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This is my Mum. She’s about twelve years old in this photo and it’s pretty clear her mother, my Grandma, always wanted a girl with curls.


My Mum has a love for regular spring-cleans and clear-outs. After which, my sister and I wind up with bags full of “gifts”. Things Mum isn’t keen to ditch herself but which she feels great about passing on to one of us. Some things which are sweet or useful, in amongst other things you wish you’d never been given because now you feel badly about throwing them away. A recent mixed bag included one of those sweet, special things – a school cookbook handwritten by my twelve year old Mum. The pages are neatly written and sometimes decorated with pictures from newspapers and magazines. The recipes are for un-delicious-sounding things like lamb’s fry or include instructions for “cooking for invalids”. I had to flick through to the very last page to finally discover this little gem: a recipe for hokey pokey biscuits.


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Hokey pokey is a term attributed to “honeycomb toffee” in New Zealand and forms an essential ingredient for this famous ice-cream flavour. Hokey pokey is a flavour that sits on the spectrum between honey and caramel. Not as strong as toffee, not as light as honey. And biscuits, as you know, means cookies. This recipe is so short and so quick, you really have to try it. Especially if you have been to New Zealand and know (and love) that hokey pokey taste.


I had to mess with Mum’s original recipe a little bit, mainly because it uses old measurements and the quantity produced was far too minimal for me (if I’m going to go to the trouble of making biscuits the recipe better make enough to help fill the tin, you know?) Plus Mum’s instructions were a little skimpy. For example, item number four – “roll, fork, flat”. This cracks me up because it seems so like Mum to be all “oh, you know, roll, fork, flat, whatever, you get it!” And serves to remind me it’s really her writing the recipe, the her I know, even though she was only twelve.


I remember once asking my Mum what she wished had of her mother’s, a momento or keepsake. She said she wished she had kept more of her mother’s handwriting. Handwriting seems an odd thing to pine for, but then my Mum went on an exchange to the United States when she was 17 and her mother wrote her a letter every week she was away. Those letters were Mum’s connection to New Zealand, her family and her parents’ love. With fewer and fewer things handwritten these days perhaps we miss out on that nostalgia and experience – seeing the way the letters are formed, the punctuation is made, the particular personality of a writer’s handwriting, which shows so much of who they are. Even though Mum probably copied these recipes from a blackboard, there is still something of her in them and this particular “gift” I will be keeping. Thanks Mum.



Hokey Pokey Biscuits (Makes about 15)


115 grams butter

1/2 c sugar

2 tsp milk

2 tsp golden syrup

1 tsp baking soda

1 cup flour



Cream butter and sugar

Mix together milk, golden syrup and baking soda in a mug, or similar, and add to butter + sugar

Add flour

Roll teaspoons of mixture into balls and place on a baking tray

Press balls lightly with a fork

Bake at 325 degrees fahrenheit / 165 degrees celsius for 10 – 15 minutes



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Do you have any favourite recipes handed down from school cooking classes?