Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Hannah Glasse, Orange Fool and a really old recipe book

Ok- I confess to a great love of books, and food, and cooking, and did I say books?  And of course cookbooks, as my shelves testify.  And it seems that if you love food, you end up loving the history of food also.  I think many food bloggers would have a copy of Mrs Beeton lurking somewhere, and perhaps other historic food writers on their shelves.  I have lately got hold of a copy of Hannah Glasse's cookbook The Art Of Cookery Made Plain and Easy and so on ...let me tell you, the title continues for quite some time.  I love her confidence; her book "far exceeds any thing of the kind yet published".  This book was published in 1747, and according to Wikipedia, was one of the most important culinary references in the 18th century and into the 19th.  She apparently wrote it for use by domestic servants -"the lower sort"- in an easy to read style.  It seems that many of her recipes were taken from earlier works, as is the case with Mrs Beeton.  Plagiarism was alive and well with cookery writers it seems!
I first became interested in Hannah when I read Clarissa Dickson Wright's History of English Food.  Clarissa was a huge fan of Hannah's and felt that she had been sadly under-represented in food history.  She even made a doco for the BBC a few years before she died about Hannah Glasse's influence on British cooking. The copy I have is from Nabu Public Domain Reprints which scans (mostly) old library books so there are pages missing or library stamps on them; and you can see the edges of the book on each page that was scanned. It is very charming, and certainly feels like you have picked up a dog-eared old copy though it is a recent reprint.  It is presented in a very readable way; something that modern readers would recognise with a list of contents at the front and an alphabetical index at the back.  It is set out clearly in titled chapters, and even though it doesn't provide a list of ingredients at the start of each recipe, it certainly gives a clear indication of what and when and how much.  Alas, no pictures or drawings of the dishes!  And very sadly there is no existing depiction of Hannah at all so we will just have to imagine how sprightly and smart she must have looked.  She was 39 when the book was published which I suppose was quite old in those days.
There is certainly no namby-pambyness allowed here; if you are going to eat a food, you are going to catch it and cut off its head, take out its gizzards, crack its bones and slime its tenches!  Hang on, what is that?!  I think it means you actually de-slime it; i.e. wash off the slime from the fish- what, you didn't know that tench was a slippery fish and had to be de-slimed?  Shame on you.
My fave recipe starts with -take the turtle out of the water the night before and lay it on its back, in the morning cut its head off and hang it up by its hind fins...to bleed out; cut the fins off, take off the scales and cut out the guts- well you get the picture.  She did not ever say -first catch your hare -though that has been attributed to her and to Mrs Beeton and to Eliza Acton.  There is some mention of casing (i.e. catching) a beast then dispatching it so you can see where that may have come from.  I thought I would try one of her recipes to see how it stacks up in the 21st century; no not a beastly one just a simple dessert.
So here is my rendition of Orange Fool, which seems to be an orange version of a simple custard and quite delicious to boot!


6 oranges, juiced- it ended up being about 400mls  (try blood oranges for a modern twist)
6 eggs well-beaten
568 mls of cream (a pint measure)
125g caster sugar
cinnamon and nutmeg to taste


Place all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and mix well together
Stir and keep stirring till it thickens- be prepared, this took 15 minutes!
Once thickened, take it off the heat   - I recommend placing the pan into a sink of cold water
Throw in a knob of butter
Keep stirring till cold- and serve

just like regular custard, you keep stirring till thickened-till the fingerline down the centre holds

a simple and easy recipe-just as advertised!

I love this letter!  What a smart gal she was.  A bit like Jonathan Swift with his famous pamphlet A Modest Proposal which suggests that the children of the Irish poor are fattened up and fed to the rich land-owners thus solving more than one problem- i.e. too many children, not enough food and providing a healthy diet to the rich!

Friday, 26 September 2014

Bangalow Banquet, and Edible Treasures- book review

I love collecting books and have many cookbooks on my shelves- and I just keep buying more- shamelessly and willfully. And I just saw that the new Matt Preston is coming out, and the new Belinda Jeffery, and the new Annabel Langbein- oh where will it end?!  Can these people not stop writing wonderful books that I simply must have?  Anyways, guess what?  I recently bought another Public School fundraiser cookbook to add to my collection.  When Mr Pickings and I headed down to Bangalow recently for the Sample Food Festival I bought the Bangalow Banquet cookbook which has been put together by the P & C, and Community Children's Centre.  It is a lovely book full of photos of the locals, and lots of stories about the history of the town and surrounding area.  There are heaps of recipes including lots of old faves like chicken cacciatore, beef stroganoff, lamingtons, sausage rolls and so on.  There are also some modern recipes like the one from Belinda Jeffery (who has to be one of my very favourite cooks) - salmon, spinach and chermoula rolls.  I had locked on to this recipe before realising that it was one of hers!  I am keen to try the cream cake with strawberry icing, and the raw strawberry and coconut fudge.   Oh, and did I forget to mention the fetta, rocket and zucchini slice?  And the lemon and garlic chicken?   There is a useful index at the back, and many photos throughout the book.  The book is divided into Early, Middle, Now and Future Years with recipes throughout.  There is a recipe from Cecile Yazbek (I have her interesting book Mezze to Milk Tart) for a spinach and black-eyed bean bake which looks healthy and tasty.  The recipes look well-written with a list of ingredients at the start of each, followed by the how-to.  I believe that the ladies of Bangalow spent many happy hours testing the recipes to make sure they turned out well.  You can check out their Facebook page for further info. and how to order if you can't make a trip down there (or up there, depending on where you live).
I also have in my collection a lovely little book -Edible Treasures-  from the Wanaka Primary School on the South Island of New Zealand.  It is jam-packed with great recipes like sushi, nachos, quiche, soups, cakes, sweets; homey recipes like lambs' shanks and shepherd's pie, and lovely simple recipes like ginger ale chicken which I make quite often.  It is not quite as elaborate and polished as the Bangalow book, but it has some great recipes, nice stories about the locals, and also has a recipe list at the start of the book, and photos of many of the dishes.  The ginger ale chicken is very handy in that you can just chuck all the ingredients in the baking dish and go off for an hour and a half doing whatever takes your fancy.  Then come back to a delightful-smelling kitchen - as Mr Pickings will testify upon coming upstairs from his office.

Ginger Ale Chicken:

This is my version of the recipe.  I have added whatever took my fancy on the day.  The original recipe calls for a packet of mushroom soup, and one of onion soup but I have adjusted to use fresh ingredients. You can use other vegetables or herbs, or throw in half a cup of wine as you wish.
Serves 4-6


1.2 kg chicken thigh fillets
250g mushrooms finely sliced
1 red onion finely sliced
1 medium red capsicum finely sliced
1 large potato diced
3 cloves garlic chopped
handful of chopped parsley or 4 tsp of lightly dried parsley
salt and pepper  (I used 1 tsp of truffle salt and 1/4 tsp of saffron salt)
1 tsp of black elderberry concentrate (optional)- a dash of Worcester may go well here
300ml bottle of dry ginger ale
a drizzle of olive oil
juice of half a lemon


Slice the thighs into 2 pieces down the join and layer them on the bottom of a baking dish
Layer on all the other ingredients over the chicken pieces
Pour over the ginger ale
Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over the top of everything
Cover and put into a 180C oven for one and a half hours checking each 30 minutes
After the first hour, pour over the juice of half a lemon and put back in the oven for the other 30 minutes
Serve with rice or mashed potatoes, and some steamed broccoli or other greens

veggies ready for chopping; chicken halved and in the baking dish

chopped veggies layered over the chicken; squeezing the lemon half

all baked and ready to eat with steamed veggies

I really love browsing through local cookbooks as it gives you such a sense of the place and the people. And both Bangalow and Wanaka are such delightful places to get to know!

the exterior of Bangalow Public School  (author- moi!)

Lake Wanaka (author Stephanie Searle via Wikimedia Commons)

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Cheese and Fermentation Seminar

Our dear friend and neighbour Princess Pia gifted me a spot in this class for my birthday this year.  So finally the day came around for the seminar and we both trotted off to the 3 hour morning session.  It was held in a historic building called the Albion Peace Hall (I think it was something to do with WW2, as there is a listed building nearby called the Drill Hall which is on the BCC heritage register).  Classes are run by a very passionate and informed lady called Elisabeth Fekonia who lives on the Sunshine Coast and has her own small farm with goats, cows etc.   She said she has been living there pretty much self-sufficiently for the last 20 years.  She is full of knowledge, and has so much experience in this way of living and eating.  It was so interesting and informative that my head is still reeling with it all- in a great way!
She started off by showing us how to make halloumi, which as she said is just for fun.  It is not a "live" cheese- ie full of good bacteria- but is delicious and a pleasure to eat.  The milk is heated which destroys the good stuff in it, so I guess the solution is to not eat a lot of it, but just now and again.  And oh boy, was it delicious?!  Oh yes it was!  So fresh and creamy.  Elisabeth explained to us about the kind of milk to use; she told us that the stuff you buy at the supermarket has been heat-treated so that basically all the good things in it are destroyed.   Such a shame we cannot easily (or at all) get hold of unpasteurised milk.  She suggested we try to get unhomogenised at least, and to use local milk from cows such as Jersey and Guernsey which have a higher fat content in the milk which is great for making your own cream, butter and cheese.

Elisabeth on the left with willing helper adding vegetarian rennet to the heated milk
      You can see the curds have formed after setting for 45 minutes                                      

There are quite a lot of steps after heating and setting the milk- heating the curds, draining them, pressing them, heating again, cutting into chunks and placing back in the boiled whey for up to 80 minutes, cooling, sprinkling with salt, then grilling.  Phew!  And this is the simplest cheese to make apparently.  You can keep the chunks in a jar of brine in the fridge if you are not eating it right away.

curds and whey                                                              
 chunks of halloumi ready for grilling-- oh so delish!           

Next Elisabeth taught us about kefir making.  You place a kefir culture (which you can buy online-here) into a glass jar of milk; let it stand for up to 36 hours depending on the ambient temperature; strain out the keft grains so you can use them in your next batch, and use the kefired milk to make sour cream, or butter or a light curd cheese, or drink it in smoothies as it is so good for the health of your gut.

kefir grains/kefired milk/fermented cream/straining melted butter to make ghee

You can beat the fermented cream till it becomes sour cream, or keep going till you end up with beautiful cultured butter which has an incredibly tangy taste and is full of the good bacteria.  Ghee (clarified butter) is easy to make once you have made the butter; you just heat it gently till the milk solids remain on the bottom of the pan, and the scum floats on the surface.  Scoop up the frothy stuff with a wide spoon, discard the solids, and you are left with a butter which can be heated to very high temperatures, and is nearly as good for you as olive oil.  Elisabeth said she uses it all the time in cooking as you can easily fry with it, and it can be re-used several times.  Oh, and don't forget - you can make yoghurt from the fermented milk also.

blitz the kefired cream then wash it several times in cold water;
 beat till most of the water is gone                                                
      You will end up with beautiful butter!                                                  

The 3 hours flew by, and I felt that we had only just scratched the surface of fermentation and cheese-making.  Elisabeth gave us a lot to think about, including her stricture not to buy A2 milk!   Apparently A2 is a natural form of protein in milk which has been patented by a certain company, so that if anyone wants to use that label, they have to pay 8 cents per litre!  So her (strong) suggestion is not to buy it, as it is unfair to other milk producers.   So folks, keep buying local milk that you know comes from happy cows, and support your local dairy farmers!  And happy cheese-making.  Oh, and if you are interested in a bit more info about this issue, read the Dairy section in Matthew Evans' book The Real Food Companion, which talks about the difference between untreated and treated milk, and how it affects dairy products like cheese.

the Albion Peace Hall with class in session!

Monday, 22 September 2014

Sample Food Festival 2014 & Swell Sculpture Festival - Part 2

Our northern NSW trip continued with a stop-off at Harvest Deli in Newrybar.  Before Harvest settled into town, there was a shop and a fire station here and that was about it.  Now it is super busy and full of visitors from near and far.  In fact, we were told that Chris Hemsworth had been there for dinner the night before. As we were just passing by, we stopped at the deli for a quick look -  and found it to be a real treasure trove.  (We have had lunch at the Cafe quite a few times, and have always enjoyed it).  It is full of fabulous treats, and has a cheese room and a meat room.  They grow their own herbs and veg., make their own bread and use local produce wherever possible.  And the ladies serving behind the counter were delightful.  One of the lovely ladies explained that the brick wall in the deli was made with bricks from the baker's oven that had burnt down a couple of years ago.  Rather than throw them away, they decided to incorporate them into the deli building which was a derelict house falling down before being restored recently and turned into the deli.  I had a marvellous time wandering around and taking photos, while Mr Pickings chatted to the ladies (as is his wont).

lovely ladies/ the cheese room/ and the bakery

inside the deli/reflections on the glass door of the meat room

the marvellous exterior of the building, with a clever wooden loveseat

After buying a few (I restrained myself) goodies, we then continued on to our dear friend Brooke's pottery studio- Red Door Studio- in the nearby Byron hinterland.  She is a fabulous potter, and her work is vibrant and beautiful.  My kitchen is absolutely chockers with her gorgeous wares.  You can buy her pieces at Harvest also.  We had a looong chat with her, then headed back to our motel room at Pottsville.

Brooke and Mr Pickings communing in the studio

Brooke's stunning pieces in the afternoon sunlight

Mr Pickings working as usual in our motel room/curious cows in the countryside

delish ham'n cheese toastie for me, and burger and chips for him at Tweed River Art Gallery cafe

cute mailbox in Pottsville/stunning view from the Tweed Art gallery
                                               Freeman's organic fruit, veg. and coffee stall just over the NSW/QLD border                                                   

We had a wonderful weekend away- we saw lots of things, and spoke to some great people, tasted great food and enjoyed the serenity of the truly spectacular countryside in this amazing region of NSW.  Wish I was there now...

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Sample Food Festival 2014 & Swell Sculpture Festival

Wow what a great weekend we had down in beautiful northern NSW.  Mr Pickings and I headed down for a 3 day weekend to check out a couple of festivals- the Swell Sculpture Festival on the Gold Coast and the Sample Food Festival at Bangalow.  I had entered a food competition that Sample was holding, and wanted to go check out the winner (sadly not me).  It was one of those magical weekends away when everything just clicks, and all is right with the world.  Well, how could it not be when it involved all my fave things?- hubby and me (or is that I?) on a break, food, festivals, art and the most gorgeous scenery around.  Oh and we even spotted a Hollywood star!  And don't forget the occasional whale sighting, plus scarlet wrens, curlews, dragons, goslings -so cute, sea eagles, ospreys...my cup runneth over with delight. (have I mentioned before that I am a secret twitcher?  that is bird watcher for the uninitiated).  So off we went in our little yellow car (her name is Buttercup) tootling down the highway, filled with anticipation for the weekend ahead.
Swell is a marvellous festival held every September on Currumbin Beach.  There are usually about 50 sculptures, literally sitting on the sand, where visitors can wander around, touch them (naughty) and get up close and personal.  There are artists' talks, twilight walks, night time lights, and workshops for kids and adults.  If you have any interest in art/sculpture, this really is a must-do.  This year was the 12th annual Festival; here's hoping there are many more.  I find it a really magical and marvellous event, and wouldn't miss it for the world.

glorious artworks at Swell

We wended our way down the highway into deepest, darkest NSW, heading for our motel in Pottsville.  We were pleasantly surprised by this little gem of a town, and by the motel which was comparatively inexpensive, clean and modern after a refurbishment this year.  The sea is just a couple of hundred metres behind the motel, and is glorious (I keep saying that word) and very serene; and best of all, we were virtually the only people on it!

A white yacht was sailing off into the distance; and yes this shell was very long!      
There were many, many mangrove seeds along the beach as  you can see                 

Next day we headed out to Bangalow, trying to get there early enough to avoid the big crowds.  Even by 9.40am, the crowds were starting to swell, and people were drinking champagne already!  Apparently there was a record crowd this year, so I guess it can only get bigger next year.  We wandered around the food stalls, and bought local sparkling water from a lovely young girl who leapt out from the stall in hot pursuit of actor Chris Hemsworth who was trying but perhaps not succeeding in being incognito.  I suppose it didn't help when I walked by him and yelped- "oh look that's Chris Hemsworth" to my clueless spouse (even tho he likes that movie Thor).  Bangalow Showgrounds are seemingly endless, with lovely trees and plenty of parking- well at that time of day anyway.  We sat and watched the winner cook up his successful dish using local macadamia products- macadamia coconut chicken satay.  It was really delicious and spicy; not surprising since the winner owns the Byron Bay Chilli Co.

the day was sunny and the crowds were happy and hungry

the winner of the macadamia comp.with chef Alex Herbert;  lovely ladies selling Bangalow Banquet cookbook  
delish pork bun from 100miletable;  actor Chris Hemsworth giving some local lads a big thrill!                                 

coffee truck; Zest Byron Bay spice pastes and blends; tasty chicken satay

 the cutest, blue-est car parked in downtown Bangalow
local sparkling water from nearby Mt Warning              
lovely CWA ladies being storefront mannequins;          
                           stunning purple tibouchina flowers outside the local school                    

The CWA ladies were a real hoot.  They took turns sitting in the front window of the store, knitting and laughing and having a ball.  I peeked inside the store and there was another (young) lady dressed in fifties gear and dancing up a storm in the doorway.  There was such a wonderful atmosphere in the town, and everyone seemed to be having heaps of fun.  I bought the Bangalow Banquet cookbook from the lovely ladies at the Festival stall, and I will be posting up a recipe or 2 down the track.
More to come from our northern NSW trip in the next post!

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Brisbane Open House 2014-October 11/12

Brisbane, like other big cities around the world such as London, New York and Rome opens up its buildings both historic and modern to viewers once a year during the Open House weekend.  If you have a love of architecture and history, this is the event for you!  You will find that it broadens your knowledge, and increases your awareness of the wonderful built environment that surrounds us in beautiful Brisbane.  Mr Pickings is a building designer, so I can very proudly say that his influence on the buildings of Brisbane in its own small way is profound, and reflects his love of design.  This love for the built environment of course has rubbed off on me over the years!
Last year I was one of the 500 volunteers who helped to support this event, and this year will see me once again giving my time to this worthwhile and fascinating free-of-charge, annual experience.  You can check out the details of the weekend here.  Make sure you allow yourself lots of time, and plan out your day as there is a lot to see!  Hope to see you there.

Very popular ABC Brisbane Centre at Southbank

Spring Hill Baths

Eco-Sciences Precinct

QUT Science & Engineering Centre

Translational Research Institute

       (Permission by Open House Brisbane to use these images in this post)

(This post is in line with my advertorial policy.  I have not been paid to write this article.  I was asked to consider putting up a post, and I have done so as I am a keen fan of this scheme!)

Monday, 15 September 2014

Freezing Fruit

Well, I can't possibly pretend even for a nano-second that this is my idea, but it is very useful especially in a time of glut. The strawberry season starts early in Queensland and we start getting local beauties in shops and markets in August. There is even a local festival day which includes a World Famous Strawberry Eating Competition!   Mr Pickings and I were going away for a long weekend and there were not 1 but 2 large punnets of strawbs in the fridge.  What to do? what to do?  Freeze them of course!  So here is a great little tip for keeping that beautiful fruit around for a bit longer.  And no, I didn't hull them.  You could do if you wish, but when it gets whizzed up you won't even notice them.

place the fruit in a single layer on a lined tray and put in freezer for an hour

toss them into a freezer bag for later use

throw them into a blender to make a fruity smoothie

add yoghurt, coconut sugar, almond milk, oats etc for a healthy breakfast

I often have one of these drinks for my breakfast or lunch; really tasty and pretty darn good for you.

picking strawberries in a field in British Columbia (image held in the British Library)

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Orange Curd

I do love a good lemon curd especially when it is really tangy and zesty.  Then again, I really love coconut curd.  I guess I just love curds!  I was flicking through some old recipes recently and saw one for orange curd made in the microwave. Honestly, it sounded like twice as much work and twice the time of a normal one made on the stove top.  You had to feed the butter in bit by bit and stir it, then whack it in the microwave and stop it and stir each minute for 10 minutes. Crikey!  I could scale Mt Everest in that time.
So I decided to use the lemon curd recipe I have used before but replace it with orange juice.  So here is my latest curd/butter recipe flavoured with orange and a bit of lemon, adapted from a recipe on Allrecipes.


160 mls orange juice - from real oranges please!
40 mls lemon juice-  ditto
zest of 2 oranges
3 large eggs
185g of sugar
125g cold and cubed butter


First sterilise a couple of small jars- it makes about 350 mls of curd
Place all the ingredients into a medium saucepan
Whisk together and keep whisking for about 10-12 minutes at a low to medium heat
Once the mixture is bubbling at the edges and has slightly thickened- stop!
Cool slightly and pour into sterilised jars; place in the fridge where it will thicken up a bit when cold
You can keep them in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks at least
Enjoy on toast, in icecream or tarts.

Ok here is where I have to confess.  I had to strain it 'cos it went kind of grainy.  Not my fault-honest!  The kookaburras came down to the deck demanding food just as I had put the saucepan on the stove top, so I had to rush out there with their lumps of steak and feed them.  I put the mixture through a strainer a couple of times, and it came out pretty well.

a youngster (stock image)

I have taken several photos of the 2 gorgeous fellas that come to our deck, but they are not the best quality as the deck faces the east- so too much light.  Hence the stock image.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Dog biscuits-home made

Mr Pickings and I have always had pets- cats and dogs, then just a dog till she passed away last year.  Now we are pet-less but we do have a niece with a lovely dachsund who comes over for a visit now and again. Willow is a beautiful and very long girl; our niece works for the RSPCA and originally brought her home as a foster dog (she was rescued from a puppy farm) but couldn't bear to give her up, so she joined her cat and other foster animals that she takes in.  I used to make home-made treats for our dog as she had skin allergies, and I had to be sure that she wasn't getting the bad stuff that is in a lot of commercial biscuits.  Here is a recipe from Dr Harry's old TV show; they are cheap and easy and dogs love them.

Willow waiting for her treat to cool down


1 ¾ cups wholemeal flour
1/2 cup cornflour
1/2 cup grated carrot (you can use other vegies like zucchini or potato, or apple)
4 tbs vegetable oil
2 stock cubes or 2 tsp of stock powder dissolved in 1/2 cup of water


Place the flours in a large mixing bowl
Add the carrot, the oil and the half cup of stock into the bowl
Mix it into a dough- you may need to add a bit more water if it is very dry
Bang it out onto a floured board or bench
Grab your rolling pin and roll it out to a half cm thick rectangle (but don't fuss; just remember this is for dogs- they don't care what it looks like)
Then either cut out shapes with a cookie cutter or just divide it with a knife into squares
Put into a 170C oven for at least 30 mins, but I suggest closer to an hour to get it really hard
Let them cool down, then give one to your happy dog!

See that last photo?  It has peanut butter on top.   The niece said her dog loves PB, so if you buy a natural one, I think a little won't do any harm for an extra treat!  And see that lovely bracelet; that is on the niece's wrist as she was the one doing all the hard work :)
Please check out her blog: dachshundsfurrever.com if you have a dog especially a dachsund!

don't you love the swirliness of PB! (stock image)