Building up a list of old-fashioned, favourite recipes

15 August 2016
When I was growing up we rarely went out to eat. I remember dad taking a saucepan to the local newly opened Chinese restaurant once. The saucepan was filled with Chinese food to be brought home to eat. That would have been in the mid-50s; there were no take away containers in those days. I also remember one exciting day in the 1950s when mum took Tricia and I "to town" (the city of Sydney) to look at the department store Christmas windows and, for the first time, we had lunch at a restaurant. There weren't many restaurants around then but this one was called Cahills Family Restaurant and I think it was in the Strand Arcade. I forget what Tricia and mum had but I ordered spaghetti Bolognese, which I thought was extremely sophisticated. That was the first time I had pasta. Australia was still living in the meat and three veg era then. Back then you could eat at bistros, cafes and milk bars. Most country pubs had food, many city ones didn't but if you wanted really good food everyone knew where to go, you ate at home.

 Chicken casserole.
Meat pie.

We grew up in a time when meat and left overs played a big part in contemporary cooking. Fish was often served on Friday and we were able to tell what day it was by what was on the dinner plate. Cook books were unusual then. Many cooks wrote down their own recipes, had a scrapbook of recipes cut from magazines and pasted into a book or they may have had one cook book which would have been a CWA or church recipe book. Most people cooked meals they'd grown up eating and had been taught to cook as a child. That was the experience in our family so when I was learning to cook, I modified my mother or father's cooking and added things like spaghetti bolognese along the way.

I had an email from a reader recently asking for help with old fashioned recipes. This lady is about my age, has collected over 1000 cook books but feels overloaded and has trouble sorting the information. She and her husband like old style meals and don't like 'new' ingredients. I think she came to the right place because although I do cook the occasional new style meal and experiment with new ingredients, the older I get the more I rely on the foods I grew up with. I like the familiarity of them; they're my comfort foods.

 Satay chicken
 Potato salad
 Quiche in filo pastry
 Rissoles (meat balls) in herb gravy and vegetables

The following list is made up of the meals I make over and over again. Occasionally there will be a stir fry or a new recipe to try and more frequently lately, there are vegetarian meals. Even when we do eat meat, it's far less than we used to eat. We've probably reduced our meat intake by about 50 percent to what it was 10 years ago. What I do focus on in my cooking is to serve real food as fresh as possible. The ingredients are nutritious and thrifty, are often home grown and sit well in our low income lifestyle. You'll often notice ingredients such as potatoes/sweet potatoes in my cooking. I make no apologies for that. We are a family with German, Irish, Swedish, English heritage and potatoes feature in all those cuisines. I hope when you select your list of frequently cooks meals it will reflect your family heritage too. Food traditions link us to our culture and reinforce a feeling of being connected and loved. It's one of the many complex roles food plays in our lives.

  • Shepherd's pie from left over lamb roast
  • Lamb curry from left over lamb roast or lamb neck chops
  • Cottage pie with minced beef and mashed potato topping (sweet potato or pumpkin topping)
  • Corned beef and colcannon
  • Corned beef hash
  • Salmon with potato salad
  • Swedish meatballs, potato salad and fresh pickled cucumbers
  • Pea/lentil soup
  • Chicken noodle soup
  • Beef, barley and bone marrow soup
  • Beef casserole and herb dumplings
  • Lasagne
  • Quiche
  • Spinach pie with filo pastry
  • Sausage rolls
  • Boiled egg salad
  • Canned salmon salad
  • Tuna loaf
  • Fish cakes
  • Cabbage rolls
  • Potato pancakes (Kartoffel Puffer)
  • Pork sausages with onion gravy and vegetables
  • Roast lamb, chicken or pork
  • Rissoles, red cabbage and potatoes
  • Pork chops, cabbage and potatoes
  • Meatloaf
Australia meal recipes - allrecipes

I use the following cook books but you'll find recipes for most of my list items online. Just steer clear of any sites that have recipes with processed, pre-made sauces and spice mixes. Try and cook from scratch and modify the recipes to suit your own tastes.

My favourite book is The Country Table which I bought two copies of a couple of years ago. One for Sunny and one for me. Sunny asked me for Australian recipes so she could cook our favourite foods. The Country Table is full of wonderful recipes that have been part of Australian dinner tables for many years.

The Country Table Published 2009 by ACP ISBN 978-1-74245-155-8

My go-to book for new cakes and slices is the Women's Weekly Cakes and Slices Cookbook. It can be purchased in many newsagents and book shops.

I also like The Thrifty Kitchen written by Suzanne and Kate Gibbs. They are Margaret Fulton's daughter and grand daughter.  It was published in 2009  - ISBN 978 1 921 38207 9.

Another favourite is the Country Women's Association mammoth book, Classics. Published in 2011 - ISBN 978 0 143 56614 4 With over 400 recipes on 881 pages it has a comprehensive index, conversion charts and sections on Soups, Snacks and Starts, Mains, Dessert, Baking and Preserves.

I'll humbly add my own books - Down to Earth and The Simple Home too. Both contain some of my frequently used recipes.

If you have room or money for only one book, I'd go for either The Country Table or Classics. Both would serve you well for many years.

In my next post I'll share a couple of my own recipes and write more about seasonal foods as well as the groups of foods and drinks we generally serve from a well established home kitchen.  See you then. In the meantime, what are your old-fashioned favourites?