Ladies a Plate: an artist’s gotta eat!


That quintessential New Zealand phrase “Ladies a plate”.   Everyone knew what that meant. The women of the district would provide the lunch, the supper …. the cake.  

While the meaning of the statement was abundantly clear to locals and those who’d had time to fathom rural New Zealand; “Ladies a plate” meant just that to recent incomers.   My childhood was littered with the conversational shards of a migrant Mother who followed that specific instruction and took all her crockery and cutlery up to the hall.

I’ve said before I was the “worst cook” in my family but living rurally and having children taught me a thing or two. One of the “things” I learned was that you can make quite a decent, and large, chocolate cake in the roasting pan. Mine was a version of rich chocolate muffins which I daubed with chocolate butter icing.   My secondary-school son used to get me to pack up large bits for him and his overseas-boarding friend – hence the need for the roasting pan.

The last time I produced this cake was for another law firm’s morning tea. We all took that in turn too. In true New Zealand fashion, as I worked on my own, this wonderful firm included me in their events. When I turned up with chocolate cake in hand/s one of the much younger lawyers looked at me and my cake and squeaked “you can bake”. I would have been mortified if she had not also earlier squeaked “you read Vogue”.  

The three-hour Te Reo Maori lessons at the Whakamarama School have a “tea break” for which the diverse and multi-talented crew members take it in turns to show up with “the tea”. While it’s not a competition, one or two of the tables of treats have exceeded the ginger biscuit stakes.

While she too, like my Mother, may be “tangata tiriti, Christine knows exactly what “bring a plate means”. And as it’s now the harvest season in New Zealand her plates are redolent of the days before Matariki.  I ask for the recipes.  

Christine is a very clever and funny lady but she is at great pains to tell me  “they aren’t hers”, they belong to others.   So here the recipes for Christine’s delicious cakes are attributed to their “rightful” owners. I’ve noted NZ alternatives for one or two of the ingredients.So much for waiting till Sunday to eat the Easter Eggs!

Dorset apple traybake   from the BBC

Ingredients:   450g cooking apples (such as in the UK Bramley or NZ Braeburn or Granny Smith) peeled, cored, thinly sliced and sprinkled with the juice of ½ lemon; 225 butter softened; 280 golden caster sugar; 4 eggs; 2tsp vanilla extract; 350g self-raising flour; 2tsp baking powder; demerara (or raw) sugar to sprinkle

Method:   1. Heat oven to 180C on fan bake. Butter and line a rectangular baking tin (approx 27cm x 20cm) with baking paper. Peel, core and slice the apples and squeeze the lemon juice over them. Set to one side.   2. Put the butter, caster sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour and baking powder in a large bowl and mix well until smooth. Spread half this mixture into the tin then arrange half the apples on top of it. Repeat these layers. Sprinkle with demerara/raw sugar. 3. Bake for 45-50minutes until golden and springy to the touch. Leave to cool for 10 minutes then turn out of the tin and remove the paper. Cut into bars or squares.

This cake tastes amazing.   I confess I ate two pieces.   As I eat cinnamon with everything, I thought I might add in a teaspoon or two with the vanilla. I also thought that warm with yoghurt this would make the most wonderful winter pudding.   I loved that it was called a “tray bake” – a version of the roasting pan chocolate cake.








Chocolate and Prune Brownies is from one of the doyennes of cooking, Delia Smith: How to Cook 2. The principal and defining ingredients are of course the cognac soaked prunes. And if you’re going to make this – you start the night before!  Christine says “I substituted Hansell’s Brandy essence (6% alcohol) for the Armagnac. Also I bought roast almonds instead of burning raw ones!” A sensible woman!   And I think Delia Smith would agree with this approach.  Laugh out loud her first book was called “How to Cheat at Cooking”.

Ingredients: 50g dark (75% cocoa solids) chocolate broken into pieces; 50g pitted pruneaux d’Agen (prunes) chopped and soaked overnight in; 55ml Armagnac; 50g skin-on almonds; 110g butter; 2 large eggs beaten; 225g demerara sugar; 50g plain flour; 1 tsp baking powder; ¼ teaspoon salt.

Method:   1. Line and lightly grease a 25.5cm x 15cm x 2.5cm non-stick baking tin.   2. Chop the prunes and soak overnight in Armagnac. 3. The next day pre-heat oven to 180C. 4. Roughly chop the almonds and oven roast (be careful they will burn easily) or just do what Christine did and use pre-roasted almonds. 5. Melt chocolate and butter in a bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water – don’t let the bowl touch the water and don’t do this too fast or you’ll ruin the chocolate (we all know that – right?) 6. Take the melted chocolate off the heat and beat it until it’s smooth. 7. Stir in the other ingredients including the prunes and the Armagnac until well-blended. 8. Spread mixture into the prepared tin and bake on the centre shelf for 30 minutes or until slightly springy in the centre.   9. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before cutting into squares and transferring to a wire rack.

This is an absolute special treat brownie.   Here’s what Delia Smith said about them: “I never much cared for the flavour of orange and chocolate or raspberries and chocolate, but prunes and chocolate are, for me, a heavenly partnership. Plus, if, for a special occasion, you soak the prunes in Armagnac, so much the better. Brownies can be served warm as a dessert or just eaten cold as they are”.

This recipe is another example of simple, local ingredients creating beautiful food. Admittedly alcohol-soaked prunes sounds just so much more interesting written in French.  Yes, I also ate two pieces of this….it’s beautifully rich without being sweet.   I thought about why I enjoyed these cakes so much – they are flavours from my childhood.   Lemon, apple, prunes, dates, coconut, cinnamon, chocolate, almonds, fruit mince, mixed herbs, onion…..flavours that make me remember and smile on this beautiful Good Friday morning in Whakamarama.

Note: Thank you to my Te Waananga o Aotearoa classmate Christine not only for baking such beautiful food but for taking the time and trouble to print out the recipes for us to share.

The simple and sophisticated (and prolific) white Japanese anemone has wonderful, long-lasting seed heads.  They’re particularly useful to have and you can interleave other flowers and foliage to make a bigger bunch.  Great indoors and also when making up flowers as a gift or for sale.

Rosemary Balu.           Rosemary Balu is the founding and current Managing Editor of ARTbop. Rosemary has arts and law degrees from the University of Auckland. She has been a working lawyer and has participated in a wide variety of community activities where information gathering, submission writing, community advocacy and education have been involved. Interested in all forms of the arts since childhood Rosemary is focused on further developing and expanding multi-media ARTbop as the magazine for all the creative arts in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand.




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Janeane Joyce (Birds Bees and Butterflys) looks after, and feeds, a lot of birds, both wild (including rehabilitation) and in her aviaries.  She makes birdseed cakes and bird feeders to help with this. They are great for hanging in gardens and/or aviaries/cages, and the birds really enjoy them.

She also photographs many of her birds before release and makes greeting cards from them.  Visit her Facebook page at or email her on   She also shares lots of stories on her Facebook page about the different birds she is looking after through her volunteer wildlife work. 


Give us a ‘like’ or comment if you are attending any of the concerts at Baycourt Community and Arts Centre, TOTARA STREET or in Downtown Tauranga.

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Gary Baseman & Friends at the Tauranga Art Gallery

The Art Lounge is now located in Willow Street next to High St Boutique.  You’ll also find The Nourished Eatery and the Tauranga Art Gallery.   The Art Lounge is a private dealer gallery where you will find a wide selection of art and creativity.  They also have workshops and art focused lessons.

ZEE MARKET AT THE HISTORIC VILLAGE 27TH APRIL 10AM TO 2PM    An awesome array of stalls lining the streets of the ever so popular Historic Village, individual stalls showcasing their beautiful handmade wares, handcrafts and small business from woodwork to Jewelry, Art and food. Unique Mothers Day gifts to be found. 

Western Bay of Plenty artist Maggie Savage a regular exhibitor at the Atrium Art & Artisan Fair


SUNDAY 28th APRIL 2019, 11AM TO 3PM the ATRIUM ART & ARTISAN FAIR IS ON AT THE BLACK SHEEP WHAKAMARAMA.  There’s free parking adjacent to the complex, good food and drinks and wonderful art, art craft and artisan product.   ENJOY!



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