kid food

peasplate

After years of roasting and grilling, sautéing and stir frying to make my favorite dinner staple, abundant big platters of veggies, I’m returning to the food of my childhood, boiled vegetables!

To be honest, with a twist but an interesting u-turn in my culinary journey.

It started in Northern England last year when we scarfed down fish n chips n mushy peas in the village pub.
What a revelation.
Not the khaki, grey-green gruel I remembered from a tin, but bright green smooshed peas, still with some texture, masses of flavor and a hint of mint.
A perfect sauce and condiment for crispy fried fish.

Then one night in Sydney, a few months later, we met up with friends at an old pub in the Rocks, a tiny noisy place nestled underneath the famous bridge.
It was pie night, the special being a Beef and Guinness pie served with mushy peas. $10.
Brilliant.
Once again, a vibrant pea puree, a delicious counterpoint to the buttery pastry and super rich meaty filling. The only accompaniment served.

Back home in California , mushy peas became our veggie of choice when we served baked barramundi, grilled salmon or little fried tenders of chicken.
Fun on the plate and so easy to make.

It really couldn’t be more simple.

peaingup

A couple of cups of frozen peas ( a medium bag)
1 onion ..white or brown , but even red will work
a bit of butter and olive oil
salt and pepper
some mint from the garden

Chop the onion and sweat in a pan with a little olive oil. Try not to color the onion, so keep the heat low. When the onions are soft, add a little butter to melt and add flavor.

Boil the peas for 5 minutes and drain.

Put the onions and peas in the food processor , add a tiny bit of water if necessary and pulse a couple of times.
Season with salt and pepper.
Add some chopped mint and pulse again.
peapans

peaonion

It can be left chunky or become a silky, smooth puree depending on what you like or are serving it with. Rustic or glamorous? Lots of mint or just a hint?
Lusciously extravagant with a little heavy whipping cream and fresh parmesan for a truly decadent and elegant side…

Kid food for grownups.
Perfect.

peasdone

Beryl’s Scones

  SCONE1

My mum, Beryl, loves nothing better than a good “Devonshire Tea”…

I can’t measure the miles we’ve driven or the times we’ve travelled to out of the way craft shops and cafes in small towns ‘cos mum heard they “did a good afternoon tea”.
And understand that “good” is more than just good – it’s an all encompassing concept that includes the tea, the presentation, the staff or owner, the cups, saucers and plates, and finally the scones and cream!

Good afternoon tea: 2 fresh scones, whipped cream, option of butter and homemade jam. Nice cups and saucers. Good sized teapot, preferably one not individual pots. Tea strainer if needed. Cosies optional.

The irony is, rarely are the scones anywhere near as good as mum’s.
Too often dry and chewy (heresy) or gummy and heavy (sigh with disappointment) we spend almost as much time discussing the dreadful attempt as actually enjoying those that pass the test!
“Most people just can’t make a decent scone these days”
This is followed by remembrance of bad scones past and the worst offenders if known by name.

teacakes

Beryl downplays her cooking, and scones in particular, with a ” Well…..I don’t do that much now” which reduces the rest of us to out loud laughter. Open up the kitchen cupboards and there are tupperware boxes with little jam drops, pastry cases for lemon curd, coconut or shortbread cookies and maybe a slice or two (hopefully the caramel one, but there’s an almondy apricot one that runs a close second).
Then in the freezer at least 6-8 scones from the last batch “just in case someone pops in”.

No greater sin than having to offer a store bought biscuit to accompany the cup of tea. Better to go the savory route with cheese and tomato on crackers than plate the Iced Vovos or Kingstons for company.

Beryl’s tips for scones: make them quickly with as little handling as possible (easier said than done!).
And note that the recipe is just a starting point as she doesn’t use commercial measuring cups but rather a particular tea cup and spoons from the drawer.

2 cups of self raising flour
2 dessert spoons of caster sugar
1/2 cup of cream (heavy whipping cream in the US)
1/2 a cup of milk
1 egg

Beat the eggs and sugar till creamy. Beryl uses a hand mixer.
Stir in the cream and milk.
Add the flour, mixing w a knife.

Flour the counter and gently pat out the dough.

Cut out the scones w/ a cutter (or a teacup or empty tin can)

Place on a tray, brush with an egg wash or a little milk, and bake in a 200 degree C oven for 12-15 minutes (fan forced/convection). Serve with freshly whipped cream (absolutely no sweeteners or flavoring) and good jam.

Hierarchy of Jams:
Dark, rich berry jams like blackberry, raspberry, strawberry or blueberry. Maybe a goopy sticky apricot. Or go avant grade w tropicals like mango-ginger or pineapple guava. Lemon or passionfruit curd may be ok (and in our mind a little pretentious) but never a marmalade, which are just for breakfast and toast!

sconeclock

A visit to the UK and exploration of Devonshire and Cream Tea haunts confirmed what we already knew: the aussie bush version was better. Mum didn’t take to the clotted cream, or heavy triangular scones we had in Scotland but she did love that everywhere we went there was strong black tea in a pot, served with milk and sugar and a pretty plate of cakes.

teapot

Special once in a lifetime pilgrimages to Fortnum and Mason and Claridge’s were amazing, beautiful and ritualistic with silver service, petite sandwiches, specialty Darjeelings and tiered cake stands full of eclairs and petit fours.
Never to be forgotten, but we couldn’t wait to get back home and have scones from Beryls oven, dollops of whipped cream, yummy home made jam and bolstering amounts of Liptons tea.

Afternoon tea heaven.

And from across the other side of the Pacific  I think maybe any afternoon tea with my mum is heaven 🙂

mum

The world is your oyster.

osterpearl

I thought when I started writing this blog that I would be mostly sharing stories about food.
What I mocked. What I cooked. What I loved or loathed. Maybe my adventures in the food industry, off and on for 30 years.

However, it seems people or poems or places occupy me and it made me ask myself, “what food DO I love?”

The answer came in a long, tedious and still not completed transfer of photos from my old to new computer.

What treat is documented every time I indulge?
How many photos do I have of oysters in my files?!
Guess what I could eat every day??

oyster ny

As a kid I was mystified by my dad’s love of oysters… straight from the rocks, opened with his penknife and slurped down immediately. We would walk for miles along the river just hoping to find a renegade, a freebie not on an oyster lease, waiting to be devoured.

oyster window

Second best, a jar of opened: squirrily looking jars of grey floaty gobs in brine.
Mum would turn them into Oyster Vol au Vents. Oysters in a rich creamy sauce and baked in the oven until we couldn’t wait any longer… nothing like a cheesy sauce and buttery pastry shells to turn doubters into lovers.

On those rare nights out at a restaurant (probably the RSL Club) we would be allowed to share a plate of Oysters Kilpatrick.

oysteracme

Broiled with a little bacon and Worcestershire Sauce, it’s still a favorite: freshly shucked and perfectly “just cooked” with crispy, salty, smokey bacon.

oystercoffin

My first fall into oyster oblivion (heaven) came one weekend at college when we camped at a friend’s place on the coast. His family owned oyster leases so we gathered buckets full, threw them on an improvised grill over a fire and waited as they popped open. Warm and juicy. No frills. Accompanied by hoots, hollers, beer and wine.

A favorite from then on.

oyster harvest

2 years ago, bored with the Thanksgiving routine we drove downtown to Los Angeles Fish Co, struggled out with as many as we could afford and set to opening, in-between turkey prep, household art direction and cooking chores.
2 oyster knives and 2 chain mail gloves from the kitchenware store and we were ready to go.



oysterrock

Slow to start, our speed picked up and by the time thursday afternoon arrived we had platters of Oyster Rockefellow and Oyster Kilpatrick ready for the oven as well as iced trays of Kumamoto and Malpeque.
Some mignonette dressing (re wine vinegar, shallots and onion), some lemon, sweet chili for the beginners, and it was time to celebrate.

oysterwill

And did you know Oysters were served at the first Thanksgiving? Justification indeed!

Fritter Time!

This week, Sunday night hit with fatigue: bummed after losing our big tree, rattled by an earthquake, and bored with the dinner options, we stared into the fridge feeling more and more depleted by the minute.

fritter2

The midlife health crisis didn’t help. Trying to limit carbs and fats and salts and sugars meant all those standby indulgences which turn veggie bin scraps into bowls of creamy pasta or baked saucy goodness were off the table.

Then it hit me!

Sunday night was fritter night at our house when I was a kid.

Mum would chop something (leftover corned beef our favorite- but mostly potato, onions or corn), mix into a fritter base and fry up for a simple sunday supper.

So with 2 grilled cobs of corn, passed over all week on the evening dinner dating game, it was time to make fritters.

Super simple.

Cut the corn off the cobs (we had 2 REALLY big yellow ones) and put in a mixing bowl.
Chop some green onion, about a half cup, and add to the corn.
Break one or two eggs, and add 1 dessert spoon of flour for each egg.
If there’s some cheese, grate a spoon or two into the mix. We had some sharp cheddar but a little feta or goats cheese is good and maybe a fresh herb from the garden like parsley, cilantro, or basil. Last night we were too tired to even think of heading down the back yard so ours were plain.. a bit of basil from the deck to garnish, the best we could do.

But so good!

Fry in a little oil and eat with a goopy condiment. For aussie kids it was tomato sauce, but now whatever floats your boat – thai sweet chili, sour cream or yogurt, cilantro chutney or hot sauce.

fritter4