Favourite recipes from the heart of Tasmania (mostly)
By Susan Butler
Published by Starr Ink
This is an utterly delightful book.
You can read it like a novel. The plot is simple: intrepid reporter contacts a great many people who live in the Midlands asking for their never-fail family recipes and reproduces them in a simple spiral bound book that commemorates the spirit of our island, our pioneers and our fantastic home cooks.
Along the way you meet interesting characters, are tuned into some local gossip, and help a good cause.
The writer is an American who met her husband in India in 1985, married him in 1991, and came to call the Midlands home.
Gems of recipes
She has put together a compendium of home cooking. The same that the Duke of Edinburgh famously said he never got any of — “All I get is fancy stuff.” Well there’s nothing particularly fancy here but in its pages you will find gems of recipes that have been standbys — and stand-outs — for generations of Tassie women and men.
From the fact that all the recipes have been tested and tried, and tested again over many years, you know they’re going to work.
Better still, the people who provide the recipes also pass on those kinds of hints that glossier cookbooks rarely do. Take the advice that accompanies Potato Leek Soup (no contributor’s name given, not that that matters when it’s straight from the kitchen stove):
“Actually this is Vichyssoise, but I don’t bother about using cream instead of milk … Also I don’t bother with scalding the milk before adding it … why dirty another pan when it tastes just as good and speeds up the preparation process?” Adds our charming, and disarming, cook, “I serve it hot instead of chilled”.
There are recipes from 100 years ago, from the 1920s and 1930s, an occasional handwritten entry, wonderful old photographs, and there is even a useful mixture for feeding rescued baby kangaroos, plus an indispensable page of handy hints that come from years of experience.
There are some fun stories too. My vote goes to the late Edward (Shima) Fitch, who made his esteemed Sheep’s-Head Soup the moment his wife, who detested it, went away for a few days.
It took thoroughly cleaning a sheep’s head and stewing it until tender, adding vegetables and stewing gently for a further six or seven hours — my sympathies lie with the wife! But he took care to enjoy the results and dispose of the remains before Sis, his wife, came home.
Part of the profits of Midlands Morsels goes to the Benevolent Organisation for Development, Health & Insight (BODHI) Australia, a tax-deductible charity that was founded in Tasmania and works in developing countries.
Providing a hook …
The Dalai Lama agreed to be founding patron in 1989, the same year he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.
As Susan Butler explains: “BODHI believes in providing a hook, not a fish. We have supported innovative and sustainable health, education, environmental and micro-credit projects in India, Thailand and Tibet.”
An example of the latter is the Revolving Sheep Bank that loans ewes and nannies to poor nomads in Tibet, which are repaid in kind after five years, thus enabling further loans to other nomads. Environmental project include such practical things as water pumps and water purification.
Learn more about BODHI at their website. — Patsy Hollis