Friday, August 10, 2012

Corned Beef with Cabbage and Potatoes

Corned Beef Hash
Corned beef is one of those Australian dishes that is so common, no one bothers writing down the recipe. Not Stephanie Alexander, in the first edition of The Cook's Companion if I recall correctly. Certainly not the newspapers of the 1930s, when corned beef hash made with the leftovers reached its peak of popularity. Other more exotic 1930s suggestions for leftovers included corned beef meatloaf, corned beef curry, corned beef pie and corned beef souffle.

When it comes to cooking corned beef there are probably as many variations as there are cooks. Some use two lots of water, bringing the meat to a simmer and discarding the first, briney lot and starting again - this time adding the onions, carrots and other flavourings. Some stud the cloves into one of the onions, and re-use the cooked onion to flavour the white sauce. Others add the onions and carrots to the water in the last 30-45 minutes of cooking and serve them with the meat.

Potatoes, mashed or boiled, and cabbage are the traditional sides. The cabbage can be thinly sliced and simmered, drained, and a little white vinegar and butter added at the end; or cut into wedges and boiled. Parsley sauce, mustard sauce or plain white sauce make good accompaniments, but so does ordinary Dijon or hot English mustard. 

The leftovers can be made into a corned beef hash using roughly equal quantities of cold cooked potatoes, corned beef and - if you like - cabbage. Some 1930s recipes call for half a cup of water, milk or cream or a well-beaten egg to be added towards the end, but it is not really necessary. For a breakfast corned beef hash, a fried egg can go on top.

Corned Beef with Cabbage and Potatoes

1.25-1.5 kg corned silverside or brisket on the bone
2 onions, peeled
2-3 carrots, peeled
2-3 bay leaves
6 cloves
8 peppercorns 
1-2 tbsp brown or malt vinegar
1 dessertsp brown sugar

Wash meat well under running cold water to remove surface brine. Place in large saucepan, cover with water, add onions, carrots, bay leaves, cloves, peppercorns, vinegar and sugar. Cover, bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for approximately two hours, or until the meat is tender.

Serve with cabbage and small boiled potatoes brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with chopped parsley.

Corned Beef Hash

1 onion, finely chopped
30g butter
cold boiled potatoes, chopped into large chunks
corned beef, shredded into chunks or cut into pieces
cold cooked cabbage 

In a large frypan, saute the onion in butter until soft and golden. Toss in the potatoes; sprinkle with paprika and salt. When the edges are lightly browned, toss through the corned beef and cabbage. Turn the mixture once or twice and continue to cook until heated through. Serve piled in the middle of a round bowl.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Fitted Kitchen

The 1920s and 30s saw architects, including women, design kitchens that would reduce housework, accommodate modern appliances and create a "nerve centre" for the small family. No longer a large bare room at the back of the house, the kitchen was positioned at the side or towards the front and preferably next to the dining room, to which it could be linked by a small servery or hatch.

In America, "efficiency experts" had found that a circular work area in the kitchen reduced the number of steps a woman took while making a shortcake from 281 to 45 (Adelaide Mail, 9 August 1930). The circular work area places the stove, cupboards and refrigerator in one corner, with a "service table on wheels" that can be moved around the kitchen as needed. And quietly. It has rubber tyres.

This circular work area is in a relatively large kitchen, designed by an American woman, with an expensive "electric dish washer" next to the sink and a "planning desk" in the corner that houses a box of recipes, drawers for paid and unpaid bills, a telephone and a shelf for recipe books and "the loud speaker of a wireless set". The table, bottom right, seats four for breakfast and the children for lunch.

In Australia, "planning desks" and electric dish washers were less in demand, but work areas were similarly designed for efficiency.  

The really efficient factory-like Australian kitchen probably reached its apotheosis in an article by an architect using the nom-de-plume Best Overend, A.R.I.B.A., AR.A.I.A. Published in the Argusin 1934 under the title: "Small-House Kitchen - Rounded Corners, Flush Surfaces - Why Not Hose It Out?" the writer suggested that with no open shelves, a linoleum floor and a tiled wall, "there seems no reason why the modern kitchen should not be cleaned out and freshened with a hose - and what a relief that might prove to overwrought feelings!" The breakfast nook was redundant too, with "easy and direct access of the dining alcove" (26 July 1934, p.13).

By 1938 the Argus observed that the kitchen "is generally becoming smaller because it has been found that by carefully planning the position of the stove, sink and drainer, food and crockery cupboards, and workbench, less floor space is required". 

In the smaller kitchen, the pantry disappeared, replaced by "cupboards placed in convenient positions around the walls. Fitted with flush panel doors these cupboards present an unbroken surface which does not collect dust. They are designed for the storage of foodstuffs or kitchen equipment. Cupboards for perishables are now ventilated from below the floor, with an outlet in the ceiling... The position of these cupboards is important for the convenient working of the kitchen. The grocery cupboard should be close to the back door, and the cabinets for the storage of china, glass, silver, and table linen should be convenient to the dining-room. The position of the cupboards, however, is governed by the shape of the room." (Argus, 19 August 1937)

Like the pantry, the breakfast nook was redundant. Best Overend suggested a dresser be built in "between the dining space and the kitchen, and this will incorporate a servery hatch with direct connection with the preparation table". Rather than having a large table in the middle of the kitchen "round which Cook wended her way to and from the stove and the sink", food would be prepared on a flap projecting from the wall making the "preparation of meals... more comparable with the assembling line of motor-car plant than a series of isolated operations" ( Argus, 11 October 1934, p. 7)