Daddy has come home to live with me.  He arrived on a blustery July day from Australia and it was soon evident that the old boy wasn’t in the greatest of shape.  For the past eight years, he’s been living by himself in Australia.  Never known for his culinary talents, recently he’d been hardly eating a thing.

As a result, he is as thin as a rake and in need of fattening up.  This is a difficult process for us Taylors, we tend to rakeness, although I do have one brother for whom the term lardball would be appropriate.

However.  In general, putting weight on can be difficult, especially if you are 79, semi-vegetarian, allergic to dairy and gluten products and toothless.  All food, therefore, has to have the consistency of a spring cowpat, which is a little disheartening for the cook.  He’s downright fussy too.

To make it even more challenging, in the almost two months dad has been with us, twice now he’s been sent off to hospital in an ambulance.  When the doctors discharged him, they looked at me sternly and told me to feed him up.  Lots, they added.

Luckily, this is the medicine I can deliver.

It’s easy to forget there’s a whole group of people who need special care in the cooking department, particularly in this age of convenience and quick food.  Cooking for invalids used to be part of our psyche, and certainly, there were plenty devoted to this topic in the old cookbooks.  Now it seems to be more a forgotten art – or science.  Ingredients have to be fresh, cooked quickly and presented attractively.  I’ve discovered a few things about getting food to mush.

When food is processed, the number one trick is to make up big quantities and process it all separately, to retain the different colours.  It’s no fun having a big splodge of grey stuff dropped on your plate and being told that’s dinner all rolled into one.  And something odd happens to potatoes when moulied, it transforms into a particularly nasty form of plastic. 

There are a number of tempting dishes that have won the SW Taylor thumbs-up.   A real treat is a kind of dessert (although I make it for afternoon tea) with baked apples and our own free-range eggs.

It is easy to make and dad hoovers it up without sharing a drop.  Just what we like to see.

Then there are any number of nourishing soups that taste delicious and have renowned restorative properties.  Good old-fashioned chicken soup can never be sneezed at – we tend to roast a chicken and then when it is nearly all eaten, sauté some onion in a big pot.  The carcase gets added to this, water to cover added, and this is then allowed to cook for about an hour.  Then I just pop in any other chopped veges I have on hand, season to taste (no pepper for daddy) and Bob’s my uncle, who lives in Napier.  Beautiful soup and a true classic.

Hopefully, all of this kitchen work will result in my father getting fat and then I look forward to him cooking for me! 

Apple Pick-me-up

  • 2 apples, peeled
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 dsp orange juice

Preheat the oven to 180ºC
Remove the apples’ core.  Bake until tender, about an hour.  Mash once when cooled
In a small bowl, beat the egg white until stiff
Gently add this to the apple, folding together with sugar and orange juice (Never let father see that sugar is added, because he’s banned it from his diet)
Serve in fancy parfait glasses.

Galangal and chicken soup

I’m going to knock dad’s socks off one day soon with this, my favourite chicken soup recipe.  For him, however, I will omit the chilli.  This is utterly delicious.  You do need to pop into the nearest Asian food supply shop and get a few ingredients, but it is worth it.  Galangal, which is a tasty rhizome, freezes well and you can buy dried kaffir lime leaves which keep for ages.


  • 1 piece galangal, sliced
  • 3 tbsp onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp garlic, chopped
  • 2 lemon grass stalks
  • ½ tsp white pepper
  • 2 dried chillis, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 cup fresh coriander

Place all of the above into the good old food processor and blend well.  You might need to add a drop or two of water.  Scrape into a bowl.


  • 1 tin coconut milk
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 500g chicken pieces
  • 5 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce (this stuff can be overdone)
  • 2 chillis, deseeded and chopped
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves
  • salt

Into a saucepan put half of the paste.  Stir into most of the coconut milk, setting a small amount aside.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook for 10 minutes.
Strain through a sieve to remove as many solids as possible and return the liquid to the heat.
Add the remaining coconut milk and the rest of the paste.
Add the chicken and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Mix in the lime juice, fish sauce, chillies and lime leaves.  Heat for one minute.  Delicious.