Elizabeth and I met at High School, and have been friends ever since, and I am very pleased to be telling you about her recipe book Capers, not just because she is an exceptional cook, but because this recipe book is different from the usual. It is a kind of memoir, with each recipe marking a particular time, and meals shared with family and friends, in settings that span the globe.
She writes so well. For example, when describing the ‘casually impressive starter’, Bruschetta, Red Peppers and Cannellini Beans, as ‘Minimal, like a Paul Klee painting, with clean flavours and interesting textures’. We follow Elizabeth as she takes us to Jerusalem, and we walk down Salah al-Din Street to Damascus Gate where the village women gather with their wares and we breath in the fresh scents of mint, basil, tomatoes, cardamom… Yum.
That’s just the first recipe. With a story on one page and the recipe nearby, I turned the pages, enjoying the stories and the recipes created from my friend’s memories. In one, she observes her mother gorgeously dressed for a special party, holding aloft a tray of Choux savouries, her skirt, a field of poppies swirling. I’ve never made Choux savouries, but now I shall – using Elizabeth’s recipe, of course.
Elizabeth has written about food she prepared in New Zealand, when she had young children and lived a train ride from me. And it was a little story about one particular recipe that I remembered very well. Pinwheel scones. I watched Elizabeth make these on one visit. It is a recipe for those who love Marmite, or Vegemite, and involves a scone mixture rolled out into two long rectangles where marmite is spread over the surface, sprinkled with onion, cheese and/or bacon and cheese. The rectangles are then rolled up from long side into tubes, and cut into 3cm rounds, and baked 12 minutes until golden. Simple, and tasty. It wasn’t just our children who loved them.
She moved to Australia, and was working at the TAFE with Vietnamese women studying childcare. I was visiting, and invited to share a group meal with them. My first taste of Vietnamese food, which I took to immediately. Elizabeth writes in her book of the role texture plays in balancing a Vietnamese dish – ‘crisp shallots over congee, slippery bands of fresh rice with prawns, crunchy cucumber in a salty sweet sauce… who wouldn’t wish to try Elizabeth’s sixteen rolls recipe with dipping sauce?
Later, Elizabeth worked overseas with Aid agencies for many years, finally returning to her home in Melbourne. I look forward to visiting her there again soon, so we can share new recipes and memories.
So, a beautiful recipe book, containing childhood favourites to exotic delights. Thank you Elizabeth for reminding me of scones, sandwiches, and capers of a different kind.