Saturday, September 1, 2012

apple cake & the first day of spring

Today was the first day of Spring. It was perfect: rainy and cold in the morning before the clouds cleared completely to let in that glorious golden sunshine that belongs only to the warmer months. I spent the day with the windows open, listening to Stereolab records while doing weekly chore stuff - cleaning and washing and sweeping and shopping. It's funny how those things in Winter can generate suicidal tendencies, but when the sun is shining, they feel therapeutic. I guess that's why the idea of Spring cleaning is so ubiquitous: nearly everyone is in some kind of hibernation in the Wintertime. 

Foodie-types look forward to there actually being more food around: new Spring vegetables like asparagus and all types of peas and beans. I get that. Food shopping can get a little depressing towards the end of Winter, when you tend to feel you've had more than enough orange and brown coloured things in your diet. But today I wanted to celebrate by letting the breeze weave the smells of sunshine and mixed spice through my little home while Quincy followed me around as I dusted for puffballs, dropping more puffballs for me to dust. So I baked an apple cake and put it on the window sill to cool. 

Actually I made this cake last week too, when so soon-to-be-parents Tash and Leith came over for afternoon tea. We spent the afternoon laughing and eating slice after slice, moving from coffee to tea to wine as the sun went down in that languid way so typical of Sundays. Later that evening I decided that I should make the cake again soon, and Tash went into labour. 

In addition to its labour-inducing properties, this cake is one of those lovely afternoon tea cakes that is pleasantly spicy, full of fruit and pretty to look at. It plays on that well-worn coupling of apple and cinnamon by concentrating the apple and elevating the spice element to a new multi-dimensional level. Rather than using cinnamon (which would also be delicious in this recipe), I swapped in my latest purchase from Gewürzhaus - an Apple Cake Spice blend containing cassia, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, pepper, rosehip, rose petal and chamomile - and the result was very elegant and very delicious. You can buy blends from Gewürzhaus online, but if you want to swap the spice in this recipe for cinnamon, I've included suggested quantities below. 

It's a very welcoming cake, which I felt was particularly fitting. Welcome to this world Max. And welcome to Spring. Lots of people have been waiting for you both. 


Apple Cake
Adapted from recipe by Donna Hay
185g (6.5oz) butter, softened
1 teaspoon Gewürzhaus Apple Cake Spice, or 3/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
2/3 cup caster sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups plain flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, halved and cored
1 teaspoon sugar 
1/2 teaspoon Gewürzhaus Apple Cake Spice, or ground cinnamon
1/4 cup apricot jam
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C (320°F). Line the base of a 22cm (8.5 inch) springform tin with non-stick baking paper.

2. Place the butter, spice and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until light, pale and creamy.
3. Add the eggs one by one and beat well between each addition. Sift the flour and baking powder over the butter and egg mixture. Add milk and beat on low until combined. Spoon mixture into prepared tin.
4. Take each apple half and cut a row of deep slits - avoiding bottom - and arrange over the top of the cake mixture. Press gently, but not to bottom of tin. Combine the sugar and remaining spice and sprinkle over the apples.
5. Bake cake in preheated oven for 50 minutes. In the meantime, warm apricot jam in a small saucepan over low heat.

6. When 50 minutes have passed, remove the cake and crush with the warm apricot jam. Return to the oven for 10 minutes, or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Cake will be shiny and golden brown. Remove springform ring and cool before cutting. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Mimi's Retro Weight Watchers potluck

Hello everyone. Today I have a guest post up over at Mimi's blog 1972: The Retro Weight Watchers Experiment. You should go visit, cause I make and eat something pretty funny and am unusually candid.

Go visit?


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

in case you were wondering

The title of my blog is the title of one of my favourite Robert Frost poems, After Apple-picking. It appears in his collection North of Boston. I don't read it very often, because it makes me feel a particular kind of sadness. I wanted to remember that feeling the other day though, and so I read it. Poetry is a portal to both parallel worlds and the past. I love that.


MY long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.      
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass        
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,        
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.        
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound        
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,        
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap       
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his       
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

chocolate orange polenta cookies @ Honest Cooking

Hello there! Today my recipe for Chocolate Orange Polenta Cookies is up over at Honest Cooking.

I gotta say, they're pretty yummy.


Monday, June 18, 2012

link love

It's Sunday night and I just felt like I should write. But I haven't cooked anything. In fact, I've slipped into that place where you just kinda eat toast for every meal and your stomach lets you do it and you drink lots of tea. I've been unwell as well as busy this week, so I guess that's okay.

It's a cold, wet night but I'm feeling that Sunday evening optimism for the week ahead that pops up sometimes. I think it is at least partly because this is attached to my head:

A lovely friend bought me a vintage bonnet-style hair dryer last week, as I've just recently had my hair cut into a proper 1940s/1950s style. I think this hot air-filled hat is pretty much the best thing that has ever happened to me since I met Quincy. Not only because it dries my pin curl set while I watch the news or knit or edit my goddamnmofoofathesis, but because it warms my brain up real good, too, and makes me feel all sort of awesome and relaxed. Like how I imagine Quincy feels when she's grilling her paws under the column heater on the rug.

So I thought I'd share some excellent things I've read/cooked/seen/wanted recently. Spread the love, etc.

1. Tavi Gevinson's TED talk pretty much made my week. Watch it and send it to all the young women (especially teenagers!) that you know.

2. Lovely Miss Mimi who writes 1972: The Retro Weight Watchers Experiment is holding a retro Weight Watchers potluck, and guess who's bringing main dishes?! That's right, yours truly - along with my gelatin-molding pal Emily over at Dinner is Served 1972. You know my friends are just dying to be chosen to come eat the results with me. Stay tuned!

3. I discovered this blog and read it all afternoon while I was stuck in bed. It's a really great resource for wallet-friendly recipe ideas - but it also really got me thinking about food prices in Australia. Have a look and see what you think. Or just skip straight to this chocolate mug cake. Doesn't that look awesome?1? It almost makes me wish I had a microwave.

4. Shoes at Kate Spade. I die.

5. Twin Peaks-themed fabrics at Spoonflower. Let's Rock.

6. I love Bon Appetit's Friday afternoon cocktail series, The Happy Hour. This week, it's vodka, lime, mint, blueberries and St-Germain - that gorgeous elderflower liqueur - in a Blueberry Smash. Totally bookmarked for summer.

7. I've started running again. I'll explain why soon, but I came across Team Bangs on the Run's site this week and totally gobbled it all up. Start with the team mannifesto, check out how hot they all are and sign up for the newsletter for great tips.

8. I love links. I can't help it. I had my first hot dog from Snag Stand this week and I really, really enjoyed it. They had a vegetarian chorizo hot dog on the menu. I wanted that, also.

9. My kingdom for a horse. Or, to be able to write like this. I read this over an otherwise miserable lunch and it took my breath away.

10. Some people believe procrastination is a good and productive thing. I am one of them. LOOK WHAT I FOUND.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

homemade flour tortillas

One thing I love about working from home is getting little bits and pieces of things done between writing sessions. In all honesty, it doesn't always work; mostly I get too excited/distracted by the little bits and pieces and everything goes out of whack and the day is ruined. So I try to get into the office most days. But sometimes - once in a while - I stay home and everything just works. I get to hang out with Quincy, get some washing done, eat a better lunch and everything on my work list gets crossed off. Those days make me feel like I'm really winning at life.

Tragically, today is not one of those days. But that's okay. I've written a little, nursed my slightly swollen throat with constant sips of ginger tea like the hypochondriac I have become, and I've made flour tortillas.

Homemade flour tortillas are both really easy to cook and significantly more delicious than the store-bought we typically find in Australia. They're fluffy, supple and even taste good cold - which is more than I can say for those snowy white discs in the plastic packaging (home very very late one night I ate one straight out of the pack and decided, even in my jolly state, that next time I wanted to taste a cold commercially-made tortilla I could just mix some flour with water to a smooth paste in a teacup and drink it).

To achieve that really nice crepe-like texture, you need to include some kind of fat. I will happily admit that these ones are made with lard, just as those you typically find in Mexico are. That super-white, greasy fat definitely produces the finest tortillas with the best kind of bubbling and flakiness. But I understand that cooking with animal fat is not for everyone. The good news is that you can easily swap the lard for an equal amount of vegetable shortening and get a really similar result. And yes, you can make tortillas with olive oil and even butter; I have and they can also be very tasty, but you'll get a different result texturally and a less authentic flavour profile.

The other thing you can change up is the flour you use. Here I've used a combination of plain and atta flours and I really like the flavour this produces. The atta flour is also high in gluten and helps to produce a lovely smooth and elastic dough that is really easy to work with. So even if you're a homemade pastry or bread virgin, you can still make flour tortillas. It's kinda like getting to third base in the world of breadmaking: not as risky as a yeast-risen loaf (home-run), with an end result that's less reliant on experience - but still very, very sexy.*

And third base on a Tuesday afternoon is not too bad. There's days left yet to win at life.

*I do not necessarily agree with this analogy, but I don't have time to think it through.

Homemade flour tortillas
Makes 12

1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup hot water
1 3/4 cup of plain (all-purpose) flour
1 cup atta flour (or wholemeal, or more plain)
75 g lard, roughly chopped (or vegetable shortening)

1. Add hot water and salt to a small bowl and stir to dissolve salt. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, gently whisk the plain and atta flours with a fork to combine. Add the lard or shortening and, using the tips of your fingers, rub the fat and flours together until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

3. Add 3/4 of the salted water and use a fork to combine. Continue to add as much water as necessary to bring the mixture together in a stiff dough; different flours will have different absorbencies. Use your hands to draw the mixture together in a ball and knead lightly on the counter until the dough is uniform and smooth - 3 - 5 minutes. Cut dough into 12 equal pieces and cover with plastic wrap. Leave to rest 30 minutes. This will relax the gluten in the dough and make it easier to work with.

4. To roll tortillas, very lightly dust the counter top and rolling pin with flour. Roll each ball until about the thickness of poster paper, or just before it becomes translucent. Stack tortillas on top of one another while you continue to roll.

5. To cook, heat a heavy based frying pan to medium heat. When it is hot, add the tortillas one at a time, for around 30 seconds each side. They will bubble up and brown in parts. Don't leave them in the pan too long, as they can dry out and become crispy instead of pliable. As you cook, keep the stack of cooked tortillas covered with a clean tea towel, doubled over, to keep them warm and soft. When cool, they store well in the fridge for about a week when wrapped.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

You've got the right puff, baby. Chocolate chocolate cookies on.

I sing to my cat Quincy all the time - and I don't know if that's weird, or what. My neighbour probably thinks that it is. But in all honesty, it's one of the things that brings joy to my day. I look at her little face and into her giant eyes and just sing to her, about her. All the time. And I don't really care if people think I'm mad. 

I'm know I'm not the only one who does this, anyway. Two of my closest friends sing to their cats too and I think being able to share that kind of madness is one of the reasons that I love them so much. And I really love that we each participate in this nutty act in our own way. One friend composes songs from scratch. The other makes her cat play along - guitar (or sometimes drums) with his little paws. And me? Well, I tend to rewrite the lyrics of songs I love to make them about Quincy. So it made me laugh very, very much when I received this in an email from a friend this week:

Yep, click on it. That's the artwork to my first album of Quincy covers. Isn't it beautiful? Isn't she beautiful? Or... lovely? I wanted to make something for the friend who sent it to me, so I looked (once again) to Good to the Grain for the answer. And I found it, in Kim Boyce's recipe for 'chocolate chocolate cookies'.

I feel a bit ashamed to say this, but chocolate isn't my favourite thing in the world. I mean, I really like it - and sure, sometimes I'm in the mood for a really good piece (or two). But no chocolate display makes me weak at the knees and (at the risk of Hannah never speaking to me again) I would never buy a packet of Tim Tams. I probably wouldn't even eat one if there was a packet open in the office. UnAustralian, I know. But these cookies! First of all, they're packed full of 70% cocoa dark chocolate; half is melted into the batter, half is chopped and stirred in. All is delicious. Secondly, the texture of the cookies is kicked up into a whole new level when you roll the sticky batter in cocoa nibs. Oh, CACAO NIBS (or however the hell you spell it). Bitter-sweet and fruity, they gently toast as the dough relaxes into a sexy sprawl in the heat of the oven, so that you end up with a crackly and shiny cookie, studded with these crunchy and ever-so-gently-squeaky little bits of cocoa bean. And finally - you might not be able to tell from looking at them - but these little darlings are made with spelt flour. After the addition of all that chocolate, you wouldn't think that'd mean much. But the nuttiness of this sweeter flour lingers beyond the intensity of the chocolate and helps to deliver a cookie with awesome might and complexity.

I think that bloke that did my album artwork liked them. I think you might, too. x

Chocolate chocolate cookies
Adapted from Good to the Grain, by Kim Boyce

I made two small changes to Boyce's recipe as it appears in her book. First, I made a half quantity of the dough, driven by the fear that I may never fit into my swimsuit again. Secondly, I made the cookies approximately half the size Boyce does (1 tablespoon of dough, rather than 2), because I like smaller cookies. I've adjusted quantities and baking times here accordingly. But you really, really should get this book. 

115g unsalted butter
240g dark chocolate (preferably 70% cocoa), roughly chopped
2 eggs
1 cup sugar, rounded (a real full cup!)
1 cup spelt flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt (or a tiny bit less of flaked sea salt)
1/2 cup cocao nibs

1. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a bowl over simmering water, or in the microwave. Stir to thoroughly combine.

2. Combine the eggs and the sugar and beat with an electric mixture for around 3 minutes, or until pale and creamy. With the beater still running, slowly add the warm chocolate until thoroughly combined.

3. Sift the spelt flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the chocolate mixture and gently mix until all ingredients are combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.

4. 15 minutes before you're ready to bake the cookies, turn your oven on and set to 180C/350F. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Use a tablespoon to scoop rounded quantities of the dough, pressing the top of each ball into the cocoa nibs before placing on the tray. Ensure there's enough room for the cookies to spread; I fit about 8 cookies on each tray.

5. Cook for for 15 minutes, or until cookies have spread and the edges have firmed. They'll still be soft in the middle, but that's a-ok! Shift them, paper and all, onto a cooling rack. Repeat until you have as many cookies as you want. Or keep the dough in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Monday, May 7, 2012

olive oil, chocolate and rosemary cake

If you read lots of food blogs, you might think that the last thing the world needs is another glowing review of Kim Boyce's book, Good to the Grain. But I'm afraid I'd have to disagree with you.

I've had this book for a little while now and had, until a couple of weeks ago, only made the now-famous whole wheat choc chip cookies. I didn't tell you about them because it seemed that everyone else was telling you about them. But holy heavens, if you haven't made them yet, jump to it: they are good. They've come to be known in these here parts as the cookies by neighbours, friends and family. Can you see why?

But just the other week I realised my fridge had been overtaken by carrots. Does that ever happen to you? I remembered a spelt flour and carrot muffin I'd seen in the book, so got to work one evening preparing all the ingredients so I could whip up the muffins before work in the morning. And holy moly, they were incredible. Moist, wholesome and sweetened not just by the combination of brown and white sugars but by the grated carrots and the spelt flour too. They're topped with an oat bran-fortified streusel topping, which turns them into a textural delight. See?

After the success of these muffins, I decided I really need to bunker down and get cooking. Well, baking, more specifically. I need make everything in this book, ASAP. But then I realised that if I really jumped into the task with the gusto I'd summoned après muffin, it wouldn't be long before I found my velour leisure suit becoming uncomfortably snug (yep, velour). So I decided that I'd let myself make a treat a week from this gorgeous selection - and that I'd give at least half of what I made away.

So this week I made Kim's olive oil, chocolate and rosemary cake. And oh... yes baby. Most people think they've misheard when you first say 'rosemary' followed by the word 'cake'. Unless they're Italian. Rosemary is one of the key ingredients in castagnaccio, the Tuscan chestnut flour cake that also contains raisins and pine nuts. I've been eating the castagnaccio made by Lisa Costa at Coffea Torrefazione Bottega pretty much for years now (and yes - she still makes it, so go try a slice!), so I jumped to try a cake recipe that included both rosemary and chocolate. 

Boyce is right when she writes of the magic that happens between the oil, the smoky chocolate and the pungent herb; the flavours of each are heightened, complemented and yet balanced by each other. It's pretty spectacular. The mix of white and spelt flour generates a toothsome crumb, soft but robust enough to suspend the broken shards of dark chocolate that are scattered through the batter. It is one of the most exciting cakes I've had in a long time: beautiful with coffee in the afternoon, but elegant and surprising enough to be part of a casual dinner. 

As you'll see below, it's also a sublimely quick and easy cake to whip up. Of course you don't have to use a tart pan, but there's a certain genius in the idea: the olive oil in the batter means that the edges of the cake make love to the corrugated edges of the pan while it's in the oven, resulting in the most deliciously crispy and fragrant crust. Dirty, but deliciously true, my friends. 

Olive oil, chocolate and rosemary cake

oil for the cake pan
3/4 cup spelt flour
1 1/2 cups plain flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp kosher salt, or 2/3 tsp flaked sea salt (like Maldon)
3 eggs
1 cup olive oil
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 tblsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
140g dark chocolate, chopped roughly (Boyce says 1/2-inch pieces)

1. Preheat the oven to 350F/180C. With a pastry brush or paper towel, grease the pan with olive oil. 

2. Sift the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. 

3. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until combined, then add the oil, milk and rosemary. Whisk again until all ingredients are well combined. 

4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix in gently with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until well combined. Fold in the chocolate and pour the batter into the prepared pan. 

5. Bake for around 40 minutes, or until the edges are deep golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean (Do check at 35 minutes, as my oven seemed faster and the cake was done a little earlier).

Friday, April 20, 2012

Poultry, green vegetables, and rest: readings from The Physiology of Taste

A dear friend of mine recently gave me a copy of Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin's The Physiology of Taste. The book is a strange and brilliant collection of musings, philosophies, recipes and experiences that was first published in Paris in 1825. I dunno - I thought maybe you'd like to read some? And I thought you might like some film stills from Jaromil Jires's extraordinary film from 1970, Valerie and Her Week of Wonders. One has nothing to do with the other, except in my head. Sorry friends, that's about all I've got to give at the moment.

25. On Exhaustion

119. Introduction

By exhaustion we mean a state of weakness, languor, and prostration brought about by antecedent circumstances, and impending the exercise of the vital functions. If we except the exhaustion caused by deprivation of food, we may count three distinct types:
    Exhaustion caused by muscular fatigue, exhaustion caused by mental effort, and exhaustion caused by amorous excess.
    A remedy common to the three types of exhaustion is the immediate cessation of the acts responsible for this condition, which, if not actually a disease, is at least very close to one.

120. Treatment

After this indispensable introduction, we find gastronomy at hand, ever ready and resourceful.
    To the man worn out by the protracted exercise of his muscular strength, it offers good soup, generous wines, cooked meat, and sleep.
    To the scholar who has allowed himself to be carried away by the charms of his subject, it offers exercise in the open air to refresh his brain, baths to loosen his aching fibres, poultry, green vegetables, and rest....

20. On the Influence of Diet on Rest, Sleep, and Dreams

94. Introduction

Let a man rest or sleep or dream; he still remains subject to the laws of nourishment, and does not leave the empire of gastronomy.
    Theory and experience are united in proving that the quality and quantity of food consumed exerts a powerful influence on work, rest, sleep, and dreams.

95. Effect of Diet on Work

The ill-nourished man cannot stand up for long to the strain of continuous toil; his body sweats all over, his strength soon abandons him, and for him rest is nothing but the impossibility of action.
    If his work is of the mental variety, his ideas lack vigour and precision; reflection fails to knit them together, and judgement to analyse them; his brain is soon worn out with vain endeavour, and he falls asleep on the field of battle.
    I have always thought that the famous suppers at Auteuil, like those at the houses of Rambouillet and Soissons, did a great deal of good to the authors of the time of Louis XIV; and the cynic Geoffroy (if the fact were true) could not have been far wrong when he taunted the poets of the late eighteenth century with the sugar-and-water he believed to be their favourite drink.
    Following up this theory, I examined the works of certain authors known to have lived in poverty and distress; and sure enough I found no force in them, except when they were obviously stirred by consciousness of their woes, or an envy which was often none too well disguised.
    He, on the contrary, who eats well, and repairs his losses with prudence and discretion, is capable of performing almost incredible feats...
    ...Brown mentions an English Admiralty clerk who, having accidentally lost certain documents which he alone was qualified to work on, spent fifty-two hours on end rewriting them. He could never have survived such an enormous loss of energy without a special diet: first on water, then light food, then wine, then beef tea and finally opium...

98. Conclusion

The man who has reflected on his physical existence and conducts it according to the principles we are laying down, prepares his rest, his sleep, and his dreams carefully and wisely.
    He shares out his work so as to avoid exhaustion; he lightens it by varying it carefully; and he refreshes his faculties by short intervals of rest, which relieve them without destroying that continuity which is sometimes essential.
    If, in the day-time, he needs a longer rest, he never yields to is except in the sitting position; he spurns sleep, unless it comes upon him irresistibly, and above all he avoids making a habit of it.
    When night brings the hour of diurnal rest, he retires to a well-ventilated room, takes care not to surround himself with curtains which would force him to breathe the same air a hundred times over, and avoids closing the shutters, so that whenever his eyes open, they may be soothed by whatever light lingers on.
    He stretches himself out on a bed slightly raised at the head; his pillow is stuffed with horsehair; his night-cap is made of linen; his chest is not weighed down with blankets, but he is careful to keep his feet warmly covered.
    He has eaten wisely, though refusing neither good nor excellent cheer; he has drunk the best wines, and albeit cautiously, even the most famous. At dessert his talk has been gallant rather than political, and he has made more madrigals than epigrams; he has drunk a cup of coffee, if it agrees with his constitution, and accepted a few moments later a spoonful of excellent liqueur, simply to sweeten his mouth. In all things he has shown himself a charming guest, a distinguished connoisseur; and yet he has only barely exceeded the limits of necessity.
    Under these circumstances he goes to bed content with himself and the rest of the world; his eyes close; he passes through the twilight zone, and then falls fast asleep for a few hours.
    Soon nature has levied her tribute, and his losses are repaired by assimilation. Then sweet dreams provide him with a mysterious existence; he sees those he loves, resumes his favourite occupations, and is wafted to those places where he has known happiness.
    At last, he feels sleep gradually dispelled, and returns to social life with no reason to regret wasted time, because even in sleep he has enjoyed activity without fatigue and pleasure unalloyed.

*These excerpts are taken from Anne Drayton's 1970 translation from the French, published by Penguin.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The retro gelatin recipe dare: Shrimp Salad Surprise, aka Knoxploitation

This is the story of how my new neighbour and I came to spend Monday evening chowing down (and gagging) on a plate of Shrimp Salad Surprise. It's the story of why I will be forever indebted to Adele and now owe her a great number of excellent dinners. It's also, tragically, the story of the first recipe I've attempted in my new(!) home. Enjoy, dear readers. But be warned: this story contains images that may offend.

Our innocent protagonist Lexi had been a long-time reader of the great blog, The Mid-Century Menu. Every Wednesday, the blog's owner Ruth cooks up a mid-century recipe from her vast collection - exactly as printed - and she and her partner sit down to eat the result. It's a fantastically funny project and quite different to Lexi's self-set retro recipe challenges, 'cause Ruth sticks entirely to the original recipe and tucks in anyway. Lexi's admiration crossed the line though when late last year she emailed Ruth to ask if she'd be interested in a mid-century recipe dare. She was.

The year ended and the seasons changed. Ruth settled into the Winter while back in OZ, Dorothy (that's Lexi, bien sûr) had just - quite unexpectedly - found the ultimate miniature apartment and suddenly had to move house quick smart in the hot summer weather. While she trawled through her closets deciding what to pack, stopping only to photograph Quincy hundreds of times jumping into boxes of crumpled newspaper, Mimi and Emily got in on the dare too and before long the kids in America had come up with a theme: Jell-O. Drastically behind the eight-ball, Lexi nodded politely to all the rules and regulations of the forthcoming challenge: no ingredient substitutions, strict deadlines. It was exciting, in a back-of-her-mind kinda way, until she got the recipe for Emily darling's choice of Shrimp Salad Surprise. (Be warned that if you click the image below, you will read something very dirty.) 

Lexi dutifully picked up all the ingredients from her new local supermarket; before she'd even bought a carton of milk for her new home, she had stinky tinned prawns, garlic salt, sour cream, mushy olives and squeaky-on-the-tooth bland pickled artichokes on her new kitchen table. And lemon jelly crystals. Things were looking bleak. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and boy, did Lexi say some words while she put this baby together...




As Lexi's mate Jez so quaintly put it, she was "basically moulding vomit". It would appear so, wouldn't it? Next was to slice this baby up into "creamy cubes" and arrange among salad leaves, tomato wedges, squeakychokes and sliced stuffed olives. Oh, and to rope her lovely new neighbour Adele into coming over for dinner. What a sport. 

First bite goes in.

First bite goes down.

Second bite goes in.

Second bite goes down.

The rest went in the bin.


The verdict: 

These creamy cubes made us gag each time we tried to swallow. Our first mistake was trying the milky-lemon jelly on its own: the combination of flaccid prawns, chopped pecans, celery and onion suspended in a malevolent concoction of sour cream, vinegar, garlic salt and lemon Jell-O was hideous. Soon we realised that the cubes acted better as a kind of solid dressing for the plain leaves and came significantly closer to being palatable eaten this way. But the whole thing literally stunk and we just couldn't keep it up (or down). We tossed the cubes and opened a tin of Ortiz anchovies. 


I should have chopped the prawns etc finer, so that the cubes could be cut more easily. The little chunks disrupting the geometry of each creamy cube were not aesthetically pleasing.

Would I make this again?

F*#! no.

See how the other kitty kats fared with their dares!

Ruth at The Mid-Century Menu (poor thing) made Liver Pate en Masque

Emily at Dinner is Served 1972 got stuck with my submission: Swedish Jellied Veal

Fine print: Apologies to mah homegirls Ruth, Mimi and Emily for running late on this post. Unfortunately, Australia is ahead of the U.S. time-wise, so I can't even use that as an excuse. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

january, wtf?

Ok, so I have some catching up to do. Here's 3 things I should already have blogged about.

1. Honest Cooking: The Food Magazine
I can't believe I haven't even had time to announce this here, but see that little button on the left? Just under the picture of Quincy and I? That'll take you to a list of recipes and articles I've written so far for the wonderful new online food magazine Honest Cooking. I'm so pleased to be contributing to this ever-evolving and truly international site. If you haven't visited before, here are a few of my recent favorite stories to get you going:

2. We sow the seeds, nature grows the seeds, we eat the seed.
Some readers (Americans and Mexicans particularly) may be horrified to know that it is nigh on impossible to buy fresh tomatillos in Australia. I know - it's a stinking disgrace. Casa Iberica (bless their saffron-scented socks) sell tins, but those won't do for a fresh-roasted tomatillo salsa. So I took Neil's advice and look!

Salsa verde coming to the table, real soon.

3. My 30th birthday present (and my kitchen).
This one's some homemade vintage sewing porn for my sewing buddies. I turned 30 late last year (quelle horreur) and my ma and pa gave me:

This sewing machine has travelled across the world three times to get to me. It was used by both my grandmothers and my mother. It's a Singer 1908 portable (ahem, 3 elephants) model with its electric light, all the attachments and original booklets. And kittens, it sews like a DREAM. Is it not the most gorgeous thing? And is it just me? Or, wft happened to January?

Related Posts with Thumbnails