Posted by Juliet Madison
1. Can you tell us about a happy memory from your life that revolved around food?
Throughout my childhood and teenage years, mum would serve a roast lunch every Sunday and you were expected to be there. As kids (there are three of us and I’m the middle ‘problem’ child) we’d go to Mass either the previous night or Sunday morning. Come 10.30am, Mum would crank up the oven, the vegies would be organised and then boiled to within an inch of their wilted lives. The roast was invariably beef, seeing my parents were dairy farmers and ran a few head of beef cattle as well. Lunch would be ready by 1pm, the boxing would be on the telly (have no idea why because none of us had the slightest interest in it), Dad would make us all a lime spider; he’d have a shandy. (It was the only time, as a child, I ever saw him drink alcohol.) We’d all sit around the table and eat, talk, argue, laugh, yell (that was me – ‘Mum, it’s MY turn to talk!’) and generally be rowdy. Now I look back, I realise just how special that was.
Another time, I was relief station cook for the weekend on a property in outback-western Queensland. I decided I’d give the stockmen a treat and make a pavlova. If you’ve read my book BELLA’S RUN, a snippet of this experience was included in the first chapter. Beating sixteen egg whites to froth in one mix master bowl can cause all sorts of problems. Let’s just say the clean up afterwards ensured a mate and I needed to drive the hour to town to find a drink (and to pickup two bottles of fresh cream and some punnets of strawberries to decorate the pav). The pavlova was sublime albeit a tad weird looking. My mate and I, well, we kind-of rolled home.
2. Do you have any food-related rituals or routines in your household, such as a specific meal for certain days of the week?
We sit down to tea together as a family. It is a given and not negotiable. There is a spare chair at our table at all times for anyone who happens to call in. (It’s got the honorary name of ‘Graeme’s Chair’ after our uncle who is a regular.) Visitors are served up a plate of tea too, as I usually cook enough to feed multitudes. (And do you notice I say tea? Should I say ‘dinner’? Dinner when I was a child was lunch. It’s a bit confusing, isn’t it!)
We rarely have take-away. An easy meal tea (eg. on a weekend) is usually something like a spaghetti casserole (refer BELLA’S RUN again), homemade hamburgers, quiche or a sausage in bread (with salad or creamy potato bake).
I also have a food ritual with one of my best friends. When both of us are having a difficult few weeks we catch up for lunch at either’s home. Menu: Heinz tomato soup made with hot milk (not water), crusty fresh bread, a can of cola and chocolate.
Dreadful on the waist. Fabulous for the spirit.
3. What is your favourite…
Drink: Bailey’s Irish Cream and Butterscotch Snaps…ice-cold glass of sparkling Moscato … Lemon Squash made with lemon cordial and freezing lemonade… shall I go on?
Indulgence: Arnotts chocolate mint biscuits.
Meal: Roast with rich gravy, crispy potatoes & vegies, apple pie with cream or my grandmother’s steamed jam pudding.
4. What’s the most revolting thing you’ve ever eaten?
Peas. Even the thought makes me turn ‘green’. Mum used to make me eat them and if I didn’t I’d be locked in the bathroom until I did. I learnt very quickly peas fit down the bath plughole if you push, until the day I was caught. I was hauled out of the bathroom and Mum stood over me with the threat of a spanking to make me eat them. I vomited everywhere. From then on I was never made to eat another pea. Mission accomplished
5. If you have children, have you discovered any ingenious ways to hide vegetables in meals?
The bamix. A wonderful invention. ‘Vegies? You’ve got to be kidding me. Does it look like there are vegies in that beautiful pie/casserole?!’. Although, in saying this, my nine year old can pick the slightest hint of yellow (sweet corn), red (capsicum) or white/clear (onion) discrepancy in any food placed before him from three feet away, regardless of the food processor. *Sigh*
P.S. I NEVER serve peas to my kids.
6. Is eating out at cafes and restaurants a regular part of your life? Do you have any favourite places you’d like to mention?
Eat out? What’s that? So rare an occurrence around here it’s nearly extinct.
The closest thing to a café/restaurant we usually get is my husband cooking us a camp oven roast over a fire. And I’ll have to say it would rival any five star restaurant meal. He’s an extremely good camp cook. Which is why, if there is a camp oven roast on offer, you will usually find me tramping around the bush a w-ayyyyy over some hill looking for brumbies and my husband, a beer in one hand, a shovel in the other (for moving around the hot coals) cooking tea. I love that man
Building up the fire to get hot coals for the camp oven:
7. Do you eat while you write? Are there any particular foods or drinks you always have on hand while writing?
M & M’s. My downfall. I started with the chocolate ones and then moved onto the crispy ones. They help me out when the muse goes to lunch.
8. If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, who would you choose?
We lost her fourteen years ago and damn it all I am crying as I write this.
When she died I was still in that young ‘it’s all about me’ phase of my life. I just wish I could have known her as a person – a friend – as well as a mother. I look around at girlfriends and women at the school where my children go, and how their mother’s are a huge part of their and their kid’s lives. How I wish we had that. But life goes on and you can’t change what God decrees.
9. Which one of the following types of cooks are you?
- Cooking? What’s that?
- I cook only when I absolutely have to
- I’m an average cook, and stick to my regular meals
- I like to experiment with new recipes regularly, or create my own
- Next season of MasterChef – lookout!
I LOVE to cook, but I am none of the above. I do what my grandmother fostered in me, that old fashioned thing called ‘baking’. My children think their throats are cut, if they haven’t got homemade biscuits, cakes or slices in the cupboard/fridge for smoko/lunch/or ‘afters’. And then there are the friends at school whom I have to send a piece of jelly slice or ANZAC bickie coated in milk chocolate for as well. My oldest son reckoned he could have made a fortune selling his play lunch everyday.
I do like to experiment with meal cooking but only so much. If you want a good, old fashioned, hearty country meal visit my place. If you want a newfangled ooh la la dish that people like me can’t pronounce, I suggest you visit someone else.
10. Do you have a favourite recipe you’d like to share?
Oh golly. Which one is the question?!
Raspberry Jelly Slice (a yummy one)
1 pkt Arnotts Milk Arrowroot biscuits (they tend to crush finer than the traditional Marie Biscuits)
250 gms butter (melted)
1 can Condensed Milk
4 teaspoons of gelatine dissolved in ½ cup of boiling water
Juice of two lemons
Raspberry Jelly made with 1 cup boiling water and ½ cup cool water. Note: Add 1 dessertspoon of gelatine to the jelly crystals BEFORE adding water. This makes the jelly firmer and stops it from sliding off the slice when you serve.
Make up jelly as described above and place in fridge to cool but not set. (ie. Don’t forget the jelly like I do sometimes!)
Crush biscuits using a bamix, food processor or put into plastic bag and smash with rolling pin. (Or you could do what one of my best mates does and bag up biscuits really well and run over with your four-wheel-drive ) Tip crushed biscuits into a bowl.
Pour melted butter into biscuits. Mix until combined. Pour into slice tray and press down firmly. Place in fridge for five minutes or so to set.
Pour condensed milk into bowl. Add boiling water (with dissolved gelatine as described above) and stir. Add lemon juice. Stir some more until mixture thickens. Take biscuit base from fridge and pour milk mixture into tray. Spread until milk mixture is level. Place back in fridge to set.
Once milk mixture is set, pour jelly onto top of slice. I find it easier to leave slice tray in fridge as I pour the jelly on. This means a lot less mess if you happen to spill it ;) Leave slice in fridge until jelly is set.
Thanks for being on the blog, Margareta, it was an absolute pleasure! Oh, and happy Mother’s day to you and all the mothers out there!
Find out more about Margareta at her website.
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