MEMORIES FROM OLD RECIPE BOOKS
We all become a bit nostalgic around Christmas, especially when it comes to food. On of my favourite photos is of my mother making Kiss biscuits with her grandchildren back in the 19980s. Katey and Graeme now have children of their own.
I think only one person was working!
And who could forget White Christmas slice? Or the decorated ‘shape’ biscuits. We always had bells, trees and stars.
I think the White Christmas recipe was from the Women’s Weekly. Kiss biscuits and the standard dough for ‘shapes’ appeared in virtually every cookbook going.
One autumn I gathered cherry laurel berries (Prunus laurocerasus) from around my Blue Mountains village of Blackheath with the intention of making jam. The laurel is a classified as weed here, so I was also reducing the chance of bower birds and king parrots distributing cherry pips throughout the National Park. However, the only recipe I could find for laurel jam was in an old Tasmanian CWA Cookery Book.
I was born and raised in Tasmania during the 1950’s, and this book fills me with nostalgia. On the back page is an advertisement for Duck River Butter; ‘If you’re not buying Duck River Butter isn’t it about time you started.’ There is no question mark… this was more command than suggestion. My dairy farmer father would have approved as he supplied cream to that very factory. The dairy industry in general received great coverage; on the inside cover is the following;
THE NEW 7-DAY MILK DIET – FOR A SURE, SAFE SLIM. Planned for you by the well known British Nutritionist Dr. John Clyde.. WRITE TO The Milk Board, 119 Sandy Bay Road, SANDY BAY, TASMANIA. Diet charts will be posted.
I have often been tempted to write and ask if they still have any.
For many years my mother cooked on a Lux fuel stove. We kids used to roast chestnuts on the top, ruining the black leaded surface! Miraculously, Mum could estimate the temperature simply by putting her hand near the oven door. We were so excited when Dad bought a Whirlpool electric stove, but then the kitchen was freezing…. so we had to buy a kerosene heater.
It was my older brother who bought my mother a Sunbeam mixmaster in the late 1950s, fulfilling a childhood promise. Goodness me, the number of sponge cakes that must have been whipped up in it over the next 30 odd years.
After making a tree-change to the Blue Mountains from Sydney the CWA cookbook became my standby, especially in winter when cooking is such a comforting activity. Inside are my mothers old favourites; Chocolate Simplicity Cake, Coffee Sponge, Raspberry Shortbread, Swiss Roll and my father’s favourite; Date and Walnut Cake;
DATE AND WALNUT CAKE
5 oz sugar
10 oz Self-raising flour
2 oz walnuts
¼ pint of milk
5 oz chopped dates.
METHOD – Cream butter and sugar, add the well beaten eggs gradually. Fold in sifted flour alternately with milk. Add dates and chopped walnuts. Bake in a greased ring tin (8”) in moderate oven for 40 minutes. When cold, ice top and sides with butter icing and decorate with chopped walnuts.
Childhood party treats are here too; Cream Lilies, Butterfly Cakes, White Christmas and Rapidly Made Toffee For Children. We always made toffee when Mum and Dad were out, despite orders not to. We hid the often disastrous results, but a sticky kitchen floor was a giveaway!
My birthday cake always came from the same book; a sponge sandwich filled with raspberry jam and topped with pink icing and coconut. I had once said it was my favourite and never had the heart to tell Mum I had gone off it. Mind you, I would have been happy with a large pikelet as long as it had birthday candles and my name piped in Mum’s wobbly hand.
The meat and vegetable sections were not of much interest to a farmer’s wife; Mum didn’t need to be told how to roast potatoes or make kangaroo patties. However, I buy kangaroo mince and wild rabbits at Katoomba, and find the old recipes very handy.
Despite being compiled in 1970, the list of Hints to Young Housewives begins rather patronizingly with; Start the day happily by getting up in good time and ends with REMEMBER – Stew boiled is stew spoiled. There is also an impressive list of general household hints. Thank God Mum had no occasion to look up; Boils – Certain Cure (root of garlic and rum), or Bee Stings (a poultice of raw onion) but I have a vague memory of her falling back on Burnt Saucepans- to clean, and To treat Chilblains – seldom needed twice ( a paste of whiting and water).
My only regret is that, unlike my mother’s original copy, my edition does not include the name and township of each contributor. Somehow Mum knew that a pavlova recipe supplied by Mrs D. Revell of Flowerdale would not fail. And in the unlikely event that it did, she could have dropped Mrs Revell an acerbic little note.
A COOKBOOK FOR EVERYONE……ALMOST!
A second, slimmer recipe book accompanied me when I left Tasmania for New South Wales; The Commonsense Cookery Book. It was used in my high school domestic science class, which is why the memories it stirs are uncomfortable.
For some now forgotten reason, I did not have a regulation white apron of my own and wore the cast-off of my much taller sister. It reached my ankles and had ROBYN embroidered in red across the bodice. I suspect it was confusion over my identity that resulted in teachers blaming me for cooking disasters I did not commit. Admittedly my cream puffs became fireballs when I forgot the preheat control on an antiquated oven, but I certainly did not kill my yeast while making Bath Buns, as Mrs McMahon seemed to think. Nor were my Rum Babas anywhere near as bad as Irene Corbett’s. However, my final report card read. ‘Has a good grasp of theory. Should be a credit student, but cannot cook.’ Talk about blunt! In retrospect there is a clue to my failure in the title of the recipe book. I simply did not have any common sense.
My nephew Rick once rang and asked if I could send him the recipe for his grandmother’s Chocolate Simplicity Cake. I was delighted that, as a ‘new-age’ man, he intended to bake it himself rather than hand it on to his partner.
CHOCOLATE SIMPLICITY CAKE
3 dessertspoons butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup S.R. flour
2 level tablespoons cocoa
½ cup milk
Few drops vanilla essence
METHOD – Sift flour, sugar and cocoa into a bowl. Break eggs on top. Melt butter (do not boil), add vanilla and beat all together for 3 minutes. Bake in a moderate oven for 35 minutes. Ice top with chocolate icing, decorate with crushed walnuts, or split cake and fill with whipped cream.
This too was baked in a ring tin.
UPDATE – I finally found mum’s recipe for easy chocolate date slice.
1 cup plain flour
1 tablespoon cocoa
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon golden syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
Combine flour, cocoa, coconut, dates, sugar and baking powder in a large bowl. Melt butter, golden syrup and vanilla essence. Pour over the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Press into a greased and floured tray. Bake in moderate oven for 20-30 minutes. Cut into slices while still warm then let them cool in the tray. So delicious.
Note that the above recipe includes Golden Syrup; no Australian home should be without it, although today’s plastic container isn’t quite the same as the original tin. Is there a more comforting winter pudding than old fashioned Golden Syrup Dumplings? I don’t think so! And so simple.
1 cup self-raising flour
1-2 tablespoons milk
1 cup caster sugar
4 tablespoons golden syrup
Juice of a small lemon
Sift flour, then rub in butter until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Beat egg with a little milk and add to mixture. Combine to form a soft dough, then shape into small balls…about golf ball size.
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan with a cup of water and slowly bring to the boil. Add the dumplings and simmer for 20 minutes. Serve with lots of cream.
Come to think of it, those dumplings look a bit like miniature Christmas puds. Just add a sprig of holly.
HERE’S ANOTHER NOSTALGIC STORY ABOUT TASMANIA. CLICK HERE
AND ONE ALL ABOUT SCONES!!
WHAT WAS YOUR MOTHER’S FAVOURITE CAKE RECIPE? DO LEAVE A COMMENT…OR SHARE A RECIPE!…IN THE BOX BELOW. THEN SCROLL DOWN AND COMPLETE THE ANTI-SPAM SUM.