Where do I start? How do I start? At the beginning?
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Leoni ( no e ..thanks to Dad’s spelling error when Mum lay recovering from my horrible birth and her distressing labour (( and I am still recovering from how much she hated the experience of bringing Leoni without an e into the world ))…but that’s another mother guilt and multi-generational story for another day: one which is sure to have had an impact on my teenage brood and my own challenging role as a mother ). Back to my name… I do like my name Leoni without an e ..makes me stand out from the other Leonies – a bit unique, -not that I need a misspelt name to add to my quirkiness. ( I am often referred to as just plain weird or as my teenage daughter calls me “ the most beautiful FWIt she knows Mmmm. I shall take that as a compliment when it is said with such an attractive smile and heartfelt meaning).
Somehow I managed to produce four interestingly beautiful, now teenagers, with names that are pretty boring really. Liam ( 18 ) Kathleen ( 17 ) Emily ( 16 ) and Ellen ( 12 ) . At the time it seemed critical that we name the children after people with significance in ours and/or their lives. As it stands today, they all hate their names…but they appreciate that their names have a story. Anyway enough of that…and on to feeding my brood.
My love of food started at a very early age and was ignited by the Woman’s Weekly Manual of the 70’s with the crock pot on the front ( for those of you old enough to remember ). I couldn’t read the words, but I loved the pictures and dreamed of having a mother that was creative enough to attempt the recipes inside. In all fairness to Mum, she did spend a year in some kind of baking frenzy when I was around four years old. I recall with great fondness her jam drops, coconut slice, date loafs with loads of butter, mushroom tarts ( cream filled pastry and nutmeg looking like a mushroom) and banana cake. For some reason she lost interest in her frenzy, yet, the banana cake remains on the weekly menu even today.
As the years rolled on I was inspired by the odd gourmet restaurant venture for birthday celebrations. Being raised in Grafton on the North Coast of NSW in the 70’s we were denied much choice, however we were blessed with a local restaurant , Shirlaine, named after the lovely wife of Stan the French chef…Strawberries Romanoff, carpet bag steak ( fillet with a hidden pocket of oysters ), fritto misto and veal marsala, all come to mind. But these were rare indulgences and I would dream of these meals whilst eating a chop, mash and green beans boiled to mush with a bitter aftertaste of bicarb ( meant to keep the bright green of the bean ) . Mum forced fed me beans and I was not able to leave the table until I ate them. Nowadays string beans are the only vegetable I struggle with , unless they are served with black beans and pork on a Sunday Yum Cha.
On the odd occasion Mum would branch out on the savoury mains yet only one remains a constant and rightly holds its place. I first remember eating it at my Grandmother’s sugar cane farm on the South Arm of Maclean. It is here my father’s family would gather on many a Sunday night over a deck of cards and stories of local gossip. My grandmother was a good cook and I loved her crab mornay with crunchy coconut rice and her delicious pumpkin scones. unfortunately she died with the recipes unshared. I have tried to channel her thought patterns over the years, but she is being stubborn in death as in life and, won’t come through for me. Neither do my attempts to recreate her food ( the Elsie ingredient is elusive ).
Anyway back to Mum (Noeline). On one of these evenings Mum proudly reveals, from the boot of the Valiant, her contribution to the night’s supper – her new Chuck Steak Curry. It is presented proudly in the typical seventies ceramic casserole dish with the orange lid and vibrant flowers adorning the outside (you know the one ?)…Well OMG…it was yum yum swiddly yum!!! Mum had produced a sweet , wholesome dish with meat that melted in your mouth. But curry it wasn’t (yet to Mum, it still is as all it takes is a little bit of Keens yes?)
I have been cooking this dish ever since and made one last week and my teenagers love it. They also love the banana cake, which is why I have selected these for my first entry. They have stood the test of time, have been passed on to many a home cook, are relatively quick and easy , are famous in many circles and are classic representatives of our family favourites , both past teenagers and present teenagers and every age in between…Oh except for Teen 2 Kathleen who is a committed Vegan for the past nine months…No 2 Teen is the child who would only eat white for years eg. Hot chips, pasta with butter and salt and margarita pizza….But that’s also a story for another day.