Out of the Frying Pan And Into the Antipodes--
Recipes & reminiscences from 70-plus years of New Zealand & Australian food; with some of the loves, some of the lovers, and some of the culinary & social history.
(A few names & places have been changed to protect the guilty)

Saturday, 30 January 2016

The Silver-Leaf Pullao

The Silver-Leaf Pullao 

    Mid-1970s. We’re in Delhi, he's had a panic because my small vanity case has gone missing. I’m not that worried, presumably even in India you can buy a toothbrush and toothpaste. Well, we’re on Connaught Circle, pretty near to Connaught Place, which is supposed to be posh—it's certainly full of Americans in Flower-Power gear, shopping—but mind you, the hotel’s pretty scungy and the European-style loo that Raju insisted on (to the desk clerk’s mystification) is continually getting bunged up.
    By this time it’s sort of starting to dawn that in between the anxious fussing he's trying to force me into a sort of calm, Earth-Mother rôle. You know: don’t worry, dear, come to Mummy, it'll be all right, kind of thing? Which isn't me. Aren't I entitled to a panic, too? No, apparently not. Dare say the parents were right all along, and the whole relationship’s a mistake. Just my luck.
    I suppose the Earth-Mother thing is in the Indian tradition, and I should’ve thought it out instead of rushing in with my great boots on, as per usual... But heck, he was keen, and nobody else was offering at the time— Yeah. 

Nurturing the Baby Ganesh
   But the nurturing thing isn’t me, and if he imagines it is, just because of the curves not to say the boobs, the poor guy’s in for a disillusionment.
    So he decides we're gonna go to this really nice restaurant that I'll like. This is “really nice” as in approved by the vast and boring white middle classes of the British colonies and ex-colonies, geddit? I’ve liked everything else, even if it wasn't really nice, so... Oh, well.
    “That sounds good. But I’ll pay, Raju.”
    He doesn't actually let me pay, as such, not in the restaurant, no. But he lets me give him the money beforehand. Oh, well.
    Help: the restaurant, which is really nice, sparkling white tablecloths and shining silverware, is full of huge, I mean GIANT, Sikhs! It mainly has booths, with the tables set well out from the benches, and you can see why: it’s to accommodate their tummies. Not racist, merely literal. Very comfortable benches, padded. Yep, I could stay here all day, just sitting and eating, and those guys (it's only lunchtime) sure look set to!
    I'll like the chicken pullao—anxious again. All right, I better like it.
    Later. I do like it, it’s wonderful. Very delicate, not too hot—though as that other stuff he let me eat was quite hot, why is he bothering? No, I won't ask. I haven’t let on that back home I’ve got a couple of Indian cookery books. You can't buy them in the shops, never mind the floating Paisley muslins, Afghan coats and greying Indian metal dangly earrings and necklaces that the well-off trendy students are getting around in these days (and that I can’t afford). I sourced them from elsewhere, don't ask, I’ll have to lie. They have got recipes for similar: I sort of understood all the instructions except the “scatter with silver leaf” bit. Now I get it!
    It’s very, very thin, so thin it kind of floats. It is silver. Like gold leaf, geddit? Only silver. Not leaf-shaped, like I vaguely imagined, but just oblong pieces, mostly broken up as they hit the surface of the rice and chicken. Quite safe to eat. Okay, it goes down with the rest. Doesn't taste of anything.
    Woefully extravagant? Yeah, when you think of the maimed beggars that hang round the train station, it sure is. They’re illegal these days: he had a panic on merely sighting them and warned me not to give them any money. As he appointed himself in charge of the money before we left the hotel, that would’ve been difficult.
    Am I shocked and horrified by the sight of these beggars? I ought to be: all very, very thin, some minus limbs, including children... I can imagine the indignation, horror and protest they’d induce in my politically left, right-thinking friends back  home. I am very sorry for them, but that’s different. Somehow the sight of them, combined with the hugely crowded streets and the never-ending racket and bustle of Delhi under its wide blue sky, with its mixture of Old Colonial heavy white verandahs and tumbledown local structures, and its ubiquitous dust, has induced in me a sort of wide acceptance: the ever-turning wheel of Fate, kind of thing. Yes, I did read Kim when quite young, but it didn’t make that sort of impression on me at the time. Now, quite unconsciously and without meaning to or even thinking about it, I just feel it.
    I don’t say so, of course. Raju’s impressing upon me how down the government is on these street beggars... Well, yeah, his subject is law, I guess he has to respect the country’s laws. –Other foreigners, quite possibly Americans, though not necessarily identifiable this time by Flower-Power gear and strangely coloured backpacks, are giving the beggars money and no-one’s stopping them...
    Well, that’s India for you. Fortunes chucked away on unnecessary real silver decorations on your chicken pullao on the one side, and starving beggars on the other. 

    Paris, some months later. I try out my version of the recipe (sans book) on my French friends and expat student buddies. Great approval from both the French and the Kiwi contingents. Mm, well, it's got something to do with the splendid quality of the chicken available in France, I think, but I'm glad they like it. I have managed to find some spices, yes: great little Algerian épicerie (no pun intended, “spice” comes from the French word) just along from my very scungy 5th-floor “studio,” i.e. one-room flat. 

Pullao with Chicken
500 g rice                                        500 g chicken pieces
2 tablespoons blanched almonds       1 large onion
1 tablespoon chopped ginger or 1/2 teaspoon powdered
2-cm cinnamon stick                         3 cardamoms (seeds of)
2 teaspoons ground coriander           1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon black pepper                3 tablespoons butter or oil
1/2 teaspoon salt                              water
Optional: 2 tablespoons ground almonds
1. Cut chicken into pieces about 5 cm long. Remove most of the skin and fat and take out as many bones as possible. Slice the onion finely. Crush the cardamom pods with a heavy implement and remove the seeds, discarding the pods.
2. Heat a deep lidded frying pan or electric frypan on moderate heat. Add the cinnamon stick and heat in the dry pan for a few moments until it begins to release its odour. Remove.
3. Add butter or oil and heat. Put in the blanched almonds and fry gently until just coloured. Remove.
4. Then add onion, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, ginger, cardamoms  and black pepper and fry gently until the onion is soft and pale gold.
4. Remove onion and spices, add a little more oil or butter if needed, and fry the chicken pieces gently on all sides until only just coloured.
5. Return onion and spices to the pan, add the rice, salt, and ground almonds if used. Mix with the chicken.
6. Add enough water to cover and simmer, covered, on medium-low heat for 45 mins, or until the chicken is cooked through, the rice is soft and the liquid absorbed.
Serve hot garnished with the whole almonds. Serves 4-6. 

Try it—I hope you like it, though it’s not as good as the restaurant’s. Those Indian gentlemen with the tummies were certainly a reliable indicator of the quality of the food there! 


Thursday, 28 January 2016

Killing Vegetables: Cabbage

Killing Vegetables

“Cabbage. 5. offensive term: a highly offensive term for somebody who has no mental awareness or mental activity, usually as a result of brain injury, and who is completely dependent on other people” (Encarta World English Dictionary)
“Mon petit chou, darling, honey, sweet” (Larousse’s Modern French-English, English-French Dictionary) 

    The English and French usages of the word for “cabbage” typify the traditional attitudes of the two countries towards a green vegetable. To the French it can be something lovable—it’s really sweet to hear a French friend of mine still calling her grown-up daughter “mon chou.” But to the English it's something that just sits there dully.
    Cabbage was something to be dreaded when we were kids. Mum had this bloody steamer, you see. It had useful segments, so you could boil the potatoes in the bottom part of the pot at the same time as you put the other vegetables with anal neatness into the top compartment in their separate little perforated metal containers with their neat little loops of handles and then put the lid on the lot. Exactly why the vegetables had to be segregated when they were all cooking in the same enclosed steamy space remains a mystery to me. Besides cabbage it could have been any one of several fruits of the greengrocery due to be sternly controlled until they lay down and submitted. Or in the case of anything green, died. It would most probably have been carrots. The quartered cabbage took up a fair amount of room and would usually get two segments. Or even the whole of the top of the steamer.
    Don’t say “Lightly steamed cabbage can be quite nice.” Possibly it can, but my early experiences, seared into my soul an’ all as they are, have never encouraged me to try it. This was not lightly steamed. This was steamed until a large potful of potatoes was cooked right through. Forty minutes? Too right. Its middle had to have turned pale pink—then it was done.
    Mum never stood any nonsense from vegetables, and if they looked like standing up for themselves, that was it, I,T. If you can't steam ’em, boil em. Boil ’em to death. That’ll larn ’em!
    With hindsight, that was pretty much her attitude to everything and everybody. Stand no nonsense and control rigidly. 

    To be fair, the cookbooks she had didn't help: they were all firmly in the British tradition (which did cross the Atlantic—yes). I collect these curiosities—once I got started, couldn't stop, they’re deliciously horrible—and I’ve got 7 awful cabbage recipes, dating back to Mrs Beeton’s, 1861. Now, Isabella often gets the blame for what later cooks did to her recipes, but in this instance she is far from innocent: 

INGREDIENTS.—To each 1/2 gallon of water allow 1 heaped tablespoonful of salt; a very small piece of soda.
Mode.—Pick off all the dead outside leaves, cut off as much of the stalk as possible, and cut the cabbages across twice, at the stalk end; if they should be very large, quarter them. Wash them well in cold water, place them in a colander, and drain; then put them into plenty of fast-boiling water, to which have been added salt and soda in the above proportions. Stir them down once or twice in the water, keep the pan uncovered, and let them boil quickly until tender. The instant they are done, take them up into a colander, place a plate over them, let them thoroughly drain, dish, and serve.
Time.—Large cabbages, or savoys, 1/3 to 3/4 hour, young summer cabbage, 10 to 12 minutes, after the water boils. Average cost, 2d. each in full season. Sufficient,—2 large ones for 4 or 5 persons. Seasonable.—Cabbages and sprouts of various kinds at any time. 

    In 1894 The Art of Living in Australia (main author Philip Muskett but recipes, i.e. the hard work, by Mrs Wicken), gives the Colonial cook almost the same instructions word for word.
    By 1949 that very popular Australian cookery book, the Green and Gold Cookery Book, in its 15th edition, is repeating these instructions and making quite sure the vegetable submits:

Remove the course outside leaves and stalk. Cut the cabbage in halves or quarters and soak in cold salted water for one hour. Cook in fast-boiling salted water, to which has been added one dessertspoon of salt and one pinch of carbonate of soda, with lid partly off, until tender - 20 to 40 minutes. Drain in a colander and press well with a plate. Serve in a hot vegetable dish. Add one teaspoon butter and sprinkle with pepper.

Any caveat of Isabella’s about not cooking a nice young cabbage so long has disappeared: 40 min. Yep, Mum all over. That finishing touch of pressing with a plate is quite something. It'd be soggy enough to let you do it, too.
    Why the insistence on bicarb of soda? Well, it was said to keep greens green. Don’t take my word for it; here’s the Green and Gold Cookery Book: 

Green Vegetables must always be put into fast-boiling water with one pinch of carbonate soda, brought quickly to the boil and boiled with the lid partly off. If this is not done greens lose their bright colour, and are apt to be tough. 

Well, yeah: after boiling them to death they wouldn’t retain their natural nice fresh green colour, would they? 

Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Come Out Of The Water...
You thought it couldn’t get any worse? Nah! To really beat a cabbage into submission, cook it twice. Here’s Mrs Wicken’s and Dr Muskett’s twice-cooked offering for the cooks of Australia, circa 1894: 

Stewed Cabbage
1 Cabbage
Salt and Pepper; 1 oz. Butter
Total Cost—4d.  Time—25 Minutes
Boil the cabbage as directed, and squeeze very dry; melt the butter in a saucepan, season with pepper, salt, and a drop or two of lemon juice. Put in the cabbage and cook in the butter for ten minutes, stirring frequently; arrange neatly in a hot dish, and serve. 

Boiling the cabbage “as directed” means using their recipe, in other words Mrs Beeton’s: they tell us: “It will be done in from fifteen to twenty minutes; try it with a fork, and if soft turn into a colander, and very carefully press all the water from it.” By the time they've finished killing it twice the long-suffering vegetable will have been cooked for 25 to 30 minutes.

    I mentioned the tradition common to both sides of the Atlantic, and I wasn't joking. In 1908 365 Foreign Dishes: A Foreign Dish For Every Day In The Year (Philadelphia: G.W. Jacobs & Co.), also gives us double-cooked cabbage, though it’s not nearly as bad: 

Egyptian Cabbage.
Parboil a cabbage in salted water; drain and stuff with chopped cooked mutton. Mix with chopped ham, 1 onion and 2 sprigs of parsley chopped fine. Add 1/2 cup of cooked rice, salt and pepper to taste. Place in a buttered baking-dish; sprinkle with bits of butter; add the juice of a lemon, and let bake in a moderate oven until done. Baste often with butter and serve hot. 

Egyptian?? I don't think Egyptians would eat ham! True, stuffed vegetables are very common in Middle Eastern cookery, but the other ingredients are very British indeed—especially that mean “2 sprigs of parsley.” It’s the parboiling bit that’s the trouble; if you merely blanched the cabbage leaves first, and used more herbs or spices, this would probably be quite edible. 

Rediscovering Cabbage
Back in the 1970s I’d got my degree and had been working for several years before I discovered that cabbage can be a lovely vegetable. A German colleague with a French wife had a bunch of us round to his place for a meal and they did cabbage straight out of their garden. It was wonderful: really sweet, and slightly crunchy. 

If you haven’t got a flourishing veggie garden, you can still achieve something similar, though you'll never get that sweet, straight-out-of-the-garden taste. Try this yummy recipe from a friend who got it off her old Hungarian granny: 

Sue’s Hungarian Cabbage with Caraway Seeds
1 cabbage or 1/2 a very large one
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
2 teaspoons canola oil
1. Wash the cabbage lightly if it needs it but don't soak it. Dry it well. Chop the cabbage into pieces about 2 cm square, discarding the hard stalk. Mix the caraway seeds into the chopped pieces.
2, Put the oil into the bottom of a large saucepan. Add the chopped cabbage and the caraway seeds.
3. Put the lid on and cook over a medium heat until the cabbage is just starting to soften but still quite green. (About 5 minutes)
Serve hot. 

This recipe requires a large amount of cabbage and a big, deep saucepan to work. The cabbage cooks in its own moisture. It should still be fairly crisp. If a few bits brown and stick to the bottom of the pan this doesn't matter: stir them in, they add flavour. Don't be tempted to use a highly-flavoured oil like olive oil. If you have a large non-stick saucepan you can leave out the oil altogether.

    I only wish I could still eat a decent helping of this! A later sojourn in India (of which more anon, I hope) gave me a dose of dysentery (yep, the famous Delhi-belly) and even though that was years back I still can't digest more than a few mouthfuls of any coarse members of the Brassicaceae. (Now, “Chinese cabbage”—wombok—is a different matter entirely, thank the stars! Yum!)  

If All Else Fails, Put It in Your Bra!
Still not convinced? No, well, if you've only experienced dead soggy cabbage à l’Anglaise, or unspeakable so-called stir-fries soused in soy sauce and chilli, can't blame you. So if all else fails, apply to the breast.
    I am kidding, but nevertheless cabbage leaves applied to the human mammary gland are, apparently, an age-old English recipe for anything that ails you, recommended for everything from sore nipples through actual mastitis... You put the cabbage leaves in your bra. (Presumably in your corset, in days gone by?) Also highly recommended in the English oral tradition for abscesses and septic wounds, as the leaves draw out the pus (don’t quote me). Some recommend heating the leaves, others just place the clean leaves on it and leave overnight.
   Yes! You’ll find the dinkum oil on cabbage in “Plant-Lore”, http://www.plant-lore.com 


Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Hard Cheese: The Horrible History of Macaroni Cheese

The Horrible History of Macaroni Cheese

“Pieces of cheese which are too near the rind, or too dry to put on table, may be made into Welsh rare-bits, or grated down and mixed with macaroni.” (Mrs Beeton) 

    Yeah, thanks for that, Mrs Beeton. I wish I hadn’t looked you up, ’cos the concept “macaroni cheese”  brings back a very bad memory.
    No, oddly enough, not of really nasty Colonial versions I've eaten in both New Zealand and Australia, over the years. Of that time when I was in France and Gégé innocently asked me to make something that we typically ate at home in NZ.
    Yikes. We’re in Paris, surrounded by gorgeous and completely fresh produce, and he's a superb cook, why does he want to experience the sort of frightful food we were favoured with throughout my childhood? Added to which, I’m not much of a cook.
    Not to mention have never been able to afford really nice ingredients. Well, lovely fresh cabbage (ulp) was always available back in EnZed throughout the Fifties and Sixties, true. Likewise potatoes, carrots, kumara, silverbeet, um… Eggs. Apart from that, it was mostly lamb, and I already know our flat can't afford that in France. Specially Gégé can’t, he finished his degree a few years back and now he's got a half-pie at-home job marking English “homeworks,” I haven’t had the heart to tell him it’s not a recognised English plural, for a Correspondence School. Weakly I suggest Vegemite on toast. No, he had that in England, made the mistake of thinking it was like jam—slathered the toast with it, right. Um…
    He has to dash off somewhere but he makes me promise that I’ll cook something that we normally eat. Well, folks, if he ever manages to get out to EnZed to see his cousins (my sister-in-law’s family, which is how I got to stay with him and his girlfriend for a bit), he won’t be able to say he hasn’t been warned.
    Of course there’s nothing in the fridge, because there is no fridge, he doesn't need one: this is Paris, our odd little quartier just off the Grands boulevards in the Dixième features a wonderful market just down the road from us, and a super delicatessen, I think that’s a charcuterie, just back a block or so and round a corner, that has the most completely superb pâté de campagne. Possibly generically resembling the EnZed meatloaf. In the same way as a bright red juicy tomato bears a generic resemblance to the deadly nightshade. Yeah. Uh…
    Look, it’s gonna be macaroni cheese, because I can't think of anything else that’s different from French food and that I might possibly find the ingredients for and that I can cook. So I go off, not to the market, but the supermarché in the Place de la République, also quite near. There’s nothing approaching cheddar for sale, of course, but this stuff with holes in it looks sort of the right consistency. Emmenthal? Never heard of it. And they do have macaroni: the beauty of the supermarket is that you can walk round it and find things without betraying your total ignorance to the tolerantly pitying shopkeeper. –Had some of that, the first week I was here, when he sent me out to get milk. Sink or swim.
    Of course it's a total fiasco, he turns a sort of greenish shade at the mere mention of the stuff. Yeah, okay, the cheese has turned out to taste sort of sweet, totally nauseating, can't really blame—Oh. No. His girlfriend explains kindly that he had macaroni cheese once in England, ate too much of it and made himself very sick.
    Right, got that. I can't remember what the Hell we did eat that night but it wasn't macaroni cheese, that's for sure.
    Oh, well, Katy, you tried. Hard cheese, eh?
    At least I can flatter myself I was within a fairly long tradition of good old (or bad old) English cookery. Bits of nasty cheese were inflicted on macaroni from as early as the first half of the 19th century by British cooks. (We can assume it's an established tradition by 1861, when Mrs Beeton’s book came out.) Here’s the complete quote. (It’s her entry number 1638, that isn’t a date.) 

1638. In families where much cheese is consumed, and it is bought in large quantities, a piece from the whole cheese should be cut, the larger quantity spread with a thickly buttered sheet of white paper, and the outside occasionally wiped. To keep cheeses moist that are in daily use, when they come from table a damp cloth should be wrapped round them, and the cheese put into a pan with a cover to it, in a cool but not very dry place. To ripen cheeses, and bring them forward, put them into a damp cellar; and, to check too large a production of mites, spirits may be poured into the parts affected. Pieces of cheese which are too near the rind, or too dry to put on table, may be made into Welsh rare-bits, or grated down and mixed with macaroni. Cheeses may be preserved in a perfect state for years, by covering them with parchment made pliable by soaking in water, or by rubbing them over with a coating of melted fat. The cheeses selected should be free from cracks or bruises of any kind.
CHEESE.—It is well known that some persons like cheese in a state of decay, and even “alive.” There is no accounting for tastes, and it may be hard to show why mould, which is vegetation, should not be eaten as well as salad, or maggots as well as eels. But, generally speaking, decomposing bodies are not wholesome eating, and the line must be drawn somewhere.

Macaroni Cheese:
Continuing Colonial Tradition, or Death by Cholesterol?
Mrs Beeton has 3 recipes for the dish we’d call macaroni cheese: she calls it “Macaroni, as usually served with the Cheese Course.” Unlike modern dishes, hers don’t consist of pieces of macaroni slathered in a cheese sauce and then browned in the oven. But don’t get too excited: two of them are absolutely revolting, including gravy in the mix. One boils the macaroni in a mixture of gravy and milk, and one pours a pint of the gravy over the boiled pasta before sending it to table with grated Parmesan on the side. 

1861: Light and Tasty—but Anglicization Creeps In!
Mrs Beeton’s other recipe sounds very nice and it’s much lighter—and in fact closer in inspiration to the Italian style of eating pasta with grated cheese than to our modern heavily sauced dish. True, it involves a certain amount of fiddling around (Isabella wasn’t a cook, the martyred woman in the kitchen did all that). Here it is: it’s her first recipe of the three (no. 1645), so as well as typically being more fiddly than the other two of the set, it also includes more detailed instructions, also typical: 

MACARONI, as usually served with the CHEESE COURSE. I
INGREDIENTS.—1/2 lb. of pipe macaroni, 1/4 lb. of butter, 6 oz. of Parmesan or Cheshire cheese, pepper and salt to taste, 1 pint of milk, 2 pints of water, bread crumbs.
Mode.—Put the milk and water into a saucepan with sufficient salt to flavour it; place it on the fire, and, when it boils quickly, drop in the macaroni. Keep the water boiling until it is quite tender; drain the macaroni, and put it into a deep dish. Have ready the grated cheese, either Parmesan or Cheshire; sprinkle it amongst the macaroni and some of the butter cut into small pieces, reserving some of the cheese for the top layer. Season with a little pepper, and cover the top layer of cheese with some very fine bread crumbs. Warm, without oiling, the remainder of the butter, and pour it gently over the bread crumbs. Place the dish before a bright fire to brown the crumbs; turn it once or twice, that it may be equally coloured, and serve very hot. The top of the macaroni may be browned with a salamander, which is even better than placing it before the fire, as the process is more expeditious; but it should never be browned in the oven, as the butter would oil, and so impart a very disagreeable flavour to the dish.
In boiling the macaroni, let it be perfectly tender but firm, no part beginning to melt, and the form entirely preserved. It may be boiled in plain water, with a little salt instead of using milk, but should then have a small piece of butter mixed with it.
Time.—1-1/2 to 1-3/4 hour to boil the macaroni, 5 minutes to brown it before the fire. Average cost, 1s. 6d. Sufficient for 6 or 7 persons. Seasonable at any time.
Note.—Riband macaroni may be dressed in the same manner, but does not require boiling so long a time. 

    I’d definitely boil the macaroni in water rather than milk, but otherwise it’d be yummy—provided you stick to Parmesan! It’s interesting that already in 1861 Cheshire cheese is being mentioned as an alternative. This turns the recipe into a much heavier, and much more anglicized dish.
    If it seems a long time to boil the pasta, bear in mind that during the 19th century macaroni wasn’t the short, curved segments we know today, but much longer: “Ordinary macaroni is made in the form of long tubes, and when macaroni pudding is served in schools, it is often irreverently nicknamed by the boys gas-pipes.” (A.G. Payne, 1891) 

1891: Vegetarian but Not Non-Dairy: Echoes of Mrs Beeton
In his 1891 book, Cassell’s Vegetarian Cookery, under “Sparghetti [sic]”, in Chapter III, “Savoury Rice, Macaroni, Oatmeal, &c.” A.G. Payne has several recipes for macaroni cheese, under various names. He writes: 

“Some years back this was almost the only form in which macaroni was served in this country. Macaroni cheese used to be served at the finish of dinner in a dried-up state, and was perhaps one of the most indigestible dishes which the skill, or want of skill, of our English cooks was able to produce.” 

    His versions vary as to the expensiveness of the ingredients, but they’re all pretty cheesy and buttery. One recipe is the same as Mrs Beeton’s first version (without acknowledgement), except that it’s heated through in the oven. He warns: “If you leave the macaroni cheese in the oven too long the dish will taste oily and the cheese get so hard as to become absolutely indigestible.” Yep, good point, had that. Here’s another of his: 

Macaroni, Savoury
Take half a pound of macaroni and boil it in some slightly salted water, and let it boil and simmer till the macaroni is tender and absorbs all the water in which it is boiled. Now take a dessertspoonful of raw mustard, i.e., mustard in the yellow powder. Mix this gradually with the macaroni, and add five or six tablespoonfuls of grated Parmesan cheese and a little cayenne or white pepper according to taste. Turn the mixture out on to a dish, sprinkle some more grated Parmesan cheese over the top, bake it in the oven till it is slightly brown, pour a little oiled butter on the top, and serve. 

This sounds tasty! But you really would risk overcooking it in the oven: the cheese mightn’t get to the “absolutely indigestible” stage but the pasta itself, with so little covering it, could easily end up “in a dried-up state”. It kind of raises the question, Was he a cook? Very likely he wasn’t: the middle classes didn’t cook, and especially not the men, in the 19th century. 

The Bowdlerisation of Isabella: Late 19th to Mid-20th Century Colonials
I know Philip Muskett wasn’t a cook: the book on which his name goes first is: 

The Art of Living in Australia, by Philip E. Muskett; together with three hundred Australian cookery recipes and accessory kitchen information by Mrs. H. Wicken (London, Eyre and Spottiswoode, [1894] 

His humungously long bits are pretty unreadable: the 19th century produced some ripe specimens of pontificating gits but he ranks up there as one of the worst.
    But Mrs Wicken’s recipes are very, very interesting, showing how Mrs Beeton’s approach, which of course assumed you had a cook in the kitchen, had already been simplified and in far too many cases horribly bowdlerised, by the last decade of the 19th century. Poor Isabella! She gets the blame far too often (typically from our modern pontificating gits) for what later writers did to her recipes.
    Here’s Mrs Wicken’s recipe, and here we see featured the dreaded white sauce. This version was to reappear virtually unchanged in the Green and Gold Cookery Book, circa 1949. (I've left out the individual costs, which make confusing reading.) 

Macaroni Cheese
2 oz. Macaroni; 1/2 pint White Sauce; 3 oz. Dry Cheese; Pepper and Salt
Total Cost—4 d. Time—10 Minutes [excluding the boiling time].
Put the macaroni into boiling salt and water, and boil for half an hour or until soft; strain off the water and cut into pieces about 1-1/2 inch long. Make the sauce by directions given elsewhere [below]. Mix in half the cheese and some pepper and salt. Take a dish in which it can be served, and lay at the bottom some macaroni; then some sauce and a little of the dry cheese. Continue in this way till all the materials are used up, leaving plenty of dry cheese for the top. Put in the oven for five or ten minutes till a nice colour. Serve hot. 

White Sauce
1/2 pint Milk; 1 oz. Butter; 1/2 oz. Flour; Salt and Pepper.
Total Cost—2 1/2 d. Time—Minutes.
Put the butter into a small saucepan, and when it is dissolved put in the flour; mix well and pour on the cold milk and stir till it boils. Let it boil for two minutes and it is ready. 

    Yep, this is the version that’s become the traditional Antipodean macaroni and cheese, all right: I’ve had it on both sides of the Tasman. Some versions add mustard powder, à la Mr Payne, or Worcestershire sauce. Redundant slices of tomato also turn up: this dates back at least to the 1940s, as shown by: 

Green and Gold Cookery Book, Containing Many Good and Proved Recipes, issued by combined Congregational and Baptist Churches of South Australia in the interests of King's College. 15th ed. (rev.), Adelaide, R.M. Osborne, [ca. 1949] 

The book was a stand-by of the Australian cook of the first half of the 20th century, with recipes reprinted over and over again for around fifty years. It has the sense to put the slices of tomato in the dish; I’ve had it during the second half of the century with them laid decoratively on top, thus allowing the skin to become hard and nasty and the flesh to end up, you goddit, “in a dried-up state”!
    No, well, if done properly “Mac and Cheese” as the Aussies seem to call it these days (God knows why—do they think it sounds U.S. and with-it?) is a tasty, filling meal for the family. But the modern versions are stuffed with cholesterol, with very often only starch to balance it! In the Antipodes the use of a true hard cheese such as Parmesan went out some time during the 20th century—too dear, largely unobtainable—and by 1949 it's just “cheese”, not even Mrs Wicken’s “dry cheese”. Today you can buy Parmesan in the Australian supermarkets, but it’s far too dear if you have to feed a family, so it’s usually a fatty supermarket cheddar, which is pretty much guaranteed to harden the arteries. The march of progress, eh? 

And It Goes Marching On, Into the 21st Century...
All right, if you don’t believe me, go to the Aussie cookery website, “BestRecipes”, http://www.bestrecipes.com.au and click on the thing top right which looks like a magnifying glass. (Revamped web page suffering from the usual malaise spread by pointy-headed IT nerds: very hard to see how to search it). After you’ve clicked, the search box will come up. The search engine is complete crap, it will find everything indexed as either cheese or macaroni in response to “macaroni cheese”, but at least it seems (no guarantees) to put the relevant items first.
   The modern Antipodean cook has done her best to give her version of the stand-by a unique touch: so we get “oldsheila”, a longstanding contributor and a great home cook, adding bacon, onion, garlic and some potato to her macaroni, tasty cheese and cream mixture, “Swiss Macaroni”. –Fascinating to see this linguistic usage, actually. English-language cookery books of the end of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century often call a dish “Swiss” if it features dairy products. As here, it certainly doesn’t have to be a Swiss cheese!
    Bacon turns up again in “Macaroni Cheese” from “Mrs Tempest”, together with both Parmesan and tasty cheese, in a white sauce made with both cream and milk. “Mum’s Macaroni Cheese” by “bumble_kat” includes onion but otherwise it’s the completely basic modern version, unspecified “cheese” in sauce mixed with the pasta. I’m sure she’s right, and it is yummy, too!
    There are many other variations—one with tomatoes is almost solid mozzarella (must be an affluent family). Some make an effort to get some fibre in and include vegetables. One recipe I can’t even look at, the title’s more than enough, has apparently got shrimps. (Gulp.) All the variations you can imagine and some you couldn’t, in fact!
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of macaroni and cheese, but do yourself a huge favour and eat it with a large helping of plain steamed broccoli or something equally fibrous and green.

   Yes, Isabella, cheese is still being added to macaroni in the 21st century—though I dunno that you’d recognise the results!