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.
For the Roast Beef:
1 rib roast of beef
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:
110g plain flour
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.
It’s very cold and rainy in Albany today so we’ve got the fire going in the kitchen and some veggie soup cooking away on the stove top.
Last week when I wasn’t feeling well, we practically lived off Pea and Ham Soup because all it involves is chucking a big, fat ham hock into a big pot, tipping in a packet of yellow split peas, covering the lot with water and simmering it until the split peas dissolve.
Pea and Ham Soup always reminds me of the Pease Pudding my Nanna used to make when I was a kid.
She’d tip the split peas into a cloth, tie them up in a bundle and suspend them in the water that the ham hock was simmering in.
Once the split peas were mushy, she’d beat in an egg or two, put it all back in the cloth and simmer until it was so thick you could slice it with a knife.
Sounds disgusting, doesn’t it? And now I think about it, it was.
But I loved Pease Pudding when I was a kid and it was such a part of Yorkshire life it even had its own nursery rhyme.
We used to chant this rhyme when we played skippy out in the street.
It didn’t occur to me until I was older that it was basically an ode to salmonella.
Pease Pudding hot,
Pease Pudding cold,
Pease Pudding in the pot,
Nine days old.
Some like it hot,
Some like it cold,
Some like it in the pot,
Nine days old.
Your Grandpa’s birthday cake went off like a rocket last night.
It’s the lightest, stickiest, most delicious cake imaginable and because it contains the grated rind of half a lemon, you could say it’s practically a health food.
I was going to serve it with custard but by that point I’d knocked off the better part of a bottle of champagne, so I went with the easy ice cream option instead.
We’re off to another birthday dinner tonight, so when I’ve finished writing this I’m heading out into the driving rain to buy a card.
He’s a Freo supporter, the birthday person.
Hopefully I’ll be able to find a card that’s suitably antagonistic.
GOLDEN SYRUP CAKE (taken from Cakes: River Cottage Handbook by Pam Corbin)
Makes one 22cm x 10cm loaf
200g golden syrup
100g butter, cut into cubes
150g self-raising flour
½ tsp bicarb soda
¼ tsp salt
50g fresh white breadcrumbs
grated rind of ½ a lemon
1 lge egg
150g plain yoghurt
1 heaped tbsp golden syrup, extra
1 tbsp boiling water
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Grease a 22cm by 10cm loaf tin with butter and line with baking paper.
Melt the 200g golden syrup and butter in a saucepan over low heat, stirring to combine.
Set the pan aside to cool a little.
Seive the flour, bicarb soda and salt into a mixing bowl.
Add the breadcrumbs and lemon rind and mix well to combine.
Mix the egg and yoghurt in a separate bowl.
Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour in the egg and yoghurt, and the golden syrup/melted butter.
Mix with a wooden spoon or electric mixer until smooth and glossy.
Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for 40 minutes, or until it’s cooked (a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake should come out clean).
Put the cooked cake on the benchtop and poke lots of holes in it with a skewer (a satay stick or piece of dried spaghetti works just as well as a skewer).
Mix the extra tablespoon of golden syrup with the tablespoon of boiling water and pour this mixture evenly over the cake.
Let the cake cool in the tin then turn it out on to a plate.
In case you’re wondering, this isn’t a picture of me.
But if you look closely at the lady’s sleeve, you’ll spot my name.
This is because I’m writing a column for Sheila magazine, which comes out every two months and (blatant plug) is available at newsagents and Woolworths supermarkets.
Sheila magazine is not only beautiful to look at but also has recipes for pies.
But more of that later.
Seeing as you’re only 20 months old, you won’t be aware that the world’s most famous Nanna is celebrating her Diamond Jubilee this weekend.
It’s 60 years since Queen Elizabeth’s Dad died and she had to step in and take over running the country.
Well, not running the country exactly. The British government does that because the Queen heads up a constitutional monarchy, not an absolute one.
She does all sorts of other things but she doesn’t actually have much power.
In order to have real power she would have had to be a Queen in the olden days.
For example, if I had been an olden-days Queen on Friday night when I was watching Richmond beat St Kilda, I wouldn’t have had to sit there screaming, “Christ Almighty, make him stop,” when St Kilda coach Scott Watters castrated the English language at half time.
At the precise moment he said, “It’s all about maximising our opportunities and moving forward,” I would’ve been able to turn to my husband – your Grandpa, King Leith – and say, “Have him taken away and beaten to death with a dictionary.”
I suspect there are days Queen Elizabeth would dearly love to kill people – how she avoided it with Sarah Ferguson is anybody’s guess – but unfortunately for ma’am, the monarchy isn’t what it used to be.
This picture shows what Queen Elizabeth looked like when she was little like you.
I’ve always thought she looks best in yellow, but according to Vogue magazine she favours blue.
Vogue looked at all the outfits she’d worn over a year and compiled a frock chart, which was reprinted in the Daily Mail, which is where I found it.
Being a bit of a Liz lover and an admirer of anyone who can put up with 12 Prime Ministers in one lifetime, I’m going to cook a very English dinner tonight and toast Her Maj’s remarkably long reign.
We’re starting with Potted Smoked Trout, followed by Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding, followed by Bread and Butter Pudding.
Then we’ll sit down and bounce ping pong balls off each other’s stomachs while we watch Her Maj and Co sail down the Thames on ABC1.
On the subject of great English dishes, there’s a very good recipe for Beef Wellington in the latest edition of Sheila magazine, which (blatant plug) is available at newsagents and Woolworths supermarkets.
It’s been a beautiful day in Albany today so I’ll finish up with the view from our deck.
Those funnels behind Mt Adelaide belong to a ship waiting to get into port.
It occurred to me today that even though I’m 710 months old, I’m not really smart enough to work a smartphone.
I often press send instead of delete so that people get text messages like “How about we p” or “Yes! He cra”.
A lot of this is because I sometimes can’t find my glasses and basically I need to wear them for anything with letters smaller than the Hollywood sign.
(Here’s a picture of the Hollywood sign in case it’s extinct when you grow up.)
You, on the other hand, are a smartphone kinda gal.
At just 19 months old, you managed to send a text message to a Channel 7 news reporter without even looking at the phone.
The fact that he didn’t know what the hell you were on about is neither here nor there.
It’s definitely an achievement worth noting, even though it embarrassed your mother.
Luckily, Nanna is far better at drawing than you are, otherwise her self-esteem would be in the toilet.
Speaking of toilets, mine is very clean at the moment because we had friends over for dinner last night.
Your Grandpa tells people that I only have friends over for dinner so I’m forced to clean the house.
This is very true.
Housework has never been my forte.
My talents definitely lie elsewhere, as did those of the late Nancy Mitford, a member of a very eccentric, upper-crust English family and one of my favourite authors.
She once wrote: “I think housework is far more tiring and frightening than hunting is – no comparison – and yet after hunting we had eggs for tea and were made to rest for hours, but after housework people expect one to go on just as if nothing special had happened.”
Nancy was so useless at matters domestic, she didn’t even know how to thread a needle.
Her maid used to thread several of them before she went on holiday in case a button dropped off one of Nancy’s frocks and Nancy was forced to re-attach it herself.
All I can say is, I wish I had a maid.
But I haven’t and so yesterday I cleaned the house and cooked enough Oxtail Stew to feed Albany and its immediate surrounds.
Don’t be put off by the fact that you are eating the tail of a cow.
Oxtail Stew is one of the most delicious things on Earth and even if you never cook anything else in your life, you must cook this.
It doesn’t photograph well because it’s just sort of glossy and brown.
So, instead, I’ve posted a picture of the way the kitchen bench looked when I cooked it (yes, Nanna is a messy cook). Also, in case you’re wondering, those tomatoes are in a bowl of water because they’re frozen, home-grown ones.
Serves 4 (I made double this amount for 6 people)
1 heaped tbsp plain flour seasoned with salt and pepper
2 sticks celery
1 lge onion
1 clove garlic, crushed
400g tin diced tomatoes or equivalent fresh (fresh are nicer)
1 cup (250ml) red wine
375ml carton Campbell’s reduced-salt chicken or beef stock
2 stalks fresh thyme or ½ tsp dried
1 bay leaf
Preheat oven to 170C.
Chop the onion. Cut the carrots and celery into medium dice. Heat some olive oil in a big frying pan and sauté the veges over medium heat until the onion is soft (about 5 minutes).
Add the garlic and sauté for a minute more.
Tip this mixture into a big casserole dish, preferably cast iron.
Trim the oxtail of excess fat and dust with seasoned flour.
Heat more olive oil in the frying pan and cook the oxtail over medium-high heat, removing them to the casserole dish once they’re browned all over.
Reduce the heat a little, pour the red wine and stock into the frying pan and then stir in the peeled, diced tomatoes.
Bring to a fast simmer then pour this mixture over the oxtail, stirring to combine.
Push the thyme stalks and bay leaf into the stew, then cover the casserole dish and cook in the oven for 3½ hours, or until the oxtail is very tender.
Remove the thyme stalks and bay leaf, skim off any excess fat and serve with mashed potatoes and a green vegetable.
Grandpa is eating leftover Yorkshire Lasagne as I write this.
It smells heavenly but I can’t eat any because I’m having a colonoscopy on Wednesday and today I have to eat what’s called a “low-residue diet”.
So far I’ve had five cups of black tea and a jar of Heinz Smooth Summer Fruits Gel, plucked fresh from the baby food aisle at Woolies this morning.
According to the label on the jar it’s suitable for “ALL ages over 6 months”, so this will be good practice for when my teeth fall out.
For dinner tonight, I’ll have strips of skinless chicken breast poached in Campbell’s Chicken Consomme with some pasta thrown in for good measure.
(And I mean that sincerely – Campbell’s consommés are tops.)
Tomorrow I’ll move on to the serious bit, referred to around here as Hello Sorbent.
No food to be consumed AT ALL (there are lots of capital letters on the instruction sheet) and from 4pm I’ll drink a glassful of ColonLYTELY™ every 15 minutes until all three litres are consumed or until I fall off the toilet and drown in my own vomit, whichever comes first.
ColonLYTELY™ cleans out your insides and tastes vile – like seawater with half a lemon squeezed in.
The person who invented it wanted to call it ColonFUCKINGAWFUL but wasn’t allowed.
Wednesday at 6.30am I will venture into the non-luxurious surrounds of Albany Regional Hospital and shortly thereafter have the old telescope-up-the-bum procedure.
Après colonoscopy (that’s French for “no longer shitting”), I will be given a sandwich by a nurse and it will be one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever tasted in my life.
I know this because I’ve been après colonoscopy twice before.
Moving on: Your Uncle Paul came to stay on the weekend and it was lovely.
Yorkshire Lasagne is his favourite meal, so I cooked it on Saturday night.
I only cook it on special occasions because it takes forever to make, but believe me, it’s worth it.
It’s called Yorkshire Lasagne because I don’t think they cook it like this in Italy.
Whatever. It’s delicious. And rich enough to bring Elvis back from the dead.
1 x 375g packet of instant lasagne
lots of grated cheddar cheese (as in, when you think you’ve got enough, you haven’t really)
lots of grated parmesan cheese
For the bolognese sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
450g lean minced beef
1 big clove of garlic, crushed
1 x 140g tub/tin of tomato paste
1 cup red or white wine (I use leftover Yellow Glen, such is my level of chic-ness)
water to cover
2 tomatoes, chopped up
½ tsp dried oregano
salt and freshly ground pepper
For the white sauce
3 tbsp plain flour
3 cups low-fat milk (to make up for the rest of it)
To make the bolognese, fry the onion in the olive oil in a big saucepan over low-ish heat until the onion’s soft but not brown.
Increase the heat and chuck in the mince and garlic and cook, stirring with a fork, until the mince is brown and no longer lumpy.
Stir in the tomato paste and white wine.
Pour in enough water to cover (you want a runny sauce) and then stir in the tomatoes and oregano.
Season with salt and lots of pepper and simmer, partly covered with the saucepan lid, over low heat for 1-1½ hours.
Let it cool.
While it’s cooling, make the white sauce by bringing the milk to just below the boil in a small saucepan.
Have a balloon whisk handy and melt the butter over low-ish heat in another saucepan.
Off the heat, stir the flour into the butter with a wooden spoon, then increase the heat slightly and let this mixture (called a roux) cook for a couple of minutes.
Pour in the hot milk all at once and whisk like buggery with the metal whisk.
Doing it this way, you never get lumps in your white sauce.
Bring to the boil and let it simmer until slightly thickened.
Turn off the heat and stir in a handful of the grated cheese.
Preheat the oven to 180C.
To assemble the lasagne, put a ladleful of bolognese sauce and half a ladle of water in the bottom of the lasagne dish and mix them together.
Put a single layer of instant lasagne sheets on top.
Cover the lasagne sheets with some bolognese sauce, top this with a layer of white sauce, then sprinkle grated cheeses over the top.
Continue layering in this way until all the sauce is used up, finishing with a layer of bolognese on top.
Sprinkle cheeses on top of the bolognese and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until tender when pierced in the middle with a knife.
Let the lasagne sit on the bench for five minutes before serving.