In my last food-related post I mentioned I wrote about how cabbage smells bad when boiled for too long. I was doing a bit of reading about it before writing that post and found an article that said that cabbage is one of a family of plants that defends itself. Cabbage contains sulfur compounds that are released in the cooking process. The longer you cook it the worse the smell. Another member of this family is the onion. Onions are mean, they make me cry.
This is a description of what happens when you peel onions.
Amino acid sulfoxides form sulfenic acids as you slice into an onion. These enzymes which were isolated are now free to mix with the sulfenic acids to produce propanethial S-oxide, a volatile sulfur compound gas which wafts upward and into your eyes. This gas reacts with the water in your tears to form sulfuric acid. The sulfuric acid burns, stimulating your eyes to release more tears to wash the irritant away.
All I know is that I find it extremely difficult to peel onions as my eyes get sore and watery. It was a kitchen chore I would always pass off to David who didn’t seem to be affected by it.
There are supposedly a few cures for it. Someone told me that eating dry bread would help. Well, I enjoyed the bread but I still cried.
Wearing safety goggles over my glasses had not occurred to me. I am not sure I’d do that if I had them I’d probably just forget until it was too late. I’ve also read that rubbing your hands on a stainless steel odour absorber can help.
Somehow I feel passing the onion chopping job to someone else is still a better idea. Or possibly just buying frozen onions. As it is I keep a box of tissues handy when I have to do this job.
If you were to ask me what vegetable I like the least I think it would be a toss-up between spinach and cabbage.
I’ve got nothing against them as vegetables but I didn’t have a good introduction to either in my younger years.
Spinach didn’t figure very largely during my childhood. I mostly knew it as something that Popeye ate out of a can. It didn’t look appetising. Later I was introduced to frozen spinach. David liked it so I’d buy it sometimes but to me, it was a green soggy mess. I’ve cooked with fresh spinach and while I think it has a better texture than the mushy stuff I am still not enthusiastic about it.
So much for spinach.
Cabbage, as a child I really hated it. Mum used to boil it and it smelled terrible. I still remember an old ad for air freshener. Husband comes home and asks if his wife is cooking cabbage.
“How did you know?” she asks
“The whole street knows.” was the reply.
Boiled cabbage stinks. It also looked revolting, white and soggy, it looked as unappetising as it tasted. I didn’t often refuse food at mealtimes but mum had a hard time getting me to eat boiled cabbage.
It wasn’t until I was much older and discovered coleslaw that I could bear to eat cabbage at all. I also learned that there were other types of cabbage. Red cabbage and the curly leafed Savoy cabbage. They made salads more interesting but I still don’t really like cabbage cooked.
In mum’s day there was no Google to ask for a better way to cook cabbage and even if there was I doubt that she would have done it. I did though and learned that cabbage contains sulfur compounds which are aggravated by long cooking. If you cook it quickly it doesn’t stink. How I wish I’d know that years ago. I might have cooked it myself sometimes. As it is I might make or buy a coleslaw in warm weather but apart from throwing it in the wok to stir fry it, I wouldn’t normally eat it in cooler weather. I prefer my food crunchy or chewy to mushy anyway.
Apparently, one way to make cabbage less soggy is to salt it prior to cooking. You shred the cabbage, toss it with the salt and leave it in a colander for an hour before squeezing it out. I would not have thought of this because I practically never add salt to food either before or after cooking. I may wave the salt cellar at the pot when cooking boiled eggs, pasta and potatoes but the idea of putting a whole tablespoon of salt into food would never have occurred to me.
I really wrote this post in order not to waste a nice photo of a Savoy cabbage that I took last week but it has got me thinking that I might try a few different cabbage recipes. Maybe after more than 50 years, I might start to like eating cooked cabbage.
This is a piece I first posted in December 2014 and I thought that I’d rerun it. In Australia we don’t have a National Pie Day like they do in the USA. (It was on 23 January in case you missed it) We probably should because Australians love their meat pies. So here is my edited post on The Great Australian Pie.
I saw an item on the news about how Australian entrepreneurs are trying to introduce Americans to the good old Aussie pie. It was a fun story and reminded me of the time back in the eighties when I used to have penfriends in the USA. That was how I learned that Americans don’t eat meat pies the way we do. I still find that hard to grasp Pies have been part of my life ever since we first came to Australia and I guess I just thought that everyone ate pies. I thought pies would be something that would be familiar to Americans who are always talking about pie, for dessert at least.
One of the would be pie sellers even had what I thought was an Adelaide specialty, the pie floater. A pie floater is a meat pie turned upside down and served in a bowl of pea soup and topped with tomato sauce. It looks pretty fearsome, bright green soup and bright red sauce. I didn’t try one until David bought me one at the Pie Cart outside the Adelaide Railway Station when we were first going out together. If you can get over how it looks it’s really good to eat. When my American penfriend Christie came to visit we took her to the Pie Cart too and she bravely tried one and admitted that she quite liked it. The Pie Cart at the Adelaide station was great. It wasn’t the only one in the city, there was another at the Town Hall but it was the one that I went to most often. In those days it was one of the few places open late at night. It was not uncommon to see well dressed people who had come from the Festival Centre or the Casino eating a Pie Floater at the counter next to a worker on a late shift. You might even see an MP from the nearby Parliament House after a late sitting. We often stopped there for a hot drink before catching the last train home in the days before we had a car. When I worked late at the station it was a handy place to get a drink or a snack in my late break.
On our last visit to Adelaide I was upset to see that the Pie Cart had gone. The Casino is located in the upper part of the railway station and apparently I believe that management had wanted it gone for some years but what did it in the end ws the extension of the city tram line down North Terrace past the station. Still I feel sure that the pie cart could have been relocated nearby. I believe you can still get a Pie Floater at one of the other Pie Carts but for me it’s not the same.
The Sydney version of the Floater is a pie with mushy peas but I’ve never had that. I imagine it is similar. The place to get those is Harry’s Cafe de Wheels. The original Harry’s was and still is in Wooloomooloo but now it is a franchise and operates from several locations around Sydney. I have yet to visit a Harry’s. Maybe on my next trip.
In the 1970s this advertisement for Holden cars featured a catchy jingle with the lyrics “We love football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars.” most people soon learned the words by heart.
Everyone has their favourite brand of pie and they can vary from state to state. In my childhood we had Balfour’s and Gibbs. Later we discovered Four’n’Twenty pies and later, in Adelaide, Vili’s pies started up. Vili’s make very nice pies. The owner has a Hungarian background and their goulash pies are the best. Here in Tasmania we have National Pies and they are good pies too.
Cheap pies don’t have much meat in them, it’s nearly all gravy and will drip all over you as soon as you bite into it. I prefer a chunkier pie myself with lots of meat and not much gravy. Well actually what I really like is a Cornish Pasty but we’re talking about pies right now. Real Aussies like sauce in or on their pies. I’m not a real Aussie and I’m not a big fan of tomato sauce so I don’t.
If you can’t get pies in your part of the world here is a link to a recipe on Taste.com.au
I thought that I would re-run this post again as it is my favourite recipe for mince pies.
I am not a professional cook. It’s not even really a hobby. The main time of the year that I bake is at Christmas because I love all the traditional British Christmas goodies and I get more pleasure out of making them than buying them as it brings back pleasant memories of past Christmases that I’ve shared with my family.
I love mince pies and look forward to having them every Christmas. The shops usually start selling them months before Christmas but I like to make my own. I do remember mum teaching me to make these when I was in my early teens and I took charge of making them for our family when I was about fifteen. I don’t think I have ever missed a year. I’ve experimented with various recipes. I used to make them with sweet short crust pastry but I’ve never been a very good pastry cook. When I was first married mum gave me the first Margaret Fulton Cookbook and in it was a recipe for mince pies made with biscuit pastry. I liked it so much I have been using it ever since. Every year my battered old book comes out and I make two dozen mince pies which is enough for Hubby and me and for my sister to have a batch as well. They can be frozen if you want to make them ahead of Christmas.
6 ounces (yes this is an old recipe) of butter. I sometimes use cooking margarine instead.
2 ounces (1/3rd cup) castor sugar
10 ounces (2 1/2 cups) plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder To my horror when I came to make these this morning I found I had no baking powder so as hubby was unavailable to go to the shop I substituted bi-carbonate of soda. Baking powder is basically bi-carb (baking soda) with some other salts in it so it will work the same way.
1 jar fruit mince. (The book has a recipe for home-made fruit mince but I’m too lazy to make it.)
Cream butter and sugar well
Add the egg and beat well
Sift flour with baking powder and stir into the mixture.
If you are lucky enough to have a food processor or mixer with a dough hook go ahead and use them. I don’t have either so I mix with my old Sunbeam hand mixer which I remember getting for my mum when I was about thirteen. There is a story to that but I’ll save it for another day. I mix the flour in with a knife and then with my fingers. This may be why I don’t make pastry too often. Still I’m better off than my grandmother. She did all her mixing with a wooden spoon or a fork. This Fork.
After mixing the pastry you knead it lightly on a floured board. At this point Margaret Fulton says chill the pastry for one hour but I have to admit I skip this step. I used to do it but I found the pastry even harder to handle chilled so now I just get on with it. I should mention that Margaret Fulton is an Australian and the recipes in the book are probably designed for Australian conditions so maybe if you are in a cool climate the chilling is not so essential. As I said, I’m not a chef. So chill or don’t chill as you please. If my dough is crumbly I sometimes add a tablespoon of cold water to the mixture too. I didn’t today though.
Roll out your pastry thinly and cut rounds to fit your patty pans. If you don’t have biscuit cutters a small glass is fine for this. Cut the same number of smaller circles for the tops. I digress from Margaret here and cut all mine the same size.
Place your larger rounds, or just half of them if you made them all the same size, in greased patty tins and moisten the edges with beaten egg.
Fill each pie with 1 heaped teaspoon of fruit mince. I like the English-made Robertson’s Fruit Mince best. I’ve tried other brands but you can’t beat this one in my opinion. One jar of it will make 15-20 pies, that’s what the jar says and it is true. Of course if you don’t like them really fruity it will go a lot further.
Make a small slit in each pastry top or cut centre with a small star-shaped cutter and put into place on top of the fruit mince. Press edges together to seal the pastry.
Brush with beaten egg to glaze.
Cook in a moderate oven, 350 Fahrenheit. I do them at about 175 Celsius for 20-25 minutes or until pale golden brown. Remove from the oven and dust with icing sugar. Depending on how thinly you roll your pastry and the size of your patty tins you should get between 12-20 mince pies from this mixture. I tend to roll mine quite thick and I still usually get about 15.
Don’t forget to make a wish when you eat your first one for the year. We did a lot of wishing on things in our family.
Here is another post from 2014 when I shared some favourite Christmas recipes. I thought that I would share them all again this year for those that may not have seen them last time around. White Christmas is a great no-cook recipe.
Unlike the previous recipes in my Christmas Cooking series of posts White Christmas is a relatively new thing to me. I had never heard of it until I was well into my forties. It has become a firm favourite though and I sometimes make it to give as gifts to friends as well as for the Christmas goodie basket I give my sister. It is very easy to make and doesn’t take long. In fact it’s so easy you could hardly even call it cooking.
I have two recipes for it to share with you. One is made with copha and the other with white chocolate.
Go on, you have still got time to make some before Christmas.
This is my favourite Christmas Cake recipe. I love rich fruit cake so I will probably make one this year. I’m not so good at cake decorating so I usually top mine with nuts but it is a very good cake to ice and decorate not just for Christmas but would probably work nicely as a wedding cake too as it keeps well.
This rich fruit cake is very easy to make and although I like to make it ahead you don’t really have to. It’s just as nice if you make it the night before Christmas, but do allow sufficient time for baking. I first found it in the Australian Women’s Weekly (published monthly) of November 2006 and I have been using it ever since. The measurements are in metric and I have included a couple of conversion charts as links for readers overseas.
Night Before Quick Mix Christmas Cake
The mixture will make either:
one large cake in a 22cm round or 19cm square deep cake tin
two smaller ones in either a 17cm round or 15cm square tins
four small cakes in 12.5cm round or 9.5 cm square tins
250 grams butter/cooking margarine, melted and cooled
200 grams/ 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
4 eggs beaten lightly
300 grams/2 cups plain flour
150 grams/ 1 cup self-raising flour
2 teaspoons mixed spice
blanched whole almonds, pecans, Macadamia and walnuts to decorate
Note: If you don’t have sherry you can use brandy or rum or for a non alcoholic cake use 2 tablespoons of brandy or run essence combined with 1/3 cup of orange juice.
Read the instructions before you go any further. One or two of these things need to cool before you can use them and planning ahead saves time. Melt the butter and heat the fruit first. While you are waiting for them to cool you can prepare the baking tin as follows:
Line the tin with two layers of brown paper and two layers of baking paper. Extend the paper 5cm above the top of the tin. I have never seen brown paper being sold by the roll around here so getting brown paper is a bit of a problem. Usually my hoarding instinct saves me and if I get anything wrapped in brown paper during the course of the year I save it. A couple of years ago I was volunteering at our local radio station and one of the sponsors sent round some goods to be used as raffle prizes in brown paper bags. After the bags were no longer needed I asked if I could have them so I have a good supply of brown paper for the next couple of years. If you really can’t get any brown paper just use extra baking paper instead.
Preheat the oven to 140 degrees Celsius or if you have a fan forced oven 120 Celsius is fine.
Combine the dried fruit, fruit mince and sherry in a large microwave safe bowl and heat it, covered, on HIGH (100%) for 4 minutes, stirring once. Cool, uncovered, for half an hour.
Stir in the cooled, melted butter and sugar until combined. By the way if you don’t have dark brown sugar I’ve done it with light and it turns out fine.
Stir in the eggs and the sifted dry ingredients.
Spread mixture into the cake tin and smooth the top.
In my recipe you can then decorate the top with nuts before putting it into the oven. If you prefer not to have nuts skip this step and you can ice the cake later.
This may vary according to your oven of course.
For 1 large cake 3 1/2 – 4 hours
For 2 medium-sized cakes 2 – 2 1/2 hours
For 4 small cakes 1 3/4 – 2 hours
Remove cake from the oven and brush it with more sherry. Cover the hot cake with foil and wrap it in a large towel. Leave it to cool in the tin overnight.
Well, here we are well into November and it’s time to start thinking about Christmas puddings again. I still intend to make one this year even though it will probably be two or three smaller puddings rather than a large one. I first posted this recipe in 2013 along with several other Christmas recipes that I like to make every year.
It doesn’t have to be made as far in advance as this and if you intend to make an alcohol free version you should probably leave it for a couple more weeks although as I explain you can freeze it. It needs a long cooking time so by doing it ahead you can pick a time when it is convenient to have it on the stove top for several hours rather than rushing to get it done later.
I usually start thinking about Christmas cooking in November. Not that we have a big celebration any more but I love the traditional Christmas Puddings, fruit cake and mince pies and as well as making them for us I also make them for my sister and to give as gifts to friends. I was taught that the earlier you prepared Christmas Pudding the better. They keep well and as they take a long time to cook it’s nice to have it all done and just have to reheat it on Christmas Day.
In a way it’s labour of love. When I was a child my grandmother and later my mother would make the Christmas Pudding. They would be cooked with silver coins or little charms inside and the adults would always make sure that the children found one in their bowl. We continued the tradition when we moved from England to Australia even though the summer weather is often too hot to be eating a boiled or steamed pudding let alone cooking one. Australian decimal coins are made of an alloy, not silver and you can’t cook them in the pudding. Mum would slip five cent pieces into the bowls when she served it instead. I can’t remember when I took over the making of the puddings. Mum never really enjoyed cooking that much and as she got older and found the hot summers tiring I started to do it instead.
We have used a few different recipes, the ones we used to use were made with suet. Traditionally you boil the pudding in a floured cloth which always makes me think of Bob Cratchit‘s Christmas in Dickens “A Christmas Carol”. However, they can also be steamed in a basin or pudding steamer and that’s what we have always done.
A Word About Weight’s and Measures
The recipe I’m going to share with you today originally came from an Australian Women’s Weekly magazine that I bought several years ago now. It had a Christmas cooking section which I liked so much that I use some of the recipes every year. I will give the measurements in metric weights and measures but will put in cup equivalents where I can and mention any substitutes that I’ve used as a variation. Here is a helpful link to convert metric to imperial weights. http://www.taste.com.au/how+to/articles/369/weights+measurement+charts#cup
A friend of mine who is a very good cook says that if you are following a recipe which someone has given you it is always better to weigh the ingredients as cup measurements can be inaccurate. That’s why your aunty Maude’s fruit cake recipe may not come out the same way when you try it. The cup she uses might be an old china tea-cup she always uses for cooking not your nice new metric 250ml measuring cup. My friend also says that even the way you add dry ingredients can make a difference. Do you pour them in straight from the cup or do you spoon them in gradually? So this recipe and the ones that I’ll post in the weeks leading up to Christmas will tell you what I do. Hopefully it will work for you too!
250g butter chopped ( I sometimes use cooking margarine for this instead)
1 1/2 teaspoons bi-carbonate of soda (baking soda)
3 eggs beaten lightly
1/4 cup/60ml dark rum OR 1 tablespoon rum or brandy essence with 2 tablespoons of orange juice
3 cups/210 grams firmly packed white breadcrumbs ( If I don’t have white bread I use whatever I have on hand)
1 3/4 cups/260 grams plain flour
2 teaspoons mixed spice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
#Note: cup means 250ml Australian metric sizes
For the steaming method you will also need the following:
Pudding basin or steamer
baking paper or greaseproof paper
large pan for boiling water.
largest mixing bowl you have
This recipe can make one large pudding in an 8 cup/ 2 litre basin or you could make smaller ones. The suggested sizes are 2x 5 cup/1.25 litre basins or 10x 1 cup/250ml moulds. I don’t have enough bowls in those sizes so I use what I have and alter the cooking times accordingly. This year I used one very small bowl, a slightly larger one and a medium-sized one which I didn’t quite manage to fill. It makes working out the cooking times a bit tricky but I’ve been doing it for long enough now.
My thrifty mum and grandma would alter recipes according to what they had in the house and I do the same. If you want to leave out dates and put in currants, sultanas or extra raisins instead it’s fine. Nothing bad will happen I promise! Now, to business.
Combine the fruit, sugars, butter and water in a large pan. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the butter melts. Bring to boil.
Reduce heat, simmer uncovered for 8 minutes.
Stir in bi-carb soda. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and leave to cool to room temperature. During this time I usually make my breadcrumbs and prepare my bowls if I haven’t already done so.
Add the combined eggs and rum, then the breadcrumbs, sifted flour and spices. I sift my flour twice, once when I put it on the scales and again when I add it to the pudding. Mix well. At this point my mother and grandmother would invite anyone in the household to take a turn in stirring the pudding with a wooden spoon. Each of us would stir the pudding three times while making a wish. I still make a wish whenever I do this.
If you haven’t already done so grease the pudding basin or pudding steamer and line the base with a circle of baking paper. Spoon in the mixture and top with a sheet of baking paper and a sheet of aluminium foil which has had a pleat folded into it. Secure the cover with string, or if you are using a steamer with a lid you can just seal it. I usually tie a string across the top of the bowl too as it makes it easier to lift out of the boiling water without hurting yourself.
Place the basin or steamer into a large pan filled with enough boiling water to come about half way up the side of the basin. You may have to experiment a bit with this. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and boil for the following times:
8 cup/2 litre – 6 hours
2×5 cup/1.25 litre – 4 hours
10x 1 cup/250ml – 2 hours in a shallow pan, an electric frying pan is suggested for this.
If you have a different size you may have to “guesstimate”. I’m doing my two small ones for 3 hours and the medium one for 4 hours. Don’t forget to keep an eye on the pans while they are cooking and replenish with more boiling water to maintain the water level. I don’t recommend the tall stock pot in the picture above as it is too tall and narrow. However it is all I had available at the time. Something like the one in front works much better.
This pudding keeps for several weeks in an airtight container in the fridge. It can also be frozen and reheated later. If you freeze it thaw it out in the fridge for about 3 days for the largest size. You can reheat it in the microwave, either as individual serves, cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high for about 1 minute per serve, or the entire pudding. We generally turn it out of the bowl and stand it on a serving plate then microwave it on medium for about 15 minutes for the large size or until hot.
If you want to be very traditional you can pour brandy over the pudding before serving it and set it alight. You are bound to get a few “Oohs” and “Aahs.” The pudding can be served with the traditional brandy custard or as we do with thick cream and or custard. Australians often serve it with ice cream too and why not?
I don’t have a photo of the finished pudding about to be served but it should look something like this.