Posts tagged heirloom recipes

The magical power of CAKE and how my kids revealed themselves to actually be competent

My mission recently has been to ‘skill’ my kids. Apparently the best way to help with their self-esteem is not to talk them up, but rather to teach and help them conquer a wide and varied set of skills. Which includes the glorious and the mundane. Sure, learn how to snorkel, read novels and ride bikes but also learn how to polish your shoes, sort through the washing and take care of yourself.

Enthusiasm for the various tasks swings wildly. Feeding the cat is low on the list. They can never remember where the cans are kept. Is it that cupboard? This one? Out in the garage?

Same with breakfast. I reckon they can sort themselves out. But they’re not so sure. What? Find the milk myself? But the container is nearly full and much too heavy for a small wee child to pour. Surely mummy would do a better job….

Which is why I was all agog the other night post-dinner when freshly flopped on the couch I remembered that there was some leftover apple sponge pudding in the fridge. “Kids,” I yelled, between sips of pinot gris, “there’s dessert for you if you can find it.” I mentioned cake, yoghurt etc and in a flash they were off. Five minutes later they returned, pleased as punch with themselves. Somehow they’d found the cake, dished out servings, heated it in the microwave and topped it with yoghurt.

Astonishing what they are actually capable of.

SO delish, and keeps in the fridge for several days.

SO delish, and keeps in the fridge for several days.

Apple sponge pudding – based on a recipe by Nola Treloar from a Country Women’s Association cookbook

25g butter
4-5 apples (any sort), peeled, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp brown or raw sugar

80g butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 cup self-raising flour
Pinch salt

Heat a frying pan over medium/high heat. Melt the butter then add in the apple. Stir every couple of minutes until softening nicely. Sprinkle over the cinnamon and sugar. Mix for another minute or so, then set aside to cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 160C. Grease a baking or pie dish. Tip the apple mix evenly over the base – include all the juices.

In a large bowl, whisk together the butter and vanilla. Then whisk in the sugar, then the egg. Mix through the milk. Sift over the flour and salt. Whisk it all together into a glorious, lump-free batter.

Pour the mixture over the apples. Pop into the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes until golden.

Serve as is, or with yoghurt or ice-cream.

Serves 6-8



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Sunshine in a can. Why 1970s mums were right, after all.

Instant happy.

Buying fruit at the moment is a bit bleak, isn’t it? The oranges are nice enough. The apples are good. There’s been a bright spot of QLD strawberries, but really my cold feet and numb fingers are longing for something warmer, something more evocative of sunny climes.

So it was with enthusiasm that I found a tin of pineapple pieces shoved up the back of my pantry. Proving my theory, that sometimes disorganisation can indeed lead to happy moments.

Is this little pineapple can making you feel nostalgic? Did you eat much of the stuff when you were growing up?

My mum was possibly one of the only mums in the 1970s who resisted the urge to add pineapple to every salad, rice dish and dessert, so my approach to it is untainted by scary childhood memories of ‘Hawaiian Chicken’ or ‘Rice al la Tropicale’. Still, without those fond memories to guide me, I’m a bit hesitant to bung it into too many savoury dishes. But I promise to have a go. I’d love to hear about your MUST TRY pineapple dishes. Any culinary treat that I’m really missing out on?

While I search far and wide for new taste sensations, these happy little cakes will hit the spot for a bit of school holiday baking. Miss F helped me ice them. It made me feel all old-world ‘mom’ and I like the fact that they look fairly plain, but then you crack them open and are gifted with a world of sunshine. All that pineapple! Well, and all that butter… but hey, it’s a recipe for a fun time, not a long time.

Testing your ‘mom’-ness, I’ve written this recipe up old-school style, with minimal instructions, and an assumption that you know your plain from your self-raising, that creaming butter and sugar is just what you do most days and oven temps need not be discussed.

Looks quite sedate…

Hawaiian pineapple & coconut cakes.

Lightly grease a 12 hole muffin tray and line with paper cases. Heat your oven to moderate. Cream 140g butter with 2/3 cup caster sugar. Add 4 eggs, slowly and beat well after each. (Adding a tablespoon of flour with each egg stops the mixture splitting). Fold in the remains of your 1 1/4 cup of self-raising flour, 2/3 cup desiccated coconut and the drained fruit from a 440g can pineapple pieces (reserve the liquid). Bake the cakes for 20-25 minutes.

Ice with icing sugar mixture combined with enough of the reserved pineapple syrup to form a thick glaze.

…awwwwww, transported straight to Queensland.

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Through the generations

After quite a bit of procrastination, last weekend I finally got around to making the traditional boiled pudding for the big family dinner on Christmas eve.

Are you finding that as the years go by you’re inheriting responsibility for some of your family’s traditions? Perhaps some of the tasks that used to be your mum’s or your aunt’s are now your job? For me, it’s the pudding and I must say at five hours cooking time (plus about an hour and a half to prep) it’s an epic labour of love that is quite unlike anything else that I cook at any other time of the year. For a start it has a bunch of ingredients that I just never use at any other time – figs, mixed spice and chunk ginger for a start. And I get to go to the bottle shop and buy odd booze – last Thursday at 10.30am, there I was at the local with a trolley of brandy and stout.

Despite all the effort required, I don’t mind ‘pudding day’. Somehow it makes me feel more important, slightly higher in the family pecking order. And now that I make it, I get to serve it, which means I get to slosh over the hot brandy and set the thing on fire! Now THERE is something that I don’t do any other day of the year.

If you haven’t inherited any of these tasks yet, maybe this is the year to force your way in and learn the nuances of how they’re done. It’s kind of sad to realise how many of these ‘women’s’ skills are disappearing as the supermarket seduces us with an easy way out. There’s something hugely satisfying about serving up something home made to your nearest and dearest. Even if it’s not as perfect as something you could have bought, it really is love on a plate.

So here’s my recipe for a traditional Christmas pudding – it’s not too late to give it a try, although really they should have been made a few weeks back. It’s based on a Joan Campbell recipe, but with quite a few tweaks as I’ve varied it over the last few years. If you’re daunted, make it on a day when I’m on Facebook and I’ll talk you through any problems.

STEP 1: Buy booze and soak the fruit for as long as you've got...

Joan Campbell’s plum pudding (with a couple of changes!)

1300g mixed dried fruit (any mix of raisins, sultanas, currants, glace cherries, peel, figs, crystallised ginger TIP – definitely used figs, they are sweet and sticky and help hold it all together)
1/3 cup beer (stout is good)
1/3 cup brandy
250g butter at room temperature
225g sugar
5 eggs
50g plain flour
1 tsp mixed spice
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
2/3 of a stale loaf (unsliced) white bread (remove crusts, make breadcrumbs in food processor)
1 carrot, peeled, grated
Rind 2 oranges
Rind 1 lemon
125 blanched almonds, roughly chopped

Add all the fruit to a glass or plastic bowl; pour over the beer and brandy. Leave to soak for a couple of hours or overnight (if you remember).

Cube the butter and add it to a mixmaster bowl. Beat for a minute or so before adding the sugar slowly. Continue beating until you have a creamy consistency – this takes a while. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well each time. Beat in the flour, spices and salt.

Tip contents into an extra large bowl. Add the fruit, breadcrumbs, carrot and almonds. Fold everything through until well mixed.

STEP 2: At this stage it looks a bit like spew, but perservere...

Cut a circle of baking paper and pop it in the bottom of a large greased pudding bowl (so that the top of your pudding won’t stick when you turn it out). Pour in the mixture and flatten the surface.

STEP 3: Now you've starting to get somewhere... awwh, looks pwetty..

Now for a bit of origami. Get a double layer of foil (you’ll need to buy the extra wide stuff). Do one ‘z’ fold of 2-3cm in the middle (so that it can expand when the pudding is hot and cooking). Place over the top of the basin and secure around the rim with kitchen string (wrap around a couple of times, knot with a slip knot, then tie over the top so that you have a handle and tie again). Place in a large saucepan. Pour boiling water ¾ of the way up the side (use a funnel). Cover, bring to a strong simmer. Cook for 5 hours. YES, 5 hours!!!! You will need to check it every hour or so to see if you need to top up the water (you don’t want to pan to boil dry).

STEP 4: the 'z' fold in the foil to allow for expansion during cooking...

Keep it covered (I’ve just removed the foil below to photograph it). Store in a cool place (spare fridge is best) until Christmas.

STEP 5: Sneak peak - the cooked pudding can sit for a few weeks to brew.

On the day, pop the pudding back in the pot, with water up the side again and reheat on a strong simmer for 2 hours.

Turn out onto a serving plate. Remove the paper. Serve with brandy cream and icecream.

For the full festive flambé…. Gather the family to attention… Pour ½ glass brandy into a mug, microwave it for 20-30 seconds. Pour over the pudding and immediately (and CAREFULLY) set it alight (use a gas stove lighter). Watch family ooooohhhhh and aaaaaaahhhhhhh.

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In season: apples & snow

.... well in Australia, we call this 'snow'....

Last weekend the Vegie Smugglers family had a jaunt out to the country. We had a fantastic time at Orange, which is about 4 hours inland from Sydney. Great drive, great foodie spot, great adventure playground for the kids, and spots of snow up on Mount Canobolas. Well, patches of dirty ice really, but for never-seen-snow kids like mine, it was the ultimate thrill and they were happy to frolic in the sub-zero mud for an hour (I had to retreat to the car with frostbite about 45 minutes in).

We struck gold and happened to be in town on the weekend of the farmer’s market. The produce was fresh, tasty, local, and heavenly. And I couldn’t leave without stopping by one of the little unattended roadside shacks where you pick your box of produce and leave your money in the honesty box. Love it. Funnily enough, you don’t see those boxes too often in the city.

How could I resist!!!

So now we’re eating our way through 7kg of apples. I’ve dug out ‘Lady Hackett’s Household Guide’ and am trawling through the chapter on ‘hot fruit puddings’. Most of them all start with the premise of stewed apples, which they mainly do with heaps of water. Sounds a bit insipid, so I’ve dug out my own stewed apples recipe. And with the final product I’m going to have an experiment this weekend. I like the look of the apple rice meringue. Combine the mashed apples with cooked rice and 2 egg yolks, and then top with the egg whites whipped up with caster sugar. Set in the oven for a few minutes until brown. Yum.

Here I've dropped the apples onto a rice pudding... recipe in the book...

Stewed apples

2 large or 3 small apples, peeled, sliced
2 tbsp water
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground ginger (optional)
2 cloves (optional)
1 tbsp butter

Place all the ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat.

Mix well, cover and bring to a simmer. Cook until the fruit is soft (8-10 minutes), stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat. Cool. Discard the cloves (if using).

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You know it makes sense…

There’s been sadness in my family lately with the passing of our matriarch. At 96, the death of Mollie was not unexpected, but sad nonetheless and a reminder of what does actually happen at the end of these crazy lives we lead.

We watched her spend a couple of months in and out of hospital, growing frail, then drifting away from us before dying. I watched a 96-year-old woman say goodbye to her 76-year-old son and saw the twinkle of mummy-love still glistening in her eye. It was a life affirming moment.

Sometimes I can’t wait for this stage of parenting small children to be over. Other days I’m almost distraught at how quickly it’s all flying by. But no matter how ephemeral this stage of mothering is, the indulgent love lasts a lifetime and I will adore my girl and my boy forever. They will be able to grow old and experienced and frail themselves and still they will be my joy.

Clearing out Granny’s small apartment, we were surprised by the amount of nostalgia. The cups we’d drunk from as kids, the paintings we’d looked at. The patterns from a lifetime of the domestic arts that I’m salvaging in the hope that one day I’ll have the skills to use them.

Tucked away on a kitchen shelf was a pure gem. Not Granny’s, but my great-grandma’s copy of “The Commonsense Cookery Book”. A 1914 first edition of the classic that has sold over a million copies. In terrible condition, with newspaper clippings stuck into spare pages. It’s a fantastic piece of family and social history.

I brought it home and realised that I also have a copy. A shiny, barely-flicked through one that I bought last year.

I’m drawn to the simplicity of heirloom recipes. I love the way they’re written. Back in the days when nothing needed explanation and things barely needed measurement. When women at home didn’t need to have ‘cream the butter and sugar’ explained to them. We’re a pretty hopeless, unskilled lot these days.

My copy and a 1914 edition of The Commonsense Cookery Book

Old but new, how the circle of life reveals itself in happy ways

Looking through my two matching copies is like some strange circle of life and an instant glimpse of the changes to motherhood and wifery over the last century. The new shiney copy isn’t the same as the original, it’s been revised and updated. What’s been left out? Well the whole chapter on “Invalid’s and children’s cookery”, with recipes for junket, egg flip (with sherry) and beef tea custard.

So perhaps some things are best in the past. But I think next time one of my kids is sick, I might be reaching for this simple piece of bliss…

(text from the 1914 edition of The Commonsense Cookery Book”)

Sweet Omelette

3 eggs
1 teaspoon water
1 oz. sugar (2 level tablespoons)

1. Take yolks of 2 eggs and whites of 3 eggs.
2. Boil water and sugar.
3. Add it to the yolks.
4. Beat whites stiffly.
5. Have a hot plate ready.
6. Have some hot jam also.
7. Melt the butter in an omelette pan.
8. Add the yolks to the whites.
9. Mix well but lightly.
10. Pour into the pan.
11. Cook gently and shake occasionally till set.
12. When coloured slightly underneath, brown the top by placing in the oven or under the griller.
13. Lie it on to the hot dish.
14. Spread heated jam on one half.
15. Fold the other half over.
16. Serve at once.

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