Thursday, 8 August 2013

Source code: recipes found through the media

Lemon blondies - sticky enough but not quite as sticky as I would have liked.
Back in the day, if you wanted a recipe for a particular dish, you had to have a cookbook. And if you didn’t have that cookbook, you had to go out and get it. The other rich source of recipes was women’s magazines and I can’t have been the only one with a guilty look on my face as I tried to rip out the page with the desired recipe upon it while trying not to alert the whole of the doctor’s/dentist’s waiting-room to what I was doing.
The cookbook that we used most when I was growing up was this classic, Mary Berry’s Hamlyn All-Colour Cookbook. With the first edition published in 1970, it will come as no surprise to you that a lot of tins and packets are involved. And let’s not forget how much fun there is to be had with aspic.
It must be said that as a cookbook for a beginner it was as good a book  as one could hope for, especially where cakes and desserts were concerned. It has a place in my heart as much for practicality’s sake as for nostalgia. If you were called upon to cook, you could always find something in there. When I moved out of home, I tracked down a copy and bought one for myself.
The first cookbook that was actually mine was the nutritionally-bankrupt and whimsical “My Fun to Cook Book” by the wonderfully-named Ursula Sedgwick. It was a Christmas gift from some family friends and I kept it for years.

The orange, mustard, and brown psychedelic bat-wing blouse that the girl on the cover is wearing will tell you everything you need to know about the publication date. In fact, I think I had that same blouse or at least one that was very similar.
In “My Fun to Cook Book” the young would-be cook was guided through the recipes by a cartoon cat and dog. There were such gems as “Pineapple Jelly” (Buy a packet of pineapple jelly, dissolve in a pint of boiling water, pour into a bowl, put into the fridge until set) and “Sugar Bread” (Spread one piece of white bread with margarine, sprinkle with white sugar until covered, place under the grill until sugar turns brown) and other 1970’s culinary tragedies. The dog and the cat would pop up every now and then with salient warnings such as:

If you are not sure how to use a kettle, ask your mother to help you!


Don’t eat this too quickly – grilled sugar can be VERY, VERY hot!

These days, of course, I have a more diverse collection of cookbooks (and I no longer own any orange-and-brown psychedelic blouses) but truth of the matter is that if I am looking for a recipe, I am more likely to search for one online before I do anything else. If I see a recipe that I want in a magazine, I will usually take a photograph of it, or use a text scanning app to record it.

Which brings us to the present day and a couple of recipes that I came upon and wanted to try. The first, red bean soup and cornbread, was in the Fresh (i.e. cooking) section of the local newspaper, The West Australian, which was on the staffroom table at work. The other, the lemon blondies, was shared on Facebook, by Megan of LittleSweet Baking.


In a more retro approach than I intended, I took a photocopy of the recipe from the newspaper although that isn't quite as retro as ripping the page out of the paper and taking it home. Besides, a few of my colleagues wanted copies of their own which meant I couldn't just steal it (Thief by name but not by nature). So I resorted to good ol’ fashioned Xerox because the scale was too big to get the right focus with the camera on my phone. I originally copied it because I wanted the recipe for the cornbread (which looked great in the newspaper colour supplement but was, understandably, less exciting in the black-and-white copy) but when I got home, I decided to make the red bean soup as well because it looked easy and low-cost as well as tasty.

As it turned out, the soup was the easier to make than the cornbread which, while very it was a very straightforward recipe, didn’t have quite the right quantities. It needed more salt and less moisture. It was a little on the bland side, and, when cut, didn’t hold its shape very well. It was impossible to get the neat slices that were shown in the newspaper photograph.
Next time, I would add a good measure of salt and perhaps some chopped jalapeno. I’d also up the quantity of flour by about 50 – 100grams. On the night, however, I fixed the problem by slathering everything with salty melted butter and pretending that it was meant to be that way.
The lemon brownie recipe had suffered from a similar problem. It had evidently been through more than a few Facebook ‘shares’ and translations from imperial to metric and out again. It called for an 8” x 8” cake-pan, listed icing sugar in the ingredients section but referred to powdered sugar in the actual recipe and instructed that the sugar be ‘filtered’.
I did what I could to fix it up. In fact the first thing that I did were to double the quantities because otherwise there would not have been much to go around. Perversely, considering what happened to the cornbread, the mixture turned out to be too dry (or the oven was too hot) and the glaze too sloppy. I ended up with something more like my lemon sour cream syrup cake than a brownie (or blondie which is what I have been told is the technical term for a brownie mix that has no chocolate in it). It was fine to eat – superbly sour – but not as sticky through the centre as I’d hoped.

Kept overnight in the fridge, the blondies completely dried out. Happily, this problem was easily fixed by putting a couple of squares of chocolate (Lindt 70%) on top of them and sending them for a quick whirl in the microwave. The result – hot lemon and dark chocolate slice. I think this was better than the idea of a lemon blondie.
The recipes for the soup, cornbread, and blondies are all below.

Of course, in sharing these recipes with you, I thought I was being very modern, taking screen-shots with my phone, linking to various other sites, posting the recipes on my blog. It was all going to be so cool and hip and NOW.

Then a friend told me about how she collates all her online recipes on her Pinterest account which made me feel incredibly behind the times again.

Someone call Ursula Sedgwick and tell her I want my batwing blouse back...
Lemon blondies
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1.5 cup plain flour
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 4 tbsps lemon zest
  • 4 tbsps lemon juice
  • 1.5 cups caster sugar
  • 1 tssp sea salt
  • (for the glaze)
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 4 tbsp lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • Preheat oven to 170C.
  • Grease and line a 18cm x 28cm slice tin
  • Zest and juice lemons and set aside
  • Cream butter and sugar until pale then slowly add beaten eggs one at a time until all combined. Add salt, lemon zest and lemon juice. Then slowly add flour until mixture is smooth and creamy.
  • Pour into slice tin and bake for 15 - 20 minutes checking every now and then. When just set around the edges, remove and allow to cool completely.
  • Sieve the icing sugar and whisk with the lemon juice until smooth. Add the lemon est. Spread this over the cooled blondies and allow to set.
  • Cut into bars and serve.
 Red Bean Soup
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 red chilis, finely chopped
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 750ml tomato sugo
  • 425g can of kidney beans
  • Heat oil in a large saucepan, add onion and cook for 2-3 minutes until soft. Add garlic and chili and cook for one minute.
  • Add stock, sugo, and kidney beans. Stir to combine. Bring heat to the boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for 25 minutes.
  • Serve hot with sour cream or crème fraiche.
Corn bread

  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 175g polenta
  • 100g goat's cheese, crumbled
  • 310g can creamed corn
  • 2 chilis, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
  • 175ml buttermilk
  • 50g melted butter

  • Sift flour & polenta into a mixing bowl. Add goat's cheese, corn, chili, coriander, buttermilk, and butter.
  • Stir to combine
  • Transfer to a greased loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes.
  • Serve warm.

1 comment:

  1. When you said red bean soup, the image that came to mind was, predictably, of the Asian sweet dessert variety. Though, this does sound intriguing.

    Also, I like how your friend thinks.... I too, file my "to try" recipes on Pinterest, though to be fair, only those with gorgeous, gorgeous pictures!