If God had intended us to follow recipes, He wouldn't have given us grandmothers.


Posted: March 20th, 2012 | Author: babushkababushka | Filed under: Beba | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

A walk from my aunt’s house around Red Star football stadium at night took me past a pack of stray dogs. A stray had recently bit my friend on the butt out of the blue, but I was confident it wouldn’t happen to me. Residue from my childhood belief that I had a special connection with animals.  I tried not to think about the fact that these weren’t the normal scruffy, malnourished strays, these were big purebred pets, driven crazy and abandoned during the bombing of Belgrade.

This was a nice part of town. The war criminal Arkan had lived a few doors from my grandma Beba, before he was shot. Arkan owned a real tiger, and had armed guards. One day my little cousin jumped in a puddle, splashing them.

I thought we would get machine gunned, but instead the guard gushed: ‘A little troublemaker! You’ll be like us one day!’

Beba is my grandma’s nickname and it means ‘baby’. She was always the giggly girl. When my father was a baby, Beba and her sister Rosie would put him on the bed and jump on the mattress, bouncing him to sleep.

Beba looked like Frida from ABBA and she had a beauty salon in the 80s. I used to watch ladies lying there, high-tech weight loss discs attached to their wobbling cellulite bottoms. I loved the smell of black wax and creams. Beba pierced my ears without my mother’s permission when I was eight.

She would sometimes get upset when she saw me now, because I reminded her of my father, who is dead.

Beba is a very dedicated cook. She is the only person in the world who will sit on a chair in front of the oven, tensely perched, hands on knees, endlessly staring at pastry.

‘So you are making six sheets of pastry?’


‘And what are you doing now?’

‘I’m watching it cook.’


She sighed. ‘Because, you have to take it out the second it goes brown.’

‘Can’t you time it?’

‘No, that is not reliable enough. Heat, pastry thickness. It’s never the same.’

‘So you just stare at it?’


We stared at the oven. Suddenly, she jumped up, opened the oven and whipped out the pastry. ‘See?’

Then she looked at me. ‘My South American soap opera starts in fifteen minutes. While we watch, I can braid your hair sideways, like Kassandra’s.’


With a relieved relish, she filled me in on the show. ‘Kassandra’, the beautiful Venezuelan protagonist, blamed for a murder she didn’t commit, is about to be sexually harassed at a banana plantation by a man who she thinks is her friend. And so we spent the afternoon, preoccupied with the many challenges facing Kassandra, in her brave quest for love and happiness.


Serbian cakes are tortes, thick, creamy and layered. My family has never understood the Australian taste for ‘sponge’.

‘It’s because their desserts have no taste. It is like eating a sponge. That’s why they have to pour custard on it!’ my mother says.

Our desserts are rich.

I don’t know why this is called ‘Men’s cake’, but I am told it was my father’s favourite.



Cake layers:

10 egg whites

150 g sugar

150 g butter, softened

140 g melted chocolate

150 g roasted hazelnuts, ground

80 g flour


9 egg yolks

9 tablespoons of sugar

1 cup of milk with vanilla essence in it (unspecified amount of vanilla, so do to taste)

200 g butter, whisked


100 g chocolate

6 tablespoons of milk

2 tablespoons of sugar

some butter




Cake layers:

1.  Using an egg beater, mix the egg whites and add the sugar.

2.  Mix in the butter and chocolate

3.  Mix in the hazelnuts and flour

4.  Put baking paper on the BACK of a baking tray. Spread a layer of the mixture over the baking paper, and bake at 180 degrees until ready (watch the oven, take it out when it goes solid, even in the middle – this takes about 6–8 minutes)

5.  Make 5 or 6 layers like this

6.  Leave to cool and proceed with filling



1.  Using an egg beater, mix the yolks with the sugar

2.  Add milk with vanilla essence

3.  Put the mixture in a saucepan inside a larger saucepan of boiling water and steam-cook. It will thicken, and consider it ready when you can run a fork along the surface, leaving a trail.

4.  Leave to cool completely.

6.   Add the butter mix well

7.  Put a cake layer on the bottom of your serving tray and spread a layer of filling on it. Repeat until you have used all the filling and cake layers.



1. Melt all the ingredients in a saucepan until boiling.

2.  Spread over the top and sides of the cake.


Guest post by Sofija Stefanovic.


Posted: October 3rd, 2011 | Author: babushkababushka | Filed under: Baka | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Young Baka, on the left.

A week before I went to Serbia, a childhood friend died and I had my wisdom teeth out. By the time I got to Belgrade my face was throbbing with infection.

It was after hours, but my aunt’s neighbour was a dentist. We shuffled over through sleet, my swollen face wrapped in towels, an Eastern European tale of toothache in the snow. An old woman opened the door wafting the inevitable smell of cabbage that marks a Serbian home.

‘What is wrong with the boy!?’ she shouted and I assumed she was mad, one of those old ladies who think everyone is their husband. Then I realised how I looked – like a mump-addled freak. My misshapen, sobbing face made my sex and age anyone’s game.

In his basement clinic, her son the dentist spoke about ‘NYPD Blue’ as he shot me full of painkillers and drained the fluid from my jaw. I bumbled home spitting blood, remembering my early sexual feelings for Jimmy Smits on a Serbian-dubbed ‘LA Law’.

The story was, the night he died, my childhood friend Boris went on a spectacular binge through the streets of Belgrade, going into every pub and club. He had stepped on every cobble and ran his drunken hands along every building, infecting each corner of my city as he romped, accumulating to his overdose. Boris’ death put an unfriendly scrim over Belgrade, the familiar smell of Lucky Strikes and chestnuts was no longer nice. Everywhere I went I saw Boris stumbling, so I didn’t go out.

It was in medicated depression that I chose the company of my grandmother Baka. She didn’t go out either, due to broken hips. And she didn’t like fresh air, so the window stayed shut. She talked and I slumped, spitting teeth like cherry pips as she cooked in a cloud of cigarette smoke.

‘All my friends are dead.’ Baka said putting a morbid perspective on things. A gloat crept into her voice, ‘I’m the oldest one still alive.’

She smiled, ‘Still a-live.’

Baka had been an agricultural engineer, a career-woman in the 50s and 60s, she travelled the world, talking at conferences about cross-pollination of flowers. Yugoslavia was powerful then, a socialist success, keen to put working women at its forefront. She soaked it up. When I was small, Baka took me to the park and let me touch the insects. She blew smoke rings and wore a Chanel suit.

‘My name, Ksenia, means one who travels. The welcome stranger. In English, it would be spelt with an X. The English letter X.’

She didn’t pay attention to my tearful, bloated face. She couldn’t see well and moreover, she was not so interested in the tangible world. Baka preferred the delusions that had come to her with old age.

‘They are like wonderful waking dreams,’ she said, to her cigarette smoke. ‘Yesterday, two little girls showed up out of thin air and asked me to teach them to knit. They were so polite. A few days ago, a young doctor appeared. He examined me and said I was in perfect health,’ she stirred the pot. ‘They keep me busy.’

Every day, through three wars, a career, deaths and births, Baka cooked. Today, as her sedated granddaughter sat in the periphery, was just another day in the big scheme of things.



Goulash recipes exist all over Europe. This is my preferred one. Serbs like to put tomatoes in as well, but I prefer it without.

It is a very easy recipe, but it takes hours of slow cooking.

It is even better the next day.



Olive oil

As many different onions as you can find (garlic, onion, shallots, spring onion etc), chopped up.

As many different meats as you can find, diced (all the meat ends up soft and delicious, and a variety of meat makes it more delicious – last time I made it I used beef, veal, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb and kangaroo, because I am assimilated.)

Several cups of meat or vegetable stock.

Water (you will be adding cups as you go along)

Ground paprika (smoked, sweet, chilli – any of these, or a combination goulash is defined by paprika, so you need a lot of this)

Red wine

Bay leaves

Salt and pepper



1. On medium h. eat, in a very large pan or saucepan (needs to hold the whole dish), put in all the onions and cook them until they are turning brown and clear.

2. Bit by bit, put in all the meat and brown it just a little bit.

3. Add the stock and turn the heat to low. If required, add  water – the meat should be completely covered.

4. Simmer for several hours, stir the pot to prevent it burning, adding water and paprika as you go. Add wine and bay leaves after two hours.

5. When the meat becomes tender and is soft and falling apart when prodded with a fork, it is nearly done. Thicken with paprika and other spices (whatever you like, paprika, thyme and cumin all work well). Taste and season with salt and pepper.

6. Serve with hot chips, or mashed potato, steamed green beans and carrots.

Guest post by Sofija Stefanovic. Sofija is involved in writing, film and TV. She lives in Melbourne and tweets here.







Posted: August 31st, 2011 | Author: babushkababushka | Filed under: Gran | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Recently I flew home for a couple of days to help move my grandparents into a nursing home. For a couple celebrating their 71st wedding anniversary this year (yes, seventy first), it’s been a while coming, but except for Gran’s memory, they’re still in good form. Having lived through two world wars in Scotland, they are long-practiced in the art of frugality. This left me with the difficult task of ruthlessly tossing out decade’s worth of their humbly accrued possessions.

When it came to sorting out their kitchen, I became the opposite of ruthless (…ruth?). Some of my earliest memories are of helping Gran make shortbread, and devouring the tastiest honey sandwiches known to man (the secret is an ungodly amount of butter). I carried half my bodyweight in cutlery, cookie jars and handmade tea towels home with me, pushing Jetstar’s luggage allowances well beyond their limits. It was finding Gran’s recipe book, though – untouched for years, since the joy of cooking has lost out to the many burdens of old age – that made my heart skip a beat.

As Gran slowly totters down that devastating path towards dementia, her spirit seems to be fading along with her memories and skills. As I work my way through the pages of her recipe book, the memories of her infectious laugh, her deftly skilled hands kneading some dough, and the sounds and smells of something-or-other frying in butter come fondly flooding back.

Gran’s Shortbread


180gm salted butter, chilled and chopped into small cubes

120gm caster sugar

210gm plain flour

30gm cornflour



1. Heat the oven to 150°C, and prepare a baking tray lined with baking paper.

2. Beat the butter and sugar until thoroughly mixed, making sure the butter is still slightly chilled.

3. Add the flours to the bowl and, working quickly (with cold hands, if you’ve got ‘em), rub it all together as if you’re feeling quality of a hem. You want it to be mixed but not homogenous.

4. Tip the mix onto the bench, and bring it together in a log shape (about 2 inches in diameter) that is only just staying together. If you’re struggling to wrangle it, chuck it in the fridge for 15 minutes and try again.

5. Cut half inch thick slices of the log and lay them out on the baking tray, leaving a bit of spreading room between them.

6. Bake for 45 minutes, but check as soon as 25 minutes, and if they’re starting to brown open the oven for a bit and turn it down. Gran’s shortbread was only lightly golden on the bottom, but perfectly crumbly throughout.


Madeira Cake



150gm butter

150gm caster sugar

240gm self-raising flour, sifted

3 eggs, lightly whisked

A few drops of lemon essence


180gm icing sugar (or icing mixture), sifted

1-2Tbs lemon juice



1. Heat the oven to 180°C, and grease a 7-8” baking tin.

2. Cream the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl, then beat in the eggs with a little of the flour.

3. Add the essence, then gently fold in the remaining flour.

4. Pour the mixture into the tin, and bake for roughly 75 minutes, testing with a skewer every 10 minutes after 50.

5. Rest it for 10 minutes, then turn onto a cooking rack and cover with a clean tea towel until cold.

6. For the icing, add 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice to the icing sugar, and work to your desired consistency, adding more juice as required. Spread icing thickly over the top of the cooled cake, and slice generously to serve.


Gran’s Cheesey Spread


500 grams of tasty cheddar cheese, coarsely grated

2 eggs

1 cup full cream (is there any other?) milk

1Tbs white vinegar

60 grams butter

Generous pinch of salt & white pepper

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Sterilised jars



1. Beat the eggs together with the salt, peppers and vinegar.

2. Heat the milk and butter in a saucepan large enough to hold all the ingredients, then stir in the cheese and eggs.

3. Stir the mixture over a gentle heat until it’s like thick cream, then pour into jars and let cool with the lids off.

4. I can’t tell you how long it safely keeps for, but Gran used to use it for months. I ate bucket-loads of it, and I turned out ok. I used to eat it on Cruskits, but I’m sure that’s not the only way it can be eaten. Gran also notes that chives, onion or bacon can be added for flavour. Do with that information what you will.


Guest post by James Mcculloch.  James is the food columnist for The Lifted Brow. He lives in Geelong and tweets here.

Ammumah (Why I’m Not Great at Chilli)

Posted: August 24th, 2011 | Author: babushkababushka | Filed under: Ammumah | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

During primary school, my sister and I were never allowed to go to after school care. That was for white children whose families didn’t care about them. When the school bell rang, our grandfather (Iyah) would be waiting at school gates and together the three of us would walk back to the small house he shared with our grandmother (Ammumah) in Melbourne’s deep-south eastern surburbs.

The first thing that happened after school was lunch. School finished at 3.30pm, so my sister and I, aspiring to be like our after-school care attending classmates resisted this strange mealtime.

“We already had lunch!”

“Eating a meal after school is weird, ammumah! No-one else does it.”

“At after school care yesterday everyone got to make angel-cakes.”

… and even “We really want to start our homework now.”

My grandmother was formidable then. She had been a teacher under colonial rule in Ceylon for many years, and before Teacher’s College, attended a convent. She was used to 4am rises, cooking three meals a day for at least 10 people (family and drop-ins, such as tradesmen) and military discipline around all aspects of kitchen life.

Unsurprisingly, Ammumah routinely ignored our whining, assuming (correctly) that the cheese and vegemite sandwich we’d eaten at 12.30pm had been long forgotten. Partly this was because she couldn’t bear the idea of children growing up without eating rice and curry once a day, but partly this was because she was still cooking as though a surprise herd of paddy farmers would appear any minute. Vast quantities of rice and curry appeared from that Springvale kitchenette.

I’m ashamed of it now, but often I found the food nauseating and ugly. All I really wanted was that goddam angel cake, or some crackers and cheese. So every afternoon, when ammumah pushed that plate in front of me, I had to develop a strategy. What could I pretend to chew and then spit out into a tissue? What could be swallowed whole?

The typical split of rice to curry was 70/30, part of a long held tradition of the starch-loving Tamils of northern Sri Lankans (see fig 1.). This meant I could often dispose of the curries first and then eat the remaining rice with tomato sauce, the best condiment in the world

Ammumah soon picked up on this trend. One day, when she questioned me on it, I quickly produced a plausible excuse: the curries were too hot for me. Eliminating the curries, especially the dreaded curry1, (a kuluhmbu or dark brown chilli gravy featuring a vegetable) would solve most of my problems in life. Maybe I would be allowed to eat just rice and tomato sauce…maybe even white bread and tomato sauce. I was proud of the lie.

In the following days, however, I began to regret my decision. Instead of eliminating kuhlumbus from my diet, Ammumah merely ladled out a cup full of the curry before adding the final smattering of chilli powder to the pot. My smaller batch was instead treated to an extra helping of milk, giving it the name ‘paal curry’ or ‘milk curry’ — generally reserved for toddlers learning to chew.

Not only had my lie failed it’s initial purpose, I spent a good portion of my primary and high school years eating children’s food. I failed to developed the palate of an adult curry eater and even today you can find me, shaming my family, ordering ‘medium’ level curries at the local Indian take away.


Vendikai Kuluhmbu (Okra Curry)


Okra, two cups

Vegetable oil, for deep frying

Onion, one

Garlic, two cloves

Chilli powder (to taste)

Milk or coconut milk (to taste)


Tamarind, left to soak in warm water

Curry leaves (handful)




1. Wash okra and leave to dry out in colander – you don’t want damp okra

2. Fry okra in oil

3. While the okra is frying, chop half an onion and two cloves of garlic

4. When the okra is half done, add onion and garlic

5. When the okra is about 90% done, use a slotted spoon to remove okra, onion and garlic and transfer into saucepan.

6. Turn heat on under saucepan, and using the residual oil, fry a teaspoon of fennel and cumin with the okra, onion and garlic

7. When that begins to be aromatic, add two cups water, a tablespoon to three tablespoons of chilli powder, pinch of salt and a squeeze of tamarind

8. Bring the curry to a simmer and leave for 5 mins.

9. Turn the heat off and add a dash of milk (my mother says no novice should try this with cow’s milk first, and advises coconut milk which is a more stable substance. Once you’ve made a few, you’ll become familiar with the nature of the dish and using dairy milk will be less daunting.)

10. Add curry leaves, turn the heat on until you can smell the curry leaves and take the dish off the stove.

Serves 8 as part of a 70% rice/30% curry meal.

Guest post by Bhakthi Puvanenthiran. Bhakthi is a writer, journalist and other things besides. She lives in Melbourne and tweets here.


Posted: August 8th, 2011 | Author: babushkababushka | Filed under: Mumma | No Comments »

If I was Tim Winton, I would have recycled Mumma into an archetype of the Australia matriarch and made a couple of million dollars and an ABC mini-series. She saw most of the last century play out, moved with Australia as it grew out of its rural traditions to an urbanised economy. She raised five children as good God-fearing Catholics and maintained a stoic, loving myosis as one by one they became divorcees, homosexuals, and hippies.

Somewhere along the line some hippy filtered back to Mumma, and she started to practice a confusing kind of mixed Buddhism and Catholicism. She believes in Jesus, and in reincarnation; she practices Lent, as well as vegetarianism. The food I grew up eating in her kitchen was an ad-hoc melange of salvaged English and Irish food, coupled with the influx of ideas and ingredients from a rapidly metropolitanising Melbourne. She could nail a seemingly impossible combitation of flavours for a vegetarian lasagne, but could still bust out an unstoppable roast chicken come Christmas.


Steak and Guinness Stew

Scarborough Chicken

Mumma’s Soup

Lemonade Scones

The Frank McCourt

Guilty Salad


Steak and Guinness Stew/Pie

Posted: August 8th, 2011 | Author: babushkababushka | Filed under: Mumma | No Comments »

The Irish stew is both a testament to the versatility and ingenuity of peasant cuisine. Like all great peasant cuisine, it has its historical genesis in necessity. Before the advent of refrigeration allowed animals to be butchered and their meat frozen for future meals, the only way to keep meat was to cure it by smoking or salting.

In the frigid climate of the UK, people had few choices in winter. They could eat grain, or joyless tubers that would grow under the snow, or they could flavour their meat with spices. The hunger for spices to cover the taste of stale meat across the UK is partially what drove the British to explore, and later conquer India, Malaysia and America. In fact, when Christopher Columbus discovered America he was trying to circumnavigate the world to provide a faster and cheaper spice route from Asia to Europe. The colonial spices that the European powers brought home forever changed their cuisines. The Dutch conquered Sri Lanka to procure cinnamon and sugar from which their culture of delectable pastries arose. The creation of Ceylon, the bhurgers, all happened because the Sri Lankans had cinnamon, and the Dutch had the munchies. The English, in turn, brought home the myriad spices of India and homogenised them into what they called ‘curry powder’, and the glory of the English curry house was born. The Irish, in their turn, conquered no-one, stayed home and cooked with beer instead.

Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients. You essentially put the stuff in the pan and cook it. Back in the day this was cooked over the hearth in a kettle, and allowed to simmer all day. The key to this dish is to think of it as Mozart symphony that builds slowly over time, only instead of layers of delecate strings singing in harmony against the fading majesty of the empire, we’ll use potato.

Steak and Guinness Pies



900 grams chuck steak or lamb.

1 Large Onion – finely diced

1 Leek –finely diced

2 Sticks Celery – finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped.

2 carrots, diced

2 large grainy potatoes, cubed

1 large carrot, 1 large potato 1 large parsnip, all grated.

A handful of new potatoes, finely sliced into chips.

2 spring onions

1 pint of beer. Guinness is traditional of course, but any heavy beer or stout will do.


1 tin of tomato

1 handful of fresh mixed herbs, or one tablespoon of dry mixed herbs.

For Pies:

1 packet of puff pastry

1 beaten Egg




1. Season your chunks of meat with salt and pepper then toss in a little flour to coat.

2. Using an oven safe crockpot, sear the meat on medium heat in olive oil until it’s brown on all sides, then remove and reserve.

3. Reduce heat to low and sauté the onions, leek and garlic until everything is soft, then grate in the carrot, parsnip and potatoes.

4. Turn up the heat to medium high and fry for another two minutes, then add your tin of tomatoes. When it boils, turn down the heat and pour in your beer.

5. Wait for the beer to reach a low simmer then add your herbs and cover.

6. Cook for two hours until the meat breaks down and the vegetables have turned into an intensely flavoured mush. Season with salt and pepper, and optionally, a teaspoon of Vegemite.

7. Add your cubed carrot and potato. You want to cultivate a nice juxtaposition between the stewed vegetables and the just simmered chunks. Simmer for another hour, then thicken with a tablespoon or so of cornflour.

8. At this point, take it off the heat and layer thinly sliced potato over the top, so that the stew is sealed by a lid of potato. Brush this with butter and season with pepper. Scatter spring onions over the top.

9. Cover and put in the oven at 160 for 45 minutes. The potato will steam through so that when you take it out of the oven there will be a gossamer layer of potato holding in the steam.

10. Serve with steamed greens, crusty soda bread and dark beer.

11. If you have any leftover, you can recycle it into a pie very easily. Simply roll out some puff pastry as it says on the back of the pack and line your oiled pie tin with it to make a shell. Fill the pastry shell with pie mix, use another piece of pastry for a lid, being careful to seal it. Crimp the edges with your fingers so the mixture doesn’t boil out during cooking.

12. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Score the lid slightly with a sharp knife in a criss cross pattern, then brush with beaten egg. Cook for 45 minutes until golden and bubbling.




Mumma’s Soup

Posted: June 5th, 2011 | Author: babushkababushka | Filed under: Mumma | No Comments »

Mumma grew up Irish/English Australian on a farm in rural Victoria and when she came of age was sent to a convent in Melbourne to be educated. When she graduated she was scooped up by the newspapers as an editor as World War II broke and women were called up to replace the men being sent to die. After the war her husband Ian came home, and they set up to raise a family.

On one of their first nights together they went into the kitchen and suddenly realised that neither of them knew how to cook. Caught up in the war effort, neither of them had picked up the basics from their parents. They had to work it out between them using rations, home-grown vegetables guesswork, fragments of recipes Ian picked up in France, and Women’s Weekly magazines. This soup is the first thing they got right.

The barley makes the stock into a thick, winsome broth that is both comforting and moreish. When I was a kid I treated it like crack, I would manoeuvre my spoon so that I collected the liquid around the chunks of vegetable and eat almost a whole loaf of nasty white bread soaking it up, before demanding it be refilled. When I was done, I would scamper away from the table leaving a bowl heaped with soggy, abandoned chunks of carrot and corn.

Apparently Mumma can’t make it as well as Ian could, but I can’t make it as well as she can. Everyone in the family, the great, sprawling, Irish Catholic mess that it is, makes a version of the soup. Everyone’s is different, but everyone insists that theirs is the original version of Mumma’s Soup. This is mine.


2 handfuls of barley.

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon dried mixed herbs

1 onion, finely chopped

1 stick of celery, finely chopped

1 large leek, finely chopped

2 carrots and 2 potatoes, cubed

2 cups green beans, sliced

3 cups shelled peas

The kernels of one cob of corn.

2 handfuls of baby spinach, diced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon white vinegar

2 litres of  vegetable stock


  1. Put the barley into a saucepan, cover with stock, add dried herbs and a clove of garlic and boil vigorously for an hour. Remove and reserve
  2. In a large saucepan, fry the onion and leak until just soft then add celery, carrot and garlic for a further 10 minutes.
  3. Add the barley stock, potatoes, and green beans. Bring to the boil, skimming any foam that rises to the surface, then cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes
  4. Add the remaining vegetables and simmer for another 40 minutes.
  5. Add the spinach and simmer for another five minutes, until spinach wilts. Season with salt and pepper.


Lemonade Scones

Posted: June 5th, 2011 | Author: babushkababushka | Filed under: Mumma | No Comments »

These scones are the very first thing I remember cooking. For that matter, they are the very first thing I remember eating, sitting at a green laminex table and pulling them apart with my fingers while still steaming and piling them high with alarming amounts of jam and cream.
3 cups self raising flour
A fat pinch of salt
1 cup of heavy cream
1 cup of lemonade
1.    Sift flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre. Pour in cream and lemonade.
2.    Mix with a flat bladed knife with a cutting motion until mixture comes together.
3.    Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it is smooth and pliable.
4.    Roll it out into sheets about two inches thick with a rolling pin, then cut them into circles using a cup and a knife to measure them.
5.    Bake in an oven preheated to 220 for 10 minutes until they puff and turn golden-brown.
6.    Serve with jam and whipped cream.



Posted: May 2nd, 2011 | Author: babushkababushka | Filed under: Bisnonna | Tags: | No Comments »


My family tree is as Irish as incest for the most part, but sneaking in on my paternal side are a French great, great grandfather and an Italian great grandmother. From her I have inherited two wonderful things, my mild olive skin, which, coupled with a smattering of Italian hubris, makes me think I am capable of suntanning. I am not, and my Irish under-skin quickly turns into crackling. The other, much better gift is her recipe book  which came to me in a box of heirlooms. I’ve translated my three favourite recipes here, because they are boss.

My favorite is Ragu alla Milanese, a trinity of gremolata, ragu and risotto. Each ingredient can be prepared separately, but combine them for what is, whithout hyperbole, mankind’s greatest achievement. I don’t know anything about her beyond these recipes, but going on them, what Leonardo did for science, she did for tomatoes.



Napoli Sauce

Veal Osso Bucco


Parmesan Risotto


Cicilian Green Beans


Posted: May 2nd, 2011 | Author: babushkababushka | Filed under: Bisnonna | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

Lasagne is one of those dishes that the world’s mediocre cooks have bastardised, but when done right is truly glorious. It is one of the first fusion foods in history, incorporating pasta which came from China with a technique adapted from greek moussaka. It is immensely popular worldwide. A primitive version of it appears in the first cookbook ever published in 14th century Britain.  If there is a reason that organised montheistic religion took such a strong foothold in Italy, it is likely Bisnonna’s lasagne.

This combines two kinds of meat, slowly braised lamb shank whose tenderness has been coaxed out by gentle simmering, and robust meaty pork meatballs. If you have a pasta machine you can make your own pasta sheets, otherwise just use the dried ones from the supermarket, but take a moment to soak them in warm water before using to avoid them drying out during baking.



Two lamb shanks

300 grams pork mince

1 cup breadcrumbs

1 egg

Enough lasagne pasta sheets to line your baking tray a few times.

1 large onion diced

1 carrot cubed

6 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

1 glass of white wine

1.5 cups chicken stock

250ml napoli sauce

2 bay leaves

2 Thyme springs.

1 rosemary sprig

1 star anise

2 handfuls chopped parsely

200 grams grated parmesan

100 grams buffallo mozzarella, sliced

60 grams butter

1/3 cup plain four

4 cups milk

1 pinch ground nutmeg


1. In a heavy bottomed saucepan large enough to lay each shank out side-by-side, gently sear the shanks in olive oil until brown on all sides.

2. Remove the shanks, and gently fry the onion and carrot in the same pan. After two minutes add the wine and bring to a boil, before adding stock, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary and star anise and garlic. Allow to boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover.

3. Simmer gently for two hours, turning shanks occasionally until the meat is flaking off the bones. At this point, remove the shanks, allow to cool and remove all the meat. Discard the bones, and reintroduce the meat to the sauce, season with salt and pepper and reduce until it is at the consistancy of a thin stew.

4. Meanwhile, prepare your meatballs. Combine pork mince, bread crumbs and egg in a large mixing bowl. Knead well with damp hands, then roll into several meatballs about 2cm in diametre.

5. Drizzle olive oil and parmesan on the bottom of a baking tray, then line with pasta sheets. Drizzle oil and pamesan on top of the pasta sheets, then scatter half the meatballs randomly over the top. Using a ladel, spoon the lamb braise over the meatballs so that everything is just covered. Scatter chopped parsley and slices of mozzarella over the meat, then top with parmesan.

6. Cover with another layer of pasta, pressing down with your hands to push all the air out.

7. Repeat the whole process with another layer of meatballs, braise, herbs, cheese and pasta.

8. Top with the remaining pasta with bechamel sauce. To make bechamel, melt butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat until foaming. Add flour and cook, stirring until bubbling. Remove from heat and slowly add milk, whisking constantly until mixture is smooth. Return to heat and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon for 10 minutes. It is ready when the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from heat, stiry in parmesan and salt and nutmeg to taste. Pour the whole mess over the lasagne.

9.Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until foaming. Add flour. Cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes or until bubbling. Remove from heat. Slowly add milk, whisking constantly, until mixture is smooth. Return to heat. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 10 to 12 minutes or until sauce comes to the boil, thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from heat. Stir in parmesan, salt and nutmeg.

10. Cover the tray with foil, shiny side down and put in an oven preheated to 160. Bake for 45 minutes, then remove foil and bake for a further five. Your lasagne will be just crisp on top, with a fine coating of lightly charred beschamel protecting the cheesy, meaty wonderland beneath. YOU’RE WELCOME.