Santa was very good to me last year. He knows I am a fan of the Country Women's Association (CWA) cookery books and made sure there was a fat package under my tree!
Country Women's Association Classics is an 888 page book with some 400 tried and tested recipes, and is a gem that will be put to very good use in my kitchen. I had previously treated myself to the CWA Preserves book and already made bountiful quantities of Ruby Blyth's divine Passionfruit Peach Jam (which also appears in this classic on page 795). Another batch is on the stove as I write this review.
According to the book, the CWA was established in Australia in New South Wales in the early 1920s, when a conference was held in Sydney during the Royal Easter Show, when many rural women came to the city with their families. A committee was formed from the conference to establish an organisation to promote the interests of women on the land. The idea spread quickly and by the late 1930s, there were CWA offices across all the states and territories in Australia. The CWA also contributed to the war effort, producing food, equipment and clothing for Aussie servicemen and assisting the women left behind to manage the farm. Nowadays, there are more than 44,000 members and 1,855 branches of the CWA. If you would like to find out about joining the CWA, visit the CWAA website and contact a Branch near you.
National President of the CWA, Heather Wieland, notes in the Foreword that CWA members have 'long had a reputation for being wonderful cooks. Indeed, too often it seems that the public and the media think that our main activity is making tea and scones, though this is far from the case. But it is true that cooking and catering by our members, especially at local agricultural shows, have always been the major source of fundraising, enable the CWA to raise many hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years, which has been used to support families and communities particularly in rural areas'.
The recipe collection is divided into Soups, Snacks and Starters; Mains; Desserts and Baking. There are family favourites which have been passed from cook to cook over the generations, as well as recipes for 'new foods' introduced to Australia from other countries and adopted/adapted by CWA members. Scattered among the old standbys (like Salmon Patties and Rich Irish Stew) are surprises such as Braised Muttonbirds, from a member on Flinders Island, Tasmania; and Tasty Kangaroo Stew, from a member in Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory.
The bulk of the recipes are devoted to desserts and baking. Pantomime Cake, made with three day old madeira cake and marshmallow, caught my eye. Apple Snow, a post-war dessert made with apple, egg white and baked custard also looks very interesting. There are rock cakes, coconut cakes and fruit cakes galore. As well as gingerbread cakes, sponge cakes, apple cakes, chocolate cakes and chocolate apple cake!
The preserve section is extensive and includes explanations about the different kinds of preserves (curd, chutney, conserves, jam, jelly, marmalade, pickles, vinegar and relish). There are details on equipment needed and information about pectin content in fruit and how to make pectin stock. Very useful. I will finish up and check my (Ruby's) Passionfruit Peach jam. The fruit will be soft and should be ready for the sugar, lemon juice and passionfruit by now. Yummy!
Country Women's Association Classics (Penguin Books) $49.95. Add it to your bookshelf!
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