The Perennial Australian Question: Potato Cake vs Potato Scallop [they’re not what you think…]

[Thanks to the Melbourne National Novel Writing Month Discoed server for inspiring this post]

So, there’s a long history in Australia of certain linguistic arguments based on what each state/territory calls a certain thing. You see it in things like bathers vs trunks vs cossies [swimwear for my non Australian readers].

The big one though?

….Potato Cake vs Potato Scallop….

Essentially, the argument is about what people call the flat, usually round shaped, battered and fried disk of potato that you can buy at takeaways, fish and chip stores, even on stalls at some train platforms in Melbourne. Its a big running argument that has split families and broken relationships. Its SERIOUS business. There have been many articles written about this, you can find them online.

Now, I am a Tasmanian and we call them potato cakes. Makes sense, right? Its shaped to resemble a cake.

People who use the term ‘Potato Cake’ are often found in:
– Melbourne
– Tasmania
– Parts of NSW [Riverina and Murray River areas]

People who use the term ‘Potato Scallop’ to describe it are nearly all found in:
– Sydney and the rest of NSW
– Queensland
– Parts of the ACT

Now, there are a few alternative terms for this debate but they dont always get mentioned
– WA and NT are pretty mixed, the term apparently depends on local surroundings
– SA and New Zealand tend to use the term ‘fritter’

Now…..we do use the term in Tasmania of ‘potato scallop’ but it isnt to do with the fried food. No, in our household the term potato scallop refers to a very particular dish that I thought I should share with you on this blog. Its called ‘scallop’ because of the shape of the potato pieces and it is….

Wait for it…….

A form of potato bake. Yep, thats a tasmanian potato scallop.

Pretty anticlimactic, right? Well, it just so happens to be delicious.

Our version used to be consumed for special occasions and during the winter, because it is rich and decadent and warming. Its perfect comfort food – hearty and fattening feeling from the potatoes, silky and rich from the dairy. A real ‘stick to your ribs’ dish perfect for when it gets too cold. And like most of our dishes on this blog, its easy to cook, not very complicated, feeds a good amount of people and just…makes you feel good.

I hope, if you do decide to have a go at making it, that you let me know in the comments. Was it as good as I made it out to be? What worked? What didnt? What did you try differently? I really enjoy hearing how people feel and look forwards to any comments left on this blog.

“Potato Scallops” Casserole
3 large potatoes
3 rashers of bacon, chopped
1 large onion
600mls thickened cream
1 cup shredded cheese
2 heaped tablespoons of flour
salt and pepper

1. Mix enough cream into the flour to make a paste and then add the rest of the cream
2. Slice potatoes, either thick or in large chunks
3. Slice onion into rings
4. Layer potato, onion, bacon and cheese in that order to a large casserole/oven proof dish and season with s&p
5. Pour half the cream over top
6. Repeat with the rest of the ingredients in layers
7. Top with remaining or extra cheese until the top is covered
8. Cook at 180 degrees celsius for 1 hour or until potato has softened
9. Serve and eat while hot

So that is our entry in the perennial cake vs scallop potato saga. I hope if you make it, you let me know how it went.


Beef Stroganoff [modern multiple way version of a passed down family recipe]

[Shown: April 2021 version]

So last night, I made one of our modern versions of a family descended recipe and one of my followers suggested a good topic would be to talk about adaptations of family dishes. I’m sure that many of you have adapted dishes in the past; maybe you have a intolerance or allergy, maybe you’ve gone on a diet change, maybe there’s some other reason. But, family recipes and memories have a kittenish habit of evolving.

Now, I grew up absolutely loving Beef Stroganoff. It was on my top 5 dishes of all time. I think I wrote in a primary school assignment my favourite food was stroganoff. It was a pretty standard, somewhat traditional recipe we used [and that will come up in a later post]. But then I went vegetarian for 3 years when I lived interstate and meat was off the menu. Then I went vegan, so sour cream was off the menu.

But, I still wanted to eat stroganoff but I really hate tofu so google failed me.

But then…

So, I was over in South Australia for one of my first cousins weddings and I found this bookstore while out shopping on a spare day off. There was this pretty green cookbook called ‘1001 Vegan Recipes’ and it had SO many good foods. And there, sitting in a section, was a stroganoff recipe that didnt have tofu. I bought that book immediately and cooked it when I got home.

Readers, it tasted AMAZING!!! Like, it tasted like our family recipe I remembered so well. Its now my favourite comfort food to cook when the weather turns cold. The best thing? Its completely customisable! You can cook it in a wide variety of ways to cater for all sorts of dietary requirements. As proof, I cooked it for my maternal aunt and uncle when they flew down for a holiday My uncle is a diehard meat eater and now he keeps asking for the recipe.

Better yet, my famously picky and opinionated father who hates mushrooms tried it once and now insists on being given seconds when I cook it. So with qualifications that good, I thought I should let you into our recipe.

If you do decide to try it, please leave me a comment to let me know how it went, if you liked it, things to alter ect.

And as they say in Russian, priyatnogo appetita! [bon appetit!]

Beef Stroganoff 3 Ways

Omnivore/classic method:
500gms beef
Paprika [original recipe states 1 tablespoon, more can be added. I usually put in 2-4 heaped dessert spoons depending on my taste level]
1 onion, diced
oil for cooking
1-2 tablespoons flour [for thickening]
500gms- 1kg mushrooms [depending on size]
1/2 cup white wine [optional]
1 jar of tomato paste
1ltr beef stock
salt and pepper to taste
tub of sour cream
500gm-1kg chopped green beans [depending on size]

Vegan Stroganoff notes – swap out sour cream for vegan sour cream or leave out [i dont add it in when Im doing a vegan version; remove beef and either add meat substitute or add extra veggies; use vegan wine and vegetable stock instead of beef

Vegetarian Stroganoff notes – omit beef; add extra vegetables; swap vegetable stock for the beef

Dairy Free Stroganoff notes – omit sour cream/replace with suitable alternative
Non alcoholic notes – omit wine
Gluten free notes – substitute arrowroot powder for flour as thickener

Keto Stroganoff notes – remove white wine; remove flour/arrowroot powder; replace tomato paste with low carb passata [this works amazingly, btw] and limit green bean amount depending on your carb intake as they can be a bit high depending on a few factors. Basically, use your judgement.

Got veggies to use up? Add them in! You cant have too many vegetables in this dish.

Heat oil and saute diced onion until translucent
Add beef [mushrooms if meat free dish] and cook until the outside of the pieces are no longer pink
Add mushrooms, paprika, stock, tomato [passata if keto] and extra vegetables and coat in liquid
If using, add wine and stir until incorporated
Let simmer with lid on for 15-20 minutes, checking stirring when needed
Add green beans and stir, allowing to simmer
With 5 minutes left, add the flour/arrowroot powder and sour cream [if using] and stir so cream doesnt curdle
Let simmer until you think its done and serve

Can be served over rice, noodles, pasta, steamed vegetables or just by itself.

I hope you enjoy it!!!

Does it count as an Easter Dish if there’s no lamb in it? Moussaka a la Crawford

Its Easter 20201!

Originally, I was going to do a post about chocolate because…well…Easter. However, the only actual chocolate family recipe we have came into being around Christmas so that didnt work, timeline wise. So what next?

So instead I decided to share a special occasion recipe instead because Easter has always been one of the big two events in our family calendar. Now, full disclosure: we didnt actually eat this dish during easter celebrations but we did eat it during other special events. And it is based on a Greek dish containing lamb and lamb is symbolic and we always eat lamb on easter so….connection?

Now, as readers might have guessed from previous posts, our family is Christian. I come from a long line of religious ministers on both sides and I grew up in a Pentecostal Christian environment, so Easter is BIG. And yes, because we are mostly British, Easter Sundays means a roast. Specifically, roast lamb. To be honest, I dont even know where this family recipe came from. I asked my mother about the history of the dish and she said that she didnt know either. I imagine that maybe, one of my relatives saw it in a cookbook somewhere and thought it sounded nice.

And yes, this dish is pretty much nothing like actual greek moussaka. I have eaten a lot of moussakas from greek restaurants and their version is barely anything like what ours is. But, like most of our recipes, the one we co-opted is easy, filling and delicious.

So, if you decide to make it, please let me know what you think. I like comments! Also, apologies for the lack of concrete measurements, I’m typing it off my grandmothers recipe card.


Slice thickly and cook enough potatoes to have two good layers in a casserole dish
Cover the bottom of the casserole dish with one layer of potatoes, add tin of braised steak and onions [or home cooked mince and onions]
Add tin of sliced, peeled tomatoes or fresh ones that have been put in boiling water and skin removed
Add another layer of potatoes
Cover with cheese sauce [a bechamel, which I have added below]
Add to top of casserole

And the recipe runs out here…..

From memory, my mother used to put it in a 180 degree oven until it looked right and was bubbling. I dont quite know what happened when committing this recipe to paper but I would hazard a guess that because everything was already cooked, she might have just served it up like that.

So….good luck?

Also, the cheese sauce recipe:
Melt 1oz butter in saucepan
Add 1oz flour
Stir in, add 1/2 pint of milk, little at a time
Heat until boiling, stirring CONSTANTLY
Remove from heat and add 2-3oz grated cheese, salt and pepper

Yep….50s jelly salads were a thing….

So, this is a little different post. Instead of being a family recipe passed down, this entry actually comes from a book my step grandmother [my mums dads second wife] gave me a few years ago during a visit to South Australia. I couldnt pass up a opportunity to discuss the rise of 1950s aspic food culture and this book is an absolute wealth of strange jellied concoctions.

Now, lets be clear. Not all 1950s foods were gelatin + ingredient. In fact, there were plenty of foods we today would find completely normal and might even still eat. The average Australian housewife would bring these strange recipes out under a very strict set of criteria. Most likely when entertaining or having your husbands boss around for dinner. According to my Nanna, she cooked a lot of meats and three veg when she first got married because that and casseroles were the traditional fare of the average person. A roast on sundays or special events like Easter and Christmas, a lot of baked goods, barely a jellied aspic in sight.

But….that’s not what people remember the 1950s for.

They remember the outlandish dishes and strange presentations. Because people like to mock things, frankly.

So, why did jellied foods become so big in the 1950s? I think they took over the western world for a number of reasons.

Firstly, rationing came to an end in the late 40s and early 50s which opened up a huge wave of convenience foods and easy to cook meals. I remember watching a program featuring Mary Berry of the Great British Bakeoff who started her career in food after world war II ended; she mentioned that the difference between rationed Britain and post rationed Britain was so stark it was almost like entering another world. Australia, while they didn’t have as severe or as long rationing, still had some goods rationed up until 1950.

Secondly, not every house had a fridge or was on electricity so having a gelatin based food meant you needed a fridge and therefore you had money. My great grandmother, raising several kids, had no electricity in her house until pretty late in her marriage and relied on an ice chest instead of a fridge.

Thirdly, the world embraced the future [and yes, that included almost nuclear war] after the end of WW2. Everything was futuristic, everything was modern, everything was new. By showing off your money by embracing new food trends like aspics and jellied salads, you showed you were ‘with it.’ And just like now, nobody wanted to be uncool. The fear of missing out [FOMO] on your husband getting a promotion at work or your neighbourhood women groups’ respect and admiration [and yes, probably envy] meant that a lot of women around the world wrestled with gelatin. The increase in mould technology at the time also helped provide a more even and successful attempt.

But like I said before, this wouldnt be an every day occurrence. I don’t ever, for example, recall either of my grandmothers talking about serving jellied salads or meals. I think the closest they ever got was serving jelly and cream/icecream for the kids on special occasions or a jellied trifle for birthdays. Although my Nanna was an expert at flummery [which is indeed jellied and I will be devoting a future post to].

So no, this isnt a family recipe but they might have encountered something similar.

Nor will this be the only recipe from the book that I share; there are way too many strange and wonderful recipes to not devote more future posts to.

Lime Vegetable Mould [Serves 8]

85gm lime flavoured gelatin/jelly mix
3/4 cup boiling water
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cold water
1 cup grated cabbage
1/2 cup grated carrot
1/2 cup diced celery

Dissolve gelatin in boiling water in bowl
Stir in salt and add cold water. Chill until slightly thickened
Add cabbage, celery and carrot to thickened gelatin
Fold in
Pour into ring mould and chill until set
Garnish with sliced cucumbers or other vegetables

The actual illustration of the salad

What exactly constitutes a cake anyway: Adventures in 1960s church cooking

This is one of my Nannas cookbooks from the 1960s. Its very old and falling apart but I still keep it very securely locked away.

So, friends, lets talk about the 1960s.

Back in the distant past [it was 60 years ago, I’m allowed to call it that], there was a big trend for what we now would consider strange yet surprisingly convenient recipes.

This is probably due to a few reasons:
– The relative ease of buying quick and easy ingredients
– The rise of convenience foods
– A sense of discovery
– Big families were still pretty normal and more women were going back to work so lack of time was an issue
– Women were still expected to do all the cooking and shopping with no help from their husbands

So, convenience recipes and ready to eat meals were a huge boon for the housewife, trying to have it all. I can’t judge, I spent the entire first year of my university course eating continental packet pasta, red frogs and drinking coke because it was easier then cooking.

Now, my Nanna had 4 kids and a husband to take care of and worked full time so she needed to be able to get meals on the table pretty quickly. My Dad and his siblings were either in primary school or nursery during the 60s and my Pa worked full time as a joiner. She also ran a Scouts group and was heavily involved in their local church so the pressure for her and her church friends was pretty intense.

Enter, church cookbooks.

An easy way for women to be able to coordinate with each other recipes that could be made easily and quickly for church lunches, bake sales, family meals ect. Each woman in the church would submit recipes and they would be typed up and bound together to form a handy guide for everyone.

Although, I do have to wonder, as I look through it, what exactly they were eating in the 1960s.

Some of these recipes….well, they’re a lot. Beef Stroganoff, for example, uses as its main ingredient canned mushroom soup.

So, I thought I would include one that always amused me every time Nanna would let me look through her cookbook collection. In modern terms, this would be more a slice then a cake but Nanna called it a cake, so I will too.

Kit Kat Cake
Margaret Street Church of Christ Ladies Fellowship

1 cup icing sugar
1 cup rice bubbles
1/2 cup salted peanuts
1 cup powdered milk
1 cup coconut
6oz [170gms] copha

Mix together well
Place in slab tin and leave to set

And…thats it.

If you do decide to make this recipe, please let me know how it goes by leaving a like or a comment.

More recipes from this cookbook will appear in future posts, because there’s a lot and they all are so unique I have to share them with you all.

‘Death by Hot Chocolate’ or why you shouldnt leave an 8 year old home alone….

WARNING: Please dont try this recipe if you have diabetes, insulin resistance or other conditions that are aggravated by or affected by large amounts of sugar.

So a little left field for todays blog post but I thought I might as well share a recipe I invented as a child. Yes, the title is completely accurate to the recipe.

So, I grew up in the 1990s. Back in those days, parents were a lot more relaxed about leaving their children unattended for long periods of time. Being the daughter of two full time workers meant that my parents were often away all day and my brother and I were left to our own devices. A lot. As long as we followed some simple rules [don’t leave the house unlocked, watch out for your brother, don’t set anything on fire] we could do pretty much what we wanted. It seems weird now in the 2020s, but that was how myself and my friends grew up. We had a lot of personal freedom, something I think was because we also had a lot of responsibility thrown on us at a young age.

So one day, having been left home alone again, 8 year old me decided to make something in the microwave.

Now, I am very much addicted to chocolate. It runs in the family. So 8 year old me decided that she wanted hot chocolate but had no idea how to make it. So I improvised. The result: the most decadent, fudgy, bad for you drink I ever drank. It literally tasted like molten chocolate. Unfortunately, I also left it on for too long in the microwave the first time and it expanded and expanded until the inside of the microwave was very…..brown.

Thankfully I managed to get it clean in time so my parents didnt find out and I’ve made it a few times since. So, I present the recipe that almost got me into massive trouble.

8 year olds death by hot chocolate
1-2 blocks of milk chocolate, broken into small bits
2 heaped dessert spoons/tablespoons of either milo or chocolate nesquick
Sugar [add until you get to your required taste]
Chocolate chips [as many as you want]
Nutella/hazelnut spread [as much as you want]
Enough milk to cover the chocolate well [exact measurements depend on your vessel size and ingredient volume]
1 microwave safe jug

Add everything together into the jug
Mix well
Heat in small increments [about 30 secs – 1 min] until mixture is starting to bubble and everything is melted
Take out of the microwave and stir until everything is combined and silky and liquidy
Go take a nap from the giant sugar rush

Let me know how it goes in the comments below! Did it work? Did everything end up in a terrible mess? Was it delicious?

The First Recipe Nanna ever taught me to make

So, I grew up with two sides of the family on two different sides of the country. My Hamilton side [my mothers family] lived in South Australia and for a brief period, Melbourne. So I only got to see them during holidays, when we would either go over to the mainland or they would come for a visit to Tasmania. In contrast, the Crawford side [my fathers side] were a 20 minute drive across town and I would spend a lot more time at Nanna and Pas house.

Being a very selective eater due to undiagnosed food sensory issues as a child, I would often ask for the same dishes. Having a very deep love of sugar, I would spend part of each visit snacking on the varied and delicious baked goods Nanna would make or feasting on the abundance of Cadbury chocolates hidden in spots Nanna didnt know I knew existed [sorry, Nanna]. However, Nanna would also teach me how to make things while I was at her house.

The first ever recipe she taught me was….a blueberry smoothie.

I know.

Not the most complicated of recipes to learn. However, I was only 5 at the time and apart from another recipe I will share at some point, I didnt know how to cook. It helped that I had just spent the day braving the elements to help Nanna and Pa and my aunts to pick a metric ton of blueberries at a berry farm that allowed you to pick your own off the bushes.

Also, this smoothie was delicious. So delicious, I would ask to be allowed to make it every time I was over. As I got older, the blueberries were replaced by mulberries or raspberries that grew in their back garden or blackberries we would pick from the disused paddock behind their house.

So, I wanted to prove the original recipe, as I remember it.

Blueberry Smoothie
[Note: this is not an exact recipe, as it depends on the size of your blender as well as how much you have of each ingredient. Add what you think is right and experiment, adding as you need to]

Enough milk to fill a blender vessel [about 1/2 to 3/4 of the way]
Vanilla ice cream
Heaping handfuls of blueberries

1. Pour the milk into the blender
2. Add the blueberries after washing them
3. Add scoops of ice cream [I usually did 1-2 but thats up to you]
4. Put the lid on and blend until everything is combined and looks right. It should look a nice blue/purple colour, if not, add more berries until you get a shade you like.
5. Pour into a big glass and drink with a straw

The Infamous Hamilton Madras Curry

So a bit of background before I mention the curry.

My mothers mother, who we called Grandma, came from a large family. She married my grandfather pretty early in life and raised 3 daughters while also managing the household and small income they had, helping my grandfather run his church as a pastors wife, sewing all the clothes for the family and feeding both her own family and all the stragglers who would turn up at her table wanting a meal. Often, she would have to stretch their low income to feed at least 12 people for one meal. So she was extremely creative.

Because the church they ran was in Tasmania during the 60s to the 80s, the cuisine climate there was not….to put it kindly, very diverse. While Tasmania has a long history of migration from different parts of the world, for most of our history, the state has been very British, food-wise. My grandmothers mother was from an Irish family but our descent is pretty much UK [with one or two instances of continental european blood popping up]. So, what my grandmother learnt to cook was both not very international and also needed to feed a lot of people.

Enter Keens Curry Powder.

A proud Tasmanian product, Keens offered housewives around Australia the opportunity to experience foods inspired by ‘Indian’ or ‘Asian’ cooking, without too much fuss. We still proudly keep a cannister in our house to this day, as we use it to create the dishes my grandmothers made. So with that background, on to the recipe.

This recipe has been a family favourite since I was old enough to remember. This was one of the dishes we bought out every special occasion and there would be fights about who got to eat seconds. I can attest that leftovers were scarce . It was so loved that I once stamped on my brothers foot so he couldn’t steal more out of the saucepan and made him cry. Because my grandmother was a pastors wife, it needed to be not too many ingredients, easy to cook and not take up too much time plus feed many people.

The Hamilton Madras Curry
2 brown onions
1 kilo beef, cubed
1 large jar of tomato paste
at least 1 HEAPING dessert spoon of Keens curry powder [depending entirely on how hot/spicy/fierce you want it to be]
Lemon juice

  1. In a large saucepan, brown the onions in oil until nicely coloured
  2. Add the beef and cook until it looks like a nice colour
  3. Add keens curry powder and mix, making sure to coat everything evenly
  4. Add jar of curry paste and 1/2 to 1 jar of water, using it to get the residue of the paste into the saucepan
  5. Cook, simmering for one hour on the stovetop
  6. Add lemon juice at the end
  7. Taste, adjust for seasoning and then serve up

The curry will have turned a lovely red colour, ranging from bright to a mild darker red depending on curry powder amount, tomato paste type ect. This recipe can be served with rice, potatoes, vegetables and most mild sides. The star of the dish, however, should be the curry.

Hello and Welcome

Welcome to my new blog.

This blog is all about food history, specifically [but not restricted to] the history of food as my grandmothers experienced it. Both my grandmother and my Nanna ran households, looked after children, worked, supported their husbands and were heavily involved in church during the 1950s in Australia. Plus, they found time to feed everyone. Because both of them are deceased now, I want to do something that showcases their legacy and this blog was born. I aim to work on this project over time, armed with copies of family recipes, books and recollections from older family members.

So, this blog aims to pay homage to the recipes that my grandmothers cooked or collated, as well as family recipes that filtered down. By combining that with a discussion of food at the time, I want to combine family history with different kinds of history. I will also explore Australian cooking during all eras, from colonial to world war II, because these eras also have a connection to my family history [we emigrated here as free settlers and convicts in the early to mid 1800s]. I might even approach posts about other places/eras but the focus is more on Australian life.

If that interests you, please consider following me on this journey.

And yes, horrible jelly 50s salads may make an appearance.