Category Archives: cooking

Rain washed eggplant patties with a dash of thunder…

We had an almighty storm this afternoon.

rain washed eggplants

But I have a deadline for a travel writing competition tomorrow and I was on a mission to come up with a recipe.

Nothing was going to stand in my way ;)

exposed

“I swear I didn’t piss myself. Suh!”

The garden is just bursting at the moment  so I wanted to work with what we had on hand.

basil

There are three components to the competition. A couple of small written pieces which I’ve done.

The third is a recipe.

My recipe needed to channel Marcella Hazan because I am setting out to win a trip to Emilia-Romagna, her birthplace … Cesenatico on the Adriatic coast, Bologna the fat, the Morandi Museum … to walk those orchards and drink that purple wine first hand.

basil, eggplants and dripping grapevines

Can you imagine…

The sun comes out

I have a thing for purple. It’s a family joke.

So after the deluge when the sun set the whole garden sparkling, Steve and I did a dash to the vegie patch and we loaded up with eggplants and basil and I set out to adapt a recipe of Marcella’s for Eggplant Patties with Parsley, Garlic and Parmesan.  Only I wanted to try it with basil.

So I roasted our eggplants, rain washed, whole and untrimmed in a hot hot oven. Top rack. With a tray underneath to catch any spills. For about 40 minutes.

eggplants cooling

Then when they were cool enough to handle I skinned them, moozhed them up a bit and set them in a colander for 15 minutes giving them a push every so often to squeeze out more juice.

eggplants draining

And while that was going on I smashed up lots of fresh basil (what would amount to about 3 tablespoons worth), bashed it with salt and 2 garlic cloves – basically a pesto mix without the pine nuts and oil.

pesto mix

And then I mixed that with an egg, about half a cup of fresh breadcrumbs and 3 tablespoons of parmesan cheese. Plus some freshly ground black pepper.

breadcrumbs, egg, pesto mix and parmo

Cut the drained eggplant very fine and mixed everything together.

Tested for salt and pepper.

Shaped the mix into patties (you might have to add some more breadcrumbs – I did), about 2 inches wide and 1/2 an inch thick.

Heated some vegetable oil* (or alternative) in a shallow pan and when it was nice and hot, doused the patties in plain flour, dusted them off very gently and dropped them into the oil to brown.

eggplant patties

Oh, and added a dash of thunder. You can’t forget the thunder!

In Marcella’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking she says of these … “They are floured and browned in hot oil and they taste very, very good.” 

She doesn’t often give two ‘verys’.

I’d add a third.

They tasted very, very, very good.

By this stage, the kitchen was a mess, the air was sweet, my head was full of thoughts of Italy and a trip to the bottle shop was called for.

And look what Bathurst turned up … a rain washed eggplant sky.

an eggplant sky

Belissimo. x

______________________________________________________________

*I have a problem with vegetable oil after becoming aware that most veg. oils are made with palm oil. 90% of orang-utans habitat has been lost to palm oil plantations so try and find a substitute if you can.

This recipe is adapted from Marcella Hazan’s, on page 498 of the Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. If you don’t own it, consider buying it. It’s amazing.

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Cooking with Pat: A reprise. The Hogan Family Christmas Pudding.

I’m reposting this piece I did with Steve’s mum last year. Christmas is looming and some of you might be looking for a Christmas pudding recipe. Pat used to make the best Christmas puddings I’ve ever had. This was the first little story I did in the kitchen with her. We lost her in July. Somehow posting this brings her a little bit closer. x

My mother-in-law Pat is a legendary cook.

Particularly when it comes to sweets.

You ask her grandchildren about her sponge cakes and her lamingtons and her Charlotte au Chocolat and her Chocolate Rum Pie and her 13 Layer Mocha Cake.

destinationhereandnow_oldhandwrittenrecipe and nutmeg

She is also a formidable individual.

All 5 foot nothing of her.

Terrifying I’m telling you ;)

Especially if you’re caught doing the wrong thing in her kitchen.

One of my favourite Hogan family stories from many years ago is of Steve’s brother picking Pat up, sitting her on top of the fridge and leaving her up there till she calmed down. Gorgeous.

destinationhereandnow_fruit soaked in brandy

So when I was given the job of cooking this year’s Christmas puddings, having never done them before, I thought I’d call on Pat to show me the ropes. Especially as I was using her grandmother’s handwritten recipe.

Pat's grandmother's recipe for christmas pudding

Deep breath.

Pass the brandy.

destinationhereandnow_brandy

I wish life allowed more time for this, cooking side by side with someone who bosses you around someone you love.

destinationhereandnow_pudding basins

Neglecting to buy slivered almonds. Not having to rush.

Pat chopping almonds

Learning things that only a lifetime can teach you.

Mixing the pudding with Pat

It really was a lovely afternoon.

Pat greasing the pudding tins by hand

Learning that you must grease the pudding bowl by hand and use plenty of butter.

Greasing the tin by hand

Standing together with spoons in hand, tasting, tasting, agreeing that while the recipe calls for 1 gill of brandy, 8 tastes sooooo much better.

All done!

I have been really struggling with the whole Christmas thing this year. Not wanting to get sucked into the consumer vortex but also not wanting to be a bah humbug downer for the kids. Business confidence is at its lowest in Australia in three and half years. Steve’s been out of action for five weeks with more to come after a 70 kilo sheep charged him fair and square in the sternum. But you know what? As a new friend online said to me recently “Let those be my problems.”

We are not living in Syria.

Or – heartbreakingly – Newtown, Conneticut.

Today was a humble little taste of Christmas for me. What Christmas should be about. Being bossed around by an 86 year old 5 foot nothing dynamo who was so chuffed to share her pudding secrets. Not just with me. But with you.

This is a gift from Pat my friends.

Season to taste, with brandy, rum, sherry .. whatever you have on hand.

I love you Pat – and I’m sooooo glad you have a sense of humour :)

Marg

xxx

 

The Hogan Family Christmas Pudding

450g currants
450g sultanas
225g raisins
225g citron peel
120ml brandy
450g butter
450g brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
9 eggs
brandy, dry sherry, cointreau (because Pat forgot the Bundaberg Rum – honestly!)
112g SLIVERED! almonds lol
225g plain flour
1/2 a grated nutmeg (1 tsp)
1 big tsp mixed spice (you might want to add a bit more to taste at the end)
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
225g breadcrumbs (processed from fresh white bread)

Soak the currants, sultanas, raisins and citron peel overnight in 120 ml (1 gill) of brandy.

Have 2 large boilers of boiling water in readiness ( the water needs to come no more than half way up the pudding tin).

Cream butter and sugar.
Add well beaten eggs.

Add grog. mmm… We started with about 3 lids of brandy and 3 lids of sherry.  to be continued…

Stir in fruit.
Add breadcrumbs and sifted dry ingredients.

Taste.

(We added a bit more mixed spice, significantly more brandy and sherry (you’ve got to be able to taste the grog in it) and then a little more flour too help soak up said grog).

Da dah!

Put into 2 x 2 litre pudding tins, greased generously by hand with butter. Lids too.
Divide the mixture into both.
Cover with a sheet of aluminium foil.
Put the lids on. Fold the foil to the top. Clip lids into place then secure the lids with string – it also helps to pull the hot puddings out of the water.
Place in the boiling water – no higher than half. Boil for 4 hours. Set your timer regularly to check water levels. Every 20 min? Pat said the first hour is the most critical … try not to lose the heat when you check the water levels. Carefully top up with boiling water from the kettle as you need – just keep it near the edge of the boiler and not the pudding.

Don’t let it boil dry (like I did). Did I say that out loud?

Boil on Christmas Day for 2 hours.
Serve with brandy sauce and hard sauce.

Order a taxi.

 

P.S. I think we could have a sequel in us …  ”The best sponge in the world” perhaps…

P.P.S. To those, whose hearts today, are breaking … for what it’s worth, our hearts are with you. Our love from far away. xx

A wise friend of mine said to me after we lost Dad in 2009, “He might be gone, but he’s still with you.” It’s so true. Four parents in four years. They might be gone but they are still with us, often in the most unexpected ways. I so wish I’d done more of these with Pat and Mum. But it is what it is… enjoy xx

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My favourite Marcella Hazan recipe

Much sadness for many lovers of Italian food around the world this week, with the news that famed Italian cookery writer, Marcella Hazan passed away at 89 at her home in Florida.

grappa and turquoise coffee cup

I’ve been amazed during the week just how many lives were touched by Marcella and her cookbooks. The online community has been full of tributes to her talents. A lot of people have been talking about their favourite Marcella recipes online too and it got me thinking about what I would choose.

I’ve gone with two. One that one of my readers, Maggie McLaren has raved about, and one that I turn to all the time.

Maggie’s favourite is Marcella’s Drunken Pork. This is my first attempt. And as with so many of Marcella’s recipes it’s dead easy and the house smells amazing at the moment. And as I sit here typing away in the next room I can here Steve ferreting around the pot, presumably doing a bit of taste testing. grrrr

Drunken Pork

Pork studded with julienned carrot, browned in butter and a little vegetable oil, splashed with a couple of tablespoons of grappa, a grating of nutmeg, 2 bay leaves, then drowned with a good red wine. Marcella suggests an Italian barbera and it just so happens we have a winery in Bathurst, Vale Creek Wines, that specialises in Italian varietals.

Pork and barbera

I started a bit late in the day and the pork has to bubble away quietly for at least three hours.

So… to my favourite standby recipe from Marcella’s Kitchen.

Tuna and Caper Spread

caper, butter, tuna

I know it’s not grand. I know it’s not even a meal. I know it’s not Marcella’s Spaghetti Carbonara or her signature Bolognaise sauce cooked in milk. But these three little ingredients are always in my pantry and that means I’m never at a loss if we have unexpected visitors or dinner’s late and I have to keep the boys at bay. Toss them in the food processor and that’s it.

tuna, capers and butter in food processor

Partner it with some fresh crusty bread and the second best olive oil in the world – from Rylstone Olive Press (about 80 minutes from Bathurst) – courtesy yesterday of our lovely neighbour Daniel, you know the one who described Steve as old a while back ;)… (I’m just messing with you Daniel x)

Olive oil and caper dip

And that’s it.

Simplicity on a plate.

Quick, easy and very nearly all regional.

simplicity on a plate

I think Marcella would approve.

Saluté Marcella. Here’s to you and a life well lived.

Maggie I’ll let you know how the pork goes. (Damned good. So tender. Just fell apart.)

If you’re new to the blog you might be unaware that in 2012 I did an interview with Marcella. If you’re interested, it’s here. I feel very lucky to have crossed paths with her albeit from opposite sides of the world and my heart goes out to Victor and the family. We know all about losing precious mums in our part of the world. It’s not easy.

Have a good week my friends.

x

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  • About me

    Hi I’m Margaret, a creative soul
    fuelled by wanderlust and big dreams.
    A full-time mum, wife and graphic designer
    at red moon creative.

    I live and tell stories from Bathurst, Australia, a couple of hours inland from Sydney. In 2016 my husband Steve and I are planning to blog our way around the Mediterranean. In the meantime I'm doing it virtually over on the facebook page.
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