Sometimes, wait scratch that, all the time I wish traditional New Zealand cuisine was a little more interesting. With the exception of traditional Maori cooking methods and ingredients which aren't nearly as widespread in the mainstream diet as they ought be our national 'cuisine' looks a lot like that of Mother Britain.
New Zealand was the land of plenty for new colonialists. There was plenty of fertile land to grow crops and rear cattle. The novelty of suddenly having meat enough for the whole family formed the classic 'meat and three vege' staple which lasted for generations. The hard labour of the day and the hatred of waste led to calorific puddings developing over the years to fuel the young men on the farms. As Dylan always points out to me, you could tell the Kiwi soldiers in both World Wars as they were always a head taller than the British lads from a lifetime of good feeding.
I write this post about Japanese inspired cakes with an Indian cookbook open on one side and some Mexican inspired soup on the other from my sofa in Christchurch where my favourite eatery is the Afghan restaurant. I remember when sushi came to New Zealand and it was near impossible to find specialty ethnic ingredient shops. Finding pomegranate molasses before the mid naughties would have been a futile mission indeed. Somehow in the last 20 years New Zealand has gone from thinking a bit of tomato sauce on a steak is spicy to being a great big pot luck of everything. I absolutely love it. I am jealous of those with exciting edible ancestry who have recipes passed down from mother to daughter for generations (Mum taught me how to make béchamel sauce haha). On the flip side though I feel incredibly privileged to be living in a country where I can share in those flavours and heirlooms by simply knocking on my neighbour's door and asking for tips on how to best make kimchi.
Dylan's Mum has a great story about being instructed on how to make the best chicken curry when she popped by the store to pick up garam masala which Mrs Bhani makes herself. There was a long queue behind her but Mrs Bhani still took the time to make sure she understood exactly how to get the best out of her purchase (never let good garam masala go to waste). Vicki quickly ran home and recorded this precious knowledge and sent it along with a pouch of garam masala to me so I could enjoy it as well. The sharing of food is the sharing of love and both are incredibly cool.
So thank you immigration and thank you globalisation for making our diet of meat and three vege so much more exciting. In the news feed stream of racially charged headlines that we are getting at the moment it can be easy to stick within your own cultural group and tricky to break down cultural barriers and make friends with new neighbours. If you're looking for a talking point or something in common, start with food, we've all got to eat after all. You might learn a few gems or find a new favourite eating spot. Sharing our knowledge and sharing our food can only make wherever we live a better place.
So in the theme of fusion food I present to you these wee miso coconut cakes. Miso is my new favourite sweet ingredient. The umami brings out all sorts of wonderful caramel notes in your baking. White chocolate miso cookies are also a treat! Say goodbye to cloyingly sweet buttercream when you've got miso in the mix. They are little bit on the dense side due to all the coconut in them but if that's your jam then you'll love them all the more. Probably also banging them on the bench to release them from the tins doesn't help the density issue... so yeah don't do that, be gentle.
I got the recipe from Constellation Inspiration (I seriously love that beautiful blog). I tweaked a few things in my mission for small cakes, mainly the whole small cakes thing and bake times. I was also stingier on the butter in the buttercream because have you seen the price of butter at the moment? I'm stoked dairy farmers are getting a good price overseas but it is crippling for the weekly shop budget!
Miso Coconut Cakes
Makes 6 wee loaves
170g butter, softened
1 1/3 cup white sugar
2 1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt (although if you're sensitive to salt add half of this and increase it to your desired taste - yes that means permission to lick the batter!)
3/4 cup desiccated coconut
200ml coconut milk
70g butter, softened
50ml coconut milk
2 teaspoons miso paste
1 1/3 - 2 cups icing sugar (to get to your desired sweetness and consistency)
Preheat your oven to bake at 170 degrees Celsius. Line your wee loaf tins (or you could use large muffin pans) with baking paper on the bottom and a good greasing of butter up the sides.
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well between each addition to make the mixture light and fluffy.
Separately, sieve together the flour, baking powder and salt then mix through the coconut. In a large mug or small jug mix together the coconut milk and regular milk.
Add half of the flour mix and half of the milk milk and gently combine. Once just together add the rest of the flour and rest of the milk and beat until smooth.
Scoop the batter evenly between the pans, you should aim to fill the wee loaf pans 4/5 of the way up.
Bake for approximately 20 minutes but perhaps check at the 18 minute mark as all ovens are different. A skewer or small sharp knife will come out clean when they are done. Once cooled for fifteen minutes, run a sharp knife around the edges if they look a little stuck to the sides. Leave to cool fully before turning out and icing.
To make the icing, cream together the butter and miso paste so there are no miso lumps left. Add in the first 1 1/3 cups of icing sugar and the coconut milk and beat until smooth and fluffy. Add more icing sugar if you need a firmer icing (say if it is a really hot day) or you just are after something a little sweeter. Fill up your nearest piping bag fitted with a large round tipped nozzle and pipe swizzles onto each cake. Decorate with a sprinkling of thread coconut, toasted sesame seeds, a wee flower and/or whatever you fancy.