Wednesday, June 29, 2011

in the hungarian way

A few months ago livebird gave me the magnificent and incomparable Hungarian Cookery Book.  I've been desperate to use it, but sad that I could only choose one of its delicious treats.

I was tempted to try and make "Mr Meat Face" (featured on the cover), but given the predilections of our household, I would have had to make him out of TVP and Quorn, and it wouldn't have been quite the same.

So I settled on "Mushrooms in Sour Cream in the Hungarian Way."

Here is a summary of the Hungarian Way:
  1. Brush dirt off your mushrooms.
  2. Fill a pail with sour cream.
  3. Hold mushrooms under sour cream until they stop struggling.
  4. Add paprika, and ignore chest pains while you eat.
To make sure we had a good balance of saturated fat and carbs, I served the mushrooms on Bavarian Spaetzle.  Everybody has a different theory on how 'spaetzle' should be pronounced, but I think everyone would be in agreement that they aren't meant to look like the chewy little snakes I produced.

It all tasted damn fine though.

Mushrooms in Sour Cream in the Hungarian Way
(from Gundel, K. Hungarian Cookery Book (7th edition) Corvina Press 1972)

Serves 6-8

1kg champignons, boletuses, morels or any other edible mushrooms (do not use inedible mushrooms)
90g butter
700ml sour cream
3 onions

Clean, trim and slice the mushrooms.  Chop finely and fry the onions a golden-brown in butter or lard.  Add the mushrooms and stew.  Season with salt, paprika and chopped parsley.  When the water has evaporated, dredge with flour, add sour cream, and bring to boil.  Serve with fried eggs....

....or spaetzle.

Bavarian Spaetzle
(from Kay, S. Sophie Kay's Yogurt Cookery HP Books 1978)

Serves 6-8

1 cup plain yogurt
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 tsp salt
3 1/4 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 litre stock
1 tsp salt

In a large bowl, stir yogurt until creamy.  Add beaten eggs, 1/2 tsp salt, flour and baking soda.  Beat dough until thick and smooth.  Add more flour if necessary.  In a large saucepan, bring stock and 1 tsp salt to boil.  Place a quarter of the dough on a wet chopping board.  With hands flatten dough to about 5mm thickness.  With a sharp knife, cut thin, short strips.  Slip strips off the chopping board one at a time directly into the boiling stock.  Repeat with remaining dough.  Do not crowd the pan.  Dumplings should float when done.  Remove with a slotted spoon.  Rinse in hot water and keep warm.

Friday, June 24, 2011

o canberra, our home and native land

Lately there have been a few things that have got me thinking that maybe after ten years in this town, I am finally becoming a Canberra Person.

When people ask me where I'm from, I no longer automatically say "Originally Melbourne."

I get that Lake Burley Griffin marks a divide between northside and southside, and that this is a good thing because northside is a dreadful, frightening place.  I have also been let in on the secret that Burley was Walter Griffin's middle name, not a hyphenated surname, and that the lake therefore has a stupid name.

I like roundabouts.

I accept that for four days either side of a long weekend that all of Canberra is down at the coast, and there is a post-zombie apocalypse feel to the town.  But with fewer signs of excitement.

I'll happily engage in conversation with the girl at the supermarket checkout about how cold it was this morning, and we'll marvel at this like it's something very strange that we'll relate to our grandchildren.

I complain about the traffic if it takes me 14 minutes instead of the usual 11 minutes to drive to the city centre.

I know about Canberra's secrets:  I know that to get to Melbourne you have to drive north, I know that petrol stations are hidden more carefully than horcruxes, and I know that the best time to shop is before the public servants finish their 7.21 hour shift and descend on Aldi.

And I get that since fireworks were banned, we sometimes have to make our own excitement.

And what better entertainment is there than a wager between friends?

Baked Jam Roly Poly


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

banana cake

The other night I had a dream where I had to go to a police station.  I hadn't done anything wrong - I was just meeting someone there - but I had to show ID before they'd let me in.  And it was very distressing, because the only ID I had on me had a photo that didn't show me at my best.

Not only did I have my eyes half closed, and a smile like I was trying not to sneeze, but the photo was taken during Movember, and I was sporting a magnificent moustache.

A ginger moustache!

When you've had a dreadful shock like that, the only thing for it is cake.

And if you're really upset, you should not wait for the cake to cool, but just spoon icing onto hot slices as you eat them.

Come on, don't pretend like you always wait.

Banana Cake with Passionfruit Icing
(from Australian Women's Weekly: Café Cakes ACP Publishing 2001)

Serves 10

125g butter
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 cup mashed banana
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk

passionfruit icing:
1 1/2 cups icing sugar mixture
1 tsp soft butter
2 tbsp passionfruit pulp, approx.

Preheat oven to 180ºC.  Grease a 15cm x 25cm loaf pan and line with baking paper.

Beat butter, sugar and spice in a small bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs one at a time until combined.  Transfer mixture to a large bowl, stir in sifted flour and soda with remaining ingredients.

Spread mixture into prepared pan; bake in moderate oven about 50 minutes, or until skewer inserted in centre comes out clean.  Stand cake in pan for 5 minutes; turn onto wire rack to cool.  Spread cold cake with passionfruit icing.

To make icing: place icing sugar in a small heatproof bowl, stir in butter and enough pulp to give a firm paste.  Stir over hot water until icing is spreadable.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


These quinces didn't go the brilliant red that they turn when everyone else cooks them.

Either I did something wrong, or I accidentally bought pears.

Roast Quinces
(from Slater, N. Tender: volume two Fourth Estate 2010)

serves 4

4 heaped tbsp sugar
500ml water
4 cloves
2 star anise
4 smallish quinces
half a lemon
4 tbsp maple syrup

Put the sugar and water into a saucepan and bring to the boil.  Add the cloves and star anise.  Peel and halve the quinces, scoop out the cores and rub them with the lemon to stop them browning.  Lower the quinces into the sugar syrup and let them simmer until tender (about 25 minutes, depending on size and ripeness).

Set oven to 180ºC.  When the quinces are tender to the point of a knife, lift them out and put them in a shallow baking dish or roasting pan.  Measure out 150ml of the cooking liquid, add the maple syrup and, together with the aromatics, pour them over the quinces.  Bake for 30 minutes or so, until very soft and tender.  Serve with the cooking juices and a good dollop of cream.

greatest. dish. ever.

If God had a dinner party, he would serve these.

They're called Patato Keftethes, but what they really are is FRIED MASHED POTATO!!!


And they've got CHEESE in them!!!


Patato Keftethes
(from Stubbs, J.M. The Home Book of Greek Cookery Faber 1963)

Serves 1-6

6 large potatoes
1 good tbsp butter
2 eggs
90g grated cheese (I used a strong cheddar)
90g flour
olive oil for frying
salt and pepper

Peel, boil and mash the potatoes with butter.  Stir in the well-beaten eggs, grated cheese and seasoning.  Form into round flat cakes, not too thick.  Pat firmly into the flour on a board and fry in very hot olive oil until golden.  Serve at once.


If you want to continue the Greek theme, and you want to have something more than fried mashed potato for dinner - although I'm not sure why you would - this spanakopita is delicious.

I changed the recipe slightly to make one big pie rather than lots of little ones, as suggested, and I added spring onions and dill.  And in a very rare concession to health, I used a spray oil rather than brushing the filo sheets with melted butter.

(modified from Kiros, T. Falling Cloudberries: a world of family recipes Murdoch Books 2004)

Serves 6-8

500g English spinach (or 2 x 250g packets of frozen spinach, thawed and drained)
350g fetta cheese
2 eggs, lightly beaten
grated nutmeg
3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
6 spring onions, finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
375g packet filo pastry
180g butter, melted, or spray oil

If using fresh spinach, blanch in boiling salted water for a few minutes, then drain well.  When it has cooled slightly, chop finely, squeezing out as much excess water as possible.  Put the spinach in a bowl, add the fetta and mash with a fork or a wooden spoon.  Mix in the eggs, spring onions, dill, a little nutmeg and the Parmesan.  Season with black pepper.

Preheat oven to 180ºC.  Spray one sheet of filo pastry with oil, or brush with melted butter, and lay in a large baking dish.  Continue layering in this way until you have used half the packet of pastry.  Spread spinach filling evenly over top, then continue layering filo until the rest of the packet is finished.

Finish off with a good spray of oil (or butter), and score through top layer of pastry with a knife into the desired number of pieces.  This will make it infinitely easier to serve.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown.

Monday, June 13, 2011

not so perfect

As I am getting older I am finding myself getting angrier and angrier at things that I would have accepted with good grace in my younger, friendlier days.

What's particularly getting my goat at the moment are the meaningless claims made by various products. Many are just plain lies: "Cleans stubborn stains without scrubbing!", or, "The crunchiest chip in the WORLD!!!".

My pet hate this week, however, is a particular type of boxed chocolate that claims to be "perfect for every occasion."  Now, I'll agree that chocolates improve most situations, but even I would concede there are certain occasions for which they are NOT perfect.

Chocolates are clearly ridiculous in some situations.

The only thing that genuinely is perfect for all occasions is pie.

Leek and Broccoli Tartlets
(from Classic Vegetarian Hermes House 1998)

Makes 4

175g plain flour, sifted
115g butter
25g grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese
60-90ml cold water
flour, for rolling
2 small leeks, sliced
75g tiny broccoli florets
150ml milk
2 eggs
30ml double cream
few pinches of ground mace
salt and freshly ground black pepper
15g flaked almonds, toasted, to garnish

Blend together the flour, butter and cheese in a food processor or blender to a fine crumb consistency.  Add a pinch of salt and just enough water to bring the pastry together into a ball.  Chill for 15 minutes (the pastry, not you).

Preheat the oven to 190ºC.  Roll out the pastry on a floured surface and use to line four 10cm tartlet tins. Line the pastry cases with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans (do not confuse with baked beans.  This would be a soggy and hilarious disaster).  Bake the shells for 15 minutes, then remove the paper and beans and cook for a further 5 minutes to dry out the bases.

To make the filling, place the leek and broccoli in a saucepan with the milk and simmer for 2-3 minutes.  Strain the milk into a small bowl and whisk in the eggs, cream, mace and seasoning.

Arrange the leeks and broccoli in the pastry cases and pour over the egg mixture.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until the pastry is just firm.  Sprinkle the tartlets with the toasted almonds before serving.

Serve with these potatoes for extra deliciousness.....

Roasted Potatoes with Red Onions
(from Vegetarian Classics Sebastian Kelly 1999)

Serves 4

675g small waxy potatoes
25g butter
30ml olive oil
2 red onions, cut into chunks
8 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 230ºC.  Peel and quarter the potatoes, rinse them well and pat thoroughly dry with a tea towel or kitchen paper.  Put butter and oil in a roasting tin and place in the oven for 2 minutes to heat.

When the butter has melted, add the potatoes, red onions, garlic and rosemary.  Toss well, then spread out in one layer.

Place in the oven for about 25 minutes, until the potatoes are golden and tender.  Shake the tin from time to time to redistribute the potatoes.  When cooked, season with salt and pepper and serve.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


These donuts were made a few weeks ago and transported lovingly to a friend's house to be deep-fried under his admiring, even worshipful, gaze.

If I had made them at home tonight, I would probably have eaten four or five of them.  As it was, I was in company and very politely ate only two.

The recipe makes 36.  Unless you're home alone and feeling unrestrained, feel free to reduce quantities.

(modified slightly from Kirshman, I. American Cooking: the sharing of the fresh abundance of the good earth Bay Books 1978)

Makes 36

1 cup lukewarm milk
2 sachets dried yeast
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp cinnamon
4 cups flour
raspberry jam
caster sugar
oil for deep-frying

Pour the milk into a large bowl.  Stir in the yeast, sugar and salt and let the mixture stand for 5 minutes.  Stir in the eggs and cinnamon.  Add 3 cups of flour and stir to form a medium-thick dough.  Add the remaining flour, a little at a time, kneading the dough until it is smooth and elastic and no longer sticky.  Place the dough in an oiled bowl.  Cover and leave in a warm place until doubled in size.

Punch the dough down and knead it lovingly (yes, that's what the recipe really says) for a couple of minutes.  Cover and leave to rise again until doubled in size.

Knead the dough and pinch off small pieces of dough to form balls.  Leave to rest for 30 minutes.

Deep fry in hot oil for 5 minutes until puffed and golden.  Remove from oil and drain briefly on paper towel.

Put your jam in a squeezy sauce bottle.  Insert the nozzle into a donut and squeeze.  It may be necessary to make an incision with a knife first.

Roll each donut around in caster sugar until well-coated.  If in company, eat with a cup of tea and coyly laugh off compliments.  If alone, eat with one in each hand and lick off any jam that dribbles down to your elbows.