Monday, December 10, 2007

An All-Australian Meal.

December 10 …

The Melbourne Punch gave a menu for an “All Australian Meal” on this day in 1925, by way of some sort of patriotic statement. Every ingredient was sourced from the country, and each choice was justified by the newspaper. All states except Western Australia and the Northern Territory were represented. We would take some issue now with Hunter Valley (N.S.W) red wines being referred to as “Burgundy”, and I cannot see Bêche de Mer Soup becoming frantically popular in the near future, but otherwise the menu holds up pretty well.

Salted Almonds, Olives
Oysters on the Shell
Bêche de Mer Soup
Fresh water blackfish, Maitre d’Hotel
Fillet of Beef Pique, Sauce Bernaise
Roast Teal, Port wine sauce Orange Salad
Ice Pudding
Devilled Prawns
Dessert Coffee
Sauterne or Chablis Burgundy
Champagne Cognac

There are some quaintly ancient themes in this menu: the ‘devilled’ dish to end the formal part of the meal, and the ‘dessert’ course which used to mean the final dishes of fruit and sweetmeats – apparently in this case a representative selection of the finest fruits.

For recipes for this menu I turned to a little Australian cookbook that I haven’t used before. It is one of Wiggs’ Useful Books (and I do like books that are useful), and is called The Australian Home Cookery (there should surely be ‘Book’ on the end of that title?). The book is not dated, but an inscription on the flyleaf says “Evelyn L. Teagle, Sep 16, 1917”. If she is your relative, let me know!

I particularly wanted to find a recipe for devilled prawns, but we have to make do with curried prawns (or ‘shrimp’ to those of you over the big water). There are a lot of recipes for curried prawns in English and Australian cookbooks of the era – many of them contain chopped apple and/ or dessicated coconut, and are too frightful to consider. This one sounds OK, if you use good curry powder (or better, mix your own) – but cooking the prawns for an hour is, to understate it somewhat, a bit too long for fresh prawns.

Prawns, Curried.
Take about 20 prawns; take off the heads and tails, and put them into a stewpan with a little less than a pint of fish purée, and a small tablespoonful of curry (previously mixed with ½ cupful of water). Let all simmer gently with the lid off for about 1 hour, and then add 2 tablespoonfuls of cream, and pepper and salt to taste. Serve in the middle of a hot dish, with boiled rice as a border.

Tomorrow’s Story …

The invention of “American Cheese”.

Quotation for the Day …

What will be the death of me are bouillabaisses, food spiced with pimiento, shellfish, and a load of exquisite rubbish which I eat in disproportionate quantities. Emile Zola, (1840-1902)

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