apple pie?" And I would stand at the top of the back stairs.. "Yes.. come around Wayne". My mum would say, "Why don't you ring each other?" My dad would say.. "No May, that costs money!" (Well dad's mother was a Scot you know!)

So.. 48 years later, our same kitchen is quiet on a Sunday morning.. only the sounds of the Delonghi Coffee machine grinding and then expressing coffee are to be heard.. along with the sound of a packet of store bought biscuits being opened.

What would my mother say if she were here to witness all of this on a Sunday? Perhaps, "Store bought biscuits and a coffee machine? What's wrong with a cup of Bushell's Tea or a Pablo instant coffee and making your own Nutties?"

I hear you mum from across the void from wherever you are now.... perhaps it is time to go back to the future.. To dig through mum's old recipe books, find the recipe for her biscuits and fire up the Mixmaster one Sunday morning.. who knows.. it might be fun! Home cooked biscuits and cakes! What a novelty in 2014! Stop the press! Brother Paul has a copy of the recipe and via the magic of email it is on its way to  me now!

And here it is:

1/2 cup of unsalted butter
3/4 cup of sugar ( I always use caster sugar as it mixes better )
2. Eggs
2  cups flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 tablespoon golden syrup
1. Teaspoon cinnamon
1. Cup crushed walnuts
1. Cup of dates or raisins ( chop the dates up with a knife. If you use raisins whole is sufficient )
1. Teaspoon cocoa 
1. Teaspoon boiling water to dissolve carb of soda

Cream butter and sugar then add eggs one at a time.
Add fruit and nuts then other ingredients. Lastly add carb of soda dissolved in boiling water. Make sure ingredients are well mixed. No whitish signs of unmixed flour around the mixing bowl. I always finish mixing by hand with a wooden spoon so I can observe the mixture fully. 

Using 2 teaspoons place many a teaspoon of mixture on a greased slide and bake for between 12 to 15 minutes in a preheated oven of 180 degrees or moderate as was called in aunt and mum's day. 

I use a vacuum slide to prevent the bases burning. Keep the mixture in the bowl covered with a damp tea towel to prevent the mixture drying out while the first batch is cooking. Cook in the middle of the oven. 

You will understand the use of two teaspoons to place each nutty on the slide as the mixture is extremely sticky due to the syrup. 

Look out MKR!

 * My late friend Ken Brand had a Japanese grease gun back in the day.. the instructions read.. "Apply to grease nipple and make see-saw the lever"