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The horror and the glory

You may, or may not, know that I do like a retro cookbook. I have a vast and fantastic collection thanks to my mum’s collection, which I have posted about previously:

Marvel at the wonder, the glory…and the interesting food photos, people.

There are a couple of twitter accounts which celebrate the wonder and the horror that was the retro cookbook, and regular stories about them (when my friends find these stories, they often tag me in them so I can add to my collection):

Again: marvel at the wonder and the horror. I love it AAAAAALLLLLLLL.

My aunt also has (or shall I say “had”) a glorious cookbook collection, one that I explored when I lived at her house for a while. I have dropped hints over the year that they would find a good home in my collection…

…years passed, and the time came for her to rationalise her house in preparation for a new house. Yes, dear reader, she handed her amazing glorious cook book collection onto me. All of the wonder, all of the horror, all mine. My precious.

It’s a wide ranging collection, from classic Australian cookbooks, to celebrity chefs of the time, to curated cordon bleu cookbooks and more. I’ve taken photos of some of the more amazing recipes and books in the collection.

And I do plan to make recipes from this collection, even if they won’t visually be presented in the same way…or will they? Would you mess with the presentation of the Black Forest Bavarois?

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The 80s called, it says there’s not enough piped cream on this.

On the other hand, not so sure I will make a stuffed cabbage:

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Cabbage leaf rolls fine, stuff cabbage…not so fine?

The books are a fantastic document of food presentation and techniques of the time, including artful platters of fish with grapes on top (Sole Veronique) or piping (Fish in Spinach Sauce):

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Savoury piping is a lost art.

Delia does Sole Veronique differently now. And these days Fish in Spinach sauce comes without the fancy piping and artfully placed toppings.

How could you not marvel at the glory of endives, radishes, and a starburst of white asparagus (probably canned white asparagus)? It is majestic:

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Majestic or Bombastic, To-MAH-To To-May-To.

And then there’s the wonder of some sort of spinach mould, filled with baby potatoes:

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If that was a chocolate cake, and those were chocolate easter eggs I would be like HELLS YEAH HAPPY EASTER. When it’s spinach mould and baby potatoes, my enthusiams are more moderated.

While we are still on the savouries, can I get a holler for the chicken and peanut butter stew…ye satay chicken from ye olden days:

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I plan to make this. You’ve been warned.

And then there’s the variant on beef wellington, which involves stuffing a loin of lamb into a home-made loaf of brioche:

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Note the cold veal pie to the right with the immaculate hard boiled egg in the middle of it. This cookbook is about stuffing foods, into other foods. And I applaud it.

If we leave aside the savouries, there’s always the desserts. Like the Nectarine Cream Mousse, which is now a life goal:

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Who wouldn’t want a jelly mould that’s this fantastical? I ask you!

Then a confection of evaporated milk, lemon jelly and glace cherries, served on a bed of EVEN MORE glace cherries:

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I do like a glace cherry.

While we’re on the subject of mousse, gin and lime mousse anyone?

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An epic of piping.

Then from the Australian Women’s Weekly classics, there’s the children’s cake book. Featuring cakes in shapes and sizes to suit every child…as long as they still make the lollies and chocolates used for decoration. If not, find a suitable alternative or risk making a child cry on their birthday, and no one wants to do that, do they?

Cricket pitch (it’s summer in Australia after all):

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The most boring game on earth, slightly more interesting in cake form. Sorry cricket lovers, I am at best a disinterested party, at worst (when it’s put on the tv in my workplace): a hater.

Soccer pitch (also called football, if you’re not Australian):

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I particularly like the recycled netting used for the goals. Find that in your fruit & veggie compartment if you’re old skool.

Lest we forget, the covers and graphic design of these glorious tomes:

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If the bubble print gets larger on each line, people will know this book is about PARTIES.

Another Australian Women’s Weekly classic, The Big Book Of Beautiful Biscuits:

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Apparently Beauty is in the eye of AWW, and NOT the beholder. Someone tell Margaret Wolfe Hungerford.

I’ve now got two versions of this glorious Cordon Bleu cooking series, one from my mother and one from my aunt (one appears to be the abridged version):

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They’re slightly different. So I can’t part with either.

And then lastly, the glorious recipe that started it all. Frosted Green Cheese Mould. This is the photo that was my epiphany about retro cookbooks and recipe. If you want to blame anything or anyone, blame Hudson and Halls and THIS:

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Check out the milk glass goblets, the painting and the turquoise stoppered bottle. I have home decor envy.

If you’re getting a sense of deja vu, you’ve seen this shape earlier in this post: the spinach mould with baby potatoes. Apparently in the 80s everyone was big on the ring shape, with various fillings piled in artfully. And if that’s kale on the right, Hudson and Halls were well ahead of the kale trend of the 2010s. If it’s curly parsley…it’s bang on their era. Perhaps we could update the recipe with kale?

Let me introduce you to Hudson and Halls, TV chefs from New Zealand who made it big in the UK. FYI: They were actually a couple, and were known for the quote “are we gay – well we’re certainly merry”. Love ’em:

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When I grow up, I want to have a trifle bowl that I fill with Iceberg Lettuce, just like Hudson and Halls.

There’s a documentary about them: Hudson and Halls: A Love Story.

 

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Good for breakfast, brunch or brinner.

I served these as part of a two-course brunch for Les Chicas. We also had fancy (but very easy to make) breakfast trifles to finish. And champagne. A lot of champagne.

Ingredients

  • 300gm grape tomatoes (approx 5-6 per person)
  • 2 tbsp EVOO
  • 240gm ricotta (I accidentally picked up light ricotta)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 and 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 and 1/4 cups self raising flour
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 4 very thin slices of red onion
  • 250gm rocket

Serves 5 people (3 pancakes per person).

I made the pancakes before my guests arrived, then popped them on a baking tray lined with baking paper and covered with alfoil. Then I popped them back in the oven to heat up closer to brunch time.

In a largish mixing bowl, whisk ricotta and egg until combined. Whisk in milk, then flour. When everything’s combined, stir through basil and parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.

Melt a bit of butter in a large fry pan, then pour in 1/4 cups of mix per pancake. I could fit about 3 pancakes in my largest fry pan (the pancakes will spread to 10-15cm wide, so allow for that). Cook until golden, then flip to cook on the other side.

When your first batch is done, do a second batch. I could do 2 batches before I needed to wipe out the pan and add more butter. It look 5 batches to get through all the mix. When you’ve finished each batch, stack them in servings (3 pancakes per person) in your baking paper lined baking tray. Don’t forget to cover the tray with alfoil when done.

Preheat your oven to 220°C, timing it so that when your guests arrive you can pop the tomatoes in to roast (they take 10-15 minutes). Pop the tomatoes in a baking dish with 1 tbsp of EVOO and season with salt and pepper. Roast until the skins have split.

At 10 minutes, pop in the baking tray with your covered pancakes into the oven. If you are taking the tomatoes out, dial down the oven to 160°C. The pancakes need about 5 minutes to warm again.

Add the rocket and red onion to a bowl, pour over the remaining olive oil and the apple cider vinegar. Toss thoroughly.

To serve: pop a pancake stack (3 pancakes) on the plate, put a pile of the rocket & red onion salad on top, then artfully place 5-6 roasted grape tomatoes on top.

I recommend serving with a french champagne to drink on the side 🙂

 

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Artfully placed tomatoes.

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Recipe: Breakfast Trifle

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Little pots of joy

Having made my toasted muesli, I swung on to making breakfast trifles for my brunch with Les Chicas. I made these trifles on the day, because I wanted the muesli to still have crunch.

Ingredients

  • 1 punnet of strawberries
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp agave syrup
  • 125 mL ricotta (I used light ricotta, because I picked it up by accident)
  • 250 mL greek yoghurt (I used light greek yoghurt, mainly because there was no non-light greek yoghurt in stock)
  • 100 mL thick cream
  • Toasted muesli (if you make my recipe, you’ll have leftover muesli for breakfasts)

I made this for 4 people, in Bonne Maman jam jars. The jars are ~7.5cm in diameter, and ~9.5cm high, to give you an idea of portioning ingredients.

Hull and slice the strawberries, then pop in a bowl with the caster sugar and mix well. Leave to macerate for about an hour.

Whisk the ricotta, yoghurt and cream together until smooth, then add the agave syrup. Chill for about an hour.

Assembling the trifles happens in layers, and I discovered over the course of assembling that the perfect proportions for each layer is:

  • 3 soup spoons of the yoghurt mix
  • 2 soup spoons of the muesli
  • Strawberries in a layer

Order of the layers:

  • Yoghurt
  • Muesli
  • Yoghurt
  • Strawberry layer
  • Yoghurt
  • Muesli
  • Yoghurt
  • Strawberries to top

Pop back in the fridge to chill until needed. This is where making them in jars was so handy: I could pop the lid on and chuck them in the fridge.

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Et voila!

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Recipe: Toasted Muesli

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Toasted muesli, served traditional style.

I had Les Chicas over for brunch last week, so decided to kick it up a notch with a two course brunch of basil and ricotta pancakes (savoury) and then breakfast trifle (sweet). To make the breakfast trifle, I needed a toasted muesli. This recipe is pretty delish on its own (yes, you can eat it by the spoonful), with milk and in the breakfast trifle so I thought I would share.

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Cooling in the pan

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup rice malt syrup (finally a use for the remainder of the jar of “honey for sad people” that I bought for a recipe)
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 1/4 cup golden flax flakes
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

Makes enough toasted muesli for 6-7 days worth, or 4-5 days worth and 4 breakfast trifles. (NB: I only eat small rice bowls of it for breakfast, see picture at the head of this post. That’s what my serves are based on.)

Preheat your oven to 160C and line a large roasting pan with baking paper (hot tip for making sure the paper doesn’t slip: spray a little oil in the pan, then put the paper in. It’s a lifechanger).

In a bowl mix together the rolled oats, coconut, pepitas, flax and chia seeds. Pour in the rice malt syrup and maple syrup and mix to coat everything well.

Spread mixture in roasting pan, make sure it’s an even layer, then pop in the oven for 15 minutes. Take out, stir well and then make sure it’s all laying evenly before popping back in the oven for another 5 minutes.

Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then pour into a bowl and stir in the cranberries. Then transfer to the jar you’re going to keep in. Will keep in an airtight container for ~1 month.

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Resting.

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All lined up…DIY Pot Noodle Experiment 3: zucchini noodles, tofu, carrots, celery, brussel sprouts, radishes, carrots, spring onions, green capsicum.

I’ve finally got around to experimenting with DIY Pot Noodles, something I’ve been keen to do for about a year! This post summarises my learnings and some of the variants I’ve concocted along the way.

There are a couple of good articles that break down DIY pot noodles into flavours, base, veggies and other things to include. I found these very useful:

Having been inspired, I started creating and – as if often the way – started my learnings…

Learning #1: If you are using spring onions, quantities matter.

Sadly, I forgot to take a photo of my very first DIY Pot Noodle experiment (aka DIY Pot Noodles Experiment 1). The first output used spring onion, carrot noodles (having fun with the spiraliser #1), zucchini noodles (having fun with the spiraliser #2), halved cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced radish and celery. And I flavoured them with some left over sachets of Pot Noodle flavourings (Duck and Maggi Salt Reduced Chicken).

The biggest learning from this was: only use about 1/3 of a spring onion per jar, and not a whole spring onion. About a third of a spring onion will do…and include only the green parts, save the white parts for something else.

Include a whole spring onion, and it will stay with you for hours…and onion breath is not a nice feeling. Especially if you have meetings after lunch.

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DIY Pot Noodle Experiment 3: Zucchini noodles, tofu, carrots, brussel sprouts, celery, green capsicum.

Learning #2: A flavour base is important

Another learning from the first DIY Pot Noodle experiment: flavour is important. I’d split up 1 x sachet of duck noodle flavouring (left over from a previous non-DIY pot noodle fest) between 3 jars, that wasn’t enough flavour. So I ended also divvying up a sachet of Maggi Chicken Noodles between the 3 jars, that made it more flavoursome and emphasised the importance of flavour, flavor and flava.

If you don’t have enough flavour, then you have a bunch of vegetables in hot water…which isn’t the most appealing thing to eat.

Stock isn’t great in DIY pot noodles, and buying a soup sachet would make them uneconomical.

The Food Lab recommends Better Than Bouillon in their post Make Your Own Just-Add-Hot-Water Instant Noodles (and Make Your Coworkers Jealous) but I couldn’t source that in any of the shops I visited near me.

I ended up finding Osem’s Chicken Soup powder in my local Woolworths (they also do a Vegetable Soup Powder). About 2 small teaspoons of the powder is perfect to add flavouring to my DIY Pot Noodles.

Learning #3: I am not convinced about adding leftover tomato pasta sauce

Inspired by the Italian Style Quinoa Noodles on GOOP, I created a version using quinoa, noodles and left over tomato sauce (DIY Pot Noodles Experiment 2). Even though the sauce was very reduced and the quinoa and pasta were well drained, there was too much additional liquid in the noodle jars.

That meant, when I added my hot water…I couldn’t add enough hot water for the DIY Pot Noodles to be properly warmed. Meaning a slightly disappointing pot noodle experience…plus the left-over tomato sauce ended up being quite oily, also a negative.

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DIY Pot Noodles Experiment 2: Zucchni noodles, left over pasta sauce, spring onions and quinoa.

Learning #4: Placement is important

Apart from layering your ingredients so anything that could potentially get soggy is not at the bottom of the jar, you also need to think about how flavours could infuse surrounding ingredients. Otherwise, you could have all the right components for a great pot noodle, but still achieve less than optimal results.

I discovered the hard way that sprinkling the chicken soup powder on top of the diced Tofu was not the best idea in the world: it left the Tofu tasting salty and unpleasant. And when I sprinkled it on top of some halved cherry tomatoes in one batch, the soup powder caked and was really hard to dissolve in the hot water.

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It’s at about this point that I learnt to add the chicken soup powder just before adding the hot water. Chick peas, brown lentils, tofu, cherry tomatoes, radishes, carros, celery and spring onions.

 

Now I keep the chicken soup powder in a container, and only add it at the last minute…otherwise it renders some of the other ingredients unpalatable.

Learning #5: Some vegetables work, some don’t

Vegetables that work: radishes, tomatoes, broccolini, spinach, carrots, zucchini, kale, celery, snow peas, spring onions (in sensible quantities), roasted pumpkin, roasted sweet potato, roasted onion, frozen peas, frozen corn

Vegetables that don’t work: raw mushrooms

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Raw mushroom learning curve…coming up. Cooked white rice, mushrooms, frozen corn, carrots, celery, broccolini and spring onions.

Learning #6: If you want something more filling, add legumes or rice

Sometimes you need something a little more filling: my first experiments were basically vegetables and tofu…which is fine until you intend to do an hour long Garuda class straight after work (Garuda was developed by a dancer, and is a mix of yoga, pilates and tai chi). On those days, if I didn’t include something more filling then about 10 minutes into the workout I would start fantasising about dinner instead of focusing on the moves.

Canned chick peas, black beans, lentils and kidney beans are all good additions if you want a more filling experience.

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Cherry tomatoes, tofu, zucchini, celery, carrot, radishes, spring onions, chick peas and brown lentils.

So is cooked brown rice or cooked white rice, or cooked soba noodles or ramen noodles.

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Cooked soba noodles, spinach, tofu, spring onions, carrots and sesame seeds. I will never include sesame seeds again: I almost choked on one.

Learning #7: If you are fantasising about dinner during exercise class, add a topper to your pot noodles

A quartered hard boiled egg is always good, so is some left over roast beef. The hard boiled egg is more filling, I have to say.

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Roast beef, broccolini, brussels sprouts, spring onions, roast sweet potato, roast carrot, roast pumpkin and roast onion.

If you can get the lid closed over the quartered egg, give the jar a shake and the yolk will thicken and enrich the sauce a bit too.

Learning #8: Mix it up a bit in terms of flavours and umami

I make up 4 of these pot noodles on Sundays, and I eat them Monday Lunch and Dinner and Tuesday Lunch and Dinner. It’s important to include variety otherwise it does get a bit boring. I normally make 2 different types, so I can have something different between lunch and dinner.

Where I have made the same thing, dependent on ingredients I can create variety by different flavourings:

  • Some sesame oil and a dash of soy if I want something more asian-inspired
  • Basil pesto if I want something more italian
  • An anchovy (hear me out): it adds a richness and umami and the fish itself melts away into the stock when you pour hot water on it
  • Chopped parsley

 

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Adding parsley, basic pesto and anchovy for more flavour. Cherry tomatoes, spring onion, carrots, zucchini and celery.

You will still want to include the 2 teaspoons of chicken soup powder.

Learning #9: If you want a thicker soup, do a little pre-prep

A good fallback to make a thicker and richer soup, is to add pre-cooked cannelini beans.

How to:

  • Heat a splash of olive oil in a saucepan
  • Add chopped fresh rosemary and a crushed clove of garlic and heat through until fragrant
  • Add a tin of drained and rinsed cannelini beans and 1/2 cup of water
  • Heat while stirring, some of the cannellini beans will break down to make  rich and thick sauce. You can help this process by getting in there with a potato masher
  • If you’d like some greens: add a handful of chopped kale, and a little more water. Stir until the kale is wilted and serve

This is basically a Jamie Oliver recipe that you use as a base for filet steak. It is delicious, but you can also use it to thicken your pot noodles.

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Kale, Zucchni and the pre-prepped Cannellini beans

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I haven’t shaken this yet. If you shake the container to mix the ingredients, the beans will start to thicken the soup.

 

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Segue: Clearly this is not a post about the world’s most dangerous group, or even the world’s most dangerous pursuit. I am currently fascinated with NWA and am aiming to watch Straight Outta Compton ASAP (I missed it when it was released at the cinemas).

As a (very white) girl, in another country who was in her very early teens when NWA were most active, who had only just found mainstream FM radio in Australia when they were most active (it would be a couple of years before I found alternative and public FM radio) and whose family didn’t have a TV: a lot of the issues and news coming out of the USA at the time passed me by. The concept of other countries, where citizens have very different freedoms (regardless of what’s in law) and are treated differently on a day-to-day basis: including being presumed guilty by association, by colour or by attire is a complex one. And – to someone who has lived a relatively privileged life – somewhat foreign to me: especially as an early teen.

Those were innocent times, and I am lucky that I lived in a country and culture that has a relatively gentler way of life. But as you search for knowledge and understanding, you find more and you see more.

Now that I am a little more aware and have access to news sources beyond TV Hits and Smash Hits magazine, and having seen the recent (and not so recent) issues African-Americans are confronted with – on a daily basis -in the USA I want to know more. It’s heart breaking and devastating to see shows like The Wire, to see news reports of Hurricane Katrina, Trayvon Martin and more; and to feel that elsewhere in the “apparently free world” – in a first world multicultural country whose dollar, educational institutions and businesses are held up as the gold standard and epitome of excellence – large sections of the population are not free. And will never be free unless something changes.

I’d like to say it’s incredible to me that a racial group can be so profiled and no cultural education efforts have been undertaken to enforce change in the police force and elsewhere: but my own country (Australia) is not great on that front either: given our treatment of refugees and Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders, we definitely cannot hold our heads high. While countries in glass houses can’t throw stones, it’s fair to say my country – while not being that great – is also nowhere near as violent and gun-focused: our citizens don’t have the right to bear arms (and gun violence stats are noticeably different) and the powers of our police are different. Plus there is better access to education and social services in Australia (and frankly the quality and support our country offers our citizens appears to be streets ahead of anything the USA does for its own). As a citizen I’d like to think while we’re not great, we’re definitely not the worst…and that not coming last on a list of the worst, doesn’t mean we ourselves don’t have to change and get better.

This has been front of mind since Straight Outta Compton was released. I am a lucky citizen, living in a lucky country: I have the education, profession, financial standing and security to have pursuits and take part in activities that are, frankly, luxuries to many people. While I may not be as free and may not be rewarded at the same level in my profession (by advancement or salary) as a man in exactly the same situation and background as I (or even a man less qualified), that is a diatribe for another time: I am still pretty f*cking lucky. If casual and not-so-casual misogyny, glass ceilings and claiming my equality as a first class citizen of a first world country are my only problems: my status of being pretty f*cking lucky still stands. Plus (thanks to access to education and more), I have to the tools to deal with that sh*t and both recognise and assert myself in those situations: so, frankly…god help the person who is not aware and/or is enabling that systemic prejudice on my watch.

So when I take part in activities like Passata Day (which in itself – for me – is a cultural appropriation since I don’t have an Italian family and background), I want to reflect and recognise that there are people out there: both in my own country and in the wider world; who don’t have opportunity and luxury and it breaks my heart. I do want to be self-aware of my privilege.

Ergo me titling the skippy Australian Passata Day event, where the Garden Goddess sans beau mari and I make Passata: N.W.Passata Day.

Back to N.W.Passata Day

It has been my aim to do Passata Day since I started watching SBS Food Safari and saw Passata Day (aka Tomato Day). Since then I have eagerly watched episodes on many cooking programs about Passata Day

Passata day is an annual Italian tradition that’s celebrated around Australia, often in January when tomatoes are at their best. It involves families coming together, chopping tomatoes, boiling them and then bottling the mixture for cooking throughout the year. Of course, at the end of a hard day’s work, it also calls for a classic Italian lunch, with homemade wine and lots of laughter.

With the aim of eventually celebrating Passata Day myself. It’s a social event and it’s a lot of work, so you need at least one someone else to have a Passata Day. I mentioned this to the Garden Goddess, she does preserve her own garden produce, and she was keen to take part in the inaugural event.

First Up: Recette

There are oodles of recipes, the Garden Goddess and I settled on this one: chewtown.com/2015/03/how-to-make-tomato-passata-the-italian-family-method/ by a Perth girl (who flew over from the eastern states to take part in her family Passata Day).

Basic proportions are: 1 kg tomatoes = 750mL of Passata.

For each jar you need: 2 big italian basil leaves.

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N.W.Passata Day produce

Learnings

  • Save your passata bottles, you can reuse them
  • Do your maths: ~18 kg of tomatoes = ~18 750mL containers (or more containers if you have smaller jars)
  • Save random, larger sized jars: they work too
  • Any jar with a pop top lid can be used
  • It’s better to have more jars than less
  • You can sterilise bulk quantities of jars in an oven easily recommended temperature is 130°C-140°C for 20 minutes (other options are a microwave: but that’s getting into capacity given how many large containers you are doing, or using a sterilizer solution: uses a lot of water)

Second Up: sourcing the tomatoes

Sources I found said late January and/or February was best for Passata Day: you are preserving tomatoes when there’s a glut. And in terms of cost-benefit analysis: you want to purchase your tomatoes cheaply since you use quite a bit.

I drive past a growers market on my way home (Balcatta Growers Fresh), and saw crates of tomatoes. So set up an event around my availability and the Garden Goddess’s avails too. It ended up being a fortnight after I saw the crates.

Unfortunately, thanks to weird WA weather the glut of tomatoes became a shortage of tomatoes by the time the day arrived (31 January): we went to the growers market, and to the weekly growers market in Midland…in search of tomatoes: Nada.

That was a bit of an anti-climax: I’d cleared my kitchen, washed bottles, calculated tomatoes to passata output, and the Garden Goddess had gathered her mouli, giant bowls, own jars and more…for there to be no action on the Tomato Front.

Slightly disheartened and tired (without having even touched a tomato), I rescheduled the event for the 27 February.

On that day, we didn’t do as much prep work: I hadn’t cleared my kitchen, the Garden Goddess hadn’t bought her massive bowl, mouli, jars and etc. We went to the Kyilla Growers Market….to find no bulk tomatoes (but plenty of bulk stone fruit), then we went to Balcatta Growers Fresh to find…..TOMATOES

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1 x 10KG Net box of tomatoes = ~9-10 bottles of Passata

Being utter noobs: we bought 2 x 10kg boxes without looking at the quantity and doing that first Tomatoes to Passata calculation: 1 kg tomatoes = 750mL of Passata. We bought enough tomatoes to make at least 20 bottles of Passata – probably a lot of tomatoes for first-timers who’d never done it before.

We then had to race around and gather our equipment, sample the Garden Goddess et beau mari’s home-made Mulberry Wine (okay that wasn’t a requirement, but it had to be done: and it was very nice), harvest basil from the Garden Goddess et beau mari’s garden (organic basil), then head back to mine for N.W.Passata Day.

Of course: the 27 February dawned hot, very hot: over 40°C hot.

That meant we really only worked inside, under the airconditioning…with the oven on: because it was pretty damned hot outside. As you know, my kitchen is pretty small: so it was lucky there were only 2 of us.

On the plus side: the layout of my benches meant we could stand face to face and work: so we could talk and chat, rather than feeling like we were in a production line. And the aircon was blowing on our backs (important)

Learnings

  • Reminder: Do your maths: 1 kg tomatoes = 750mL of Passata.
  • Roma tomatoes are apparently the best (this is what we went for)
  • Kitchen Layout is important, if you are stuck inside.
  • It’s meant to be a social day: don’t lose that component
  • Aircon is really important if Passata Day falls on a super hot day

Third Up: Prepping the tomatoes and kitchen logistics

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The tomatoes need to be stuck in a bowl of water (washed), then cored and any bad parts cut off, then thrown into a stock pot to be blanched. We had 2 stock pots: one larger than the other.

house-1048Use of knives, bowls, stock pots, cutting boards and pans is critical in terms of logistics: we were learning along the way.

Also: expect to go through every tea towel you own, plus the one the Garden Goddess bought along.

Learnings

  • Paring knives are critical: I didn’t have one, and the knife-possessing Garden Goddess only bought a large knife; so we worked a lot slower on coring and de-bad-parting the tomatoes
  • The Garden Goddess has exceptional standards when it comes to knives and their sharpness: be prepared to be shamed if your knife is blunt 😉
  • Tomatoes are messy and wet: put a tea towel under the chopping board to catch any water or juice run off
  • Have the counter top compost bin handy to clean down work stations
  • Have a larger compost bin than normal, so you don’t have to empty it as often
  • Don’t let the Garden Goddess empty the counter top compost bin into the compost bin out the back: she will just shame you for the state of your compost 😉
  • Make sure you have cleared everything in the kitchen you can, you will need the space:
    • Because I had a draining board full of dishes, I didn’t have as much space as we really needed once I’d washed all the jars: that meant things were cramped over near the oven
  • Make sure you have cleared everything on the dining table you can, again you will need the space:
    • The dining table became the repository for sterilised lids, boxes of tomatoes, the bowl of passata and then finally the cooling jars of passata
  • Having bowls to hold the cored and de-bad-parted tomatoes that equate to the capacity of the stock pots is handy: means once the bowl is full, you know you can blanch another batch of tomatoes:
    • My yellow/orange plastic bowl = capacity of the Garden Goddesses’ stock pot
    • My pink/red plastic bowl – capacity of my own stock pot
  • If you are still prepping tomatoes to be blanched when you start processing the tomatoes into passata then you may have to rejig what you are doing with the bowls: we used the silver bowl for bathing tomatoes and to hold the tomatoes as we (mainly the Garden Goddess) mouli-ed them into Passata.
  • A large colander with a bowl that fits underneath it is good (again that was a little more juggling for us, as the large bowls were already being used):
    • Drain the tomatoes into a colander in the sink, then pop a bowl underneath the colander: that’s where you’ll take them from to feed the mouli
    • Once the tomatoes are drained in the sink, any liquids that end up in the bowl are actually from the tomatoes: incorporate that into the passata

Fourth Up: Processing into Passata

The Garden Goddess took the lead in terms of mouli-ing, while I popped tomatoes into the mouli, kept an eye on jars being sterilised, tomatoes being blanched and draining them and getting them ready to feed in to the mouli.

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Passata being reheated ahead of jarring

These photos make it seem more leisurely because this was taken at the end of the day, but for much of the day the two stock pots where blanching tomatoes and we had a smaller pot for heating batches of passata.

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Check out how messy the stove is: overflow from the water the tomatoes were blanched in

Recommendation: At about this point in the process, recharge with some cake and wine. And continue drinking wine (responsibly) for the rest of the process.

Learnings

  • Reminder: If you are still prepping tomatoes to be blanched when you start processing the tomatoes into passata then you may have to rejig what you are doing with the bowls: we used the silver bowl for bathing tomatoes and to hold the tomatoes as we (mainly the Garden Goddess) mouli-ed them into Passata.
  • Having a smaller, deeper bowl to use with the mouli is important:
    • it makes it easier to use the mouli, is more wieldly and it gives you a sense of progress that you don’t get using a larger bowl with giant capacity.
    • As it gets full, you can pour into the larger silver bowl holding the processed passata.
    • A 3rd stock pot would have been ideal for this (small opening, but deep capacity)
  • Next year we’re going to borrow a tomato processor and see if that works better than the mouli (the mouli was good, but we want to see if we can speed up that process…)
  • When you put the tomatoes into the mouli as the Garden Goddess is mouli-ing, it’s a little like playing the laughing clown game at a fair, except:
    • With piping hot tomatoes that will hurt your fingers and may splatter the Garden Goddess when you pop them in the mouli, so be careful
    • You need a wooden spoon to occasionally press the tomatoes down in the mouli
    • The mouli works better with more tomatoes (we started by only having 4-5 tomatoes in at a time, we were up to about 8-10 by the end of the day)
  • Make sure your entire supply of tea towels is washed and easy to access. You are going to need them: we went through about 8-10 on the day.
  • If bench space is an issue:
    • 3-4 stock pots instead of 2 will stand you in good steed when it comes to passata-making: 2 for blanching tomatoes, 2 for mouli-ing into and reheat the passata into (as one gets full from mouli-ing, you swap it out for the empty stock pot and put the full one on the stove ready for heating

Fifth Up: Putting the Passata into the Jars

We didn’t end up processing all our ~20KG of tomatoes, we probably did about 15KGs and it took us about 6 hours (first timers). And we did it in batches (pros and cons in the term of bowl and stock pot availablility as we cycled through each process because we weren’t jarring things until the very end).

We were definitely faster with the second batch compared to the first. Partly down to learning skills, refining process and logistics along the way, but also with the first lot we were juggling counter space, bowls and pots, as jars were filled that freed up counter space and as we stopped blanching tomatoes we freed up pots (and oven/counter space)/

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The final output

For 15KG of fruit, we produced 9 x 750mL containers, plus 6 x 500mL containers, and 2 ~400mL containers. So ~10.8L of Passata. Which equates to about 14.06 jars of passata that you would buy from shop.

For $15.00 per 10KG carton, and knowing we didn’t turn 5KG of tomatoes into passata, that works out at  $22.50 for the tomatoes. Which in turn works out to about $1.60 per jar of Passata.

If we compare that to prices gourmet Passata (not supermarket brand), you’re looking at between $2.00-$3.90 per jar: so it does work out significantly cheaper to make it this way.

And you are in control of what goes into the jars. These only contain:

  • Tomatoes
  • Maldon Sea Salt
  • Organic Basil
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Passata for 2 households.

Learnings

  • Reminder: If bench space is an issue:
    • 3-4 stock pots instead of 2 will stand you in good steed when it comes to passata-making: 2 for blanching tomatoes, 2 for mouli-ing into – you can then reheat the passata in that pot and as one gets full from mouli-ing, you swap it out for the empty stock pot and put the full one on the stove ready for heating
  • Funneling the Passata into the sterilised receptacles is cleaner than ladleiing (as at least 1 of my tea towels will attest to)
  • If you only have a small funnel, a long metal skewer is handy to clear blockages
  • There are larger funnels (jam/preserving funnels), next year the Garden Goddess will bring hers
  • At this point: oven gloves are handy as you are going to be handling hot jars, filling them with hot passata, and then putting them somewhere to settle…while they are still hot.
  • Alway put hot passata into hot jars:
    • otherwise the jar may shatter (this did not happen to us)
    • if the pop lids pop back in then – according to the Garden Goddess – you don’t need to heat process them (boil them in a stock pot until the lids pop in, this can apparently also be done in an oven)

Final words

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Artisinal hipsta tomatoes

Remember to express yourself…and sieve your tomatoes

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Recipe: Slacker San Choy Bau

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Slacker San Choy Bau ready to be assembled

I’ve seen recipes for San Choy Bau using pork mince, or chicken mince, so I decided to adapt a version using beef mince. And follow a recipe that is quicker and easier than those I have found so far.

I nearly always have 250gm portions of beef mince in my freezer, because it can be turned into so many things: chili con carne, bolognaise for spaghetti bolognaise, hamburger patties, rissoles, lasagna and more. However most of those dishes are quite heavy, and they have scope for a significant amount of leftovers. This means in summer and/or when my freezer starts reaching capacity: I don’t make them.

So I wanted to find another, lighter use for beef mince. One that left no leftovers, or minimal leftovers behind.

Having made San Choy Bau before with pork mince (Significantly that was also the day I realised I cannot stand the smell of pork mince cooking. At all. Never again.), I decided I’d find a simple, quick San Choy Bau (or San Choy Bow) recipe and adapt it for beef mince.

Easy, right? Yep: but the recipes I found for quick San Choy Bau were not simple. So I decided to really simplify: obviously taking it a little (or a lot) away from its culinary roots, but making it a lot easier and quicker for me to make at home, using ingredients I normally have around my house….with that in mind, I give you: Slacker San Choy Bau.

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Slacker San Choy Bau, or SSCB if you’re too lazy to even say it.

Ingredients

Makes 2 for a light dinner, 4-6 for a light entree.

  • 250gm Beef Mince
  • Peanut Oil (enough to coat wok but no more, so 1 tsp – 1 tbsp dependent on the size of your wok)
  • 1/2-1 tbsp Oyster Sauce (I say 1/2 but can depend on your personal preference)
  • 1 tsp Sesame Oil
  • 1/2 tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 2 spring onions, sliced finely – green ends reserved for assembling
  • 1 x onion, diced finely
  • 1 tsp crushed ginger (from a jar you keep in your fridge)
  • 1-2 tsp crushed garlic (from a jar you keep in your fridge)
  • 1 220gm can water chestnuts (from your pantry), drained
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • For assembling:
    • 4 baby cos lettuce leaves per person
    • green ends of 2 spring onions, sliced finely (white parts should be added to wok)
    • Optional:
      • Coriander leaves
      • handful of mung bean shoots for assembling (I overdid the bean shoots for mine SSCB, but I like them…and they go to mush so quickly in the fridge, I didn’t want to have any leftovers)

Heat your wok over a high heat, and add your peanut oil: you really don’t need much. When the peanut oil is heated (so it’s more liquid and thinner than when you poured it in), add your beef mince and stir to break it apart and ensure all the grains of meat are browning.

Then add the onion to the pan and stir, then add the oyster sauce, soy sauce and sesame oil. Be generous with the sesame oil, it should be the bigger flavour. Stir to combine and coat all the meat with the sauces.

Then add the ginger, garlic and the white parts of the spring onions and stir thoroughly. At this point the meat should be almost cooked, it’s quite a quick process, so add your sesame seeds and water chestnuts and stir thoroughly again.

Once done, dish up your beef mix, with lettuce leaves, spring onions, bean shoots and coriander so that each diner can assemble their SSCB on their plate: into each lettuce leaf, you pop a small spoonful of the beef mince, then top it with green onions, bean shoots and coriander. It’s yum.

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SSCB production line.

If you want to “stretch” this, I definitely recommending having the bean shoots. You could also add other things to the beef mince: mushrooms, firm tofu or tempeh, or more beef mince. Just adjust the seasonings accordingly.

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