they served a real nice brisket and an 8 foot party sub

I don’t know why it took so long to blog about this brisket. It’s not like it wasn’t delicious and it’s not like it hasn’t been the right weather for it lately. Maybe because it’s not as good looking as baking, it always gets pushed to the back. Sorry, brisket.

A lesson: Not all second-hand cookbooks from the seventies and eighties are adorably quaint, some are just plain terrible. Like most aspects of pop culture, you get the ‘so-bad-it’s-good’ cookbook, which, if you’re into that sort of thing, and I am, is why I continue to hold on to the QEII Cookbook with its Souffle Bowes-Lyon and tales of 24/7 caviar. Some of those cookbooks are genuinely uninspiring and dull though, and there’s a reason you see them at every single opshop. One pearl of a book that I picked up for $2 in Waiuku about three years ago is Supercook’s Supersavers Cookbook. Its title is dubious, its 1980 photography is dubious and even some of its contents are dubious (carrot and oatmeal soup ahoy) but I’ve ended up using it almost as much as any Nigella volume.
A recipe that I’ve made many times from this book is the Greek Pot Roast, which is brisket slowly braised in a cinnamon-spiced, tomato-y liquid and then served over pasta. I’m not sure what makes it wildly Greek, and there’s something about the word ‘braised’ that’s always sounded unsexy to me, but the idea of stew and spaghetti together appeals heaps and you could even call it “ragout” or something if you wanted to serve it to fancy people. Or just be straight up and see who your true friends are (if your true friends are all vegetarian then this probably isn’t the best litmus test.)


Brisket costs hardly anything, but if you have the option of sourcing good quality meat, where you have an idea that the cow whose life was taken for your dinner had been reared in relative comfort, then so much the better. Brisket can sometimes come to you with more fat than actual meat, so choose carefully.

By the way, I’m aware that today’s photos are terrible. Baking is always easier in winter because I canĀ 
wait till the next morning to snap it, but dinner has to be photographed on the spot, which means when it’s pitch-black outside you’re going to get weirdly exposed images like these. Still, at least it matches the book that the recipe came from. I look at some of those 70s and 80s cookbooks with their weird exposure and overdressed sets and wonder how a generation of designers actually stood back and thought “Dammit yes this harshly lit image of a pot roast sitting on a frilly tablecloth with carnations and apples strewn gently about makes me hungry.”

Greek Pot Roast

From Supercook’s Supersavers Cookbook, find it if you can.

1.4kg brisket, rolled and tied if possible (I always just leave it)
3 medium sized onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cloves
1 bay leaf
150mls boiling stock
3 tablespoons tomato paste/passata

Note: I obviously don’t use that much meat for just me and Tim. I reduce the meat to around 400-500g for us both and use just one or two onions, but keep everything else the same. Also I just crumble in half a good stock cube and 150mls hot water rather than heating up a tiny amount of stock in a pan – same diff.

Heat your oven to 150 C/300 F. Heat a little olive oil in a flameproof casserole and brown the meat on all sides. Set it aside while you gently fry the onions, garlic and spices. If you don’t have a flameproof casserole, you could just do this in a frypan and then transfer it to an oven dish. Add the bay leaf, stock and tomato paste. Return the meat to the pan, cover and put it in the oven, leaving for at 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Serve over hot spaghetti with Parmesan cheese.


Or if you don’t have Parmesan, you could use, um, frozen peas like I did. Not quite the same, but still a nice contrast. And cheaper. And adds small bursts of vitamin-rich greenness to the incessant meatiness of the brisket. This is delicious and so easy, hence why it has become a regular fixture. The slow, low cooking process breaks down the potentially tough brisket and turns it into something intensely tender and rich-flavoured, which falls apart at the mere sight of a fork looming menacingly towards it. The tomatoey braising liquid doesn’t really reduce down or thicken up, but spooned carefully over the meat and pasta it’s delicious – deeply flavoured with the cinnamon and bay, all of which absorbs into the tangle of spaghetti below.

I hope all (do I even have any?) Canterbury and South Island readers of this blog are doing okay after the huge earthquake on Friday night, and its follow-up aftershocks. It was a scary time here in Wellington – mind you I’m terrified of earthquakes and always have been – but over pretty quickly and with no damage. Meanwhile, many, many homes and buildings in Christchurch have been completely wrecked. It’s incredibly good that not one person was killed, but there’s still so much damage to deal with – and it doesn’t help my nerves that the news media keep insisting that “the big one” is coming. Which means that every time I blink too hard I get nervous that it’s the overture tremors of said “big one”. Perspective though – I’m feeling very lucky to be sitting in my warm home with running water and electricity and to know that family and friends down in Christchurch are unharmed.
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Title via: Errr…30 Rock‘s Werewolf Bar Mitzvah. “Boys becoming men, men becoming wolves!” To be fair, I couldn’t find a youtube clip of Maury Levy telling Herc he’s mishpocheh.
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Music lately:

Elaine Stritch, Ladies Who Lunch, from Company. She’s incredible, but sometimes when she looks at the camera it feels like I got lemon juice in my eye. Wish I could have that kind of effect on people when I say “does anyone still wear…a hat.”

Mueve by Lido Pimienta. Read an interview with her in the new Real Groove magazine, looked her up on youtube and I’m entranced. It’s dreamy and sunny and – bonus – all en Espanol! Cross-posted to 100s and 1000s because I like it that much.
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Next time: Well the Supercooks book was so fruitful that I’ve made something else from it – the awesomely, awesomely named Grumble Pie. You don’t know how hard it was not to push the poor brisket to the back of the queue AGAIN for this.

gunpowder gelatine, dynamite with a laser beam

Okay: I didn’t win the blog category of that CLEO/Wonder Woman thing. In hindsight, I already knew this, but for a while there it felt like everyone in the world was voting for me and we’d all linked hands and started a wild mazurka of joy, spiralling with love for this blog and each other. And then I opened the July issue in a 24-hour convenience store at lunch today with Tim and the mazurka ceased, and David Dallas’ Big Time ended its chorus in my mind. (What’s a mazurka? You ask? Only one of the coolest folk dances ever, as this video confirms.) BUT as I’ve said previously, this has been a fun wave to flutterboard across and it was lovely being unexpectedly nominated, and of course, I’d like to extend a giant chocolate cake with “congratulations” piped across the top in icing to the actual winners at So Much To Tell You. I’m sure we all wanted this in equal amounts! I just felt particularly wanty, and this kind of obliterated any idea that anyone else could want it more and I wouldn’t win. But it’s okay. It was fun to be nominated. And to raise awareness of my desire to own a capybara. And a mightily enormous thanks to everyone that emailed in and voted for me: it means a lot! I don’t bust out folk-dancing imagery for just any old situation.

So.

Of powdered gelatine, Nigella Lawson authoritatively sneers “God knows how anyone can make that work…leaf gelatine is the answer“. It sort of has an implied “and if you want to consider yourself any kind of fan of mine, lowly blogger, then you ought to agree” tacked onto the end. In some ways, Nigella is right – leaf gelatine is much more reliable and easier to use, and very pretty. But if a packet of Davis powdered gelatine hadn’t been sighing unwantedly in my cupboard, I would not have been able to make Moonshine Biffs: then what?

My Mum gave me her old copy of the Edmonds Cookery Book, the 1971 edition I believe. It’s the sort of thing you don’t want to buy new, you want to be given it or find an old copy somewhere…I read once about how young people are able to have nostalgia for things they never knew – for things that their parents or even their grandparents experienced. Or even nostalgia for things that someone’s parents and grandparents might have experienced (ie: the 60s), which, if any of that makes sense, could explain why I get a feeling of warm safeness inside when I turn the pages of this book and read curtly delivered recipes for spiced rock cakes or Dolly Varden Cake even though I never, ever ate them growing up.

As I was leafing through the pages I discovered the recipe for Moonshine Biffs and decided whatever the heck they even were, I was going to make them for their name alone (for the same reason I’m no good to play Scrabble with because I’d rather make silly words than gain points…and I get really impatient waiting for people to have their turn…And also I’m pretty sure I don’t really like Scrabble.) I thought they’d be like marshmallows but they are in fact, better yet, essentially Milk Bottle lollies in square format.

Moonshine Biffs

From the Edmonds Cookery Book.

  • 3 dessertspoons Gelatine (I used a regular, stuff-eating spoon, the kind you’ll find in the spoon compartment in your cutlery draw, you know…spoon.)
  • 1 breakfastcup sugar (I used just under a 250ml measuring cup)
  • 1/2 pint water (A heaped measuring cup) (psych! You can’t heap water)
  • 1/2 pound icing sugar (250g)
  • coconut
  • vanilla
  • Place gelatine, water and regular sugar in a saucepan and boil for eight minutes. This was a little scary, but because the Edmonds Cookery Book is always pretty vague, to put an instruction in italics made me want to follow it. That said, if you suspect your stove-top generates a significantly hotter heat than what they had in the 70s then go slow and boil a little less.
  • Add the icing sugar and vanilla (I had some vanilla paste, proper extract would be fine, you could, I suppose, go era-specific and use essence) and beat until thick and white – I used a silicon whisk and nearly fainted from the exertion, you’re welcome to use electric beaters or whatever.
  • Pour into a wet tin – again, silicon makes life easier here, otherwise use baking paper to line the tin – and leave to set for a couple of hours. It doesn’t matter if it won’t fill the tin – it’s not a huge mixture and just stops and sets where it is. Slice up, toss in coconut. FYI, mine set very smooth and coconut wouldn’t stick to one side of it. Edmonds didn’t prepare me for that but I was chill.

As I said, these really do taste like Milk Bottles – chewy, a little creamy, very sweet. But good – so good. And they cost around 30 cents and a little arm-work to make. If your kids/flatmates aren’t snobs about what shape their lollies come in, try them on a rainy weekend and see if you don’t feel awesome about yourself and the world once you have a pile of them sitting on a plate in front of you.

On a gelatine rampage, I couldn’t help trying something else further down the page: Toasted Honey Marshmallows. Significantly more sophisticated, these intensely honeyed, soft sweets would be perfect after a spicy dinner or alongside liqueurs and truffles instead of pudding. There’s no getting around the fact that gelatine is not vegetarian, and is no less made of animal than if steak was the main ingredient of marshmallows, so if you are thinking of making either of these maybe check with your meat-shunning mates what their limits are.

Toasted Honey Marshmallows

Also from the Edmonds Cookery Book.

Soak 1 level tablespoon Gelatine in 1/4 breakfastcup cold water in a metal bowl for 3 minutes. Dissolve over hot water, by sitting the metal bowl on top of a small pot of simmering water. Tip in 1 breakfastcup liquid honey. Beat with egg beater (or whatever you have – again, I derangedly used a whisk) until fluffy and white – about ten minutes. Turn into a wet shallow tin (again, silicon is best here) and leave 24 hours. Cut into squares carefully with a sharp knife and roll in toasted coconut.

Yes, you have to wait for ages which is why these are less child-friendly, but as I said the flavours and textures that unfolded from such minimal ingredients were incredible. The taste of honey suspended within impossibly soft marshmallows against the damp, nutty and textured coconut was amazing.

Last week Tim and I, having read several two-thumbs-up reviews, went to see Cemetery Junction. Even though it all ties itself up nicely and eventually good things happen to all the good people, it’s done in a way that makes you quite happy to be taken along with it. It’s gorgeously filmed with some rollicking humour coinciding with those wonderfully quietly heartbreaking moments that the British seem to have patented, it’s full of good-looking, shiny-haired young Brits (although solemnly countered by some more menacingly lived-in faces) and it’s directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant so, hello. We recommend it heartily.

By the way everyone, Tim has a job! Yeah! Turn Big Time back up again! It’s a Monday to Friday office job which might sound hellish but they all sound nice and after barista-ing at dawn on a daily basis, it’s completely welcome. Apparently he saw off other people with more experience; of course he did! It’s Tim! Anyway, cheers for the words of encouragement from everyone, we are now on a dual income which means if I do nothing but cook from the Edmonds book that pet capybara and my dreams of Broadway may not be so far off after all. Soon we’ll hit the big time…

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Title comes to you via: Queen’s Killer QueenI know they’re not that cool, well neither am I. There’s a lot of Queen I’m not keen on, luckily this song isn’t in that list because I’m yet to see a better lyric about a setting agent.
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Music lately:

Fats Domino’s Ain’t That A Shamethe way the chugging opening melody slides into the titular question really does somehow convey a sense of something being a shame, besides that it’s a great, great song and I love Youtube for making all this old footage available.

Julia Murney singing People from the musical Funny GirlI guess I do mention her more than occasionally but friends: this woman is amazing. The bad thing about being a Julia Murney fan is that while she performs a lot she’s relatively below the radar and will never come to New Zealand and I’ll never get to see her in New York, the good thing about being a Julia Murney fan is that she performs a lot of fabulous songs at benefits and concerts and they often find their way to Youtube. And uh, looks like it’s the salute to Youtube segment on the show now.

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Next time: I’ve been promising pavlova for a while but excitement about homemade marshmallows overrides anything else. Including whether I really have any true need for marshmallows. Pavlova truly will be next time, promise. Also, you’re still most welcome to check out Tim’s and my side-project blog 100s and 1000s, where so far we’ve interviewed Grayson Gilmour, talked about new music we may or may not like, and I managed to winkle an Idina Menzel reference in there.