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.

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. 1. Place a pot of well salted water and bring it to the boil.
  2. 2. When boiling place in the segmented cauliflower (broken into florets).
  3. 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. 1. Tahini with Pomegranate seeds, caramelised Onion and Parsley.
  2. 2. Blue Cheese with Caramelised Walnuts.
  3. 3. Hummus with Yoghurt and parsley with a squeeze of Lemon.

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.

I must have eaten a million salads, not all of them came to expectation, some soggy, some dry, some with wrong dressing completely. We have been hurled around the place with a thousand or two variations on multiple themes, most thanks to the endless inventivness of the USA cooks and TV presenters. Think BBQ pittmasters and huge number of diner's, think a population who, unless the plate is filled to the extreme and in danger of causing major catastrophe, don't regard it a meal. Chefs needed to have a large repetoir of dressings. In some cases, all topped off with litres of melting cheese (can you believe the cheese is kept melted on the stove just to pour over the dish).

As a kid, I knew just two salad dressings, one was a mix of boiled egg yolks mashed with some cream and vinegar, I think this is what the Brits called a salad cream, then Mum discovered the condensed milk and vinegar combo, but she always had the boiled 2/4/6/8 dressing in the jar in the ice box. I left Port Fairy to work in Melbourne and begin my education in food and eating.  I came home raving about the delicious combination of Olive Oil and Red Wine Vinegar (Mum was stunned over this one, the only vinegars she had ever known were Malt and the mouth wrenching White Vinegar made from ascetic acid) who knew that wine would become vinegar if left alone. I don't think Mum had ever tasted red wine, maybe her sisters who had married well and moved to Adelaide, but Mum married a butcher in a seaside town. She cooked what her mother had cooked. But then when I said that the new fangled garlic that Edgar Egan, local greengrocer had bought in at the behest of several European families, had to be included, along with a bit of Dijon mustard, her eyes bulged. She thought it too sour, but tasty, I added a splidge of sugar and that helped. It never did get the tick of approval from Dad!

Salad Cream how ever did..

Ingredients

2 free-range eggs, hard-boiled, yolks only 

2 tbsp English mustard

½ lemon, juice only

1 tbsp caster sugar

3 tbsp white wine vinegar

150ml/5fl oz double cream

150ml/5fl oz olive oil

salt and ground white pepper

Method

Place all of the ingredients, apart from the oil and seasoning, into a food processor. 

Blend until the cream starts to thicken then gradually add the oil, until the salad cream is smooth and emulsified. 

Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground white pepper.

Mum had several Boiled Salad Dressings, some were very sweet. The one I think she did most was 2/4/6/8

2 eggs beaten

4 level tblspns sugar

6 level tblspns milk      

8 level tblspns white vinegar

1 tspn sugar

salt to taste.

Put all in the top of a double boiler saucepan and place over heat, stir asll the time until the mixture thickens. If you boil the water too hard, you may curdle the mix.

This one is good... it contains flour and is a bit more punchy.

1 level tblspn plain flour

1 level tblspn mustard powder

1/2 cup white vinegar

1/2 salt

2 eggs

1/2 cup white sugar

1 cup milk

1 tblspn butter

Place all but the milk and butter in the top of double saucepan, bring to heat and stir constantly, when thickened, add the milk stiring well, allow the sauce to thicken, remove from heat and stir in the butter. Allow to cook and store in a cool place.

And then..

I once went on a fruitless search of exploration for wine vinegars and their history in Australia. My conclusion was that very little wine vinegar was used, if it was, it was mostly by the Upper Classes, the wine makers and found in South Australia and the Hunter Valley. Fruit vinegars were made in patches, often Tasmania, but never widespread until the advent of Raspberry Vinegar and about that, enough said. My mother's go to was always Malt vinegar, it was the vinegar cuisine poverra in Australia. Made from beer it was easy to do and with less sourness than wine vinegars, greatly favoured.

Mums salads were not extravagent, they consisted of lettuce (most often grown in Dad's garden) tomato, carrot, celery, cucumber, beetroot, salad onion (all also from Dad's garden) on the odd occasion and to say to the world, some left over green peas, some grated apple and later, a potato salad. Salads were thought of as 'summer' food and rarely made an appearence in winter, Sunday evening was the exception when the cold left over meat from the sunday roast would appear, usually with some mashed potato and a bowl of shredded lettuce and some beetroot. Mums go to dressing for this was salad cream and I quite liked it drizzled on the mash potato.  The other option was what Mum called a Russian Salad and that was a lettuce cup filled with vegetable left over from the roast and dressed with her go to dressing.

Let me digress a bit, the Sunday Roast ws an institution in my youth, and much anticipated. My favourite was a corner Topside that Mum would stuff with her usual sage and onion stuffing, wrap in bacon and slather large amounts of beef dripping  and place in a moderate oven and cook for hours. The roast potatoes would be dark brown and crisp, the gravy delicious and the meat, if carved in thin enough slices, pretty damn good.  Mum's decision later on Sunday usually after the bowls club was, will we have cold meat that meal or more likely the Monday meal which would have Bubble and Squeak from the roast or three vegetables. My job was, usually after the beach, boil a couple of eggs, peel, cool and use the yolks for a dressing. I lived in hope that Mum would decide on scones and that would also mean a scone pizza... bits of bacon, cheese, tomato and onion all baked in the oven. Mum had mastered this and it appeared often on card nights.

Scones with a pizza top..

How ever many scones you have left over cut in half.

Enough slices of tomato to allow one per as above.

1 small 2 cm x 2 cm square of bacon to cover scones

Enough small onion rings to allow one per scone

Grated cheese to allow a small dollop on each of above

Place all on a tray and get the oven set onto 180 c, drizzle a little olive oil over the top of the scones and bake until they are cooked, about 30 minutes.

Serve warm.

If I knew that Mum was doing these for a card night supper, I was so nice, so polite and quite crawley until I got three or four and bannished to my room.

Cheap Meat

 

Today was one of those days when without even trying I found some meats that are always cheap and cheerful and which we, for some reason that I am yet to understand, no longer embrace! I need to pose the question...

Why do we always have to have meat that is - over trimmed - fatless -  oven or pan ready - or even worse - tasteless?

I was strolling through the market and came across these 'lamb off cuts' I suspect that they are neck of lamb, which for a while when some celebrity chef or aspirant, used in some fancy dish, at that moment, the price was doubled, they have now given way to what I always knew as forequarter of lamb/sheep/2 tooth and which my mother loved and most often boiled, but that not todays story. Suffice to say that Lamb Shoulder, SLOW COOKED, has become hugely celebrated for much the same reasons as the shanks and necks did, no doubt it too will fade back into yesterdays hero and lamb/sheep/2 tooth will again become a single dimensional meat, well trimmed and in the case of the chops (loin or what is now called bbq) will be tough and hard to eat, no matter how you cook them.

I was lucky, I bought four of these meaty on the bone items, not much fat and paid the princely sum of $8.95. A great bargain. I knew immediately what I was going to cook and I even bought some papradelli egg pasta when I saw some a little later. Dinner solved. It was a Ragu of Lamb cooked in the Greek style with some Papradelli and a good salad. Easy. Recipes follow. I have given you a recipe, very easy, I cooked mine in the heavy enameled iron pot on the oven for about three hours, let it sit to allow the fat and oil to rise to the top, skimmed that and as the pasta was cooking, put the pot back on the heat, added some fresh herbs, basil and parsley in fact and it was delicious.

Earlier in the week in my ceaseless quest for pork, I dashed into the local Vietnamese butcher across the road in Smith Street Collingwood (near the factory) I had seen some delicious looking pork belly in the window. A quick conversation with the butcher elicited the fact that it was female pork and dam fine it was too. But there, sitting next to the pork belly was a tray of pigs trotters at $3.50 each. I immediately bought four. As it turns out I had been chatting with two of my part time staffers, one Indonesian (Chinese) and one Thai and both had said that there was a very good little Thai restaurant tucked away in the arcade near the railway station in Hawthorn called I-Spicy (shop 19, 674 Glenferrie Road Hawthorn), a hole in the wall really and clearly focused at the many Asian students who attend Swinburne. The recommendation was a pork dish with water spinach but as ever I was seriously attracted to the pork trotter on the menu described as having been gently poached for three hours and then deep fried and sauced to a delicious stickiness and served on rice. Delicious does not do it justice.

Pork Hocks (or Trotters) are a much maligned bit of the pig, in many parts of Europe and the Mediterranean they are used as a casing, all the bone is removed and the cavities filled with minced meats and herbs, reshaped and poached and often fried (Cotechino of Italy is an example) There are many many recipes from almost every cuisine on earth. It needs to be remembered that pork was a meat that was in fact a peasant food, since the pig was an easy animal to breed and the litters were large. In times gone past, most people would have had a pig that they raised and eventually when it was fully grown, fat and often almost a member of the family, was slaughtered and in most countries, every single bit of the animal was used.

In so many ways we look back on this aspect of life gone past with great nostalgia and we are encouraged to dibble at the side here and there, slow cook this and that, but in fact we are so persuaded by media, medical and celebrity and lack of time, that we have very little remaining in our lives that embraces old ways. Media is so money driven that it follows the dictates of its major advertisers and rarely if ever, even consider suggesting to the public that foods, other than those sold directly by their major advertisers, has any merit. The medical lobby has succeeded in scaring the hell out of everyone with the tick campaign and instilled fear and loathing in everyone over fat and cholesterol. Whilst one must acknowledge that to eat excessive fat is not a good thing, its a little hard when (a) my grandfather lived to 94 and ate every bit of fat, butter cream he could find (b) We need a certain amount of fat in our diet and, how come the French are not a nation of fatties? They eat more butter than any other country on the globe? (c) The information we get is constantly conflicted, butter is bad, butter is good, fat is bad, fat is good. It may be of some advantage if internationally some sort of consensus was to be found and then, lay data on the unsuspecting public.

In the meanwhile I am going to toss my lot in with the French, the Greeks and the Italians and hope that, even if I don’t live a long life, I at least live a good one.

The recipes are as follows.

Ragu of Braised Lamb
 as cooked in Greece.

1kilo. of lamb shoulder (bone in) 
Or in my case neck of lamb off cuts.

1/4 cup olive oil 


1 large onion, diced


4 cloves of garlic, minced 


1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley


2 carrots, fine dice 


2 stalks of celery, fine dice 


1 tsp. dry rosemary 


3 - 4 sprigs of thyme 
(pull the leaves off the stems)

3 bay leaves 


2 cups of good tomato puree (passata) (I used two small cans of whole tomatoes, I like it better)

Really, simplicity itself, place all the ingredients in a heavy based pan, I added no extra water or wine, just the juice that accompanied the tomatoes and put into a slow oven 150 C for three or so hours until the meat was falling off the bone.

Serve with pasta of choice, the Greek solution may well have been to add some pasta to the pan itself, along with a little water to cook through and then its a complete dish.

The below dish is a good dish with lamb shanks...

Greek Braised Lamb Shanks

by AT THE GREEK TABLE on Saturday, January 23, 2010 at 11:11am

Greek Braised Lamb Shanks 
Every Greek kid grew up with some version of this dish – manestra – braised lamb shanks. My Mom would cover the roast and cook it in the oven for two and a half hours, then add a box of Orzo pasta and slow cook it for the last half-hour. In this contemporary twist of the recipe, I add a little of balsamic vinegar to cut into the fattiness of lamb shanks, crushed red pepper to give it a little bit of background heat, and natural honey instead of sugar. This is a nice dish for Sunday dinner with friends when you don’t want to have a lot of pots going. It can be prepared the night before and baked off Sunday morning. You can add baby potatoes after the first two hours of cooking or pasta for last half hour.

6 large lamb shanks

3 tablespoons olive

oil 
• salt, pepper and flour

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped carrot

6 large garlic cloves, chopped

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 tablespoon dry thyme

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper

1 tablespoon tomato paste

28 ounce can of tomatoes

2 cups red wine (merlot or cabernet)

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar 


1/2 cup honey

2 cups chicken broth 


baby potatoes or orzo pasta 



Preheat oven to 170 C

Heat oil in large ovenproof pot (wide enough to hold lamb in single layer) over medium-high heat. Sprinkle lamb on all sides with salt, pepper and flour. Add lamb to pot and sauté until brown, turning occasionally, about 10 minutes. Transfer lamb to plate. Add next 15 ingredients to pot and bring to a gentle boil, continue this until the liquid is reduced by half, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Return lamb to pot, arranging in single layer; add any accumulated juices and cover with lid or parchment paper and foil. Bake for 3 hours. (until the meat is fall off the bone tender)

Pork Trotters (Hocks)

I paid $3.50 per hock from my now favourite Vietnamese Butcher...

If you don’t have a master stock... just make this one up...

Master Stock - Chinese

5 litres of water

3 cloves of garlic (I leave them whole with the skin on)

1 decent knob of ginger, sliced about 3 cm

1 stick of Cassia Bark

2 Large Star Anise

3 Cardamom pods (green)

250 mil of Soy Sauce

250 mil Chinese Rice Wine (Shoaxing)

50 grams sugar (I used Palm Sugar)

Bring to the boil and allow to simmer for 10 minutes before using... add the pork hocks and turn way down to the lowest setting. Some say its good to do these in the oven, but they should cook for three hours and be butter tender. I think also you need to turn them once or twice and let all sides absorb the stock.


When cooked, remove them from the stock (carefully, they can easily fall apart..) now the hocks will have a central bone, keep the skin intact and remove the bone by pulling it out. Wrap each one individually in some cling wrap, making it into a nice shape. Place in the refrigerator over night.

The next day when the pork is cold, remove the cling wrap and slice into good thick slices... if you have a deep fryer, so much the better, if not, place them into a pan and fry both sides, hopefully the pork skin will get some cooking as well and become crisp.

Meanwhile, or maybe before you start the frying, make the following.

Chili Caramel Sauce

450 mil water

500 gr of palm sugar

45 mil fish sauce

60 mil of lime juice

2 red chili, finely chopped.

(you can add more chili if wanted)

Place 400 mil of the water and sugar into the pan and allow the sugar to melt and begin to boil and make a caramel, you can brush down the sides of the pot with a brush to stop the sugar crystals from forming (the brush needs to be dipped in water). When the caramel is well done, remove from the heat, add the 50 mil of water and allow to mix, add the chilies and the lime juice and fish sauce, cook for a few minutes.

Serve the Hocks on a bed of rice drizzle generously with this sauce. I also think a Thai vegetable salad is an essential accompaniment.

Good luck and do try and find and support butchers who offer you the full range of meats, great beef for braising that only comes when they break down a full carcass, lamb (not yet, but soon) right now 2 tooth and pork that is both well fed, allowed to free range and do what pigs do best, get fat.

https://goo.gl/ZRZTbZ

CHICKEN WITH ROASTED MUSHROOMS.

20150603 181244

There is the odd occasion when the creative juices flow and for some reason, dredged up from the very depths of taste and perhaps even some visual. Every now and then, something good comes of it. Last night I must have been inspired, it was delicious.