Month: November 2012

The Australian Vegetable Cookbook (1972) – The Redemption

After harping on about the awful recipes contained in this book last time, it was only fair to showcase some of the better recipes.  Three of them will be included here (I actually made 4 however this week is all about being positive so we won’t mention the Asparagus Italienne.  Ever.)

I chose the Stuffed Celery Curls as my first course.  This was jam-packed with flavours I love – celery, walnuts, chives, cream cheese and Tabasco so there was everything to like.  I chose not to add the red food colouring.  I’m hyperactive enough without it and I could see no earthly reason why it should be there.  I think the “au naturel” version looks much prettier anyway!

Ingredients

Sadly, my celery did not curl as per the picture in the book.   I read the recipe as saying you needed 15 pieces of celery 5 cm long.  Which is what I did.  In retrospect, I think it may mean an unnamed number of pieces of celery 15 cm long by 5 cm wide.  Although that doesn’t seem quite right either – 5cm seems too wide.  If you really want your celery to curl, here is a link:

http://www.managemylife.com/mmh/articles/authored/how-to-make-fun-garnishes-from-vegetables

It didn’t really matter though because whilst mine did not look as fun, they tasted amazing!  We had these as our starter however they could just as easily be a lunch box snack or as finger food.  Blue cheese would be an amazing variation.

Original

Mine – with obligatory knife but no curls 

Next up, for our main dish I made a Farmhouse Potato Bake.  This dish contains potatoes, Hungarian sausage (I used salami), sour cream and paprika so I guess is Eastern European in tone.  It was damn good wherever it came from.  If you weren’t fond of salami you could make this with ham, bacon, or left over roast beef or chicken or for a spot of luxury some smoked salmon.  As you will see from the picture, I subbed in basil for the oregano.  I think it is one of those recipes that you could pretty much use whatever proteins and herbs as you wanted. You could layer in other vegetables as well.  Asparagus, green beans, spinach would all be great!

Ingredients

Salami and Onion Sauteing, Potatoes Par-Boiling in the background

Layering

Crumb Mixture

I made a Panama Radish Salad from the book to go with this.  Well, I sort of did.  There is no intended slur to the recipe for my changes,  I think you could follow it absolutely and the result would be delicious.  I just happened to have no red onions and a bucketload of chives and rocket that I needed to use.  So I swapped these in.  I also used my favourite Black Russian tomatoes so my salad is probably “greener” than it should be….it still looks pretty good though.

Ingredients

Panama Radish Salad

These worked really well together, the pepperiness of the rocket and the radish in the salad, the freshness of the mint and the lemon in the dressing cut through some of the creamy, potato, salami induced richness of the Farmhouse bake.  Two big ticks here, will definitely be making both of these again.

The Meal – Delicious!

Bon Appétit.

The Australian Vegetable Cookbook (1972) – When Good Vegetables Turn Evil

The Australian Vegetable Cookbook, sponsored by the food companies Edgell and Birdseye, has its fair share of vegetables turned evil – specifically vegetables turned scary, lazy, nasty and just plain bonkers.   First, for a vegetable cookbook there is a distinct lack of fresh vegetables.  Nearly all of the recipes suggest using either canned or frozen vegetables of the type produced by…oh…I see….let’s move on. I’ve already annoyed the Australian Women’s Weekly.  Multinational food companies also have test kitchens. I need a job.  We’ll leave it there.

I will not be silenced on some of the truly terrible recipes contained in here though.  Maybe if these companies chose their recipe collators more carefully, snafu’s like the ones to be discussed wouldn’t happen.  Recipe collator is a job right?  If not, it should be.  I am available.

Lets start with scary.  In one of the many million Saw films, there is a scene where a girl has to throw herself into a deep vat of syringes.  I have an almost irrational fear of needles, and up until recently, that image from the film was my own private version of hell.  It is still top o’ the list however, the use of the…liquid….accompanying canned vegetables as a food ingredient creates a very similar reaction of visceral disgust in me.

It may be the word liquid that does it.  It’s so….unspecific.  The stuff that other canned food comes in has a name. Tuna comes in spring water or olive oil.  Don’t get me wrong, there is no way I’m using that as an ingredient either, but at least I know what it is.   Similarly, tinned fruit comes in syrup or juice. So why does asparagus come in….liquid? Does the conversation in the lab go a little bit like:

“Well…we know it’s wet….as for the rest…we’re really not sure…to be on the safe side, how about we just go with liquid?”

Yeah, I don’t know why asparagus is being canned in a lab either.  Anyway, the use of the “liquid” is why I found this recipe for Asparagus and Egg Mornay repulsive.  And somehow, the idea of mixing the “liquid” with milk just makes it worse.  Asparagus shake anyone?  Gross.

The next scary item is the Asparagus Mousse.  I made this as I wanted to understand the ’70’s obsession with moulded food. Despite making it I still do not understand the ’70’s obsession with moulded food.  It was horrible.  The best thing was that it moulded well.  I thought this would taste like slightly gelatinous asparagus and cream.  It tasted of tin and mint.  I have no idea where the mintiness came from.

I accidentally dropped the cracker I spread with some of this mousse on the ground.  The dogs loved it.  Mind you, they also eat excrement. I didn’t bother making myself another cracker.

Moving on to lazy we find the recipe for Celery Soup and Cheese Croutons.  The first ingredient listed is a can of celery soup.   Let me make one thing perfectly clear.  If you are making celery soup according to the directions on the can you cannot claim that this is a recipe for celery soup.   It is, at best, a recipe for Cheese Croutons.  Adding parsley or any other herb does not count as cooking.  There is absolutely no reason for this recipe to be listed under celery.

Huh?  What was that you were muttering cynical subconscious?

Given that celery is usually used fresh, using it its canned soup form may be a way for the book’s sponsor’s to recoup some of their outlay?  I thought we weren’t going there.  I thought we’d made a decision not to annoy the multinationals.  They have test kitchens and possibly require the service of recipe collators.  So button it.  We’re going with lazy.  Not with shameless display of self promotion.

Moving swiftly along in the list of crimes we come to the nasty food. Potato Gems aka Tater Tots in the U.S. are made from a blend of potato and….I don’t know what…I’m pretty sure the crusty outside does not contain diamonds but whatever it is, it probably comes a pretty close second in terms of hardness.  Potato Gems / Tater Tots are one of the few foods that actually hate you.  Their sole purpose is to tear the top three layers of skin off the roof of the mouth of anyone stupid enough to eat them.

The Potato Gem Pizza is a repulsive concoction created by pressing cooked potato gems into a cake pan and covering them with pizza ingredients.  Sadly, if you Google image Tater Tot Pizza, you get a lot of hits.  I’m not naming and shaming anyone here, but seriously WTF? Here I am thinking I have found a new culinary low and people are not only making it, they are so proud of their creation (and mostly not in an ironic hipster way) that they are posting pictures of it onto the internet.  Admittedly most of these pictures use the Gems /Tots as a pizza topping, not as the pizza base per the suggestion here but really people?  Stop it.  Stop it now.  You’re depressing me.

I would also like to point out that there is absolutely no way the Potato Gem Pizza takes 5 minutes to cook.  It says right at the start you have to cook your Potato Gems for 5 minutes.  You then have to:

  • Press your Gems into a flat cake
  • Season with salt and pepper
  • Add all your toppings including carefully laid out spoke-like anchovies and between spoke olives
  • Then grill until the cheese melts

Do these last actions happen in a time warp?  Can Potato Gems tear through the fabric of space–time as easily as they tear through your gums?

And finally, the piece de la resistance, the mec plus ultra of food getting weird.  Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to present the Peach Cheese Fiesta.  What?  You’ve never heard of it?  There’s a reason for that.  In the words of Gwen Stefani:

“This s**t is bananas.  B – A – N -A – N -A -S”  

I like to think an editor hid this recipe deep within the section on Swedes and Turnips, thinking quite rightly that it would never be found. And up until now, it has remained in the obscurity it deserves.  The Peach Cheese Fiesta even had Google stumped.  Until now of course, because by the very act of writing that Google can’t find Peach Cheese Fiesta, I am creating the conditions that will allow Google to find Peach Cheese Fiesta…oh….that’s making my head hurt.  So without further ado, here it is:

I know they took a lot of drugs back in the ’70’s but wow, someone must have stoned out of their mind for this to make sense.  I like the way they suggest alternative receptacles for the cheesy vegetable mix.  I like it even more that instead of these alternatives being fruits and vegetables that are routinely stuffed (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplants) that they continue the looniness by suggesting  pears and pineapple. I just wish they’d suggested bananas, it would have made as much sense and made my Gwen Stefani reference all the more meaningful.

The Australian Vegetable Cookbook is not all bad though.  I am about to make what will hopefully be a lovely  3 course dinner from recipes contained within the book. I’ll talk about that next time.  Until then, blot the thought of Peach Cream Fiesta from your minds and enjoy your week!

Retro Food For Modern Times – The Australian Vegetable Cookbook (1977)

I’m not flat-out saying that the photographer of the Australian Vegetable Cookbook was a psychopath (he’s probably still alive and looking for his next victim)….I’m just saying that I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if that was the case.

Why would I even suggest such a thing?  Let’s just look at selection of photos:

Beetroot:

Broccoli:

Celery:

Eggplant…this is about where I started to see the pattern…

Lettuce:

Mushrooms:

Onions:

Parsnip:

Just in case you still haven’t got it, there is an almost always completely unnecessary knife in all of these pictures.  Sometimes it is coyly half hidden (Broccoli, onions) or off to the side, (mushrooms) but quite often front and centre, and in the case of the eggplant, gleaming evilly to boot.. It got to the point where I was searching pictures Where’s Wally style looking for the next one….I started to get disappointed when I didn’t find one. It was like a pictorial Stockholm Syndrome.

There is also a really scary looking chopper in the photo for Kohlrabi.  I don’t know much about Kohlrabi and maybe in Kohlrabi circles these implements are de rigueur but seriously this looks like it should belong in “50 Shades of Grey”, not in a vegetable cookbook!

Given this predilection, I couldn’t help reading the recipe for Broad (Fava) Beans and Bacon in full Hannibal Lector voice, finishing with “to be eaten with a glass of Chianti, Clarisse”.  I’m such a geek…

One of the best things about this book, and completely non-psychopathic is the pen and ink drawings of each vegetable.  These are lovely!

I can see a range of these  printed onto tea towels etc, as high-end kitchen ware. Imagine the peas above with a little bobble fringing….so vintage chic!

Along with the pen and ink drawings, there are  notes about the history, cultivation and some other fun facts about each vegetable  These can be interesting but, if you tend to be little bit….OCD like me, can seriously drive you insane…. Take for example, the seemingly innocuous statement on page 59 that:

“Eggplant (aubergine) is the fourth most important vegetable in Japan”

Most people would read that and move on with their lives.  I woke up in the middle of the night, wondering what numbers 1 through 3 were.   The book doesn’t tell you.  Which is really mean.  Who cares about fourth in anything?  Even bronze and silver are slightly dud…if you’re not going to tell me what THE most important vegetable in Japan is, don’t bother.  And…define importance?  Important how? Is it sacred?  Is is the (fourth) most grown? Eaten? Exported? Nutritious?  It’s half past three in the morning dammit and you’re giving me nothing!

Modern media is no help either.  If you Google “eggplant in Japan”, the top entry is about a Japanese comedian who, as part of a reality tv show,  was locked in an apartment and forced to enter magazine competitions until he earned $1 million yen.   For some bizarre reason he was also naked the whole time.  In order not to offend viewers, if his…erm…manly parts appeared on the screen they covered them with a cartoon of an eggplant.  No, really.  They did.  I couldn’t make this s**t up if I tried.

Ok, so back to…..what the hell was I talking about?  How on earth did I end up talking about naked Japanese comedians?  Well, I guess we kind of know why eggplants are important now.  They are to the Japanese what the fig leaf was to the Ancient Greeks.

Ah yes, back on track….now!  The descriptions of the vegetables  in these paragraphs sometimes makes them sound utterly repulsive.  Take for instance, the following:

“The edible part consists of a compact terminal mass of greatly thickened, modified and partly developed flower structures together with the supporting fleshy stalks.”

As if this isn’t bad enough, it then goes on to say:

“This terminal cluster forms a white succulent ’curd’  when cultivated for the table.”

I know these are probably very accurate scientific terms but who wants to eat a compact terminal mass?  It sounds like a tumour.  And as for a white succulent curd….yecch!  Cauliflower was never my favourite vegetable but it’ll  be a long time before I eat it again.  A length of time that will correlate precisely with the amount of time it takes for me to forget the words “compact terminal mass” whenever I see one!

That’s about enough for today, will speak about the revolting recipes contained inside next post!

In the meantime, hoping you can  forget the phrase “compact terminal mass”  as quickly as possible.

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