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Does anyone else have their grandmother’s handwritten and much-loved recipes? And being 100% honest, does anyone use their old family recipes? To begin with, they’re usually in a old book in the back of a kitchen cupboard or in a box of old papers hidden away. In my case the handwriting is so faded that it is almost impossible to read. Or frustratingly, the recipe for the pastry for my Nan’s Neenish Tarts exists but the recipe for the filling is missing! I know that I could find a similar one on the net but it just would nor be the same.

I am sure that everyone has memories, probably from childhood, of foods that are not being cooked anymore. Those foods evoke very personal memories of other times, places and people.For me a taste of a good sponge cake is enough to hurtle me back to my Nan’s kitchen in Lismore while gooseberry jam sends me right back to my great-grandmother’s kitchen in Ballina. What I don’t understand is how people created such wonderful food in such basic kitchens – without the blenders, ovens and microwaves that we take for granted. How ‘light-as-a-feather’ sponges emerged from slow combustion Rayburns is beyond me.

To find the recipes that would have been used I turned to TROVE. Trove is a fantastic resource to help us discover how people lived in past years. Now that complete newspapers and some magazines are available to read on line you can gain a great snapshot of the social history of the time.

TROVE is far richer than a series of Births, Deaths and Marriages. At the same time as researching the recipes of yesterday I was able to see what people wore, what goods were being advertised at that time and importantly, what were the big events of the day – at an international, federal and state level – or in the case of the earlier papers, the colonial level.

I had a wander through Trove wondering if I could find a few old recipes that might work for the modern Australian palate. There are few that seem quite contemporary, or at least retro! Click on the links to go to the actual article.

1. Puree of PeaThe Capricornian, Rockhampton, August 10, 1889

RECIPES: Retrievedfrom http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article65788060

Okay substitute cooktop for ‘fire’ and put in a blender instead of ‘rubbing through a sieve’ but this seems totally doable for the home chef. It’s not all that far from a pea puree recipe from Nigella Lawson that is delicious served with lightly seared scallops

Note: This is the first recipe that I have encountered with ‘ peck’ being an actual measurement

2. Tomato JamSunday Times, Perth, April 11. 1937

The WORLD of WOMEN: Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article58821756

Mmmm… Sunday brunch – eggs and bacon with a spicy tomato jam. I know that Neil Perry uses red wine vinegar instead of lemons to give his jam a little acidic bite but all the key ingredients are there. I’m excited about this recipe. Thank you Mrs Homes for sending this to the Sunday Times in Perth, I bet you had no idea that it would still be being used some 75 years on.

There is also a good recipe for quince honey on the same page. Definitely worth a try using the quinces now being sold at the Moruya markets.

3. Apple-almond turnoversThe Australian Woman’s Weekly, August 22,1956

PRIZE RECIPE : Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article51391697

Admittedly these are more than a little retro but if apple turnovers are back on the menu for Adriano Zumba then that’s good enough for me. Providing you can get the pastry right there will be a definite yum factor.

4. Chocolate-nut merigues The Australian Woman’s Weekly, January 29, 1975, P62

PRIZE RECIPE: Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article43721582

I can just see these on the front of a magazine, served with a raspberry coulis and dusted with cocoa powder. And the amazing thing is how small the short the list of ingredients is – it almost makes me a little skeptical about whether it will work. And more to the point… does Mrs Peake of Pymble mean ‘mixed nuts’ instead of ‘mixed fruit’?

5. Lamingtons The Queenslander, Brisbane, January 4, 1902 , p. 30 Supplement: Unknown

COOKERY: Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article21619222

Finally, I can’t end this post without a mention of the great Australian cake, the lamington – the recipe apparently remains unchanged for a at least 112 years. This is the earliest recipe I can find in Trove.

I know there’s plenty more out there, particularly in the Australian Women’s Weekly but I the ones above are some that grabbed my attention!

Do you have any favourite family recipes? Or can you remember much-loved food from years ago? If you do please tell us about them in the comment section below.

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