Suprise (of sorts)!

The punchline goes like this; “… and so her very-lovely-and-thoughtful husband bought her set of Propert Swift-Whip egg beaters for her birthday”. The story is; however, somewhat more complex than that phrase alone suggests!

It starts a long time ago when, on the occasion of his father’s early death, a young man, the third son, inherited his father’s repetition engineering workshop in Chatswood. While his employees trained him to be their manager – it was his humility and care for them that won their respect and loyalty. One of the regular orders they filled was for the Propert company, small components of their Swiftwhip egg beaters were formed by the metal working machinery in this factory.

The manager was my grandfather, my grandfather who would come home to his big, busy family, his hugs sprinkled with brass splinters as he helped with homework, dinner and bath time. The Swiftwhip egg beaters in our kitchen at home are not only good quality, but they stir up my mum’s memories of a happy childhood, her family and a dad who came home smelling of engine oil. When we cook together, using the beaters, she often shares these stories from her past with me. Especially now that my grandfather is no longer with us, I had begun to think that I would like a set of beaters for my kitchen, to share in this aspect of my family history. I didn’t think I had verbalised this wish until a weekly uni writing task required reflection on a food or drink related artefact and I based my work on the beaters. I shared the task with my husband and my mum, who read it to her mother. Mum and Min were especially enthusiastic, helping me to get the details right – it was special that I had the opportunity to write about something (and someone) so dear to them.

Whether or not I had voiced my interest in finding a Swiftwhip beater set before, at this point, everyone (it turns out), including me, had tuned into my interest. You can imagine my delight then, when I then discovered a set in a Pop-up antique shop in Geralton just before Christmas. I was thrilled with my purchase but a little hurt that my mum was somewhat reserved in her response – I was hoping for a little mutual celebration. My grandma was much more encouraging, texting me back quickly and asking me a few questions. When I excitedly told my husband, he almost looked disappointed and when pressed, pointed out my mistake. I had, inadvertently, broken the un-written rule of family-Christmas-and-Birthday-gift-buying-and-giving spectacularly! The rule in our family is that you can’t buy something for yourself just before either event because this is the time when when everyone else is trying to find you gifts and you may use up their ideas, or worse, ruin their surprise. Which I did.

What made it worse was that my grandmother had tried to buy a set of beaters for me too, but when Asher also bought some and told my mum, she managed to avert the first disaster by organising Min to give her set to someone else. Either way I would have spoiled the surprise with my spontaneous purchase!

What made it funny was that one of Asher’s student’s had given him something very similar to what I had for him for Christmas (a gift I knew he would love) – so we were both in the position of being a little disappointed that our lovely surprise gifts were both spoiled ahead of time!

In the end, really, the rigmarole has only made my two sets of Propert Swiftwhip beaters more precious. People precious to me had heard my wish for beaters that were precious to my family and now we have some in our kitchen, plus an extra set! I imagine that this story will be told again, over a bowl of eggs beaten for custard or egg-and-bacon-pasta, to our kids in the kitchen. I hope I will be able to hand on a heritage of happy family memories and shared time in the kitchen to our kids too, maybe even some decent beaters as well.

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How to make a birthday

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When it’s for this particular muso there must be lots of instruments, lots of friends and family and lots of good food. We celebrated another year of Asher with pizza, playing and partying last week and it seemed to come off! People seemed happy and relaxed, enjoying all the different aspects of the night. The birthday boy was pretty wrapt … it may not be last birthday we celebrate like that! Special thanks to my dad for teaching me about all things yeast, including this particular recipe. I’ve even adapted his instructions here. If you would like to make some pizzas like his/ours (or really, like Donna Hays – see Issue 8, Autumn 2003 for the original recipe) read on …

Makes 3-4 thin based pizzas or 2-3 thicker based pizzas. For a family of 5 we often doubled it. 7 batches worked well for this party and there were 20-25 people.

Ingredients:
2 teasp active dry yeast
½ teasp sugar
1 cup warm water
2 ½ C Plain Flour (approx 360g) (doesn’t need to have very high Protein)
1 teasp Salt (6g)

Toppings:
Tomato pasta sauce (or a mixture of this, tinned tomatoes and tomato paste) + Bocconcini cheese + Basil leaves
Basil Pesto + pan fried chicken thighs + shaved parmesan + rosemary leaves
Dad also likes doing garlic + olive oil + rosemary leaves + parmesan and its a bit of a winner too!

Method:
1. Put yeast, sugar and water into a small in a small bowl, mix to combine. Let sit for a few minutes. Check for bubbles – if there are none, the yeast is dead and you need to find more yeast! Otherwise continue …
2. Put the salt and flour into a bigger bowl, pour in the water mixture and then mix till a dough forms. Knead this for 5-10 minutes. Divide the dough into 3-4 (2-3) balls.
3. Preheat oven to 2200C (2100C fan forced).
4. Let this rest for 30mins-2hours (if you are that patient, 30mins is fine though!). Dad says to cover with a damp cloth, I just covered mine with glad wrap. Either will be fine.
5. Roll out each one to desired shape – round or rectangular, on a floured surface if necessary. Dad says in his instructions to get them as thin as you can. I like mine a bit thicker I think, I let them stay about 1-1.5cm thick and they were great too. Depends on which result you want! Thin and crispy or thick and doughy! At this point Dad also makes a border round the edge, pressing with his fingers … its does work, I just didn’t do it this time and it was also fine. Follow your intuition!
6. Spread with desired toppings and cook for 12-15 minutes or till golden and crispy on top and toppings are looking and smelling very tasty!
7. Cut into several slices (we do rectangle pieces – a pizza cutter and or kitchen scissors work well) and share!

Rising to the Occasion: Pavlova

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My mum-in-law had a birthday a while back and now, with a uni course on celebrating with food, and having enjoyed cooking a couple of other desserts recently, I decided it was really time to post these lovely pictures of the Pavlova I made for the family dinner held in honour of her day!

Ingredients:
4 egg whites
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 tsp white vinegar
300mL thickened cream
250g strawberries
2 nectarines
2 plums
1/4 cup raspberry jam
3/4 cup water

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 130°C. Line oven tray with baking paper, dust with cornflour.
2. Ideally you would beat eggwhites with electric mixer until soft peaks form, then start to gradually add sugar, beating until sugar dissolves. I forgot this in the heat of the moment and was relieved to discover that when I beat them up anyhow a meringue still formed! This doesn’t always happen though … best to do it as the recipe prescribes! Once all the sugar has been beaten in, add extract and vinegar; beat a little more until combined.
3. Spread meringue in an attractive looking circular shape on the baking paper, building up a disk of meringue with an even thickness and smoothing the ‘walls’ making decorative grooves round the sides of the Pavlova.
4. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours and then let the Pavlova cool in the oven with the door ajar.
5. Slice up the strawberries, nectarines and plums. Combine and set aside till serving time.
6. Add the jam and water to a small pot, stir over a medium heat till jam has disolved and melted into the water making a runny pink sauce.
7. Just before dessert time, whip the cream to soft peaks, spread over the pavlova, sprinkle with fruit and drizzle over with raspberry sauce. Enjoy with a few other hungry friends or family!