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Possum Pie, Beetroot Beer and Lamingtons

Austrlian_Family_RecipesDelving back into dusty bookshelves and family notebooks, as well as state and private collections, widely experienced author Victoria Heywood has retrieved some recipes which might have otherwise faded from our memories.

This book brings together around 500 'lost' dishes that carry the reader back to the era when Australia's infant cuisine began, through world wars, the Depression and on to more recent times.

To fit the image the publishers have reproduced old advertisements, and cookbook and magazine pages. It all appears so authentic, you get the feeling that great-grandma could open the book, put on her apron and start cooking as if she hadn't missed half a century or so!

Understandably, many of the dishes are simple and thrifty. Offal is popular, suet is in common use, and mutton features instead of lamb. There are kitchen tips too. "How failures arise" warns one page in the Teatime Delights section. "How to dress well on a small sum" appears opposite an ad for Kayser stockings, just before the page which explains how to use tomatoes nine ways.

This book is a compendium of recipes from the past, the ghosts of meals gone by. They are all attributed to someone, somewhere, who may have cooked them, and - depending on the skills of that long-gone cook - may or may not deserve to be recreated today.

We all know lamingtons, but what about the other dishes in the title? Beetroot Beer is here, on page 293, for those brave enough to try it. There's the Possum Pie too on page 139, but not many of us would even contemplate cooking the following dish - Goanna Tail in Parsley Sauce!

Eclectic and sometimes hilarious, there's just the chance you'll find something here which will become a family favourite which will pass on down through further generations.

If nothing else it is an edible history lesson about this country and its food.

Possum Pie, Beetroot Beer and Lamingtons - Australian family recipes from 1868-1950, by Victoria Heywood, published by Slattery Media Group, 2011, rrp $25, paperback, ISBN: 978 1 921778 27 8


- Sally Hammond


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