cookbooks

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got your prawn f*cking cocktail

1970′s Women’s Weekly Cookbook vs the Country Women’s Association cookbook in a battle royale for Saturday night’s dinner party. I only wished I’d dressed up for it.

Sheer flash of 70′s luxury item, the prawn cocktail, outmuscled by Jo’s simply amazing you will rarely have anything in your life this good CWA Lancashire hotpot. Brandied potatoes accompanied, as did a country loaf with knife on table.

lancashire hotpot


Fun had by all, mysterious new transitional dimension posited for Eurovision song contest between taking the piss and completely sincere. Difficult to grasp for most as both can’t simultaneously be conceived at the same time by anglophones.

Official Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook Cocktail Sauce

2 tbs of tomato sauce; 1 dessertspoon white vinegar; 1 dessertspoonful worcestshire sauce; few drops of tabasco; 1/2 teaspoon mustard; 2 tbs lightly whipped cream.

Also: I have the best cleaver ever. More later.

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Cursed by weather and blessed by coffee, Melbourne has second hand bookshops like we have surfshops.

I’m averaging one cookbook per recipe at the moment so I was looking for something special. I was trying to find Roald Dahls’ cookbook but found these three instead.

One was the 2002 Italian Wine Guide not so much for bothering the local liquor store but to try and bring my wine writing up a notch or five . Produced by the good people of the Slow Food Editore . A mere $4 and in short, go the ’97 vintage. At the same store, Bookhouse on Fitzroy Street, I also found Recherché Entrées by C. Hermann Senn. It’s a marvel. Written in 1913 it’s full of “gills” and “egg froth” and the fine multipurpose spread of Lemco. A steal at $15.

From the above photographed Basilisk Bookshop on Brunswick street, the Good Book. The Larousse Gastronomique of 1976. A shamefully low $35. Bliss. It doesn’t have an entry on mushrooms it has 7 pages on them with 30 different ways of cooking them. Why didn’t I have a copy of this years ago? Why don’t you have one now? Go on off you go.

The one that got away: Jamie Confidential, with the !same! !font! on the cover as the superb Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. It was like the aforementioned Simon LeBon doing Don’t Believe the Hype, somebody must be having a big lend. Does “Britains’ Best Loved Chef” not have a lawyers or is he a grade A tool?

Andy over at Tripe Soup asked me if I could recommend any Japanese cookbooks so I thought I’d post it rather than hide the answer away in the comments section.

Japan has a vigorous publishing industry which pumps out a huge stream of cookbooks and magazines and it’s a pity more don’t make it over here in a translated form (has an idea, decides all too hard). Even so we’re not starved for Japanese cookbooks here either. I use three English cookbooks and each of them has its uses and represent three things you should look for in a Japanese cookbook. Firstly, I think Japanese food has been fetishised by food pornographers and these book are best kept on the coffee table or under the mattress. For normal use I’d recommend unpretentious and tasty as a guide.

There’s no must have book but I have three books which illustrate what to look for.

The Pleasures of Japanese Cooking by Heihachi Tanaka. This is from 1963 and found in a second hand bookstore. Very much a core of Japanese classics apart from a few replacement ingredients, it’s just as much an anthropological work as a cookbook. It represents a walk through the fundamentals and the “A Chat about Japanese Food” is extensive and informative.

The Joy of Japanese Cooking by Kuwako Takahashi. Marginally more Westernised. The Okonomiyaki, for example would be as recognisable as Chicketti to an Italian, but it does cover a wide range to different dishes; the pictures are instructive; it has hints on decorative cutting; and it has good dinner party plans, especially for the communal nabe and sukiyaki. Very much an all round reference.

The Many EcstasiesThe Food of Japan Bitsier in the sense that it is a book of Japanese recipes than Japanese cooking. More innovative that the other two, it is a good source of fresh ideas. You could use this to make an entree or have several dishes in a row. Japanese food doesn’t lend itself well to entree-main-dessert. This one also has a few chapters on culture and ingredients.

The task is to work out whether you want to learn Japanese cooking or cherry pick but I’d recommend mastering the basics of Japanese cooking as there aren’t that many. Japanese chefs are masters of specialisation rather than diversity. Most sauces are a combination of mirin, dashi, shoyu, and sake. The main cooking techniques are broiling, simmering, and deep frying. I’d also recommend developing a love for tofu, plain boiled rice, and miso soup.

The pleasure of Japanese food doesn’t come from complexity or extravagant ingredients but simplicity, freshness, locality, the seasons and the celebration of life with food and drink.

itadakimasu

A few dishes from the archives:

Red Emperor Nabe with a 3 Fish Ceviche

Okonomiyaki

Pork Belly and Potato Reduction

Crayfish Sashimi etc. in January 2004

Salmon Marinated in Miso with Chilli Garlic Soy Spinach.

Izakaya food in October 2003

Colonial Fancies

Legible version here

From my 1977 copy of Australian Colonial Cookery by Richard (nice combo) Daunton-Fear and Penelope Vigar – “A page from Mrs Beeton’s cookery book illustrating some of the hundreds of elaborate desserts which were part of a good cooks repertoire during the latter half of the nineteenth century”. Part of my research for my groundbreaking book Confections of History-The Myth of pre 1970s Rubbish Food; Chapter 6 – No Empire, No Fancy Jelly”.

There’ll be a test next week, get boning.

Eddy’s in the Space Time Continuum: Fine dining and fisticuffs at A Journal of Four Coloured Colonial Fancies

Speaking of Mrs Beeton – things have been rather quiet over at Tripe Soup. And which cake do I like? The deltoid one seems to have had quite a bit of work put into it.

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I was given a copy of Denise Grieg’s excellent “the australian cook’s dictionary” yesterday by a dieting friend in a vicarious mood and it should go no end to helping the food vocabulary around here. So goodbye to my favourite dish “Cooked in an oven Cow Meat with a thingy poured over it” and hello – well I haven’t read it all yet. Two things have got my curiosity though.

The first is the sheer globalism of the entries, while still being representative of what we would consider “Australian” food. Although heavily weighted to French, almost every page is over 70% words of a non-English (and we could get into an argument over the definition of this) source. Eager social scientists or historians might make something of this and social changes of Australia.

My most ancient historical source is a 1970 copy of “The Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook”. Again, French features reasonably heavily but a quick cruise through the comprehensive index barely yielded a double figure amount of non European terms whereas “tacd” has 26 in the “A”s alone – with a high representation of Japanese terms (might be the influence of her son working at Tetsuya’s). Not many SE Asian food terms though and if you have a look through some of the blogs in IMBB you’ll realise something serious is amiss.

The second point is that the singular of choux is chou. This would explain the dual spelling – if I’m not mistaken, it should be the singular form in chou pastry.

If either of these points even slightly interested you, you’ll enjoy Cooking Verbs at Language Log. LL are F1 engineers, I am the bloke in greasy overalls at the garage saying “yeah well it might be the diff’”.

Finally – one thing amiss is that it doesn’t have pronunciation. This is a big issue for a man who spent more than a short time walking around saying chianti and korizo. Is there any difference in pronunciation between chou and choux?

Also, is “chop suey” a real Chinese word? I’d heard otherwise.