Love & Hunger by Charlotte Wood

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The sub-title of Love & Hunger by Charlotte Wood is Thoughts On the Gift of Food, and the words in this book are a gift to readers.

Love & Hunger is made up of chapters which tell stories about the author’s family and friends, and all sorts of funny, interesting and useful advice for living a gracious life. Each chapter is backed up by recipes.

The author is around about my age and Australian. Like Charlotte Wood, she grew up in a country town, so not surprisingly, I found a lot to identify with in her stories. There are stories about the most stylish woman in town, who gave the author’s father a plate of Hedgehog every year for his birthday, stories about communities rallying around families with food and love when needed, funny stories about old farmers who don’t eat fruit with their dinner (Hawaiian Chicken, Apricot Chicken and the like, all staples of the Australian family menu back in the day) and stories about wakes and dinner parties and holidays.

The useful advice is also good. I’ll be re-reading how to brine a chicken, followed by how to roast a chicken, two kitchen basics I have so far avoided. There is a lot of information dedicated to pulses and grains, which have become very fashionable in Australian kitchens over the past few years, and some excellent soup recipes.

There are recipes in this book which I am very unlikely to ever try. One example is the recipe for Pomegranate Honey. I love honey, to the point where I don’t believe it can be improved. I haven’t tasted pomegranate, but am very doubtful of whether its addition to my second favourite food can make it better or not (my favourite food is Granny Smith apples, in case anyone was wondering). I don’t think adding apples to honey (or vice versa) would improve either.

Another recipe I am unwilling to try is the one for Brussels Sprouts. Eww. I tried them once and they were bloody horrible. I agree with the author that the addition of bacon improves almost everything, but is the addition of the Brussels Sprouts going to improve the bacon? I doubt it.

Which makes me a hypocrite, according to the chapter about fussy eating. According to the author, we all have a moral obligation to our friends, families, workmates and everyone else we eat with not to be picky eaters, for the sake of good manners. Also, fussy eaters are apparently afraid of life. I like to think I have good manners and that I am brave enough to try different foods. I understand that my preference not to eat some foods, for example offal, is cultural rather than based on what the stuff actually tastes like. But if someone serves me Brussels Sprouts (or even worse, Broad Beans) I would probably prefer to offend them by saying, “No, thank you,” than by taking a mouthful of the disgusting things and then retching.

I enjoyed the chapter about surprises when eating. Heston Blumenthal’s Bacon and Egg Ice Cream doesn’t appeal to me, but I enjoyed reading the author’s experience of eating it (she loved it).

The chapter on essential ingredients was interesting, although completely different to my essential ingredients, which are obviously baking oriented.

That leads me to my only real complaint about this book, which is that the author doesn’t seem to have a sweet tooth. There are recipes for the afore-mentioned Hedgehog (which was in every Australian woman’s repertoire back in the 1970s) and for a Whole Orange Cake, but apart from a yoghurt-y thing, there were no more recipes using sugar.

Other than the lack of sweet recipes, I really enjoyed Love & Hunger by Charlotte Wood. This is a format which would work for family historians, as a way of passing down family stories and recipes to future generations. I’ve also had a look at the author’s blog, How to shuck an oyster, which is definitely worthy of a second look.

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Nut Loaf

Look what I bought!

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I’ve been wanting a log tin for ages but haven’t been able to find one, but eventually I saw this one in a speciality kitchen wares shop so I snapped it up. Mum has one, but I have more hope of finding a hen’s tooth than getting Mum to part with one of her cake tins. I thought about asking her if I could borrow it, but decided that we would both be happier if I just bought my own.

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So, Nut Loaf. The house smelled absolutely wonderful while this was cooking, due to the mixed spice.

1 and a 1/2 C self raising flour
1/2 tspn mixed spice
1 Tblspn butter
1/2 C caster sugar
1/2 C walnuts, chopped
1 egg, beaten
1/2 C milk

Sift the flour and spice together, then rub in the butter until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.

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Add the sugar and nuts, then mix into a soft dough with the egg and milk.

Place the mixture into a greased (wait for it…) log tin.

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Put the lid on and bake standing up at 180 degrees Celsius for 55 minutes. Cool for a few minutes in the tin before turning out to cool on a wire rack. Serve slices with butter.

Cooking Classes

My neice, C, is doing cooking classes this year at secondary school. I love hearing what she is cooking and I’m looking forward to her sending me the photos of one of her school projects, which was to bake and decorate cakes with a theme. C chose the sea as her theme and the last time I spoke with her she was brainstorming ideas.

At the beginning of the year, C sent me photos from her text book for cooking classes, The Food Book by Leanne Compton.

Cara's cookbook

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Compare The Food Book with Cookery the Australian Way which was used by my sister in law, J, during the 1980’s when she was at school. The photos were probably cutting edge in their day and are very useful (pictures and names of basic meat cuts, anyone?) but do not compare well with the more modern book. Some of the recipes are quite dated too. I am quite sure J never made Stuffed Prunes or Jellied Lamb’s Tongues.

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J

Funnily enough, I actually use Cookery the Australian Way quite often. All of the recipes I have tried so far have good, basic instructions and easy to find ingredients, although I have to admit, the photos in The Food Book are so much more tempting than those in Cookery Australian Way. I might even cook my way from start to finish of the Cookery the Australian Way (Julie and Julia inspired, of course) once I finish working my way through the Magnificently Simple Marvelous Slice Recipe cook book.

Cajun Macaroons

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Failure. I had such high hopes of Cajun Macaroons when I found this recipe.

But look at them. Flat, sticky and soft. They were way too spread-y on the tray and almost turned into one big, macaroon.

If you close your eyes they taste quite nice, and the chewiness has some appeal, but they didn’t turn out as I expected. Next time I’ll just eat the marzipan straight from the packet.

Still, if you want to give them a whirl, knock your socks off. Let me know if they work out.

250gm marzipan
3 lightly beaten egg whites
1/2 Cup plain flour
1/2 Cup caster sugar
1/2 Cup icing sugar

Work the marzipan until it is smooth, then add the egg whites and blend, then the flour and sugars.

Macaroon

Drop and shape on a lined baking tray (if you don’t line the tray you’ll be sorry when it comes time to wash up) and bake at 140 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes.

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Little Bird

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He Who Eats All of Our Leftovers HATES the birds that live in the gutter above the bedroom. Not only do they poop all the time, but they tweet constantly and scratch their feet and beaks on the gutter, which is noisy and wakes him up.

Spring is torture for He Who Eats All of Our Leftovers because all of the noise is amplified due to the newly hatched chicks.

So who was the soft touch who rescued a chick which fell down a downpipe and got stuck?

Beef and Pineapple Casserole

Casserole

1/2 Cup plain flour seasoned to taste (just use whatever is in the pantry, last time I used a mixture of steak seasoning and paprika)
1 kg chuck steak, diced
1 onion, sliced
440gm tin pineapple pieces
420gm tin tomato soup
3 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
4 potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

Toss the steak in the flour and place in a large casserole dish.

Arrange the onion over the top. Drain the pineapple (KEEP the juice) and sprinkle the pineapple pieces over the top of the onion.

Mix the pineapple juice, Worcestershire sauce and soup together and pour over the top of the casserole. Layer the potatoes over the top.

Bake with the lid on at 200 degrees Celsius for one hour, then remove the lid and bake for another 30 minutes. Serve with green vegetables.

Everything I Need To Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book by Diane Muldrow

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Everything I Need To Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book by Diane Muldrow is an absolute joy, which for me, brought back all sorts of happy memories of childhood. I can’t believe no one has ever thought of combining life advice and Little Golden Books before, it seems like a no-brainer.

My personal favourite Little Golden Book was/is the The Happy Family, possibly because Mother was so glamorous. The outfit Mother is wearing in the picture below, which is nicer than anything in my entire wardrobe, is for when she does the vacuuming. Her bicycle riding outfit is gorgeous too, not to mention the shoes she wears while feeding the cat, and you should see what Mother wears when she goes to the shops! (Okay, I’ll admit it. I am seriously jealous of the wardrobe of a fictional woman in a sixty year old Little Golden Book). The gist of the life advice from The Happy Family is Making An Effort To Dress Well Regardless Of How Crap You Feel.

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Honey-Bunny’s favourite Little Golden Book was Where Did the Baby Go? I read this book to her over and over and over and over. She also liked Tootle. Notice the lesson here from Tootle, ‘Staying On The Rails No Matter What.’ Now that is some serious life advice.

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A great many of my favourite Little Golden Books didn’t rate a mention.

I remember Pepper Plays Nurse, where Pepper, a little girl who was a would be vet nurse, brought home all sorts of animals to her animal hospital, located underneath her parent’s house. I also dearly loved my copy of Hansel and Gretel with gorgeous pictures of the characters (Hansel and Gretel’s chubby little cheeks must have been terribly tempting to the hungry witch).

My sister, E, was very fond of Puff, The Blue Kitten. Scuffy the Tugboat and the Poky Little Puppy were also popular with my brother H. My sister D liked Old MacDonald Had a Farm. Truly, Little Golden Books have something for everyone.

The life advice in Everything I Need To Know I Learned From A Little Golden Book was great, but it was the memories which came back when I looked at the pictures which made this book special.

Pineapple Slice

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Pineapple Slice is a yummy, creamy, cheese cake slice, yet another fantastic recipe from the Magnificently Simple Marvellous Slice Recipes cookbook. I can not understand why this ripper of a cookbook is out of print. Every single recipe works. Every single recipe tastes unbelievably good. All of the ingredients are so readily available that you probably already have them in the pantry.

Base
200gm Arnotts Nice biscuits (plain, sugared biscuits), crushed.
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
125gm melted butter

Mix all of the ingredients for the base together and press into a lines slice tin. Refrigerate while you make the topping. Try to resist eating too much of the base before you put the topping in, because it is delicious.

Topping
250gm cream cheese
425gm crushed pineapple (I think peaches or other stone fruit would be nice too)
1 tblspn gelatine
425gm sweetened condensed milk
1/2 Cup lemon juice

Cream the cheese and sweetened condensed milk together until smooth. Drain the pineapple and mix the juice and gelatine together in a small saucepan, stirring over a low heat until the gelatine is dissolved. Cool, then add the lemon juice and pineapple. Mix in to the cream cheese mix, then pour over the base.

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Refrigerate for 24 hours, then cut into squares.