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, 21 December 2019

Kitchen Martyrdom - Christmas Leftovers

Kitchen Martyrdom and Oven Fixation
With Some Recipes for Christmas Leftovers

The big Aussie cookery database, BestRecipes, provided a list in December 2018 of “Top 20 Christmas leftover recipes”, with the note “Use up your delicious Christmas leftovers with these simple, fuss-free recipes.”
    Oops. Nearly all of the recipes—all very tasty-sounding and if not rateable as “easy”, as most of their authors claim, certainly attainable by the average home cook—are examples, in fact exemplars, of that old Antipodean syndrome, Kitchen Martyrdom. It occurs in the female of the species at any time of year but especially at Christmas, and is closely linked to the other malady suffered by the home cooks of Australia and New Zealand for over a century: the Oven Fixation.
    The combination of Kitchen Martyrdom and Oven Fixation means that you have to use your oven, never mind if the climate is totally unsuited to it (it’s SUMMER at Christmas in the Antipodes). In many places in Australia the temperature during the week after Christmas will normally be over 35° C. It’s bushfire weather.
    But okay, let’s rush into our kitchens and turn our ovens on, meanwhile we’re running the ducted air-con full blast throughout the house and complaining bitterly about the electricity bills—which often run into many thousands of dollars annually, no kidding.

Post-Christmas martyrdom
You want to slave over yet more hot oven-baked dishes after the marathon of Christmas Day? Go on, martyr yourself.
    I’m not exaggerating. These fourteen dishes from the “Top 20 Christmas leftover recipes” all need to be cooked in the oven. Many also require some pre-cooking on the stove top:
(1) Beef and Guinness Pie (does not use leftovers)
(2) Chicken, Leek and Corn Pie
(3) Chicken Mornay Bake (pasta and chicken casserole)
(4) Ham and Cheese Puff (an unusual dish with ham, eggs, cheese and bread)
(5) Ham and Pineapple Pinwheels (savouries, with pastry)
(6) Ham and Vegetable Slice (with eggs)
(7) Leftover Lamb Shepherd’s Pie
(8) Shepherd’s Pie with Turkey
(9) Silverbeet and Ham Puff Pastry Pie
(10) Slow Cooker Pea and Ham Soup (in summer?)
(11) Turkey and Cranberry Mini Quiches (savouries)
(12) Turkey and Pumpkin Lasagne
(13) Vegetable, Ham and Noodle Cups (with eggs)
(14) Vegetable, Rice and Cranberry Salad (requires roasting sweet potatoes & onions)
    Five more are stove-top recipes which require quite a lot of standing over a hot stove:
(1) Easy Mexican Rice with Barbecue Chicken (a Mexican-style pilaf)
(2) Fried Rice (Asian-style pilaf—does not use leftovers)
(3) Leftover Roast Fritters (using leftover roast beef)
(4) Paella (a well-explained version which received very favourable comments)
(5) Turkey Rissoles (Asian flavours: a new touch)
    There was only one recipe in the list which didn’t need the oven or the stove and would be more suited to the Australian summer for which the recipes are intended:
(1) Cranberry and Herb Couscous with Grilled Chicken (chicken salad; leftover turkey or chicken may be used, without grilling)

    Oven Fixation, by the way, is far from confined to one side of the Tasman: the New Zealand cookbooks also suffer from it to an advanced degree: as I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog article, “Can This Be Cauli?”, the hugely popular New Zealand cookbook, the Edmonds Cookery Book, typifies the attitudes of its time towards “cooking”, in which baking dominated the scene. In the 1968 reprint of the “De Luxe” 1955 edition, 52 of the 120 pages of recipes are devoted to baked goods. “Desserts”, often also needing the oven, get 27 pages. Meat, fish, soups, vegetables, pickles, preserves, jams & jellies, salads, sauces and sweets all had to be fitted in as well.
    You just weren’t a cook at this period if you couldn’t use your oven to bake a proper cake—ranging from towering sponges to giant fruity Christmas and wedding cakes—and produce a superb dessert, pavlova being the type species but such delights as apple crumble, fruit pies, baked custard, sponge pudding, rice pudding, and bread-and-butter pudding also being de rigeur in the repertoire.

    It’s sad to see that the Kitchen Martyrdom and Oven Fixation phenomena which afflicted our grandmothers and great-grandmothers are still being encouraged in the 21st century.

I’ll give you a few examples of combined Kitchen Martyrdom and Oven Fixation which really struck me when I was looking at some old Australian cookery books dating from the very early 1950s. But to spare your sensibilities, especially if you’re reading this in summer, I’ll also provide some alternatives that won’t require you to turn your oven on and send your power bill rocketing through the roof.

** Horrible disguises: leftovers, circa 1949
In the Australian Green and Gold Cookery Book of circa 1949 there are a lot of recipes for using up leftovers—mainly of roast beef or mutton (lamb, it would be today). They mostly entail a lot of fiddling around, and definitely the hot stove or oven. Here’s just one example that shows you clearly that the desperate housewives of around 1949-1950 were, if possible, even more martyrs to their kitchen stoves than today’s online viewers of BestRecipes:

Dresden Patties
cold fowl or any meat; stock or milk; slices of stale bread; half cup cream; one tablespoon flour, one of butter.
Cut bread 2 in. [4 1/2 – 5 cm] thick into rounds 2 in. Remove centre of each round half way through. Dip in cream, brush with egg, when drained, sprinkle with crumbs.
Fry in hot fat. and fill centres with the meat mixture, that has been stewed for five or ten minutes.
--M. Higginbottom.
(Green and Gold Cookery Book: Containing Many Good and Proved Recipes. 15th ed. (rev.), Adelaide, R.M. Osborne, [1949?])

The book gives this as a “luncheon” recipe, and it is certainly dainty enough not to be for a mere lunch! Was Mr Higginbottom favoured with it, one wonders, or was it reserved for those ladies’ luncheons when he was at work?
    The use of the word “patties” is interesting. The chicken or meat content would certainly have to be minced or finely shredded, as one would for patties, which in Australia today are generally called “rissoles”, but the end result is not modern patties. The recipe, in fact, is almost verbatim Mrs Wicken's 1894 recipe for “Swiss Patés” (Philip E. Muskett and Mrs H. Wicken. 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]) How they got from Switzerland to Dresden, unclear! But “patés” might help to explain “patties”, yes. The original is better: this one, typically of its period, drops the herbs that Mrs Wicken included.

** Christmas ham or turkey leftovers today
Personally, for cold turkey I can’t go past the good old American traditional sandwich that we had that delirious 1966/67 Christmas-New Year in Dallas, Texas:

Turkey, Cranberry Sauce & Mayo Sandwich
Makes 1:
    2 slices bread of your choice;
    1 thick slice cold leftover turkey meat;
    1 tablespoon cranberry sauce or cranberry jelly;
    Optional: salt & pepper to taste
(1) Spread the mayonnaise on each slice of bread.
(2) Spread the cranberry sauce or jelly on 1 slice.
(3) Put the cold turkey on top of this.
(4) Add salt & pepper to taste; the mayo has salt in it so you probably don't need any. My only change to the original is that I like a good grinding of black peppercorns with it.
(5) Put the two slices together and enjoy the best post-Christmas sandwich in the world!

    Here’s a variation on the post-Chrissie sandwich you may also enjoy; it takes advantage of the seasonal stone fruits in Australia and New Zealand:

Stone Fruit & Christmas Leftovers Open Sandwich
Makes 2:
1 ripe peach or nectarine;
2 slices ham or turkey, each about the size of a bread slice;
2-3 tablespoons ricotta or cottage cheese;
2 slices bread of your choice;  honey;  black pepper
(1) Lightly toast bread slices.
(2) Halve the fruit, remove the stone, peel peach if you prefer, and slice each half into 3 or 4.
(3) Cut the ham or turkey slices into small pieces.
(4) Spoon about 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons ricotta or cottage cheese onto each toasted slice and sprinkle liberally with freshly ground black pepper.
(5) Add the pieces of ham or turkey, pressing them lightly into the cheese, intersperse them with the fruit slices, and drizzle lightly with honey.
(Adapted from the recipe “Peach, Prosciutto & Ricotta Crostini” from Epicurious.com)

** Salad ideas for leftovers (turkey, ham, chicken)
For a larger meal, why not have a salad as your main dish? Of course if you insist on filling the kitchen with raging hot steam you could do a potato salad as well, but here are just a few unusual ideas for cold salad combos needing no cooking, in which you can use leftover turkey, ham, or cold chicken:

* With a Spanish touch: mix with finely sliced red capsicums, peas (fresh or frozen, soaked in hot water 1/2 hour & drained well) or fresh snow peas, chopped fresh herb, e.g. tarragon, coriander; mix with a mustardy vinaigrette, serve on salad platter lined with lettuce.
(idea from “Carmen Salad - Salade Carmen”, (M.J. Leto and W.K.H. Bode. The Larder Chef. London, Heinemann, 1969)

* With Asian flavours: mix with fresh snow peas, finely sliced baby bok choy and cucumber, a little slice red or green chilli to taste, a little grated fresh ginger, drizzle with an Asian-style dressing.
(Idea from “Asian Chicken Salad with Snap Peas and Bok Choy”, Epicurious.com)

* With English Christmas flavours: mix with chopped celery, chopped bottled or tinned chestnuts, finely sliced capsicum, serve with mayonnaise on salad platter lined with lettuce.
(Idea from “English Chicken Salad”, 365 Foreign Dishes: A Foreign Dish for Every Day in the Year. Philadelphia, G.W. Jacobs & Co., [1908])

As you can see from the first and last of these, the ideas were around for a long time. But the cooks of the Antipodes didn’t seem to jump on them. Jellied beetroot was about the level (see earlier blog, Beetroot Fixation, Or, Vini Vidi Vinegar Again).
    They preferred to slave over a hot stove to use up leftovers, preferably disguising them as something else entirely.

** Having your cake and… having your cake?
Okay, the presents have been unwrapped, the stomachs bloated and the crumpled wrapping paper all tidied away. But don’t let’s be sensible and settle for the leftover Chrissie cake that no-one could face on the day.
    Why the demented editors of South Australia’s Calendar of Cakes imagined that you’d want to put your oven on again to whip up a cake two days after Christmas beats me, but here it is:

Quick Crumb Coffee Cake
For December 27
1 lb. S.R. flour (4 cups), 1/2 level teaspoon salt, 1/2 lb. sugar (1 cup), 1/2 lb. butter (1 cup), 4 eggs, 1 cup milk, and flavouring.
Sift flour and salt into a bowl. Add sugar and rub in butter until mixture is coarse and crumbly. Now measure out 2 cups of this mixture and reserve it for the top of cake. To the remainder add the well-beaten eggs, milk, and a few drops essence of lemon. (When eggs are scarce, use 3 eggs and extra milk.) Mix lightly but thoroughly to the usual cake batter, which will just drop from the spoon. Turn into a greased tin about 13 ins. x 10 ins.
Then sprinkle over this the reserved mixture, to which is added 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and a few chopped almonds. Press it in lightly here and there, and bake in a moderate oven for about 45 minutes.
Halve all ingredients for a smaller cake, and bake in tin about 8 ins. square.
--MRS. N. NESS (Mount Hope).
(Calendar of Cakes. [4th ed.], Adelaide, South Australian Country Women's Association, [1951?])

The name is misleading: it’s a cake for eating with your coffee. The technique of topping the cake in this way would reappear later in the century, offered with considerable enthusiasm as an exotic new way of making a cinnamon cake. It is a lovely cake, but on December 27?
    Mrs N. Ness’s cake was far from the only contender. There’s a cake a day, geddit? Keep ’em chained to it, that’s the attitude. Well, heck, we don’t wanna be shamed if the rellies unexpectedly pop over to see us and we’ve got nothing but water crackers and Vegemite to offer them for afternoon tea, do we?

** Searching for sense…
In the companion volume, the Calendar of Puddings, one or two valiant home cooks offered recipes which would be far more sensible for the Antipodean summer. Coincidentally, the one for December 27 is the complete antithesis to Mrs Ness’s cake. It’s got coffee in the name, it does contain coffee, and it doesn’t require baking. You’re gonna be making cups of coffee anyway, so why not give a coffee jelly a go?

Spiced Coffee Jelly
For December 27
Simmer 3 cups strong black coffee for 10 minutes with 2 cloves and a small piece of stick cinnamon. Strain, and add 1/2 cup sugar and 1 1/2 level tablespoons gelatine which has been dissolved in 1/3rd cup hot water. Stir till both are dissolved.
Chill until the jelly begins to set, and then stir in 1 dessertspoon finely chopped preserved ginger and a few chopped nuts. Chill till well set in mould.
Serve with ice cream or rich custard. May be broken with fork and served in individual dishes.
--MRS. C. E. DOLLING (Deputy State President).
(Calendar of Puddings: A Pudding a Day for the Whole Year. [5th ed.], [Adelaide, S. Aust.], South Australian Country Women's Association, [1952?])

** Dotty with desserts
Apart from Mrs Dolling’s shining example, most of the summer desserts are just as dotty as the cakes, alas. Again, it’s one a day, and they nearly all require baking and/or stove-top cooking. I’ve just picked out a few.

* Lemons on January 7:

Creamy Lemon Tart
For January 7
8 ozs. S.R. flour, 4 ozs. butter 3 ozs. sugar, 1 egg, a pinch of salt.
Sift flour and salt, add sugar, and rub in butter. Mix to a stiff dough with egg and a little milk. Roll out and line two 9-in. tins or deep tart plates. Bake in moderate oven until cooked (about 25 minutes).
When cold, mix this filling: 1 tin condensed milk, 2 yolks eggs, rind 1 1/2 lemons, 1/4 pint lemon juice. Stir all together and pour on cooked pastry cases. Beat the 2 egg whites stiffly, beat in 3 dessertspoons sugar, and pile on lemon filling. Bake a golden brown in slow oven (about 20 minutes).
—MRS. E. G. PEARSON (Ungarra), MRS. H. GRIFFITHS (Smithfield), and MRS. K. FEIGE (Monash).
(Calendar of Puddings: A Pudding a Day for the Whole Year. [5th ed.], [Adelaide, S. Aust.], South Australian Country Women's Association, [1952?])

Lemons are not actually in season in Australia in January—however. As with many of its contemporaries there is no indication as to whether we eat this hot or cold. Given that the oven's been on and on 7th January it’s probably 35°C in the shade, who would care? Have a cold beer and give the whole thing away.
    The recipe is a version of the ever-popular “Lemon Meringue Pie” (or “Lemon Chiffon Pie” in America), which has remained an Antipodean favourite for many decades. Three ladies sent in this same recipe, as you can see, and there are two other versions in the Calendar of Puddings: “Canadian Lemon Pie”, from two contributors, for February 25, and “Lemon Pie”, from two contributors, for March 17. Likewise, the Green and Gold Cookery Book (15th ed. (rev.), Adelaide, R.M. Osborne) gives us three versions, circa 1949.

** Cool lemon alternatives:
Supposing you’ve got lemons in summer, try these; they’re my 3 favourite desserts using lemons. The first merely uses lemon to set the filling:

Ruth's Cream Cheese Cake
An uncooked cream cheesecake with a readymade pastry base.
    8 oz [about 250g] cream cheese;
    1 tin sweetened condensed milk;
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla;  1/2 cup (or more) lemon juice;
    short pastry shell/s;
    blackcurrant jam or grape jelly for topping
Beat cream cheese till smooth; beat in condensed milk, add vanilla and stir.
Add lemon juice slowly, stirring - this thickens it. (It may need more than 1/2 cup).
Fill pastry shell/s and put in refrigerator (it will thicken further).
Top with blackcurrant jam or grape jelly.
(From Ruth Baker, circa 1969/1970)

There are many versions of this cheesecake nowadays, but this genuine early one is really easy if you want a yummy, fancy-looking solider dessert with no hot cooking.

* Seduced by lemon granita
The next recipe is from an English book of really delightful recipes. If you follow the author’s instructions (I’ve reformatted them slightly but it is his recipe), you’ll succeed in making a frozen water ice which is a million times more refreshing than any bought ice cream:

Lemon Sherbet (Granita)
An easy water-ice for 2 that requires no churning; but be careful: the timing is crucial!
    1 cup lemon juice;  1 cup sugar; 2 cups water
     grated rind of 1/2 Lisbon lemon (not a Mayer)
1. Mix 1 cup sugar with 2 cups water, boil for 5 mins and cool.
2. Add a cup of strained lemon juice and the grated rind of 1/2 lemon, stir quickly and pour into a metal refrigerator dish.
3. Freeze for 1 1/2 hrs, not longer. It will be ready to eat after 1 1/2 hours but too hard after that. Rake it with a fork once it starts to freeze (after about an hour).
To serve, spoon into 2 sherbet glasses. If liked, top each with a whole strawberry and two mint leaves.
(James Chatto. The Seducer’s Cookbook. Newton Abbot, David & Charles, [1981])

* Jelly from way back
The next recipe is for a lemon jelly. I use 1 lemon and 2 packets of gelatine (20g total) to about 3 cups of water, for a mild jelly, but here’s a genuine early recipe for you. If you’ve got a nice Lisbon lemon or similar, you could add a little grated zest:

Lemon Jelly
1/2 Box of Gelatine;  1/2 Cupful of Cold Water;
1-1/2  Cupfuls of Boiling Water;  1 Cupful of Sugar;  3 Lemons
Soak gelatine in the cold water for half an hour.
Add boiling water, sugar and juice of lemons.
Stir well and strain into mould or small cups.
(Lydia Maria Gurney. The Things Mother Used To Make: A Collection of Old Time Recipes, Some Nearly One Hundred Years Old and Never Published Before. New York, Frank A. Arnold, 1914)

** Apricots on January 23:
I’d recommend this for midwinter, not midsummer! You could use tinned apricots:

Apricot Delight
For January 23
Beat 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup sugar to a cream. Add 1 beaten egg, 1 tablespoon milk, then 1 1/2 cups S.R. flour. Roll out 1 in. thick. Place in greased sandwich tin.
Spread stewed apricots (dried or fresh) over. Must be well drained and almost dry. Beat 1 egg and 1 cup sugar with 1 cup desiccated cocoanut, and spread on top of apricots with a fork. Bake in moderately hot oven 15 to 20 minutes. This is a delicious sweet.
--MRS. K. W. BRUCE (Riverton).
(Calendar of Puddings: A Pudding a Day for the Whole Year. [5th ed.], [Adelaide, S. Aust.], South Australian Country Women's Association, [1952?])

Apricots are in season in South Australia in January. They grow extremely well there. Nevertheless it’s too hot to have your oven on—as well as the stove top for stewing the fruit, too!

** Cool down with apricot jelly
Here’s a Middle Eastern alternative which is much, much more sensible in summer:

Apricot Pudding
3 lb [1 1/2 kg] dessert apricots;  juice 2 oranges;
3/4 oz. [20 g] gelatine; juice 1/2 lemon;  caster sugar;
1/4 pint hot water;  whipped double cream (optional)
few halved apricots and chopped almonds or pistachio nuts to decorate
Turn the apricots into a puree by rubbing through to sieve or by putting in electric blender with orange and lemon juice. (Add caster sugar if required, depending on the sweetness of the fruit.)
Stir gelatine in a little hot water or fruit juice till completely dissolved. Add to puree. Sieve the mixture and whisk it, or blend again, till smooth and creamy.
Pour into a wetted mould and chill for 3-4 hrs. It should set very firmly.
To unmould, dip the mould for a few seconds in very hot water and turn out immediately onto a cold serving dish.
Decorate with whipped cream if liked, and with a few halved apricots and a sprinkling of chipped almonds or pistachios.
(Claudia Roden. A Book of Middle Eastern Food. Harmondsworth, England, Penguin, 1970.)

I’ve read a modern version of this which used tinned “apricot nectar”, but to me the nectar always tastes slightly tinny.

** Peaches on February 1:
Upside-down cakes were popular from about this period, the standard being pineapple upside-down cake. The author calls this a pie but she makes a “cake batter”.

Upside-Down Peach Pie
For February 1
(Uses Fresh or Preserved Peaches)
Cream 1/4 cup butter with 2/3rds cup sugar. Beat in 1 egg, well beaten. Sift 2 1/4 cups plain flour with 3 teaspoons baking powder and a pinch of salt. Add this alternately with about 1 cup milk to make a cake batter. Melt 2 or 3 tablespoons butter in a 10-in. cake tin. Spread 3 tablespoons brown sugar evenly over this. Then place half peaches (or sliced peaches) in a pattern on the sugar. Pour cake mixture over all. Bake in a moderately hot oven 30 to 40 minutes. When cooked, turn upside-down on a large plate. Serve with cream or custard sauce. Family-sized dessert.
--MRS. R. P. BAILEY (Yongala).
(Calendar of Puddings: A Pudding a Day for the Whole Year. [5th ed.], [Adelaide, S. Aust.], South Australian Country Women's Association, [1952?])

True, peaches are in season in South Australia at this time, but must you put your oven on, Mrs Bailey? It could well be 43° C!

** Very cool (hic!) peaches
Try this slightly tipsy alternative instead:

Peaches With Fresh Raspberry Sauce
    4 ripe peaches;  250g (1 punnet) raspberries;
    4 tablespoons icing sugar;  1 tablespoon kirsch;
    1 tablespoon orange flavoured liqueur
Peel the peaches and split each in two. Place upside down in individual bowls.
Mash raspberries with remaining ingredients, either with a fork or in a blender/food processor.
Pour over peaches. –Serves 4.
(David Burton. Delectable Fruits Cookery for New Zealanders. Auckland, Reed Methuen, 1985)

    Well, there it is. Kitchen Martyrdom and Oven Fixation are real phenomena. But If you don’t want to martyr yourself in traditional fashion, or spend a fortune on electricity, that’s given you a few alternatives—if you can be bothered making anything fancier than a simple lettuce and tomato salad to eat with your sliced cold turkey or ham, or a fruit salad with bought ice cream!
    We’ve got refrigeration; we can have fresh food (or at the very least, frozen) all year round. Why do we still indulge in martyring ourselves in the kitchen over summer?

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas 2019—and if possible, a cool one!