EDIT: Now, where were we before we were interrupted?
Thank you all for your patience and understanding while this giveaway was postponed. To thank you for your support, Kambrook are now offering a second pressure cooker up for grabs – that’s right, TWO pressure cookers are yours to win.
Suzanne Gibbs, the daughter of Margaret Fulton, famously recounts a story from her childhood when a pressure cooker exploded into the ceiling after a long day when La Fulton was trying to get dinner – for visiting guests – on the table. Unfortunately, it’s an all too common memory amongst home cooks of a certain generation – pressure cookers were notoriously temperamental and inclined to explode their contents all over the kitchen if they were not sealed tightly. It’s not so surprising that the popularity of pressure cookers declined at the exact time microwave ovens became cheaper and widely available, and so an entire generation of cooks – myself included – never got to appreciate them for their wonderful advantages.
There has always been much to recommend pressure cookers – not only are they THE appliance to use for speedy cooking but they lock in all the nutritional goodness of the food inside. Best of all, they work best with so-called secondary cuts of meat, those cheap cuts that tenderise beautifully after hours of slow cooking. With a pressure cooker, a three-hour casserole can be made and on the table within the hour and yet still have a reduced and rich sauce, and tender caramelised meat and vegetables. Use it for curries, lamb shanks, perfectly soft spare ribs, soups and stocks, stews and braises in a third to a quarter of the cooking time of a conventional casserole and just a fraction of the time of a slow cooker. Read more…
With pumpkin well in season, now is the time to take advantage of prices as low as a dollar a kilo. The question then becomes one of how to use it all up, especially if you don’t much care for pumpkin soup.
Hard to believe I know, but as my housemate reminds me, it does happen. Pumpkin soup is not universally popular, despite our best efforts to convince the nay-sayers.
The lovely thing about this pie is that you can substitute many of the ingredients. It’s a fantastic resource for an end-of-week fridge clear out. I used pumpkin, but a layer of sweet potato works just as well. Instead of capsicum you could use a layer of squeezed out frozen spinach. Use roast vegetables, peas and corn kernels, some sliced carrots, even lentils or quinoa. Substitute the ricotta for cottage cheese, and if you have none, use mozzarella or bocconcini, or some grated tasty cheese mixed through the vegetables. It’s a very generous and compliant meal, generously supporting many food combinations. Read more…
Three years after Dad’s last birthday, it’s the little things that trip me up and tilt me into tears. A shared joke. A piece of music. His sense of the absurd. I feel him with me whenever I fly, whenever I watch the mens singles at Wimbledon, and always when I see a happy labrador.
A sponge cake similar to this one was the last thing I ever made him, for his birthday, just six weeks before he died. I made it even though the bastard illness had reduced his appetite, even though he was by then too wasted and atrophied to walk and too tired to talk. Even though it meant two hours of cooking, two hours to his place and just ten minutes of his attention, if I was lucky, if the illness and drug haze would go away long enough for him to focus. He had just one mouthful before apologising to me that he could not finish it.
And then he passed and I swore I would never cook another sponge cake again. There is no place in the recipe for salty tears and it was too technical a process to allow for the distraction of grief. I just couldn’t face it.
So I wrote and made another 1000 recipes beforehand and my days passed without regret that this recipe would not be written.
But of course, even though friends will tell you that time passes and gently heals, no-one can say when or where circumstances might provide a moment of grace and reflection. So when talk unexpectedly turned last month to sponge cakes on our Facebook page, I knew the time had come.
There comes a time, all too sudden and unexpected when a GP will look you in the eye and give you the ‘At Your Age With Your Family History” speech and very confronting it is too. Because, if you are anything like me, you avoid those times as much as possible.
It turns out that us women are really not very good at paying attention to our own needs. Who knew? As speedily as we might whisk someone else to a doctor’s appointment, we are less inclined to do so for ourself, preferring to run around after children, stay back and finish the end of month report, walk the dog, fix dinner, ignore that nagging pain, self-medicate the cough away.
The last time I saw a doctor she gave me a pap smear, a breast examination, weighed me and took my blood pressure then we talked about suitable contraception for a woman my age. It has now been so long since I last saw a GP that I can confidently tell you contraception would be the very last thing I would need to discuss now. I have reached That Age, when all my genetic chickens are coming home to roost, enabled and enhanced by my rapidly advancing menopausal years. Nowadays, my GP wants to know about My Family Medical History.
In the mid 1970s while still living in Cornwall, I commenced what was then called O Levels. As well as the mandatory English and Maths, my subjects included Biology, History, Geography, French – and Cookery.
It was called Cookery then, long before it became Home Economics or Food Technology, but to this day it remains the only formal study of cooking and nutrition I’ve done. The double period of lessons each week was always conducted in a kitchen and it was there I learnt to make flaky pastry, a fat-less sponge cake and how to work with arrowroot and gelatine amongst other skills. I was perfectly content in this world, but trouble lay away from the classroom. The theory involved – and the homework – was spent working out how protein is broken down and ingested, the correct way to re-heat food (and so avoid food poisoning), meal plans for diabetics, how Vitamin C is absorbed and so on. It was difficult course-work and I stumbled through it with very poor results. I doubt I would have passed this O Level had I continued. As it was, we relocated to Sydney and I abandoned Cookery, at least in the formal sense, at the end of Year 10.
Still, there are some basic recipes from this time that I constantly return to, not least when making cakes and pastries.
Last month the Queensland branch of the CWA contentiously decided to allow the use of packet cake mixes into their cake competitions. I took it to the Facebook community and we were all united in our opinion – it makes for poor cookery skills. Not because packet mixes aren’t useful, but how else do you learn the value of weighing and measuring ingredients, how do you learn to trust your judgement when assessing that the creaminess of whisked butter is just right? How else to you gauge, just by the merest drop, how much of a dash of vanilla extract to put in?
In short, how else do you learn to trust your judgement and so become an intuitive cook?
So, let’s begin trusting that intuition, with the most basic of all sponge cakes – a butter cake. Read more…
According to the Australian Museum, there is an astonishing 1262 species of fish in Australian waters, grouped into more than 260 families of fish. As if that’s not hard enough to get your head around, local areas (and by extension, your local retailer or fish market) have their own colloquial name for various fish.
For example, in NSW, Hake is used for some types of shark (and often used in fish and chip shops, so I won’t touch it), but denotes a member of the Blue Grenadier family in Victoria. I had never heard of Blue Grenadier before moving to Melbourne, but let me tell you, it’s lovely to eat. A fish I call Bonito in NSW is called Pike in Melbourne and is called Snook in Adelaide. A Blue-eyed Cod is not technically a cod at all (it’s a trevalla), while NZ Rockling (Victoria), which is called Ling in NSW, is a member of the cod family.
No wonder my friend was so confused. Most of us are.
I adore cheesy biscuits as a snack on their own or as a base to other tasty morsels. Of course I’m not alone, and second only to bacon I’m sure most people agree that cheese biscuits go with everything. Let’s face it, most people have a box of savoury biscuits in their cupboards, ready to break out whenever hunger pangs strike and therein lies the problem: One only has to look at the thousands of miles of supermarket shelving in this country filled with boxes of savoury biscuits to understand just how addicted to salt (and not cheese or sugar, or butter) we have become. It’s an insidious problem.
So, while I will never convince a student household to do away with boxes of Shapes and the like, I might have a better alternative for those of you who want the all taste without the chemically overloaded processed pap that feeds our addiction. There’s not an E number in sight of these little beauties. Read more…