Somehow, this play feels as though it deserves a bit more thought and commentary than some of the other Shakespeare posts I’ve done. So, since the lovely Melissa Siah (also known as Gardiner, the Evil Catholic Bishop of Winchester) took a lot of photos of the food yesterday, some of which are remarkably stunning and arty, I think I shall take advantage of this and use some of the more artistic ones to illustrate my Shakespearean thoughts, and the more straightforward ones to illustrate the important bragging about food…
Monthly Archives: November 2011
Just a preview, because I am exhausted by hours of cooking and not enough sleeping, and also, strangely, by reading Catherine of Aragon, for whom I have a lot of sympathy at the best of times and who really is very compelling in this play.
So here’s your trivia question for today:
Can you name Henry’s six wives and their fates?
Here’s a small hint:
I am ridiculously proud of these cakes, which are, of course, only a very small part of the Insane Quantities of Food (TM) prepared this weekend. Though, actually, I didn’t overcater all that drastically.
You’ll get the proper photographic post with everything else tomorrow, or possibly Tuesday, once I’ve sorted through all the photos taken by the lovely Melissa Siah.
But I’ll leave you with this somewhat disturbing thought: Catherine of Aragon was Henry’s Queen from 1509-1533 (though she and I would both maintain that she was in fact Queen until her death in 1536, since the Pope never did rule on that annulment). Katherine Howard and Katherine Parr were born in 1518 and 1512, respectively, to noble English families, who did have a tendency to name children after members of the royal family.
What are the odds that Henry’s last two Queens were named after his first one?
And if so, is that creepy or what?
Brunswick and Coburg, the suburbs in which I have lived most of my adult life, were both settled from the 1950s onward by working class immigrants from Italy, Greece, Turkey and other parts of the Mediterranean. The proof of this is in the architecture (lots of brown brick, pillars, lion statues, and yellow glass windows – though also enormous kitchens, and often an extra kitchen in the garage) and in the back gardens, which tend to be full of vegetables and fruit trees. Sometimes, the front gardens are also planted full of vegetables, all in neat rows and shaded from the heat of summer by carefully draped sheets.
Of course, not everyone has time to grow vegetables. And some people have moved out of their Italian palazzi and left the garden to less-motivated Anglo buyers. But there are a few hardy Mediterranean plants which, though they may not be found in every Coburg or Brunswick garden, are found in so many of them that one is surprised to see a garden without any.
Olive trees are the first of these. We don’t have one ourselves, but our neighbours do. I think, actually, our neighbours on both sides have them. Lavender is another very popular Coburg choice. It may not be Mediterranean but it does seem to turn up a lot in Mediterranean gardens of the Melbourne kind. Rosemary, of course, is vital. You see it in hedges (you see lavender hedges too, but much less often), and in herb patches and as groundcover. Rosemary loves the Australian climate and is virtually unkillable here. There is a lot of rosemary in Coburg.
Last, and most iconic of all, is the lemon tree. Everybody has one. You don’t need much space for it, and you can use lemons in everything. When I was househunting, even the tiniest gardens and the gardens owned by people who clearly weren’t that interested in gardening had, as a minimum, a stretch of lawn with a lemon tree out the front and a clothesline out the back. You mightn’t grow anything else, but you grew lemons.
I’d be hard pressed to think of a house I’ve seen in my area that didn’t have at least one of these bushes or trees. Most have two or three of them. We have everything except the olives (we make up for the lack of olives with self-sown fig trees). This cake, then, is the essence of Coburg gardens. It tastes like our garden smells in summer, of lemons, lavender and rosemary, with a hint of olive oil in the background. It’s dense and sweet and aromatic and full of yoghurt and ground almonds (two more very Coburg ingredients), so it will keep for days. I’m actually really proud of this cake – it’s based on a Diana Henry recipe (for rose and lime syrup cake), but the flavour profile is utterly different – completely unrecognisable.
Also, it’s dead easy to make.
Your Shopping Listzest and juice of 1 1/2 good-sized lemons, preferably from someone’s back yard 175 g + 150 g caster sugar 275 ml water 3 small sprigs of fresh rosemary 200g self-raising flour 115 g ground almonds (the coarse type which still have some of the skins are good here) 1 – 1 1/2 tsp dried lavender, pounded in a mortar and pestle (or a teaspoon of lavender water, or replace some of the sugar with lavender sugar) 1 tsp baking powder pinch of salt 2 large eggs 250 ml Greek yoghurt 150 ml olive oil
Someone from work has been trimming his or her rosemary bushes again, so I’ve snagged another gorgeous branch of rosemary for my culinary needs. (The things I suffer…)
I’m pretty well set for the next week of dinners, and I don’t feel like replacing any of my plans with kebabs, but I do need a dessert for tonight, and my imagination is running wild…
And because I’m a bit silly, here’s a poll on the very important topic of What Shall I Make For Dessert Tonight?
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Another farmers’ market Sunday, and one at which I had to exercise a certain amount of self-restraint. It may seem obvious to you that the last thing I need when I’m harvesting radishes by the handful from my own garden … Continue reading
(This is another one of those ‘I’m really not vegetarian’ posts.)
I talk a fair bit here about respecting the chicken (or the lamb, or the beef, as the case may be), and being mindful of where meat comes from, both in terms of the way the animal has been raised and treated during its life, and in terms of remembering that it is a whole animal – not just the breast or leg or maybe some mince.
But having said that, I’m actually fairly new to the idea of using as much of the beast as possible. This is partly because I really do not like offal (and yes, I have tried it), partly because it’s just easier to buy meat which doesn’t require trimming or boning or whatever, and partly because my tastes in meat are a bit boring and Andrew doesn’t like meat that is recognisable as meat, so to speak.
This makes the idea of using as much of the animal as possible rather daunting…
On the other hand, when I do manage to start with a whole chicken, and break it down into its components and use it over several meals and make stock with the remains, I feel so terribly pleased with myself afterwards… Also, thrifty! And, while it makes extra work at the beginning of the week, it saves work later in the week, so you don’t lose much time by it.
(and also, I find that we then tend to go vegetarian for the entire following week because we are so entirely over chicken by that point, which is thrifty *and* ethical! Bonus! – though of course, one does have the option of freezing things…)
Anyway, this post isn’t about pretending that it isn’t easier to buy your chicken just by the section you want to use (especially, of course, if you live alone – I don’t think any single person can reasonably be expected to deal with that level of leftover-commitment), and nor is it going to be a moral high-ground thing. But I suspect I’m probably not the only person out there who really likes the idea of using a whole chicken and making stock and doing exciting things with leftovers but is totally intimidated when actually faced with a whole chicken. There are, undoubtedly, other ways to do this, but here’s what I do.
I know, I know, it’s November and I’m talking about Christmas. But a traditional Christmas Pudding should be made well in advance, though mine is a fridge-dweller rather than the kind you hang off the clothes-horse to dry out. Also, of course, if you’re an Australian it always pays to take advantage of any cold snaps in late November or early December for your Christmas baking – nobody wants to stand over a pudding steamer for seven hours in 35°C weather or worse… (One of the nice things about living in Melbourne is that if you *do* like to do traditional Christmas baking, you are almost guaranteed a couple of good, cold, rainy late-November or early December weekends in which to do it.)
I’m a traditionalist in my Christmas tastes. While Christmas falls in what we like to think of as summer, this is Melbourne we’re talking about, and the weather really can do anything – I’ve had my share of ludicrously hot Christmases, but I have lived through plenty of cold, wet Christmas Days in my time (generally when we were at the beach) and one year we even managed to have snow (in the Dandenong ranges, but that’s technically part of Melbourne. Where I was, we just had hail. Lots of hail. And I had no coat or umbrella, because it had been hot when I left for choir in the morning…). That isn’t a Tall Melbourne Weather Tale, either, though I have plenty of those, too.
All of which is to say that if you are a Melbournian, a traditional roast dinner and steamed Christmas pudding is, quite frankly, just as good a bet for weather-appropriate Christmas dinner as a seafood barbecue or a selection of cold salads. Not least because you can pretty much guarantee that if you go for an all-cold Christmas meal, Melbourne will cackle wickedly and produce 15°C and hail, and you will all sit around the table feeling chilled and miserable. I’ve learned to plan Christmas dinners that can be served hot or cold, depending on the weather forecast…
(Incidentally, I happen to adore Melbourne’s meteorological waywardness, so no insulting our weather here! I wouldn’t take Sydney or Adelaide’s weather if you paid me, and as for Darwin, well, the less said about that, the better.)
Anyway, after that lengthy digression, this is my recipe for Christmas pudding. It is heavily adapted from a now-lost cookbook that may or may not have had something to do with the Country Women’s Association. On reflection, I suspect not, because they are probably traditional enough to use suet.
And now you know what I’ll be doing after choir on Sunday.
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2 cups raisins
2 cups sultanas
1 1/2 cups currants (I’m thinking this year I’ll add some dried cherries here)
1 apple, grated (original has 2/3 cup chopped pitted prunes)
1 cup chopped mixed peel
finely grated rind of one lemon
1 carrot, grated coarsely (original recipe has 1/2 cup blanched almonds, chopped)
1 box of breadcrumbs from the supermarket (original recipe has 3 1/2 cups soft white breadcrumbs)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup plain flour
1/2 tspn salt (which I rarely remember to put in)
nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, alspice, cloves – the recipe says 1 tspn mixed spice and 1/2 tspn nutmeg, but I tend to use a teaspoon or more of most of these. It’s really to taste
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup brandy
1/4 cup orange juice (recipe says half cup each brandy and stout, or orange juice)
250g butter melted
Note that you can pretty much replace any fruit and nuts with others if you prefer – I replaced the peel with glace ginger for someone who didn’t like peel, for example. It’s mostly about getting wet and dry ingredients in just proportion.
So I was minding my own business at work this Friday (and I apologise once again for the dearth of posts here, but work has been *crazy*) when I got an SMS from Andrew: “Do you have a recipe for pumpkin and sweet potato salad?”. As it happens, I don’t, so I SMSed back: “No, but I can write one! What do you need…?”
Anyway, it transpired that one of the teachers at the school where Andrew is doing his placement had a sweet potato and pumpkin salad at some point which she really liked. She thinks it had Philadelphia cheese in it, and that the vegetables were roasted. I had no problem with roast pumpkin in a salad (indeed, roast vegetable and chickpea salad is one of my favourite lunches after a roast the night before), but was dubious about the Philly. I still am dubious, in fact, but fortunately I am not even a little bit dubious about Persian feta, which is creamy and tangy and makes much more sense in this context…
Here’s my version. It’s rather lovely, if I say so myself – sweet and mellow from the vegetables and peppery from the rocket and creamy and tangy from the cheese. And so colourful!
Your Shopping list2 medium sweet potatoes (about 700g in total) a big wedge of pumpkin (about 800g) olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper 1 medium bunch of rocket 1-3 spring onions, depending on whether they are the lovely chubby oniony ones or the ones that are like giant chives. 100 g persian feta olive oil, balsamic vinegar