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.
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.
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.
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
Makes about 12
30g softened butter
¼ cup caster sugar
1 cup cooked, mashed pumpkin (about 340g)
2½ cups self-raising flour
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.
The photos at the top of this blog are of the first two Christmas stamps ever released in Britain.
I’ve got both of them in my trusty Pelham Junior Stamp Album, which was given to me by my Nanna when I was 11.
One of the stamps (guess which one) depicts Good King Wenceslas and was drawn by a six-year-old called Tasveer Shemza.
It’s up there because I’ve had a few emails (OK, two) asking if I can re-print the Good King Wenceslas column I wrote back in 2008 for the West Weekend magazine.
I wrote this column after I’d been Christmas shopping at Myer in late November.
I’d been trapped on the escalator between two little kids (one covered in snot, the other playing with his willy), their Mum and Dad (who were carrying several hundred shopping bags) and three teenage boys (who were almost catatonic from looking up the bum of a girl in very short shorts who was further up the escalator).
When I got home I said to your Grandpa, “I bet good old King Wenceslas never had to go through this sort of thing.”
Then I thought, well maybe he did.
The column’s reprinted with the permission of The West Australian newspaper.
If you’d like to hear the original Christmas carol, click here.
Good King Wenceslas Goes Christmas Shopping
Good King Wenceslas went out, buying gifts for Stephen.
Five clicks past the roundabout, through the traffic weavin’.
Brightly shone the moon that night, on a trail bike dealer,
When a salesman came in sight, pushing a two whee-ee-ler.
Hither, salesman, stand by me, wrap that bike up quick smart.
On my way I soon must be, there’s a sale at K-mart.
Ten per cent off DVDs, half-price socks and sandals,
Random specials on CDs, books and scented ca-an-dles.
Through the mall the King set out, wrestling with his trolley.
Mums and Dads were all about, none of them looked jolly.
Perry Como filled the air, singing songs of snowmen.
Hyped-up kids were everywhere, never a good o-o-men.
First a turkey, plump and good, went in Wence’s trolley,
Followed by a Christmas pud, and some plastic holly.
Wrapping paper, Toblerone, gift tags shaped like Santa,
Serviettes in neutral tones, Pringles, nuts and Fa-an-ta.
Bring me Bundy, bring me wine, bring Bacardi Breezer.
Bring me lager from the Rhine, put it all on Visa.
Bring Jim Beam for Uncle Stan, that should stop him whingeing.
Plus lite beer for young Leanne, we don’t want her bi-inge-ing.
Good King Wenceslas went home, absolutely knackered.
In his castle’s stately dome, he was Christmas crackered.
So, folks, don’t yourselves delude, make sure you remember.
Next time you buy gifts and food, do it in Sep-te-em-ber.
I like to think that when Good King Wenceslas finally got home, Good Queen Wenceslas was waiting with a nice glass of whiskey and some shortbread biscuits in the shape of Christmas trees.
I make these every year in all sorts of Christmassy shapes and everyone loves them.
It’s the same recipe I used for the Bum Biscuits I blogged about back in March.
Click here and you’ll find it.
Here at party central I’ve been watching the bruises on my stomach turn yellow and prodding the stitched-up bits to see how much they still hurt.
The answer is, “Not much,” which is great seeing as I had the gall-bladder operation late in the afternoon when most hard-working people need a sugar fix to keep them going.
My worry is that the pain will come back and when I’m taken to hospital and ripped open again they’ll find a Mars Bar wrapper in there.
The surgeon will say, “So that’s where it went,” and get his insurance cover increased before I regain consciousness.
Speaking of guts, have a look at this takeaway menu.
I found it on this blog written by a British woman whose husband was transferred to Shanghai.
Nothing says enviable lifestyle like a bowl of frog’s fallopian tubes, does it?
I made Nigella’s Flourless Chocolate Brownies yesterday because we went to Richard and Lynda’s place last night to have dinner and watch the footy and I offered to take dessert.
Lynda has coeliac disease, which means she can’t eat gluten, so this dessert is perfect for her.
It’s so perfect that despite having several trillion cookbooks, I never make anything else when Lynda and dessert are involved.
One of these days she’s going to hit me over the head with the baking tin.
Nigella’s Flourless Chocolate Brownies are extremely easy to make: all you do is melt butter and chocolate in a saucepan, chuck in some sugar, eggs and nuts and mix everything together.
Bung it in the oven and 30 minutes later you have 16 very delicious brownies.
You’ll find the recipe in Nige’s book, Nigella Express, or on her website (click here).
These brownies are quite gooey in the middle, or squidgy-bellied as she calls them (I know – gag).
If you like them firmer, put them in the fridge for a few hours before you eat them.
They’re so rich it’s hard to eat more than one.
That said, your Grandpa ate three last night.
He said it was to help him get over the disappointment of West Coast losing the game.
Your Mum just told me that the ladies at day care found a sultana up each of your nostrils this week.
You seem to be on a bit of a roll, don’t you? From sequins to dried fruit in less than 48 hours.
Here’s a tip: Sultanas are actually better in scones.
As luck would have it, I made some last week so I’ll give you a recipe in a minute.
I can see where you’re coming from though.
Nanna still can’t walk past a bag of marbles without wanting to put them in her mouth.
I can still hear my Mum (your Great Grandma) shouting, “Michele! Have you got marbles in your mouth?” and me saying, “Blb,” which is what the word “No” sounds like with a mouth full of marbles.
If it’s any consolation, our family seems to have a history of this sort of thing.
A story that’s now passed into family folklore is of your Great Grandma’s cousin who went to bed and put a bead in his ear.
When the doctor asked him why he’d put a bead in his ear he said it was because he didn’t have any pockets in his pyjamas.
Maybe the solution to your own little problem is to wear clothes with pockets in them for a while.
I’ll ring your Mum tonight and suggest it.
In the meantime, here’s that scone recipe, which I got off the back of the Sunbeam Sultanas box and which is also featured on their website here.
I eat Sunbeam Sultanas like there’s no tomorrow and have done for years.
I don’t think you can beat them for quality, plus they use fruit grown here in Australia, which is as rare as unicorn sightings these days.
Actually, it’s just occurred to me that if you must stick sultanas up your nose, you should try to make sure they’re Sunbeam.
At least you’d be supporting local industry.
Makes about 8
½ cup Sunbeam Sultanas
2 cups self-raising flour
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp butter or margarine
½ – ¾ cup milk
Preheat oven to 200C.
Place flour and sugar in a bowl.
Rub in the butter or margarine with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Stir in sultanas.
Pour ½ cup milk into the mixture and mix to a soft dough with the back of a knife, adding remaining milk if necessary.
Knead dough on a floured surface until it’s smooth, adding flour as necessary.
Pat out the dough to a thickness of 2cm and cut out scones with a 5-6cm cutter.
Arrange the scones close together on a lined baking tray and brush the tops lightly with milk.
Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until golden on top.
They’re cooked if they sound hollow when you tap them with your fingertip.
Serve warm, with butter.
This is an old and very easy recipe for shortbread-style biscuits that was written on the back of an envelope by one of the mothers at your Mum’s playgroup back in 1984.
It was then copied into an exercise book by me.
This exercise book has “Recipes” written on the front cover and is falling apart at the seams.
It’s covered in 30-year-old food stains, most of which are the colour of wee, and is unlikely to be treasured by you, or anyone else for that matter, in years to come.
When you come across it in the back of Nanna’s cupboard after Nanna has gone to the big kitchen in the sky, you’ll probably want to remove it with a pair of kitchen tongs and drop it in the bin.
An Etsy vintage moment it isn’t.
But the biscuits are delicious.
In the pantry I have a big jar filled with different cookie cutters and can attest that this past Christmas you loved the biscuits shaped like angels, stars and snowmen.
I’m sure that very soon you’ll feel the same way about bums.
You’ll see in the photo that sometimes Nanna’s bums are a bit lumpy.
But that’s just art imitating life, so don’t worry if it happens to you too.
Using the writing icing is the hardest part of this recipe.
Nanna never got past a C+ in Art, and when you look at the photo you can see why.
I remember Mr Rayment, bastard that he was, telling me that my sunset looked like a haemorrhage.
I was only 10 and didn’t even know what a haemorrhage was.
I should imagine that Mr Rayment is dead by now.
We can only hope.
Makes 20-30 depending on the size of your cookie cutter
50g caster sugar
150g plain flour
heart-shaped cookie cutter
box of Writing Icing (from supermarkets)
Preheat the oven to 170C and line a baking sheet with baking paper.
Cream together the butter and sugar with a hand mixer. You can use a wooden spoon but it takes forever.
When it’s light and creamy, gradually mix in the flour, then knead it into a smooth ball with your hands.
Roll the dough out thinly on a benchtop dusted with flour.
Cut out heart shapes then slice off the pointy ends so they look like bums.
Keep gathering up the leftover dough and rolling it out so you can get as many biscuits as possible.
Put them on the baking tray and bake for about 10 minutes, or until they are a pale golden colour.
Once they’re cool, draw on some undies with the writing icing.
If you’re making ordinary, un-iced biscuits, sprinkle them with sugar as soon as they come out of the oven.