HOW NOT TO LOOK GOOD IN THE KITCHEN

PekingDuck_Michele1

Dear Amelia,
As you can see from the photo, I was on my knees by the time I finished cooking the Peking Duck last Saturday night.
We didn’t get to eat it until 9.17pm, which was unfortunate because my synapses stopped firing round about 8.04.
By then the kitchen and I looked like the Wreck of the Hesperus.
You may remember that the recipe I decided to use was from Gok Cooks Chinese by everyone’s favourite fashionista Gok Wan, of How To Look Good Naked fame.
As a result of what we now call The Night of the Long Ducks I actually emailed Gok’s people and asked if his next TV series could be titled How To Look Good Fully Clothed with Half a Star Anise and Three Cucumber Sticks In Your Bra.
No, I haven’t heard back from them and, yes, it was a long and messy process this road to Peking Duck-ness – almost Nanna’s kryptonite.
Not that Gok’s roast duck and plum sauce recipes were the culprits. They were both reasonably simple and extremely delicious.
But I almost lost the will to live during the Chinese pancake-making thing. It took FOREVER.
If your Grandpa hadn’t woken up and waved another bottle of wine under my nose I reckon I would’ve been a goner.
Your Grandpa actually had to have a 30-minute ziz during this latest culinary adventure.
Not because of the lengthy preparation process (although that didn’t help), but because he’d got out of bed before dawn to drive up Mt Melville and take photos of the sun rising over Albany, then he’d run around taking pics of the Australia Day citizenship ceremony at the council offices.
Unsurprisingly, by 7.34pm he was buggered.
His sunrise photos, though, are stunning. Here are three of them.

Photo by Leith Phillips

Photo by Leith Phillips

Photo by Leith Phillips

Photo by Leith Phillips

Photo by Leith Phillips

Photo by Leith Phillips

Next up is a picture of what your thumbs look like after they’ve prised open 16 very hot, thin Chinese pancakes to make 32 even thinner ones (the words “painful” and “shit, shit, shit” more or less cover this last stage of what is basically a 357-step process).

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I’ve decided that my next challenge on the culinary front will be to make a chocolate cake using nothing but three cherry tomatoes and a potato masher.
I suspect it might be easier.
That said, in a minute I’ll give you the instructions for Poppa Wan’s Easy Peking Duck.
In the meantime here’s some BREAKING NEWS (well, not technically “breaking” because I’ve already done it once):
If you live in regional WA you can listen to me chat about a recipe on ABC Radio’s WA Regional Drive show with Barry Nicholls.
I started last week and I’ll be on every Thursday at 5.45pm in a segment called What’s For Tea?
Barry, the Regional Drive show’s presenter, is a father of four kids under the age of 8.
Thursday is his night for cooking dinner apparently.
Edit: Oops, I’m actually on once a month. I’ll let you know when my next segment is.

One year ago on this blog: Curried Glut

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POPPA WAN’S EASY PEKING DUCK WITH PLUM SAUCE AND CHINESE PANCAKES

From Gok Cooks Chinese by Gok Wan

Serves 4

The duck
Buy yourself a 2kg duck from the supermarket and pat it dry with paper towels.
Leave the neck attached.
Sprinkle the inside of the cavity ALL AROUND with 3 teaspoons of five-spice powder. This is not easy. Swearing is just about compulsory.
Into the cavity, stuff  2 star anise, 1 peeled onion cut into 8 wedges, 2 spring onions and 4 peeled cloves of garlic that you’ve bashed with the flat side of your knife, and a 5cm piece of ginger that’s been peeled and sliced.
It’s a tight fit but you’ll manage to get it all in with a bit of pushing and shoving.
Close the cavity as tightly as possible by pulling the skin together and threading a bamboo skewer through it to secure it.
Grab another skewer and prick the duck all over. Make sure you do this lots and lots of times – more than you think you should probably do – so the fat runs out and bastes the duck.
Grind some salt over the skin and put the duck on a rack in a deep roasting tin.
Roast it in a 180C oven for 1 hour then increase the temperature to 220C and cook until the duck is done (the recipe says 25 minutes but mine took another hour, during which time I lowered the temp again – it still tasted good).
Let the duck rest on the bench top for 15 minutes while you self-flagellate with a wire whisk because, like a moron, you decided to make your own Chinese pancakes from scratch.

The plum sauce
This is fab.
Grab a medium saucepan and into it put 4 stoned and roughly chopped plums, 1 tablespoon water, ½ teaspoon of five-spice powder, half a de-seeded and chopped fresh red chilli, 1 tablespoon each of honey, light soy sauce and Chinese rice wine, 1 crushed clove of garlic, 2 rounded teaspoons brown sugar, ½ teaspoon ground white pepper and half a star anise (you’ll find a broken one down the bottom of the packet).
Bring to the boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 40 minutes, until the plums are very soft (you can add more water if it looks like it might boil dry but I didn’t need any).
Blend with a stick blender until smooth. Adjust to taste with more soy sauce and honey if needed (we liked it just the way it was).

Keeping the pancakes moist until I'm ready to cook them. The kitchen scissors are there in case I want to end it all by gouging my eyes out.

Keeping the pancakes moist until I’m ready to cook them. I don’t know why the kitchen scissors are there. Probably in case I want to end it all by gouging my eyes out.

Cooking the bastards. They puff up and then you have to separate them with your bare hands.

Cooking the bastards one by one. They puff up and then you have to separate them into two. With your bare hands. While they’re still hot.

Keeping them warm in a steamer. An hour of my life I'll never get back.

Keeping them warm in a steamer. An hour of my life I’ll never get back.

The Chinese pancakes
Buy them.
If you’re a masochist who wants to make your own, you’ll find the recipe I used here.
If I ever make Gok’s Peking Duck again (Look! There goes a flying pig!), I’ll serve the duck and plum sauce with Chinese broccoli or something.

How to eat it
Cut up the duck meat and put it on serving plate. Put the plum sauce in a bowl.
Thinly slice some spring onions and cut a cucumber into matchsticks. Put these on another serving plate.
To eat, spread some plum sauce on a pancake, top it with some spring onion, some cucumber sticks and some duck, roll it up and put it in your mouth.
Be prepared for some of it to fall into your bra.


HAPPY AUSTRALIA DAY

Sheep looking happy in Goomalling

Sheep looking happy in Goomalling. It’s obviously not Australia Day.

Dear Amelia,
Much as you wouldn’t want to be a turkey at Christmas, you definitely wouldn’t want to be a lamb on Australia Day.
Woolies was packed to the rafters with dead ones this week, or various bits and pieces of them, including full legs at $10 off.
I don’t know when this “tradition” of eating lamb on our national day started but I suspect it wasn’t very long ago (in fact I think it’s only been a “tradition” since 2005 when the Meat and Livestock marketing people teamed up with Aussie loudmouth Sam Kekovich and bombarded us with lamb ads).
I asked your Grandpa what he wanted for our Australia Day dinner tonight and he said Peking Duck, and while I don’t usually reward him for being a smart-arse, that’s what we’re having.
He kindly found me an “easy” recipe in Gok Cooks Chinese, a really terrific book from the lovely Gok Wan of TV’s How to Look Good Naked fame.

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I say “really terrific book” but I haven’t actually cooked anything from it yet.
What I HAVE done is read it from cover to cover, so at least it’s a start.
For the Peking Duck, Gok says to buy a pack of duck pancakes at the supermarket.
Hahahahahahaha.
So I’m going to have to make my own using a recipe off the Internet (only three ingredients but a difficult-sounding rolling technique – alcohol may have to be applied to mouth).
Seeing as Peking Duck isn’t very Australian, I thought I should also make the effort to bake some pumpkin scones.
The recipe is from the 1970 edition of the Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook, which was given to me as a wedding present in 1974 by a lady called Ali Mealey, who was a neighbour of your Great Grandma and Grandpa in Bunbury.
The Mealeys were a big boisterous family of carnival people (they set up their amusement stalls at country shows all over the State) and Ali had a heart of pure gold.
This book has been so well used, the dust jacket actually disintegrated and then the entire hard cover dropped off.
It’s THE go-to book if you want to make Strawberry Hazlenut Gateau, which I have done on many occasions over the years but not lately because it contains obscene amounts of whipped cream.
It’s made up of layers of hazelnut meringue sandwiched together with melted chocolate, whipped cream and sliced strawberries, then covered with more whipped cream and strawberries.
Here’s a pic of it from my AWW Cookbook.

strawberry hazlenut gateau
But back to the scones…
Before you start, you need to know two of the Australian Women’s Weekly set-in-stone scone rules from 1970:
1. Cut sharply and evenly with your scone cutter. Don’t twist it.
2. Never cut a cooked scone with a knife – always break it open with your fingers.
I’ve got no idea why you have to do this, or what will happen to you if you don’t.
That’s because I’ve never been one to tempt fate.
Even as a kid I wouldn’t wear blue and green without a colour in between.
I didn’t step on a crack until I was 23.

 

One year ago on this blog: Echidna Pavlova

 

pumpkin scone

PUMPKIN SCONES

Makes about 12

30g softened butter
¼ cup caster sugar
1 cup cooked, mashed pumpkin (about 340g)
1 egg
2½ cups self-raising flour
pinch salt
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ – ½ cup milk, depending on dryness of pumpkin

Preheat oven to 230C.
Beat butter and sugar together.
Add pumpkin and mix well.
Fold in sifted dry ingredients alternately with ¼ cup milk.
If necessary, add remaining milk to make a soft but not sticky dough.
Turn mixture on to a floured surface and knead lightly.
Pat out to 2cm thickness and cut out scones with a floured 5cm cutter.
Place the scones in a greased 28x18cm lamington/slice tin and glaze the tops with a little milk.
Bake scones for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.
Cool the scones uncovered on a wire rack if you like firm, crisp tops.
Wrap them in a tea towel as soon as they come out of the oven if you prefer them soft.

pumpkin scones


A NEW YEAR, A NEW BABY AND A NICE BIT OF DUCK

Xmas 2012 kitchen small

Dear Amelia,
Welcome to 2013 and your very own bubblegum pink kitchen, which you were supposed to get for your birthday in September but it didn’t arrive in time.
When it did arrive in October – flat-packed in a cardboard box – it occurred to us for the first time that it would have to be built from scratch.
And that it would be like assembling your portable cot (aka thatstupidfuckingthing) but multiplied by a million.
This realisation was so traumatic, we decided not to think about it again until Christmas.
Long story short: If you had any doubts about your Grandpa’s devotion to you, this kiddy kitchen and its 147 individual screws should dispel them once and for all.
It took him four and a half hours to assemble the damn thing and he didn’t swear once – an incredible indicator of personal growth if you ask me.

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The fact that you kept jumping up and down and clapping your hands and shouting, “Wow! Look Nanna! Wow!” certainly helped things along.
So did the hugs when times got tough.

Ella the Wonderdog asserting ownership of your Grandpa via the time-honoured dog practice of putting a paw on his testicles

You’ll notice that Ella the Wonderdog is asserting ownership of your Grandpa via the time-honoured dog practice of putting a paw on his testicles

Uncle Paul pitched in as well, letting you eat his T-shirt until you were able to cook something more substantial on your new stovetop.

Amelia2
Here are some pictures of the lovely Christmas table your Mum set.
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Finally, here’s a picture of your Mum getting dinner ready while your Dad attends to the important business of opening a six-pack of beer.
You’ll notice your Mum is a slightly different shape.
That’s because of your baby brother, who is due to enter this world in May.
I KNOW! It’s so exciting.

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We had a wonderful Christmas with you all but we were very glad to get back to the cool weather of Albany.
Perth had its longest December heatwave in 70 years while we were staying up there: 39.6C on Christmas Day, 40.5C the following Saturday, bloody awful in between.
When we were driving home on Boxing Day, the temperature as we passed through Williams was 39C. By the time we got to Albany it was 22C. Bliss.
On New Year’s Eve we partied like it was 1999, your Grandpa and I, 1999 being the year after 1998, which was the last time we actually went out to a NYE party.
Our tradition now is to stay at home, eat good food, drink French champagne, sing very badly and loudly, dance around the lounge room, then pass out at half past ten.
We had beautiful Albany oysters with the first bottle of Veuve, then a really delicious duck dish, then ice cream with home-made strawberry topping (I was supposed to make berry clafoutis but I was too buggered).
The duck recipe looks like major work but it’s actually very simple.
Just grind your spices and make your sauce beforehand.
The rest comes together really quickly.
You’ll find the original recipe for this dish here.
It requires you to perform surgery on two whole ducks (no thanks) and add cornflour to the sauce (no need).
It also adds cinnamon and salt to the spice rub but I forgot to put it in (no great loss – it was still delicious).
I served this with sauteed potatoes and a salad that included homegrown rocket, mizuna, parsley and chives.

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SPICED DUCK WITH GINGER GLAZE
From a recipe by JeanMarie Brownson, Chicago Tribune

Serves 4


4 duck breasts
Spice rub, see recipe below
Ginger glazing sauce, heated, see below

handful of fresh parsley, roughly chopped 



Pat the duck breasts dry with paper towels.
Sprinkle the spice rub on a big dinner plate and coat the duck breasts lightly on each side.
Put the breasts on a rack set over a plate or baking dish (this will catch any drips of blood), cover and put in the fridge for 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
Make the Ginger Glazing Sauce before you cook the duck breasts. Reheat it when the duck breasts are in the oven.
Pre-heat oven to 200C. Heat a large ovenproof frying pan (see note) over low heat until hot.
Add breasts, skin side down, in a single layer.
Cook over low heat without turning until skin is crisp and brown, about 10 minutes.
Turn breasts over, put them in the oven and cook until medium rare, about 10 minutes.
To serve, slice the duck breasts, pour over some of the ginger sauce and sprinkle with parsley.
Serve the rest of the sauce separately.
Note: You don’t need to use an ovenproof frying pan. I used an ordinary non-stick frying pan and then transferred the duck breasts to a hot baking dish (I put the baking dish in the oven when it was pre-heating).
Even though I cooked this for two instead of four, I still made the full amount of sauce. Because we’re greedy pigs. And because the ginger marmalade was on special at Woolies.

SPICE RUB
1 heaped tbsp whole coriander seeds
1 star anise
1 tsp whole cloves

Grind everything in an electric spice mill/coffee grinder or mortar and pestle until you have a fine-ish powder.

GINGER GLAZING SAUCE
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 tbsp butter
½ cup dry white wine
1½ cups low-salt chicken stock
4 tbsp (1/3 cup) ginger marmalade
2 tsp balsamic vinegar (or more to taste)
freshly ground salt and pepper

Cook shallots in butter in a saucepan over medium heat until golden, about 3 minutes.
Stir in the wine and boil until it’s reduced to a glaze, about 3 minutes.
Stir in the stock and simmer until reduced by half, about 20 minutes.
Add the ginger marmalade, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to taste, and stir until the marmalade is incorporated and the sauce is hot.

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STRAWBERRIES, ALEC BALDWIN AND SATAY PORK

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Dear Amelia,
I was going to talk to you today about making strawberry jam but I haven’t made it yet so I can’t.
There are five kilos of strawberries in that box in the picture.
Your Great Uncle Gerard was down for a visit last week and asked us if we’d like him to go out to the local strawberry farm and buy them.
What possessed me to say “yes” is anybody’s guess. I must’ve been on drugs without knowing it.
The main reason is that they were only $10 (yes, $10 for 5 kilos) and who could go past a bargain like that, EVEN THOUGH I WASN’T PAYING FOR THEM?
Not your Nanna, that’s for sure (my Mum, aka your Great Grandma, reckons this is because once you’ve been hit with the Kmart stick, it’s a lifelong thing – cheap, cheap, cheap all the way).
These strawberries are seconds. If you look closely you’ll see that some of them have been pre-nibbled by lizards and bugs, others are covered in dirt, and a few (surprisingly few, actually) are turning into alien life forms.
It only took me about 12 hours to wash them, hull them and chop out the dodgy bits.
Then I had to go to Woolies and buy some JamSetta and the equivalent of Alec Baldwin’s body weight in sugar.
The idea is that I will chuck everything into a big saucepan, boil the shit out of it and end up with jars of jam that people will exclaim over at Christmas even though what they really want is a giant Toblerone.
Speaking of Christmas, here are some pictures of our fibre-optic tree, which I love with every fibre of my being.
Your Grandpa and I sit in front of its twinkly-ness every night, grateful that we no longer have to pretend we prefer the real thing and won’t still be vacuuming up pine needles on Australia Day.

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The following pictures are of my spice drawers, which I bought at Ikea years ago and painted with some red paving paint I found in the shed at our old house.
The names are written on the front with white coloured pencil, which is easy to wash off if you want to re-arrange your drawers (so to speak).
We love eating spicy food, your Grandpa and I, and this is a good way to store spices because it keeps them in the dark.

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“Where are you going with this, Nanna?” you are probably asking right now.
Well, I’m trying to segue into a recipe for Satay Pork, which is what we had for dinner last night.
This is one of our favourite meals – perfectly spiced and great to eat with fried rice.
It also freezes and reheats really well.
It’s from a book I got off eBay called Best-kept Secrets of the Women’s Institute: Home Cooking, by Jill Brand and Carrie O’Regan.
I don’t have a picture of the finished dish because it’s one of those brown jobbies that doesn’t photograph well.
Here’s a picture of the spices instead.

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SATAY PORK

Serves 4

700g pork fillet
1-2 tbsp oil for frying

For the marinade:
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp salt
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp olive oil

For the peanut sauce:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped finely
2 garlic cloves, crushed
¼ cup (60 ml) smooth peanut butter
½ – 1 tsp chilli powder (depending how hot you like it – I like ½ tsp)
1 tbsp light brown sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice

Mix together the marinade ingredients in a medium bowl.
Remove the silvery bits from the pork fillet and slice the meat across the grain into 1cm slices.
Put the pork into the bowl with the marinade and mix well.
Cover with Gladwrap and marinate in the fridge for at least 6 hours.
To make the sauce, heat the oil in a small saucepan over low-ish heat then gently cook the onion and garlic until soft and lightly coloured.
Add the peanut butter, chilli powder, brown sugar and lemon juice and cook for two minutes.
The sauce can be made ahead of time if you like. Keep it, covered, in the fridge.
To make the satay, heat a little oil in a non-stick frying pan or wok over high heat.
Fry the pork until cooked through (you’ll have to do this in two batches, removing the first batch to a bowl).
Return all pork to the wok, stir in the peanut sauce and heat through for a couple of minutes.
Serve with rice.


NOTTING HILL, NOODLES AND THE SALVOS

This has got nothing to do with anything. I just like putting daisies in a  golden syrup tin.

This has got nothing to do with anything. I just like putting daisies in a golden syrup tin.

Dear Amelia,
Sometimes real life – as in, work – gets in the way of blogging, which is a bugger because I’d be quite happy to sit here all day, every day, writing nonsense and posting recipes.
Work has gone ballistic in the last couple of weeks, which is why I haven’t had the time to sit here and write things like, “I was stunned by the woody freshness of the avocado” or, “This method of cooking steak was taught to me by my French friend Nathalie” or, “With a little care, a simple snack can make a delectable mini-feast”.
Luckily for me, all this stuff has already been written by Carina Cooper, who is the author of the Notting Hill Cookbook.

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Since buying this cookbook I’ve been asking myself do I dislike Carina because she’s a wanker?
Or do I like dislike her because she’s thin, blonde, good-looking, lives in one of the most desirable suburbs on Earth, has directed documentaries for the BBC and appears to be filthy rich?
The answer is yes to all of the above.
To add insult to injury, Carina has an “inspiring husband” called Franc and four daughters called Ithaka, Flynn, Sidonie and Zazou.
Here is more of what Carina has written in her Notting Hill Cookbook.
“From the age of about four my children cooked their own supper on a Sunday evening. Oeuf en cocotte was Flynn’s favourite.”
And, in the introduction to a recipe for Prawns Margarita: “We were sitting on a beach in Mexico with our friends Goffredo and Alix.”
As someone who would only be able to write, “From the age of 10, my children were able to microwave their own baked beans,” and “We were sitting on a beach in Safety Bay with Ron and Maureen,” I’ll make no bones about the fact that I dislike Carina with every fibre of my being.
So the question is, why did I buy her cookbook?
Well, because it was $2, hardback, hardly a mark on it, at the Salvos Community Store in Chester Pass Rd.
Your Uncle Paul is on leave at the moment and came down for a visit, and because we’re both book fiends we did the usual trawling of the op shops.
Here’s the big tip: Notting Hill may have fabulous bars, flower shops, cafes, restaurants, delis, bakeries, fishmongers, butchers and markets, but Albany has the best-value second-hand shops in the Universe.
The Salvos! My God, you haven’t lived until you’ve trawled through their bookshelves.
And unlike the Red Cross shop, which has gone all upmarket retro and is selling books for upwards of $4 (the cheek!), the Salvos are sticking to two bucks a pop, no matter what the original price.
Here’s what I bought for $8 on Friday.

I bought this one for your Grandpa.

I bought this one for your Grandpa.

 

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You’ll see that the book by Masterchef Australia judges Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris was originally $49.95.
And it was one of two that was on the shelf (the other one is probably still there, so if you live in Albany you should stop reading this right now and get on your bike).
I was going to give you a Carina Cooper recipe because, despite the pretensions and gag factor of the book, some of the recipes don’t look half bad.
But I haven’t cooked anything from the book yet so I’m going instead with something from The Best, the TV series that was on Foxtel ages ago.

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There are some great recipes in the book that accompanied the series, so grab it if you see it in an op shop near you. It’ll be the best $2 you’ve ever spent.
I made this Oriental Noodle Salad because I’d bought some sesame seeds for a prawn recipe that failed miserably and needed to use them up.
It’s very different, light and healthy and good to eat on a hot day.

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ORIENTAL NOODLE SALAD (recipe by Silvana Franco)

Serves 2

100g rice vermicelli noodles
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp caster sugar
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 Lebanese cucumber
1 red chilli, finely chopped
100g smoked salmon, torn into shreds
handful fresh coriander leaves
1 tbsp sesame seeds

Soak the noodles for about five minutes in boiling water to cover.
While they’re soaking, grab a big bowl and mix together the vinegar, salt and sugar.
Add the sliced red onion and mix to combine.
Peel the cucumber, halve it lengthways, scoop out the seeds with a spoon and chuck them out.
Slice the cumber thinly and put it in the bowl with the chopped chilli, smoked salmon and coriander, stirring to combine.
Drain the noodles in a colander and run them under cold water until cool.
Put them in the bowl and toss everything together.
Toast the sesame seeds in a small non-stick frying pan and sprinkle them over the top of the salad before serving.


HENRY VIII, BEER AND THAI CRAB CAKES

Dear Amelia,
Here at party central there’s been quite a bit of Henry VIII “nastalgia” going on.
That’s because, while Foxtel can’t spell, it HAS been good enough to re-run the entire four seasons of The Tudors and it’s the absolute, hands-down best.
We missed it the first time it aired and now can’t wait for the repeats on Thursday nights. We’re like addicts waiting for a hit.
I’m especially hanging out for the next episode because I’m hoping it’s the one where Katherine Howard (the Queen) and Thomas Culpepper (Henry VIII’s manservant) get their heads chopped off.
I don’t often wish painful deaths on people because, as the owner of a cervix that has twice stretched to I’m-dying capacity (hi Paul, hi Kate), I’m well aware that when you mix extreme fear with extreme pain it’s not very nice.
But these two are so irritating I’d jump inside the telly and swing the axe myself if the opportunity presented itself.
Here’s a picture of the two of them getting ready to cuckold the King (as in, do the deed).


I know.
Are they insane? They’re cheating on a man who eats swans and beheads people at the drop of a hat.
Someone should have slapped them at this point and told them to pull their heads in, not to mention other bits.
I’m surprised they even had the energy for all this sex considering what they were shovelling down their throats on a daily basis.
Basically, truckloads of food.
I know this because I found a fascinating website called Historic Royal Palaces and it’s got all sorts of information on the kitchens Henry VIII built at Hampton Court Palace in 1529.
They were designed to feed the 600 or so members of his court twice a day and consisted of 55 (yes, 55) rooms.
Here’s how much Henry’s courtiers chewed their way through each year: 8,200 sheep, 2,330 deer, 1,870 pigs, 1,240 oxen, 760 calves and 53 wild boar.
These animals were then washed down with 600,000 gallons of beer (that’s 2,728,000 litres, or 95,719 middies), so I should imagine there was more than a bit of the old “pull my finger” thing going on around the palace and adjoining gardens.
I’ll now show you what a middy of beer looks like in case it’s extinct by the time you grow up.
You can see from the picture that when taken on a State-by-State basis, the beer situation in Australia is quite confusing.
Hopefully it will be sorted out by the time you grow up.


After visiting the Hampton Court Palace page, I was tempted to tackle an authentic Tudor dish but realised in the nick of time that spit-roasted boar just might be Nanna’s kryptonite.
I was nearly sucked in, however, by this recipe for something called Buknade:
Take veel, keed, or hen, and boyle hem in faire water or ells in good fress brot, and smyte hem in peces, and pike hem clene; And drawe the same brot thorg a streynor, And cast there-to parcelly, Isoppe, Sauge, Maces and clowes, And lete boyle til the fless be ynog; and then set hit fro the fire, and aley hit vp with rawe yolkes of eyren, and caste thereto poder ginger, and vergeous, & a litel saffron and salte, and ceson hit vppe and serue it fort.
I mean, given half the chance, who wouldn’t want to lete boyle til the fless be ynog?
In the end I decided to forego Tudor and go with Thai instead.
This recipe is for Thai Crab Cakes, which are more like fritters than cakes but are delicious all the same.
I’ve been making them for years and have yet to meet a person who doesn’t love them.
They’re from a book called The Night Before by Australian caterer-to-the-stars Victoria Lewis.
It’s now out of print but if you can find a copy online, grab it.
Victoria says of these Thai Crab Cakes, “Of all my recipes, this is probably the most sought after.”
Try them and you’ll know why.

THAI CRAB CAKES WITH SWEET CHILLI SAUCE

Makes 30-40
(I’ve never actually counted because they get eaten too quickly)

1 bunch coriander
90g self-raising flour
225ml milk
1 egg
250g seafood extender (from the freezer section of supermarkets – also called seafood salad mix, seafood highlighter and crab flakes)
1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp ground cumin
125ml vegetable oil
extra sweet chilli sauce for dipping

Chop half the bunch of coriander and put it in a food processor.
Add the flour, milk, egg, seafood extender, 1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce, fish sauce and cumin and process until you have a smooth batter.
You’ll need to cook these in batches, so heat half the oil over a medium to high heat in a big frying pan.
Place teaspoons of the batter a reasonable distance apart in the frying pan.
When the crab cakes are lightly golden underneath (the top of them will have little bubbles), turn them and cook on the other side.
You’re looking at 2-3 minutes per side.
When they’re cooked, remove the crab cakes to a big plate covered with kitchen paper.
Add the reserved oil to the frying pan as it’s needed.
You can serve these immediately on top of a platter covered with lettuce leaves.
Scatter over the remaining coriander and serve with lime wedges and a bowl of sweet chilli sauce for dipping.
You can also keep them in the fridge for up to 48 hours, or freeze them for up to 1 month.
To reheat, preheat the oven to 200C.
Place the crab cakes on a baking tray and reheat for 5 minutes (longer if frozen).


OXTAIL, SQUIDDIES AND A BIT OF A RANT

 

One of the rare moments you weren’t jumping or hopping

Dear Amelia,
The decluttering of home and computer is still grinding on here in Albany, interrupted only by a visit to you last weekend and the inevitable follow-up head cold (damn you, day care).
Luckily, not snot, nor sleet, nor driving rain could keep us from enjoying ourselves while your Mum and Dad went off to your Aunty Justine’s wedding last Saturday.
Give a Nanna and her granddaughter a whole house to themselves and before long they’ll have pretend zoos, pretend shops, pretend parks and pretend “work” coming out of their earholes.
(Not to mention “cake” made with 10 pieces of chalk, a baby wipe, seven sultanas and your mother’s potato masher.)
Anyway, when I got home – sad, lonely and bereft at no longer being with you but strangely relieved to regain a life that didn’t involve jumping or hopping – I found something on my computer that I’d totally forgotten about.
It was like striking gold.
Here’s the story.
Back in my Early Nigella Period, I’d often visit Nigella.com and look at the forum, which was called Your Page.
It was heaven on a stick – dominated by a bunch of Nigella groupies who thought of themselves as forum royalty because they’d been there from the very start, and who maintained such an amazing mix of full-on fawning, saccharine sweetness and cold-blooded bitchiness, it made your eyes water.
Nanna loved the goings on in the forum. It made her snort her cup of tea over the computer screen on more than one occasion.
Sadly, Nigella closed it down. But not before Nanna copied and pasted the following gem, which was only up for a short time before a moderator trashed it.
It was posted by someone called Hiya on September 4, 2007, the day after the first episode of Nigella Express aired in the UK on BBC TV.
This was the episode in which Nigella referred to squid as “squiddies” (I know – gag).
Here’s what Hiya wrote:
“(I) sent (this) to the BBC too. 
I don’t expect a response, who would after watching that unctuous, toe-curling, self-promoting (paid for by the TV licence) exhibition of pathetic pouting and mealy-mouthed rubbish.
“‘Squiddies’ for God’s sake. This was enough to reach for the flight bag if I had one at home, but the surrounding nauseous nonsense of the programme was insulting as well. I’m not skint but the sight of Lordette Lawson making beds that colour-coordinated with the wallpaper, well!!, busy mobile texting to cares who in the black cab having exited the mews home!!
“I hope we did not pay for the kitchen as well – in fact, don’t tell me, I’d rather not know.
 Lord and Lordette Lawson and the kids eating chicken and spuds and peas – how dare you give this airtime?
 In fact I want an explanation for this gibberish because as I write this after a day’s work, I’m getting fed up with the constant promotion of pointless drivel. 
Bet this won’t be on the forum with all the other gushing.”
Call me shallow but when it comes to memorable writing I reckon you can’t beat a good rant.
Not that it’s got anything to do with today’s recipe, which comes from Aussie TV chef Iain “Huey” Hewitson and is a real corker.


I’ve made Braised East-West Oxtail twice now, the latest being last night because the weather’s still cold enough down here to warrant winter food.
Don’t be tempted to leave out the grated orange rind – it gives the dish a beautiful flavour.
If, like me, you’re not much of an orange eater and you think it’s wasteful to use only the rind, follow these three handy tips:
1. Wrap the de-rinded orange tightly in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge while you spend three hours looking for a recipe that uses the juice of just one orange.
2. Forget the orange is in the fridge until three weeks later.
3. Throw it out.
You’ll notice that a box that once contained a bottle of Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut champagne is reclining nonchalantly behind the plate of oxtail and couscous in the photo accompanying the recipe.
That’s because we’d knocked off the contents earlier in the evening to celebrate winning a work contract that we’re very pleased about.
Your Grandpa had to ask himself at the bottle shop if we were pleased enough to buy a bottle of Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque, which we love, love, love and which looks like this.


Unfortunately the Belle Epoque costs $220 per hand-painted bottle, so there’s your answer.
Your Grandpa decided to wait and buy a crate of it when we win the $100 million Lotto draw on Tuesday night.

BRAISED EAST-WEST (VIA ALBANY) OXTAIL

This is my version of a recipe by Iain Hewitson, who in turn was inspired by American-Chinese chef, Ken Hom. You’ll find Huey’s original recipe here.

Serves 4

1.5 kg oxtail pieces
oil for frying
1 medium onion, chopped
3 shallots, finely sliced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tbsp Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
2 tbsp mirin seasoning (or mirin if you can get it)
2 tbsp light soy sauce
3 tbsp hoisin sauce
grated rind of 1 orange
750g fresh tomatoes, diced
1 cup water
1 beef stock cube, crumbled
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

If you don’t want to cook this on top of the stove, preheat the oven to 160C.
Trim the excess fat from the oxtail pieces.
Bring a big heavy-based pot of water to the boil, add the oxtail pieces and simmer them for 15 minutes (a lot of scum will rise to the surface – just ignore it).
Fish the oxtail pieces out with tongs, drain them well in a colander and clean the heavy-based pot you’ve just cooked them in.
Put the pot over medium-high heat with a thin layer of oil in the bottom and brown the oxtail pieces all over.
Remove them to a plate covered with kitchen paper so the fat can drain off.
Lower the heat under the pot and gently sauté the onions and shallots until they start to soften, about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for another couple of minutes.
Add all the remaining ingredients, stirring well, and bring to the boil.
Add the oxtail to the pot (in one layer if possible) then turn the heat down to very low, cover the pot tightly and simmer for 3 to 3½ hours (or put it in the oven for the same amount of time).
It’s ready when the meat pulls easily away from the bone.
Serve with couscous, rice or mashed potatoes.