Wednesday, April 25, 2007

An Aussie War Cake

Today, April 25th …

Today is Anzac Day, the anniversary of the landing of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey in 1915. It is an enormously significant day in Australia, when we remember the heroes of the First World War and the ultimate sacrifice so many of them made during that long and terrible campaign in Gallipoli. Last year on this day (on the Companion site) we had a story about the history of Anzac Biscuits, but we pay homage to our soldiers in other wars too, so today we will move to WW II.

I have been awaiting an excuse to give a recipe from a delightful little book called Wartime Cookery published by The Herald Newspaper of Melbourne, in 1945. The chatty, friendly enthusiasm of author Sarah Dunne is hard to resist, and she surely has sprinkled her pages with more than her fair share of exclamation marks.

The recipe for Upside-down cake caught my attention because of the fat used. I know that every scrap of fat was saved during wartime - but clarified codfat? In cake? She had to be joking. That is taking wartime austerity a bit too far. I searched the book at bit further, and thankfully, Sarah explains codfat:

‘The strangely named ‘codfat’ had nothing to do with fish! It resembles beef suet in appearance, but is softer, and once clarified it liquefies very easily. It is fat from the buttock, whereas real suet is fat from around the kidney.’

She goes on to describe the method for clarifying any fat in detail, but acknowledges that it still retains a distinctive flavour:

‘To banish this (when making special cakes, puddings, or pastry) , simply re-clarify the amount of fat you wish to use with milk. Allow half a cup of milk to a pint of melted fat. … Clarified codfat will “cream” with sugar exactly like butter and gives particularly good results in cake making.’

Surprisingly for a war cookbook, Sarah then blots her austerity cookbook by then advising that the milk be thrown away. I am sure many housewives would have recycled it into a savoury milky soup or gravy.

Upside-down cake.
Cut two slices (average thickness) from a nice pineapple. Remove rind, core and all dark specks. Shred fruit into small bits. Simmer fruit and juice slowly for 10 minutes with two large tablespoons of brown sugar. Put evenly over the bottom of a well-greased cake tin. Spread the following cake batter over the hot fruit, and bake in a moderate oven from 30 to 45 minuts. Turn out carefully onto a hot dish, and serve at once (5 portions)
For the cake mixture cream a generous tablespoon of clarified cod fat (or butter) with two tablespoons castor sugar. Work in the grated rind of one orange. Add two eggs (unbeaten) – one at a time – as soon as the mixture is creamy again fold in one breakfast cup of wholemeal self-raising flour, using from half to two-thirds cup of milk to make it a creamy texture. (The actual quantity of milk will depend upon the size of the eggs.) The pineapple in the tin will give it a glazed fruit top.

Tomorrow’s Story …

Boiled cabbage à l'Anglaise.

This Day Last Year …

We considered the windiness of beans.

Quotation for the Day …

Thought flows in terms of stories - stories about events, stories about people, and stories about intentions and achievements. The best teachers are the best story tellers. We learn in the form of stories. Frank Smith


Anonymous said...

I don't know why, but I've always been under the impression that using fresh pineapple in a baked good is a no-no, as the digestive enzymes in the pineapple would prevent it from rising, and canned pineapple - being partially cooked - is a better choice.
We always cooked our pineapple upside-down cake in an iron frying pan. Makes a great sugar glaze.

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

I'll bet the clarified codfat gives this an interesting flavor and texture, different from butter.

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Nene - pineapple (uncooked) ertainly stops jelly from jellying, but I havent ever had a problem using it in cooking. Pineapple is very plentiful in Queensland.

t.w - it would be interesting to make both versions and compare, wouldnt it? I've never heard the phrase 'codfat' until I found this recipe.

Freya said...

Fascinating! I love the story about codfat. Another book I must get!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the voice of experience!

One thing is that in cooking with codfat, you'd lose the flavor butter would bring to the recipe, even if the results were similar in texture.