Lemon and Roast Pumpkin Risotto with Duck

As long as the pumpkin is kept to a small serving per portion in this risotto, it is a delicious accompaniment to roast duck as the lemon and sage is a nice foil for the fattiness of the duck.

Ingredients (for two people)

Lemon Risotto with Roast Duck
Lemon Risotto with Roast Duck

3 handfuls of arborio rice
1 litre of low FODMAP chicken stock (from powder or liquid) or try mine
a 1/3 glass white wine
a few sprigs of lemon thyme (or alternatively some dried lemon myrtle)
a dash of Cobram Estate lemon flavoured Olive oil
a dash of Cobram Estate garlic flavoured Olive oil
1/2 butternut pumpkin cut into cubes and roasted on an oven tray with a little garlic oil
a few fresh sage leaves – some cut up and three or four left whole
two pre-roasted duck Marylands – Luv a Duck in Australian sells these in the supermarket
Parmesan or Pecorino (to grate over the top)


Roast the pumpkin and let cool.

1 hour before you want to eat, place the duck marylands in a small dish in a preheated 180C oven and add a little extra chicken stock to that included in the pack.

Fry the rice gently in the flavoured garlic oil until translucent. Add the wine and cook off. Add the lemon thyme, the chopped sage leaves and two ladles of chicken stock. (You do not need to heat the chicken stock.) Keep adding chicken stock and stirring gently until the rice, when tasted, is almost cooked.

At this stage, add the pumpkin and gently stir it through the risotto. You can fry the sage leaves in some butter in a separate pan to make the crisp and use them as a garnish, or add them whole to the risotto at this stage. Keep stirring gently, adding a little more stock until the rice is cooked, but not mushy. Dress with the lemon flavoured olive oil to taste. It’s strong, so only use a little! Check for salt and pepper and add as needed.

Plate into two serves, garnish with the cooked sage leaves if used, and some fresh parmesan or pecorino. Place a roasted duck maryland on each plate.

A delicious combination of lemony sage risotto and rich duck. Yum!

Decorating Cakes (& when it all goes wrong)

The 1940s

As discussed in the last post, despite austerity and rationing, Australian  housewives did some fantastic things with real (or mock) cream, angelica, glace icing, puréed apple and icing sugar to tart up their patty cakes for a high tea. With butter, sugar and flour rationed, afternoon tea was a big deal. The “Sailing Ships and Mushrooms” made from very plain patty cakes in the last post show what can be done with a little imagination and not too many gutsy people for afternoon tea! You’d hope everyone was a dainty eater or too polite to ask for seconds. Dainty eaters ruled in the 1940s. It has to be remembered that tea was rationed right up until 1950 in Australia so when Nanna used to try to squeeze two cups out of a tea bag you now know why! As well as recipes for small and large cakes there were also recipes for plain cake cut into little squares, circles or diamonds and coated in fondant: what the French call “petit fours”. Take a look at this illustration from the 1940s.

Party Cake (Petit Fours) Ilustration from McAlpine's Booklet 1940s
Party Cake (Petit Fours) Ilustration from McAlpine’s Booklet 1940s

You can download the recipe here.

Recipe for Petit Fours

Party Cake Recipe for Petit Fours for McAlpine’s Flour Pamphlet 1940s

The 1950s

Post WW2, with women encouraged to return to their domestic duties and stop making bombs, using pitchforks on farms and driving heavy machinery for the Women’s Land army etc, domesticity became both an art and a science. The idea of the efficient modern household had begun in the time and motion influenced household manuals of the 1920s and 30s and so it returned. New electric Kelvinator refrigerators, new Sunbeam electric appliances, new recipes and new test kitchens with real scientists in them (mostly men) filled the recipe books and advertising brochures. It was all so – new! So shiny and bright after the rationing and “mend and make do” of the war years. Elaborate recipes

Decorated patty cakes from Betty King 1950s
Decorated patty cakes from Betty King 1950s

for dainty iced cakes, and savouries filled recipe books – perhaps to encourage tea parties instead of second wave feminism?? Recipe books filled with happy wives at ranges were supplemented with stern women (with glasses)

Sunbeam Advisory Service Mixmaster Introductory page - note glasses!
Sunbeam Advisory Service Mixmaster Introductory page – note glasses!

and male(!) scientists hard at work in kitchen laboratories (strikingly similar to the “Ponds Institute”)

McAlpines Cookery Book Test Kitchen
McAlpines Cookery Book Test Kitchen

showing housewives how to use new modern manufactured “ingredients” such as Philadelphia Cream Cheese and evaporated milk. These  new, scientific modern recipes and products were perhaps designed to keep Australian housewives focussed on their weighty responsibilities to home and family. However I have given  a relatively simple iced cakes recipe for this section – the 1950s version of petit fours which had made a come back (did they ever go away???) The version of the recipe is below.

1950s petit fours recipes

Illustrated recipe for petit fours 1950s

Petit Fours from 1950s from Cake Icing and Decorating Book
1950s Petit Fours

The decoration of large cakes – birthday cakes!

The 1950s and 60s were that apogee of the domestic arts – the layered birthday cake, however more so in the USA than Australia. There was no better way for a mother to show her affection for her offspring, her skills to her husband, and to thumb one at the neighbours and in-laws than to create a monstrous multi layered, multi- dimensional birthday cake. Recipes abound in American books, many based on packet mixes. However the following is an Australian 50s birthday cake recipe to which many small Australian girls aspired – including me – “the Dolly Varden Cake” (even years after its creation). This recipe comes from a late 1950s book on cake icing and decorating by Jean Bowring:

Picture of 1950s Dolly Varden Cake
Picture of 1950s Dolly Varden Cake

The recipe for the inside of the Dolly Varden cake in this book is actually a fruit cake, although any firm madeira or plain cake would work just as well. The outside coating is indeed “frosting” and not icing and seems marshmallow like in consistency.  The recipe for the fruit cake is here:

Dolly Varden Cake Recipe

Cake Recipe for Dolly Varden Cake

The frosting recipe is this

“Snow Frosting”

(Illustrated in color, plate 51, page, 142)

1 egg white 1/2 cup crystal sugar Pinch salt 2 tablespoons water

Place the egg white, sugar and water in a basin and place over a saucepan of boiling water. Beat with an egg beater until the mixture will stand in stiff peaks. (Time will depend on the basin’s thickness).

Add the cream of tartar and flavouring and continue beating over the water until the icing will hold its trail when lifted. Pour quickly over the cake, swirl the icing with a large knife when set.

Other Cake Decorating  1920s – now – Fairy Cakes & Butterfly Cakes

I had always assumed that everyone called a patty cake with its top scooped out and cut in half, filled with a teaspoon of raspberry jam and some whipped cream, and top cut in half and replaced askew as “wings” as a fairy cake. Not so. While this seems to be a common name from the 1980s forward, a search of recipes in newspapers from the 20s – 70s in Australia revealed to me that that just as the American  term “cup cake” replaced the Australian “patty cake”, so the English “fairy cake” was supplanted by the Australian patty cake.   Fairy cakes were just little plain sponge cakes. Often lighter than patty cakes in that the whites were whipped separately, and often a few almonds were added or a little apricot jam was brushed across the top, they were a plain cake and not the cream and jam confection properly and often known as “butterfly cakes”! Butterfly cakes are best made with patty cakes that have a bit of a peak on them, as it makes cutting off a piece to make wings much easier.

SO if you are making a batch of patty cakes specifically to male make butterfly cakes, cook them at 210C rather than 200C.  Cut a circle of cake off the top of the patty cakes with a serrated knife. Cut the tops in half to make two semi circles. Add a half a teaspoon of raspberry jam at the bottom of the scooped out cake,  and plop on some whipped cream (double cream is too rich.) Reinsert the two halves at an angle into the cream to resemble the wings of a butterfly and dust them with icing sugar. Serve them for afternoon tea – but just don’t call them “fairy cakes” as I have been doing all my life! There is a gorgeous pic of a butterfly cake at www.exclusivelyfood.com.au but I haven’t yet been able to get in conact with them to put it on this site, so if you you want a look at the creme de la creme of butterfly cakes, I suggest you follow this link

Rescuing Decorating Disasters

I am a perfectionist. I like every thing on my cakes to look just so. Maybe not exactly perfect but icing even and to the edges, sprinkles evenly sprinkled and each patty cake to be the same size. For parties I sometimes even weigh how much mixture is in each patty paper so that they are all even (I am a little ashamed to admit that).

When baking goes wrong!

So imagine my horror the other day when a whole batch of Patty Cakes stuck to greased “non stick” mini muffin tins! I had run out of mini patty pan papers, and thought that paperless little baked patty cakes would be  cute! So I greased the mini muffin tins I had, (didn’t flour them – tut tut), and filled them 3/4 full. Well, they stuck, and they didn’t rise much. I dug them out with a knife while still warm and was left with tops – and bottoms. Marvellous. I left the second tray in the muffin tins in a little longer hoping to solidify before turning them out.

Stuck like a fat man in a pickle jar. I left them to deal with later. The last of the mixture I used to fill some “foolproof” silicon patty pans. I only had enough mixture for about 6, but that would have to do. I baked these and they rose quite nicely, but again, split through the middle when unmoulded, except for two, which I will deal with later. I was left with a pile of mangled cake bodies. Half cakes taste nice but what to do??

What to do?

What should I do? – pile the bodies high, drizzle some icing and sprinkles on top and call it deconstructed patty cakes a la Masterchef??? Throw the lot in the bin?? (Believe me I was tempted). But in the spirit of Depression/wartime/waste not want not cookery I persevered. Take a look below:

Half cakes
Half cakes

When God/Allah/The Universe gives you lemons…

I used the cakes from the silicon moulds as they had the best shape and I lamington-ised them. I matched the top and bottom of each cake as best i could. I found some raspberry jam in the cupboard and used it to glue the little buggers together. I made a runny, very chocolatey icing from cocoa, icing mixture, and hot water and poured some dessicated cocoa on a plate. I gingerly picked up the cakes, plopped them face down in the chocolate icing and used my left hand to draw them upwards (without losing their bottom), and my right hand to face plant them in the coconut. I put the little bastards on the rack to dry off and repeated. By the 4th or 5th they were looking quite pretty. I’m sorry I didn’t photograph the plate but I was in a hurry! You’ll have to make do with one solitary pic:

Lamingtonised bastardised patty cake
Lamingtonised bastardised patty cake

I didn’t do them all. The stuck ones in the tins got dug out and frozen to make the basis for a boozy trifle another day. But two whole ones did get annointed with chocolate icing (thickened) and silver cachous for a little girl in time for morning tea. And the top of course was the best part of all.