|Jamie Oliber, Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo (Jamie's Italian mentor)|
|The incomparable Maggie Beer|
|The hard-to-forget Bernard King!|
|Dame Nellie Melba|
Before a bounty of TV cooking shows and cooking competitions hosted/judged by Australian chefs of note who are sometimes joined by overseas chefs of equal note graced our TV screens; before the help of Executive Chef Extraordinaire aka “Google”, we were dependent upon recipe books. Many well-worn cook books were handed down through the generations from mothers to daughters. Recipes cut from newspapers and magazines filled folders.
Our grandmother was the cook in our household because our mother worked out of the home, something that was a little unusual back in the Fifties. However, it was necessary in our case. Our father played no role in my brother’s and my life, in any way. So our mother was the main breadwinner in the household, and our Nana the main breadmaker! I learned a lot from watching Nana cook; and asking questions. She was a willing teacher and I, a willing learner.
When I left home at the end of my teen years to find my own way in the world recipe books were constant purchases of mine. In my spare time, even when I had little to spare, I found time to pour over the recipes and drool over the glossy, colourful pictures therein; reading and learning. The pictures tempted the weak such as I was. They made it easy to fall under their spell. I had no choice but to experiment; picture books for grown-ups. My bookshelves and the bookshelves of others bulged with recipe books. Acrylic book stands were bought so the recipe book would be at hand on the bench when preparing its culinary delights while dinner guests waited expectantly at the dining table.
And back in the late Sixties and early Seventies when I gained part-time, casual work in the evenings in restaurants waiting on tables I kept a close eye on what the chefs did; and again, I questioned and learned; and assisted when I could.
I was chuffed to say the least when I bought the Larousse Gastronomique. My hard-cover edition, a thick, hard-cover volume was published by Paul Hamlyn in 1968. The Larousse, a most comprehensive, illustrated guide to French cooking; an encyclopedia on food, wine and cooking was first published in 1938. I learned much from the book’s inspirational, detailed information. It, along with a million other recipe books, remains in my possession.
In the late 60s through to the late 70s Time-Life published a wonderful series of recipe books – “Foods of the World”; 27 cookbooks in total. Their “Classic French Cooking” and “Cooking of Italy” joined the Larousse on my shelves as did Escoffier’s “Le Guide Culinaire”. A book by Swiss chef Joseph Favre squeezed in beside Escoffier.
Georges Augustus Escoffier didn’t mind the Swiss. He mingled with all sorts in Europe. He also spent time in London. In 1893, when chef at the Savoy in London, Escoffier honoured our own Dame Nellie Melba by inventing Pêche Melba; and then in 1897 he followed up with Melba Toast. Having done so doesn’t mean they’d shared an overnight tête-à-tête. Melba toast isn’t a breakfast toast, so I guess not. Escoffier even fed and impressed Kaiser Wilhelm ІІ, the Emperor of Germany in 1913. I doubt the feeling was mutual or a night shared.
Marcella Hazan and her Italian cookbooks landed on my bookshelves, as did Marguerite Patten’s books. Marguerite must have been doing something right; she passed away 4th June, 2015, exactly five months short of turning 100 years old on 4th November, 2015. No new-fangled fad diets for her.
Margaret Fulton, still going strong at 91, played her role, too, in cultivating interest in cooking; as did Stephanie Alexander.
Of today’s “celebrity” chefs I’m a big fan of Jamie Oliver, for one. His love of cooking is palpable; and his food is definitely palatable. Because I was cooking in restaurants and working split shifts, long hours when “The Naked Chef” hit our television screens I never watched the show when it first appeared; but through the years Oliver grabbed my attention and I like his way. Oliver’s natural gusto shown in the preparation of food and the eating thereof is free of all the bells and whistles and the posturing of some...(I’m not pointing any fingers at Nigella, of course)!
I’m also a fan of Antonio Caluccio, the famed Italian chef who is based in London. Carluccio who turns 79 in April exudes such a zest for life; a zest for food...for good food; healthy, wholesome food and wine. He’s a joy to watch.
And who doesn’t like one of our National Treasures - Maggie Beer? Not liking Maggie would be akin to not liking koalas or home-made apple pies.
One of the first TV chefs to pick up a knife or two along with a few pots and pans on our screens was the late, acerbic, Maleny-born Bernard King back in the 70s and 80s. Those of my generation would remember him well. He stirred the pot...often!
Marcella’s Broccoli-Potato Soup: Combine 1-1/2tbs butter and 1/4c x-olive oil in pot over med-heat. When butter begins to melt, add 2c julienned brown onions; season. Sauté until onions become golden; add 1tbs minced garlic; cook 2-3min; add 2c Dutch cream potatoes, medium dice; stir to coat; cook 1-2mins; add 2-1/2c stem-less broccoli florets; cook 1-2mins; add 3-1/2c quality chick or veg stock; bring to boil. Adjust seasonings; don’t over-salt. Simmer until vegetables are tender; stir in1/2c grated Parmesan, 1-1/2tbs butter and 6 torn fresh basil leaves.
Poulet Au Vinaigre: Preheat oven 130C. Melt 30g butter in pan; brown 12 chicken joints on all sides, skin first; add 3 finely chopped shallots and 6 large unpeeled garlic cloves; cover; on low heat cook gently 30-40mins or until cooked. Transfer chicken to serving dish; keep warm in low oven, loosely covered with foil. Pour fat out of pan; add 6tbs white wine vinegar; stir to dislodge sediment. Reduce to about 2tbs; stir in 325ml dry white whine, 150ml chick stock, 3tbs brandy, 3tsp Dijon mustard and 1-1/2tsp tomato purée; mix well. Boil until reduced to sauce consistency; press through sieve into a saucepan; squash garlic to get some of the juice; add 100ml cream; boil. Take off heat; whisk in 50g cold, cubed butter; add 3 large, skinned, deseeded plum tomatoes, cut into strips; gently heat through; check seasoning; pour over chicken.
French Rhubarb Cake: Preheat oven 200C; grease 26cm spring pan. Combine 1-2/3rd cup plain flour, 2tsp baking powder and pinch salt. Cream 8tbs butter and 1-1/4cc sugar; add 3 eggs, one at a time until incorporated; add 1tsp vanilla; turn mixer to low; slowly add flour; don’t over mix; fold in 6-8c med-diced rhubarb; put dough in pan; smooth top; sprinkle with sliced almonds. Bake 35-40mins. Cool on rack.