Thursday, July 27, 2023

THE PROOF IS IN THE PUDDING

 






For my fourth birthday I was presented with an ice cream cake packed in dry ice aka frozen carbon dioxide to keep it frozen.  I wasn’t fond of ice cream when I was a kid.  I guess that made me a bit weird.  I’m still weird, more than a bit and, that’s okay. Nowadays I enjoy Peters Connoisseurs. It is the only ice cream I eat. Maybe it was the dry ice sublimating into a foggy vapor that turned me off ice cream when I was a kid. Years later when cooking in various restaurants I often made ice cream. It proved to be popular on the dessert menu. As a child I might not have liked ice cream, but I loved the fruit salad ice blocks Webster’s corner store made and sold for the grand sum of tuppence aka two pence/pennies each.

Meat and three vegetables, most often more than three veggies, filled our plates at dinner time…or “tea” time as we, in our household, called it when I was a kid.  Without fail, our main meal was always followed by pudding or dessert…the latter being the more popular word used these days.  Whichever one chooses to call it, our second course, of course, was delicious. 

Sunday lunch was a grand affair.  Dutifully, every Sunday morning, my brother and I attended Sunday School at the Scots/Presbyterian Church in Nash Street, Gympie. Arriving back home we were greeted by the scrumptious aromas wafting from our kitchen. With whetted appetites we’d race up the back stairs and begin pestering Nana about when lunch would be ready.  Nana was chief cook. We kids were “chief wiper-upperers”.

After our main meal we were served one or another of junket, jelly, banana custard, lemon sago, tapioca, rice pudding, steam puddings, trifle, fruit tarts, apple or apricot crumble, and my favourite, bread and butter pudding.  I’m sure there are some others I’ve forgotten. Queen of Pudding (will the name now change to “King of Pudding”?) was a special treat on certain occasions.

How life as changed over the decades….unfortunately, in many cases, too many cases, not for the better. The only “take-aways” on offer when I was a kid, other than those uttered by Bob Hope, The Marx Brothers, and the Three Stooges, were fish and chips, potato scallops, meat pies (often with mushy peas), pasties, and sausage rolls. Simple pleasures they were…enjoyable Saturday night delights.

My brother and I ensured we had enough of pocket money earned from returning newspapers and bottles to the neighbourhood corner shops rattling in our pockets. It was our spending money for when, on Saturday evenings, along with Nana, we went “down town” to see to the proud Scots’ Pipe Band as the members played and marched along Mary Street.  On those occasions a small parcel each of fish and chips, with maybe a potato scallop or two from Nicks’ Café, together with boiled and roasted peanuts from Choy’s Café were our treats.  Fruit salad ice blocks were enjoyed while wending our way home. A couple of Granny Smith apples were part of the fare for later.

On many fronts life was much simpler back then.  Through the ensuing decades humans have become spoiled.  For instance, just look at the variety of products available in our supermarkets, and yet, humans still whine.  Take a breath…things these days aren’t as bad as they are being made out to be. We won’t starve. Of one thing I am certain…our local IGA does a great job. I, for one, will never go hungry with the variety it has on offer.  About the only time I trip across to Eagle Heights at the other end of this plateau is to get a jab, so it’s not often I visit the Foodworks supermarket, but when I have, it’s been obvious they’re doing a great job, too. We’re a fortunate mob….

Queen of Pudding: Bring 570ml milk to the boil. Remove from heat; stir in 110g white breadcrumbs made from slightly stale bread, 25g golden caster sugar, grated zest of 1 small lemon, and 1 rounded teaspoon butter. Leave 20mins to allow breadcrumbs to swell. Pre-heat oven 180C. Lightly beat 3 large egg yolks; add cooled breadcrumb mixture. Pour into well-buttered 850ml pie dish. Bake in oven centre 30–35mins, or until set. In small saucepan melt 175g raspberry jam over low heat. When pudding is ready, remove from oven. Spread jam carefully and evenly all over top. Lightly beat 3 egg whites in until stiff, then whisk in 40g caster sugar. Spoon meringue mixture over pudding, going around edge of the dish first, then filling in the centre. 
Use the back of the spoon to spread out the mixture. filling any gaps. Sprinkle 1 heaped teaspoon of caster sugar over it all. Bake for a further 10-15mins until topping is golden brown.. Serve warm with chilled pouring cream.

Self-Saucing Steam Pudding: Grease 4 cup capacity ceramic pudding basin.  Pour 1/2c golden syrup in base of basin. Beat 125g softened butter and 1/2c caster sugar until pale and creamy. Add 2 eggs, one at a time; beat between each addition. Add 225g S.R. flour and 160ml milk in alternating batches. Spoon mixture into basin; smooth surface. Layer a sheet of baking paper and foil together on work surface. Fold a 3cm-wide pleat down centre. Cover basin, paper-side down. Secure with string. Roll paper and foil edges up so they won’t come into contact with water while cooking.  Place upturned saucer in base of large saucepan. Place basin on top; pour in boiling water to reach halfway up sides of basin. Cook covered, over med-low heat, 2hrs. Remove from heat; remove from saucepan. Set aside 5mins before turning onto a plate.  Drizzle extra syrup over pudding. Serve immediately with ice-cream or custard. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

A MĚNAGE Á TROIS…NOT AT ALL BOURGEOIS

 

Photo taken in Mackay at the time of my now late brother's wedding....1967  (From left, me, my friend, my brother's soon-to-be father-in-law, my mother and my grandmother...and the famous Honda Sports at the rear) 

With Ho, the head barman at the Writers' Bar, Raffles Hotel, Singapore.  Ho was bellboy to Somerset Maugham and a host of other well-known writers when he was a younger man.  I always used to greet him with, "Hi! Ho!  It's off to work we go!"  He would laugh.  I never knew if he got my kind-hearted joke and nod to Snow White's Seven Dwarfs.




 (First of all...my apologies for being very slack in visiting your blogs.  I've not been feeling the most up-beat or the happiest since losing dear little Shama...I'll pick myself up, and dust myself off soon, I hope)

 

I bet the title made you sit up with a jolt and take notice.  Calm down! Don’t get overly-excited.  It’s not another “Fifty Shades of Grey” sequel.  

Presently, a friend of mine of long-standing is not standing. She spent the past couple and more months in hospital.  A tough road still lies ahead for her.  

Her troubles began when she fell, breaking her arm.  Very soon thereafter complications rapidly set in elsewhere, and into hospital she went.  As if she didn’t already have enough problems to deal with, to top things off,  Covid then decided to pay her a visit!  While she was in hospital I called her once a week. In the hope of lifting her spirits, even if only a little, I related stories, reminding her of past fun times she and I shared.  Together, we experienced many good times from when we first met in early1963.  

Last week, my old friend, with the assistance of her family, moved into an age care facility.

In 1967, after a while of being sick of being in the back of Woop Woop in the Northern Territory with her husband, who was out in the back of Woop Woop building outback highways, she leapt into her little white Honda sports car, and crossed the Queensland border.  She met up with me in Mackay.  At the time I was living in Brisbane, but I was in Mackay to attend my brother’s wedding.  Back then I was half-way through my brief first marriage.

The day after the wedding, in the two-seat Honda, my friend and I headed south to Brisbane, where it was planned she’d stay with my husband and me for a while until she found a place of her own. He and I were living in the Brisbane suburb of New Farm in a one-bedroom unit, one in a block of eight. The first night back home the three of us sat up talking at length.  Time ticked over. My husband decided to hit the hay, but we two girls kept chatting away in the lounge room.  The sofa in the lounge room was my friend’s bed during her stay.   

A little after midnight we decided to call it a “night”.  I entered the bathroom.  Within a couple of seconds I let out a blood-curdling scream. My scream was loud enough to wake up the whole of New Farm, not just our nearby neighbours.  I’d spied a stranger’s face peering into the bathroom window…a peeping Tom, an overly-enthusiastic, low-life voyeur.  My friend, recognising my scream was of a most serious nature, rushed to my side.   

Racing to the kitchen, I grabbed my sturdy meat mallet. So angry was I, maybe I had it in mind to make Wiener schnitzel.  If I’d caught the pervert he would’ve thought twice about continuing his pastime.  Lucky for the useless so-and-so he’d high-tailed it when he’d spotted I’d spotted him!  My husband, having woken, phoned the police who arrived promptly.  After spending a while surveying the area, the cops left, leaving the three of us to catch our breaths.

After we’d calmed down somewhat, we decided it was time to retire…again.  It had been a long, eventful night.   

A few minutes after settling into bed, a quiet voice at the side of our bed…a double bed…whispered, “Can I join you two?  I can’t sleep out there by myself.”  My friend climbed in with my husband and me.  There, snuggled up together, the three of us remained for the duration of the disturbed, disturbing evening. Actually, four shared the bed that night. Sasha, my ginger cat, claimed his regular spot, making it a “ménage ǎ quatre”…..

My weekly reminisces I’d been relating to my hospitalised friend lifted her spirits.  Hearing her laughter lifted mine, too, making my day.  If the stories made her feel better, if only briefly, I feel it’s a good thing.   A hoard of tales in my Pandora’s Box of memories remains to be told.  The week she and I spent in Singapore in the late 80s is enough to fill a novella, if not two.  

 

To quote Helen Keller; "Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light."

 

Wiener Schnitzel: Pound 4 boneless veal cutlets/chicken/ pork thinly to ¼-inch thick. Place 1/4c plain flour and 1/2tsp salt in 1 bowl; 2 beaten eggs in another, and 1/2c breadcrumbs in a third bowl. Heat at least ¼-inch oil to 177C (350°).  Dredge meat in flour, until surface is complexly dry. Dip into egg to coat, allowing excess to drip off. Then roll quickly in breadcrumbs until coated.  Don’t press breadcrumbs into schnitzels as this will moisten them, and not make a crispy coating.  Immediately place meat into pan of hot oil. Don’t over-crowd pan. Fry schnitzel for 2-3mins on one side until golden. Then turn…the schnitzels…not you! When schnitzels are golden brown on both sides remove from pan; drain.  Serve with lemon slices, potato salad, cucumber salad, or potato chips.

No Mayo Potato Salad (I never use mayonnaise): Cook 1kg baby, unpeeled potatoes until just tender. Drain; cool slightly; cut into halves or chunks; put them into large bowl. While potatoes are cooking, cook 3 finely chopped bacon rashers until crispy all over.  Make dressing; combine 2tbs x-virgin olive oil, 2tbs white wine vinegar, 3tsp wholegrain mustard, and 1/2tsp freshly cracked black pepper. Mix well.  Combine potatoes, bacon, 3 thinly sliced shallots and 1/3c chopped, fresh, mixed herbs such as parsley and dill. Give dressing another good shake pour over top; gently toss to combine. Alternatively add a little dressing to 6tbs Greek yoghurt; mix together. Pour over potatoes; gently toss to combine.  Let salad sit at least 20mins before serving.   

 

(And, once again, here I am tearing my hair out...it's a wonder I have any left!!!  I wish bloody (and I'm being as polite as I possibly can be) blogger, Google, or whoever the hell it is would stop making things so bloody difficult!!!!!!!!!!!)

Sunday, July 02, 2023