Peek celebrations are all about the food and those in the know rarely turn down an invitation to one of our gatherings. A Dutch friend once told me that when Dutch people have guests coming they clean the windows. My mother arranges flowers everywhere, while others spend hours cleaning and dusting. I cook and so do our three offspring. If it’s a choice between doing a quick gallop round with the vacuum cleaner before people arrive, or whipping up some mayonnaise to go with the prawns, the mayo will win every time.
Last Saturday our son James organised an afternoon tea party to celebrate his wife Karen’s 40th and their second son Luke’s 3rd birthday. There were about 20 adults and umpteen kids coming, so I offered to make a couple of apple strudels and some egg, mayonnaise and chive sandwiches which always go down well with kids of all ages. Home-made mayonnaise is the secret. James made some delicious morsels, including sausage rolls and mini yorkshire puddings with smoked trout pate.
When I was growing up in England my mother only had two cookbooks. One was published by the makers of Stork margarine and contained basic recipes for the cakes and pies a British housewife needed in her repertoire. It was my Mum’s bible in the early days of her marriage and she gave me an updated version when I got married and moved to Australia. I still have it somewhere amongst my many cookbooks.
The other was called International Cooking and it had a chapter from several European countries. When I was about twelve I made the Austrian Apple Strudel. It was a huge success and I’ve been making it ever since. You can use fillo pastry instead of making your own dough, but it’s not really hard to make. If you use fillo you will need about 10 sheets.
250g plain flour
2 egg yolks
2 Tbs oil
About 150ml tepid water
750g peeled, cored and sliced apples (I like Granny Smiths)
80g fresh breadcrumbs (just whizz some bread in processor)
1 tsp cinnamon
100g unsalted butter, melted
60g melted butter, extra, for frying crumbs
50g melted butter, extra, for brushing
Dough: Place all ingredients except water in food processor and mix, then add enough tepid water slowly through the top with the motor running, until it forms a ball. It should be soft but not sticky. Stop the motor when it has started to form a ball. Gather all the bits together and knead for a few seconds with floury hands to make a smooth ball, then wrap in plastic wrap and put aside while you make the filling.
Filling: fry bread crumbs until golden brown in 60g butter, turning, till they look like toasted muesli. Mix with remaining ingredients. Sprinkle a little extra flour over a clean tea towel and roll dough out as large as possible without tearing using a rolling pin. Then continue to stretch gently with your hands until you have an oblong about the size of the tea towel and the length of your baking tray. Spread with apple filling, leaving about 2.5 cm all round. If you like you can cut the slightly thicker edges off, but I like to fold them in onto the apples. It makes the ends of the strudel a bit thick and doughy, but it ends up crunchy and for some people that’s their favourite bit!
Roll up using the tea towel to assist, with the long end underneath. Tuck the short ends under and pinch to seal. Place on a buttered baking sheet and brush with some of the extra butter. Bake 15-20 minutes at 200°C, then 20-30 minutes or so at 180°C, brushing from time to time with melted butter. When golden brown remove and cool for 10 mins, then carefully remove with spatulas to a cake rack. You will need two people with a spatula in each hand. Serve warm or at room temperature, dusted with sifted icing sugar and accompanied by whipped cream.
Note: It’s nicer and more authentic using home made pastry. If using fillo pastry, stack 10 sheets, brushing each one liberally with melted, unsalted butter. Place filling along one long edge rather than spreading it all over. Roll up and proceed as above.