BLACK CATS, YO-YOS AND POACHED BUMTCHOONTH

This is Senor Hernandez, the Patron Saint of Dodgy Deals. Like all saints worth their salt, he glows in the dark. He was bought for me by your Mum many years ago and sits next to my computer, watching over me with his beady black eyes.

This is Senor Hernandez, the Patron Saint of Dodgy Deals. Like all saints worth their salt, he glows in the dark. He was bought for me by your Mum many years ago and sits next to my computer, watching over me with his beady black eyes.

Dear Amelia,
I once read in a Barbara Vine novel – can’t remember which one – that being superstitious means you’re lower class.
I suppose we should take it as read, then, that the Queen never passed one of her newborn children through a rind of cheese to ensure a long and prosperous life.
And it’s probably just as unlikely that Prince Charles hung all his elephant pictures facing the palace doorways, it being unlucky to hang them any other way.
In case you’re wondering, I haven’t done either of these things but I would have if I’d known about them because I’m very lower class.
I’ve knocked on wood so many times in the past 60 years my knuckles are coveted by Ikea for their realistic wood grain patterns.
What I don’t know about black cats, white butterflies, dead bees and seagulls that fly in threes could be engraved on a dog’s toenail, so long as that dog wasn’t howling in the house of a sick person, in which case I’d cack myself.
Your Grandpa isn’t superstitious at all.
Unlike me, who spends a lot of time counting the number of Xs on the palms of my hands, your Grandpa spends a lot of time watching the History Channel.
This is how he knows that Syria banned yo-yos in 1933.
Indeed, Syrian police confiscated all the yo-yos in the land because it was thought they were causing a drought.
Your Grandpa believes that if I had been in Syria in 1933 I would have been a yo-yo confiscator.
He’s probably right. But I would have been a happy yo-yo-confiscator because I would have been in the land of quinces, Syria being fairly prominent in the quince-growing arena.
Syria may have its faults, but enhancing its core competencies quince-wise isn’t one of them (I hope you’re impressed by that phrase – I like to think my time working with local government hasn’t been for nought).

quince
The quince is native to several stans – Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Afghanistan – and also to Kashmir where it’s known as the bumtchoonth.
It’s said that the forbidden fruit Eve bit into in the Garden of Eden was not the apple but the quince.
Personally I can’t see it being true unless Eve had the teeth of a white pointer and/or access to good dental care.
This is because quinces are rock hard when raw.
I love quinces but rarely see them in the shops, so I planted four quince trees down the bottom of the garden a few years back.
Sometimes these trees bear fruit that could best be described as “wormy”, which doesn’t bother me because I just cut out all the manky bits and boil the shit out of what’s left.
I say “boil” but I should say “poach” – and poached quinces are something to behold, turning from hard, yellow chunks into toothsome rosy pieces that are fab with ice cream.

poached quinces
They freeze really well, so you can eat them year-round.
You can also turn them into quince paste, which I’ve never done because why bother when you have a friend called Lizzie who does it so well?
Here is a picture of Lizzie’s latest batch, delivered on Saturday night.

quince paste
Quince paste is delicious with cheddar cheese and is synonymous with Maggie Beer, a TV chef I can’t watch because her silly breathless voice and little-girl mannerisms make me want to slap her and shout, “How old are you for God’s sake?”
Maggie flogs it via Woolies and Coles for about $50 a kilo.
You can make your own quince paste a lot more cheaply using this very good recipe from the Australian Women’s Weekly.
The quince-poaching recipe I use is from David Lebovitz and you’ll find it here.
It’s dead easy so I hope you give it a go one day.
Before I go I’d just like to say I hope your Mum hasn’t let a ferret or a weasel jump over her pregnant stomach.
If she has, you need to tell her she can undo the bad luck by putting a spider in a walnut shell and wearing it on a string around her neck (this also wards off the plague so basically we’re killing two birds with one stone).


LET’S SCARE GRANDPA

Dear Amelia,
This picture arrived in my inbox yesterday from my mate Martha Stewart.
The accompanying text said, “This Mother’s Day, pamper Mom with a handmade eye mask that includes a message from you.”
I think my message would be, “Wake up, Grandpa! Nanna wants to scare the crap out of you,” but maybe that’s just me.
Here are some more craft suggestions from Martha in case you can’t make it down to the deli today to buy Mom a bunch of flowers.
You will find all of them (and more) at marthastewart.com.
A balloon bouquet.


A bias-binding cake-stand skirt and chandelier (yes, honestly)


Tissue-paper floral pompoms that might fall on those tealights and burn the house down if you drink too much and go to bed without blowing out the candles.


Next is a picture of something your Mum made me at school for Mother’s Day when she was a little girl (it’s Nanna, your Mum and your Uncle Paul made out of honky nuts).


And here is a picture of something your Uncle Paul made me at school for Mother’s Day when he was a little boy.


There’ll be lots of phone calls and chatting today because no one who works full time wants to drive an 832km round trip to say Happy Mother’s Day in person (we’re a sentimental bunch).
After all the chatting I’ll be knackered but I’ll soldier on and make something out of the quinces that I picked off the trees I planted three years ago.
According to Australia’s Homemade Jam and Preserves Book, which is sitting next to me as I type, the ancient Greeks used quinces as an antidote for hangovers, poisons, upsets and fevers.
Who would’ve thought?
My quinces have been ripening in a box for weeks and are covered in scabby bits but they smell beautiful and should be fine for quince paste or jam or something.


If I’m feeling particularly Martha-ish, I might also pick the lillypilly berries that are growing on the hedge at the bottom of the garden and make some lillypilly jam.
As if.
But here’s a recipe anyway.
PS: There’s only one more week left of this latest full-time-work stint at the ABC, thank Christ.
No more getting out of bed at 5.30am.
Plus, Grandpa and I will be able to come and visit everyone. Yay!

LILLY PILLY JAM

500g lillypillies
2 granny smith apples
juice of 1 lemon
300ml water
600g caster sugar

Wash the lilly pillies well. Peel and core the apples, then chop into small pieces.
Put lilly pillies, apples, lemon juice, water and sugar in a small saucepan and slowly bring to the boil over a medium heat.
Reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes.
Add more lemon juice if the mixture does not appear to set.
Use a potato masher to break the skin and seed from the fruit.
Strain mixture to remove skin and seeds.
Return pan to heat and, when reduced, use a stick blender to combine.
Set aside to cool, then refrigerate.
To store, pour into hot, sterilised jars and seal when cold.
This recipe is from Better Homes and Garden magazine.
If I make it and it doesn’t set, I’ll use some JamSetta, which you can buy at supermarkets.