Royal Family’s Favourite

Christmas 1952 - Warwick

Warwick (my uncle) with Christmas presents, 1952

From Ngaire’s journal, 22nd January, 1954 (holidaying in Akaroa)
‘I brought my typewriter with me so have written a number of letters and have finished entering
recipes into my loose-leaf recipe book, which Warwick gave me for Christmas 1952.

Royal Family's Favourite - Egg & Tomato Pancakes

Royal Family’s Favourite – Egg & Tomato Pancakes

Given that WE SAW THE QUEEN OF ENGLAND only a few days ago, it’s seemed fitting to cook the ‘Royal Family’s Favourite’ from Ngaire’s recipe book.

A correspondent recently asked me what Ngaire would have made of contemporary attitudes to the royals, and sent an irreverent clip of the Windsors on the couch.
Well John, Ngaire would have been appalled, but these Egg and Tomato Pancakes do make an excellent TV dinner.

I followed the recipe exactly but was fairly liberal with the salt and served the pancakes with a salsa of diced tomato and basil.  Another time a bay leaf in the bechamel wouldn’t hurt.

Royal Family's Favourite

Meat and Three Veg

From Ngaire’s journal, 16th May 1951
Mr Bradley and his assistant came and installed a point in the pantry for the refrigerator which up to the present has been plugged into the cooker. I went to Choir Practice this evening.”

This is a bit odd, because in 1955 (four years later to the day which surely can’t be a coincidence), Ngaire wrote that it was ‘lovely to have the refrigerator’.  I assumed she was celebrating the arrival of refrigeration, but it must have been that the novelty still hadn’t worn off .

Whitegoods aside, the thing I really enjoyed about this entry was that instead of ‘the electrician’ or Reg, Jack, Tom or Bill, it was Mr Bradley and his assistant. I hope they wore grey dust coats with their names embroidered on the pocket.
By the way (and please correct me if I’m wrong), I think powerpoints on cookers was an NZ thing.Making the meatloaf

I’ve been using my cooker to turn out Ngaire’s spectacularly good  (and very thrifty) Roll-up Meat Loaf. It made meat-and-three-veg night quite exciting, and it’ll be meatloaf and tomato sauce sandwiches for the next couple of days.

Roll-up meat loaf

1 ½ lbs (700 gms)  minced beef, ½ lb (350 gms) minced pork, 1 onion and 2 stalks celery  and a small handful fresh herbs (parsley, sage, thyme) all chopped finely.
¼ tsp dry mustard, salt and pepper.
4 slices bread made into breadcrumbs, ½ cup milk, 2 eggs lightly beaten, 1 tbs Worcester Sauce.
3 or 4 large rashers of bacon

Soak the breadcrumbs in milk and mix well.  Add beaten egg and Worcester Sauce.  Combine meat, vegetables and herbs then mix through the bread mixture (I gave my 13 year old a pair of gloves and he was very happy to do this).

Turn the mixture out onto a large sheet of baking paper and shape into a rectangle (should be about 1.5  cm thick).  Spread with the stuffing and roll like a sponge roll.  Top with the bacon rashes and bake at 350°F (180°C) for 45 minutes.

For the stuffing

6 – 8 slices of stale bread (I like using a grainy or rye loaf), 1 small onion roughly chopped, 1 ½ tbsp finely chopped fresh herbs, ground pepper, about ¼ cup melted butter. I also added dried cranberries to mine because I had some in the pantry.

Put everything except the butter in the food processor and whizz until breadcrumbs are fine.  Add enough melted butter to combine the mixture (needs to hold together but not be soggy).

Eating Like a Bird

From Ngaire’s journal, 23rd April 1958
Carol had the day off school as she is to make her debut this evening.We had our hair set, did some shopping and returned home. We cleaned the house and prepared the dinner – baked ham, roast vegetables and greens, trifle and fruit salad.
Fortunately Mrs Shasky came in and helped Carol and me to dress, otherwise we should have been late.”

Caroline as a debutante

Caroline as a debutante

She certainly doesn’t look as though she’s just done some shopping, cleaned the house and eaten a good square meal – baked ham no less – followed by trifle and fruit salad.

I have a mental image of Mrs Shasky (the next door neighbour of tomato sauce fame) with her foot in the small of Mum’s back trying to get the zip done up. It’s all very ‘Gone With The Wind’.

“I wish to Heaven I was married,” she said resentfully as she attacked the yams with loathing… “I’m tired of acting like I don’t eat more than a bird…”  Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind.

And on the Third Day…

They ate Shepherd’s Pie.

If you were here on May 16th (Home Eco), you’ll know that I was planning to drive my lamb roast further by putting some aside for a Shepherd’s Pie the next night. The roast on Monday, pie on Tuesday formula. As it turned out, enthusiasm got the better of me and I cooked the roast on Sunday night. And again on Monday night because we ate it all. Well, not quite all – I did manage to salvage a little for roast lamb sandwiches the next day, so didn’t feel like a complete spendthrift.

It’s all my friend Janetta’s fault. Last year we spent Easter with two other families at Cape Otway (just past Apollo Bay on the Great Ocean Road).  Janetta and Andrew were on Sunday lunch duty, and impressed everyone by getting up at midday and serving an amazing roast half an hour later. The lamb had been cooking for 5 hours in a bottle of white wine (in the wine that is, not the bottle) with fresh herbs and vegetables and was absolutely delicious. When we’d finished eating we sopped up the juices with crusty bread then stared out the window at the ocean and wondered why every Sunday couldn’t be this way.

I’ve been meaning to cook Janetta’s roast ever since, but when I rang her for the recipe she told me it wasn’t her’s but her friend Janet’s. Janet in turn credited another friend, but the friend, while flattered, said Jamie Oliver deserved the praise.

I love this unwritten cook’s code: always give credit where it’s due. It’s a little like cuttings and seedlings from other people’s gardens. In my garden I have Kerrie’s mint, Stan’s dahlias, Mum’s japonica (Dad dug up some root-stock) and, amongst lots of other bits and pieces, Great Grandfather May’s Glory Vine. Everyone in my family has it in their garden. The original was planted by my father’s grandparents on their farm at  Joel Joel in Victoria. The house and vine have gone now and what we have are cuttings from cuttings, but it will always be the ‘May vine’, and so it is with recipes.

Slow Cooked Lamb Roast
With thanks and full credit to Janetta, Janet, Janet’s friend and Jamie Oliver.

Large leg of lamb, 2 large onions (peeled and quartered), few rashes streaky bacon (cut into thirds), 4 cloves of garlic (thinly sliced), potatoes, carrots and parsnips (peeled and cut into pieces).
Few bay leaves and whatever other herbs you fancy (I used rosemary, thyme and a little tarragon because that’s what was in the garden).
Bottle of white wine, 3/4 wine bottle of water, olive oil, salt and black pepper.
You’ll also need a large (deep) roasting pan or baking dish.

Preheat the oven to 160C. Saute the onion, bacon and garlic in some olive oil in the dish you’ll be using.  Add the meat and brown on all sides.  Toss in the herbs then pour in wine and water. You can add the vegetables now too, but I waited an hour. Cover tightly with lid or foil and bake for 4 or 5 hours until tender. Check once or twice during cooking to make sure there is still liquid in the dish. Top up with a little water if necessary – there should still be liquid in the bottom of the dish when you serve it. Season to taste. To serve, take the dish to the table. The meat will just pull apart and everyone can dip chunks of crusty bread in the juices (something we would never have been allowed to do to the Sunday roast!)

Note: Janetta adds preserved lemon and juice too. I didn’t have any, but can attest to how delicious that is.

Shepherd’s Pie
(The way Mum makes it)

1 kg potatoes for making mash, milk, butter and 1/2 cup grated cheese
1 onion and 2 cloves garlic (finely chopped), olive oil, 2 carrots and 2 sticks celery (diced), 1/2 cup beef stock plus and any leftover gravy.
About 500 gms roast lamb (very finely chopped or put through a mincer), dollop of tomato sauce and 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce.

Preheat the oven to about 180C.
Cook potatoes in salted water until tender.
Saute the onion and garlic in olive oil, add the vegetables and pour over a little stock or water and allow to soften. Add the meat and other ingredients and heat through. Transfer to casserole dish.
Mash potatoes with milk and butter, season then stir through grated cheese. Top meat with mashed potatoes and bake for approximately 20 minutes or until golden.

Home Eco

From Ngaire’s journal 16th May 1955
‘I bought enough meat to last until Friday to save going out again. It is lovely to have the refrigerator.’

The 16th May 1955 was a Monday (if Ngaire was excited by refrigeration, goodness knows what she’d have made of Google), so she would have been buying meat for four dinners (Friday being fish night and no night being in any way vegetarian).

I’m quite fond of a bulk shop — I’ve inherited some sort of instinct for hoarding and economies of scale. The Victoria Market is especially dangerous: I can’t resist the butchers’ frantic shouting (‘out they go!’, ‘look at these lovely chops!!’, ‘they won’t last at this price!!!’) and end up dragging home enough meat to last six months: lamb back-straps for souvlaki, pork belly to bake (Maggie Beer has an amazing recipe with a Seville Vino Cotto glaze), steak to throw on the BBQ, beef and chicken to stir-fry, mince for emergencies, an assortment of sausages and maybe a roast.

According to Mum, Ngaire had a much simpler formula for keeping the family’s iron levels up and expenditure down. First a leg of lamb: roast on Monday, cold left overs with salad on Tuesday then the rest turned into Shepherd’s Pie on Wednesday. Thursday might have been a beef stew (with dumplings), baked lamb chops, corn beef or perhaps crumbed sausages.

You’d think it would take a seriously big leg of lamb to feed four people for three nights, but Mum says they had small servings of meat and plenty of vegetables. A pudding every night would have helped too! I’m going to try for two nights — a traditional roast then a Shepherd’s Pie. We might be aching for some tofu after that.