Category Archives: food memories

Travel Post: Back in Mainz, and a Feast

Saturday was a massive cooking day.  A couple of years ago, A showed her friend R my cooking blog, and he started following it.  When he heard I was visiting, he asked if I could come to his house and make a feast. (This is a little less opportunistic than it sounds – he volunteered himself, his wife K and my friend A as kitchen hands and bought all the ingredients. And provided all the wine and other drinks.)

This sounded like fun, so I said yes, and he got very excited and started inviting his friends to a feast cooked by ‘a famous Australian food blogger’, at which point I started feeling a little concerned that I wouldn’t be able to live up to the hype.

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Before we left for Dresden, A and I started to plan a menu, and R promised to order us a chicken from a local farmer.  A had told me that the farmer’s chickens are always huge, so I had planned to stuff it with rice and fruit and nuts and serve it with lots of different vegetable accompaniments, which I felt would be ample for the 6-7 people likely to be in attendance.

I relayed this to R, who immediately texted back ‘are you sure there will be enough food?’

Oh, R.  You read this blog.  You should know better.

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Recipe: Apricot Mousse, or possibly cold soufflé – a reconstruction

Happy Easter! I have heard the words ‘Christ is Risen’ in at least twelve languages, and have learned how having faith in the Resurrection is quite a lot like barracking for the Melbourne Demons, except that one’s hopes are more likely to be fulfilled in the former case.  (Apparently, our minister has been a Melbourne supporter since the mid-sixties.  During that time, Melbourne has won precisely zero premierships, and is mostly found holding up the ladder, or, as my father would have it, ‘lulling you into a false sense of security which may well turn out to be a true one…’).

Also, I finally got to sing a descant, so now I really feel like it’s Easter.  You can’t have a resurrection unless you spend serious time above the stave, that’s what I always say.  It’s possible that my doctrine is a little suspect…

My family used to have a big get together every Easter, with roast lamb and all the trimmings, followed by some sort of spectacular dessert, always provided by my Oma.  The year I was ten or so, she produced this amazing cold apricot soufflé, a beautiful, light, pale orange concoction, made even more exciting to my ten year old mind by the little Easter Eggs decorating it.

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I’m not sure why this recipe, of all the recipes Oma ever made, stayed with me, but it did.  And, of course, I have no idea what the recipe was.  I had hoped it would be in Margaret Fulton (I have found a number of Oma’s recipes, suitably adapted, in the pages of my Margaret Fulton cookbook), but the only apricot soufflé in her pages was a baked one – not ideal for when one is expecting guests, really.  I did, however, have a recipe for Apple Nougat Soufflé in a Family Circle cookbook from my childhood, and the combination of whipped cream, egg-whites and gelatine sounded about right for the effect I remember. (No, this recipe is not vegan.  Not even a little bit.  Sorry.  In fact, this might well be the least allergy-friendly recipe I’ve ever done – oh no, wait, it *is* gluten free, so that’s something!)

So it was just a matter of changing a lot of flavours.  And some of the method.  And… well, you know by now what I’m like with recipes.  The result is not Oma’s soufflé – I don’t think Oma would have used orange flower water, and she certainly wouldn’t have used peach schnapps or made a praline garnish – but it is light and fluffy and apricot-flavoured, and it does have little pastel Easter eggs on top.  The spirit is right, even if the actuality is a little altered.

(We lit candles at the service today for those who were no longer with us, and were told of the Latin American tradition of saying ‘presente’ as the names of the dead were read out, to indicate that they were still with us.  This is a tradition I like very much, and I hope it will be continued.  But for me, Oma is far closer to me in the making of this soufflé than in the lighting of a candle.  Presente!)

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Your Shopping List

1 1/2 cups of dried apricots
90 g butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon honey1/2 cup pistachios, chopped
1/4 cup peach schnapps
3 tsp gelatine
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 tsp orange flower water
5 eggs, separated
1/2 cup cream
small chocolate eggs in foil
 

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2013 in Review

Peer group pressure is a terrible thing!  Here I am reviewing 2013, and I don’t really know what to say about it, because it really was a very mixed year on many levels.  (Sometimes, it’s just best to stick to thinking about food.)

One absolute and undoubted highlight of this year, however, was getting to meet some of my fellow food bloggers at picnics and pot lucks throughout the year.  And, in the first half of the year (before my life descended into mayhem with conferences, exams, politics, crises in my social circle, and extreme tiredness), I really enjoyed the opportunity to ‘meet’ more of you online, through the In My Kitchen posts by Celia, blog challenges such as Food on Fridays by Carole, Pasta Please by Jacq, Allergy-Friendly Lunchbox Love by Lisa, and of course my own monthly Anyone Can Cook Vegetarian Food Challenge.

I don’t like posting New Year’s resolutions, because they tend to rapidly turn into just one more thing to feel guilty about, so I’m just going to list a few foodie aspirations for 2014.  If they don’t happen, that’s OK, too, because they aren’t resolutions!

  • Resurrect the Vegetarian Food Challenge.  Stay tuned for January’s challenge tomorrow!
  • Participate in at least one food blog challenge a month.  I like meeting fellow food bloggers!
  • Plan and eat vegan meals more often.  I have huge numbers of these recipes – why do I never do anything with them?
  • Actually invite my fellow food bloggers to hang out and do food stuff.  This shouldn’t be scary.  Why is it scary?  (Why are people scary?  Who knows?)
  • The aspiration that dares not speak its name.  This one is too big and exciting to even admit to thinking about publicly yet, because I don’t know if I can do it.  But I know what it is, and that’s what counts.

Last year, I made my review into a gallery of my 12 favourite recipe posts for 2012.  This year, in keeping with my theme of enjoying the company of other food bloggers, I’m going to double the fun, and feature two favourite recipes for each month – one of mine, and one from another blog.  I hope you enjoy the links, and maybe find some more foodie friends to read…

I wish you every joy in 2014, and may there always be Enough Food!

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Planning and Pizza

I was hoping to write more here while I was on holidays, but the combination of my usual December activities, plus confectionery, plus the funeral, all followed up with several days of drainingly hot weather have left me more exhausted than I could have imagined.  The notion that I might, at some point, not be tired doesn’t even seem possible.

Still, tomorrow is a Shakespeare evening, and having been completely uninspired all week, I’ve decided to simply celebrate the last of Shakespeare’s Italian plays (we still have Coriolanus, of course, but that is Roman, which is a whole different cuisine) by doing a proper Italian-style feast in the manner of my Nonna or my aunts.

Be afraid.  Be very, very afraid.

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Gallery

The Australian Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book – An Illustrated and Nostalgic Review

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The Australian Women’s Weekly has released a 20th anniversary collector’s edition of their original children’s birthday cake book, just in time for those of us who grew up in the 1980s to be having cake-aged children.  A shrewd marketing move, … Continue reading

Recipe: Pasta Carbonara, my way

My father’s family is from the Basilicata region of Italy, and even after moving to Australia, my Nonna and Nonno would make their own sausage every year.  I think one of my great-uncles kept pigs, or maybe just one pig each year, who was the source of said sausages. I never enquired. Nonna’s sausages were big, cured, salami-like things that would hang from the garage roof or from a hook in our pantry for weeks or months without going off.  They were fairly highly spiced, I think with chilli and fennel seed, but I could be making that up, and you had to slice them thickly and cook them to render the big chunks of fat before eating them.

Pasta carbonara, in my family, was made with chunks of this sausage, and not  with ham – if there was no sausage, my mother would use ham or bacon and add paprika to the dish, because the important thing about carbonara was that it had to be spicy.  If it was not spicy, we were told, it was not proper carbonara.  We never put cream in the recipe, either – it was all held together with eggs, ideally from Nonno’s chooks.  Nonna’s sausage and mum’s carbonara were two of my favourite foods as a child, and I was terribly disappointed the first time I ordered carbonara at a restaurant and got this weird, bland, creamy thing with ham.  Not the same thing at all.

The recipe is not my mother’s, though it started there.  It has since evolved to fit the ingredients I can get, with a few ideas from Rachel Ray thrown in.  It goes without saying that my carbonara does not taste anything like the carbonara you get at restaurants, though it is clearly a related dish.

I maintain that this is the only true and authentic way to make pasta carbonara.

Your Shopping List

250g spicy soppressa or Calabrese salami, whole, not sliced
2 bunches flat-leaf parsley
150g parmesan cheese, grated (the real stuff, please)
6 cloves of garlic
1 cup white wine
4 eggs
400g pasta (penne or penne rigate are my favourite kind for this)
black pepper
3 big tomatoes
2 capsicums
lettuce or cucumber
balsamic or red wine vinegar
extra virgin olive oil
 

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