My first cook book was the Commonsense Cookery Book which was the high school text for the compulsory cooking classes all girls had to endure back in the dark ages when I went to school. I remember the first cooking class I had as a 13 year old in which we made savory mince. It was a glutinous inedible mess. Those classes were unspeakably dreadful, as were the compulsory sewing classes.
The delight I take in cooking probably comes, as it does with most foodies, from watching a grandmother or mother bake, helping out at the appropriate times, and licking the bowl as part of the process. What has always staggered me is that my school’s compulsory cooking classes didn’t turn me off cooking for life. It certainly did with sewing. To this day I refuse to even sew on a button.
I threw away the Commonsense Cookery Book decades ago as a hated reminder of those awful days. It was a foolish thing to do as this cookbook was a treasure trove of old- fashioned quintessentially English recipes. I know of at least three or four recipes that I want to try. They were, of course, contained in that book. It means I’m going to have to explore Berkelow’s or Glebe Books in an attempt to track down a second hand version. The extraordinary thing is it’s still in print.
The second cookbook in my life was the Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook. I gave it to His Nibs as a wedding present much to his amusement as well as that of our friends. He become a reasonably good short order cook, and used to make an apricot souffle which was delicious. Some 40 years later the same tattered and food stained copy of the Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook complete with imperial measurements and notes in the margin, is dragged from the shelf for occasional use.
This Marinara Sauce originated in the Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook, but like most recipes I use there are quite a few amendments and additions made over the decades. But like all Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook recipes I’ve ever tried, it is fail safe.
- 200 grams green prawns
- 100 grams baby octopus
- 100 grams of scallops
- 100 grams smoked mussels (you can buy these in a container usually swimming in marinade, rinse them thoroughly before using them. You need to get rid of the marinade flavour as it can be very vinegary, but these smoked mussels are to die for).
- 100 grams of fish (your choice). I use flake. It is strong, doesn’t disintegrate during the cooking process, and takes on the flavours of the other seafood.
- 30 grams butter
- Red Onion, chopped finely
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed
- 1 can crushed tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup stock
- 1 dessert spoon sugar
- tablespoons parsley, chopped
- 1 tablespoon basil, chopped
- 1 dessert spoon mint, chopped
- 400 grams spaghetti ( I have to confess when I made this the other night I used an entire packet of spaghetti, all 750 grams, and there was plenty of sauce. There were five adults who had had a very long day, and we were all slightly peckish).
- Chop up all the seafood ingredients into small bite size bits with the exception of the mussels and the scallops.
- Melt the butter and add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is soft.
- Add the can of crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and stock. Bring to the boil then simmer until the sauce has been reduced and started to thicken. This should take about 10-15 minutes. Add the sugar (it tempers the acidity of the tomatoes).
- Add your seafood, starting with the chopped octopus, a minute later add chopped fish and prawns, then finally add the scallops and mussels. All up it will take 3 minutes or so. Turn off the heat and add the herbs stirring them through the sauce, leaving some extra parsley as pretty garnish.
- Pasta should be cooked in accordance with the instructions on the packet, or if fresh from shops such as the Pasta House in Leichhardt, you will find that it takes only 3 minutes of so to cook. Drain the pasta. Serve the sauce over the pasta.
- Add parsley garnish.
I know that it is not de rigueur to add cheese to a marinara dish, but there is always some ground Parmesan cheese on my table for those who like to add it into the mix. We also have lovely local crusty bread to go with it.
On the matter of wine His Nibs says to have a chilled Rose if you’re having this dish in the summer. In the winter he tends to choose a pinot noir.
This photo was the finished dish before all five of us fell on it. There wasn’t so much as a strand of spaghetti left. I know. Oink! Oink!
Enjoy. We did.
I thought long and hard before leaving this comment. This is, of course, a confession. I have your copy of the Commonsense Cookery Book and have had it since I used it in first year. As with so many things back in those days, when our much missed mother was counting every (and I mean EVERY) penny, I assume I was given it when I had to do my stint of compulsory cooking classes because that meant that was at least one thing she didn’t have to buy. But it’s definitely yours, covered in brown paper and plastic with your always and still much neater writing establishing without question its ownership. I will return it next time I see you. I can’t wait to see you start cooking from it. There is a delightfully named chapter called “Convalescents’ – Children’s Cookery”, complete with correct use of possessive apostrophes; apart from “Beef Tea” followed by “Good Beef Tea” (making the previous recipe bad beef tea?), there is something called “Brain Cakes”, which if you tried to serve to me in convalescence would finish me for sure.
Don’t fret. I will make do with my copy of the Advanced Commonsense Cookery Book. I have no idea where that came from. It’s in remarkably good shape, as is yours (your welcome) and apart from a pencil marking of $3.95 (making it post-1966) it will remain a mystery.
signed your thieving sister.
I immediately visited your blog and love the pasta but I must admit the comment from your sister made me laugh.
My mother was always resentful of the fact that her much loved younger sister had most of her text books. It became a running joke which continued late into their lives, probably until the books themselves had disintegrated. But it had an advantage for me as my sister was bought her own texts. My copies of those books are in my (converted) shed. I was put off cooking but no so much sewing! Love the look of you delicious dish.
In Tasmania we used a local Home Cookery teachers’s cook book. It had a section for cooking for invalids. Lots of recipes with white sauce eg tripe.
Then got Australian Woman’s Weekly Cook Book as a pre wedding party present. And the Australian Vogue Cookbook also and my sister in law said ‘ Well you wouldn’t cook those recipes’.
I did but she still hasn’t.