I’m standing on a chair in my kitchen, looking for the Cootamundra Bulldogs Rugby League Ladies Auxiliary cookbook and its slice recipes. No luck there, but it’s OK; I’ve dug out Entertaining with the Country Club, 1957-82.
There are more slice recipes than you could poke a stick at, plenty of ideas for the fete, and in the general section, some tips for washing sheepskin coats and a recipe for Irish cream liqueur with the note “Bogan’s, not Bailey’s!” (presumably, because the writer was from Narromine, although who knows?)
There’s a handy comparison of the Club’s 1957 and 1982 Melbourne Cup lunches – “not nearly enough puddings, they went like lightning …” One of the co-authors is none other than the mother of Region Media journalist Edwina Mason.
I’ve also unearthed The Crown Street Hospital cookbook, several tomes from the kids’ schooldays (one of which I compiled for the Wallendbeen Public School P&C) and the entire multi-volume run of Country in the Cooking by Margaret Charlesworth, “a collection of memories and recipes celebrating the seasonal foods of the Young region”.
Missing is The Eastern Blend, a somewhat eccentric volume compiled by my friend Mariam when she joined her father on a diplomatic posting in Islamabad and accidentally ended up as the secretary of the Malaysian Ladies Association.
It was a long way from an Arts degree at Sydney Uni, but she mucked in and produced a cookbook in which my recipe for a chocolate roulade sits alongside various Indian sweets and “scorchingly hot vindaloo” (that’s what it’s called; I’ve always been too scared to try it).
This is the fabulously whacky world of the amateur cookbook, one of the great Australian fundraising staples along with wood raffles, meat trays and cake stalls. Quantities vary wildly, measurements are by the half cup rather than the gram, and there is often liberal use of powdered French onion soup, Sao biscuits and Aeroplane jelly as pantry staples.
And for every tuna casserole topped with crushed Jatz crackers, there’s another recipe that someone has clearly copied and is passing off as their own. The clue is often in the title – Marjorie’s Hungarian dobos torta – although the neighbours are fully aware that Marjorie has never been further afield than two weeks in Merimbula.
But despite the delightfully amateur tone, these are often beloved cookbooks. They recall people and places, warm family and community memories and the occasional eureka moment when you finally get your hands on someone’s justly famous cake recipe. Nothing is haute cuisine, but there’s plenty that’s comforting, familiar and delicious. It’s real food, prepared with love.
Loriendale Orchard at Hall has been selling their Fruits of the Orchard cookbook for years. The Pidgeon family uses their annual open day to raise funds for various charities, including Green Pastures Hospital for leprosy patients in Pokhara, Nepal and the Oasis Africa Kibera School.
I’ve got the third edition, dating from 2008. It credits a long list of international workers and travellers who have stayed with the Pidgeons over the years and contributed their recipes for apples, pears, stonefruit and berries. There’s Polish Hunter stew with apples, a Nova Scotian apple cheesecake and North American strawberry puffed pancakes.
What local cookbooks do you treasure?
Loriendale’s Danish apple cake
- 2 medium apples
- 1/4 cup of sultanas
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 120 grams butter
- 1 cup caster sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 cup SR flour
- 1/2 teaspoon each of salt, cinnamon and powdered ginger
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- walnut pieces
Peel, core and slice the apples, add sultanas and put over the lemon juice. Preheat oven to 180 C and grease a sandwich tin.
Beat butter and sugar until creamy. Lightly whisk egg and add to mixture. Sift flour and salt and fold into the mixture. Spread half the mix into the base of the tin, cover with the sliced apple and sultana mixture and top with brown sugar, cinnamon and ginger. Top with the remaining cake mixture and bake for approximately 45 minutes. Ice with coffee icing if desired and decorate with walnut pieces.
Loriendale Orchard is only open to the public for its annual celebration but sells its fruit when in season at the Capital Region Farmers Market in Mitchell on Saturday mornings. Their cookbook, Jams and Relishes, is available online at loriendale.com.au.