Having a retail shop sometimes cramps my cooking style, particularly being open on the weekends. Thank goodness then for Sundays when the shop opens at 12. I can cook breakfast for the members of the family who are around, prepare casseroles for during the week, bake some bread, and indulge my love of baking. This morning it's a perennial favourite: Cranberry, Oat and White Chocolate Cookies. This is a recipe that has been handed around among my group of friends and I've made it so often that in my recipe journal it is simply a list of ingredients: 1 1/4 cups rolled oats; 2 cups plain flour; 1 cup brown sugar; 1 cup dried cranberries; 1 cup white chocolate buds; 1 tsp bicarb soda; 225g butter and 1 egg. You mix all the dry ingredients together, add the melted (cooled) butter and egg, combine well, and drop teaspoons of the mix onto a baking tray. Bake at 180 and there you have it, chewy little mouthfuls, a little crisp on the outside with lots of textures and flavours within. You can vary the ingredients by subsituting other dried fruit for the cranberries and nuts for the white chocolate buds, but we keep coming back to this combination.
Which brings me to recipe journals - my son moved out of home 6 week ago and I am very proud of the way he has taken to cooking for himself, I gave him a couple of Women's Weekly cookbooks to start off with and he is having fun cooking all sorts of things. This weekend I have begun a recipe journal for him, writing in all my favourites and the basics I just have in my head. I've arranged it in the same order as mine but I'm leaving lots of blank pages in between for him to start adding his own favourites and cuttings.
I see every possible type of recipe journal in my business: Neatly typewritten books; bundles of cuttings from newspapers held together with elastic bands or string; cookbooks with every white space filled with hadnwritten recipes in tiny hand. In the shop I have a beautiful pair of journals dating from the late 19th century. They began life as a journal for a girl called Blanche Coombs in finishing school in Neuchatel in Switzerland, detailing her daily routine and contains some of her exercises, all in beautiful copperplate; in later life the books became a repository for her recipes, also in copperplate of a more mature hand. What is so interesting about these books, apart from the recipes, and what they reflect about eating habits and the availability of foood etc, is that in many ways they look like recipe journals written today - the recipes are favourites we can't do without, or ambitious projects we think we'd like to tackle the majority are for sweet dishes or baked goods and many of them have little notes about their origins: Blanch Coombs in the early 20th century attributes many recipes to 'Mama' , Cold Fig Pudding to Lady Bectine, Rhubarb and Tapioca Mould to the Daily Mail.
I started my recipe journal about 10 years ago after many years of trying all sorts of systems - card files, manila folders, you name it. Finally I bought a large lined hardcover notebook from a $2 shop and began sifting through the cuttings I had accumulated. I arranged it roughly as you would a traditional cookbook: Soups, starters, mains, desserts, baked goods, vegetarian dishes etc, leaving plenty of pages in each section for expansion. Today it is one of the first things I'd grab if we had to evacuate in a bushfire, as it contains many of the standards I make time and again, recipes given to me by friends and family or strangers: Dee's Brownies, Meg's Lemon Tart filling, Nana's Coconut Ice and Fudge recipes, and the recipe for a polenta slice they make at Kallista Deli, written on the back of a brown paper bag. Last night I created a tiramisu icecream based on Lorenza De Medici's Tiramisu recipe, and that has to go in before I forget it. (Now that's a whole topic for a blog!)