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by Cheryl Goodenough

Australia Bush Cooking

I enjoy cooking and ‘more camping trips' with my family is one of my goals for this year, so I was really thrilled to page through Australian Bush Cooking by Cathy Savage, with pictures by Craig Lewis.

There are lots of yummy sounding recipes and some dishes that I wouldn't have contemplated cooking in the bush. The book certainly is inspiring.

Of interest is the section on camp oven cooking, which enables you to roast, stew and bake. Cathy tell us that roasting in a camp oven is really no different to cooking at home. The main difference is you need to check the heat of the coals regularly to ensure your meat is cooked evenly.

There's also a section on damper, bread, scones and muffins. According to Cathy, bush travellers, stockmen and miners survived on little more than tea and damper, with a little salted meat, during the early days of European settlement in Australia. The damper was made of plain flour and water, and if supplies were available salt would have been added, she writes. “The flour and water was mixed into a dough and shaped into a flat circle about six centimetres thick, then placed in a hole made in the hot ashes of the camp fire. More ashes were moved over the top to keep air out, to prevent the damper burning. After 30 minutes tiny cracks would appear on the surface from where steam had escaped. The damper was cooked if it sounded hollow when gently tapped with a stick.”

Cathy writes that the traditional damper recipe is now often adapted by keen cooks, campers and bushwalkers.

Old Australian Terms

The section that explains some of the old Australian terms used in Australian Bush Cooking makes for interesting reading. Here are a few:

Bush Trifle – Layered Johnny Cakes spread with jam, with condensed milk poured over.

Diamantina Cocktail – A drink originating in Queensland consisting of Bundaberg Rum, condensed milk and an emu's egg.

Fat Cake – A damper fried in fat.

Fossicker's Dinner – Consisting of bread, dripping and a roast onion.

Murrumbidgee Jam – A slice of bread dipped in cold tea and sprinkled with sugar.

Overland Trout – A goanna, or any large lizard cooked in the ashes of an open fire.

Smoko – Term for tea break and also used for the food and drink supplied at this time.

Stylish Crafts for Your Home

Stylish crafts for your home by Deborah Morbin and Tracy Boomer has some great ideas to enhance your living spaces this year.

Amongst the ideas that I found inspiring were some different ideas for decorating plain candles. Note that it's important to use thicker candles that burn down in the centre otherwise the outside decoration will start burning as well.

  • Cracked candles: These are simply made using two different colours of acrylic paint and crackle medium. After cleaning the candle with spirits, paint on a base colour (mixed with candle medium) and leave it to dry. Then apply a coat of crackle medium over the painted area. Once this is dry, paint the contrasting colour over the top, and the cracks start to form immediately. Use two coats of varnish to seal the candle.
  • Rose and ribbon candles: These candles are purely decorative, but are beautiful and would make a lovely gift. You would need to remove the ribbon and roses if you wanted to light the candles. To make these candles, the authors brought two pieces of ribbon under and up the sides of the candle and tied them at the top. A fabric rose, which was actually a hair clip was slotted through the ribbon. If you can't get the clip, you can make your own by gluing a hair clip onto a silk rose.
  • Sand-covered candles: The instructions for making these are lengthy so they have been shortened here. Put moist beach or river sand into a container larger and deeper than the mould you want to use (any bowl will do). Press the mould firmly into the sand, pat the sand flat around the mould and then carefully remove the mould. Put wax into a double boiler and then heat it to just below boiling point. Remove the pot from the heat and pour over the back of a spoon into the hole. Leave for about 10 minutes. Tie the wick onto a stick (a piece of dowelling is ideal) and then place the stick carefully across the middle of the still molten wax so the wick is dangling down into it. Make sure each end of the stick is resting on the sand sides. Leave the wax to cool completely and reset. When the candle has dried you'll notice it has formed a sinkhole in the middle. Levelling the top requires a second, slightly cooler pouring of wax. When this has been done and the wax has set, untie the stick and remove the candle from the container by digging in alongside it and lifting it out. Pour another thin layer of wax onto the top of the candle if it is not smooth. Sand the outsides of the candle with a 400-grit sandpaper to give a smooth finish. Finally, apply several layers of podge over the sand to help bind it, allowing drying time after each layer.

African Napkin Rings

This is a wonderful way to be creative and to make something that certainly will entice you to think of Africa. In Stylish crafts for your home Deborah and Tracy explain how to make these napkin rings, along the lines of the bracelets found in African curio and craft shops.

They used 42 medium-sized safety pins for each ring. Thread a row of beads onto each of the pins by undoing it, threading the beads over the pointed end and closing it again. Once all the pins are ready, thread them onto two pieces of thin elastic. Each pin must be placed in the opposite direction to the one next to it (top to tail) so, if you have threaded the elastic through the clasp of one pin, you will thread it through the bottom of the next one. Once you have threaded all the pins onto the elastic, tie the two ends together to form a circle and repeat the process with the other piece of elastic at the other end.

The authors suggest that if the hole at the head of the pin is a little small and the elastic gets stuck, it may be useful to make it bigger by pushing the point of a thin screwdriver through the hole.

Stylish crafts for your home by Deborah Morbin and Tracy Boomer and other books published by Metz Press are available in Australia through Gary Allen. Contact customerservice@garyallen.com.au.

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Posted by Cheryl Goodenough
09 Feb 2010

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