The Recipe Series: Rissoles & Gravy

Words by Maggie McDade

Published on June 5, 2012


Minced beef – 500g or serving for 4
1 egg
Finely diced onion
And garlic
Good pinch of dried mixed herbs
Salt and pepper
Soy sauce
Worcestershire sauce

Nanna stands at the laminate bench and cracks an egg into a pyrex bowl full of mince. She removes her rings, and sinks her fingers into the cold meat. The egg yolk breaks, and covers the back of her hand. She stares out at the mandarin tree in the back yard and slowly flexes her fingers to bring the egg and mince together. With hands rosy from blood, she then adds the onion, garlic, and the dried herbs. Fading sunlight streams in the windows and hits the lino floor. I can hear the wet sound the ingredients make together in the bowl from where I’m sitting on the couch. Her palms form thick patties about the ten centimetres across, and she rolls them in flour and puts in the fridge. She’ll take them out again in half an hour.

Out in the backyard, Poppy waters the citrus trees and Tom wheels away on the old exercise bike.The backyard is in shade, and the grass cool under foot. The finches in cages next door chatter softly to each other, and the peddles on the bike squeak with each turn of the chain.

When the WIN news starts at six I set the table with the transparent brown plates and the knives and forks with the little vines running up the handles. Mum rings. She says she’ll come down after work on Wednesday, for a few days at home before school’s back. In the kitchen the range hood light and fan are on and Nanna is turning the spitting rissoles in a pan. She takes them out when they’re done and puts them on a plate with alfoil. I stand beside her as she makes the gravy. The floor around the stove is oily. Turning the heat down, Nanna scrapes the bottom of the pan with her spatula, getting all the crunchy onion pieces off. She adds about half a cup of water to the pan, and simmers for a minute or so; adds the soy sauce and Worcestershire, and cornflour to thicken.

Poppy, Nanna, Tom and I sit around the table. We have two rissoles each, with the hot gravy from the bottom of the pan spooned on top. We eat them with a colourful pile of peas and carrots, and mashed potato. Sometimes a little bit of tomato sauce on the gravy too, or extra Worcestershire. The rissoles are bound with egg, and speckled with herbs through the mince. The best mouthful is a little meat, some mash, and gravy. Tom says the wheels are rusting on the exercise bike, and Poppy nods, it’s been out there in the weather. Once we’re all finished, Poppy goes back for a third rissole.

After dinner we lie on the brown carpet and watch Better Homes and Gardens. Poppy washes up and sits back at the table with a toothpick and a cup of weak tea. Nanna paints her nails. The fan whirs overhead, and I hear a freight train charge past the level crossing at the end of the street.