I must have eaten a million salads, not all of them came to expectation, some soggy, some dry, some with wrong dressing completely. We have been hurled around the place with a thousand or two variations on multiple themes, most thanks to the endless inventivness of the USA cooks and TV presenters. Think BBQ pittmasters and huge number of diner's, think a population who, unless the plate is filled to the extreme and in danger of causing major catastrophe, don't regard it a meal. Chefs needed to have a large repetoir of dressings. In some cases, all topped off with litres of melting cheese (can you believe the cheese is kept melted on the stove just to pour over the dish).
As a kid, I knew just two salad dressings, one was a mix of boiled egg yolks mashed with some cream and vinegar, I think this is what the Brits called a salad cream, then Mum discovered the condensed milk and vinegar combo, but she always had the boiled 2/4/6/8 dressing in the jar in the ice box. I left Port Fairy to work in Melbourne and begin my education in food and eating. I came home raving about the delicious combination of Olive Oil and Red Wine Vinegar (Mum was stunned over this one, the only vinegars she had ever known were Malt and the mouth wrenching White Vinegar made from ascetic acid) who knew that wine would become vinegar if left alone. I don't think Mum had ever tasted red wine, maybe her sisters who had married well and moved to Adelaide, but Mum married a butcher in a seaside town. She cooked what her mother had cooked. But then when I said that the new fangled garlic that Edgar Egan, local greengrocer had bought in at the behest of several European families, had to be included, along with a bit of Dijon mustard, her eyes bulged. She thought it too sour, but tasty, I added a splidge of sugar and that helped. It never did get the tick of approval from Dad!
Salad Cream how ever did..
2 free-range eggs, hard-boiled, yolks only
2 tbsp English mustard
½ lemon, juice only
1 tbsp caster sugar
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
150ml/5fl oz double cream
150ml/5fl oz olive oil
salt and ground white pepper
Place all of the ingredients, apart from the oil and seasoning, into a food processor.
Blend until the cream starts to thicken then gradually add the oil, until the salad cream is smooth and emulsified.
Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground white pepper.
Mum had several Boiled Salad Dressings, some were very sweet. The one I think she did most was 2/4/6/8
2 eggs beaten
4 level tblspns sugar
6 level tblspns milk
8 level tblspns white vinegar
1 tspn sugar
salt to taste.
Put all in the top of a double boiler saucepan and place over heat, stir asll the time until the mixture thickens. If you boil the water too hard, you may curdle the mix.
This one is good... it contains flour and is a bit more punchy.
1 level tblspn plain flour
1 level tblspn mustard powder
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup milk
1 tblspn butter
Place all but the milk and butter in the top of double saucepan, bring to heat and stir constantly, when thickened, add the milk stiring well, allow the sauce to thicken, remove from heat and stir in the butter. Allow to cook and store in a cool place.
I once went on a fruitless search of exploration for wine vinegars and their history in Australia. My conclusion was that very little wine vinegar was used, if it was, it was mostly by the Upper Classes, the wine makers and found in South Australia and the Hunter Valley. Fruit vinegars were made in patches, often Tasmania, but never widespread until the advent of Raspberry Vinegar and about that, enough said. My mother's go to was always Malt vinegar, it was the vinegar cuisine poverra in Australia. Made from beer it was easy to do and with less sourness than wine vinegars, greatly favoured.
Mums salads were not extravagent, they consisted of lettuce (most often grown in Dad's garden) tomato, carrot, celery, cucumber, beetroot, salad onion (all also from Dad's garden) on the odd occasion and to say to the world, some left over green peas, some grated apple and later, a potato salad. Salads were thought of as 'summer' food and rarely made an appearence in winter, Sunday evening was the exception when the cold left over meat from the sunday roast would appear, usually with some mashed potato and a bowl of shredded lettuce and some beetroot. Mums go to dressing for this was salad cream and I quite liked it drizzled on the mash potato. The other option was what Mum called a Russian Salad and that was a lettuce cup filled with vegetable left over from the roast and dressed with her go to dressing.
Let me digress a bit, the Sunday Roast ws an institution in my youth, and much anticipated. My favourite was a corner Topside that Mum would stuff with her usual sage and onion stuffing, wrap in bacon and slather large amounts of beef dripping and place in a moderate oven and cook for hours. The roast potatoes would be dark brown and crisp, the gravy delicious and the meat, if carved in thin enough slices, pretty damn good. Mum's decision later on Sunday usually after the bowls club was, will we have cold meat that meal or more likely the Monday meal which would have Bubble and Squeak from the roast or three vegetables. My job was, usually after the beach, boil a couple of eggs, peel, cool and use the yolks for a dressing. I lived in hope that Mum would decide on scones and that would also mean a scone pizza... bits of bacon, cheese, tomato and onion all baked in the oven. Mum had mastered this and it appeared often on card nights.
Scones with a pizza top..
How ever many scones you have left over cut in half.
Enough slices of tomato to allow one per as above.
1 small 2 cm x 2 cm square of bacon to cover scones
Enough small onion rings to allow one per scone
Grated cheese to allow a small dollop on each of above
Place all on a tray and get the oven set onto 180 c, drizzle a little olive oil over the top of the scones and bake until they are cooked, about 30 minutes.
If I knew that Mum was doing these for a card night supper, I was so nice, so polite and quite crawley until I got three or four and bannished to my room.