Three Cookbooks

My brother dropped off a copy of Mrs Beeton’s Every Day Cookery and Housekeeping Book for me to have a look at. Originally published in 1893, Mrs Beeton was once the bible for the new housewife but is now a curiosity. The book was full of strictures for running a house, from which day of the week to clean the drawing room to plain family dinners for every month of the year. For her, a plain family dinner for instance on a Friday in December, was Soles souche, roast loin of pork, green, potatoes and a Cabinet pudding (a kind of bread and butter pudding made with sponge cake).

Mrs Beeton saw cooking as a sub sector of housekeeping and was concerned about meeting standards of what was right and proper. She was as concerned with the right table decoration as she was with what was cooked for the table. To her credit though, she lists the ingredients in season accompanied by recipes to make at that time. Mrs Beeton includes a wealth of technical information about cuts of meat and food preparation and her expectation of the skill of the every day housewife were high.

If you want to know how to set a table...

If you want to know how to set a table…


The reach of Mrs Beeton lasted for a long time and was evident in the first cookbook I ever owned, a present from my grandmother for my tenth birthday. The Illustrated Teach Yourself Cookery was aimed at young girls who liked to help Mother in the kitchen. Like Mrs Beeton, Teach Yourself Cookery was also keen on table setting and how to wash your dishes properly. I quickly skipped those parts and turned to the Baking for Tea section whose grubby pages still tell the tale. Despite the constant supply of cakes and biscuits being pulled out of the oven by my mother, my greedy little sweet tooth wanted more. I soon mastered cup cakes, Monte Carlo biscuits and chocolate cake.
Childhood favourites

Childhood favourites


With recipes for such family favourites as boiled salted meat, stewed mince and steamed meat pudding, they should be forever grateful I stuck to the sweetie section of the book.

The strictures on table setting are absent from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty More. The Ottolenghi empire rolls on with his emphasis on mixing vegetables with interesting textures and flavours into new dishes. Unlike the formality of meeting standards of earlier cookbooks, Ottolenghi encourages experimentation and creative mixing of flavours. He is a compiler of flavours and his recipes can be used as a guide rather than strictly adhering to what is laid out. Using his philosophy, I swap around the ingredients with what I have to hand. No toasted almonds? Then swap for walnuts and change the spice/herb mixture accordingly. For Ottolenghi, cooking is a creative exercise and he happily plays around with flavours and ingredients.
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The evolution of cookbooks from the early emphasis on meeting standards and doing things right to being playful and creative in the kitchen mirrors the march of modernity. We have thrown off the conformity of Mrs Beeton, to all toss together pomegranate and tomato salads with Ottolenghi. Though a bit more Baking for Tea wouldn’t go astray.

New Farm Deli

At 6am the day’s choreography starts at the New Farm Deli. People in Brisbane rise early in summer and wait for the doors to open for the first coffee of the day. Vince and Maria own and run the Deli and it is Vince who conducts the floor. In the morning he either works the coffee machine orchestrating, the flow of drinks, or is nearby chatting with customers and chivvying the young staff along. Even when chatting, he is casting around the floor, checking the ebb and flow of service and quickly pointing to cups piling up or glasses to be stacked.

Breakfast at the Deli

Breakfast at the Deli

The Deli is loud and crowded. Tables are tucked close together and laughter bounces off the marble floors and the glass windows. The left side of the space is the actual deli with shelves of imported pasta, olive oil and vinegar and the large serving counter next to the fridges full of aged prosciutto, parmegiana reggiano, sopressa and mozzarella. With the Christmas stock in, hundreds of panettone hang from the ceiling and boxes of sweets and chocolate are piled up near the shelves.

Christmas panettone

Christmas panettone


I often join the morning crowd for my one coffee of the day. Going to the Deli is the space between leaving home and going to work. It gives me a chance to read the Murdoch papers which I no longer pay for, but occasionally need to flick through to maintain my level of outrage at their strange and nasty campaigns. Amongst the clatter of cups and plates, I can turn half an ear to the men in crisp business suits at the next table talking property development and watch the retirees sitting over their coffee with the morning paper. Later in the morning, shoppers come in for a break and men speaking Italian wander by to chiack with Vince and down a short macchiato.

Gearing up for the lunch trade starts early and reserved signs are progressively placed on the tables by late morning. People queue to order lunch at the counter, while the floor staff allocate tables as you wait, squeezing people in to what already looks like a full café. Waiters walk by with big bowls of pasta, heavy with prawns, and generous deli salads from the kitchen, while the foccaccias, flat and salty are quickly put together at the counter. After lunch, kids are brought in after school for a cool drink and the expresso laden business meetings carry through the rest of the day.

Deli goods

Deli goods

The Deli works hard all day. There is always a small queue waiting for sliced mortadella or a scoop of olives. And the floor of the café is never quiet with the dance between customer and staff continues until the doors are finally closed on stragglers some time after 6.00 pm. Then the floors are cleaned, and chairs stacked, ready for tomorrow’s performance.

New Farm Deli
900 Brunswick Street, New Farm
07 33582634
Open 7 days for breakfast and lunch

From Bologna to Teneriffe – La Macelleria

If you are not in a position to stroll through the Piazza Maggiore in Bologna, stroll down to Florence Street, Teneriffe for some real Italian gelato. La Macelleria opened a couple of months ago and through word of mouth attracts a steady stream of fans. Now sandal weather is nearly here, I would expect the queues to go out into the street. It is that good.

IMG_0721The gelateria is the work of two Bolognese – Matteo Zini and Matteo Casone. They learnt their craft in the gelaterias of Bologna and have brought that tradition of artisan skill to Brisbane. The gelato are made with fresh, quality ingredients, and a menu which covers the classic Italian flavours such as fior de latte, stracciatella and pistacchio to a range of creative specials based on imported and local ingredients. There is even a bacio Australiano with white chocolate and caramelised macadamia chips.

From the classic menu

From the classic menu

Cassata siciliana with fresh ricotta and candied fruits

Cassata siciliana with fresh ricotta and candied fruits

I have worked both sides of the menu. The flavours are subtle but reflect the real ingredients used. Try the castiglione with fresh ricotta with caramelised figs or the classic bacio with chocolate and whole hazlenuts.

The fit out is all white tiles and stainless steel, with the gelato making action happening on view behind the front counter. La Macelleria’s philosophy of using the best of imported and local ingredients is written up on the walls, as is their commitment to making the gelato fresh each day. This shines through in the quality of the gelato, which is superb.

Waiting for your order

Waiting for your order

So slap the sandals on and get into line. La Macelleria is authentic Italian gelato prepared to the highest standards. On a hot summer’s night, it will be calling you.

La Macelleria
29 Florence Street, Teneriffe
Open 7 days

Jim Clark and the Little Larder

Jim Clark

Jim Clark


Jim crosses the street to the Little Larder every day to drink a short macchiato and read the paper. Sometimes his walk is barely a shuffle and one day I watched him cross back, stopping every couple of feet to clutch his head shot with neuralgia. Jim is the father of friends of mine and washed back into Brisbane five years ago knowing he needed care.

Jim tracked the changes to the Little Larder from his fourth floor window across the road. He told me that when the old shop there closed all sorts of stories went round. Mainly that it was going to be a cafe. Who would use a cafe in this area, he wondered? Gradually the builders came in and they started to turn it into what he thought looked like an interesting place. The show windows, the polished concrete. And then the refrigerated cabinet came in. Then the timber boxes appeared. Dozens of them. Eventually he saw they were seats and then, blow me down, they put them up on the wall and the boxes became the display cabinets for the delicatessen goods.

Jim strikes me as urbane. He is the one drinking the short macchiato while I am on a weak latte. “I don’t make coffee at home,” he said. “I have a morning coffee. Sometimes I have two. It depends on how well the coffee is made. They are pretty good at making it here but sometimes you get a sour or gritty one. I insist my cup is heated with hot water.”

Jim’s world closed in a couple of years ago. He was pretty independent – shopping and cooking and going down to the Chinese Club in the Valley for Saturday lunch. Then he had a couple of stays in hospital and the Council cancelled the little local bus which took him down to the shops and to the Valley. The demise of the dirty old shop across the road and the opening of the Little Larder was a godsend.

His daughter Liddy often left money there and Kylie and Nick run a tab for him. They look out for Jim and were worried when he suddenly disappeared a couple of months ago. Liddy told them he was in hospital where he was having more tests than usual. He has a lot wrong with him and though he is old he is still sharp. All I notice is a determination to get all of the facts of a story he is telling right and in shipshape order. He will not let them slip off into a little hole in his brain and pulls them back before they find that void.

Jim has stopped policing the papers for Nick and Kylie. They have a stack for sale each morning and Jim would make sure that the yuppies who took them to read with their breakfast paid for them. Then Kylie told him not to worry about it, because they didn’t pay for the ones not sold anyway.

Wesley James Clark, father of Stephen, Liddy and Kaye. 1923 – 2014.

W J Clark esq

10 Food Questions – Gillian McLelland

Gillian McLelland

Gillian McLelland

1. Food for you is what? Enjoyment.
2. What was your favourite food/meal as a child? Lettuce.
3. What did you have for dinner last night? Fish, chips and steamed vegetables.
4. Favourite restaurant? Coronation Hotel, in its heyday.
5. Do you grow food, and if so, what? Parsley, basil and dill.
6. Local hidden gem? Double Shot.
7. Your favourite food shop? New Farm Deli.
8. What do you hope never to eat again? Tripe.
9. How often do you cook? Every day.
10. Most used cookbook? Mrs Schauer’s Cookbook.

My mother with her favourite daughter

My mother with her favourite daughter

Letter from Rome

Justin Livingston, elegant retiree (see 10 Food Question) is spending a month living in the Vittoria area in Rome.  Here is his Roman food story.

 

Justin Livingston

Justin Livingston


I am staying in the Vittoria area, north of the Vatican and near Piazza Mazzini. This was a working class area, but is becoming trendy, but as yet untouristy.

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Street in Vittoria area

The large covered Trionfale Market is about a 15 minute walk  from my apartment and was recommend by my Roman landlord. There is a fantastic availability of fresh food – vegetables, fruit, cheese, bread and pasta. I buy the half green tomatoes which are so full of sunny flavour, as well as the reddest strawberries I have ever seen.

 

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Fresh fruit at the Trionfale market

 

Because I don’t have an oven in the flat, I make dishes which I can saute on hotplates as well as salads. There is a fantastic array of fresh food, so this is not a problem. I have braised fennel, cooked delicious Italian sausages and made fiori di zuccha (stuffed zucchini flowers).

Buying cheese at the market

Buying cheese at the market

If not eating at home, I go to my local pizzeria/hostaria the Giacomelli. This is a family restaurant and absolutely full of locals. It is atmospheric, not expensive and not haute cuisine, but perfect if you are eating alone as a traveller.
Pizzeria Giacomelli

I ate there last night and had a lovely pizza with peas, artichoke, suasage and mozzerella. There is a huge range of pizzas, as well as the usual beef, veal and chicken dishes. The Padrona and her daughter are front of house, with Signora Giacomelli taking the money as people leave and her daughter Cristiana greeting customers, most of whom she knows, as they arrive.

Signora Giacomelli

Signora Giacomelli


The restaurant has been there since 1945 and is always busy with good service and a lively atmosphere. It’s just the sort of experience I wanted to have by staying here for a few weeks, longer than I have ever done before.
My shopping from the market

My shopping from the market

10 Food Questions – Donna McDonald

Donna McDonald author of  'The Art of Being Deaf'.

Donna McDonald author of ‘The Art of Being Deaf’.

1. Food for you is what? Two things – by myself it is fuel; out with my friends, it is an occasion.
2. What was your favourite food/meal as a child? Strawberry ice-cream cake.
3. What did you have for dinner last night? Pan fried prawns, with Moroccan spices, on a rocket and pear salad.
4. Favourite restaurant? Tinderbox.
5. Do you grow food, and if so, what? No, but would like to.
6. Local hidden gem? Byblos at Portside.
7. Your favourite food shop? Clayfield Market.
8. What do you hope never to eat again? Tripe.
9. How often do you cook? Every night.
10. Most used cookbook? Gwinganna Cookbook.