Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Coconut Daintees/Jam Drops (They taste good whatever you want to call em)

I know, I know biscuits again but there is a reason and a story and that will excuse my repetition.  My Mum is a good cook as was my Grandmother.  I named this blog Poor Man's Goose as a tribute to both of them.  Poor Man's Goose is a dish that my Grandmother cooked, often the day before payday when there was very little left in the kitty.  She passed it onto my mother who then cooked it for us, probably for the same reason.  We were a family of nine and the food dollar had to be stretched a loooong way.

Poor Man's Goose is a mixture of sausage mince, mixed dried herbs (must have sage) and  some onion.  You roll it up and roast it and the texture is supposed to resemble that of roast goose which is how it got it's name.  It fills the house with a really savoury, appetising smell as it's cooking and you eat it with mashed potatoes and probably peas and carrots and it's absolutely delicious.  It's a perfect example of the resourcefullness and ingenuity of cooks of that era who often had to make something out of not much.  The fact that they could do that and make it tasty as well was further proof of their skills. 

My Mum was an adventurous cook for her time when you consider it was an era where most families did not own one cookbook let alone a library of them, and ingredients which are commonplace now, were considered exotic then.  She used curry powder, dried herbs, and incredibly parmesan cheese (from a shaker, the smell was almost overpowering).   We ate everything and loved it.  Or most of it.  From the hundreds of different dishes that my Mum cooked I only remember disliking two of them and  that's a pretty good record. 

Her beef stew smelt divine but was ruined by the inclusion of kidneys.  I don't know why she put them in, my Dad must have liked them because I know for a fact us kids hated them.  The few times she made it without kidneys you would have thought it was Christmas.   It was torture because without the kidneys it was delicious so you always lived in hope that being shared between nine people you would sometimes get lucky and miss out.  But noooooo, there was always at least one piece of gristly, rubbery disgustingness that was impossible to hide.  Impossible to hide under nothing that is because that's what we were expected to leave on our plates. 

We did persevere though and one night when a few of us were miraculously allowed to watch TV while we were having dinner (must have been serious family discussion time with the older siblings), my brother collected the kidneys from our plates and buried them in the front yard while we stood guard.  Luckily we had a dog so they wouldn't have been there for long.  I'm sure Mum must have been suspicious because we ate it in record time but maybe the serious conversation distracted her.  I don't remember eating them again after that but I may have just blocked it out.  And no, they're not something I have tried again as an adult, I still don't get why anyone would want to eat them.

The one other dish I remember not liking never made a reappearance simply because it tasted vile.  It was in the 70's when odd couplings were often thrown together with little thought of how they would taste.  This one was minced beef and orange peel.  It wasn't good, it was really bad, sometimes I swear I can still taste it.   Mum put that one down to experience and probably binned the recipe book. 

I think I'm incredibly lucky to only remember two bad meals in the several thousand that my Mum would have cooked.  Some friends say they can't remember any enjoyable meals, either because their Mum's couldn't cook or they ate the same thing week in and week out.  Glad that wasn't me. 

I'm getting to the biscuits.  Like many women of that era, my Mum was also a great baker.  Cakes, biscuits, slices, marshmallow cake (not baked but still delicious) scones, etc. etc.  Sometimes the aunties would come for the weekend and they would spend all of Saturday baking.  Can you imagine what that was like for a kid?  Heaven!  Amongst all of the goodies these biscuits were always my favourite.  I used to sneak them for breakfast - the smell of the combination of coconut, butter and jam was and still is irresistible.  Now when I make them myself there's always a little reel of happy memories playing in  my head. (Super 8 of course!).

 Make them and create your own happy memories.

Thanks for the recipe and all of those good meals Mum.
 Happy Birthday.

Coconut Daintees

One and a half cups of SR flour
4 tablespoons coconut
Three quarters cup caster sugar
125g butter
1 egg beaten
Extra coconut for rolling
Raspberry or strawberry jam

Rub butter into the flour until it looks like breadcrumbs.  Mix in the sugar and coconut and then the beaten egg.
Roll into small balls and roll in extra coconut.  Place on a greased tray and allow room for spreading.
Press a hole in the top of each (the end of a wooden spoon is good), and fill with a small amount of jam.
Bake in moderate oven (180celsius) for 10-15 minutes.  Remove from the oven when still a bit soft.  Cool for a few minutes on trays and then remove to a cake rack.

Enjoy at anytime!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Polenta Cookies (How Biscuits Can Help Save The Planet)

Well I wouldn't win any awards for being the most regular of bloggers but I can't dwell on that.  When I first started this blog I thought I could easily post three times a week but I was forgetting that I was on holidays and didn't have much else to do, like working and all  that other stuff that absorbs all of your time.

Anyway, here I am again and as much as I am good at wasting time, what I don't like is wasting food - it makes me really cross with myself.  It's not so much the cost that bothers me although that is a factor, its the thought of all that food mouldering away in a big pile of landfill, slowly rotting, becoming smelly, slimy, rodent attracting and generally disgusting.  And that's just my rubbish.  And then you multiply that by all the people in your street, then all the people in your suburb and by then it starts to get pretty ugly and you probably feel a bit queasy about the whole thing. 

I know, it's not pretty but we all have to think about what happens to our rubbish after its picked up from the front footpath and driven away. Just think, if we had to put it in our backyard we'd think twice about what we were buying and discarding.

Joining has made me think so much more about my actions and their impact on the environment.  1 Million Women is a campaign committed to "protecting our climate, our communities and our future, leading change for the better."   Everyone who joins commits to a personal goal of cutting 1 tonne of CO2  from their daily lives within a year of joining the campaign. 

That sounds quite daunting but they provide a  comprehensive list of things you can do and then make it easy to chart your progress.  A simple thing like switching off all your appliances at the power point when they are not in use can save a whopping 120kg of CO2 per year!  120 kg with practically no effort at all - it's not as hard as we think it is. 

The campaign is after one million members and at present they are just shy of 25,000 members so obviously it has a big job ahead.  We can help by first of all joining, and then spreading the word.  Post the link on your blog/facebook page, wherever.  Even if we only commit to a few of the actions, it is still making a difference no matter how small and all we've got to lose is some of that mouldering landfill.

Now I know you might think it could be tricky, tying in a recipe to lots of talk about landfill but fear not -  there is a connection.  Cleaning out my pantry recently I found an opened packet of polenta with only a few weeks to go before it's expiry date.  The following recipe was printed on the back,  they sounded pretty tasty and I happened to have all of the ingredients so I made them.  I prefer the word biscuit to cookie but it's not my recipe.  It makes no difference to the taste.

Polenta Cookies (recipe from Sostanza Polenta


1 cup butter
1½ cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tspn lemon extract
½ cup raisins, chopped
3 cups plain flour
1 tspn baking powder
1 tspn nutmeg
½ tspn salt
1 cup Sostanza Polenta

Cream butter. Add sugar, eggs and lemon extract, mixing well. Mix raisins with ½ cup flour. Add to mixture. Sift remaining flour with the other dry ingredients. Add to the butter mixture and combine well. Drop teaspoon-size dollops of the mixture onto a greased baking tray and flatten with a fork. Bake for approximately 10 - 12 minutes in a pre-heated moderate oven.

Although it's tedious I cut the raisins into quarters with scissors.  Try and delegate that job to anybody that's walking past and tell them it's therapeutic.  The second time I made them I got a bit cocky and put them in the processor and they turned into raisin paste.  It totally altered the taste of the biscuits and not for the better.  I have also used grated lemon rind in place of the lemon extract and  once I tried a teaspoon of limoncello which was delicious.  I didn't use the lemon extract only because I didn't have any.

Watch the oven temperature, if it's a little bit too hot they tend to go crisp rather than a softer, crumblier biscuit which is nicer.  I think the ideal temperature is about 160. 

These biscuits are what I like to classify as grown up biscuits as they are not too sweet and the lemon and nutmeg give them a beautiful subtlety.  Kids still like them but if they don't then you are at an advantage because it means all the more for you. Unfortunately my kids love them so I can't tell you how well they keep, I would imagine a week at least. 

However long it takes you to get through them, I can guarantee you they won't end up in landfill - and that's a good thing.  You see, you didn't think it would be that easy did you - doing your bit for the planet, one biscuit at a time!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Worlds Best Taco (Beans do not mean Cuisine in Mexican)

I am at the Queen Victoria Market and walk by a  young Mexican girl wearing a fancy sombrero with glittery bits, shouting TAC - OOOOOOH, come and get the world's best TAC-OOOOOOOOH as if she is a ring announcer with the WWE.  Aside from her vocal skills it is hard to resist the aroma emanating from the tent she is spruiking so of course I buy one.  Sceptical of course.  But I am wrong and she is right,  this is the WORLDS BEST TACO.  I could eat a stackful of these things.  You know when something is just so good you just can't believe it.  And it only cost THREE DOLLARS.  How good is that.

I was about fifteen when I first ate Mexican food. No that's not right, I was fifteen when I first ate in a Mexican restaurant. I didn't know then but I do know now, that the two don't have that much in common. Least not outside Mexico. The only things I remember about that meal are the flan, and being stuck in confusion outside the loos because my sister and I didnt know if we were senors or senorinas. Luckily the waitress, (who was also our brother's girlfriend), kindly came to our rescue without making us feel like country yokels - (which is what we were), thanks Lee!

I can now find my way to the loo in at least ten different languages and I now know that wearing a sombrero doesn't necessarily mean you are Mexican and you should be cooking Mexican food.  Mexican food is tasty and spicy and complex and basic and fresh and moreish and SOOOOOOOOOOO delicious.  It does not just taste like beans and corn chips which is what some of those Mexican restuarants would have us believe.  

The taco I ate at the market bore no resemblance to anything I have ever been served in those franchised Mexican restaurants whose name I won't mention.  It was a soft tortilla with diced, marinated meat that was quickly cooked and served on the warmed tortilla with onion and coriander.  That's it.  The bright red sauce is hot sauce, the other one is mild.  The hot sauce made my eyes water and my lips burn, it was delicious. 

If you are in Melbourne you can buy essential Mexican ingredients at which is in Johnston St. Fitzroy.  There are many websites with Mexican recipes but I like this one  where you are bound to find something you like.  I ate my WBT at the Queen Victoria Market at the La Plaza de Mercado festival last Sunday (18/4) which I think only happens once a year (oh please let me be wrong).  I will put up the date when I know.  I will be back there next year  for another fix of Tacos and to listen to the World's Best Taco Spruiker - providing the WWE don't find her first. 

Adios y Cocina Feliz

Monday, January 11, 2010

Green Jelly Dreaming and Holiday Cooking

When I was about five years old, my family went on a weeks holiday to the Bethany Guest House in Healesville.  The photos show it was fairly basic accommodation, but at the time we thought it was fantastic. 

My memories of that holiday are pretty much limited to the stiff, green jelly they served every night in the dining room and my brother dressed up as a tree for the fancy dress party.  I have no memory of what I wore.   I think my brother won a prize but I could have imagined that.  He was an excellent looking tree.  I do remember that we had a good holiday. 

My Mum has had better holidays since then, but for years that was one of her favourites.  Why?  Well besides the fact there were about a hundred other kids there to keep the six of us out of her hair, the main reason was because she didn't have to cook!  Can you imagine - a week off from cooking for eight people every day,  it must have been heaven. She probably had enough time to read a book, or talk to my Dad or even DO NOTHING (oh frabjous, unheard of luxury).  Do you think she cared that the jelly was too stiff?  Me neither.

That's what holidays should be about - as little work as possible.  But unless you're lucky enough to have your own Bethany equivalent, somebody will still have to cook and if you have to cook you want something that's easy to make, tastes good and preferably doesn't heat up the kitchen too much.  I know that sounds a lot to ask but just because you're not working doesn't mean your food can take a holiday with you. 

Anyway, that's how I came up with the idea for this salad.  It ticks all of those boxes plus it's moderately good for you, just don't read the fat content on the haloumi packet and you will believe that.  It's enjoyed by all ages and suitable for vegetarians.   It has so many attributes it could almost write its own CV.  It tastes really good.

I have named it the Bethany Bounty Salad.  A stupid name I know as it contains no green jelly and it would never have been found in the dining room of an Australian guest house of that era.  It's my tribute to a happy memory.   Go ahead and make it and create your own holiday memories (tree costume optional).

Bethany Bounty Salad
3 (180g) packets of Haloumi Cheese
1-2 baby cos lettuce
6 potatoes, diced (peeled if needed but less work if you buy the already scrubbed ones)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 punnet cherry tomatoes halved
Chopped herbs, whatever you have.  I used parsley and basil.
Olive oil, salt and pepper

If you have your own favourite dressing use that.  I used the juice of half a lemon to about 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  Seasoned with salt, pepper and about a quarter teaspoon of dijon mustard.  Mix and season accordingly.  Add more lemon or seasoning as required.

Wash and dry the lettuce and layer on a large platter or bowl.  Put the potatoes in a microwave proof bowl with the crushed garlic, some salt and one teaspoon of olive oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high for about 8-9 minutes.  Check with a fork to see if they are tender.  When they are cooked, scatter them over the lettuce along with the halved cherry tomatoes.

Cut the haloumi any way you prefer and pat dry with paper towels.  I cut each block into four and then halved each block widthways so that I ended up with 24 squares.  Heat a large frypan on medium and add some olive oil.  You don't need a lot, just enough to cover the bottom of the pan and stop the cheese from sticking.  Fry cheese until golden on both sides.

Remove cheese from pan and place on top of other ingredients.  Pour dressing over and scatter herbs on top.  I usually add olives to this dish but didn't have any this time.  It is good with or without.  I have also added cooked spears of asparagus.  Add whatever you like - remember it's supposed to be working for you.

The amounts given in this recipe fed five people, including two teenagers so you may need to adjust the amounts to fit your own circumstances.

Follow with green jelly and icecream.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Get Breakfast or Get Cranky (How to make Sunshine On Toast)

I love breakfast, I eat it every day. When someone tells me they never eat breakfast I get a bit distressed. I go a bit swoony and imagine how I'd be if I did that - went without.
I'd be light headed for a start, and cranky - definitely dangerously cranky. I have been known to snarl if I've had to wait too long. Concentration - forget it. Who can concentrate when there is NOTHING in your stomach and it's at least eight hours since you last ate.

Bono could knock on my front door and I'd probably ask him if he had my toast. I just can't think straight without it, it's a survival thing. I have to eat in the morning and I will happily eat the same thing every weekday morning, I don't bat an eyelid at the monotony of it - muesli, toast, tea. Muesli, toast, tea, muesli, toast tea, muesli, toast, tea - you get my drift. Sometimes I vary what I put on my toast but there is always one slice sweet, one slice savoury and I cut each slice in half and then eat savoury, sweet, savoury, sweet. Sounds obsessive I know.

I couldn't eat the same thing for dinner every night if you paid me but it is not an issue for breakfast - in fact it would be an issue if I didn't have those things, they are part of my morning ritual as I prepare for my work day. A creature of habit.

Weekends are a different story. I'm up for anything, especially if someone else is cooking, and whilst I can easily scoff a stack of syrup soaked pancakes occasionally I am really a savoury girl at heart. Good thing Mr PMG is now qualified to take my pulse and administer morning sustenance as required.

On the occasions when I haven't bared my teeth and raided the cupboards before he rises, this is a dish that he likes to prepare in order to quell the snarling, irrational me, rampaging around the kitchen. He calls this dish Sunshine on Toast because he likes that name and when I am starving I am not going to argue - that just delays the food getting on the plate. If you don't like the name just call it breakfast.

Sunshine on Toast

Turkish Bread
Fresh Tomatoes
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Chop some nice red tomatoes and put them in a hot pan with some olive oil. You want to hear a sizzle as they hit the pan, it makes no difference to the taste it just sounds good. Cook them to the degree that you like (this is sometimes a little bone of contention between Mr PMG and me but as I said when I'm hungry and he's cooking I generally like to keep arguing to a minimum.) While these are cooking, slice the Turkish bread and grill either in the oven or on a grill pan, you want it to be golden.

When tomatoes are done, add salt, pepper and a splash of balsamic vinegar, stir and turn off the heat. When bread is cooked, put a piece on each plate and spread with tzatziki. Be generous. Top with tomatoes and basil. Serve. Soothe any savage beasts. Enjoy.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Jam Dougnuts and African Food - PMG loves the Queen Vic Market

I live in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. I love my city. I love it for lots of reasons but I'll start with just two of them - The Queen Victoria Market and jam doughnuts. The fact that you can buy the doughnuts at the market makes the whole deal even better. And once you bite into the golden, chewy, sugar drenched dough and feel the lava like strawberry jam blister your lip you will be smitten - guraranteed. And you will agree with me that these are the best jam doughnuts IN THE WORLD!

Feel free to argue but my mind is made up, and has been for a very long time. Besides, I'm sure there are lots of jam doughnuts out there but none of them would be made in such a great looking van. I'm convinced that the van adds something to the flavour, I wish they made mini replicas of them. It's such a familiar, comforting sight every time I go to the market and always makes me feel good, even when I'm in a long queue and praying that the doughnuts won't disappear before it's my turn at the window. When this happens, (and it will unless you are always up with the larks), you will actually elicit genuine sighs of sympathy from fellow Doughnut Van Fans when you regale them with your sad tale.

For those of you who don't consider doughnuts to be real food I did buy some other goodies, including these beautiful chillies for $2.00 the lot. Their shine and colour conned me even though I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do with them. I'm thinking of some type of sauce. Any ideas?

I also found some red palm oil, an ingredient I had never heard of until last week and when I did I thought 'where the heck could you buy that?' What a dummy - finding an ingredient in Melbourne is pretty much as easy as pointing your nose in the right direction. In this case I practically fell over it.

Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself. Mr PMG gave me Maeve O'Mara's Food Safari Cookbook for Christmas. Oh my - within a few pages I was itching to get cooking. If you find your cooking is a bit jaded or you're in a bit of a creative rut then this is the book for you - it will really fire your imagination. With recipes from thirty four different countries it really is like a bit of a treasure chest and every time I look through it I'm constantly trying to put the different flavours together in my head, wondering what a completed dish tastes like. It's inspiring.

Countries are listed alphabetically so the book begins with recipes from Africa, a cuisine that I knew nothing about. Along with some herbs and spices, Red Palm Fruit Oil is listed as an essential flavouring which is how I recognised it when I saw it in a little shop called Tribal Tastes, situated in the food hall at the market.

The very friendly and knowledgeable owner, (whose name I am sorry I didn't get), gave me lots more information about the palm oil and told me that her husband featured on the Food Safari series, contributing the recipe of Jollof Rice. How serendipitous was that! I bought a bottle of the oil for $15 and am planning to make the Jollof Rice soon, it sounds delicious. It's a dish from Senegal, containing fish, rice and vegetables with a chilli, tomato and capsicum sauce - maybe that's what I can do with those chillies.

If you don't have the Food Safari Cookbook, you can find the recipe on both the SBS and Tribal Tastes websites. Tribal Tastes also has an online shop if you want to make it and can't get to their shop.
All this talk and still no dinner. I bought some fresh flake fillets (say that quickly) and capsicum, zucchini and potatoes. I might just flour the flake and fry it (I know, too many effs) and then cook the capsicum, potatoes and zucchini but I don't want them all mushy so I might cook them separately and then sort of stew them together with some wine and olive oil. And hope that works.
From the food hall I also found these great little herb and garlic dinner rolls which were priced by the kilo, something I have never seen before. For $3 (half kilo), I got ten rolls - good deal.
I guess with all those types of flavours we're probably looking at a bit of an Italian inspired dinner, something that nobody could complain about that's for sure.
I am now officially starving. Something about the words fish and fry in the same sentence. That and the fact that it's been several hours since I ate an undisclosed quantity of my favourite jam doughnuts. Fan that I am of their many restorative and recuperative powers, one of their limitations is that they do not ever qualify as dinner - but only because they've shut up shop by

Friday, January 1, 2010

Jolly Green Trifle at Hogmanay

Despite my blind and misguided optimism I didn’t end the New Year with the perfect haircut, more money in the bank or a nicely organised fridge. What I did have was a home hair colour job that made my hair freakishly shiny (picture a more mature Miss Chrissy doll), a knocked out household after a stomach bug bit every one of us, and a great view of the spectacular lightning display from Mother Nature as she successfully and oh so easily outdid the City of Melbourne’s not unimpressive fireworks display. As my friend Jonathan would say - 'a lay down misere.’ And how!

We always have dinner with friends on NYE. Naturally what we eat is an important part of the proceedings and usually thought about as soon as Boxing Day is over, (who can do anything on Boxing Day?).

This year we had fish and chips. From the chip shop. I know what you’re thinking – but who wants to cook when it’s been a muggy, moisture sapping, killer summer day in Melbourne and your kitchen is the same temperature as your backyard. Not me, not our friends and obviously not the three hundred other people crammed into the chip shop.

Anyway, the food isn’t ever the point of it - we wanted to get together, we didn’t want to fuss and fish and chips fit the bill. I liked it - a lot. The fish and chips weren’t great but I didn’t care because I didn’t have to do anything. Well I did make a salad, and I did use real plates because this year we have a dishwasher. And our friend Miss BB did make a trifle (pictured) – complete with green sprinkles - a tribute to the stomach bug that knocked us all out! So I guess we did do something.

Mr C freaked us all out by sneaking out and ringing the doorbell just after midnight. Mr PMG is a Scotsman so Mr C came first footing , greeting him with silver coins, a glass of whisky and a printed picture of a lump of coal because let's face it, the real thing is hard to come by in suburban Melbourne. Mr PMG was chuffed.

The Scots refer to New Years Eve as Hogmanay for reasons unknown to me or any Scottish people I've ever asked. Traditional food includes Clootie Dumpling which is boiled in a cloth (clootie) and served in gob-stopper size portions. Good thing we didn't have it after the fish and chips - not that I think trifle qualifies as a health food.

So besides the weird hair the year ended on a good note. Stomach bug went, cool change arrived, and my hairdresser reopens on Monday. The storm blew 2009 out to sea and the new year came in fresh and full of hope.

I'd love to hear about what you ate on New Year's Eve, whether it's a five star stunner, a dodgy kebab on the way home from the pub or a pizza with a friend. I might steal your ideas for my next years celebrations. Then again maybe not the kebab - I'm not doing that stomach bug thing ever again.

Happy New Year.