The Lost Photos

Many people who grew up in the pre-digital age will have a stash of old photos stored in shoe boxes or worn cardboard albums, memories fading with time, rarely looked at, but treasured nevertheless. On occasion, I remember mine too-. those chosen photos that made it into albums, occasionally flicked through by the children, who enjoyed re-visiting their childhood travels, or being amused by photos of their dishevelled, long-haired hippy parents. It was their past, our past. The shoe boxes of prints and yellow Kodak envelopes of negatives were in need of sorting and pruning, a rainy day task that I never really got around to doing. In February 2009, the Black Saturday Bush fires, a disastrous fire storm that swept through many rural areas close to Melbourne, destroyed them all, along with everything else I owned. After that event, I came to value my lost photos, even those packets of negatives and discards, and developed a clear visual recall of many old photos and the events surrounding them. The past is no longer a foreign country; I can step in and out of it quite comfortably. This visual memory has been a comfort.

The Lost photos. Girls on the way to Birethani, Nepal, 1979.
The lost photos. Girls on the way to Birethani, Nepal, 1978.

Recently my brother unearthed five photographs from the past, taken in Nepal  in January 1978. He is a great hoarder and collector of old images, and has spent hours digitizing old slide negatives and black and white shots from my parent’s albums. Along the way, he found a few negatives of our children, taken when they were around 6 or 7 years old, providing them with a record of their childhood, a patchwork of images that they can then pass on to their own children one day. Other relatives have unearthed images of our old mud brick house in the bush, and the odd party or Christmas shot occasionally turns up too.

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Andrew, in Tibetan scarf, Arto and Francis Brooks in the Swayambunath house. 1978

I was quite overwhelmed to see these Nepalese photos again. That trip was a magical experience: I recall my daughter’s words as we flew over the rural countryside of Nepal, breaking through the blanketing cloud cover,” It looks like fairyland”, as Tolkienesque villages emerged from the mist, followed by tiny mudbrick cottages clinging to the sides of deeply terraced fields.

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The lost photos. Andrew meets some donkeys in the foothills near Pokhara, Nepal, 1978.

In our time there, the children played simple games with the Nepalese children as we trekked in the mountains beyond Pokhara, children who had so little but seemed happy in their home on the roof of the world. We ate the daily Nepalese staple meal of Dal Bhat, rice served with a lentil soup and a few green vegetables or potatoes on the side, (still one of my favourite meals), frequented tea shops and smoked bidis. We met colourful Tibetan families and wild mystic sadhus, circled the Buddhist stupas of Swayambhunath and Boudhanath and had a wallet stolen by wild monkeys. We wandered through the medieval city of Bhaktapur, now severely damaged by the earthquake of 2015 and attended a Puja, a Nepalese house blessing ceremony in Patan.

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The lost photos. On top of the world, with Machapuchare ( fishtail) in the background. 1978

There were hundreds of photos taken on that trip, back in the pre digital age when photos were expensive to print. Some were enlarged and graced our walls in the old home. I am happy that I now have five. Like a time traveller, I am back in the late 70s, wandering through my past, and am enjoying the trip.

More Buns in the Oven

The moment I read Beck’s blog post on In Search of Golden Pudding, I knew I would have to try her Hot Cross Bun recipe for Easter. Based on an Elizabeth David recipe, they are easy to make, and include great tips for piping the crosses, though mine, like Beck’s, turned out rather fat and wonky. Next time I will cut a smaller hole in the piping bag.

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If you want to have a go at making your own Easter buns this season, keep aside around 3 hours for the two stages of dough rising, and follow Beck’s very straightforward directions. It is a very satisfying task, not to mention the aroma of yeast and spice permeating the kitchen. I added rum soaked sultanas into my mix as I had them on hand, but I believe the currants are more authentic.

Trad Hot Cross Buns
Trad Hot Cross Buns

For Tuscan style Easter Buns, see my previous post here.

Tuscan Easter Buns, Pan di Ramerino

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What happens on Boxing Day in Australia? Yes, you guessed it, the hot cross buns show up in the supermarkets, a good three or more months before Easter. I have not succumbed to a single premature Pasquale bun to date, despite the array of warm specimens offered to me by my extended family on camping weekends. Good humoured accusations fly, about being a born- again hypocrite, as I, a non- Christian, patiently wait for the traditional bun eating day. I am rather fond of tradition and religious rituals of many persuasions. Now is the time to make and eat hot cross buns.

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This year’s offering is a traditional Tuscan Easter bun recipe- Pan de Ramerino– a recipe that has been around since medieval times although adapted over the years. They were once eaten on Holy Thursday so I am eating mine tomorrow, though I may sneak one today as they cool on the rack. It is interesting to note that these buns are now popular all year round in Tuscany, not just at Easter. Just goes to show, it’s hard to keep a good bun down.

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The recipe comes from Carol Field’s The Italian Baker, who attributes the recipe to a Florentine baker, Giovanni Galli. It is very lightly sweetened: the combination of rosemary oil and raisins is a delightful and aromatic combination. The buns are not as cloying as the ones I know.

Pan di Ramerino, Rosemary and Raisin Buns

Makes 12 buns

The ingredients are listed in cups/spoons OR grams.

  • 3 ½ teaspoons/10 g active dry yeast
  • ¾ cup/180 g warm water
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • ¼ cup/55 g olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 2/½ tablespoons/35 g sugar
  • 3¾ cups/500 g unbleached plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon/5 g salt
  • 3-4 sprigs rosemary
  • 2/3 cup/100 g golden raisins
  • 1/3 cup/75 g apricot glaze

In a large bowl of a stand mixer, stir the yeast into the warm water. Let stand until creamy. Add the eggs, the egg yolk, 2 tablespoons of the oil, and the sugar and mix thoroughly with the paddle. Add the flour and salt and mix until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Change to the dough hook and knead at low-speed for two minutes, then at medium speed for 2 minutes more. The dough should be elastic and supple.

First Rise. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap or a plastic bowl cover and let rise until doubled.

Shaping and Second rise.

While the dough is rising, sauté 2 rosemary sprigs very briefly in the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Toss the rosemary out after it has flavoured the oil. Add the raisins and sauté very briefly in the oil. Remove from the heat and add 1 chopped fresh rosemary sprig to the mixture. Cool then add this mixture to the dough and knead, using the mixer, until well incorporated.

Cut the dough into 12 pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Place on a baking paper covered baking sheet and cover with a towel. Let the rolls rise until doubled, or about 1 hour.

Reshape the buns, which will have slumped a little, into definite balls. Brush the tops with oil. Slash a deep double cross or tic-tac-toe pattern in the top of each bun. Let the buns rise again for another 10-15 minutes.

Baking. Preheat the oven to 200º. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the buns to a wire rack and brush the tops with an apricot glaze.

Glassa di albicocca/ apricot glaze

  • 2/3 cup good quality apricot jam
  • 2- 3 teaspoons water or fresh lemon juice

Heat the jam and water in a small heavy saucepan over moderate heat until the mixture comes to a boil, then strain through a sieve. Use the glaze while still warm.

Buona Pasqua a Tutti.

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Beguiled by Autumn’s Beauty

Summer is a harsh season in Melbourne and I am pleased when it’s finally over and the softly lit, warm and more mellow Keatsian season commences. This year there have been a few false starts, with cold snaps followed by intense heat waves. I recognise Autumn’s arrival when I begin to feel intensely melancholic and given to reflection. Still days, long shadows, and subdued bird call give rise to a gentler pace. Time to take stock, to shake off the overbearing intensity of summer’s hold, of its stifling grip on nature.

Garden crops mature more slowly, with tomato survivors providing a discreet bowl full each day, even if the ostentatious zucchini refuse to bow to the season. The beans continue their climb towards The Giant above, with a few ripening here and there, the coco rouge and the coco blanc. Late planted leeks now soften with the season: pumpkins peep from under sheltering leaves, as their vines drift through the garden beds, on a course of their own making.

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A Shy Pumpkin

Only a few apples survive the blasting heat as hungry birds find their way through the nets.

Roma Beauty, a heritage apple

A dear friend arrives with a large bag of Beurre Bosc pears, which she carefully protected from the birds. I watch them slowly ripen and dream of French desserts, pears slowly cooked in wine and saffron, a pear clafouti or gallette. Beurre Bosc from Dianne

Oh for a perennial Autumn.

Catering for a Retro Birthday Party

Retro decor setting
Retro decor to set the mood

Every year my eldest son Andrew celebrates his birthday at the beach, amidst four generations of family campers and neighbours, old seventies caravans and colourful retro umbrellas. Whatever the chosen theme, every year his party seems to turn retro. One year it was Hawaiian – nothing more retro than an authentic Hawaiian shirt. The next year it was brown- a distinctly retro colour, especially brown Terylene trousers and Safari suits. This year we just cut to the chase and turned to the queen of Retro, Rachael, for assistance with decor and clothing, and to Maxine for culinary inspiration via her mother’s old retro cookbook.

I’m not sure why this retro obsession began but it was instigated around 19 years ago, when my daughter fell in love with old anodised soda syphons. Since then, she has expanded her collection to include all forms of anodised ware, lustre ware, ramekins, green depression glass, melamine serving platters, and more, lots more! Some of her collection lives in her beach caravan so that she doesn’t feel deprived while camping.

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Vol au Vents, filled with salmon cream. A popular retro starter.

During the week leading up to the event, FB private messaging and texts were all a flurry with photos of the most ridiculous food. The best example was a warm salad dish of whole bananas, draped in ham, and blanketed with a Hollandaise sauce. The thought is so ghastly, this photo needs to be shared.ham_and_bananas_hollandaise

We decided on a sensible plan. A list of edible retro food was chosen. On the morning of the party, we acquired some more retro serving ware, since the local beach suburban op shops are awash with the stuff. Colourful retro shaped glasses were purchased at Kmart for around AU$5, a very fine investment. Clothing was distributed and the tables set. The retro cocktail of choice was the Brandy Alexander. This one drink alone changed the tone of the party fairly rapidly. They were extremely popular.Bartender, please mix me up another!

Brandy Alexander Recipe
Ingredients: 1 part fresh cream, 1 part brandy, 1 part Crème de cacao
Preparation: Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Sprinkle with fresh ground nutmeg.
Served: Straight up; without ice
Standard garnish: Grated nutmeg

Drinkware: Cocktail glass

Retro Finger Food List
  • vol au vents, filled with salmon or tuna bechamel
  • sliced Kabana sausage
  • coloured baby picked onions, gherkins and cheddar cheese pieces on toothpicks, stuck into an orange or a pineapple
  • cocktail sausages ( little boys) on toothpicks and tomato sauce
  • French onion dip, ( made with cream cheese and a dehydrated packet of French onion soup), served in a carved out white cottage loaf. Very popular!!
  • corn relish dip, made with a packet of cream cheese mixed with a jar of corn relish
  • pretzels, nuts and small dry biscuits
  • cucumber sandwiches (white bread, no crusts)
  • smoked oysters on white bread
  • cheezels
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAClaudia threads up the cheese, kabana, and  onion sticks.

We also prepared something a little larger for the stayers, (everyone!) served in ramekins of course. Someone forgot to bring out the Kai Si Ming, so they had to eat this retro classic stuffed into a Jaffle for days afterwards.

  • Tuna Mornay.
  • Kai Si Ming
  • Savoury birthday cake ( recipe below)
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How to pick up Cheezels at a party
The savoury birthday cake, a carved out loaf of white bread, filled with layers of curried egg, beetroot cream and crab, then covered in cream cheese.
The savoury birthday cake, a carved out loaf of white bread, filled with layers of curried egg, beetroot cream and crab, then covered in cream cheese.
The savoury cake in profile
The savoury cake in profile

retro 6Birthday boy, Andrew, cuts the cake with Maxine on the left and the Retro Ab Fab Lady on right.

Savoury Birthday Cake recipe, from Eve’s Retro Book.maxines cake-001

The School by the Sea

If I ran my own school, it would be at the beach, with set times for internet access, and most lessons held in the open air. I am often concerned about the amount of time young people, and I mean the very little folk who are dear to my heart, spend in front of iPads, iPods, Androids, mini DVD players and other devices, or ‘vices’ of the technological kind. I’m not being a hypocrite here: I’m also quite fond of the internet and this post on my blog is testimony to that attachment. But as an educator, I am concerned about the current trend towards technocentric learning. At the School by the Sea, learning takes place in real time, is activity based, and includes social interaction across a range of ages, exploration of spatial relationships, play, trial and error, and the mastery of new skills. Writing letters in the sand, counting the shells placed on a castle wall, looking at maps to explore new secret beaches. Sharing. Taking risks.

Noah went diving for a baby Banjo shark. All the kids get a pat. Claudia loks a bit horrified but not as scared as the poor beast. after the lesson is over, it is released back into the sea.
Noah went snorkeling for a baby Banjo shark. All the kids get a pat. Claudia looks horrified but not as scared as the poor beast. After the lesson is over, it is released back into the sea.

Time spent at the beach each weekend provides one of the best environments for children to learn new skills and discover new interests, and in some cases, for their fathers to take time out to play with their children. There are lessons in geography and mapping, nature and the environment, history and language. Physical dexterity, along with give and take, occurs naturally as the children experience more freedom to run amok together in a safe space. They climb trees and stay up late to feed possums, copy the call of the kookaburra or the wattle bird, play soccer on the sand at sunset, wait for the tide to go out to explore sand bars, dress up or get dirty.

Charlotte collects crabs
Charlotte collects crabs.

The screens have finally been put away. Each child looks forward to their weekend visit, to meet up with their newly made beach friends. They are perennially hungry and no longer fussy eaters. I am one happy matriarch.

Oliver finds an old penny in the sand dunes
Oliver found a 1955 penny in the sand dunes at Sorrento. Lessons follow about pennies, sixpences, shillings, decimal currency.
Daisy learns to ride her bike without training wheels.
Daisy learns to ride her bike without training wheels.

Turning Japanese. Salmon, Mushroom and Tofu Soup.

When I’m tired, I need fish. Any sort of fish will do, I’m not too fussy. Nor am I willing to ignore farmed salmon, despite some of the bad press it receives. I like to believe that the industry is improving with regard to environmental concerns. The pristine water around the Huon River at Dover and Lake Macquarie, where Australian Tasmanian Atlantic Salmon is farmed, looks as pure as can be. I can’t paint myself into a tight little purist corner when Tasmanian Atlantic salmon is often the only fish option available. Having said that, a little salmon goes a long way.

This little Japanese bowl takes 10 minutes to prepare. The recipe makes two large bowls.

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Japanese broth, salmon, mushroom, tofu

The Marinade and Fish

  • 200 g salmon, skin on, halved lengthwise.
  • 1 tablespoon Japanese soy sauce, Teriyaki or Tamari
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • ½ teaspoon sesame seeds

Put fish fillets in a bowl and cover with the soy sauce and oil. (not the sesame seeds). Leave aside until ready to grill.

The Soup

  • ½ litre or a little more of vegetable stock (or water and 1 vegetable stock cube)
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • ½ tablespoon soy sauce
  • mixed mushrooms, hand separated ( enoki, cloud ear fungus, shiitake)
  • 1 tablespoon Miso paste
  • 100 g silken tofu
  • a large handful of baby spinach leaves

Putting it all together.

Turn on the grill to around 200c fan forced. Cover a baking tray with baking paper, arrange pieces of salmon on the tray and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Grill for around 5 minutes, then turn for 1 minute. Remove from grill.

Meanwhile, in a medium-sized saucepan, heat stock with mirin, soy, and miso on a gentle heat until well amalgamated for around 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms , then add the cubed tofu. Gently heat through to cook.

Flake the cooked fish and bits of juice from the tray into the base of serving bowls. Add the spinach leaves. Pour over the hot soup, sharing the mushroom and tofu pieces evenly.

If you are making this for four, count on around 100 g salmon per person and use a whole packet of silken tofu, then simply double all the other ingredients.

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Slurping goodness

Time for an ear worm or stuck song syndrome for those old enough to remember:

 

Moulin Rouge. Retro Tomato Soup.

Since I’ve been making this soup, the tomato glut is no longer a double-edged sword. Requiring no special tomato peeling and seeding or fine chopping, I can get this soup going quickly and come back later to a bit of arm gymnasium, via the hand cranked Mouli. I have simplified the recipe so that I can remember the balance of ingredients, then whip it up at whim with consistent retro tasting results. Almost every ingredient has the number three in it. This quantity serves 8 – 10 people. Make a big load when you have a tomato glut or meet one in a Farmers Market. It freezes very well.

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Moulin Rouge Tomato Soup

Moulin Rouge Tomato Soup – a retro styled soup, loved by children and elders alike.

  • 3 kilos fresh vine ripened tomatoes. ( I used Rouge de Marmande tomatoes which have a fabulous depth of flavour and give off lots of juice )
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 large onions, chopped
  • 3 small carrots, or around 300 gr, peeled and chopped
  • 3 small celery sticks, chopped
  • 3 or more large cloves garlic ( more is good!)
  • 3 cups vegetable or chicken stock, or use water and a stock cube
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 torn bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons finely ground pepper, white pepper is best with this soup.
  • 3 tablespoons chopped basil

Choose a large heavy bottomed soup pot. Heat the oil then add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and cook on medium heat, stirring often to soften until the onion turns a  pale golden colour. Add the chopped tomatoes, stir about and let them give off their juices for 5 minutes.  Then add the tomato paste, stirring through, then the stock, bay leaf and salt. Bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer on low with the lid off for 40 minutes of so.

Remove the pot from the heat. Lay a mouli over a bowl so that it sits neatly when the arms are extended. Sit the bowl on a tea towel so that it is stable. Ladle a cup at a time and turn the handle, pressing though as much as you can to extract colour and sweetness from the tomato, carrot and onion residue. You may need to pour off the pureed soup back into a clean and empty soup pot as you go, given the quantity. Don’t attempt to process or blend this soup- the flavour comes from the pressing.

Mouli
The pressing in action

When all the pureed soup is back in the pot, reheat, adding freshly ground pepper and chopped basil.

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Thick, Red and Retro

We like our soup straight, but adding cream gives it a different texture which is comforting on a cooler day.

Moulin Rouge Goes Flash

  • briefly chargrill some sea scallops, halve them and place them in the centre of the soup before serving.
  • serve with fingers of toast spread with tapenade.
  • or with olive oil oven baked crostini, spread with gorgonzola, then briefly grill.

    red fix
    A popular red fix for a big weekend, sometimes known as the Cure.

 

 

Harmony. Rockabilly Dancers of Harajuku, Tokyo

In the park near Harajuku station, Tokyo, the Rockabilly Club meets each Sunday.

Japanese Rockabilly Dancers of
Japanese Rockabilly Dancers of Harajuku, Tokyo

2008-04-13 16.05.19The old-time sounds of Rock Around the Clock and other 1950s legendary sounds blast out from their portable players. A far more engaging and harmonious display than the Cosplay dolls in the main commercial street nearby.

Zucchini Alert. Zucchini Parmigiana

Zucchini Parmigiana
Zucchini Parmigiana

I know what you’re thinking, not another zucchini recipe from Casa Morgana. The zucchini in our garden don’t look like they’re slowing down soon- in fact, they are gaining momentum, so my zucchini repertoire continues to expand. This recipe is based on the famous Melanzane Parmigiana but is made with fresh zucchini instead of eggplant, along with a sauce from their garden team-mate, fresh tomatoes. It is, for me, Italian comfort food at its best, and good when I feel tired. If you don’t have fresh tomatoes, use a large can of tomatoes instead. Start the prep early, given the stages to this homely dish.

Zucchini Parmigiana (Serves 4-6 with salad and a side dish)

Ingredients.

  • one kilo medium-sized zucchini
  • a little olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, crushed then chopped
  • one kilo of fresh vine ripened tomato
  • herbs, either fresh basil or fried oregano
  • 1-2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • sliced mozzarella
  • grated grana padano parmigiano cheese.
grilled zucchini slices.
grilled zucchini slices.
  1. Choose a kilo of medium-sized zucchini. Cut the ends off and slice them vertically. Don’t cut these too finely as they need to stand up to some intense cooking and hold their shape in the final layering.
  2. Choose a gratin baking dish, either oval or oblong. Butter or oil base and sides.
  3. Grill the sliced zucchini on a stove top ridged griller. When all done, keep aside and season lightly as you go.
  4. Skin the tomatoes, then chop them, removing most of the seed.
  5. Add some olive oil to a saucepan, cook the garlic briefly, then throw in the tomatoes and herbs. Let the sauce simmer and cook down slowly for 30 minutes or more. Add tomato paste to thicken. The sauce should still have some texture, unlike tomato passata.
  6. Begin layering the dish, starting with a little sauce, followed by the zucchini (cut these to size as you go to match your serving dish). Then some mozzarella, then some grated parmesan.
  7. Continue layering in this way until the ingredients are used, finishing with a cheese layer.
  8. Bake in a medium oven, 180c FF for around 20 minutes or until the top has coloured.
  9. Serve with a side dish that will soak up the juices. I chose some orecchiette with a little butter, pepper and fresh basil leaves. Mash is also good or just crusty bread.
Zucchini Parmigiana con Orecchiette e Basilico