LEARN­ING CURVE

WHEN SHE MAR­RIED A FARMER, A YOUNG BRIDE EM­BRACED RU­RAL LIFE AND PER­FECTED A FAVOURITE FAM­ILY RECIPE.

Country Style - - CONTENTS - WORDS SARAH NEIL PHO­TOG­RA­PHY AND STYLING CHINA SQUIR­REL

Su­san­nah James shares her mother’s recipe for Deutsche kuchen, or Ger­man cake, which is a much-loved favourite in her fam­ily.

IT WOULD HAVE BEEN HARD for Mar­cus Beeck not to no­tice Léonie Robert­son at the coun­try dance in Badge­bup, a small farm­ing com­mu­nity in WA’S Great South­ern re­gion. It was July 1949 and the out­go­ing young wo­man and her mother (pic­tured to­gether above) were re­turn­ing to Syd­ney after a hol­i­day in Europe and had stopped off to visit rel­a­tives in nearby Katan­ning. “I’ve been told by those who were present that Léonie’s clas­sic beauty and el­e­gant style did not go un­no­ticed,” says the cou­ple’s daugh­ter Su­san­nah James, 62. After meet­ing the charis­matic farmer at the dance, Léonie cor­re­sponded with him for a few months be­fore they mar­ried in April 1950 and moved to Coyre­cup, Mar­cus’s sheep and grain prop­erty. “Léonie re­ally em­braced ru­ral life,” says Su­san­nah. “She loved farm work and pre­ferred it to house­work.” The 24-year-old bride, who had worked as a moth­er­craft nurse and nanny, didn’t have much ex­pe­ri­ence in the kitchen and it’s said that “her cook­ing skills were pretty much lim­ited to boil­ing an egg”. Léonie set about learn­ing to cook and was par­tic­u­larly keen to per­fect this Deutsche kuchen (Ger­man cake) — a fam­ily recipe that had been handed down through the gen­er­a­tions since the Beecks em­i­grated to Aus­tralia from Prus­sia in the mid 1800s. “Mum was so pleased with her new recipe that she baked it for every fam­ily oc­ca­sion. For years we had Deutsche kuchen for morn­ing tea, af­ter­noon tea and in our school lunch boxes,” re­calls Su­san­nah. Over time, Léonie be­came a pro­fi­cient cook — she got hold of a French cook­book and be­gan flavour­ing her food with gar­lic and wine, which was very ad­ven­tur­ous in those days. “She al­ways had a soup or casse­role on the stove and made sure there was plenty of food in case un­ex­pected guests dropped by. “My par­ents were very so­cia­ble and I re­mem­ber them hav­ing big par­ties in the shear­ing sheds. There would be a band, and the women dressed up in their long dresses and furs.” The chil­dren were sup­posed to be in bed, but Su­san­nah — along with her brother and sis­ter — would sneak in to the party at sup­per­time and help them­selves to their mother’s won­der­ful pavlova and sponge cake. Léonie be­gan bak­ing other cakes and bis­cuits for her chil­dren after they com­plained that they were sick of Deutsche kuchen, but it re­mained Mar­cus’s favourite morn­ing tea — par­tic­u­larly when he was work­ing in the pad­docks at seed­ing time. “I re­mem­ber the smell of the freshly ploughed soil, the waft of diesel from the tractor and the steam ris­ing from Dad’s tin mug as he sipped his tea and ate a chunk of Deutsche kuchen,” says Su­san­nah. Not long after her mother died in 2010, Su­san­nah found Léonie’s hand­writ­ten recipe for Deutsche kuchen and was in­spired to make it for a fam­ily get-to­gether. “A few days later my niece, Amy, phoned to ask me for the recipe. Her young daugh­ters, Scar­lett and Lulu, had begged her to make the Deutsch kuchen. I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face!”

DEUTSCHE KUCHEN

Serves 10–12 2 cups self-rais­ing flour ¾ cup caster sugar 1 cup mixed dried fruit 1 egg, lightly whisked 1 cup milk 60g but­ter, melted, cooled 1 tea­spoon vanilla essence ½ cup cold mashed potato TOP­PING ¾ cup plain flour ¾ cup caster sugar 1 tea­spoon mixed spice pinch of ground mace* 125g chilled but­ter, chopped

Pre­heat oven to 180°C. Grease a 30cm x 20cm lam­ing­ton pan, then line base and sides with bak­ing pa­per, al­low­ing it to over­hang. To make top­ping, com­bine flour, caster sugar, mixed spice and mace in a bowl. Us­ing your fin­ger­tips, rub but­ter into flour mix­ture un­til it re­sem­bles coarse bread­crumbs. Set aside. Com­bine flour and caster sugar in a large bowl. Add dried fruit and mix un­til well com­bined. Add egg, milk, melted but­ter and vanilla essence, and mix un­til well com­bined. Stir in mashed potato and mix un­til well com­bined. Spoon mix­ture into pre­pared pan and smooth sur­face. Sprin­kle top­ping evenly over cake mix­ture in pan. Bake for 35–40 min­utes or un­til top­ping is lightly golden. Cool in pan. Cut into squares to serve. *Avail­able at spe­cialty spice shops, some spe­cialty food stores and In­dian gro­cers. Sub­sti­tute ground nut­meg. SHARE YOUR FAM­ILY FAVOURITES Do you have a recipe that has been passed down through gen­er­a­tions? Send us your recipe, the story be­hind it and a pho­to­graph (prefer­ably a copy or scan) of the rel­a­tive who passed it on. Re­mem­ber to in­clude a day­time tele­phone num­ber. Email Sarah Neil at sarah.neil@news.com.au or send a let­ter to Heir­loom Recipe, Coun­try Style, Locked Bag 5030, Alexan­dria NSW 2015. Note: recipes may also be pub­lished on­line at home­life.com.au

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