Category Archives: Home Kitchen

Elva’s Cumquat Marmalade

Soaking cumquats for marmalade

She grew up on a dairy farm in Victoria, the young tomboy in a big family. Her daredevil antics and love of fun didn’t wane with age. Elva had a wonderfully joyous laugh like falling water, a technique for posing elegantly in photographs and was generous in looking after the elderly ones in her neighbourhood, even though she was older than many of them.

Her cooking repertoire ran to roasts, Yorkshire pudding, fish pies, scones and excellent Victoria sponges. Good honest English fare and favourite PWMU cookbook slices and biscuits. Those patty cake tins you see at markets and garage sales? The essential equipment for her much-loved rock cakes or ‘cookies’. Baffled by exotic vegetables, I recall, perhaps secondhandledly, her disappointed comments after cooking some eggplants she was given. “I peeled them and scraped out the seeds and steamed them. I don’t know what people see in the things!”, or words to that effect. When it came to cooking a stir fry, Elva with her practical outlook on life saw no reason not to add a cucumber when a zucchini was unavailable.

I remember the house Elva and Ron owned in Tallangatta, on the way to the Snowy Mountains and overlooking the Hume Weir. Ron had his inventions, his canoe, his fishing boat and his Fred Astaire movies, his love of singing, particularly Bing Crosby songs and his ever expanding photo collection featuring snaps of family and their many, many friends. Elva’s show winning canaries and her vegetable garden, reliably producing humorously gnarled carrots are fond memories, as are her potted cumquat trees. She started with one cumquat tree, a gift from my mother. ‘Get outta those cumquats you kids!’ she’d call as small chubby hands grabbed at the brightly coloured precious fruit. Tallangatta doesn’t provide the most hospitable climate for citrus trees and furry white clouds of aphids were a problem too. A small amount of her favourite marmalade would be made if the season was favourable, sometimes supplemented with fruit grown by others, even purchased if need be.

As their bones grew older and their considerable brood of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren began to migrate north, Ron and Elva left behind the cold winters of north east Victoria for sunnier climes in Brisbane. In time, a cumquat tree was planted. And it flourished in a way Elva’s cumquat trees never could in Tallangatta.

I’m not sure of Elva’s marmalade recipe, because the first crop of fruit came after she passed away. I’m not sure where her fondness for cumquat marmalade, obsession even, began. Perhaps it was her mother, Nanny Walker, a keen cook and gardener who planted the seeds back on the family property in Warragul. Perhaps it was when she was a cook at Methodist Ladies’ College in Kew or when she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force during the Second World War. Perhaps she simply enjoyed marmalade. She always did like the good things in life, particularly if they went well with butter or cream.

I thought someone should make the marmalade last year. There was so much fruit that I made it twice. Two different ways, neither of them quite like Elva’s marmalade. I don’t know if she had a written recipe, it wasn’t really her way of doing things. I used Stephanie Alexander’s method from The Cook’s Companion as a guide, enjoying the quiet and diffuse happiness of washing, slicing and de-seeding the cumquats. The silent panic over whether it would set. There was a lot of marmalade when I was done, more than I could eat myself. So I gave some of it my family, some to my friends and tucked some away in the bottom of an old cupboard. This week I’m swapping some for a jar of pickled onions. Last year I swapped some for a bottle of wine.

Soon it will be time to pick the cumquats again. To slow down and enjoy some time reflecting on my memories of Elva, her generosity and love of life and to pass on her love of cumquat marmalade to others.

Olfactory Journeys To The Past

Fancy Tasmania ApplesThe AM radio hisses, then the signal gets clearer.  ‘You know where I was when this one came out?’ he says as the opening notes of Roy Orbison’s ‘Only The Lonely’ play.  ‘I was in Tasmania picking apples’.  This is my dad speaking, who links all his best memories as a young man to the hits of the day.

I’m kind of the same, but for me its not just the tunes, but the smells as well.  My mum’s velvet soap and cammomile Grassroots woolwash mixed with the woollen kilt and jumper that was my school uniform.  Lanolin, mud and straw from my Uncle’s farm and my Grandma’s dusty old coat I wore on winter holidays there. Eucalyptus, fresh cow pats and crisp mountain air in the Alpine Valleys; hops in the sun, malt on the stove and steaming sterilsed beer bottles of Dad’s homebrew production line.  My Nanny’s Yorkshire pud with beef dripping from the pan, mashed parnsips and a spoonful of molasses for each day you stayed over at their house by the Hume Weir.

Access to these sorts of memories via a snatch of a familiar tune or the scent of times, places and people past is a highly personal experience, often difficult to put into words. But the rush of memories can make your pulse quicken and leave you short of breath.

One of the first meals I found truly exciting was my mum’s Osso Bucco.  She didn’t make it really that often, and despite my parents strained relationship, I think it was something my Dad particularly enjoyed too.  Somewhere, I have the page out of her battered Women’s Weekly cook book which was the genesis for this favourite dish.  She served it with ‘smashed’ potatoes – a decidedly plain take on classic mash – made with lumpily mashed greying boiled spuds, powdered skim milk and a small amount of butter, a sort of Depression era style that ensured the meal was cheap to make.  And that’s really what Osso Bucco is, a way to make something luxe and complex from simple ingredients and a cheap cut of meat.

I make a version of this whenever I can buy some veal shin, the cut known in Italian as ‘osso bucco’, or ‘bone with a hole’ owing to the marrow filled bone at the centre of each slice of meat.  Here’s how it goes, approximately.


Olive oil

1 brown onion, finely diced

2 carrots, sliced

2 – 3 sticks of celery, finely diced

5 – 6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1.5 kg of veal shin, cut into slices (ask your butcher for Osso Bucco)

2 tablespoons of tomato paste

1 cup of wine (traditionally white, red is fine too)

2 cups of beef stock

2 tins of Italian tomatoes

3 springs of thyme

3 thick strips of lemon peel

Flour, salt and pepper

For gremolata

Zest of 1 lemon

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 – 3 tablespoons of parsley, finely chopped


Combine enough flour, salt and pepper to toss the meat in before cooking.  Heat olive oil over high heat in a heavy pan, like Le Creuset or similar.  Brown the veal in batches on all sides and set aside.

Heat a good glug of olive oil in the same pan, cook the onion, then the garlic, carrot and celery for 5 minutes or until coloured and softening.  Add the some wine to deglaze the pan.  Add stock, tomatoes, wine, thyme and lemon peel and then veal pieces to the pan, taking care to stand them up so the marrow doesn’t fall out.  Bring the mixture to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered to 2.5 – 3 hours, or transfer to the oven at around 140 degrees C.  Adjust seasoning as required.

Combine the gremolata ingredients in a bowl. Serve with creamy polenta or mash, and sprinkle gremolata over the Osso Bucco.

The gremolata transforms what could be another boring casserole, lifting the flavours and delivering a fresh acid hit that highlights the complex flavours of the sauce.

Serve with a glass of pinot and imagine there’s a crackling fire and tunes loaded with memories and longing.  Enjoy.

Home Kitchen: Creamed Horseradish Sauce & Yorkshire Pudding

“Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” – Kate Moss

No Kate, nothing tastes as good as fat, sugar and salt.  This Holy Trinity carry and enhance flavour.  Give me a flat white with all the fat of organic unhomogenised milk and a generous teaspoon of brown sugar, duck fat potatoes with salt flakes and home made ice cream with nothing but eggs, cream, sugar and plenty of good quality chocolate and I’m happy.

I grew up just short of vegetarian, but made an exception for locally made salumi, bratwurst, cheese and the like.  Butter always went right to the edges, quickly followed by peanut butter, passionfruit butter or avocado, a sort of competition to see how much fat you could get on a single slice. 

Although I can only get through a few thin slices of meat, I still look forward to a roast.  Root vegetables, horseradish cream sauce and a good Yorkshire pudding is my idea of a bloody good feed.  Followed of course by something excellent for dessert.  So here are my recipes for Yorkshire pud and horseradish cream sauce.  Enjoy! 

Horseradish Cream Sauce

  • 300 ml beef stock
  • 220 ml pure cream
  • 2 generous tablespoons of grated horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Whack all ingredients in a saucepan with a heavy base, bring to the boil and simmer over medium heat until a good sauce consistency is reached, then season to taste. In my experience, this will take about an hour.

Beef stock – in a perfect world you would make your own beef stock.  In the real world Campbells Ready Stock, sold in the supermarket in a long life pack is a decent substitute. 

Horseradish – Even if you grow your own horseradish, foraging for the fresh stuff it is a tricky business.  It is not readily available to purchase fresh either.  You can purchase Heinz Epicure Horseradish from the supermarket, its in a jar with a yellow lid and lives either with the mustard or with the jars of garlic and ginger, depending on which supermarket you are at.  If you time it right, you can sometimes pick up a nice bit of fresh horseradish root from a market.

Yorkshire Pudding

  • 90 g self raising flour
  • 90 g plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 375 ml milk
  • Beef dripping

Combine flours in a bowl and make a well in the centre.  Whisk in beaten eggs, then slowly whisk in milk.  Season to taste and stand at room temperature until ready to use.  Place 1 tablespoon of hot beef dripping in the base of 12 large heated muffin tins and pour in batter mixture to come three quarters up the side of the tin.  Bake at 225 C for 20 – 25 minutes until well puffed and browned.