One year ago: goulash with nockerl
HOLIDAY AT HOME
Summer in Sydney, if you don’t have to work, is a treat. Who could complain about daily swimming, yoga and seeing friends and family?
But suddenly everything changed. Usually a journalist goes to the news, but this week the news came to me. Israel's Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu chased me down to Sydney, and I had to leave the relaxation zone, fold up my yoga mat and return to work. (Here's a piece I wrote for new local website +61J.)
It was quite a shock to be back in the saddle, you know, actually working, but I managed to hang in there, until holiday life could resume.
Swimming in salt water is one of life’s great joys, especially in the wonderful ocean pools carved into the rocks along Sydney's coast. It's a great way to swim laps, without having to battle waves, fish - including, ahem, sharks - boats and other swimmers.
Or you can also simply sit in the water, discussing recipes, like a group of Greek grandmothers who were at Malabar pool when I was swimming there last week. It was a wonderful counterpoint to my laps. As I turned my head to breathe, I'd hear "Add sugar syrup," then I'd take a few more strokes, turn again and hear, "You can leave the jam in the freezer." Jam? In the freezer? I knew if I stopped to ask that would be the end of my exercise, so I just kept going.
Sydney's rock pools come in all shapes, sizes and locations. They were mostly built in the 1920s and 1930s. It's hard to imagine any local council setting aside prime beach-front real estate for the general public these days. But back then they did, and we are the beneficiaries.
This trip I've discovered the ocean pool at Dee Why, on Sydney's Northern beaches, which has a magical aspect all the way out to the horizon, as well as fulfilling all my criteria: 50 metre pool, free entry and parking right outside.
Perfect, no matter what the weather.
AND AFTER THE POOL - THE CAFE
And when you've finished your laps and want a reward, there’s a world-class health food cafe just across the road.
Organic, some vegan, some gluten free - they mix it all up, with great success at Girdler's at Dee Why. Raw food bowls, crispy pancake packages with different fillings - the one we had was filled with field mushrooms, avocado, greens and fetta, and absolutley delicious. (And buckwheat flour, so it was gf.)
Plus most important of all they don't neglect the caffeine. Or lecture you about not having milk if that's what you want.
We didn't really need dessert - do you ever? - but the sweet pancakes were irresistible.
It could be time to pack up and move to the Northern beaches!
Last week I also met up with Food is Love grandmother Lena Goldstein, who is now 98 years old, and remains sharp, feisty and funny. And she's still baking!
It is always a pleasure - and inspiring - to see Lena.
Our exciting news here at Food is Love is that we are starting to work on our book gathering the recipes and life stories of the grandmothers from this blog. Will keep you posted on our progress!
DUCK + CABBAGE
It’s back to very European recipes this week, baked duck and braised red cabbage.
The recipes come from Food is Love grandmothers, Rita Ross and Ruth Scheuer, friends who live not far from each other in Melbourne, the great foodie capital of Australia, and who've been cooking for one another for decades.
Ruth Scheuer’s recipe is for a whole duck slathered in garlic and drizzled with honey before it's baked. Rita also cooks duck, baked in pieces on a bed of onions, and brushed with hoi sin sauce. (See recipe here. ) She serves it with braised red cabbage and rice into which she folds spinach and a little Parmesan.
This week we’re making Ruth’s duck and Rita’s cabbage – a very fine combination
Rita Ross and Ruth Scheuer met when they were young married women in Melbourne in the 1960s. They didn’t talk much about the past as they were looking ahead, migrant women intent on building new lives in Australia.
It was only years later that they realised how similar their family stories were.
Both are from Poland, and both were young Jewish children living in hiding as during World War Two.
Rita was sheltered from the Nazis, along with her parents, by a courageous Polish couple: engineer Anton Klimek and his German-born wife Lucia. On the outskirts of Warsaw, in the village of Wolomin, the Klimeks hid 2 Jewish families in their tiny attic – saving six lives in all.
Not far away, in another village on the outskirts of Warsaw, Ruth was living with her mother Genia and sister Celina. Her father organised false papers for his wife; they identified her as a Christian woman, and enabled her to leave the town where she was known, "hide" her Jewishness and live with her 2 daughters amongst their Polish neighbours.
But the fear of discovery was always there. Ruth and her mother and sister had to re-locate as soon as anyone suspected they were Jewish. The tension of months on the run like that was almost unbearable. Discovery would mean death for them.
In Rita’s case, discovery would also mean death for the Polish family hiding them.
Rita and her parents survived the War, thanks to the courage and generosity of the Kilmeks.
Ruth, her mother Genia and sister Celina also survived, though her father did not.
Both families ended up migrating to Australia after World War Two, refugees determined to start life over.
While their stories were similar, talking about all of this was not easy.
Rita says she pushed her past away for decades; it was only 50 years after the war that she returned to Poland to retrace her life story and to try to find the family who saved her. Now she returns year after year, friends once again with the daughter of her rescuer, the girl with whom she slept head to toe in a bed for 3 years, during the Nazi occupation of Poland.
Both women cook for their families – and for each other.
“Rita’s husband Bill loves my bigos,” says Ruth with satisfaction, referring to a Polish sauerkraut and sausage dish which is one of her specialites. (You can see Ruth's recipe for Bigos here on this blog.)
“Garlic is the keynote of my cooking, my secret ingredient, except that it’s not a secret of course… people know you’ve used it, but I use it in large quantities, and no one can ever pick that, it just makes everything tasty,” says Ruth
When she says large quantities, she means it. Ruth uses 3-4 heads of garlic, minced in a food processor, in this dish!
Ruth’s Duck Bakedwith Garlic and Honey
- 1 medium duck - 2 kilos; in Australia, size 20
- 3 full heads garlic, crushed with 1 teaspoon salt and a little oil
- 1 apple, unpeeled, chopped into 6 slices
- 1 orange
- ½ onion
- 6 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled, but remaining whole
1. Peel cloves from 3 heads of garlic, and mince in a food processor, with 1 teaspoon salt and a little oil, to make a paste. Clean the duck, then pat dry and sprinkle with salt, inside and out.
2. Fill the duck’s stomach with the apple slices, half an onion, half an orange. (Reserve the other half for squeezing over the duck before it goes into the oven)
3. Cover the duck thickly with garlic – very thickly, couldn’t believe it the first time I saw it! – a crust half an inch / 1.2 cm thick. You are basically plastering the duck with garlic.
4. Put the duck in a baking dish, with potatoes and garlic scattered around.
5. Squeeze the remaining orange half over the top of the duck, and drizzle with some honey
6. Do not add oil – the duck will release its own fat during cooking. In fact, it will release so much that you will have to pour it off after 60-90 minutes.
“In Europe they kept the duck fat to use later, but I just throw it out,” says Ruth.
7. Cook in a medium oven, 180 degrees, for 3-4 hours
8. Optional: You can place orange slices on the garlic to make it more festive.
Ruth likes to cook it till the duck looks almost black, and meltingly tender inside. Serve with the potatoes from the pan. And the braised cabbage below
SYDNEY TEST KITCHEN
I made this duck on one of those inferno-hot days Sydney has been enduring this summer, almost certain that I was crazy, and that no-one would want to eat it.
Well, I may have been crazy, but it turned out that everybody wanted to eat it, as it was delicious, and surprisingly, not particularly garlicky. Ruth was right about that!
It was not difficult to prepare, once you'd made the garlic paste (and peeled all those garlic cloves!) I tried to put paste on both sides of the duck, so that I could turn it over half way. This turned out to be not such a good plan, as the garlic on the bottom side simply fell off. It's better to follow Ruth's instructions, and to pile all the garlic on top and cook it sitting up.
If you want to turn it over, it would be better to reserve half the garlic and add it at that point.
Draining the fat half way through was not difficult, especially since this (surprising) duck did not produce a lot of oil. Nor did it go as dark as Ruth's did, but luckily that didn't seem to affect the taste!
I didn't bake potatoes with it, since I had sub-contracted that job to our family's Queen of Baked Potatoes, who always produces a perfect batch, crispy outside, soft inside. Actually, now I think of it, we will have to include her recipe here soon too.
VERDICT: This is a great duck recipe. In deference to the heat, we ate it at room temperature and that was good too. I'm not a huge duck fan, but this was moist, not too fatty and really tasty. And it was perfect with Rita's red cabbage, which was tart and fresh.
Rita’s Braised Red Cabbage
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 small red cabbage, or ½ large red cabbage, finely shredded.
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
- 2 green apples, unpeeled, cored and chopped roughly
- ½ lemon, juice and rind
1. Fry the onion till transparent.
2. Shred the cabbage add to pan, with 2 tablespoons vinegar so that it won't go brown.
3. Throw in the roughly chopped apples, and the juice of ½ a lemon. Add the rind, which you will later remove.
4. Add salt and pepper to taste, Cook covered for 90 mins, over a low-medium flame. Check every so often to make sure it isn't catching on the bottom. Don't forget to remove the lemon rind before you serve.
SYDNEY TEST KITCHEN
I love this dish. It's easy to prepare, healthy and delicious, great as an accompaniment to duck or on its own. The apples melt into the cabbage leaving a sour-sweet mixture, with a lovely colour. And a strong personality, if you know what I mean.
Am wondering if half a teaspoon of caraway seeds might add even more European oomph. I’m not a great fan of caraway seeds, but I remember how much flavour they added to the beef goulash we made on this blog one year ago. Next time!
Turmeric - Update
Each week there’s an advance the turmeric front.
First I discovered it in the Jerusalem markets and started adding it to lots of dishes, since the fresh yellow-orange root is such an improvement on the powdered stuff. Then I came to Sydney, and discovered it at the grocers here too. And last week, Food is Love photographer Dave Mane raided his organic garden and brought over a few turmeric plants.
Couldn’t believe my eyes! Such a lavish plant - with impressive flowers - grows on top of a relatively small root, which is all we want from it. Dave’s Organic is paler in colour and a little sharper in taste than the orangey one I’d been buying, and I happily add it to everything.
Wonder how it would go in the duck - or even the cabbage? Yes, I accept I may be turning into a turmeric tragic...