Retro recipe: Siennese “Little Horses”, 1937

5 Oct

You may be wondering what’s become of Lamingtons & Lasagna lately, and why she hasn’t managed to blog in nearly five months. Or, more likely, you hadn’t noticed. In any case, I’ve been a busy PhD bee – I went to Italy to present a paper at an Italian food conference in Perugia (yes, really, I know, I can’t believe it either) and then came home to present another paper at the Australian Historical Association conference in Adelaide. Both papers were accepted for publication so I’ve been spending a lot of time in my pyjamas, in my study, writing like a crazy woman…

And yesterday, I finished!

Hooray! To celebrate I thought I’d get out of my pyjamas and cook a retro recipe, like I used to in the blog days of old.

Today’s retro recipe is very special indeed. It was also a disaster, but we’ll get to that shortly.

It comes from the First Australian Continental Cookery Book (FACCB), the subject of my second paper, which is, in my scholarly opinion, Australia’s first Italian cookbook. Btw if you followed the appeal to find the Italian version of the book, I found it thanks to the fabulous Blake Singley at ANU who pointed out that the Italian version was hiding behind the English version at the NLA all along…

First Australian Continental Cookery Book

But I digress. The recipe is from 1937 and is called Siennese “Little Horses”, or, in the Italian version of the same book Cavallucci di Siena. It’s a classic kind of Italian recipe – meaning there’s a version of it in Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well – but this version was meant for Australians of the 1930s to cook. Which is perhaps why it suggests the biscuits be cut into the shape of horses with jockeys atop, despite Artusi pointing out that they should be oval-shaped, not horse-shaped. There’s a sense of whimsy and fun in the FACCB, something not present in most other cookbooks of its day, who would never say, for example, of a lamb dish, “to start with, it must be real lamb, not mutton rejuvenated like ambitious ladies on the wrong side of forty”.

But I digress (again!) What does one need for this recipe? Sugar, walnuts, candied orange peel, fennel seeds, mixed spice, nutmeg, flour and a “mould” of a horse with a jockey on top. Not surprisingly, I didn’t have the latter so I hot-footed it over to the local kitchenware shop and asked the lady for a biscuit cutter in the shape of a horse with a jockey. Unfortunately, this came out as “do you have any “horsey” biscuit cutters with jockeys”. To which she should’ve replied, how old are you? Three? But instead said, yes, we do, but there’s no jockey. Quickly deciding I had the necessary skills to fashion a jockey from dough, though, in hindsight, no hard evidence to support this decision, I parted with $2.50 and took my horsey cookie cutter home.

Now in the kitchen, I was all set to start. First, I read the recipe through because in 36 years of life I have figured out that this is always a good idea. A red flag appeared. The recipe only wanted enough flour to cover a board. Hmmm, I would think you’d need more flour for a biscuit dough? I thought about it for all of a minute and then decided that the walnuts which were to be “finely minced” would replace the flour, like almond meal. So all good. Then I was flummoxed by this sentence “Dissolve in a casserole about one pound of sugar in about a third of its weight in water.” A pound is almost half a kilo, right? So a third of almost half a kilo? My head hurts when a little thing like maths rears its very ugly stupid head, so I decided to change all the measurements  – I’ll use a cup of sugar, and therefore will need a third of a cup of water, and I’ll scale all the measurements accordingly. Maths will not defeat me, I am smart, I am a PhD student, I can do this. This red flag was so big it was like the ones matadors use for bulls. But I ignored it like the beautiful idiot that I am.

Next challenge was the “mincing” of the walnuts. Now, I don’t know how they minced walnuts in 1937, but here’s how I did it:

Mincing the walnuts

And then I was off. In goes the sugar and the water, to which “as soon as it begins to liquefy” I added the minced walnuts, the candied peel, the mixed spice and the fennel seeds:

Sugar and water in saucepan

And out came a watery brown mess. It resembled something which belongs in the bathroom, not the kitchen. But the recipe told me to: “mix well and spread on a board well covered with flour.”

Sugar with ingredients mixed

I mixed and mixed and mixed. Nothing changed. I couldn’t see how I could possibly pour this latte-like hot sugar syrup on a board, no matter how well it was floured.  Something had gone drastically wrong. Either I had screwed up the measurements or the recipe was a bit wrong, or both. In any case, I needed a fix. So I grabbed the flour and stirred some in. And then I added more, and more…

Mixing in flour

Mixing in the flour

When the dough resembled playdough, I knew I had gone too far:


But by then it was too late. I cut out my horses:

Cutting horses from dough

I attempted some jockeys:

Cutting out jockeys

Horses with jockeys

It didn’t work, and I wondered why I ever thought they would. So I scrapped them from the vision. Feeling defeated, I put them in the oven and about 10 minutes later these came out:

Cooked horse biscuits

The hardest, toughest, crunchiest biscuits this side of Siena. Some would say they could break your teeth…

On the other hand, if you dip them in coffee or a sweet liquor, much like the more famous and better known Cantucci di Siena, they are almost ok. I did say almost…


  • Artusi, Pellegrino. Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003.
  • First Australian Continental Cookery Book. Melbourne: Cosmopolitan Publishing Co. Limited, 1937.
  • La Cucina Continentale. Melbourne: Cosmopolitan Publishing Co. Limited, 1937.

A recipe for Italamingtons (aka Italian lamingtons)

28 May

If it’s acceptable to put vegemite in lasagne, kangaroo on pizza, and mango in a tiramisu, then surely no one can argue the toss when it comes to turning the lamington – one of Australia’s greatest afternoon tea cakes – into an Italian.

While wide-spread Australianisation of Italian dishes is common, the reverse is not. So I took the lamington – that small square of sponge cake, dipped in a chocolate icing and rolled in desiccated coconut – and created the Italamington – a bit difficult to say, but very easy to eat…

Italian lamingtons

It was not an easy process. While I believe in culinary innovation, I am against the outright bastardisation of national dishes (see Crimes against pizza for more on this view).

So, in order to ensure the respectful renovation of the lamington, a series of discussions were convened with a variety of experts to understand the true essence of this Antipodean symbol.  Notably, these discussions included the rather helpful Gaby from Nourished Within and the rather less helpful David, former afternoon tea correspondant at the Balmain Village Voice. Wine was also involved.

After much heated debate, it was decided that a cake could still proudly hold the title of lamington if it retained its traditional shape, was made from sponge, and was dipped and rolled. All other elements – the ingredients and the method – were up for grabs.

Controversially, we also decided that while purists believe the jam and cream sometimes found in the middle of the lamington to be heresy, a filling was not just acceptable in the making of this cross-cuisine sweet but vital in communicating its new found Italianità.

The sponge cake, as the foundation, was important. I wanted it to be as Italian as possible, so instead of the typical Australian sponge, I decided to be a tosser, I mean, to be as authentic as possible, and consult Pellegrino Artusi’s 1891 Italian food bible, Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well. While it only asked for four ingredients , one of them was “Hungarian flour” which needed to be “dried on the fire or in the sun”.  Also, as the KitchenAid had not been invented yet, it wanted me to work “the dough for half an hour”.

That all sounded rather too authentic for my liking, so I halved the recipe for the Italian Sponge Cake in the Larousse Gastronomique, and, miracle of miracles, despite involving the separation of yolk from white and the dreaded instructions “fold carefully”, all usual indicators of epic baking failure for me, the success of the sponge seemed to imply I could actually bake. Hooray!

Italian sponge cake

After letting the sponge go stale, I sliced it through the middle horizontally, drizzled it with Frangelico and, after downing a glass or two of the afore mentioned liqueur, was inspired to fill it with a mix of crushed hazelnuts, ricotta and espresso coffee. It was then cut into small squares, dipped in Callebaut dark chocolate and coated in crushed flaked almonds.

Frangelico on cake

Making the filling

Spread filling on cake

Sandwich cake together

Sponge cut in squares

Chocolate icing

Drizzling chocolate

Roll in almonds

Single Italamington

The verdict? Well, from the mouth of Romano Cammarano, a man not known just as my father but a critic of food so fearless he makes Anton Ego  look like Marcia Hines, “this is the best things you have ever cooked. You are allowed to make it again”.

The Italamington is a triumph of Italian and Australian know-how and ingredients. Try it, and see what you think….

Italamingtons (Italian Lamingtons)


Sponge cake:

  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½ cup plain flour
  • ½ cup corn flour
  • Butter, caster sugar and cornflour to grease and dust cake tin
  • 1 tablespoon Frangelico (optional)
  • 220 g flaked almonds, finely chopped


  • 220 g dark couverture chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup thickened cream


  • ¾ cup ricotta
  • 2 tablespoon thickened cream
  • 1 tablespoon hazelnuts, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon espresso coffee
  • 1 tablespoon caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


For the sponge:

  1. Preheat oven to 160°C.
  2. Grease a 20x20cm cake tin and dust with a mix of caster sugar and cornflour.
  3. Beat the sugar with the vanilla and egg yolks until well combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff.
  5. Fold the egg whites into the egg yolks until just combined.
  6. In another bowl, sift the plain flour and corn flour together.
  7. Fold flour mixture carefully and quickly into the eggs.
  8. Pour mixture into prepared tin.
  9. Bake for about 40 minutes. The cake is done when it is light golden in colour and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
  10. When the cake is cool, slice through the middle and leave it to go stale (about a day).

For the icing:

  1. Put the chocolate and cream in a metal bowl.
  2. Sit the metal bowl above a saucepan of simmering water. Do not let the bowl touch the water.
  3. Stir with a metal spoon until the chocolate has melted. Leave aside to cool.

For the filling:

  1. Blend the ricotta, cream, hazelnuts, espresso coffee, sugar and vanilla in a food processor until well combined.

To assemble the Italamingtons:

  1. If using, sprinkle the Frangelico over the inside halves of both sides of the sponge.
  2. Spread one half with the filling and sandwich cake halves together.
  3. Using a serrated knife, carefully cut sponge into 25 small squares.
  4. Take one cake square, insert a skewer through the middle and rest over the top of a small bowl. Carefully drizzle the chocolate mixture over the square, using a knife to help it spread.
  5. Roll in crushed almonds and place square on wire rack to set.
  6. Repeat until finished and keep in fridge until ready to serve.


  • Artusi, Pellegrino. Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003.
  • Larousse Gastronomique. Great Britain: Hamlyn, 2009. 

Update: Australia’s first Italian cookbook

4 Apr

The lovely folk at SBS Radio’s Italian program have joined the appeal to help find Australia’s first Italian cookbook – La Cucina Continentale.  Carlo Oreglia interviewed me, and you can hear the interview – and me mangle the beautiful Italian language – around the 38 minute mark of this morning’s program.

Thanks both to Carlo for the interview, and the awesome James Panichi for helping me get the word out.

The quest continues…

Related links
Australia’s first Italian cookbook – MIA

Australia’s first Italian cookbook – MIA

2 Apr

Every so often you make a discovery. Something you think no one else knows. This makes you happy, so very, very happy.

Being a PhD student is a bit of a drudge most of the time. There are books to find, notes to take, references to record, forms to complete and reading, so much reading, some of it interesting, much of it leading to a lifelong hatred of anyone whose name comes prefaced by the words “French philosopher”.

But when that moment happens, the point of a new discovery, you forget about the references and the forms, you even forget that your annual salary is below the poverty line, and you think it’s all worth it. For you are now making a real contribution to your field. It’s you they are going to reference and your name they are going to struggle to spell correctly in EndNote or Mendeley (For the record: C-A-M-M-A-R-A-N-O).

This happened to me quite recently. It was good for a bit. And then it all went to shit. Here’s how it unfolded:

Working at the State Library of Victoria, I was examining a 1930s cookbook called the First Australian Continental Cookery Book. While the book says its about European cooking, there seem to be more Italian recipes than anything else, and after I read:

It is time for Australians to realise, in fact, that what one may call Mediterranean cookery has much to offer them. Italian cookery, for instance, embodies ideas, aims and methods that have not only been ripening for literally thousands of years, but have been doing so under climatic conditions far more closely resembling those of Australia than do the British.

I somehow deduced this book had to be written by an Italian. In fact, I half thought it might be my Uncle Tony. But with no author listed, I looked into the publisher – the Cosmopolitan Publishing Company – and found that the same company published a bunch of other Italian-related books. Dig just that bit deeper and guess what, the company is run by a group of Italian migrants who also published the principal fascist newspaper in Australia, Il Giornale Italiano.

This is seriously good stuff. I’m feeling pretty great about what I’ve found, and then the cake gets iced. By the same publisher, I find in the NLA’s catalogue, published in the 1930s as well, La Cucina Continentale. I think I may well have just stumbled upon Australia’s first Italian cookbook. All I have to do is go to Canberra and check it out.

La Cucina Continentale

Happy days! La Cucina Continentale in the NLA’s catalogue.

So off to the nation’s fine capital I go. When I get to the NLA, I become a member, request the book and spend 45 minutes looking at the exhibition next door while some hairy librarian type – they are always hairy – fetches it for me. I log back into the computer to check the status of the book, but see just one word – Missing. I think I stop breathing for a second. Missing. I go and tell the nice, bearded man (see, I told you they are always hairy) behind the desk. It’s the only known copy in the world, I say in not my usual calm way, and it just can’t be missing. He tells me that I am wrong – it can be missing. But, I say, no, it really can’t. Nice man gets the feeling this could go on all day so he tells me to go home and request an official investigation. This happens, and two weeks later the official investigation sends me a lovely email in which, it concludes, the book is not just missing now – it’s officially missing.


So now, dear reader, in a bid to save this discovery from the dustbin, I am launching an appeal to find La Cucina Continentale. If you know of it, or anything about it, I would love to hear from you. You know where to find me. Please, because I really want to be in EndNote…

La Cucina Continentale missing

Not so happy. La Cucina Continentale is now officially missing.


  • Cappello, Anthony. “Italian Australians, the Church, War and Fascism in Melbourne 1919-1945.” Masters’ diss.,Victoria University of Technology, 1999.
  • Cresciani, Gianfranco. Fascism, Anti-Fascism and Italians in Australia, 1922-1945. Canberra: Australian National University Press, 1980.
  • First Australian Continental Cookery Book. Melbourne: Cosmopolitan Publishing Co. Limited, 1937.

Making the sauce, Italian-style

14 Mar

Melbourne, how did you spend Monday’s public holiday? At the Moomba festival, maybe? Hanging out on a beach? Relaxing at a barbecue? How nice for you. I spent it making sauce in nonna’s backyard. Now, if you’ve never made the sauce before, you might imagine a charming scene with tarantella music and handkerchiefs on heads and ethnic types separating tomatoes from their skins as though such an activity filled them with joy and delight.

Free flowing sauce

If you have made the sauce before, you will know that there’s a lot of whinging about which family members haven’t shown up and who isn’t pulling their weight. Your clothes look like you’ve been hanging out with Dexter and your hands sting from too much contact with acidic tomatoes. It’s a non-unionized work place, there are no occupational health and safety requirements and there are no scheduled breaks, mind you there is no shortage of espresso and panettone either. You might be well caffeinated, but it’s still bloody hard work. You have to wash, squash, bottle, seal and cook 300 bottles of sauce. It takes time and it takes effort and there’s no singing, no dancing and no one with a handkerchief on their head, not even my dad.

The good news is you do get paid. Your immediate labour is rewarded with a big plate of ravioli with the new sauce. Your take home pay is a year’s worth of sauce made with Koo-Wee-Rup tomatoes (thanks Zio Giuseppe!) and Spotswood labour. Missing Moomba, which from all accounts is pretty crap anyway, is clearly a small price to pay.

Tomatoes in boxes

Empty bottles

Washing tomatoes

Squashing tomatoes

Cut tomatoes

Basil for the bottles

Bottle inspection

First sauce of the day

Sauce machine in action

At the sauce table

Sauce for filling

Filling the bottles

Bottles with sauce

Bottle tops

Sealing bottles

Packing bottles

Putting bottles in barrels

Bottles in barrels

Cooking the bottles

Nonna with ravioli


A fig with my name on it…

13 Mar

Zio Tony is still picking figs in nonna’s backyard. Here’s one he found for me yesterday:

Fig with my name on it

Fig picking with Zio Tony

2 Mar

Not a lot excites my Zio Tony. In fact, as far as I can tell, there are only two things. Making money – which he is very good at – and figs – which he picks from my nonna’s backyard tree with the joy of a peasant who’s just won the lottery. Well, the fig lottery anyway.

My Zio Tony

My job, in all of this, is to hold the ladder steady and put the figs in the bucket. It’s kind of boring, to be honest, and the stupid mosquitoes always treat my legs as an all-you-can-eat buffet, but it does allow me to watch Zio work his way around the fig tree, where I routinely witness a strange but charming transformation. The wheeling, dealing businessman disappears. He is replaced by a giddy farm boy whose level of excitement is directly related to the beauty, and more importantly, ripeness of each fig.

Zio Tony on top of the shed

Zio Tony up the ladder in the fig tree

Uncle Tony in the middle of the fig tree

Handing down figs

It starts calmly enough.

“Ahh, look at this one Tania, this one’s beautiful,” he says as he passes the fig down to me.

“But this one! This one is even better! You have to eat this one now Tania, eat it now!”

“Ohhh, this one’s just sugar! Look! It’s dripping sugar! Eat it now, it won’t be good later Tania, eat it now.”

The more excited he gets, the less English and the more Sicilian dialect falls from his mouth. It translates to the following, more or less:

“Tania, Tania, Tania this is the best fig ever to grace the earth in the history of the world, eat it now, it can’t wait. EAT! EAT!”

Which can’t be true, because a few seconds later, a fig even better than that one miraculously appears. I eat that too because, if someone tells me to eat, I do. Plus I quite like figs. And saying no to  Zio Tony is never a good idea.

Not surprisingly by the end of the 20 minutes I have scarfed down all kinds of figs – from big, fat so-ripe-they’re splitting figs to tiny ones that you can drop into your mouth like a lolly – and now there’s two new big buckets to get through as well…

Not that Zio has come down from the fig tree yet. He is marking out which figs to get next time.

“See this one? It’s yours! On Sunday, it will be perfect! If those bloody birds don’t get there first…”

Fig in the tree


Figs in hand

The fig tree

Eating in Hong Kong and Cambodia

4 Feb

So yes, Lamingtons and Lasagna has been missing in action. She went to Hong Kong and Cambodia on holidays, and she wanted to post while she was away but the combination of her innate laziness and the glory of vacationing in a land where the average price of a cocktail is $2.50, meant she never got around to it. She’s back now, but before she can resume with her usual food history-esque babble, and start writing in the first person again, she feels the need to share a few photos. Like this whole cow on a spit:

Cow on a spit in Siem Reap

Duck on Spit in Siem Reap

Yes, that’s right, so it was a skinny cow, but in Siem Reap this outdoor restaurant was a car wash by day and a barbecue joint by night. It served us up two tasty plates of barbecued beef, one rotisserie duck, an assortment of vegetables and condiments, and a litre of the local beer for the princely sum of $8. At that price, Luggage Boy (LB) and myself spent the entire meal contemplating our imminent retirement to Cambodia.


29a Street 288,  (between Monivong and St 63), Boeung Keng Kang, Phnom Penh

Still in Cambodia, I couldn’t resist this description of  a Japanese izakaya run by an English chef in Phnom Penh. So LB and I headed away from the bright lights of the city’s riverside – where most of the tourists can be found – to the small but chilled out Yumi where we enjoyed excellent pumpkin gyoza, finger lickin’ ribs and a deconstructed banoffee pie made with the fantastic local bananas which I am still thinking about. Good doesn’t describe it.

Pumpkin gyoza at Yumi, Phnom Penh

Yakitori ribs at Yumi, Phnom Penh

Banoffee at Yumi, Phnom Penh

Australian Dairy Company

47 Parkes Street, Kowloon

In Hong Kong now, the Australian Dairy Company in Kowloon has nothing to do with Australia and everything to do with what Hong Kongers like to eat for breakfast. There’s a queue outside and the place is packed with white-shirted men seating and serving at a furious pace. The macaroni soup with industrial ham is really blah but the scrambled eggs are beyond awesome. And while I shouldn’t admit my love of peanut butter and condensed milk on thick slices of over-processed over-white bread, I think I just did. Also, the Hong Kong tea will put hairs on your chest. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Queue outside Australian Dairy Co, Kowloon, Hong Kong

Frantic pace at Australian Dairy Co, Kowloon, Hong Kong

Scrambled eggs at the Australian Dairy Company, Kowloon, Hong Kong

Soup from Australian Dairy Co, Kowloon, Hong Kong

Wang Fu & Dumpling Yuan

 65 Wellington Street, Central & 69 Wellington Street, Central

There are so many decisions one needs to make in life. Work or Uni? Marriage or singledom? Children or carefree happiness? But, for me, the really important question is: Beijing dumplings or Shanghai dumplings? In Hong Kong, I confronted this dilemma at Wang Fu for Beijing and Dumpling Yuan for Shanghai, conveniently both located on Wellington Street in Central. In conclusion, Shanghai wins – the wrapper is that bit thinner, that bit more delicate, which means you can really taste the superb pork-based fillings. However, the Michelin Guide, which led us to these establishments, is wrong on one count – under no circumstances should you ever eat a mutton dumpling because there’s a reason nearly nobody eats that anymore.

Enjoying Wang Fu dumplings

Wang Fu Beijing dumplings

Dumpling Yuan dumplings

Tim Ho Wan (Mong Kok)

8 Kwong Wa Street, Mong Kok

Speaking of Michelin, like every so-called foodie worth his or her salt, LB and I waited outside Tim Ho Wan – the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant – for about two hours. The hype around this place is big, so by the time we got in there we were expecting the seventh heaven of dim sum. Not surprisingly, it could not deliver – the food was great, but not amazing, although the Chiu Chow style steamed dumplings were outstanding. I ordered way too much, though all this meant was that we got to eat Michelin-starred barbecued pork buns for breakfast. Not a bad way to start a day at all.

The queue outside Tim Ho Wan Mong Kok

Steamed dumplings at Tim Ho Wan Mong Kok

Inside the dumpling at Tim Ho Wan Mong Kok

Barbecue pork bun at Tim Ho Wan Mong Kok

Chicken feet at Tim Ho Wan Mong Kok

The Peninsula Hong Kong

Salisbury Road, Kowloon

Alright, so it’s touristy and it’s kitschy and properly rich people would never ever do it, but afternoon tea at Hong Kong’s Peninsula is just fun. So I recommend it. Especially the macaroons at the end.

Macaroons at The Peninsula Hotel Hong Kong

Afternoon tea at the Peninsula Hotel Hong Kong

The Peninsula Hotel Hong Kong

Yung Kee

 32-40 Wellington Street, Central

And, on our last night in Hong Kong, the roast goose at Yung Kee. With LB taken down by a stomach bug, it didn’t look like we were going to make it. But, brave soldier boy that he is when it comes to his belly, he rallied and did not regret it. Gamey, fatty and so full of flavour, all stomach bugs were forgotten as we finished our trip on what can only be described as a roast goose high. One of the best things I’ve ever eaten. .. ever. The way all trips should end, really.

Goose at Yung Kee

Outside Yung Kee

Can Mrs Lance Rawson fix my Heston Blumenthal problem?

8 Dec

Yesterday, my copy of Heston Blumenthal at Home arrived in the mail. Study be damned! Deborah Jean Kasnitz’s Work, Gender and Health Among Southern Italian Immigrants in Melbourne wasn’t going anywhere, so, tempted by Heston’s dear face peeking into his fridge on the cover, I decided I could have a quick flick through.

Heston Blumenthal at Home book cover

Study or Heston? What would you choose?

Three hours later, after delighting in the Salted butter caramels wrapped in edible cellophane, wondering aloud if the Scallop tartare with white chocolate really worked as a flavour combination, marvelling at the regal purple colour of the Red cabbage gazpacho and wishing I could try a big scoop of that famous Bacon and egg ice cream, I had a problem.

I needed a sous vide machine, a vacuum packer, a cream whipper and a pressure cooker. And a digital probe. And maybe a refractometer too. And I needed them now. You wouldn’t send an astronaut into space without the right equipment, so how could I be expected to go boldly into the new world of scientific kitchen exploration without them? Answer: I couldn’t.

Ok, so it’s a very first world problem, but what’s a true Heston fan to do? Especially when that Heston fan is a poor PhD student? I tell you despair nearly drove me back to Work, Gender and Health Among Southern Italian Immigrants in Melbourne but, just in time, I remembered the rather prolific Mrs Lance Rawson, who wrote the 1895 classic, The Antipodean Cookery Book and Kitchen Companion. Mrs Rawson has advice for when you’re a woman and you just need something new, like a bonnet, for example:

The husband is a creature of appetite, believe me, and not to be approached upon any important matter, such as a new bonnet or a silk dress, on an empty stomach.

This is good news. Against all the odds, I actually have a husband! So if I want a water bath, all I have to do is feed him well?

Yes, says Mrs Rawson:

Man must be cooked for. He’ll do without shirt-buttons, and he’ll do without his slippers, but he will not do without his dinner, nor is he inclined to accept excuses as regards under- or over-done meals after the first week or so of the honeymoon. If there be any young girls reading these pages who are contemplating marriage in the near future, take an old wife’s advice and learn to cook, for only by feeding him well will you succeed in gaining your husband’s respect and keeping his affection.

Well, I can cook, but oh no! It might be too late:

Let me suggest to prospective brides that they should stipulate for a stove if marrying a Bushman. A man will promise anything before marriage, very little after.

Damn it, have I missed the boat? Should I have vowed “I promise to love and obey but only if you get me everything listed under Specialist kit on pages 389 to 393 of Heston Blumenthal at Home.“? I can’t believe I went with traditional vows! So stupid of me…

Or, here’s a novel idea, maybe I could work and earn my own money to buy a sous vide machine?

Nah, Mrs Rawson wouldn’t approve, and I just couldn’t let her down.


  • Blumenthal, Heston. Heston Blumenthal at Home. London: Bloomsbury, 2011.
  • Rawson, Mrs Lance. The Antipodean Cookery Book and Kitchen Companion. Melbourne: George Robertson &​ Co., 1895.

Interesting food styling from 1962

1 Dec
Pacific Grill
The Pacific Grill, above, is “suitable for any meal of the day”, according to Anne Mason’s A Treasury of Australian Cooking, 1962.
  • Mason, Anne. A Treasury of Australian Cooking. London: Andre Deutsch, 1962.