'Cookbooks have always intrigued and seduced me. When I was still a dilettante in the kitchen they held my attention, even the dull ones, from cover to cover, the way crime and murder stories did'. - Alice B Toklas.
Much like the quirky Alice B. Toklas, I, too, have a penchant for cookery books. and started collecting both recipes and recipe books from a very young age. From memory, the first book I acquired was The Commonsense Cookery Book compiled by the N.S.W. Public School Cookery Teachers' Association (Angus and Robertson). My copy, now rather yellowed and very well used, is the metric edition (!) from 1975 and it holds a treasured spot on my bookshelves. My second acquisition, a gift from my Mother and one that I cherish, was The Art of Hungarian Cooking by Paula Pogany Bennett and Velma R. Clark (Doubleday). My third, and the last that I can recall in any sequence, was the Margaret Fulton Cookbook (Paul Hamlyn), given to me by a friend in 1976 and made more special when it was signed by Margaret in 2004, on one of the occasions that I welcomed her to my cooking school in Canberra.
An Australian Living National Treasure, Margaret Fulton OAM has written many books since her first Margaret Fulton Cookbook, which was published in 1968 (it sold more than 1.5 million copies before being revised, updated and republished by Hardie Grant in 2004). Margaret now has a web site and her own Christmas iphone app! Her recipes range from Casserole of Tripe (1968), rated three dots by Margaret, meaning 'A special dish, requiring more skill and probably taking some time to prepare' to Malay Beef Satays (2004), rated two dots, meaning 'Dishes for the average cook with a knowledge of basic techniques, but requiring a little more time'.
Among my favourite of Margaret's titles are Cooking for One and Two: Fresh and Easy Cooking for Today (Barbara Beckett Publishing 1995) and a lovely recipe for Pork Piccata, which I would like to share with you here. It combines tender, lean pork fillet with capers and lemon juice. It would most likely rank about two and a half dots, methinks. Enjoy!
1 small pork fillet
3 tablespoons plain (AP) flour, seasoned with sea salt and white pepper
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon dry white wine (optional*)
2 (or more tablespoons*) fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon capers
1 tablespoon fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano or thyme leaves (optional*)
salad or vegetables
Trim fillet of any membrane, cut on the bias in 8 or 10 slices and pound thinly between two sheets of plastic wrap (cling film). Dredge the pork lightly in the seasoned flour, shaking off any excess. In a large heavy frying pan or skillet, heat the butter with the oil over a moderately high heat. Add the pork slices and lightly fry them for four minutes, turning them once. Transfer the pork to a platter and keep warm, covered.
Add the wine (or lemon juice if preferred*) to the pan and deglaze over a high heat, scraping up the brown bits, until the mixture is reduced by half. Add the (extra) lemon juice, capers, parsley and oregano or thyme leaves (if using*), swirling to combine the mixture well. Pour the sauce over the pork, garnish with lemon and serve immediately with steamed baby new potatoes and, if liked, salad greens or steamed vegetables (such as asparagus*). Serves 2. The recipe is reproduced verbatim, however the comments with asterisks (*) are mine.
Notes: See also Margaret's recipe for Poached Tamarillos and Highland Mist. Another lovely recipe and one of my all time favourites of hers. And if, like my Peter, you or a family member cannot abide capers, the recipe is just as delicious without.
This article first appeared on Good Things in November 2011. The recipe is a cracker and well worth sharing again! With a bounty of home grown lemons, this recipe is at the top of my must-cook pile.
Tell me dear readers, do you love your cookery books? Do you read them like novels and are they scattered all over your kitchen bench? What is your favourite title and do you remember which was the first you received or bought? Is there a book you simply would not part with? Why?
Cooking and writing have been a lifelong passion.
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- Liz Posmyk
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.