Friday, June 25, 2010

Outrageous and Odd Cookbooks

I've been inspired by an article in The Huffington Post online: '"The most WTF cookbooks of all time" to post a list of my own. Frankly I think some of theirs are a bit tame (Last Dinner on the Titanic for example, which I have in stock and is actually an interesting historical cookbook). So herewith my Top 10 Outrageous and Odd Cookbooks from the shelves of Vintage Cookbooks.

#10: Manifold Destiny, Chris Maynard & Bill Scheller,
Only last on the list because it's been noted and blogged in several places. Manifold Destiny does, as it promises, show you how to cook all manner of things on the engine of your car. Recipes include Scion S'mores, Thruway Thighs and Donner Pass Red Flannel Hash (and if you don;t know what happened at Donner pass, Google it) The authors thoughtfully provide a list of the best 'tuck' spots for various makes and models of cars:

#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.

#1: Unmentionable Cuisine, Calvin W. Schwabe, University of Virginia Press, 1979. This unassuming looking cover hides within it a treasure of recipes for anything unmentionable you can think of ( or mention!). Chapters on lamb, beef, pork etc are actually a wealth of offal recipes, with detailed information on preparing and cooking every bit of these animals. There are chapters on game, seafood and shellfish and then we come to "Insects and Land Invertebrates": recipes for Locust Soup, Fried Cactus Caterpillars, Bee Grubs in Coconut Cream and Red Ant Chutney await. And to increase the gross-out factor I'll leave you with the last chapter in this book: Milk, Eggs and Sperm (actually fish roe!).

The Mad Raven: Pizza as Plate

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

Lemon Ricotta Cake and Cairo Dainties - old tech/new tech

Cairo Dainties - the Aga has a tendency to brown biscuits much faser at the back and sometimes I forget to turn the tray around - as you can see

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!)

Cairo Dainties

Mushrooming at Moorooduc

In line with our newly discovered zeal for foraging, Jonathan, David and I went on a mushrooming tour with Cameron Russell of Mushroom Tours at Moorooduc on the Mornington Peninsula last Sunday. Mushrooms are one of those things that you don't want to get wrong - an apple is an apple and chances are the worst thing that can happen if you eat one picked by the roadside is finding a worm. However pick the wrong mushroom and you could die A Slow and Painful Death. So to feed my passion for exotic fungi as well as for life, I decided we needed some expert guidance.

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.
Shame of it is that most of them are poisonous, and Cameron's informative and knowledgable tour was really more about what not to eat than what you could eat. Having said that I am now fairly confident I could safely pick and eat a Saffron Milk Cap which grows under Radiata pines. I also discovered I have at least two customers who are keen mushroomers and the lovely Martine has offered to go mushrooming with me next year.

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