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Crimes against pizza – 3. Banana pizza

14 Nov

Someone, maybe this guy, once put pineapple on a pizza and, for some strange reason, it stuck. The Hawaiian is a much derided but long-established pizza tradition. At the Australian Women’s Weekly, some bright spark thought they might have the same success with bananas, and so they put salty fish, savoury tomatoes, stringy cheese and sweet bananas together on a buttery bread base. It did not stick, it just stunk, and, as a result, is our third documented case in the crimes against pizza series…

Banana pizza

Crime number 3: Banana Pizza

Accomplice: Australian Women’s Weekly, in a special Banana Cook Book, which may, or may not, have been advertorial.

Date of crime: Wednesday 25 February 1970

Modus Operandi:

Yeast Dough

1 ½ cups plain flour
pinch salt
½ oz. compressed yeast
½ teaspoon sugar
¼ cup milk
1 beaten egg
1 oz. butter or substitute

Filling

½lb. tomatoes
1 small can anchovy fillets
little milk
1 dessertspoon oil
½ teaspoon oregano
1 small onion
¼ cup tomato paste
4 oz. grated gruyere cheese
2 medium bananas

Yeast Dough: Sift flour and salt into bowl, add sugar. Dissolve crumbled yeast in warmed milk, add beaten egg. Stir yeast mixture into dry ingredients, blend well. Cream butter and work it into the dough. Cover bowl and stand in warm place 40 minutes or until doubled in bulk. Press dough into 9in. pie plate or on to base of 9 in. sandwich tin.

Filling: Peel and slice tomatoes. Soak anchovy fillets in a little milk ½ hour; drain. Heat oil in frying pan, add chopped onion and oregano fry 2 to 3 minutes. Place tomato slices in centre of dough. Arrange peeled and sliced bananas in a ring round edge. Spread tomato paste over them. Sprinkle with fried onion and grated cheese, arrange anchovy fillets on top. Bake in hot oven 30 minutes. Serves 4.

Evidence: See image above. Plus this quote:

Banana Pizza, a new variation of this popular dish, combines the good flavor of bananas with cheese, tomatoes, and anchovy.

Verdict: You can make the presentation as pretty as you like, but once you’ve spread bananas with tomato paste you’ve gone rogue. The banana pizza is guilty of badly imitating an already dubious trend – that of combining fruit with savoury ingredients, as well as claiming such a concoction to be edible.

Sentence: Rehabilitation. Get rid of the fish, cheese and tomato paste, replace with nutella, chuck bananas on top of it and call it a dessert pizza. Not traditional, but, unlike the previous incarnation, actually pretty delicious.

See more Crimes against pizza

Bibliography:

  • “Banana Cook Book.” The Australian Women’s Weekly, 25 February 1970, 127.

Why drink espresso when you can wear it?

8 Nov

With “real coffee aroma” in every lipstick, we can’t understand why Max Factor’s Cafe Espresso Lipcolor range is no longer around…

Max Factor Cafe Espresso Lipstick

Bibliography:

“Cafe Espresso Colors.” Australian Women’s Weekly, 13 April 1960, p 27. 

Crimes against pizza – 2. Copha Pizza

4 Nov

I don’t know about you but when I see the words “Real Italian Pizza” I don’t expect them to be followed by “made in minutes – with Copha!”

Real Italian Pizza made with Copha

It’s not that I object to that greasy white slab of 100% fat. Copha does have a place in society – and that’s hardening the young ‘uns arteries in party treats like chocolate crackles and white Christmas. It certainly should not be in pizza dough, especially not with Deb Instant Potato Flakes and 1 cup of boiling milk. Seriously, I couldn’t make this stuff up. It’s not just wrong, it’s, well, criminal:

Crime number 2: Copha Pizza

Accomplice: Australian Women’s Weekly (for all the good AWW has done for Australian food, they’ve certainly done their fair share of bad…)

Date of crime: Wednesday 24th April 1968

Motive: With 97 – 100% saturated fat, surely it’s to make more of us have heart attacks. And sell more copha. And sell more Deb Instant Potato Flakes.

Modus Operandi:

Neapolitan Pizza

DOUGH:
3 oz. Copha, chopped
1 level tspn. salt
1 cup (8 oz.) boiling milk
¾ cup Deb Instant Potato Flakes
1 egg
2 cups S.R flour
TOPPING:
1 large tomato chopped
1 x 5 oz. can Rosella Tomato Paste
1 level tspn. each of salt, basil, oregano
1 can anchovy fillets
6 olives
3 tblspns grated Picorino (sic) cheese

METHOD

DOUGH: Place Copha, salt and boiling milk into a basin and stir until Copha is melted. Mix through Deb Flakes. Cool. Beat in egg, then flour and form a dough. Knead lightly on a floured board, divide into six portions. Press out each portion of dough thinly until it is 5” diameter. Place onto greased oven tray. Spread with topping and decorate with anchovy fillets, sliced olives and cheese. Bake in a hot oven (500°F, electric, 450°F gas) for 15 minutes.

TOPPING: Place tomato, tomato paste, salt and herbs into a saucepan. Heat together for 3 minutes, cool.

Evidence: Instructions for Copha Pizza

Pizza made with Copha

Verdict: Guilty of six counts of perverting the integrity of pizza – use of Copha, use of Instant mashed potatoes, use of the words “Real Italian Pizza”, calling the recipe “Neapolitan pizza”, incorrect spelling of pecorino (picorino) and claiming the dish to be “delizioso”.

Sentence: Chocolate crackles should not have to pay the price for this crime so the sentence is suspended on condition of never seeing Copha claiming a place in a regional Italian recipe ever again. Or any recipe outside of chocolate crackles and white Christmas, for that matter.

See more Crimes against pizza

Bibliography:

  • “Real Italian Pizza made in minutes – with Copha!” Australian Women’s Weekly,  24th April 1968, p 64.

Crimes against pizza – 1. Vita Brits Pizza

2 Nov
Vita Brits Pizza

Vita Brits Pizza - A criminal act?

For too long now, the pizza – that most humble of Neapolitan inventions – has been the target of overzealous recipe writers, “creative” chefs and idiot advertising types who think it is best made with canned dough and served with teriyaki sauce, chicken, pineapple, and both fetta and cheddar cheese.

While there have been many moves to defend the pizza, mostly from Italians concerned that their culinary heritage is being destroyed, little has been done to name and shame the worst perpetrators of these horrifying and indecent acts.

Over the next few weeks, this special Lamingtons & Lasagna investigation promises to open cold cases where the rights of the pizza were trampled over, its victim impact statement never heard. Until now, that is.

While Lamingtons & Lasagna does not advocate a return to culinary luddism – where what was authentic was sometimes even deadly – the “pizzas” in this series have jumped the shark, or, as the kids these days might say, nuked the fridge, from imaginative interpretations to crimes against cuisine.

So, without further ado:

Crime number 1: Vita Brits Pizza

Accomplice: Australian Women’s Weekly

Date of crime: Wednesday 15 October 1958

Motive: There’s only so much money a company can make selling breakfast food for breakfast. But if they give you “delicious, new round-the-clock recipes” which mean you can enjoy “different and delicious luncheon or supper treats”, then they can make a lot more money.

Modus Operandi: “Butter VITA BRITS (use one or two VITA BRITS per serve) and place them on a greased oven tray. Place thin slices of cheese on each VITA BRIT. Cover this with a little well-drained tinned tomato, or peeled fresh tomato slices. Season with salt and pepper and top with another thin slice of cheese; dot with a very little butter. Bake in moderate oven about 10 minutes or until cheese has melted and slightly browned. If desired anchovies may be added (one fillet for each serve).”

Evidence: Vita Brits Pizza

Verdict: Guilty

Sentence: Never eat Vita Brits again (which is fine, because I prefer Weet-Bix anyway).

See more Crimes against pizza

Bibliography:

  • “Delicious, new round the clock recipes.” The Australian Women’s Weekly, 15 October 1958, 75.

Australian ricotta – Part 2

9 Mar
Dairy Board Ad

It's a carnival of Australian cheese and ricotta is well and truly on the float. From The Australian Women's Weekly 10 October 1973.

The 1970s open for ricotta with still more advertising from the Australian Dairy Board who are seemingly obsessed not only with making sure that we know it is “Australian Cheese. The most protein for the least money”, but also how on earth to pronounce it. Say after me everyone: ri-co-tta. Now that wasn’t so hard was it?

Perhaps it’s understandable that the ADB was keen for us to have a firm understanding of what ricotta was, because in the 70s and 80s, the cheese suffered from a bad case of SMD – schizophrenic media disorder – especially in The Australian Women’s Weekly.

First it was bad for our heart. In a 1975 article entitled A Doctor’s Advice on How to Avoid a Heart Attack, Dr Irving Levitas, the man who made sure smoking was never the same according to the author of the article, makes it clear ricotta is bad news:

There are a number of cheeses made with skim milk, including mozzarella and a Norwegian cheese called Jarlsberg. You don’t have to stop serving lasagna, for instance; just substitute skim-milk mozzarella and leave out the ricotta cheese.

 In 1977, however, the Australian Dairy Board (those guys again), made us an offer we couldn’t refuse:

 We promise to keep your food interest high, your calorie intake low with these tasty and delicious Dairy ideas.

 Ricotta was part of the promise and the ad suggests eating ricotta as a dip or mixed in with fruits like strawberries, pears, pineapples or melons.

Diet Dairy Foods

Dairy dieting with ricotta. From The Australian Women's Weekly, 7 December 1977.

Ricotta’s status as a diet friendly food seems to explode from this point onwards. If you wanted to follow the diet plan in How to be Forever Thin in 1976 you could have “1 medium size serving of ricotta or cottage cheese”.

In a 1981 Weight Watchers article trumpeting foods which were “off the banned list and on the programme”, you were allowed 1/3 cup ricotta cheese with a ½ cup of  grapefruit segments, a slice of toast, a teaspoon of margarine and a beverage for breakfast on Day 6.

While ricotta was firmly entrenched by the early eighties as the dieter’s friend, we also see it feature in several fatty friendly forms – the ricotta cake, pastry and slice – hence the schizophrenia.

In 1977, Mrs C.L Angelico of North Ringwood, Victoria won $15 for her “not too sweet” Italian ricotta cake. It was quite different from the 1979 Italian ricotta cake recipe in an “All Occasion Cakes” feature which called for packet chocolate cake mix and lashings of Grand Marnier. 

Italian ricotta cake made from a chocolate cake packet mix... just like in Italy! From The Australian Women's Weekly, 1 August 1979.

In 1978, it’s Miss J Kaufler of Haberfield, NSW’s turn to claim the $15 prize for “a rich, buttery pastry (which) holds an unusual filling of ricotta cheese, cherries and nuts.”

The lesson out of all of this? Ricotta will make you lose weight. Unless you add a bucket of flour, sugar, eggs, milk and chocolate. Then it won’t. Really, I should’ve been a nutritional scientist with deductions like that…

There might be a part 3 in the next few weeks to bring ricotta up to the present day, but if you missed the first sizzling instalment, be sure to check out Australian ricotta – Part 1.

“Australian Fresh Cheeses Explained,” The Australian Women’s Weekly, 10 October 1973, 45.
Guinness, Daphne, “A Doctor’s Advice on How to Avoid a Heart Attack.” The Australian Women’s Weekly, 20 August 1975, 18-19.
“Low calorie, high interest (it’s dairy dieting).” The Australian Women’s Weekly, 7 December 1977, 166.
“How to be forever thin.” The Australian Women’s Weekly, 6 October 1976,  25-26.
“Prize recipe.” The Australian Women’s Weekly, 15 June 1977, 87.
“Prize recipe.” The Australian Women’s Weekly, 5 April 1978, page 98.
“All Occasion Cakes,” The Australian Women’s Weekly, 1 August 1979, 86
“Weight Watchers Magazine Supplement.” The Australian Women’s Weekly, 10 June 1981, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10.

Australian ricotta – Part 1

25 Feb

Some people understand the cost of living by the price of bread or milk or McDonald’s hamburgers. For me, it’s ricotta. A staple in my kitchen, I could not live without the stuff. Fresh, soft and still warm, I cannot resist scooping a few teaspoonfuls out of the container while I’m putting away the shopping. Days later, I’ll eat it with jam or honey on toast, with spinach in a pie, on spaghetti with eggplant and tomato, or stirred through pasta, made into a sauce with a bit of hot water, a handful of parmesan, a grating of nutmeg and a sprinkle of pepper. Comfort food at its best.

 But back to the index. When I lived in Leichhardt, in Sydney’s inner west, I used to buy ricotta for around $7.99 a kilo.

Later, when married life saw me move to the food wasteland that is Maroubra Beach, I had to make the admittedly-short journey to Maroubra Junction where I paid a shocking $10.99 a kilo.

Still, I realised I was better off than the poor ricotta-ripped off in Manly who were paying $15.99 a kilo. As for David Jones, in the city, they were suffering and continue to suffer similar stupid prices for a product that is not even a cheese – rather it’s a by-product of it.

In Melbourne, my home town, at the much loved Footscray Market, you can get it for $4.99 a kilo. And that, right there, is why I’m moving back to Melbourne.

All of this, however, got me thinking about when this most versatile of dairy products made its debut in the great brown land of Australia.

 The first mention of it I have found is in Tasmania’s daily newspaper, The Mercury, in 1930. In a short account of Christmas in Rome, the author describes the meal on Christmas Day as starting with soup:

…in which there are “cappelletti”, little cases of macaroni in the shape of hats, which contain a mixture of meat, brains, and “ricotta”, a kind of cream cheese.

It’s not till 1943 that there’s evidence of my favourite whey-based product for sale. The Cairns Post features an ad for Brightways Grocery where I would’ve been able to pick up 2 pounds of ricotta for sixpence. I’m not sure where that would sit on the index today, but what is surprising is that ricotta sits amongst the not-very-Italian ingredients of gooseberry jam, beetroot and the mysterious-sounding luncheon beef.

Perhaps the reason this ad wasn’t more targeted at the small Italian population of North Queensland was because many Italians there had either just been released from internment following Italy’s surrender to the Allies, or they were still incarcerated. Either way, anti-Italian sentiment in Queensland was running high.

 By 1954, however, back in Tasmania, it’s all about the Italians. A classified ad in The Mercury reads:

AAAAAA. TELL YOUR ITALIAN FRIENDS we have now BACCALA, Coppa, Bologna, Salame, Ricotta, Olio, Polenta. THE PANTRY, 37 Elizabeth St.

In the 1960s, ricotta became an ingredient that was featured in the odd Australian Women’s Weekly recipe, usually with the caveat that it could be substituted with either cottage cheese or cream cheese.

Publication in the Weekly generally means you’ve made it into the mainstream but in 1966, the Australian Dairy Produce Board thought the public still needed to be educated about the cheese and, maybe more importantly, where it’s from. An ad for “Australian ricotta” went something like this:

Ricotta ad

This ad appeared below an advertorial recipe for Heavenly Cheese Cake, which featured creamed cottage cheese, on 28 December 1966 in the Australian Women's Weekly.

The preoccupation with making sure the public understood that ricotta was now Australian continued into the late 60s. In a 1968 cookbook add-on about cheese again in the Australian Women’s Weekly, ricotta is one of many cheeses featured. Its provenance is given as “Italy” and we are told it cost “about 50 to 60 cents per lb”, however we are also told that it was one of many cheeses that used to be imported but was now made in Australia.

I find it quite hard to believe ricotta was ever imported, as it’s a fresh and highly perishable cheese. But if the bible of Australian womanhood says it is so, then it must be so:

cheeses of the world

Ricotta cheese is in the top left corner behind the glass of cottage cheese in this editorial spread from The Cheese Cook Book, an add-on to the Australian Women's Weekly on October 9,1968.

This brings us up to the 1970s which brought us flares, punk rock and a constitutional crisis. But you’ll have to wait for Part 2 to find out what happens next in ricotta’s journey from a cheese for the eye-talians to a common ingredient many of us eat and cook with all the time. Bet you can’t wait, right?

“Christmas at Rome.” The Mercury,5  February,1930, 4.
“Brightways Cairns.” Cairns Post, 30 September, 1943, 2.
“AAAAAA. TELL YOUR ITALIAN FRIENDS.” The Mercury, 14 January 1954,19. 
“Heavenly Cheese Cake.” The Australian Women’s Weekly, 28 December 1966, 6.
“Cheese adds that gourmet touch.” in The Cheese Cook Book in The Australian Women’s Weekly, October 9, 1968, p 2-15.

Retro recipe: Spaghetti patties, 19 August, 1933

15 Feb

Today we go back, way back, to 1933, to sample a prize-winning recipe that its author, Mrs Reichenbach of Quirindi, NSW says is “most suitable to serve at a bridge party or as a dinner savory.”

I have my doubts.

However, in the spirit of culinary adventure, I decide to give the intriguingly named Spaghetti patties a try…

Into a saucepan of boiling salted water throw a handful of spaghetti. Boil until very tender, strain, add a lump of butter, pepper, salt, 1/2 cup tomato sauce, and 2 tablespoonful grated cheese.

My first issue is with the “boil until very tender”. I boiled the Barilla Spaghettoni number 7 for at least 20 minutes. I felt so wrong doing it and they’re still not that soft. I’m tipping the spaghetti in 1933 was not made with durum wheat so would’ve been much softer than this. Ugh. Soft pasta reminds me of men with weak handshakes – all limp and insipid.

saucepan with boiling water

Al dente? Not this pasta.

Next, trouble with “a lump of butter”. How much is a lump? Is it like a lump of sugar? That seems a reasonable deduction to me, so in it goes:

Lump of butter

Is that the size of a "lump"?

And now for the greatest crime against my race ever. Tomato sauce mixed into pasta. My parents always told me this is how Australians ate spaghetti, and I didn’t really believe them. Until now.

I feel sick shaking the dead horse into the pasta and, as I stir it through, I imagine my nonna, who lives in Melbourne, watching over me. She is crying. And saying the rosary. And asking God if it was a mistake to bring her family to the new country, if this is what it meant for her blood-line. Sorry, nonna…

tomato sauce

Forgive me family.

After the deed is done, it occurs to me that perhaps Mrs Reichenbach didn’t mean commercially-prepared tomato sauce. Did they even have that in 1933? I must find out. Alas, for the soggy little strings of spaghetti drowning in a red sea, it is too late.

Update:  Michael Symons in One Continuous Picnic: A History of Eating in Australia, says tomato sauce was being bottled at least by 1868. So it’s possible I did use the sauce Mrs R intended. 

Pasta sauce

Just wrong.

My filling is done.

Now it’s time for the pasty:

Sift two cups flour, pinch of salt, pinch of cayenne. Rub evenly into this 1 cup butter or clarified dripping, two tablespoonsful grated cheese, and mix into a firm dough with a beaten egg and a little lemon juice.

Not surprisingly I go with the butter. I don’t happen to have any clarified dripping on hand. Does anyone?

Dough

Sweet sweet butter...

Roll out thinly, cut and line patty tins with paste. Bake until golden in medium hot oven.

This goes reasonably well, even though the amount of butter makes my arteries harden at the thought of actually eating it. Actually eating it. I wonder if this is necessary.

pastry cups

Such little cups, so many carbs.

Turn out and fill with spaghetti mixture. Serve hot.

I try to delicately twirl the pasta into the cups. I try to channel Donna Hay. She would know how to make these little bastards look good.

pasta cups

I bet Donna could make these look nice...

A little chopped parsley sprinkled on top is a pretty decoration.

If you say so Mrs Reichenbach. Now they’re ready for their close up.

close up spag patties

Ready to be eaten.

And for a tasting. I take a bite. I can taste butter and tomato sauce. The spaghetti is mushy and the pastry case is crumbly. It’s bland, dry and crying out for some proper sauce. Or some vegetables. Or more cheese. Or something else. Anything else really.

Did Mrs Reichenbach really serve these up at Bridge parties? And did she really win a prize? I don’t know about the former, but the answer to the latter is yes, she did. The Australian Women’s Weekly gave Mrs R a consolation prize and said this little carb-on-carb delight “was simple to make and will be appreciated by housewives.”

Ahh, that’s the problem then, I’m not a housewife!

pasta box

In the archive, where they belong.

Another Orange Contest with £5 Prize. The Australian Women’s Weekly (1932-1982), Saturday 19 August 1933, page 35.