Local treats take the cake
THE AUSTRALIAN BLUE RIBBON COOKBOOK By Liz Harfull ( Allen & Unwin, $ 39.99)
FIVE Tasmanian show cooks have won against much stiffer competition than they would ever encounter at any of the 23 agricultural shows in Tasmania.
Their recipes are among just 70 of the best selected from about 600 shows throughout Australia for The Australian Blue Ribbon Cookbook.
“Judge” and author Liz Harfull had different standards to the show judges, who rule out cakes with rack marks on the bottom, square rather than round scones, or coconut ice in which the pink layer is not exactly as deep as the white layer.
She was looking for cooks with a good story and for “recipes people would expect to find in a book about show cooking, but with a little twist”.
And she wanted to “capture recipes that are in danger of slipping out of people’s memories of how to make”.
On a research trip in 2010, Liz already knew Victoria cake and Madeira cake from Tasmania would make the cut. These recipes seldom featured in shows in other states but were in most Tasmanian show schedules.
The chosen versions were Judy Berry’s Victoria cake from the Bream Creek Show and George Davidson’s Madeira cake from the Longford Show.
Jelly cakes are also disappearing from many show schedules, but Lexie Young regularly wins with them at shows in the North.
Lexie’s family’s involvement in shows began with her greatgrandfather winning a prize at the first Westbury show in 1864 for best iron plough, which he made himself.
Lexie first pitched at the same show when her mother was convenor of the lunch booth. More than 50 years ago she won first prize for jelly cakes at Deloraine Show, and she still makes them by the dozen, according to Liz.
“She is not allowed to turn up at any occasion without her jelly cakes,” Liz said.
Shows were providing a “new degree of excitement” for children, Liz said. None more so than among the Bosveld family of Hobart, where all but the youngest of the 10 children compete in the Hobart Show – having first competed for kitchen space at home. Their recipe for raspberry and white chocolate muffins is in the book.
The oldest show in Australia – Campbell Town, founded in 1838 – is represented by sheep farmer Doug Loane’s winning apple, raisin and walnut Man Cake recipe from 2010.
The last essential ingredient for making the cut to be included in the book was generosity of spirit, says Liz. Those sharing their secrets include Rod Chapman, who used to be a Grange Hermitage winemaker, on the balance of fruit salt, sugar and spices in hot tomato sauce, and a fail- safe carrot cake from Sale Show, where the prize for a nationwide carrot cake contest is 100 times higher than the $ 10 you might hope for at most shows.
And how good does your scone recipe have to be to make it into such a book? One day Queenslander Dorothy Rideout’s oven was not hot enough to follow the usual advice to get the scones straight into the oven, and she had to leave them sit a few minutes. They turned out better than ever. Now she always lets the scones sit for five minutes before putting them in the oven.