Two kinds of chicken soup

This first version is often made a day or two after we’ve had a roast chicken dinner. Tip the leftover carcass, with any bits of meat left on it, into a large pot, cover with water and bring to boil while cutting up the following:  Continue reading


The crossover cook

Cross-cultural marriages create crossover cooks. My mother was one, and now so am I, cooking Western food almost as often as Asian, with my own set of acquired instincts and approaches within this newer repertoire.

This recipe was given to me long ago in Cambodia by an East Malaysian friend, when our first children were toddlers. She is married to a Frenchman. Continue reading

The care and cleaning of tiny dried fish

In my first years of going to Australia as a university student, my mum always packed a large supply of these dried fish for my kitchen cupboard. It was the early 1980s, and Asian cooking ingredients were hard to find outside of large cities, which at that stage did not include Canberra.  “Chinese” or (even worse) generic “Asian” food came from typical Aussie-Chinese restaurants serving unrecognisably syrupy lemon chicken and sweet and sour pork.

I never had any trouble getting these through customs inspection, along with my year’s supply of curry powder.

Continue reading

Suji cake

I’m having coffee with some ladies this afternoon, so I made a suji (semolina) cake. This is an old-fashioned cake I remember from childhood, when eating cake was an event restricted to birthdays and special visits to or from family friends. Cakes were not usually frosted, unless they were shop-bought. I don’t believe it was possible to purchase cream anywhere in our town at the time.

Instead, for general cake icing, a mid-70s edition of Ellice Handy’s “My Favourite Recipes” on my shelf suggests to cream butter and sugar with a little flavouring. But most recipes in the book were for plain cakes; in that still-frugal age, the use of butter, sugar and eggs together would have been considered sufficiently festive. In the same book, the author provides a recipe for Orange Cake, marked “quite rich”, which departs from the basic recipe with the addition of an extra egg (bringing the grand total used to three). I wonder what this lady would think of today’s cheesecakes and tortes.

Continue reading

Chicken curry is the foundation of adult life

When I left home, my mum wrote out this recipe for me. I’ve long since lost the original, but have cooked it so many times that I can write it down from memory. It is, give or take a little, a South Indian-style chicken curry*, and it’s what we made for any vaguely celebratory meal, along with an array of accompaniments of varying plainness or grandeur, depending on the occasion.

Continue reading