new zealand electronic poetry centre

Ursula Bethell



A Canterbury Dinner for FUGACITY 05

Roslyn Norrie

But she was an excellent, a most excellent, cook. During the last few years certain days have been looked upon between us as statutory lunching-together days – Boxing day, Easter Monday, Labour day, and how greatly I looked forward to and enjoyed these days I can’t tell you. There were others, of course when we met for lunch – at her house or at mine, or in town. But these were specials, and there was always some specially prepared dish for my delectation. I asked her once how she achieved such results – I knew she spared herself no pains – whether she did it by constantly tasting as she worked. But she said, ‘No – just by guess and by God.’

Helen Simpson on Ursula Bethell (1945)[1]


Dinner menu in the style of 1920s Canterbury for the FUGACITY 05 organising committee and partners, plus out-of-town guests, Wednesday 20 April 2005

Radishes with salt and Black & Green Olives


Green Pea Soup with Cream & Croutons


Roasted Hogget or Mushroom Pie

Savoury Haricot Beans

Scalloped Potatoes with Anchovies or Scalloped Potatoes with Cheese

Hot Vinegared Beetroot, Parsley Carrots cooked in Vermouth, Glazed Baby Onions


Apple Charlotte & Spanish Cream

Whipped Cream


Celery Sticks & Cheddar Cheese


Coffee or Darjeeling Tea with cream, milk and sugar, or Lemon Verbena Tea


‘spiry’ pale blue delphiniums
yellow buttonhole chrysanthemums.



M A Blackmore. Vegetable Cookery and Meatless Dishes. Wellington: Whitcombe & Tombs, 1927.

Colonial Everyday Cookery . Wellington: Whitcombe & Tombs, 1908.

Creamoata Recipes . Gore: Fleming & Co, [1926].

Janet Ross. Leaves from Our Tuscan Kitchen. London: J M Dent, 1899.

Marjorie Swift. Feed the Brute! London: Geoffrey Bless, 1925.

All the FUGACITY 05 recipes have been modified from originals in the above books, as many simply list ingredients and give few instructions. Some of the recipes are amalgamations.


(All recipes serve 16 unless otherwise indicated)

Radishes with salt and Black & Green Olives
24 chilled radishes
24 black olives
24 green olives

Scrub the radishes well then top and tail and dry on a clean cloth, place with individual piles of black and green olives on the same plate, and top with salt immediately before serving.

Green Pea Soup
1 medium or 2 smaller young marrows, chopped into 1 inch (2 cm) pieces
1 large or 2 smaller lettuces (including the darker outside leaves)
1 large bunch spinach
3 medium leeks, trimmed
3 pounds (1.5 kgs) of shelled peas
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
salt, if needed
croutons made from Oat Bread (recipe below) or other close-grained bread diced small and oven-baked till crisp
1 cup cream or 16 mint leaves

Set 3 quarts (3 litres) of water to boil in a soup pot and prepare the vegetables. Add the diced marrow and return to the boil. Remove and discard the roots from the lettuce and spinach, wash the leaves and add to pot. Take each leek and slice from near the root to the end of the leaves.   Turn by 90 degrees and do the same again.   Now you will have a leek which has been sliced vertically into quarters almost all of the way through, allowing you to wash out any soil. Shake off water and slice each leek crosswise into ½ inch (1 cm) pieces and add to the pot. Return to boil, simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent anything catching on bottom. Add peas and ground white pepper, return to boil once more and simmer for 10 minutes. Test the vegetables: if they resist the bite, cook for a further ten minutes. Mouli (or blend) all the vegetables then add back into the cooking liquor and stir to amalgamate. The soup can now be left to cool. Before serving, heat the soup to boiling, taste and add salt if needed, stirring well after each addition. Serve into soup cups and garnish with 1 tablespoon (15 mls) of cream or a mint leaf, and sprinkle on a few of the croutons.

Savoury Haricot Beans
Start by soaking the beans overnight in a large quantity of water.
1 lb (450 grams) dried haricot (navy) beans
3 bay leaves
small handful of fresh thyme leaves on the stalk, or teaspoon of dried thyme
3 celery stalks (or use equivalent amount of trimmings from the celery sticks for the dessert)
3 medium carrots, scrubbed
3 medium onions, peeled
2 lbs (1 kg) fresh tomatoes, peeled, or 2 (14 oz/400 gram) cans peeled tomatoes
2 tablespoons salt
lots of freshly ground black pepper

Drain the beans and bring to boil in fresh water with the bay leaves, thyme, celery, carrots and onions, then simmer for 1-2 hours or until beans are tender but not broken apart. At this point they can be left to cool and the dish finished later. Heat the tomatoes with the salt in a large shallow pan and ladle in the drained cooked beans, leaving aside the cooking liquor in case it should be needed later. Discard the celery and thyme stalks. Remove the onion and carrot, dice finely and add to the tomato/bean mixture. Continue to heat, stirring gently and adding pepper to taste. If the mixture dries out, add some of the cooking liquor. Taste the beans and add more salt if necessary. Place the beans into a shallow serving dish large enough to hold the roasted hogget as well.  

Roasted Hogget
Pre-heat oven to 310F (160C)
3 medium carrots, unpeeled but chopped
3 medium onions, unpeeled but chopped
5 - 6 lb (2.5 kg) leg of hogget, well trimmed of fat
1 tablespoon salt

Take a roasting dish and make a bed of the carrots and onions just large enough to rest the hogget on. Bake at 310F (160C) for 30 minutes per lb, or 35 minutes per kilo (a six pound leg will take 3 hours to cook). Remove hogget from oven, cover and rest on a large dish in a warm place for 30 minutes. Pour off any fat in the roasting dish, leaving the lean juices. Add 1 pint (500 mls) water to the carrot and onion left in the roasting dish and bring to boil on the stovetop together with any meat juices. Stir the dry, crusty bits on the base of the pan and mash the vegetables with the back of a wooden spoon to release as much flavour as possible. Strain the liquid into a serving jug, discarding any carrot and onion that remains and keep this dark thin gravy warm till serving time. When it is time to serve the meat, lay the roasted hogget on top of the haricot beans and carve at the table. Top each large spoonful of beans with slices of hogget and some of the dark gravy.

Mushroom Pies
Serves 6 ovo-lacto vegetarians generously. Make pastry the day before.
Pastry for six 4 inch (10 cm) diameter x 1 ½   inch (4 cm) deep pie dishes, or one 9 inch (23 cm) diameter x 1 ½ inch (4 cm) deep pie dish.
14 ozs (400 grams) flour
7 ozs (200 grams) cold butter, cut into ½ inch (1 cm) cubes or smaller
cold water
Ingredients needed next day to finish pastry:
1 oz (25 grams) thinly sliced cold butter
1 small egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Place flour in bowl, add the butter and work till it resembles soft bread crumbs with none of the pieces of butter larger than a small pea. Tossing the mixture with a fork or knife-tip, add cold water until almost all of the flour and butter has formed a ball of dough.   Turn this over in the bowl until most of the flour and butter mixture has cohered. Flour the dough and form into a stout sausage, then wrap in waxed paper and leave overnight in a cold place. Next day, divide the dough so one piece is twice the size of the other: the smaller for the pie top/s. Roll the smaller piece of pastry thin on a floured surface – if you use an old tablecloth or large tea towel you should be able, in good light, to just see the pattern through the dough. Cut out the pastry lid/s ½ inch (1 cm) larger in diameter than the top of the pie dish/es. Rest lid/s in a cool place whilst you deal with the rest of the pastry. Put the pastry scraps aside for the pie decorations. Grease the dishes well. Roll the remaining dough and cut into correct diameters to line the pie dish/es. Rest the lined pie dish/es in a cold place till you are ready to assemble the pie/s. Gather the pastry scraps together and layer with the butter slivers, one atop the other, then roll this lump of dough on a well floured surface till about ¼ inch (6 mm) thick. Cut this pastry into 2 inch (5 cm) button-mushroom shaped silhouettes and leave aside to decorate the pies.  

Mushroom Pie filling:
1 ½ cups of cream, or substitute 6 oz (180 grams) cream cheese
1 tablespoon lemon juice (this is not required if using cream cheese)
1 tablespoon butter
2 ½ cups onions, chopped
small handful thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
8 cups assorted mushrooms chopped
¼ cup Marsala
1 teaspoon salt
lots of freshly ground black pepper
Boil the cream until reduced by half then add the lemon juice, mix well and put aside. Melt the butter in a large sauté pan and cook the onions and thyme till soft but not brown, then add the mushrooms. Add the Marsala and continue cooking mushrooms till they are soft but retain some bulk – most of the liquid has evaporated and the pan is almost dry. Remove from heat and add the salt, pepper and cream mixture (or cream cheese). Mix well and put aside to cool.

Assemble the pies:
Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C). Place the mushroom mixture into the pastry-lined pie dish/es. Smooth the mixture and make level. Brush edge of pastry with water.  Add top crust and gently press edges to seal.  Affix mushroom cut-outs with a little water. Grip the pie dish with one hand from underneath and holding it aloft use a sharp knife to trim the excess pastry around the edge. Gently brush egg wash on top. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until crust is golden.  Serve warm.

Scalloped Potatoes with Anchovies and Scalloped Potatoes with Cheese
Preheat oven to 400F (200C)
16 small to medium sized potatoes – peeled if skins are rough
3 cups milk (extra may be needed)
3 cups cream
½ cup roughly chopped strong ripe Cheddar
small tin anchovies in oil

Chop the potatoes into large bite-sized pieces and divide them evenly between two ovenproof dishes deeper than they are wide. Mash the tin of anchovies in their oil and spread over one of the dishes. Cover the other dish with the chopped Cheddar. Divide the milk and cream evenly between the two dishes till the potato is covered, adding extra milk if necessary. Bake at 400F (200C) for an hour or until the potatoes are creamy and tender beneath each dark, salty crust.

Hot Vinegared Beetroot
8 medium beetroot
¼ cup malt vinegar
1 strip lemon peel tied in a knot: 6 inches (10 cm) by ¼ inch (5mm)

Wash the beetroot to remove any soil, trim remaining leaves and long roots. Cover with water and boil for one hour, or until a toothpick can be inserted without undue resistance.   Leave the beetroot in the cooking liquor until cool enough to handle. Put ¼ cup of the cooking liquor into a serving dish and add the vinegar. Slip the skins off the beetroot and where necessary use a sharp knife to trim away any rough or unappetising bits.   Cut beetroot into bite-sized chunks and place into the vinegar mixture. Serve hot, warm or cold, garnished with the lemon rind.

Parsley Carrots cooked in Vermouth
16 medium carrots of similar diameter, peeled and cut into 2 – 3 inch (5 – 8 cm) lengths
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon sugar (if carrots are not sweet)
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup hot water
¾ cup Vermouth
¼ cup chopped parsley

‘Turn’ the carrots by tapering each end with a knife, making each piece of carrot into an olive-shape. (The ‘turnings’ may be used for flavouring the Hogget, or perhaps for a soup some other day.) Cook the carrots in a heavy based sauté pan with the butter, sugar (if needed) and salt. Toss over the heat until browned in places. Add the hot water and cook for 10 minutes or till the carrots are half tender. Add half of the Vermouth and boil fast till the remaining juices are thick. Add the remaining Vermouth and toss over a hot flame so that the alcohol catches fire and the carrots caramelize slightly.   If not serving immediately, put aside ready for reheating. Place onto a serving dish and strew with the chopped parsley.   Serve warm or hot.

Glazed Baby Onions
40 small onions, eg. pickling onions, peeled
1 tablespoon butter
¼ cup sugar
½ cup sherry
2 cups hot water

Melt the butter in a heavy based sauté pan, then add the onions and sugar and toss over a medium heat for 10 minutes or until the onions have caramelized slightly. Add the sherry and water then cook uncovered till the onions are tender and the remaining syrup is thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. At this point the onions may be put aside for reheating later. Place in a serving dish and serve warm or hot.

Apple Charlotte
This is sufficient to fill a 10 inch (25 cm) diameter, 3 inch (7 cm) deep spring-form pan.
The apple sauce, breadcrumbs and macaroons may be prepared a day or two earlier.
16 medium-sized Peasgood Non Such, or other good cooking apples, peeled and sliced
peel pared from 2 medium lemons
juice of 2 medium lemons
2 cinnamon sticks
½ cup melted butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1 ½ lb (750 grams) Oat Bread (recipe below), or other wholemeal bread made into soft breadcrumbs
16 small or 8 large macaroons (about 2/3 of the recipe below)

Apple Sauce
Toss the apple slices in the lemon juice to prevent discolouration. Cook the apples with the lemon peel and cinnamon sticks in as little water as possible until the apple is very hot and mostly cooked, while ensuring some of the apple is still in pieces and not all the apple is pureed. Leave the apple mixture to cool, or if prepared earlier refrigerate, leaving in the lemon peel and cinnamon sticks.

Toasted Bread Crumb Mixture
This may be made up to three days prior. Pre-heat oven to 400F (200C). In a large baking dish, toss the melted butter together with the sugar and the bread crumbs, then bake at 400F (200C) for 15-25 minutes, checking and tossing the mixture every 5 minutes until it is crisp and evenly coloured but not dark.   Remove from the oven and cool, then place in an airtight jar and store in a cool dark place.

Assembling the Apple Charlotte
Preheat oven to 350F (180C)
1 tablespoon butter

Grease the inside of the spring-form pan well with the butter and sprinkle sufficient of the breadcrumb mixture to coat the inside. Fill the mould two-fifths with the apple, taking care to remove and discard the lemon peel and cinnamon sticks. Place a layer of macaroons over the apple, breaking some macaroons into crumbs to fill the gaps. Add another layer of apple to fill the mould completely then sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture on top – leave aside about 1 cup for when you serve the Charlotte. Bake at 350F (180C) for 1 hour. Remove from oven and cool for 1 hour, then place onto a serving plate and remove mould gently.   Pour over the remaining crumbs to make a crisp covering. Serve in wedges.

Spanish Cream
Note: because the egg whites in this mixture are not cooked, only eggs from reliably hygienic sources should be used. This recipe should be commenced early in the day to provide time for the mixture to set. It should also be eaten within 24 hours.
1/2 cup gelatine soaked in 1 cup of cold water for at least 5 minutes
8 large very fresh eggs, yolks and whites separated
1 cup sugar
5 1/2 cups milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla essence

Place the milk into the top of a double-boiler and heat till it begins to steam. Remove from heat and add the soaked gelatine. Stir till gelatine is completely dissolved (about 2 minutes).   Add the sugar and stir till that has also dissolved. The mixture should by then have cooled sufficiently to add the yolks without curdling. Whisk yolks into the milk mixture thoroughly, then replace pot on double-boiler and stir this custard till it thickens sufficiently to coat the back of a metal spoon. Remove from heat and place to cool. Stir mixture every 20 minutes or so to prevent setting (it is ready when it has thickened to the consistency of the raw egg whites put aside earlier). Beat the egg whites in a very clean bowl till foamy, add the sugar slowly, beating all the while till stiff peaks remain once the beater is removed. Incorporate about one quarter of the egg white mixture into the gelatine mixture. Gently fold remaining egg white mixture into the custard. Pour into a serving bowl or mould, cover and refrigerate.  

Whipped Cream
1/2 cup cream
Whip until peaks form but flop over when the beater is lifted. Place in serving dish.

Celery Sticks & Cheddar Cheese
8 large, or 16 smaller, nice looking, well-washed sticks of celery
10 ozs (300 grams) tasty Cheddar cheese cut into ½ inch (1 cm) batons
Trim celery into 6 inch (15 cm) sticks and wrap in a damp tea towel. Refrigerate. Serve with the cheese.

Coffee or Darjeeling Tea
Make the coffee and tea in your usual way and serve with cream, milk, sugar and lemon slices.  

Lemon Verbena Tea
For those who prefer a tisane, place a leaf of fresh or dried lemon verbena into a teacup, add boiling water and steep.   Serve with or without the leaf.

Oat Bread
(for Soup Croutons, and breadcrumbs for the Apple Charlotte)
1 ½ cups wholegrain rolled oats
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 ½ cups boiling water
2 teaspoons bakers yeast
1 ½ cups wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups white bread flour
2 teaspoons gluten flour

Place oats and sugar in a large mixing bowl, add the boiling water and mix well. Cool to luke-warm and add the yeast and wholemeal, mix well and leave to rise in a warm place for an hour. Stir in the salt, add the white and gluten flours and mix to a stiff dough (which does not adhere to the bowl, adding more flour if need be).   Put into two smaller or one large greased bread pan and leave to rise in a warm place.   When dough has risen by half, bake at 350F (180C) for 1 – 1 3 hours.  

(for the Apple Charlotte)
These may be made up to a week earlier and stored airtight in a cool, dark place.
Preheat oven to 350F (180C)
1 cup almonds
1 ½ cups sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract or culinary orange flower water
¼ cup egg whites (2 large eggs usually provide sufficient)
Make the almonds into meal by mincing them finely till they are the texture of beach sand.

Add the sugar and egg white then beat for three minutes till the mixture is very thick and stiff. Drop heaped teaspoons of this mixture onto baking paper or brown paper lined baking sheets and place close to bottom of the oven. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until the macaroons are medium-brown all over. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and slide the paper with the macaroons onto a cooling rack.   When cooled slightly and the macaroons detach easily, remove from paper and leave on rack till completely cold, store till required.



1. Helen Simpson, from an untitled typescript in the Mary Ursula Bethell archive of the Macmillan Brown Library, University of Canterbury, written after Bethell’s death in 1945.

Last updated 22 May, 2005