Saturday, June 18, 2011

Weekend Cooking: Who taught you to cook?

From page 182 of In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming

Dinner was a lamb stew thick with winter vegetables, garnished with Parmesan. He went through half the loaf of golden-crusted bread sopping up the sauce. "Where'd you learn to cook like this?" he asked between mouthfuls.

"My grandmother Fergusson. We went to live with her and Pawpaw when I was seven. I was a handful. A tomboy in a household of Southern ladies and mad at the world to boot. One day she caught me dropping eggs off the veranda to see what would happen to 'em. She marched me into the kitchen and tied about an acre of apron around me and said, "I'm going to teach you to put those eggs to better use, missy." She smiled. "First thing she taught me to make was meringue. Talk about starting at the top."

The other day at work I was talking to one of my colleagues and we were talking about whether we like to cook and about how that love or otherwise is fostered by our mother and grandmother. She talked about how both her mother and grandmother are fantastic cooks but that she never felt the need to cook because she knew they would do it for her. She claims to not be able to cook anything. One of my other colleagues talked about how her mother made fantastic cakes and slices etc and so does she, but Monday to Friday cooking is something she doesn't enjoy.

I didn't learn to cook at my mother's knee, and I can't remember much about my grandmother's cooking.
My mother is at best a functional cook. There was no flair, no enjoyment, not much care. Apparently she used to cook for a group of sheep shearers, and my dad insists that he taught her to cook (and he is a fantastic cook so I could see this happening) but it seems as though as soon as they broke up, she just forgot it all!

My brother, sister and I have so many stories that we regale our friends with when we start talking about food. We could talk about the severely out of date food in the cupboards which means that when we go to Adelaide we always buy new food because you just have no idea what you could find in that cupboard. We could talk about the endless meals of something with mashed potatoes and peas - could be sausages, mutton chops, pasties, but there would always be mashed potatoes and peas. We could talk about the fact that if she bought some nice fruit we would eat it very quickly and she would say "I am not buying any more fruit, it just gets eaten", so then she would buy the cheapest, nastiest fruit which wouldn't get eaten so then her comment would be "I am not buying more fruit because it doesn't get eaten."

One of our favourite stories though is Chicken Ping. I have briefly mentioned chicken ping before in the comments to this post. It was a dish that was served up regularly in our house!You haven't heard of chicken ping before? Let me enlighten you.

This dish was christened Chicken Ping by my brother in law after this was what he was served up the first time he ever ate at our house. I was living in the UK at that point so missed this night, but we have all been dining out on the story ever since!

Take the cheapest whole chicken you can find.

Douse liberally in soy sauce (because that will make the skin at least look a bit brown).

Place in the microwave for 15 mins (always 15 mins. You never change the time to allow for coldness of the chicken, or the different sizes or anything like that)

When the microwave goes PING! it is done.

Serve, usually with lumpy mashed potatoes and peas!

As the story goes, my brother in law cut into his still raw chicken and started thinking oh my goodness what am I doing here! After that they only ever went to his house for dinner because his mother is an excellent cook!

Anyway, enough mother stories for now.

I thought in light of the character's comment above, I would share a recipe for Pavlova Rolls because it is meringuey. We had them at the party that I posted about last week, and they are always a hit. I actually am not all that fond of normal pavlova (which is almost unAustralian I know), but I do like these. When we make them we usually only put strawberries in, but this variation looks really yummy!

Soft Pavlova Roll with Liqueur Mascarpone

  • 1 x 250g ctn mascarpone
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) double cream
  • 1 1/2 tbs icing sugar mixture
  • 1 tbs Grand Marnier liqueur
  • 7 eggwhites
  • 1 3/4 cups (375g) caster sugar
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • 2 tsp white vinegar
  • Icing sugar mixture, extra, to dust
  • Berry compote

  • 1/3 cup (75g) caster sugar
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) water
  • 1 x 500g packet frozen raspberries, thawed
  • 2 x 250g punnets strawberries, hulled, thinly sliced
  • 1 x 150g punnet blueberries
  • 1 x 150g punnet raspberries

  1. Combine the mascarpone, cream, icing sugar and Grand Marnier in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to firm slightly.
  2. Preheat oven to 160°C. Grease and line the base of a 24 x 30cm Swiss roll pan with baking paper. Use an electric mixer to beat the egg whites in a medium bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add the caster sugar while continuously whisking. Continue whisking until thick and glossy and sugar dissolves. Add cornflour and vinegar and use a metal spoon to gently fold until just combined. Spread mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until just firm. Remove from oven and set aside for 3 minutes to stand. Lay a clean tea towel on a clean work surface. Top with a large sheet of baking paper and dust with extra icing sugar. Turn pavlova out onto baking paper and set aside for 10 minutes to cool.
  3. Spread mascarpone mixture along the long side of meringue closest to you. Carefully roll pavlova, using the paper and tea towel as a guide, to enclose filling. Keep pavlova wrapped in baking paper and tea towel. Transfer pavlova roll to a tray and place in the fridge for 3 hours or overnight to set.
  4. To make the berry compote, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Simmer for 2 minutes or until thickened slightly. Place the syrup, raspberries and their juices in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Strain though a sieve into a medium bowl. Place in an airtight container and refrigerate to chill.
  5. Transfer pavlova roll onto a serving platter. Remove paper and tea towel. Top pavlova roll with strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. Drizzle with half the raspberry coulis. Cut into slices to serve with remaining raspberry coulis.
** In the comments there is a suggestion that you could use 1 and a quarter cups of caster sugar (superfine sugar) and it is still sweet enough,  and another variation was to add rosewater to the marscapone instead of liqueur.

 Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.


  1. I think great stories are what bind families together, among other things. I love the Chicken Ping story and am glad you shared it with us.

  2. OMG, the chicken Ping story is great! 15 minutes, no matter how big, how cold...:). Love it!

  3. Hi!
    Loved the Ping story. Thanks for sharing your recipe it sounds yummy. Have a great day!

    Just Books

  4. hmmmm...think I will skip the Chicken Ping...but the Pavlova Roll sounds excellent!! I happen to love Pavlova (almost unknown in the USA, put my family in Ireland love it) and this sounds like a great take on it.

  5. Fun story. I've never heard of Pavlova but that looks delicious!

    I'm similar to you in that I learned to cook in spite of my mother cooking it only because she didn't see that she had any other choice. I had to leave home before I discovered that people truly do take pleasure in the task -- and the food improves when they do!

  6. OMG -- I loved the story of Ping Chicken. So funny and I'm extra-glad now that my mom is great cook.

    That's fantastic-sounding Pavolva. I adore it but rarely make it; this version could turn the tide. When the berries are fresh in the market, I'm going to think about this one.

  7. Oh forgot to add that I love that Spencer-Fleming series, and I think the descriptions of Clare's cooking are wonderful.

  8. My mom was also a functional cook and as I have gotten older she makes no bones about it. "You didn't starve, did you?" No, I cook for her whenver I can :)

  9. I'm going to pass on Chicken Ping, but the Pavlova is another story. Will have to give that a try. I haven't done any sort of roll cake. Thanks.