Tuesday 26 February 2013

My first pavlova

What can I say? Sorry Bruce - you'll just have to suck it up.

Pavlova is something that I ate a lot of as a kid, but it fell off the menu about 20 years ago and I've probably had one about every 3 years since. I had an auntie that was a wiz at making them - she lived on a small farm just outside the town I lived in as a little kid, and she kept chooks. And ducks. And geese. However, only the chook eggs went into the pavlova. I'm now wondering whether you can make pavlova from duck eggs? And no, I'm not going to try. That was just my brain meandering across the lupin paddocks of my childhood.

The chooks were certainly under pressure to produce eggs - as soon as they started faltering, I would be dispatched to the chook shed with an axe and we'd have chicken casserole for dinner. That made a change from rabbit casserole - although my uncle could never tell the difference if he'd spent a few too many hours at the pub. I was hopeless at beheading the chooks - I was paranoid about losing a few fingers in the process, so more than one half-headless chook had to be chased around by a 12 year old with an axe. And my bloody uncle was too lazy to sharpen his axes. I much preferred being sent to the office to collect the 10-.22 from the gun cupboard or to the barn to collect the rabbit traps and then being told to thin the rabbit population.

Why cook the rabbits and chooks in a casserole?

One - they were pretty tough and stringy when they went into the pot, so they really needed slow cooking. The "tough" cuts of meat that we get at the supermarket these days are nothing like the dry, stringy inedible cuts we had to put up with 35 years ago. It was genuine peasant food - bloody awful bits of meat cooked long and slow to make it palatable.

Two - the bits of lead that I didn't extract from the rabbit before it went into the pot would fall out and end up in the bottom of the casserole where they were easy to find.

Three - my uncle and auntie were pretty bloody lazy. They took the easiest option with everything in life, and one pot casseroles are wonderfully easy to do if you cooked them 5 times a week.

There's a thought - I had a great childhood because I spent a lot of time with my lazy relatives. Most branches of the family tree got the hard working genetics. One branch got stuff all. That meant I got to do lots of fun stuff that they couldn't be bothered doing. Paddock needs plowing? Send the kid out on the tractor. Dinner needs to be put on the table? Send the kid out with the rifle/fishing rod/yabby traps. Uncle needs collecting from the pub? Send the kid out in the ute. Trees need trimming? Find the kid the chainsaw. Blackberries need pruning? Send the kid out with a 5 litre drum of petrol, a pile of newspapers and a box of matches. I'd be running (or driving) around the farm at 14 years old shooting or setting fire to things whilst auntie would be napping on the couch in front of the cricket. With a glass of sherry or three. And then I'd have to drive to the pub to get uncle home for dinner. That would take a while as I'd have to stick around in the pub for a few beers as uncle liked a chat and was very hard to extract from the front bar.

Another good point about casseroles is that they are very forgiving of being overcooked. It didn't matter if it took me two beers or 6 to extract uncle from the pub - the casserole wasn't going to be burnt by the time we got home.

In case you are wondering about the dangers of drink driving as a kid, just remember that the current population of the "town" I am talking about is less than 60. Not 60,000. 60. I think it's grown a bit since I was last there.

Anyway - pavlova. Needless to say, I was also the one sent out to the chook shed to collect the eggs and to sort the rotten ones from the fresh. I should mention that uncle was pretty blase about collecting the eggs, so screening them was absolutely essential.

If there was a surfeit of eggs, auntie would whip up some enormous pavlovas. She had a huge oven, and for the time, a top of the line mixmaster. Looking back, I think she specialised in pavlova because it was so easy - separate eggs, whip whites with sugar for 10 minutes and then bake at 150 degrees. Any kids in the vicinity would then be given the job of whipping the cream, slicing the fruit and decorating it. At that point, auntie would retire to her favourite chair for another glass of sherry.

Which gets me to Bruce. I whipped up some chocolate pots the other day that required more egg yolks than whites, so I made some mini-pavlovas with the left over egg whites. My first ever. Piece of cake. Baked them for 30 minutes at 150 degrees and they turned out beautifully. So beautifully, that most were gone soon after one of the kids opened the oven and discovered them cooling off. You should try it some time.


bruce said...

ha ha ha ha, ok.

TimT said...

Now I wonder what your pavlova-loving aunty did with all the egg yolks. (Icecream is good for disposing of yolks.)