Monday, February 25, 2013

A fascinating hobby

Lady Hackett's Household Guide was published in 1940. This was Gwennie's copy, or maybe even her mother's?
I've mentioned it before. I collect old recipe books. Before you click away, wait. It's actually very fascinating. Cookbooks are barometers of a society's wealth, health, fashions and values. Cookbooks can become family heirlooms and a source of nostalgia. Meals can equal memories. Recreating recipes can transport us back in time to Grandma's table or our childhood birthday dinner.
I have recipe books from the late 1800s. Many of the recipes could be recreated now and look very much of our time, while other recipes include ingredients that have long fallen
 It's chock-ful-o-handwritten recipes and magazine clippings. This one is not just a recipe book, but a guide on how to run a house; how to make boots last longer, how to re-use this and that. Lady Hackett discusses treating snake bites and toothaches. She details home hygiene and arming your family with healthy habits like getting enough fresh air and taking daily exercise.
She includes recipes, although they are mostly the ones that have either become extinct or are now only available in high end restaurants under fancier names; beef tea custard, chicken custard, jellied chicken, fricassee of tripe and devilled pig's feet.
This is Best of the Bake-Off Recipes, 1969.
Let me tell you, you'd be the most popular girl in the room if you put this Bacon and Sausage Plait on the table at Sunday Brunch.
Bacon and Sausage Plait
3 cups plain flour, 1/2 teas salt, 6 oz butter, approx 1/4 cup water.
2 boiled eggs, salt, pepper, 1/2 teas powdered sage or basil, 1/2 lb bacon rashers, 1/2 lb pork sausage meat, beaten egg for glazing
Pastry: Sift flour and salt into mixing bowl, rub in butter until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add water, mix to firm dough. Turn on to a floured board and knead well. Roll out the pastry to 10 inch square.
Filling: Chop bacon and hard-boiled eggs, mix with remaing filling ingredients (except egg glazing), and place down the centre of pastry. Cut pastry on each side of filling into diagonal 1/2 inch strips; brush with egg. Lift alternate strips over the sausage mixture to form roll resembling a plait. Brush with egg, sprinkle with salt. Bake in hot oven 30-40 minutes.

I'm not sure if The Big Party Cookbook refers to the book itself, which is quite large, or whether it's to be used for huge gatherings?

Either way, take these Weisswurst Kebabs or Cocktail Banana Kebabs and Stuffed Sausages to your next barbecue invitation and you'll surely win yourself a husband.

Anyone who did Home Economics or 'Home Arts' as it was sold to us at my school, will be familiar with this ubiquitous little ditty. Day to Day Cookery, in all it's many revisions, was the text du jour of school kitchens - and maybe it still is? This one is from 1985.
Something I used to find hysterical as a teenager, and sady still do, is the recipe for a sandwich with....wait for it....eight steps! Step 4 is 'Cover with second slice and press together firmly'. You may be wondering how there could possibly be a further four steps after that one. I don't want to spoil it, just in case you want to read it at some stage.

Hints on Healthy Living by Dr Ulric Williams was written around 1931, I think. It has recipes with the focus being on good health. It is incredible to think of how many books have rehashed this same information in the last 82 years.
Dr Williams recommends eating as much of your food raw as possible and exercising daily. He includes recipes based on vegetables, fish, nuts and lentils. Sound familiar?
I love these little fundraising booklets published by kindergartens and schools. This one is from Mater Dei School in Ashgrove, published in 1991. Although that doesn't sound like very long ago, you'd be surprised how dated the recipes seem.
Davis Dainty Dishes was published in 1937. It has beautiful coloured illustrations of some of the recipes which seem extremely elaborate and surprisingly modern even now - orange ice cream, peach ice cream. Others are very much of their time; beetroot mould, salmon in jelly and lemon aspic.

On the other spectrum, the recipes in Square Meals for the Family (1939) are downright nauseating. First case in point, Sheep's Head and Barley Broth. Can you imagine coaxing your children to eat that?
There's also recipes for Beef Heart, Stuffed & Roasted (as if that makes it any more appealing), Tripe & Onions and Liver Paste for Sandwiches.
There's an advertisement in Square Meals for the Family from the Brisbane City Council Electricity Supply Department enticing people to have their electricity put on. It reads:
"Electricity scores. Your Matchless Servant - Electricity.
The more you use, the cheaper it becomes."
That concept has ended in tears!

 This Vogue Australia Cook Book (1969) is the height of sophistication. It includes classic French recipes like Le Coq Au Vin and Boeuf a la Bourguignonne. The book lists entire menus for specific dinner parties, many of which have also stood the test of time.
Beetroot salad with capers
Le coq au vin
Scalloped potatoes
Cheeseboard with water biscuits
Sliced preserved oranges
Other books like Cakes & Cake Decorating (1965) are demonstrative of the fashions of the day, and give us a little giggle.
Graham Kerr is a classic. The Graham Kerr Cookbook, as you can imagine with a recipe book from a man, is very meat-oriented.
And finally....are you still awake?
And finally, my favourite. The Australian Women's Weekly Original Cookbook (1977). As there have been over 800,000 sold, I'm sure you're familiar with it. This was my Mum's cookbook when I was growing up and she cooked up many a special meal from its pages.
I find old cookbooks very interesting, however, I completely understand if you don't. I hope you weren't completely and utterly bored to tears.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Lavender cakes and a productive weekend

We had a productive weekend with a tiny reshuffle to bring the outdoors in.
These black floors really suck up the light, so it's good to introduce light whenever possible.

I am madly in love with this cookbook at the moment. Delicious Simply the Best by Valli Little.
Just in the last few days I've made the roasted tomato soup. If you make it, I'd suggest sieving it before serving. Tonight I made the baked bouillabaisse which is cooked in paper. For my husband's  birthday cake I made the Orange Lavender Syrup Cake. Very good. Highly recommended.
This is the recipe.
250g unsalted butter, softened (don't be afraid)
1 cup castger sugar
4 eggs
1/3 cup sifted plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
finely grated zest and juice of two oranges
250g fine semolina
120g thick Greek style yoghurt
250g strawberries (although, as you can see I used figs)
For the syrup
finely grated zest and juice of two oranges
1 tablespoon of dried lavender flowers (I used a handful of fresh ones)
2 cinnamon quills
1 1/4 cups caster sugar
Preheat oven to 170. Greease a 23cm round springform pan, line the base with baking paper and lightly dust the sides with flour, shaking off excess.
Beat the butter and sugar until thick and pale. Add the eggs one at a time, then fold in the flour and baking powder, followed by the orange zest, semolina and almond meal.
Add orange juice and yoghurt and gently stir until combined. Pour into pan and bake for an hour until a skewer comes out clean.
Cool in the pan for five minutes.
For the syrum combine all the ingredients in a saucepan with 1 1/3 cups water and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Simmer for 20-25 minutes until it reduces a bit and slightly thickens.
Prick the cake with a skewer repeatedly and pour over half the syrup.
Toss the fruit in the remaining syrup and use to serve.
I served the cake and fruit with the syrup drained from the fruit and some double cream.
Serves 6-8.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


I found the camera cord. Such joy!
This is the cane setting I am currently finding the covers for. Any ideas are welcome. The problem is you could do just about anything - and when I say 'problem' I'm using the term loosely. I realise this is not a life or death situation.
After all the rain the garden is growing like a weed.
Our retro topiaries, doing very nicely thank you.

We planted star jasmine to grow over the arbour. The man at the nursery called it a weed and in fact it grows like one.
This is the star jasmine we left Honey the puppy in charge of. Not doing so well.

Happy Valentine's Day to everyone. I get fed the same line every year; 'No I didn't get you flowers, every day is Valentine's Day for us'. I got my husband a card, and the girls gave us each a paper Valentine. I wrote them each a note and popped it in their lunch boxes, in part to make up for me channeling Joan Crawford this morning before they went to school.
I don't usually read autobiographies, but I've been reading this lately for some reason (I have no idea why it is insisting on sitting sideways). I wish I hadn't started, it's giving me the heebie jeebies. Autobiographies tend to build their subjects into supernatural characters, which is annoying. And if she really was as perfect as she's portrayed in the book, well, that's even more annoying.
My bedside table doth overflow with books to read. The Love Machine is actually by the same author as Valley of the Dolls in case you're thinking it might be something else. I love a good mid-century melodrama.
Dad recently gave me this lamp. It's made of pottery, but is a dead ringer for brass.
I've been continuing my decorating research for ideas for downstairs, which we expect to start later this year.
While I'm a bit unsure about what I want, I am very certain about what I don't want. This, for example, would drive me crazy.
This is more my speed, it's a shame my budget can't keep up.

No, it's not too much.
I have a feeling this is Ralph Lauren's house, but of course, I haven't kept a record of my source.
Love a good chevron tiled floor.
This is Lee Radziwill's house. Lee is Jackie O's younger sister.
She's a 'good sort', especially considering she's now nearly 80, pictured below.
This is her house. Look, she has a peacock too although I think that's where the similarities finish.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Pretty pictures

I have just purchased a gigantic white cane lounge setting to go in our living room. We won't land it there though until I have revamped the seat covers.
This is the room it is going in.
The room was a later addition to the house around the Great Depression. It is an original indoor/outdoor room, and essentially a built in verandah. The concertina doors on the left hand side go out to the pool and the verandah has yellow and white awnings, which are very visible from inside this room.
Yellow is not a very forgiving colour. I really only like it with white, black or grey. I detest blue and yellow together, I'm working more toward a yellow/turquoise combo?
I'm thinking of grey linen covers with bit of turquoise here and there, namely in Perrier the stuffed peacock who will go in this room also?
I haven't done any research on line for a long time. I found some very pretty pictures, most of which are unrelated to this room, but I thought you may be interested to see?
These photos below are from our mate Stuart Membery. They're very beautiful, but not really my thing - too much blue, too close to the yellow.

I also found these lovely ideas.
This is The Ivy in Sydney. That's a gorgeous acid yellow.
Love this blue.
I think this kitchen is beautiful.
That's all.