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.

Retro Food For Modern Times: The Floral Foraged Feast

What we’re going to do right here is go back, way back, back into time…

Today we are leaving behind those heady patchouli scented days of the ’70’s to take a step back to some really retro food and talk about my experience as a food forager! Food foraging has been around for as long as people have been around and basically involves making lots of deliciousness out of stuff that is growing wild around you…well, that’s my definition…if you want to get more technical, try google!   When most people think about foraging, they probably imagine it being done in the country however urban foraging is becoming increasingly popular.

Part of my birthday resolutions this year was to do something new each month –  which is why a few Sundays ago, I found myself sipping a Cleavers smoothie with a group of strangers.  I was taking part in an Edible Weeds Walk run by Very Edible Gardens (www.VeryEdibleGardens.com).  The smoothie was really good and set the tone for what was a very pleasant and informative few hours.  During that time we were taught to identify a number of so-called weeds and learned how these could be used both as medicine and as food.

The setting was amazing, an urban farm, virtually under the domes of the Russian Orthodox Church in Brunswick. And  a glorious day to boot….one of the first real signs that Spring was on its way.

It was also just a short stroll away from the CERES environmental park and the Merri Creek Bike Track.

Mind, you, the setting did have some drawbacks, on my way back to my car, I was quite happily strolling along, enjoying the lovely view, the sunshine and my solitude, when I came across this sign, and suddenly the fact that I was alone in this large  parkland became a little bit frightening!

However, I made it home safely and was able to use my new-found knowledge to make this lovely floral foraged salad!  For my salad I used:

Angled Onion – stalks and flowers:

There are literally thousands of these plants growing by our local creek and whilst I had previously noticed the strong smell of onions around them, I had no idea they were edible. They have an onion flavour, much like chives.

Wild Brassica – leaves and flowers:

This too is prolific in my local area. The leaves taste like supercharged cabbage It can give you that nose tickle you get when you eat mustard.  The flowers are much milder and added some colour to the salad.

Nasturtium – leaves and flowers

These were growing in my garden but the flowers are pretty and added some colour.  The leaves have a peppery flavour.  Since then, I have seen nasturtiums growing in the wild so this wasn’t too cheaty!

Dandelion leaves. 

These are quite bitter.  Adam,  our guide on the walk, said that even if you do not like these the first time you have them, to persevere with them as the taste really does grow on you.  Also, the bitterness is very cleansing.  I didn’t mind them in my salad but I was light handed, not only due to Adam’s caution but also because the park I was foraging in had just been mown and the leaves were not that easy to come by! 

Along with these foraged ingredients, to make my salad, I added some lettuce and some avocado, some thinly sliced radish and a few cherry tomatoes.  I also made a very simple lemon and oil dressing as I really wanted to be able to taste the different leaves and flowers.  Here are the ingredients:

This was a very tasty salad which, I will definitely be making again.  I think I was right to err on the side of caution with the dandelion leaves.  I chopped these up quite finely so whilst there was a slight underlying bitterness in some bites it was certainly not unpleasant and added a depth to the salad.  How pretty and fresh does this look?  I also took advantage of one of first really warm days and ate this outside….Voila!

The foraging itself was great fun, I really enjoyed walking through the park and identifying and choosing the weeds for my salad.  There is also something incredibly gratifying about picking and eating your own produce, whether you have grown it or foraged it.  In fact, foraging is a little bit more fun because it feels like you’re doing something a little bit naughty!

But really, cooking with things I have grown (or foraged) makes me feel connected to the earth and the environment in a way that shop brought produce can never do. Who knew I was such a hippy?  And now for my inner risk manager – if this post inspires you to commence your own adventures in foraging, I would really suggest doing a group exercise like I did – not all plants are good for you and many can actually cause you harm.  Having advice from a knowledgeable person like Adam could be the difference between a totally fun and enriching experience and one that leaves you very ill indeed!

Sorry Oscar, none left for you!

Adam, who lead our walk, has also written a  fab book:

This can be purchased at the following

http://www.eatthatweed.com/edible-weeds-book/

There are a number of other books and other resources on foraging you could use as well.  Here is a link to an article from Gourmet Traveller but most libraries and book shops will have something on the topic plus there is an abundance of info on the internet.

http://gourmettraveller.com.au/how-to-forage.html

I will be experimenting with more foraged finds over the next few months. I would like to try a cooked option next.  I don’t think the ngled onions will be in season much longer so before they disappear I’m thinking a stir fry with some of the wild brassica, some  chilli, ginger and garlic may be in order.  This would be delicious as a side dish or tossed through some noodles as a lovely vegetarian main meal.

In the meantime if you make something lovely out of  foraged foods, please let me know and….enjoy!

Retro Food For Modern Times: The Knickerbocker Glory Years – Martin Lampen

“The Knickerbocker Glory Years” is Martin Lampen’s hilarious homage to all that is awful in British food.  From A – All You Can Eat £5.99 to Z – Zest, the book lays out the dark side of British cooking.

I really liked this book.  Lampen’s humour is of the very dry British style.  If you do not like my excerpts you will probably not like the rest of the book.  If you do like them, try to hunt down this book as you will thoroughly enjoy the rest of it.  Also, the same book is called “Sausage in A Basket” in some parts of the world.

Many of the entries are short.  For instance, the entry for Wood Fired Pizza  is:

“Big Fucking Deal”

The longest entry is 13 pages and documents Lampen’s first dinner party in all it’s excruciating awkwardness. This is the type of book you can dip in and dip out of as you require, it doesn’t have to be read from cover to cover.

Given that I touched on the 1970’s fondness for Ham Steak and Pineapple in the last post, Lampen’s take on Gammon is:

“The pig is slaughtered, its hind legs are removed, cured, glazed in honey and sliced into steaks.  If this isn’t indignity enough, the steaks are then topped with a single wet pineapple ring from a dented tin and a waxy maraschino cherry.

Yes, gammon steak when topped with egg or pineapple is a peculiarly British dish: a bloated pink slab of fatty meat, topped with a garish fruit hat. Rather like a ‘Nikita’-era Elton John”

On the subject of pineapple, the entry for Tropical is:

“In Britain, any food or drink – be it a concentrated juice, cordial or sugary carbonated fizz – containing lemon, lime, pineapple or mango is tagged as ‘tropical’.

It’s important to note that other items included in the taxonomy ‘tropical’ are tuberculosis, typhoid, tularemia, (and) tropical storm Arlene”

Or, this for Guacamole:

“A filthy Soylent Green-style dip, guacamole is usually served with stale Doritos,  a mountain of melted Cheddar cheese and mayonnaise on  chain-pub’s nacho platter . It’s made from dead people.”

As for the eponymous Knickerbocker Glory Lampen has this to say:

“The knickerbocker glory, a layered dessert served in a tall glass and made with ice cream, tinned peaches, chocolate or fruit sauce and strawberry puree was the first post war dessert to be made in Britain that did not contain suet.

For a young male aged between eight and fourteen in the 1980’s, the knickerbocker glory was the greatest sensual experience one could imagine.  Greater even than being interfered with by Bananarama”

For those of you who have no idea what Bananarama is, firstly it was a they and they were an immensely popular girl band of the 1980’s.

In homage to this book I made my own Knickerbocker Glory and it was about the funnest thing I have eaten all year!!!  And I know full well funnest isn’t a word, but it was so much fun I lost all thoughts about grammar.

My version of Knickerbocker Glory differs from Lampen’s in that I always thought Knickerbocker Glory should contain jelly.  My version contained the following layers:

  • Strawberry jelly (Jello)
  • Vanilla ice cream
  • Chocolate cookie crumbs
  • Sliced Banana
  • Strawberry Jelly
  • Strawberry Ice-cream
  • Frangelico Fudge Sauce (Recipe follows or you could just use your preferred chocolate sauce)
  • Chopped nuts
  • Rosewater & Almond Tuile (Recipe follows or you could use a bought wafer)
  • Strawberry Garnish

For something that is largely put together from bits and pieces, this looks spectacular! And tastes even better!!!

Enjoy!

Recipes:

Frangelico Fudge Sauce

This makes 6 cups, you can obviously adjust quantities down if you do not want this much. This is so easy to make and absolutely delicious!

1 litre cream

250g dark chocolate

200g marshmallows

Frangelico to taste

  1. Heat the cream, chocolate and marshmallows slowly until melted and well combined.
  2. Stir in Frangelico to taste.

Almond and Rosewater Tuiles

These are a little troublesome to make but are worth it in the end!

50g caster sugar

30g unsalted butter at room temperature, plus extra for greasing

1 egg-white

1/4 tsp rosewater

Finely grated rind of 1/2 an orange

35g plain flower

30g flaked almonds

pinch of salt

  1. Make a template by drawing a triangle, circle or any shape you want on a plastic lid or a sheet of firm plastic, then cut the shape out.  The shape should be no larger than 5cm in diameter.  Set the template aside.
  2. Beat sugar and butter with an electric beater until pale and creamy. Add eggwhite and beat on lowest speed until incorporated.
  3. Add rosewater, orange rind, flour and a pinch of salt.  Mix lightly until combined, then refrigerate for 1 hour to rest.  (The batter will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days.
  4. Preheat oven to 180°.  Place template on a baking paper lined tray, add a teaspoon of the batter into the template and spread the mixture with an offset palette knife so that it fills the template in a thin even layer.
  5. Repeat until the baking tray is full.  Scatter almond flakes over each until tuiles are golden brown on the edges (8-10) minutes. While still warm you can shape around a rolling-pin if desired or cool on tray and carefully remove.
  6. Repeat with remaining batter.
  7. Tuiles will keep in an airtight container for 3 days.

Retro Food For Modern Times: The Busy Woman’s Pineapple Soufflé

All eras have their food fads – remember when everything was daubed in pesto? And/ or sun-dried tomatoes?  What about Tandoori chicken served ad nauseam outside of its natural habitat of an Indian restaurant? Tandoori Chicken Caesar Salad, Tandoori Chicken Pizza, Tandoori Chicken Pie, Tandoori Chicken Pasta with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Pesto…for the love of God, stop.  Just because something tastes good doesn’t mean it has to be used in every known recipe in the world.

Back in the 1970’s pineapple was the weapon of choice.  It was everywhere!  It was stabbed on toothpicks with a cube of generic cheese  and possibly a brightly coloured cocktail onion to form the signature hors d’oeuvre of the decade, it was grilled with ham steaks to provide the first course of the generation and, combined with the glacé cherry, formed the classic upside down cake.

It was also:

Made into Salads:

Used as a receptable for prawns:

In increasingly odd ways (also note the ubiquitous curly parsley):

For main course, there was the exotic appeal of a sweet and sour:

Or a  pineapple and pork casserole:

For dessert, apart from the classic upside down cake, pineapple was also a favourite topping for cheesecakes:

Or, as in the case of this post, made into a  pineapple soufflé. The recipe for pineapple soufflé appears in a number of cookbooks of this vintage so must have been a popular dish of the time.  Also, just to be really confusing,  this is not a soufflé as in the French baked dessert but is more a mousse type concoction.  I have no idea why this is also called a soufflé.  Maybe in the ’70’s “foreign” terms were interchangeable. I guess we should consider ourselves lucky it’s not called Pineapple Bourguignon…

This recipe is so easy to cook and goes a mad, almost flourescent yellow when you first mix the jelly and cream together:

The end result is lovely.  The tanginess of the lemon and the pineapple cut through the heaviness of the cream so you don’t get that horrible creamy coating on your tongue.  It is a lovely light and refreshing dessert.  I’ll definitely be making this again and am already thinking about how I could use the same techniques with different fruit and jelly combinations – strawberries with strawberry jelly?  Maybe my favourite rhubarb with raspberry and rosewater jelly…  In the meantime though, just enjoy this as is!

Retro Food for Modern Times: The Busy Woman’s Curried Chicken Salad Revamp

Who doesn’t love a chicken salad?  Shut up vegans and vegetarians.  I heard you.  Ok…what normal person doesn’t love a chicken salad?

Busy women of the 1970’s loved a chicken salad.  They also loved curly parsley.  I have never seen so much curly parsley in my life as in these old cookbooks.  They also loved scales.  Scales feature heavily in vintage cookbooks.  I have no idea why.  Some sneaky physics lesson maybe.  Which weighs more – parsley or a lead weight?  Garlic or clams?  Maybe these pictures were the precursor to the BrainTraining games of today where you are shown a kitten and an elephant sitting on some scales and you have to say which one weighs the most (it’s usually the kitten).

The Busy Woman’s Curried Chicken Salad  is a  a pretty good  recipe, all it needs is a few little tweaks to adapt it to modern taste.  I suggest the following:

  • Toast your curry powder before adding to the dressing. It smooths the flavour out.
  • Use fresh mushrooms – I kept mine raw
  • Use fresh asparagus – I steamed mine.
  • I didn’t  put red pepper in my version  because I don’t like it.  I added some tomato for colour and celery for crunch.  Other things you could add into ths would be carrots, avocado, steamed green beans, nuts….pretty much whatever you have or you like!

Enjoy!

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