My name is Gretchen Irvine and I work in event management in the not for profit sector in Canberra. I’m a big fan of the National Library and am also very interested in all things food and cooking.
I managed to bypass Patrick White at school and have never had much success with him as an adult (however I don’t give up easily) and I wondered whether cooking the man’s recipes would inspire me to tackle his writings again. I felt the exhibition gave such an interesting insight into the time of Patrick White, as much as his life, and these recipes are a big part of that.
Choosing which recipe was a challenge. My two favourites from the collection were the soul of brevity and reminded me very much of some of my mother’s recipes from the same era.
Anoint with juice before; then baste from time to time. Potatoes 2 ½ hours. (Boil for 5 mins if roast is small).
(6 small 10 big)
Packet Philadelphia cream cheese. Put in vitamiser with jellied soup. Keep some jellied soup till set and put on top. Chives in soup.
However, needing something a bit family friendly, I went with the baked beans. I do make my own baked beans and so was interested to see how Patrick White’s would compare.
Soak overnight 2 cups of beans in a lot of water. Drain. Cover with boiling water and a pinch of carb soda. Simmer for 15 mins. Drain. Put fresh boiling water on – simmer 5 – 10 mins drain, save the last water.
In separate bowl mix 1 large chopped onion, 2 level teaspoons of salt, 1 tablespoon treacle, ¾ tsp powered mustard, 4 tablespoons brown sugar, 6 tablespoons tomato sauce 1 cup boiling water.
Put salt pork in bottom of dish, pour on beans and mix tomato sauce etc. into it. Add enough bean water to cover well. Cover casserole.
Cook 4-6 hours at 350 degrees F (175 celsius) for last ½ hour take top off. During cooking may need more water – use bean water.
I needed to buy treacle and mustard powder – not items I use often in my cooking (although now I might make some gingerbread because I now have treacle). Rather than salt pork, I used some Bundawarrah Pork speck from the Farmers Markets, which is what I normally put in my baked beans.
The recipe called for treacle and four tablespoons of brown sugar as well as tomato sauce. I was unsure of whether Mr White meant a dollop of Rosella or a straight tomato puree, so I went with the puree. Given the sweetness of the recipe, I think it was a good call. The treacle gave it a slightly smoky flavour.
What’s the verdict?
We ate it with pork and fennel sausages and a salad. One of three children thought it was horrible, but she doesn’t like my baked beans either. Some goat’s cheese grated on the top rounded out the flavours a bit. While I found this recipe to be very sweet, next time I make my baked beans, I will add a spoonful of treacle.
I’d rate it a bit humdrum but baked beans are never more than middle of the road, are they?