Friday, December 3, 2010
Sunday, September 19, 2010
|The Housekeeper's Instructor or Universal Family Cook|
by William Henderson (1805)
|The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy|
by 'A Lady' (Hannah Glasse) 1763
Monday, September 13, 2010
Saturday, September 4, 2010
The Chocolate Lush Cake from an old advertising pamphlet for baking powder. Actually called a Chocolate Plush Cake, I've replaced it's stodgy icing with a whisky marscarpone cream and a whipped chocolate ganache icing. The topping is pecan praline. Hiding shamefaced in the second picture is a trial baking failure - espresso macarons - I always said I wouldn't try making them, and I did and never will again!
If you would like the recipe email me on email@example.com If you want to try the finished product, come along to our first meeting on September 12th, 2.30 - 4.30 at the Kallista Mechanics Hall on Tom Roberts Rd, Kallista (Melways 75 K$).
Friday, September 3, 2010
Well last weekend David and I drove to Euroa to test-drive a 1978 Holden ute ( it's a long story and involves neither food nor cookbooks, so I won't bore you with it). As I was plotting out our route (I'm a little OCD that way) I saw Yarck on the map, and made a snap decision that we were finally going to take the opportunity to eat at "Tearooms at Yarck". I booked for 6pm for what I thought would be a quick meal on the way home, and we rolled out of there at 8.45, groaning but satisfied. The lovely waitress offered us the option of dining a la carte from the small (but perfectly formed) blackboard menu or choosing the chef's tasting menu of 4 courses. Well at $79 it seemed like a good option to sample the Tearoom's wares so we settled down with a nice glass of Italian sangiovese and the dishes started arriving.
First up was a delicate dish of the freshest kingfish, raw, thinly sliced and served with a light vinaigrette. Then a procession of small antipasto samplers: marinated fresh octopus, white bean salad, two gorgeous sardine fillets, beetroot salad and more. After a short wait a small bowl of hearty artichoke soup, smoky and perfectly seasoned and garnished with slivers of deep-fried artichoke leaves arrived, accompanied as the earlier courses had been by a plate of house-baked sourdough. A slightly longer wait later was rewarded with two plates of 4 plump pumpkin and goat's cheese ravioli.
So if you, like me are counting, that's four courses right? fish, antipasto, soup and tortellini. For a moment I felt cheated - they had goat and suckling pig on the menu and I gave them up for ravioli? But wait here comes the waitress with fresh knife and fork. OK lets just go with the flow, Goat you say? yes please. Slow-braised and tender, but I have to say not as tasty as the ragu I make regularly, a couple of gristly bits in theres and not served with any other accompaniment so I pinch some of the soft polenta from David's dish of two snapper fillets, quickly grilled and apparently delicious.
Right that's it then - I'm happy, it's 8pm and it's a 1 1/2 hour drive back home so we should be in bed before ten. But then the waitress comes by with spoons and forks and I say - "There's more?" and she says "Yes Dessert!" A plate of semifreddo arrives, which we have almost finished when the waitress places a share plate of three desserts on the table: a lemon meringue tart, flourless chocolate cake and a tiramisu. How can we resist. With each mouthful we both swear we can't eat any more, but somehow finish it off; the chocolate cake is the star of the show, the tiramisu not quite as good as mine (if I say so myself!).
We ordered coffees to go and dragged ourselves up to the counter to pay. As I signed, I said to the waitress: "I thought I heard you say the chef's tasting menu was 4 courses" "Oh it is" she says, "but there were somethings not available so we gave you a few extras" A few extras!
In conclusion a wonderful meal, a welcoming venue (if a little chilly the night we were there) and knowedgeable wait-staff. The open kitchen was a treat to watch in the lulls during our meal, which was, with a couple of exceptions, near-flawless. Although bookings are highly recommended the restaurant was not full the night we were there. The diners were a nice mix: a local family having pizza (which I want to try next time, having watched the Pizzaioli at work all night), a well-heeled spring-autumn couple clearly down from the snowfields or their nearby weekend retreat; a family celebrating some family occasion. For me the bonus of eating a great meal at a great restaurant was also the knowledge that as far as possible the Tearooms sources much of their produce locally (very locally, given some of it comes from the farm owned by chef/owner Pietro Porcu). And having now finally experienced a meal there, I wasn't surprised to see it get a second hat from the Good Food Guide. We'll be back-possibly next week when we drive to pick up that ute!!
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Friday, July 30, 2010
1.Gem Squash: A lovely hard shelled, round squash about the size of a tennis ball not widely available in Australia. My mum and gran would cut them in half, scoop out the seeds, boil them and serve them with lashings of butter in the hollow. Then we'd mash the contents up. Tastes a little like a spaghetti squash. I remember having them at lunch-time at my child-care centre served with savoury mince in the hollow. Yumm.
2. Dark Treacl-y gingerbread with white icing. I've written about this an earlier blog - food has such a capacity to revive memories.
3. Koeksisters: A South African dessert/pastry. Pastry strips are plaited, fried in oil and then boiled in a thick sugar syrup. Absolutely insanely bad for you, but out-of-this world good tasting.
4. Boerewors: A thick, coarse textured sausage heavily flavoured with allspice. It is the absolute South African standard at barbecues (braais) and can be bought from butchers in Australia, particularly a few South African specialists, although I was once told that food laws here make it difficult to get the right balance of meat and fat.
5. Biltong: Dried meat - another South African staple, essentially dried meat which is first marinated in vinegar, brown sugar and coriander (the spices vary). Doesn't sound like much, but the marinade and drying processes make this a far superior product (and I'd argue much tastier) than beef jerky.
6. My Mum's oxtail stew: My Mum is a great offal cook. Unfortunately I am not a great offal eater. When my brother is out here from South Africa, Mum makes a point of preparing offal for him and my sister - I am not invited!! The exception to my offal aversion is Mum's oxtail stew, simply prepared by flouring, frying and then a long simmer in tomatoes and onions.
7. Mum's Pickled Tongue: OK sorry there are two exceptions to my offal aversion - Mum makes the best pickled and pressed tongue, sliced thinly, in a sandwich with picallili. Heaven. I have never attempted to cook it and doubt that my vegetarian and semi-vegetarians would even allow it in the house. Perhaps I should campaign for an invite to the next offal dinner!
8. Goat Ragu: Skipping into the present, this is hands-down my favourite thing to cook in the past few years. The Aga makes doing slow braises such a snap. Served with polenta or good quality gnocchi.
9. Elizabeth David's Flourless Chocolate Cake: The best chocolate cake ever, rich and dense, this is a ecipe I will be making forever - it never goes out of fashion.
10. Twice-Cooked Pork Belly: I've avoided mentioning the MC word, but yes I was a big fan of Master Chef, and I have made quite a few recipes from the show. This is my new favourite, in which the pork belly is cooked in a complex master stock (which had me running around the outer suburbs trying to find things like'cooking caramel' and rice wine. Not so easy when the nearest Asian grocer is 20 kms away), deep fried and then served in a reduction of the stock to which heaps of brown sugar is added. The beauty of this recipe is I discovered it works equally well with tofu!! All you have to do is split the original recipe in two, and replace chicken stock with vegetable stock and thne follow the same process.
That's my food biography, I could have gone to 20 - to include all the things I love to bake. Try it yourself, it's a lot of fun.
Friday, June 25, 2010
#10: Manifold Destiny, Chris Maynard & Bill Scheller,
#9: "Cooking for Texture" by Josephine Emlee, Faber & Faber, 1957. This ranks with "A Surprise in Every Dinner" as an unfortunately titled cookbook which really doesn't inspire one to buy or use it. Mrs Emlee's premise is that "a dish may well come with all our requirements in five or six respects and fail completely if its texture is wrong". What follows is actually quite a good book on the science of cooking and food, if you can get past the title.
#8: Cool Cooking: Recipes of your favorite rock stars, Scholastic, New York, 1972. Yes this book really is as lame as it's cover art and back cover blurb suggests: "When they get into the kitchen what do the rock stars make? The Jackson 5 - a real cool hot chili con carne; The Who - luscious burnt sugar pudding; George Harrison - Yummy Peanut Butter and Banaa sandwiches.
#7: Annie Ross says "Come on In!" and try her favourite recipes, Andre Deutsch, 1972. (clearly a good year for lame cookbooks). Annie Ross was a jazz singer, and I suspect from the photo on the front cover, that a lot of her favourite recipes would include a large dash of alcohol in some form.
#6: Zorba the Buddha Rajneesh Cookbook, published by Rajneesh NeoSannyas International Commune, 1984. Remember Ma Sheila, the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and the Orange People? The sect's restaurants were also called Zorba the Buddha, which was apparently inspired by the Bhagwan's inspired insight that the new man "will be Christ and Epicurus together".
#5: Cooking with Fat, Bantam Book, 1995. An over-the-top answer to "culinary correctness", with such delectable dishes as Beef Intestines stuffed with Schmaltz (which for the uninitiated is chicken fat); Neck Fat Soup; Uruguayan Frog Soup.
#4: The New Hot Dog Cookbook, Modern Promotions, New York, 1983. American cuisine has a very bad (and sometimes undeserved) reputation, and it is this kind of cookbook which perpetuates it. 250 'new and exciting' uses for the humble frankfurter - apparently a 'foolproof way to family mealtime magic'. Some examples:Hot Dog Loaf (versions 1 - 4); Hot Dog-ghetti Dinner; Peanut Rollups (white bread, peanut butter and 6 hot dogs, cut horizontally); Brussel SProuts and Hot Dogs. Thankfully no desserts.
#3: Passport to Survival by Esther Dickie, Bookcraft 1980. OK here is the book for you if you are preparing for global warming, nuclear obliteration or a zombie apocalypse. The four foods are wheat, salt, honey and powdered milk and I was actually surprised at what you can do with these ( plus water). Handy chapters on food preparation, health care and tips on finding water when there is a shortage should equip you for anything.
#2 Marijuana Cookbooks: Gourmet Cannabis Cookery: The High Art of Marijuana Cuisine, 1999; Brownie Mary's Marijuana Cookbook, 1996. I shelve these in the herbs section, which is luckily also next to the Wild Foods/Strange Foods section. Gourmet Cannabis Cookery includes growing tips and many recipes for meals and snacks with small amounts of 'herbal butter' as one of the ingredients. Brownie Mary's Cookbook is actually the story of Brownie Mary, the San Francisco grandmother arrested several times for selling pot, with a few recipes including ground leaf or powder.
Once night falls in the village, we are poorly served for places to eat good food. But last night that situation improved with the opening of The Mad Raven, a gourmet pizza restaurant in Kallista's main drag. The owner/cook Holger has been responsible for several very good and succesful eating houses in the Hills over the past 15 years, including Genie's Cafe and The Firebox, so the Raven's opening was much anticipated by local foodies. We had a booth booked for 8pm, and on a very cold and wet hills night the Raven was warm and welcoming. The decor is eclectic and eccentric, with two very comfortable booths each seating 4 and tables handcrafted from slabs of chestnut. There is also some seating outside on the enclosed verandah where the gas heater and roll down blinds were a necessity.
We ordered 3 pizzas to share: At $21.50 the Morroccan Prawn Chermoula is the most expensive item on the menu, but with plenty of beautifully plump and juicy fresh Australian prawns fried in a (very) spicy moroccan chermoula, it is still good value. The pizza bases were thin and had the right balance of crisp and chew factor. Really in many ways the base was just a vehicle for what would have been an equally good dish on a plate - a spicy prawn curry, topped with a lime wedge and coriander leaves. The second pizza was also a spicy one: The Hot Pesto ($16.50) although not as spicy as the prawn had sliced fresh chili for a warm kick on top of a pesto base, fresh buffalo mozarella, goats cheese and red onions. Finally the Pumpkin Perfection ($16.50) was a perfect modern pizza, sweet roasted pumpkin was given added complexity by the garlic, rosemary, pine nuts, mozarella and sheeps milk feta, also with a sprinkling of fresh coriander when it came out of the oven. Superb.
We're looking forward to trying the Raven's version of a ham and pineapple pizza - the Sweet Pork with fresh pineapple and pan fried bacon; the Lam Boreka, the Goa Chicken and David wants to try the Smoked Tofu parmiginana. All Holger's pizzas are handmade from scratch with the freshest ingredients, so allow yourself some time if you decide to eat in. There are a couple of entrees and a couple of desserts, but really the pizzas are the star of the show. If you're going, don't eat lunch!
The Mad Raven Pizza Deluxe is open Wed - Sat from 5.30 - late. They are BYO only ($3 drinkage) and cash only at the moment. They're at 78c Monbulk Rd, Kallista
Sunday, June 20, 2010
As I've blogged before, I tend to bake on a Sunday morning to fill up the biscuit tin for the week ahead. Since three of my children left home I have been doing it less often. This morning however I wanted to do something with the lump of ricotta left over from my first pasta-making foray last week. I remembered seeing a Ricotta Cake on my favourite tv show Top Chef a couple of seasons back so headed to the internet to track down a recipe. I have been using the Epicurious app on my iphone but they only had ricotta cheesecake recipes. Eventually I found a recipe on a great blog called Creative Loafing. It was a quick and easy recipe and when it went into the Aga I decided to make some biscuits by turning to the other end of the spectrum - my 80 year old copy of Miss Drake's Cookery Book. I've been cooking from it a lot lately: I've been invited to talk at several local libraries and like to bring along something baked from the old cookbooks. Miss Drake's has been a treasure trove of interesting recipes; of things we never bake any more (like "Bubble Bread" which it turns out is a Salada-like cracker ) and dishes which now go by different names: like Cairo Dainties, a lightly spiced biscuit which it turns out tastes like, and has the texture of, a Dutch Speculaas. So at one stage I had propped up on my bench, a 1927 cookbook and a 3rd generation Iphone showing a page from a blog, and it struck me that there will always be a place for both old and new tech - paticularly since a recipe on a page is so much easier to read than a little touch screen which ends up covered in slightly greasy fingerprints because I have to scroll up and down!!
Lemon Ricotta Cake - the black around the edge is the bottom of the springform pan (not the Aga's temperamentality!)
Meeting at 10am at the gorgeous Moorooduc Estate, after a brief chat from Cameron and a welcome coffee and homemade bikkie, about 40 of us headed off in a convoy ending up after 10 minutes down a dirt backroad (I could tell you where it was, but then I'd have to kill you - mushroomers are very protective of their patch!) Getting out of the car I looked around and thought Mushrooms, what mushrooms?" but as became clear as Cameron walked us down the roadside reserve, mushrooms are everywhere.
It was a bit late in the season so there weren't heaps of edibles around, but enough to show us what to look for. After a couple of hours wandering through the undergrowth, we headed back to Moorooduc Estate where our hosts plied us with mushroom soup and mushroom bruschetta fresh out of the amazing wood-burning oven which was getting ready to dispense pizzas to the wine-tasting crowds. I can recommend tkaing a tour with Cameron - they've finished for 2010 but will be on again in Autumn 2011
Friday, May 14, 2010
Monday, April 26, 2010
As a result of my long experience cooking for vegos I have little or no tolerance for restaurants which don't cater for them. There's nothing worse than going to a function where you've informed the venue that a vegetarian meal is required and having them essentially presented with the vegetables served up with the meat option. Of course the opposite can be true too - sometimes vegetarians end up with a better quality meal because it is prepared individually (and airline food is often better if you tell them you're a vego).
The other night we were catching up with friends (both of whom are vegetarian) and I booked a table at a new local restaurant about which I had heard really good things - small menu, nice atmosphere and apparently excellent food. We arrived and I checked out the small menu (around 7 mains in total) to find that the only choice for vegetarians was no choice at all, a mushroom pasta or a roast vegetable salad (this on a cold, wet hills night). The 3 vegos insisted that the pasta would be fine, but I just didn't think it was good enough and did something I've never done before - I politely told the waiter that we wouldn't be staying because there really wasn't enough choice for the vegetarians. We walked up the hill to Earthly Pleasures cafe where among their choices were a tasty roast vegetable and goat's cheese stack, vegetarian lasagne or a vegetable tagine. I enjoyed a beautiful wild Barramundi steak served with a reduction of the sweet sticky sauce in which it had been marinated. Earthly Pleasures is a great example of a restaurant playing to it's audience; the chef and owners are locals who have worked out their market - a slightly grungy, alternative, environmentally and socially conscious crowd who care about the provenance of their food (all produce and wine is organic). The old bluestone house (built by the Jorgensens) is very atmospheric, and is much more laid back than when it was home to the fine dining Jorgie's restaurant. There is enough choice in the menu to cater for different budgets, and importantly they also know that the hills are alive with vegetarians (and their meat-eating partners) who'll patronise the restaurant and tell their friends (and blog-readers).
Thursday, April 22, 2010
I am a sucker for mushrooms of any sort but these weren't just any mushrooms - they were exotic varieties of a sort I hadn't seen since the Farmer's Market in San Francisco. They are sold by the man who grows them, in a disused railway tunnel in the NSW Southern Highlands, and were a delight to behold. We bought $20 worth of wood ear, enoki and king brown and that night sauteed them up in a stir-fry vaguely based upon the Monk's Dish - quickly fried with lots of garlic, sesame oil, oyster sauce and a touch of soy.
We followed that up with figs also bought from the market which I combined with frozen raspberries, drizzled with honey and topped with my standard "I don't feel like making pastry" crumble mix. After an 8 hour drive home witha boot full of books for the Clunes book fair (May 1st & 2nd) it was lovely comfort food.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Friday, April 9, 2010
Monday, March 15, 2010
Saturday, March 13, 2010
My earliest cooking memory is of an afternoon tea for my class one (prep) teacher, Mrs Mulcahy. My best friend Rose and I stood at the white melamine table in the kitchen of our fire station flat (there's a whole other non-food memory: the acrid smell of smoke on my father's uniforms) helping Mum bake. I can't remember what else we made, but I will always remember the rich dark and fragrant gingerbread with white icing. Possibly all I did was stir the mixture, but I always claim it as my first venture into baking. I called Mum this morning for the recipe, only to be told it had been lost years ago and she had replaced it with one very similar. So this Saturday afternoon I made it in honour of my beloved gran, my beloved mum, Rose and Mrs Mulcahy, wherever she may be. I also made it for my son Jonathan who is home for dinner tonight after walking from Melbourne to the Dandenongs (a distance of around 36 kms). I think he'll need the sustenance.
Dark Sticky Gingerbread
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 cup hot water
1/2 cup butter
1 cup golden syrup
1 1/2 tsp bicarb soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
Cream the butter and sugar. Add beaten egg and syrup. Add sifted dry ingredients. Add hot water. Beat until smooth. Bake in a 180 oven until cake begins to draw away from sides and top springs back to the touch. (Sorry since I startd using the Aga, timing in recipes means nothing to me - it's done when it's done.
Ice with a simple white glaze icing
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Monday, February 15, 2010
This recipe comes from a perennial favourite Australian Preserving with Fowler's Vacola. The resulting sauce is rich and mildly spicy. To use as a condiment the sauce should be left to mature for 3-6 months as it is quite vinegary. However it can be used straight away as a marinade and is fabulous on barbecued pork, chicken or tofu.
3kg plums;1kg granulated sugar (I use soft brown sugar for a more mellow result); 5 tsps salt; 2 litres brown vinegar; 3 tsps whole cloves; 3 teaspoons allspice berries; 2 tsps black peppercorns; 2 teaspoons ground ginger; 2 star anise.
Cut plums in half and remove pips (if this is too laborious leave pips in, they will float to the surface by the end of boiling). Combine plums, sugar, salt and vinegar in a large pan. Tie spices up in a cheesecloth square and add to the pan. Bring to the boil, uncovered, and cook gently, stirring occasionally until the mixture is thick, dark and rich. This can take as long as 2 1/2 hours according to the depth of the mixture in the pan. Strain the mix through a coarse sieve (make sure you press the mix through with a wooden spoon to get all the goodies and leave only skins and pips behind). Pour into hot, sterilised bottles or jars and cap immediately. You can further preserve these by simmering in a hot water bath (or Fowler's preserver) for 20-30 minutes, but I find that pouring hot sauce into hot jars and sealing immediately creates the vacuum neccesary for the sauce to properly preserved.
When my children were little I used to make a little extra money selling jams and preserves at the Kallista Market. My recipe for jelly was fairly standard for any fruit (except quinces, a recipes for quince jelly is in this post)
Plums; water to cover(about 1.5 litres); 1/4 cup lemon juice; white sugar
Wash plums and cut in half. Place in preserving pan with water to cover. Bring to boil and simmer until plums are soft enough to break down with a wooden spoon. When cold, pour into a large square of cheesecloth in a colander which is resting in a large bowl. Tie ends together to make a bag, remove from colander and leave to drip overnight (I hang mine from the laundry sink tap with the bowl underneath, this prevents the splashes from making a complete mess of the kitchen). The next morning measure the liquid (do not squeeze the bag, this will result in a cloudy jelly), and for each cupful of liquid add a cupful of sugar. Return to clean saucepan with lemon juice. Bring to boil and boil rapidly until setting point is reached. Pour into hot, sterilised, dry jars. Seal immediately.
Friday, February 5, 2010
This week I've been doing an intensive industry overview for a writing and editing course I have started. So every day I've been catching the train into the city to the class room in Flinders Lane on the corner of Degraves St, at the heart of everything that I love about Melbourne. After a couple of stinking hot days, this morning as I came in on the train, the tops of the skyscrapers were lost in the mist and a gentle drizzle was falling (LOVE a cool change). A couple of baristas had set up in a hole-in-the-wall kiosk in the historic Campbell Arcade subway (LOVE Campbell Arcade, Melbourne's laneways and good coffee). As I walked the 100 metres to the CAE I passed two lots of buskers - including a couple of funky young things on uke and guitar, in obligatory Melbourne black and vintage fedoras (LOVE that there are pepole brave enough to do this and good enough to listen to).
Yesterday at lunch-time I happened upon a small restaurant tucked away on a mezzanine of the historic building which houses the City Library - concrete floors, basic furniture, a long bar and kitchen stools running beneath windows overlooking Flinders Lane. The restaurant is called Journal Canteen, but better known as Rosa's Kitchen and the owner/chef is Rosa Mitchell, whose cookbook My Cousin Rosa has been very well-reviewed (and was on sale at the front desk).The food was simple Sicilian. I had the small antipasto platter with some salami, lovely ricotta fritters, a small mound of bread salad brightened by the addition of fresh mint, and several other small samplings. An unexpectedly civilised lunch, with a nice glass of Sicilian wine and a bit of people-watching over the lane. (Really LOVE that Melbourne is the kind of place you can make such serendipitous food discoveries and a place where small restaurants like these can not only survive but thrive!)
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
What I hadn't counted on was the absolute pleasure our 4 ladies have given us (as well as not a few hassles). A friend has declared me chook-obsessed and she's right, I am quite infatuated. The girls (who, after some discussion, have been named after 4 of the Bennet sisters in Pride and Prejudice) are full of personality. They can spend all day with their fluffy feathery bums in the air under the magnolia tree, scratching for who knows what. When you call them they come running (in fact even if you just happen to walk past them foraging in the garden they come running) and it is the funniest thing you've ever seen. I want you to picture a corpulent elderly Victorian matron in petticoats, bustle and full skirts (and possibly a little red bonnet!). Now imagine that lady has to run for her life - she hoiks up her skirts and, holding them high off the ground, waddles at high speed towards you, her large frame rocking from side to side - that's what the girls look like as they charge over to us for scraps or just to say 'HI!'.
I will admit to not giving much thought to the free-range vs battery hen dilemma up until a year or so ago. But now I've seen how happy my girls are; spending each day roaming the undergrowth, scratching in the leaf litter, occasionally settling down for a nap in the shade, or finding a bare patch of dirt and giving themselves a dust bath, I could never go back to eating supermarket eggs (free-range or otherwise). Oh the girls certainly aren't cheap - food, housing, etc do mount up. And as I alluded to above, there have been a few hassles. Lydia (named for the flighty youngest Bennett of course) keeps escaping, despite our (reluctantly) clipping her wings. She is a fussy eater and then last week, after several days of laying eggs without shells, became egg-bound. Then on one of the first days they were free-ranging they all decided to visit the neighbours and then couldn't find their way back up the drive and Pippa spent a couple of HOURS retrieving them from the building site. But on the whole I can heartily recommend the exercise of backyard chook-keeping, the expense and occasional hassle are rewarded many times over in eggs and pure enjoyment!