Friday 17th July 2020
Some years ago (in truth a bloody long time ago), I was cooking consultant to the Australian Immigration Department.
My job was to try to convince New Australians that our food habits weren’t those of a rowdy group of barbarians. (No matter how we behaved or what we ate.). My thoughts were published in their magazine ‘The Good Neighbour’.
One day, walking around Canberra’s circular roads, I was hailed by a bloke who asked in broken English if I knew where the Department of Immigration was situated. “I wanna complain about da bloody food idiot they use.”
“I’m that very idiot,” I explained with an ‘up there’ Aussie smirk.
“You wouldn’t know if a Courgette was inserted in da appropriate orifice, or it was da narrow Marrow,” he snarled.
“The Zucchini or the orifice?” I smiled at my own humour.
Without warning he produced what looked like the scrotum of Muhammad Ali and belted me in the nose with it. “Da Melanzana ain’t no Eggplant,” he insisted.
I corrected him, “Known here as Aubergine. But in your case Melon-Insana – the insane melon.”
I was about to launch into the ancient history of this Mediterranean vegetable when the crowd that had gathered applauded him as he climbed into a taxi whose driver had stopped to see the show.
“When will we see it on television?” asked a genteel lady who was walking her Jack Russell bitzer. “He was very funny, he should have his own show.”
I sulked off without a word that it wasn’t for Big Brother.
AUBERGINE AND SPINACH PIE. 375g shortcrust pastry (the frozen pastry from the supermarket it OK); 3 tablespoons olive oil; 1 large aubergine (eggplant); 1 onion; 1 clove of garlic; 175g spinach; 4 eggs; 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese; 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese; 4 tablespoons plain natural Greek style yoghurt; 6 tablespoons milk; 2 cups cooked long-grain rice; salt; freshly ground black pepper.
Line a 25cm flan tin with thin layers of pastry making sure you’ve allowed the frozen pastry to thaw. Prick the base all over and bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 deg.C till the pastry is golden (about 10 minutes).
Cut the aubergine into slices and fry in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a frying pan for 6 minutes each side until golden. You may need a little more oil at first, but this will be released as the flesh softens. Lift out the aubergine slices and drain on kitchen paper. Chop the onion and fry it, together with the garlic which you’ve crushed, over a gentle heat till soft. Again you may need a little more oil.
Wash and chop the spinach then beat the eggs in a large bowl and add the spinach, feta, Parmesan, yoghurt, milk and onion mixture. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper and mix together well.
Spread the rice evenly over the base of the baked pastry case and layer the slices of aubergine over the rice keeping a few slices of aubergine to one side to use as topping.
Spoon the spinach mixture over the aubergine then top with the rest of the aubergine slices.
Put the pie into the oven and bake till lightly browned (about 35 minutes).
Serve warm or cold, but let it cool completely before transferring it onto a serving platter. Serves 12.
Friday 10th July 2020
Last week’s recipe included, amongst its ingredients, Lemon Curd. I didn’t give you the recipe for such, so here it is.
LEMON. If Eve had tempted Adam with a lemon instead of an apple, things may have taken a turn for the better.
Nevertheless, the apple was to take its place in history as the fruit which could seduce even the most self-centred of us humans.
Yet the lemon has many more uses. It would have stood Adam in far better stead if he’d only had the wit to demand Eve pluck him one of the Garden of Eden’s egg-shaped, rough-skinned, sun-coloured citrus.
Anyway, to their advantage, others did pick lemons and have continued to do so through history.
No doubt Our Lord squeezed lemon juice on the fish he caught while fishing with Peter in the Sea of Galilee, and mixed it with olive oil as a dressing for dates and figs and possibly even splashed it in the wine he had exchanged for water at that well-documented party.
Tomb paintings in the Valley of the Kings show that the ancient Egyptians grew and ate lemons as well as used them for cosmetics and medicine, and as a cleaning agent too. In a country where trees were scarce, they were venerated in the temple orchards and in gardens of the Pharaohs.
The Greeks also used the lemon to cure and clean as well as to add ‘life’ to their foods.
The Roman legions marched the lemon from the Acropolis into Gaul, Portugal, North Arica and the rest of the known world, including the misty isles of England.
When the Moors swamped Spain in the eighth century, they planted lemon groves throughout Andalusia.
The Spanish Conquistadors in the 16th century taught Moctezuma a thing or two among which was the myriad uses of the lemon, which they brought with them and planted throughout Mexico. Cortez shaded his walled gardens with the evergreen, ever-scented, flowering fruit trees and churches and government buildings of that time all sported the fragrant, life-giving tree – the lemon.
By the 16th century, the lemon became an essential item in the kitchens and medical cupboards of the nobility, It also held a revered place in the boudoir of the fashionable ladies of that era. As it became more common, the common folk also embraced the multiple wonders of the magic fruit.
These were the halcyon days when horticulturists and botanists like Banks of the First Fleet and his counterparts in other civilised countries had and held the ears of the Kings of Europe. The learned men of science with their primitive laboratories, soon enlarged them into elaborate greenhouses and orangeries. These giant glasshouse castles housed whole orange and lemon groves. They, in fact were fully equipped conservatories, designed not only to be functional but to be architectural masterpieces to add prestige to their owners and strike awe into the hearts of the peasants.
In France Le Notre, Louis XIV’s gardener, brought 3000 citrus trees from Italy and the island of Dominica to the truly magnificent orangerie at Versailles.
Even in the Low Lands, lemon mania became an epidemic and, for a time, rivalled the reverence of the tulip. In fact, all over Europe, tubs of lemon trees flanked doorways as a sign of welcome.
Even in America after the Revolution, orangeries were built. Two decades later, in 1796, Friar Junipero Serra established his first mission in San Diego. Not long after, 21 mission stations sprung up along the Pacific coast and all proudly planted lemon groves. Today, California benefits from the plantings of the Friar as most of the Northern Hemisphere at one time or another squeezes a little more life from one of their lemons.
When Captain Cook and his cronies landed at Botany Bay, the good botanist, Banks, took ashore seeds of a myriad of varieties of fruit and vegetables. Among these were lemons.
The resulting stock flourished and various varieties were eventually grafted so that the foundling Colony could use the fruit to combat scurvy both ashore and on the ships of the Fleet during their exploration of Australia’s coastline, and also on their return to the mother country.
The ancestors of the crews and convicts of the First Fleet benefited from the ancestors of those first lemon trees. Their fruits cured colds and were used on snakebites and heat rash. Teeth and gums were brushed with lemon juice and hair washed in it. Floors and walls were washed with its acidic liquid. Windows were made to sparkle with a watered-down wipe over with lemon juice and a multitude of medicine was believed to benefit from its inclusion .
Yep, lemons had squeezed into the everyday life of the everyday Aussie.
Even the military boys of the Rum Rebellion became dependent on lemons. They not only splashed it in the tots of grog, they used its acid to clean the brass of the webbing and other equipment and fittings.
The colony’s military and convict camps twinkled with lemon-brightened brass.
By the 1900s, practically every backyard in Australia had a flourishing lemon tree against the back fence or dominating the square of couch or buffalo grass which were bordered by vegetable gardens. They were a left-over from the Victory gardens which all Aussies were encouraged to plant to help the war effort.
The gardens eventually disappeared, but the lemon tree remained defiant to the changes which were taking place in society.
Eventually backyards became smaller and smaller as land became more and more expensive. The move from the outer suburbs into the inner cities and towns created a hotch potch of flats and apartments as well as the demise of the family lemon tree.
Country towns and their environs still support the single lemon tree family, but the halcyon days of all of us being able to wander out the back door to pluck a bowl of lemons have become a fond memory.
250g butter; 1 1/2 cups caster sugar; juice of 4 large lemons; 4 large eggs, beaten.
Cut the butter into small pieces and put it into the top of a double saucepan, or a bowl suspended over a pot of simmering water (but don’t let the bottom of the bowl touch the water). Add the sugar, lemon juice and rind and stir over the heat until it has melted together. Stirring constantly, pour a little of the mixture into the beaten eggs, then return all the ingredients to the pan or bowl and stir them over the simmering water until the mixture thickens – about 10 minutes. (It should lightly coat the back of a wooden spoon.) Put into warm jars, cover with an airtight lid and store in a cool place.
Remember – ONLY GRATE THE OUTSIDE SKIN OF THE LEMON (the zest), THE WHITE PITH CAN BE BITTER.
FRIDAY 3rd July 2020
My mum was a wiz at making bread and butter pudding. Hence I ate a lot of it when I grew up in Tumut.
In memory of mum I made Bread & Butter Pudding in a programme I produced for my ‘Come and Get It’ programme on the ABC.
We filmed it in my garden in Parkville. The garden abounded in trees which the local doves adored. These soft feathered birds watched with interest as I spoke into the camera as I prepared the Bread & Butter offering. But they became bored with my ham acting and flew off towards the zoo. As they did so, they dropped what looked like a sultana which had been marinated in cream.
The cameraman took his eye from the view-finder and said “Golly! A critique even before you’ve put it in the oven.”
I didn’t work with that cameraman again.
I hope you get a better reaction to my recipe.
BREAD & BUTTER PUDDING.
3 eggs; 1 1/2 tablespoons castor sugar; 1 3/4 cups milk; 1/3 cup sultanas; 2 tablespoons lemon curd; 2 1/2 tablespoons butter; 5 thin slices of bread; pinch of cinnamon.
Cut the crusts off the bread, spread the slices with butter and lemon curd and cut them into quarters. Butter an ovenproof dish and fill with layers of bread, sprinkling each layer with sultanas and some cinnamon. Make a thick custard using the eggs, milk and sugar and pour it over the bread. Leave for an hour. Sprinkle with more cinnamon, pop it in the oven at 160 deg.C and cook for half an hour or until it’s firm and golden.
FRIDAY 26th June
This recipe makes about 24 Spicy Balls. They’re cooked in batches and kept hot.
250g each lean minced beef and pork; 2 tablespoons ground ginger; 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic; 4 finely chopped green chillies (without their seeds); 1 small finely chopped onion; 1 egg; 1/2 teaspoon turmeric; 1 teaspoon garam masala; 50g chopped coriander leaves; 6 chopped mint leaves; 175g grated raw potato; salt; vegetable oil for frying.
t all the ingredients (except the oil) into a large bowl, season with a little salt then mix them together, kneading them well till they form a soft dough. Shape the mixture into balls about the size of golf balls (you’ll get about 24), put them on baking paper or foil and leave them at room temperature for half an hour. Heat the oil in a wok or heavy frying pan and fry the balls (a few at a time so they don’t stick together) till they’re golden brown all over. Lift them out onto kitchen paper to drain then serve them whilst they’re hot.
FRIDAY 19th June
CHICKEN. Chicken must be cooked through – but on the other hand it shouldn’t be overcooked. Therefore you can’t take your eye, or mind, off the job at hand.We all know that roast chicken is good-oh, or diced chicken breast rumbled in olive oil with a splash of soy sauce and, off heat, a good spoon of natural Greek style yoghurt, served with baby spinach leaves and orange segments. And we’ve got several favourite ways to cook chicken thighs.I’m sharing my lemongrass idea with you. I serve it with chopped bok choy leaves and fresh orange segments. But no doubt you’ll have your own idea of vegetables.Lemongrass Chicken. Grated zest and juice of 1 small lemon; 1 lemongrass stalk, trimmed and roughly chopped; 1 clove garlic, peeled; 2 cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped; 1 large red chilli, seeded; 1 tablespoon fish sauce; 2 chicken breast fillets; 2 tablespoons olive oil.In a food processor process the lemon zest, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, chilli and fish sauce into a smooth paste. Rub the paste all over the chicken breasts, place them on a baking tray and pour over them the olive oil and lemon juice. Sprinkle with a little salt, cover with foil and bake in the oven pre-heated to 200 deg.C for 25 minutes.Serve hot with baking juices poured over the top.
We all know now why the chicken crossed the road. It was to get to the other side. I am now about to reveal what its fate was once it was found on the other side of the road. It was popped Into a pie. Or so I assert. You see, I saw it happen when I was a young boy living in Tumut.
An adventurous, wily old rooster scratched its way under the netting of a chook pen behind the Tumut pub. With great glee and cock-a-doodle-doos it triumphantly led its harem of plump young hens across the vary rarely used road, to scratch in the paddocks beside our place owned by old Weedon.
My mother’s boyfriend, a tough timber cutter, happened to be home honing his axes. He was hungry. Quick as a flash he hurdled the fence, grabbed the plumpest of the escapees and set about preparing it for the pot. Then my mother intervened to convince the chicken plucker that a pie would be preferable. And so it came about.
The pie was made and served at the same time as there was an impatient knocking at the back door.
“Police here!” an authoritative voice rattled the window panes.
Skinny, for that was my mother’s live-in lover’s name and whom I called ‘uncle’, opened the door.
“Come in, Col,” he said to the copper. “We’re just about to have a feed of rosemary and rabbit pie.”
Glasses of what we called burgundy were poured, and the pie was cut and served, while the member of the local constabulary accused Skinny of nicking the publican’s chicken.
“What makes you think that?” laughed Skinny. (Skinny was so-called because of his huge shoulders and muscular body developed from cutting down ironbark for telegraph poles.)
“There’s feathers all over the paddock at your back gate,” frowned the law.
“Must be the cockatoos moulting,” grinned Skinny.
“This tastes remarkably like chicken,” continued Colin the copper.
“It’s the way we cook the rabbit,” the axeman assured him. “Good isn’t it?”
Everyone agreed to another glass of wine to accompany the rest of the now-called rabbit pie.
1 x 2kg roasting chicken; 1 beef marrow bone; 500g carrots, chopped; 250g turnips, chopped; 3 sticks celery, chopped; 1 onion stuck with 3 whole cloves; 3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced; salt; 1/4 cup brandy; 3 tablespoons butter; 3 tablespoons plain flour; 4 egg yolks; 1/4 cup cream; 1/4 cup cultured sour cream; freshly ground white pepper; 2-3 sheets of ready-made puff pastry.
Put the chicken and the beef bone into a large saucepan. Add water to cover and bring slowly to the boil. Skim, then add the carrots, turnips, celery, onion and garlic. Bring to the boil again and skim. Sprinkle very lightly with salt. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes or until the chicken is quite tender.
Take the chicken from the saucepan and let it cool. Cut the chicken meat off the bone and then cut it into bite-sized pieces. Discard the skin. Put the chicken meat into a small saucepan with the brandy and let it simmer, covered, over a very low heat for 10 minutes.
Add the chicken bones to the liquid in the large saucepan and boil until you have a strong, flavoursome broth. Strain.
Now make the sauce. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the flour to make a roux. Slowly and gradually add two cups of the chicken broth to the roux making sure the mixture remains smooth.
Put the pan back on the heat and let the contents cook for 10 minutes. Blend three of the egg yolks, the cream and sour cream together and, with the pan off the heat, stir them into the sauce. Bring it slowly to a simmer and, stirring constantly, simmer until it’s thick and smooth. Add salt and pepper to your taste.
Put the chicken meat into a 23cm pie dish and pour the sauce over it. Let it cool.
Roll out the puff pastry into a round, slightly larger than the pie dish, and cover the chicken meat. Press the edges firmly to make a tight seal. Make a couple of holes with the point of a sharp knife and brush with the remaining egg yolk.
Bake in the oven at 190 dec C for about 25 minutes. Serve very hot.
Or, if the above is too hard, go to the pub for dinner!
Jan, my wife of 60 years has simply pinched a page from my Egg Cook Book. Here it is –
Comments are closed.