The Bowling Club

•June 17, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Port Fairy Bowling Club and the away days…

My father was obsessed with lawn bowls. Dad had been a great swimmer and a member of the life-savers in Port Fairy when he was younger and I loved to watch him as he swam in his languid style, effortlessly cruising through the waves and seemingly never getting tired. As he aged and since Port Fairy had no swimming pool, the sea became less attractive and for a few years Dad gardened.. he grew everything. Then along with his good friends he had grown up with all his life, he discovered lawn bowls.

The bowling club in Port Fairy was on the corner of Bank Street and Gipps Street, opposite the river. It had tall shiny leaf hedges all around it above the green corrugated iron fence, mostly to protect the bowlers from the cold winds that could spring up at any time and send the ladies hats spiralling into the air and everyone running about looking for their cream cardigans. On the Bank Street side of the greens, was the entrance, it was sort of an arch that had been carved out of the shiny leaf and had its own door way, the street was a metre or so below the level of the greens and walkways, so you had to climb a few steps and woe betide you if you did not shut the gate, you would be stridently reminded by the ladies either those who were busy preparing the afternoon tea or those on the greens and even those sitting with their knitting watching proceedings. There were some things that just had to be.

In the end Mum I think realised that she had little choice but to join the club or her life was going to be socially dull. Mum was soon in training and in the end turned out to be not a bad bowler although I don’t think her heart was in it. All her lady friends were members, even the few single ladies of the Borough enjoyed the social life of the club. Mind you, I have to say that those who saw themselves as upper echelon of the social ladder, seemed not to be interested, I can’t recall ever seeing any of the local doctors, solicitors or old family at the club. Its also fair to say that most of the Catholic community did not participate… a strange thing but any town in this country was divided along the lines of religion and class.

Summer was the main bowling season, it was at that time of the year that lawn bowls was at its busiest and the tournaments and regional competitions were held. There was great competition to be selected a member of the team to compete in these events. Dad was a younger and somewhat inexperienced bowler at that stage so only made it rarely to the team. I suspect too that his bowl delivery was somewhat dubious, even though he had been approved by officials as being correct. Dad had taken his rather laconic style to the bowling green and delivered his bowls straight legged and bending, he was very good and in time became one of the regulars at the competition.

Port Fairy summers were for me, all about the beach, I roamed from beach to beach, The East Beach when the surf was up, I even joined the life-savers for a brief time, but I was never good at any of the demands of clubs, so boy scouts, life savers and even a short stint in the local band left me as a loner, but able to jump all over the place. The South Beach was stunning, still wild, yet with tamed areas that at various times had housed such oddities as the nuns bathing box… in the days when nuns lived hidden lives and played the modesty game to extremes, the nuns would, when the summer sun was hot and biting, head across some open land between their convent and the beach, there they would all pile into the bathing box which was then slid, on rails, down to the water where the nuns would cavort and play until it was time to return, they never once left the box and to my knowledge, no one had ever seen them actually swim. Further along the South beach was one of my favourite places, everyone called it Pea Soup, I have no idea why, it was a piece of beach that was sheltered like much of the south coast, by large rocky outcrops which prevented the pounding surf from reaching the beach. Pea Soup itself was shallow, still and safe for little kids, a bit of  clamber over some rocks you could find the diving pool. This was a naturally occurring deep hole that had a diving board built, in the early days there was two boards, one higher than the other, as time and tide took over, only the lower board remained but that was enough.  Just near the diving pool was a natural area of rock on which we would lounge, change and should there be any girls around, pose.

My bike was the means of me getting around and that had a history, Dad had bought it for me second hand and I loved it, bright red with a racing seat, no gears of course, but for me freedom. At that time I had a dog called Monty who was particularly devoted to me and would come with me where ever I went, trotting along behind the bike, swimming with me till he got too cold and then waiting by the water with a worried look on his face. Monty loved to chase rabbits and often when I was at the South Beach, Monty would head off into the sand dunes to see what he could scare up, after being sure that I was settled for a bit and unlikely to head home before his return. Even if that was to happen, Monty knew his way around town and could be relied on to be home in time for his dinner. It was this fun activity that eventually, to my utter horror, claimed his life. As he was romping through the marram grass, he was stabbed with a burr that lodged in the cheek of his face and eventually became a canker and then cancerous, I held him while the Vet injected him and his life slipped away with that same worried look on his face to be sure that I would be alright. I cried for days and could not even ride past the house of the vet. No dog has ever replaced Monty in my affections.

I usually ended up at the bowling club because that’s where Mum and Dad would be and if I made my timing right, there was bound to be a sandwich or even a sausage roll left over for a hungry kid who had been swimming all day. Everything and I mean EVERYTHING stopped when time for afternoon tea was called, just who called it I have no idea, but I suspect that it was the team of ladies who were charged with the vital task of preparing the repast. And, since many of the bowlers would have also been travellers to other clubs, it was also likely that some other club members would also be present, then it had to be good. And good it was.

The tea urn was the centre of the table and the cups were stacked, cup and saucer in piles all around, you were expected to help yourself to tea, milk and sugar were already on the individual tables, coffee if wanted had to be ordered at the hatch and it would be made in the tiny kitchen using Turban coffee essence and milk.

Alcohol was frowned upon at Afternoon Tea and the bar only opened after the games had nearly finished and only those in the finals on the greens. There were a few ways of dispensing the food, it was either put onto one long buffet table and constantly refreshed as the hungry bowlers munched their way through endless sandwiches, sausage rolls, baby egg and bacon tarts, scones, drop scones with home made strawberry jam and cream,  cakes, big and small, sponge cakes which the ladies of the country seemed to excel with, my all time favourite was Ginger Fluff, or it was served to each and every table on separate plates. The supreme taste sensation was undoubtedly the sandwiches. It was these that provided the local ladies with the chance to excel.

Mock chicken, beef paste, sardine paste, sliced roast meats, eggs in so many ways, curried, mixed with chutney, stuffed back into their whites (one of my absolute favourite things, I had a great eye for a good stuffed egg and knew just who had done them. I have to confess here that even at that young age, I was a died in the wool foodie and was known to court some of the local ladies who I knew would always give me a cool drink and what ever was in the tins at the time!) I suspect that the shortages of the times of war were great teachers in terms of making do. While its certain that we did not have the elegant pates and terrines of French cooking, we did have the delicious meat pastes, the potted meats and the home preserved meats of the day. In todays world, we turn our noses up at the prospect of dealing with a calves tongue, but for my mother it was one of the delights of her kitchen and to this day, I remember with enormous fondness the thin slices of pink tongue served with brown bread and mustard One should perhaps point out that should you be lucky enough to enjoy a Bolito Misto in Italy, you would be given tongue to eat, with a mustard, the beautiful Mustard di Cremona, or even mustard preserved fruits.

In the cookbooks of the day, whole chapters were devoted to what was usually called ‘savouries’ and this included dozens of sandwich fillings utilising fish, vegetable and meats as well as the rarely seen poultry, however eggs were used in so many ways. I have often come across what I guess is the local Australian (via the UK) type recipe for ‘meatloaf’ or equivalent that was certainly a lesser creature than the wondrous terrines of France, but none the less, in their own way, were just as important as the terrine to locals in preserving the meats and offal.  I have come across recipes for an anchovy spread that was rather unusual since the wide use of anchovies was not common. Anchovy paste was readily available and I suspect that this is what found its way into the spread. I think two sandwiches were regarded as essentials for the fine buffet table, one a ham (off the bone naturally) and the other, an asparagus roll, tinned asparagus of course.

Entertainment was a lot more common in the days prior to television and before people took on debt loads that would cripple Pharaoh. With us now time poor, we never seem to have the time to get into the kitchen and spend the time making food that is economical, delicious and individual. In my home, some form of visitor entertainment would happen at least twice a week and that did not include trips to the Bowling Club, pop in for cups of tea with lady friends, or even dropping in to family members who were still expected to be able to produce a small, but delicious, array of accompaniments to the pot of tea. My mother spent at least one day a week, baking and filling the cake tins and biscuit barrels. Cakes would always be two, a fruit cake of some kind, Mum’s Sultana Cake was my favourite and that would be baked every two weeks or so, it kept well and so long as she could keep me and Dad away from the tin, lasted. A butter cake of some kind would be made and that would last a few days as the cream would get sour or the cake become hard. For special occasions or even just because my Father loved them, Mum would make a Tea Cake that you ate with butter, and for Dad if she was being specially nice, a Caraway Seed Cake, which I hated.

Its fair to say that most of the women of the town found no contradiction in popping in to Caddies bakery to get some of Tommy Digby’s cake. Tommy made a very fine jam roll, something that not many would do at home, although it was only a sponge. His Rainbow Cake was much loved and I recall to this day that the chocolate icing on the top was raked at a strange angle. The layers of pink, brown and yellow cake were separated with a thick layer of mock cream. Delicious. Tom also made Napoleon Slice, a slice consisting of cake, cream, jam, puff pastry (or more properly rough Puff) and topped with a modestly pink icing… very very yummy and, I am told, still to be found in Tasmania and New Zealand.. a trip worth taking.

One of my all time favourite things was to be told to ride my bicycle up to Caddies and get some pies and pasties for lunch… such a treat. Made fresh every day and the pastry was flaky, buttery and simply melted in your mouth. I knew that the meat fillings were fresh since the meat came from my own families butcher shop. Oddly enough, Dad was not a fan of the pasties, I was! I recall when he and I were sent one day to collect Mum from Mount Gambier, we passed through a small town just out of Portland, Dad spotted a bakery and since it was lunch time, we stopped. Dad bought two pasties for himself and one for me and we sat in the car to eat. My father declared them the best pasty he had ever eaten and returned to the shop for two more.  I think that I had been eating fresh crisp Delicious Apples as we had also stopped at our favourite apple growers orchard and got two boxes. Mums work would be cut out for her when we did get home, making the apples in many different things. One of my favourites was apple and cucumber relish.

Tommy also was the provider of puff and rough puff pastry for the town and it sat in great slabs on the counter to be cut up by the serving ladies into what ever you needed. No one bothered with the arduous task of making these two butter rich pastries. Mum varied her Sausage Rolls, sometimes making her own short crust pastry, sometimes getting some of Tommy’s Puff Pastry and even on occasions, making her own Rough Puff pastry, something that I loved. Mum had a few secrets with her Sausage Rolls, she used sausage meat of course, but she added not only onion and some ‘mixed herbs’, but she grated an apple and even a carrot and they went into the mix… she of course made her own Tomato Sauce, so these beauties where a thing of much delight and even on occasion, Mum would make a larger, fatter version which would be sliced and served with some mashed potato and green peas. Not half bad.

Asparagus Rolls

2 tins of asparagus spears, well drained… mum would use one tin green and one white although she said that the white asparagus was a little too thick for a real lady to get her mouth around.

1 loaf of ‘brown bread’, course wholemeal will not do, you could be better to get a high quality pre sliced loaf or have it sliced by the baker. You will need to trim the crusts from the bread. Mum on occasions would lay the bread out and lighty iron it with a warm iron, it was, according to Mum, more elegant if it was thinner.

Butter, mayonnaise ( a home made proper egg mayonnaise with a touch of Dijon) salt and pepper.

Lightly butter the bread and then smear with mayonnaise, add some salt and pepper. Take one  spear of asparagus, starting from one corner, begin to wrap the asparagus spear in the bread, rolling it up. If the bread is thin enough (and it should be) the roll will stay glued up, if not, it is permissible, but not desirable to use a toothpick.

Pile these up on a plate like logs.

Stuffed Eggs

Most people just love these tasty treats that somehow only make an appearance on the buffet table or when guests are coming.

use hard boiled eggs and follow any of these..

*remove the egg yolks, mix with cream, salt and pepper, mustard & paprika with a dash of white wine vinegar, return to the egg white and pipe it in. dust with chopped parsley.

*add anchovy fillets to  above

*add some chopped gherkin and pate to above

*add some chopped ham to the basic recipe above

*chop some olives and capers into the basic mix

*add some curry powder for curried eggs.

*chop some fresh herbs into the basic mix

If you are one of those people who have or can find, a piping bag, then pipe the egg mix into the whites for a great 50’s presentation. Remember that no home would have been without one in the fifties.

Sultana Cake

This is the much loved cake that is so easy to eat, its hard to know when to stop.

Pre heat the oven to 180°c/360°f (it will take 20 minutes to reach heat and have a shelf set just above centre, but not the highest)

250gr (8oz) butter softened

1 1/4 cups caster sugar

4 eggs

2 1/2 cups plain flour

1/2 tspn baking powder

2 tblspns milk

1/4 tspn lemon essence or a squeeze of lemon juice

1 1/2 cups sultanas

Cream the butter and sugar until it is light and creamy, there should not be any feeling of sugar in the cream, add the eggs, one at a time and beat in well after each addition

Sift the flour with the baking powder and begin to fold into the egg/butter/sugar mixture alternately with the milk and lemon juice, when this is well combined and not overworked, fold in 1 1/2 cups of sultanas.

Use a 20cm cake dish and butter and flour it well, put the mixture in and bake for 1 hour at 180°c/360°f, turn the temperature down and cook for a further 30 minutes (150°c/300°f) or until cooked.

Allow to rest in the pan for a few minutes, then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.

 

TRY THESE GREAT SANDWICH POSSIBILITIES

* sardines and crisp bacon with mayonnaise on whole-wheat toast.

* tapenade, sliced tomatoes, and arugula on sourdough bread.

* fried flounder, bacon, sliced tomato, and red onion rings on a toasted, buttered hot crispy bun.

* thinly sliced prawns, cucumber and radishes with dill butter on pumpernickel bread.

* sliced ripe summer tomatoes, drizzle of extra virgin oilive oil, salt, pepper and basil on fresh white bread with crusts removed.

* cream cheese, currants, and chopped pecans on cinnamon toast.

* bananas, bacon, and peanut butter drizzled with honey on raisin toast.

* cream cheese, golden caviar, orange nasturtium petals, and snipped chives on very thin slices of black bread.

* tasty cheese and chilli chutney on toasted sourdough bread.

* scrambled egg, sliced ham, and sliced red onion on toasted rye bread.

* grilled Italian sausage and warm fennel or onion confit on a toasted roll.

* sliced roast lamb, eggplant caviar and yoghurt on pita garnished with chopped cucumber.

* sweet Gorgonzola cheese, sliced fresh purple figs, and fresh mint on grilled panettone.

* sliced roast lamb with fresh mint mayonnaise on toasted soda bread.

* roasted red and yellow peppers with sliced smoked ham on a thin baguette.

* sliced avocado, tomato, cucumber and alfalfa sprouts with mayonnaise on toasted multi-grain bread.

* hot tuna fish with chopped arugula, roasted red pepper, and sliced parmesan cheese.

* hot steak sandwich with roasted shallots and tarragon mayonnaise on a thin baguette.

* sliced sweet onion on buttered white bread rolled in mayonnaise  and chopped parsley.

* roasted cheese sandwich with sharp cheddar cheese, sliced tomato and crisp bacon.

* thinly sliced roast pork with apple butter on walnut whole-wheat bread.

* corned beef and cole slaw and mustard on toasted sour dough bread.

* egg salad and asparagus tips with dill mayonnaise on croissant.

* sautéed garlic sausage, onion confit, and  Dijon mustard on a thin baguette.

* sardines and egg salad on toasted rye bread a red pepper and ginger marmalade topped with a fried egg on roasted multi-grain bread.

*great freshly sliced ham off the bone with a home made mustard on chunky white rolls.

*focaccia loaded with slices of Italian sausages, roasted capsicum, tapenade and cos lettuce.

*smoked salmon, cream cheese and red onion on bagel, scatter a few capers on top.

*don’t forget thin white bread with cucumbers and a light spread of mayonnaise.

*creamed cheese and celery with fresh herbs on brown bread makes great sangos.

*rare roast beef on rye with seed mustard and sun dried capsicums.

Cold Boiled Ox Tongue

This is a very old dish, certainly on every great banqueting table, pressed tongue would have appeared. Although today we are likely to shudder a little at the prospect of even handling a tongue, the meat is delicious. Tongue can be obtained either fresh or pickled in brine, either way, this recipe will work for both.

1.8 to 2 kg (4lb) piece of pickled or plain ox tongue (pickled is best)

1 large onion cut into quarters

2 leeks split and washed

2 carrots cut into chinks (no need to peel, they are for flavour)

1 – 2 cloves of garlic peeled but not cut

6 parsley stalks (if you have them) if not a few leaves from some celery will do.

1 bay leaf

6 whole black peppercorns

2 tspns of powdered gelatine

2 tblspns of good port

You will need a good bowl that you can cover and weight for pressing the tongue, make it wide enough so that you can sit a board and a house brick on it.

Use a good firm scrubbing brush and give the tongue a good hard scrub then soak it in water to cover for a good half day.

Remove from the water and place in a deep saucepan along with the onion, leeks, carrots, garlic, parsley stalks, bay leaf and peppercorns, cover this with 3 litres of fresh water and bring to the boil. As it boils, skim away any scum that rises to the surface with a slotted spoon. Simmer for 3 – 4 hours.

The tongue is cooked when the skin on the surface begins to blister and the T shaped bone at the root of the tongue comes away easily. Take the tongue from the water and plunge it into cold water to cool. Pull all of the skin from the tongue and clean off all the gristly pieces under the tongue and at the root.

Fold the tongue into a circle and place in the bowl.

Boil the cooking liquid briskly to reduce by about 30%. Taste the liquid, sometimes this can be lacking in flavour in which case, add a stock cube or two, but be mindful of the salt.

Strain the liquid and reserve 280mil,(9floz) try and get the liquor when it has settled a bit to make sure that you are getting the clearest part of the stock. Add to the port wine. Dissolve the gelatine in a kitchen cup with a dash of water over a small saucepan, add this to the 280mil (9floz) and pour over the tongue.

Weigh it down as heavily as you can and leave it overnight, turn it our and it will be able to be carved easily. Serve with a selection of delicious pickles and chutneys as a garnish.

English Potted Meat

This is a very old fashioned way of eating meat. It originated in the days when meat could not be kept and this way it was able to be preserved for longer. No mater how it started, it is truly delicious and worthy of a picnic table or a great autumn or spring lunch. Eat this meat with a good hearty hot mustard or perhaps some of the wonderful Italian mustard fruits.

1.5kg (3lb) shin of beef on the bone, get the butcher to cut it into thickish slices, go for meat that has not got too much fat, some is necessary, but not excessive.

750gr (24oz) pickled salt pork belly, skin on.

6 black peppercorns

1/4 tspns ground cloves

1/2 tspn mace

1 bay leaf

2 tspns of anchovy essence (available from grocers or use 2 pounded anchovies)

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the beef and pork into a saucepan and cover with cold water, add the peppercorns, bay leaf and spices, bring to the boil and turn down to simmer. Simmer for 3 hours skimming off the scum that rises every now and then.

Remove the meat from the liquid and cool. When it is cool, take all the meat from the bones and skin of the pork, you can pull it apart with a fork or chop it, which ever you please, it should be on the small side.

Strain the stock and return the meat to the stock along with the anchovy essence or the two anchovies. Return the pot to the boil and cook on moderately high for 20 – 25 minutes. Taste for seasoning and if salt is needed, add now.

Take a nicely shaped bowl and pour the contents into the bowl, after you have rinsed it with cold water. Allow to set, this is best overnight in the refrigerator under a piece of kitchen plastic.

Turn it out onto a board, cut into thick slices and eat with great mustard fruit and a tomato salad.

 

 

 

 

Roasted Cauliflower

•May 27, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Roasted Cauliflower

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Seems like it has become the flavour of the moment… thanks Ottolenghi perhaps? That said it is delicious and deserving of wide use. Cauliflower is a vegetable that I associated with just two dishes, simple boiled and tossed with some butter or in the occasionally mucked up, baked Cauliflower Cheese.

 

My Mother was a cook who was taught that no vegetable should be lightly cooked, consequently the water that cooked the vegetables held all the taste and goodness and was sent down the sink. Her cauliflower cheese was by any standards, mushy. On the other hand, there have been some that I have eaten where the cauliflower was undercooked and that does not work either. The BBC food log, usually quite reliable, suggests..

 

  1. Place a pot of well salted water and bring it to the boil.
  2. When boiling place in the segmented cauliflower (broken into florets).
  3. Cook for 3 – 5 minutes and then drain.

 

Not in my mothers case, cook for 20 + minutes.

 

The Cheese sauce, is as follows

40 grams butter

40 grams plain flour

400 mil milk

1 tspn English Mustard powder

100 grams mature cheddar cheese

 

Melt the butter, stir in the flour, add the milk (gradually or in my case all at once and whisk well), add the mustard and cheese, continue stirring until cheese is melted, season with salt and pepper.

 

Place cooked cauliflower in a dish with 5 cm high sides, top with the cheese sauce, scatter some good breadcrumbs, dot with some butter (not too much) and scatter some bacon pieces on, if liked.

 

Bake for 25 – 30 in 190 c oven.

 

Back to the roasted version. Slice the cauliflower in wedges of about 1.5 cm thick, place on a well oiled tray, brush with more EVOil and scatter some cumin powder, salt and pepper, place in a 190 c oven and roast until the top is browning, turn the wedges (some call them steaks) and cook until the underside is also browned, pour just a little EVO onto the underside. Cook till browned and they have some slightly burned bits.

 

Meanwhile, you need to decide what the next step will be.

 

  1. Tahini with Pomegranate seeds, caramelised Onion and Parsley.
  2. Blue Cheese with Caramelised Walnuts.
  3. Hummus with Yoghurt and parsley with a squeeze of Lemon.

 

IMG_1372

 

A dressing that I like is:

2 teaspoons honey

2 teaspoons mustard (Dijon)

2 teaspoons cider vinegar

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 garlic cloves, crushed with the salt

2 tablespoons of EV Oil.

 

Crush the garlic with your knife blade with the salt, add to mortar, with the rest of your ingredients, with the pestle, blnd to a smooth paste.

 

The use of Caramelised nuts (walnuts is the most common, but Hazelnuts, Almonds, Pistachios and Cashews are also great) is often suggested to accompany. This is for 1/2 cup.

 

1/2 cup whole roasted walnuts

2 heaped teaspoons white sugar

 

Use a small heavy based saucepan, melt the sugar until it starts to go golden, this happens all of a sudden, so keep an eye on it. Cook the sugar a little more until it starts to brown… not too much or it will go bitter. Remove from the heat, pour in the walnuts and toss well to coat all, pour out onto a sheet of baking papper, with a skewer, separate and allow to harden.

 

There are many ways to use roasted cauliflower, be creative and devise your own.

 

2019 –

•February 4, 2019 • Leave a Comment

2019… WOW

 

I got dumped, it’s OK, not even starting to be unexpected. Just when these things are exploded on you that you get shocked. I am not a bitchy person, but I had to make some bitchy moves to counteract four years of being used. Enough, what’s done is done. However I did what I should have done some time back, traded in the yellow short wheel base Jeep, and the Berlingo and left with a shiny red 4 door automatic, petrol Jeep.

Hooray for me.

red jeep

I was a bit pissed off, I had planned a kitchen renovation at the country estate, replace the 1950’s sink and cupboard unit with something a little more cheffy. I carefully designed a self supporting frame of 4 cm steel square tube, had it sand blasted and then baked enamelled. It was splendid. I found a company in the industrial zone of Brunswick who could make me a 4 cm thick wooden top of Mountain Ash. I purchased a delicious black stainless steel basin and a tap that rose majestically from the bench top, complete with retractable spray, all very wonderful. I also found a black dishwasher. Shelves (needless to say) in black were cut to size. Plumber booked. I just needed muscle and that rippled away.

 

However, last weekend after locating a new plumber (the charming, affable and willing Charlie) then, seducing some family members to help, the job got done. I hate not being able to pitch in, but age, unsteady legs and pure fear made me refrain, I took my rightful place in a chair on one side of the kitchen and observed.

 

It’s amazing the way people love demolishing things, the old bench and sink, was removed in minutes and after 40 odd years of service, found its way into the bin. What was exposed was the hole through which field mice ventured

 

Jennifer, my long suffering companion and mother of our children, had it all planned out meticulously, and after I had offered a tiny bit of advice and been roundly rejected, her plans went smoothly and the job was done.

Kitchen Bench

Charlie the plumber also managed to take a look at a leaky tap, put a control tap on my toilet bum washing spray(bidet spray) which, although doing a splendid job, very nearly removed skin with the pressure. Charlie did assist with the installation of stainless steel sheeting on the walls and even, cut around some electric plug outlets.  I was also informed by family workers, after peering into the tank, that we were low on water. Hardly a shock, the weather has been very benign and besides the inlet was completely clogged with some sort of cement like plug, thus preventing water from getting into the tank. $240 later, a truck of water was delivered into the now cleansed maw of the tank.

 

My second daughter Kyrie is the most like her mother and has the ability to see ways of solving problems. The shelves were cut but no one had thought it through, there was no way they could be installed because of angles. I went cold and sweaty at the prospect that my long dreamed of new bit of kit, was going to be unfinished. Solution Kyrie, cut them in half, no one could ever even see the cut. It was then that we had to start learning how to use a complicated dishwasher.

 

Thanks family for your love and support of this slightly deflated, yet resilient father.

 

 

Nearly Xmas

•November 22, 2018 • Leave a Comment

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Someone just said that Xmas is just weeks away… that is so unfair. No time, nothing done, nothing planned and not even an inkling about what to do. I swore last year that I would not do it all again, I think maybe I might even stick to that.

What is this awful thing that seems to happen to our collective psyche at this time of the year? We become obsessed with strange things, buying presents, decorating houses, cooking festive food. I am no different, I succumb each year to the madness. Its almost like some switch is activated in my brain and a release of chemicals sets me off on some mad merry chase for reviving that which is past. This is a list of various issues surrounding Xmas

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christmas_dishes

The strange thing is that I can only remember flashes of the festive seasons of my youth, the times in Port Fairy when we, as less affluent members of the clan, did not get to go to the hotel for dinner, but feasted instead on some ancient fowl that mum was endeavouring, with all her might to both give flavour to and make as tender as possible. Mind you the chook was so bloody big that the four of us could eat slices of white (or brown meat; that was taken from the legs and thighs) for days to come and they were slices, I can never remember my mother carving the chook up chunk like as we do today.

Its funny, I suspect that what we remember may well define our own passions, because as much as I have little memory of the setting, except on one occasion when I had tried to orchestrate the gifts and ended up in a small ball of misery as I contemplated the air rifle I had insisted on my mother buying me and now, in abject agony, was counting the cost of my appallingly bad choices. Finally after unwinding myself, I marched down to the local sports store, woke Alex Hill up from his slumbers and begged and pleaded till he agreed to swap over the gun for fishing equipment and I left a much more satisfied puppy. Needless to say this completely destroyed my belief in Santa.

Our Xmas day was always the same, we would get out of bed and head straight for the lounge room where we would find our presents gathered and wrapped beside the fire place, Mum was ever practical, she had been raised in a family with seven children and very little spare money, our gifts were mostly of clothing essentials and in my case, because I loved the beach, each year I would get something to do with swimming. My mother was never keen on the idea of Father Xmas and this was discouraged at an early age. I still recall the sense of confused disappointment when I watched Father Xmas drive through the town on the local fire truck having just been told that it was all just a story and that Father Xmas was just a local bloke dressed in the costume. Such revelations can have a profound effect on a small child and may well account for my recalcitrant nature now.

Mum liked to go to church on Xmas morning and my sister and I would join her. The church was always overwhelming in its size, smell and services, I was always glad when it was over and we could leave, having fulfilled our Christian duty as well as having been seen to do so. Dad would have waited at home in Bank Street for us to arrive, we would then walk around to Uncle Syds (Dad’s brother) house, where the whole family would be gathered, including the fearsome grandfather for Xmas drinks. This was the first time that I knew I was not cut out to be a conforming social being, but rather was always going to be left of centre. The swamp that divided our house from Uncle Syds was my place of refuge and so after half and hour or so I would sidle up to Mum and just say swamp, she would nod and I was off.

Why didn’t I turn out to be some sort of ologist? (comes from the Greek and means ‘study) It wasn’t the biology or geology or any other ology the swamp had to offer, it was all about life, the swamp was teaming with life, the wind would move the water, the birds would protect their nests, the tadpoles turn into frogs and here was I able to sit in the middle of it all, not have to pass confused small talk nor justify my differences with anyone and yet, be part of it all… a very satisfactory way to spend Xmas day.

Sooner or later, my time in the swamp was brought to a halt with my Father bellowing my name and walking with Mum and my sister back to Dublin House and no doubt the over cooked chook that Mum would have left in the oven, I didn’t hurry, there was no need, Mum would have prepared the vegetables before she left for church, but they needed to be cooked, so I had a full hour before I had to be at the table. Mum had also read this recipe, Woman’s Weekly I suspect, for a mock ham that was made from a leg of sheep, rubbed with salt and left for a few days and then encased in flour and water and baked. Mum had to use one of Dad’s butchering cleavers to crack the now extremely hard casing and reveal the pink ham like meat that to me, simply tasted of sheep. But she was happy. I was always happiest with the pickled pork that was cured in brine at the butcher shop and then cooked slowly in water with a bay leaf and some spices, allowed to cool in the water, it was served barely warm with the chicken.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2015/03/31/396588498/the-resurrection-of-lamb-ham-a-colonial-tradition-revived

http://allrecipes.com.au/recipes/tag-1957/christmas-dinner-recipes.aspx

Mum was not into the cook ahead pudding, she made the pudding on the morning of Xmas to a recipe that had been handed down in her family for generations. It was made with suet and it was cooked for a good five or six hours in its cloth, when the time came to eat it, Mum would lift it from the pot and allow it to stand for a while to get all the water from the cloth, then peel the cloth away which in the beginning she had generously buttered and floured to reveal a creamy white skinned pudding under which was a deep dark rich brown deliciousness that only required the silver coins that she had boiled up, to be inserted, a good brandy custard for her and dad and a plain custard for my sister and I and all was in readiness. I must say that the suet did make a spectacular pudding, adding a depth and another layer of deliciousness.

http://www.vintagerecipes.net/recipes/desserts/puddings/plum_and_suet_puddings/

Serving Xmas dinner was special, Mum would get out the best crockery and cutlery and we would eat, not at the kitchen table like every other day, but at the dining room table which would be set up with a little holly, a beer for dad and a brown crinkly glass decanter of Woodley’s Est for Mum. It was rare that we would have any visitors for Xmas, but on a few occasions, some of Mum’s family would make the trip to Port Fairy and help her to not feel so alone. It was much more likely that Auntie Mon, Auntie Dick and Auntie Nell would come for New Year and the house would become very lively, filled with the zest for life that these three strong women all had. Mum had two brothers, Uncle Lon who had a mystery and who came to Port Fairy often, he was a sort of Bing Crosby type, all tweed jackets, smoked a pipe, wore a sort of trilby hat and drove a small black car. His story is for another time, Uncle Charle was the black sheep of the family in every possible way, he was gay, a heavy drinker, in the navy and could not give even a slight damn who knew or who approved or disapproved.

Nanna Watson was a proper, god fearing woman who spent a great deal of her life being outraged and affronted by the behaviour of her now slightly unwieldy family who often pushed the boundaries that she had established for herself and her family, when Uncle Charle arrived home complete with boy friend for the Xmas festivities and paraded him around town and generally behaved in an outrageous way, she went to ground and refused to leave home or be seen and even missed the Xmas church service in shame. Uncle Charle left a day or so later, complete with boyfriend, much to the chagrin of his sisters who had been thoroughly enjoying the change of pace, the madness and general gaiety of he and his boyfriend. Uncle Charle was never seen by the family again, he was I suspect, shamed into feeling that his life choices were not only anti social, but against nature and proceeded to drink himself to death, dying in the arms of the nuns in Sydney who found him wandering along a railway line.  But his story is also for another time.

Interestingly enough my mother was stepping out with the local Church of England vicar, in the end, nothing came of it, however his connection to Uncle Charle and Uncle Lon were somewhat ‘curious’ and years later when I met him and he was an unwed Bishop, he was clearly not straight. So many stories, so much to say and so few people left to even contradict me!

Xmas lunch was always a heavy meal and designed to get everyone sleepy, we all pitched in with the dishes and as I remember, Dad snoozed in his big chair, Mum dozed in her, I would have a quick spin around the town on my bike and then head for the beach to swim off the weighty meal. Good times.

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On to now….

The Xmas Turkey… and in the end, all year round poultry.

All weird and sort of a non event, the family was scattering in numerous directions, we decided to have a festive breakfast. I don’t know about you, but breakfast for me is all about a decent cup of tea, pot not teabag, a slice of my own home baked 100% wholemeal, tastes good and satisfies health issues, butter and vegemite. I cannot, as hard as I try, get into the whole champagne, fruit juice and the million and one things that now seem to grace the breakfast table. There simply must be a limit to the ways you can serve eggs. I cannot bring myself to leap into meat at that hour and the prospect of cake, repels. Confusion. In the end, I made pancakes, it was the least I could do.

They came, opened gifts, ate breakfast and went. Those left holding the Xmas candle were left with a sort of vacant, what the hell happened and why, look on their face. In the afternoon as I settled into the snoozing and reading chair, I reflected that it did not feel like Xmas at all, even if the tree was draped in bits of xmases from years past, the pair of not quite right deer’s hauling a sleigh that had seen better days, graced the mantle shelf. Even the black crepe paper decorations I had purchased in a strange moment of anti celebration hung desolately over the dining table. Scene set, no action.

Boxing Day had been designated as family festive food day. The night before I had started the turkey brining, put some wine in to chill, worried all over again that no one in the household except me liked plum pudding, asked the promises of the vegetable run if they were ready, roasted the ham with a glaze that I was not fond of…. that whole glaze issue is fraught, you simply have to have some thick sugar laden number that will stick and rise to the occasion. I even took great care to skin the pork carefully, not being the patient and manually dexterous type, I have been known to rip a bit hard at removing the skin and leave the fat layer in less than pristine shape. Xmas had come and gone, this was another day, another event completely.

I am a creature of habit, up early on Boxing Day, cup of tea, toast and turn the oven on high. I had a Ledoux turkey to roast to perfection. I was well behaved and followed the recipe (below). I have this 45 year long argument with some family members who want to eat everything seeringly hot whereas I want it mildly room temperate. Allowing for the size of the bird, a 2 hour cook and good rest after all that heat and indignity would be about right. Stuffing was a separate thing and was already in the loaf tin. We have always had a Swedish style potatoes and they were lying in their bath of cream garlic and anchovy, beans topped and tailed and someone was running up a cauliflower cheese. Someone else was inspecting a bowl of ripe tomatoes preparatory to roasting them with whole garlic cloves and basil leaves. The ham was out and on the sideboard, a side of smoked salmon with a Swedish dill mayonnaise (is there a theme emerging here I am unaware of?) shared the location. In my over enthusiasm I had also purchased a standing rib roast and that was rubbed with salt, anointed with oil and waiting its turn in the now pulsating oven. Gravy was not even a remote non event, it was demanded by several family members and would be closely tasted and critically assessed, so I had to get that happening. I went down the middle road, roasted a bunch of beef and turkey bones until they were brown, added some water, the turkey neck and giblets for a damn fine stock and then reduced it a bit. Gravy started. A salad or two would see it all done.

Time for a bit of reflection.

I doubt that Poppy or Aunty Pearl, or my father and mother had ever tasted turkey… it was just not often eaten or even available. I remember once when going with Dad on his ‘country round’ delivering meat, one of the farmers had a flock (called I think a rafter of) of turkeys that sort of ran wild, along with a gaggle of geese and essentially intimidated the entire farm. I was completely freaked out and refused to get down off the horse and cart dad used, the horse was not impressed either. They were destined for the table the farmer said, My family were butchers, I cannot ever recall seeing them selling poultry of any kind. I suspect that a few of the top enders of Port Fairy ate turkey and goose for Xmas, Dad usually killed one of the older chooks stuffed, very long cooked chook that was maybe one of just six eaten during the year. Ducks we ate when Dad went out in duck hunting season and brought home a bunch of wild ones. Hearn’s Hotel always offered turkey for Xmas lunch, we just never went, Mum would have viewed that as a great extravagance.

In time, we all tasted turkey and became seduced. Why it was turkey and not goose or duck is a mystery, it is a native of the America’s http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turkey_(bird). Geese are found in many countries including Asia, Ducks are world wide. Perhaps again another example of the formidable power of the USA in influencing. Turkey it is then.

I searched and hunted and I think in the end, found a great, no, bloody fabulous bird, produced by the Ledoux family in Gippsland, free range, organic (genuine) and tasty. Judy Ledoux just told me that they supply just 4000 birds in any one year, she says that it keeps the quality high and allows them to be sure of it. She is the sort of supplier that we all need to find.

I am going to repeat myself… this is the BEST way to cook big bird.. (Nigella calls it that.. and good on her, she deserves a break)….

Brining Turkey’s is good, makes the bird moist, keeps a great flavor. So choose either the salt brine (for big birds like Turkey this is best) or the lemon juice method (best for smaller birds)… but do please give the high temperature a go. It will produce a moist crispy skinned bird.

Salt water/Sugar brine

You must start the evening before… the turkey must be fully thawed the bird should be submerged in the brine solution and preferably kept in a cool/chill (refrigerator) situation. It would be an 8 hour, no longer brine.

This solution should be enough for a 5 kg to 8 kg bird.

3 litres of chicken stock 275 grams of table salt 1/4 cup sugar (brown is best) 1 tablespoon dried sage 1 tablespoon crushed dried rosemary 1 tablespoon dried thyme 1 litre of iced water..

Bring stock, salt, sugar and herbs to the boil, allow to cool add the litre of iced water. and cool completely.

I like to use a clean plastic bucket that will hold the turkey easily with the brine. Place the brine into the bucket.

Wash and dry the turkey and lower the bird breast first into the bucket making sure that the cavities are filled with the brine. Place the bucket into the refrigerator over night. If the refrigerator is otherwise occupied, consider using a chiller or even a styrene box. Remove the turkey and dry completely. Make a mixture of Olive Oil, garlic, finely chopped herbs and pepper, rub this well into the cavity of the bird.

Salt and Lemon Juice.

The salt and lemon juice method is more for me about taste. I love lemon and I love what it does to foods. I also acknowledge that this method is slightly ‘awkward, but give it a shot.

Your object is to cover the turkey in lemon juice, generously and then also generously, cover the bird in salt. No, not a snow field of salt, rather a scattering, 7 kilo turkey would take about 1/2 a cup of salt. Having done both of the above, wrap the bird in plastic film and put aside (on the bench) for 45 minutes. This will allow time to heat the oven. Prepare a seasoning.

Stuffing or as we always called it, seasoning.

Cooking a turkey without stuffing is better. The argument goes that the stuffing will impede the heat from reaching the inside of the bird and make if more uneven in cooking. This is not something that I have ever suggested, I have held the view that the stuffing added to the deliciousness of the bird, but I have to reluctantly admit minus stuffing is better, is true. Your stuffing can be cooked separately and we suggest our new Persian stuffing mix.

High Heat Cooking Method

As a preparation for the cooking, remove the wing tips from the turkey and if you have been given the neck and the giblets, place them in about half a litre of water and cook for 45 minutes, use this to make the pan gravy.

Cooking the Turkey on HIGH heat is the best way. This method requires a bit of preliminary work… a very clean oven, a baking pan with sides no higher than 5 cm and nerves of steel. The cooking is done at 240 to 250 Celsius and the oven MUST be preheated. The rule is 18 minutes per kilo. For the first 45 minutes, no matter what, do NOT open the oven. Resist the temptation to baste. And cook the bird on a V trivet breast side down, don’t truss the bird. It will or should be brown and crisp and very moist at the end of the cooking time. After 45 minutes, take the bird from the oven and turn it over breast side up, return to the oven for the balance of time, still on high heat.  If the bird is getting too browned, cut some foil and make a double layer draped, but not tucked in on top of the bird, (remove the foil 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time) and continue cooking. For a near 7 kilo bird, the cooking time should be about 2 hours. The bird should be allowed to stand for 20 minutes after cooking, covered, but not tightly or you will loose the crispy skin.

Gravy

Make a gravy (sauce) but please no flour… just pour off as much of the fat as possible, add a couple of cups of stock (turkey stock if you have it as described above, if not chicken stock) and bring to the pan to a good rolling boil, this sauce is thin, but very tasty. The other option is to stir in a couple of big spoons of a very good Red Currant Jelly (PW brand is good and made in house) to enrich the sauce. Turkey sorted, now for the ham.

The Ham

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All I ask is that you get one full of taste, free from as much water as possible. The prices will vary between $8 to $40 a kilo. Be aware that you will get what you pay for, but also be sure that you have tasted the top end hams. Myself, I favour a ham from Bangalow but that is my taste memory from the days when Mum bought her ham, sliced from Swintons Your Grocer in Warrnambool. Why is taste memory always so good.

Glazing the ham is something that I like to do. There is a question about glazing with skin on or off. In my case it’s simple, I like to drape the turkey with the ham skin for the hot fast cook, removing it for the last 20 minutes to brown.

In which case… remove the skin. As a suggestion, don’t try and do this when the ham is chilled, it will work a lot better at room temperature (20 Celsius) or a degree or two warmer. Simple start to peel the skin back with a small knife and then, using your fingers, ease it right off. Keep for draping purposes. With the same small knife, cut into the fat and make a pattern, a criss cross is usual.

Bring the glaze to hot, but not boiling, using a brush, begin to paint the ham, allow to cool a little and coat again. Put the oven on to 180 Celsius and after it has reached heat, put ham in and cook for about 40 minutes. If there is some glaze left, pour it over the ham and return to the oven for a few minutes. Allow to cool.

The Rest

The stuffing should be made up according to the instructions, it is best cooked in a loaf tin, usually I would cover it in foil and add a little extra oil.. You can cook this in advance and simply warm it.

If you want roasted vegetables, do NOT cook them with the turkey, they can be done in advance, or as the turkey is having a rest after the heat of the oven, twenty minutes rest is suggested.

There you go…Now let me tell you the very good news, you can apply all of this to any poultry, the brining, the the high temperature roasting works really well on ducks and geese, it will remove a lot of the fat and you will end up with desirable crisp skin and moist flesh.

Felice Navidas, Buon Natale, Happy Xmas, it was all go. Years of being in food had left me a bit bad at the whole feast thing, it is some sort of subconscious thing that forbids me from nose diving into food and so, I sit back. I don’t like a piled high plate, so sitting there nibbling a bit of this and that worked well.

Dessert in the house fell a bit short of my personal festive season expectations, I like a plum pudding, I love a trifle, I love a big pavlova, I like a great bowl of chocolate mousse. Instead I felt like I was on restrictions, a fine thing for ones figure, but not altogether a great end to a festive meal. We live and learn.

In the run down, my biggest moan was that we did not have a Xmas cake… that luscious fruit filled cake that was then topped with heaps of icing. I think its essential. The logic was that since I am the only one who likes it and, the only one who should NOT eat it, problem solved. Bugger.

Mustard Sauce “Hovmästarsås”

6 tbsp sugar

Pinch of salt

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

4 tbsp of PW”s Imperial Russian Mustard

6-8 tbsp vegetable or olive oil

¼ cup chopped fresh dill

Pour the vinegar in a small bowl, mix with sugar and salt and stir until somewhat dissolved.  Add mustard and oil and stir until well mixed.  Cut the dill finely with scissors in a cup.  Add dill to the sauce and stir to mix.

The sauce is ready to be served and can be stored for several week in the fridge.

 

 

Char Siu Sauce/Marinade/Dry Rubs

•October 17, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Char Siu is a marinade that is used specifically for Pork. I have tried it on other meats, lamb is good.

The cuts used most are the belly and the eye fillet. In the case of the belly, the skin is removed and the belly is cut into strips about 2.5 cm wide and the length of the belly, in the case of the fillets, any connective tissues are cleaned off.

I like to try and marinade for a minimum of 24 hours and up to 48. Char Siu is a sticky, flavour filled sauce that needs time to penetrate the meat.

Use a zip lock bag and place the meats into the bag and a generous amount of the marinade, make sure that all surfaces of the meat are well coated and as much of the air as possible removed, place in the refrigerator for 22 hours or 46 hours, bringing the meat out of the refrigerator for two hours before cooking to allow it to come to room temperature.

Three choices for cooking… oven, grill or barbecue. In each case it is essential that the appliance be turned to maximum heat (domestic ovens take 20+ minutes to get hot). The grill should also be well heated as should the barbecue. Do not throw away the marinade from the bag, that will be used to baste after cooking.

For the oven… place a drip tray under a shelf that is at the hottest part of the oven, make sure the shelf is clean, place the pork on the shelf and close the door. It is hard to give a definitive cooking time, after 25/30 minutes you may want to test the meat, the eye fillet will be cooked, the belly pork not and will likely need another 25/30 minutes. Do NOT over cook, the meat should be sticky and brown on the outside and moist in the middle.

For the grill… you will need an exceptional grill that can be well heated. Place the meats on the oven tray over a drip tray and cook until done… turn as needed.

For the barbecue… traditionally this would be done in a Chinese style oven/barbecue (looks like a tandoor oven) with the meats suspended and the oven super hot…this has the effect of cooking the meat very quickly, leaving it moist and deliciously browned. The same method is used for Ducks.

Which ever way you go, please remember to baste the pork (or lamb if you have tried it) with the marinade/sauce after cooking.

Serve with rice and stir fried vegetables.

Barbecue Sauce/Marinade.

Owing much to the USA this is typical of the type of sauce that can be used two ways.

Way 1… is to use it as a marinade for up to 24 hours before cooking. This is purely to add flavour, it is not designed to tenderise.

Meat choice… in some countries, the meat chosen will be a large roast size weighing up to four or five kilos. Alternatively this can be used on steak sized or even on sates. The best technique is to have the meat in a zip lock bag and be well rubbed with the sauce, then allowed to rest in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Remove from the bag, cook as desired.

Way 2… the meat you choose can be rubbed with a dry rub, marinaded in any way that you desire, even simply given a nice rub with some good olive oil, salt and pepper. It is then cooked according to your choice and the sauce is used to paint onto the cooked meat prior to serving.

Rib Rubs.

Pork_Rib_Rub_530fb855c6b3e-230x230

We are somewhat inexperienced in cooking this cut of meat. Yet it is cheap and often delicious meat that will be well worth us learning the techniques.

Wending your way through the choice of rib is a little fraught and you will need to decide if you are going to have the ribs running as ribs or be cross cut. They can be called long ribs, short ribs. The third way is if you are buying beef ribs for an Asado (South American) barbeque in which case it will usually be different.. for more information please research.

Two ways to use the rub… dry or wet, the classic way is dry. The method is very simple, rub the meat with the dry rubs and allow to stand for up to 24 hours (your guessed it… in a zip lock bag), it is not usual when cooking meats with dry rubs, to cook on high heat as this will burn thbe spices and turn them very bitter. If the heat is a high temperature, then be sure to baste the ribs with some oil to ensure that they seal and retain moisture. The oil will crisp them.

The second way is to mix the rub in with some oil and lemon juice (or even some wine… you are looking for anything acidic) and rub this into the meat, and again in that enless supply of zip lock bags, allow the meat to stand for 24 hours.

Ribs are traditionally cooked on an open flamed barbeque and this does seem to bring out the best flavour in them. Cook as per your normal barbeque method and serve with salads.

Bread… with a great recipe

•October 2, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Bakers Baking

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I am obsessed, so many things, so much to do and the days fly by. I am reminded again that one of my more developed obsessions is with bread and baking in general. I blame Iris Edna for this, she made me love bread far too much.

The king of the bakers in Port Fairy was of course, Little Tommy Digby of whom I have written often and who still looms large in my thoughts and food dreams, his contribution to my life of food and eating was boundless influence and even today I can still taste the pastry, the Neapolitan slice and the jam roll and the dozens of other cakes and breads that he made daily for Caddies in the back room with the great wood and gas brick ovens that gave such a special taste.

Alas the king is no more, retired to his fathers stone house at the East Beach and playing the organ at the church, his magic is passed on to others but they do not, as far as I know, have the same touch for the bake house as he did. Well at least not as far as I am concerned.

A magazine crossed my desk today, compliments of the peak body of the bakers of Australia. It made me very nervous and yet also reflective. Have I got the right to demand wood fired ovens made from brick, have I got the right to want breads that are made from superb flours with real yeasts and sour dough starters, have I got the right to demand from my local baker, cakes of great quality and taste, jams that are real, sugars that are free from chemicals. In fact the whole thing free from chemicals. I think I do, but alas I may well be alone in this, since most bakers these days seem not to be able to make breads from scratch, cakes from beginning to end. At least that’s the way the magazine sees it.

Lets look at this one thing at a time. Ovens seems like a place to start. Let me start with a question… why is it that Italian Pizza makers and Jamie Oliver all seem to think that a wood fired oven is essential to life and limb and, while I am at it, a trip by anyone to Costante Imports in Bell Street Preston, will garner you a small, but impressive (steel it has to be admitted) outdoor oven, along with some of the great Italian cooking delights, you will leave there with a much deflated wallet. The food cooked in these things does taste different, it has a more earthy, rich and round taste. Why is it that bakers who have been lucky enough to have found premises with wood fired ovens installed, cannot bake enough bread to keep up with the demand. But please, tell me someone, and I am prepared to be wrong here; are the stainless steel and glass, free standing, plug in, on wheels ovens of todays bake house any better/worse/same as wood fired or for that matter gas ovens?

Is this whole issue a little like the unwashed baking dish of my mothers past, made the best gravy and roast meats to perfection, roast potatoes that you would travel to eat. A clean stainless steel roasting dish is just not the same. But then again it can be me, I have noticed as I grow into maturity, a decided tendency to reject the new and spiffy and rely on the old clobber. Mind you there are some things that you just have to have, blenders, mixers, induction cook tops and oh, I would say about a million or so small, but in my case utterly essential tools and appliances which no kitchen of mine could ever possibly not have.

Turned the page and became nauseous. They are now introducing a bread that is made with gelatine. Gelatine is for Jellies. Claims that the bread is made much softer and delicious with the addition of this product. I could feel the spirit of Tommy Digby move at that moment, as if to haunt the page and try to expunge it from view.

So much flour is grown under less than ideal conditions and so much of the wheat and grain is grown with way too many chemicals. Its all about production and money money money. Its about way to much of our wheat and grain farms being taken over by multi nationals and using the same techniques as are found in the USA, developing mega farms. Bugger it, I want to see Australian farms left in the hands of farmers who have farmed and grown on them for generations, I don’t want to see us loose our quality and our standards. I am also alarmed to see that GM modified flour is fast becoming a reality and that is not good.

Google organic flour and you will be surprised to see how few growers and mills there are, it is not of major interest or impact in the over all sales and these would have to come from the bread manufacturers of the ubiquitous white sliced loaf, sold and eaten by millions, I don’t know that even amongst the artisanal bakers of bread, you could actually buy a loaf that is baked from certified organic flour. It may be that owing to some regulation and price manipulation, the cost of a fully organic commercial loaf would be too high.

But lets take a look at the operators of the bakeries in Australia. I am sure that in some there will be found men and woman who have served their apprenticeship and have learned their craft and cooking ability. I have in my possession a hotel training manual from the kitchens of what was the Victoria Hotel in Little Collins street. This hotel was the hotel that served the vast majority of country people who came to Melbourne for various reasons, it offered great clean accommodation and a dining room that specialised in foods similar to what would be found at home. It boasted an almost self sufficient kitchen and amongst the things that they did was to bake their own bread. The manual covers all the steps and moves in detail for not only bread, but cakes, biscuits and deserts. It is, by any standard a revelation and should be used today by the many bread shops which dot the landscape offering mediocre food and called by themselves, artisanal. Indeed it may well be an art, but it certainly lacks the taste and food values that, as an indulged fellow in a town of just 2000 people, came to accept and expect from the three bakers in town. I wonder what sort of courses are offered and their content in the food teaching facilities today, are the young bakers required to undergo some sort of formal training, or is it a matter of learn as you go on the job, you wonder how much learning is needed to simply add water and stir well to the ‘bread mixes’ that are supplied by head office. Mind you to know just what is in those mixes would also be of enormous interest.

Sadly we have become a society that accepts that mediocre is good enough, that bread the like of which I grew up on is no longer widely available and that should you be lucky enough to have a great baker near you, then you are going to pay extra for the bread. Complain bitterly I say, bitch and moan and you will get good results. Do not accept second best, maybe the odd time, specially in the area of human relations, but when it comes to food, no way. Or bake your own bread…

1 kg bread flour (slightly higher Protein content)

780 mil water

20 grams salt (I usually add 1.5 desert spoons of cooking salt)

1 teaspoon dry yeast

1 level dessertspoon of sugar… no more.

Put all the above into a container (I use a 10 litre plastic bucket with a lid) that you can leave it in overnight. Use the handle end of a wooden spoon and mix until all is combined. The mix will look lumpy. With 20 minute intervals … wet your hand and pull the dough from the corner (4 directions) into the middle, stretching well. By the end of the fourth round, your dough will be silky smooth and a little on the wet side. Put it to sleep overnight.

Turn your stove on to 240 Celsius and put into it a lidded cast iron casserole pot. The idea is that it should get as hot as the oven. Meanwhile sprinkle a little flour around the perimeter of the container, release the dough and do a bit stretch of the dough upwards and fold to the other corner, this is called stretch and fold. Do this for all 4 corners, twice. Wait until the pot and oven have reached heat, remove the cast iron casserole, sprinkle it well with flour, carefully lift the bread into the pot, replace lid and return to the oven. Cook for 30 – 35 minutes with the lid on, remove the lid and cook for a further 10 – 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack. Simple, delicious and rewarding.

Poverty Giving & Nature

•October 1, 2018 • Leave a Comment

We have just seen the absolute destruction that can happen with almost no warning, one minute sitting with family, the next fighting for your life in a swirling whirlpool of stones, bodies and debri. And then all around you is death and destruction, not even any way to get food. Happens in an instant,

I had many conversations with the people of beautiful Pangandaran in Java, wonderful simple people living their lives in a region of great beauty and abundance. Then a piece of the wall of the Sunda Trench broke off, followed by a terrifying Tsunami and in a second, all was destroyed and hundreds of people dead. My Friend Erin said it was like being in a washing machine of water mud and rocks. Few had the strength to survive it. I only saw the devastation after a year or so and even then it was absolute.

I wrote this a year or so back, but it remains true today with the addition of a messed up political situation in Australia and a world dogged by men of little compassion and a lot of self greed. Things can only get better.

Poverty, pass the biscuits!

Jen asked had I seen a short film on an Indian man who was feeding the poor… Nuhuh, I am such a goody goody two shoes, think I am doing ok with my one or two donations of food and money for the poor each year.  Well I am not, by comparison to this man, I am not even close.

Watching it squeezed my heart. I’ve been to India, I have seen the poor, desparation, hunger. Felt it, specially in the young and the old. Seen kids who maim themselves so they can beg. Seen the old dragging themselves through one day to the next, just so they can die with some dignity. Yet I have managed to walk away.

This man could not walk away, he shames me.

Sometimes we all feel down, bit flat. Upset when politicians muck up, upset when we see the way life is, food is. Deep in avarice, unable to control our lives. Lost so much. Forced to chase the dollar, just to live. It’s not easy.

Yet, we have never faced this, never faced not knowing where the next mouthful of food is coming from. I remember an Indian kid I met in Dharamsala during a visit to prop up my ailing philosophical beliefs. Little kid, maybe 9 or 10, begging. Been begging for years. his begging supported his family, Mother and sister. He had no place to sleep. He said it was only difficult at night when it was cold. It gets very cold in Dharamsala. Dharamsala is knee deep in Buddhist monks and nuns, maybe that was a good choice on his part. It truly rattled me for a day or so, I recovered, picked myself up.

Same trip I ran into a girl I had met in Australia at a Buddhist centre, she was experiencing life on the streets in India with nothing. somehow she had lost everything, passport, the lot. She said she lived by doing a bit of sewing, she was good at it and it brought in enough for some rice. It was a puzzling, confronting experience. Westerners were supposed to be helping Indian poor, not the other way. At the time I may have justified it by thinking things like karma. Maybe I was reminded of one of my mothers sayings.. ‘there but for the grace of god go I’. I wonder what happened to her.

Raised C of E, became Buddhist, caring sharing, travelled in Asia, seen the tough side of life, big family, lost and gained, weight and money. Worked hard, still do! Don’t feel like I have over indulged in the hedonistic side of life. I am shamed that I do so little.

How do I change, overcome the fear. Could I, would I be brave enough to do what this man does, would I ever be able to find the courage and strength. I doubt it. I might fool myself occasionally by thinking that my one or two good deeds are sufficient. They aren’t, barely touch the sides. Maybe I sustain my own self belief by comparing myself with others. But that’s an odious practice, means you judge others. If I look at the world around me in Australia, I will see little but people trying hard to live, keep up with debt and hold their jobs. I will see reflections of me, looking in a mirror.

Writing about this stuff is an apologia.. not real. A way of holding back the real issues, putting some space between, keeping the enemy at bay. A salve for the wound, a paste over the heart. In Buddhist teachings, wisdom and compassion walk hand in hand, the path of the saint, the Bodhisattva. It tells me that I am no saint, not close even.

And then the news today, ten thousand, maybe more, have lost their lives. Lost hope, lost homes, lost every damn thing. All because of a huge Typhoon that blasted in to their region and reeked havoc. We were spell bound that this was the biggest weather system ever recorded to make land fall. We seemed to not be aware of the massive human suffering that would occur, or in fact even that concerned. Just so long as it did not touch our own happy lives.

Well, it does.

I have a couple of Filipina friends, I got an attack of the panics, as the Super Typhoon started to make land fall, I worried. Fired off a couple of electro-contacts and crossed my fingers. One of them had managed to haul himself out of the swirling all consuming poverty of Filipino life, the other hadn’t and I was constantly trying to help him. Everything I ever did for Joven resulted in some sort of failure and the number of times I had been forced to rescue him from a variety of horrible situations and get him home to the relative safety of his sisters house, was staggering. With Joven’s luck, he could have been standing on the beach as the typhoon approached, convinced of his survival. I don’t think he even got my electro-message, I just prayed that he was inland with his sister and not once again ‘trying his luck’ in a world that simply did not understand him.

In all this madness, all this life in a world that demands more and more, becomes more confusing, less human, less caring, lets raise a cup of tea to all those people on the planet who can’t keep up, who are poor, who struggle with life. Lets spare a thought for the kids who will never know anything but a life of hard work and poor reward.

Lets celebrate life, for all its greatness and horror, it may often not be nice, it may be extremely difficult, but it remains an amazing thing.