Sunday, October 28, 2012
DON’T TRIVIALISE TRIVIA!
In 1864 Australia’s first cookery book was published. It was written by the audacious Edward Abbott. Born in Sydney, Edward Abbott, when still a small boy, moved to Hobart with his family. His father, Edward Snr had taken up a post of Deputy-Judge-Advocate – which was a bit of a mouthful for one so small; so, I guess that’s why Edward Jnr called Edward Snr, “Dad”.
Edward Abbott, Senior, (1766-1832) was a soldier and public servant. Born in Montreal, Canada, Abbott Snr ended up in Australia in 1799 after a stint in England recuperating. Abbott had been here earlier in 1790.
After a few hectic years in Sydney; some of which included his opposition to Governor William Bligh (yes...he of the Mutiny on the Bounty saga);and a few more in England - a long, long story - he returned to Sydney.
Abbott Snr., then sailed on board the "Emu" for Hobart Town,in Van Diemen's Land (now known as "Tasmania") where he arrived with his wife and three children in February 1815.
Who knew that emus could swim! But then, I suppose with those long legs of theirs emus could walk across Bass Strait at low tide; perhaps, the Abbott family hitched a ride on the emu's back!
When of a suitable age, Edward Junior became a clerk to his father aka "Dad" in the court until 1824. Fifteen years later in 1839, Ed Jnr., founded the “Hobart Town Advertiser”. He was its editor and publisher until 1842. Edward then became a landowner on the Derwent River. Actually he set up camp on the banks and surrounding area of the river. It’d be a difficult to own and operate land in the river! He was a busy boy, our Ed! His cook book combined recipes of the Old Country with techniques from the developing colony down under.
Back in England many who purchased the handsome, leather-bound volume shuddered when they saw kangaroo recipes leaping off the glossy pages! Scratching their heads, they tweaked their imperial moustaches and pulled at their mutton chops. In the meantime, their harried cooks sweated in the galleys wondering if they had a cauldron large enough in which to scald an emu before its plucking! Added to their quandary was trying to locate a frying pan broad enough to fry an emu egg or two. After much deliberation, it was decided numerous omelettes were better options by far for the families’ breakfasts.
Not deterred by the book’s peculiarities, curiosity overcame its readers. In overwhelming wonder, they continued to turn the pages, many of which depicted brilliant colour-plates illustrating the exotic, unusual recipes therein.
After greasy fingerprints and flour particles (and the odd emu feather) were removed, the books were strategically placed onto shelves in the elegant libraries of the stately homes; rooms of opulent grandeur, additionally embellished with sculptures, paintings and ornate furnishings. There the books sat, never to be opened again until a century or so later when the National Trust stepped in.
That’s my take on it; but, it doesn’t mean it’s true! The parts about the book being the first of its kind in Australia and written by Edward Abbott Jnr, and the tale about his Dad are factual; the rest – take with a grain of salt!
Way back in 1864 Ted shared his asparagus recipe with readers. Our ancestors enjoyed the succulent green shoots long before we did. Those of us who grew up post World War ll only knew the canned variety because all the fields of asparagus had been cultivated for the visiting American forces. Fortunately, over the past few decades fresh asparagus has returned to our green groceries, and onto our plates; plates of the porcelain kind, that is; not those colour-plates in Ed’s cookery book!
A bit of trivium to amuse, and then, promptly forget! “Trivium”…singular for “trivia”! Don’t get me started! I love trivia; bundles of trivia. Trivia is fun. Why my brain is riddled with so many trivia is a conundrum! No wonder my head feels heavy at times!
Roasted Asparagus Soup: Place 900g trimmed thick asparagus spears on paper-lined baking sheet; roast 10mins in 230C oven; turn spears; sprinkle with ½ sliced onion and 2 garlic cloves; roast 10-12mins. Less cooking time if spears are thin. In blender, blend 1/2c warm veg or chick stock with 1 heaped tablespoon raw cashews and 1/8tsp white pepper. Select several of the best-looking spears; remove tops; set aside for garnish. Cut remaining spears into pieces; add to blender along with onion and garlic and 1-1/2c stock; blend until smooth. Heat in saucepan; pour into bowls; garnish with grated lemon and reserved asparagus.
Wok-Seared Chicken & Asparagus: Heat 1tbs toasted sesame oil in wok over high heat; add 700g fresh asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces; cook, stirring, 2mins; add 455g chicken strips; cook, stirring, 4mins; stir in 1-inch pieces of four shallots, 2tbs minced, fresh ginger, 1tbs oyster sauce and 1tsp chilli-garlic sauce; cook, stirring until chicken just cooked through. Stir in 1/4c shelled, salted, coarsely-chopped pistachios; serve immediately.
Beer-Battered Asparagus: Dipping Sauce: Combine 1/2c mayonnaise, 1tsp lemon juice, 1/2tsp zest and 1/4tsp pepper in bowl; chill, covered, until ready to use. Whisk together 1c plain flour, 1tsp salt, 1tbs finely-grated lemon zest and 1/4ts pepper; add 1c lager; whisk until smooth. Heat 4c vegetable oil in deep saucepan to med-high. Cut 455g trimmed, medium asparagus into 3-inch pieces; submerge spears into batter; let excess batter drip off; transfer spears, one at a time, to oil; stir gently to keep spears from sticking together; cook 2-3mins; keep warm in oven on paper towel-lined tray.