EE BY GUM

Dear Amelia,
I’ve been thinking today of all the things you’ll learn as you grow up.
One of them will be how to pull your bra out through your sleeve.
You’ll want to do this the minute you get home from work because it will be driving you crazy.
For many years Nanna used to pull hers out through the neck hole of whatever she was wearing.
But the sleeve method is better because it means that if you’re really desperate you can pull it out in the car, or even up the back of the bus, on your way home.
It’s very discreet. Anyone who’s looking will think you’re searching for your hanky.
Another thing you’ll learn about as you grow up is your multi-cultural heritage.
On your Mum’s side of the family there’s a mix of Australian, English, Welsh, Irish, Scottish and French.
Your Dad told me that there’s also some German in your ancestry but seeing as they didn’t win the war and seeing as I’ve never cooked pork knuckle, we’ll stick with the Brits for the purposes of today’s letter and talk about Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding.
I’d always assumed that because I was born in Yorkshire, the ability to make its famous pudding would be inbred in much the same way as is the ability to fit 15 marbles in my mouth and move my ears independently of my head.
Sadly, my attempts at Yorkshire Pudding were laughable until I started using a recipe by Clarissa Dickson-Wright from her book, Sunday Roast.
Here is a picture of Clarissa Dickson-Wright when she was one of the Two Fat Ladies with the late Jennifer Paterson. Clarissa is on the right.


My Mum – your Great Grandma – made the best Yorkshire Puddings I’ve ever tasted but she’s nearly 80 and can’t remember how she did them (the recipe was never written down and involved measurements like handfuls, pinches and jugs rather than cups, tablespoons and mls).
My Mum’s Roast Beef and Yorkshire Puddings were served for lunch every Sunday along with roast potatoes, boiled carrots, cauliflower cheese and brussels sprouts that tasted like they had been cooking since the previous Friday.
Four Yorkshire Puddings were always held back so my Mum, Dad, sister and I could eat them drizzled with golden syrup for dessert (believe me, you haven’t lived until you’ve tried this).
Here is a picture of your Great Grandma when she was on holiday in Gibraltar in August last year.
It was taken four days before her 79th birthday. I doubt she was thinking of Yorkshire Puddings.


And finally, here’s the recipe.
Check out the picture of those fabulous Yorkshire Puds.
When I saw them, I was so excited I almost forgot to breathe.
PS: The picture at the top of this blog post is taken from Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen sketch.
You can watch it here.
It’s very funny – always makes me think of my Dad.

ROAST BEEF AND YORKSHIRE PUDDING

For the Roast Beef:

1 rib roast of beef
olive oil
salt and pepper

Take the beef out of the fridge an hour before you’re going to cook it.
Preheat the oven to 190C.
Rub the top of the beef with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Put it on a rack in a roasting tin.
For rare beef: roast for 25 minutes per 450g, plus 25 minutes extra.
For medium beef: roast for 30 minutes per 450g, plus 30 minutes extra.
When the beef is cooked, remove it to a warm plate, wrap it in alfoil and let it rest for 30 minutes before carving.
During this time you can cook the Yorkshire Puddings.
For your Grandpa and I, I get a rib roast that weighs about a kilo and roast it for one hour and 20 minutes.
It always turns out just the way we like it (medium-rare and very tender), which is a good thing because it costs a bloody fortune.
It serves two for dinner, plus sandwiches for the next couple of days.
If you’re doing a big roast, take out a second mortgage and lower the oven temp to 180C.

For the Yorkshire Puddings:

Makes 8-10

110g plain flour
pinch salt
2 eggs
300ml milk
vegetable oil

Make the Yorkshire Pudding batter an hour or so before you cook the beef.
Sift the flour and salt into a bowl and make a well in the centre.
Break in the eggs and beat them well with a fork, gradually incorporating the flour.
Gradually add the milk, still beating as hard and fast as you can with the fork.
You should end up with a runny batter with no lumps.
Let the batter rest on the bench top until the beef is ready.
After you’ve removed the beef from the oven, turn the heat up to 220C.
Put a scant teaspoon of vegetable oil in each hole of a muffin tin.
Put the tin in the oven and heat until the oil is smoking hot.
Put a scant ladleful of batter into each muffin-tin hole.
If the holes are biggies like mine, you should get 8-10 puddings.
Bake for 20-30 minutes in the 220C oven, or until they’re puffed up and golden brown.
Don’t open the oven door during this time, or they’ll collapse.

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FIFTY SHADES OF WTF

Dear Amelia,
As I write this, someone, somewhere in the world, is buying a copy of the erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey.
It’s very famous at the moment, this book, because it’s sold 31 million copies in about five minutes.
That means there are 31 million people out there who know a lot more about bondage and discipline and S&M than they did before they ventured on to Amazon.com.
Nanna’s not one of them but, truth be told, she’s tempted.
The trouble is, I’ve heard the book is so badly written, I’m not sure I’m willing to fork out the ten bucks required to bring it home.
So I’ve more or less decided to wait until I can get a copy from Albany Public Library.
I just worry that by the time I do, all the pages will be stuck together.
Laugh if you like but I worry with good reason.
There was a story last week in our local newspaper, the Albany Advertiser, that since sales of Fifty Shades of Grey have gone gangbusters, so have the sales of sex toys at the local sex shop.
You know, sometimes I sit out on the deck at night, sipping a glass of Yellowglen and watching all the lights come on in the houses on the hill opposite.


I often wonder what sort of lives the people in those houses lead – what sort of things they get up to.
Well, now I know.
While I’m knocking back the fizz they’re pulling out their whips and strapping on giant dildos.
Who would’ve thought? Not me, that’s for sure.
The next time I see a cluster of people around the triple-A battery stand at Woolies, I’ll start wondering big time.
Are they buying them so they can listen to something uplifting on the ABC on their portable radios or are they planning a session with their shiny new vibrators?
And if it’s the latter, where are they hiding them from the kids?
We used to keep ours up the back of your Grandpa’s sock drawer.
I say “used to” because it got lost during the move to Albany four and a half years ago.
For months after the move I was worried sick it had ended up in one of the cardboard boxes we’d given to the Salvos, wedged down the bottom between the Rena Ware casserole dish and the Reader’s Digest Complete Do-It-Yourself Manual.
Then your Grandpa said it had probably ended up in landfill somewhere, and I must admit I felt much better knowing that it was underpinning one of Perth’s outer suburbs rather than causing a coronary in a soldier of Christ.
Speaking of Rena Ware, how stupid was I to give it away considering that it was totally vintage and therefore totally desirable in a totally non-sexual way?
Well, basically it was because it wasn’t big enough or deep enough to cook anything in, especially this Malaysian Chicken Curry, which is one of my favourites.
And seeing as it’s spicy, it sort of fits in with today’s little chat, doesn’t it?

MALAYSIAN CHICKEN CURRY

Serves 4-6

1 brown onion
2 garlic cloves
3cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and quartered
1 small chilli, halved (with or without seeds – your choice)
1 tomato, quartered
2 tbsp Madras curry paste (I use Patak’s)
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp salt
8 fat chicken drumsticks
400ml can coconut cream (I use the “lite” version)
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into eighths

Preheat the oven to 180C.
Cut the onion into quarters and put it in a food processor with the garlic, ginger, chilli, tomato, curry paste and 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil.
Whiz it all around until everything is reduced to a thick paste.
Mix the turmeric and salt on a dinner plate and roll the chicken drumsticks in the mixture to coat.
Heat the remaining oil in a big frypan over medium heat and cook the drumsticks for about 3 minutes each side, until golden brown.
Put them in an ovenproof dish that’s big enough to hold them in a single layer.
Reduce the heat under the frypan and add the onion paste from the processor.
Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes or until it’s aromatic.
Stir in the coconut cream and bring it to the boil.
Pour this mixture immediately over the chicken, then tuck the potato pieces in between the drumsticks, pushing them under the sauce.
Cover the dish with a lid or foil and cook in the oven for one hour, turning the drumsticks over after 30 minutes.
Serve with rice.


HAPPY EVER AFTER

Dear Amelia,
It’s really strange to think that when you grow up you won’t remember your Mum and Dad’s wedding, even though you were there.
It’s because of a thing called childhood amnesia, which means that most of us don’t remember anything from before the age of three.
Whatever.
Take it from me, it was the best wedding EVER: happy and beautiful, emotional and exciting, and lots and lots of fun (especially the dancing later on and Andrew’s hilarious MC-ing and the speeches your Grandpa and Uncle Paul made – they brought the house down).
You and your Mum looked absolutely gorgeous and your Dad was handsome with a capital H.
Forest Hill Winery was like something out of a fairy tale – all rolling mists and candlelight and log fires, plus beautiful food and wine.


The only sad note was that you caught the flu two days before and were very sick.
On the upside it meant Nanna had an excuse to pull you into bed with her two nights in a row.
And I must say that all things considered, you were an absolute trooper on the night itself.
During the wedding weekend, you, your Grandpa, your Uncle Paul and I stayed at a very interesting eco cottage in Denmark.
I say interesting because it had a composting toilet, which we knew about, but for some reason we weren’t told it was a five-hour trek from the house.
OK, it was a five-minute trek, but seriously scary at night when the rain was coming down in slabs and your mind naturally drifted to things like killer kangaroos and axe murderers lurking in the forest out the back.
Nanna doesn’t usually condone peeing in the shower but it was either that or borrow one of your nappies.
One of the upsides of this eco heaven was this view of Wilson Inlet from the lounge room.


And this as well – about 20 kangaroos gathered each day, which you loved, even though the two big ones in the middle were always knocking hell out of each other.


When we got back to Albany, we did all sorts of stuff, you and I. And it was wonderful.
We stood out on the deck and waved at the herons and pelicans that fly down the valley to Lake Seppings every night.
Then we went into the garden and looked for the moon.


We bounced like kangaroos, played chasey up the passage and shouted at Ella when she kept stealing your ugg boots.
We fed the ducks at Eyre Park.
We proved that an almost-two-year-old can walk along every single window sill inside the house without killing herself so long as her Nanna is there to catch her (God knows how I got myself into that one but, once started, there was no going back. I aged at least 10 years).
We sang Knick-Knack Paddy-Whack approximately 1,013 times.
We put on concerts for Ra-Ra, Puppy, Teddy and the Babies and made sure they ate balanced, nutritious meals.


We watched Giggle and Hoot in the morning.


And we watched Teletubbies at night (or maybe it was the other way round).


We changed Ra-Ra’s nappy approximately 1,013 times (“Nanna! Oh no! More poos!”).
I must say that if I’d known when we bought him at K-Mart that Ra-Ra was such a prolific shitter, I probably would’ve passed him by, but hindsight is a fine thing, isn’t it?


It was the longest time you’ve ever stayed on your own with Nanna and Grandpa and it was absolutely the best.
When your Mum and Dad took you home there was really only one word I could use to describe how I felt.
Knackered.


MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE RANCH…

Dear Amelia,
I’ve been asked what you were doing when your mother and I were gallivanting at the hens’ night on Saturday.
You were at home, of course, with your Dad.
You played and you skipped and you sang and you chatted.
Then you kindly helped Dad set up a poker game for him and his mates before you retired for the night.
Nanna can already see that your superior multi-tasking abilities are going to take you far in life.
Keep it up.


LAMBS, HENS AND HAPPINESS

Dear Amelia,
As you grow older you’ll discover there are some things that are just meant to go together.
Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding is one.
Hens’ nights and hangovers is another.
Nanna went to your Mum’s hens’ night last night.
Now I’m back in Albany sitting in front of my computer, wondering if Panadol would work more quickly if I pulled apart the capsules and rubbed the powder into my eyeballs.
Two of many lasting memories:
1. Being photographed with a cardboard penis stuck to my forehead.
2. Standing in a circle with the bride-to-be and the five bridesmaids singing Powderfinger’s “My Happiness”.
We were loud enough to raise the dead.
“…YOU’RE OVER THERE WHEN I NEED YOU HEE-EERE…”
“My Happiness” is a special song for me and your Mum because it came out just before your Mum did her big overseas trip.
She was away for ages and I missed her like crazy.
I managed to get all the way through it without sobbing, which is no mean feat when you’re tired and emotional.
It turned out that by the end of the night I was tired and emotional to the tune of one-and-three-quarter bottles of champagne, which isn’t a record, but it’s close.
You’ll be pleased to know that your Aunty Justine was eventually found safe and sound this morning, and that as far as I know, your mother didn’t vomit on her new shoes.
Luckily I didn’t have to drive home today because I was in no condition to cope with the steady procession of dickwits who think tailgating at 110kmh on Albany Highway is a good idea.
Here’s a tip from Nanna: avoid anyone who owns an iridescent lime green car.
Iridescent lime green car = bogan with death wish.

Luckily, your Grandpa came with me to Perth and he did all the driving.
From what little I saw of the countryside on the way back, it was very lush and pretty from the recent rains.
Not much roadkill (two kangaroos and two foxes) and lots of little lambs gambolling in paddocks.
I nodded off wondering where sheep sleep and if the little lambs get cold at night (and why I care, considering I have no qualms about eating them).
I was woken just out of Mt Barker by your Grandpa shouting “IT’S TENACITY FOR GOD’S SAKE!” at the radio.
One of the footy commentators for the Geelong/Port Adelaide game had said “tenaciousness” and nearly caused him to hit a tree.
I’m not going to give you a recipe today because I’m feeling too delicate to keep typing.
Once the Panadol kicks in, I’ll be cooking a nice comforting roast for dinner.
I just hope it’s not related to anything I spotted gambolling in a paddock this morning.


PS: If you’d like to listen to “My Happiness”, check out YouTube here.