Meet the CWA and their scones – https://youtu.be/I3M-tbtufog down-under equivalents to our British WIs and their Victoria sponges. I was learning from the very best in Kiama, Australia
Jo, one of the renowned champions of the Country Women’s Association was generous enough to share her amazing recipe for lemonade scones: just self-raising flour, cream and the fizzy drink of your choice. She and others make over 50,000 for just one local show so I knew she was a top expert.
This was my first cooking session after landing in Australia following a long and day-late flight from China. The warm Spring weather and the charm of this little seaside town nestled in the countryside was a complete change from the teeming metropolis of Chongqing.
It was a real privilege to start with a lesson from Jo, an award-winning cook who has turned her skill in to a thriving business (Sweetwood cakes). We spent a sunny morning in the bright kitchen of Ken and Rosemary, long-term friends who were generously hosting me in their Kiama home. Gemma, herself a professional pastry chef, and fellow CWA-member, Jennifer, were there too – making sure that my attempts wouldn’t utterly disgrace their exacting standards.
Cooking alongside Jo was a delight: her passion, knowledge and great sense of humour were just what I’d expect from a completely confident and super-competent cook. We laughed all morning and invented new recipes on the spot: how about beer in place of lemonade to make scones for a ploughman’s lunch; perhaps even a cream tea would be more luxurious with a champagne scone? The variations could be as endless as there are carbonated drinks in the world!
When I got back to the UK, sparkling wine was the perfect alternative and I added horseradish sauce to half the mixture for savoury scones to serve with a smoked salmon mousse. Definitely one for the recipe book!
A few hours and life lurched from one extreme to another: a truly enlightening morning getting a glimpse of bush tucker with aboriginal Fred followed by the high drama of nephew and videographer Toby and another friend being rescued from a life-or-death sea emergency.
With Fred (www.fredsbushtucker.com.au), I felt rather foolish and thoughtless for not recognising that his ancient culture had the sophisticated development we see in our own more modern societies. Hence, it is no more reasonable to ask him as an expert bush tucker cook about the medicinal qualities of plants than expecting a chef to know the best treatment for an illness. Aboriginal culture, like ours, has a whole range of experts – from law and medicine to cooking and childcare.
Fred showed me the plants that can be ground in to flour for bread, the seed head that can be carried from camp to camp to light fires and much more. He helped me wrap a snapper fish donated by the local fish market (www.shellharbourfish.com.au), stuffed with lemon myrtle, in soaked paper bark and lily leaves for smoking on a barbeque – the origin of French style “en papiloutte”.
What I most admired was his clear and close connection with nature: the scrub land that he uses as a super market; his equanimity in the face of modern hustle and bustle; his irreverent sense of humour. It was a real privilege to be shown just a glimpse of his world – all thanks to the planning and organisation of our Kiama hosts Rosemary and Ken. They managed a week of different experiences: cooking with the award-winning Jo (firstname.lastname@example.org) of the Country women’s Association; Martin, the blind chef in Sydney (www.enabledcooking.com); wine-tasting with Raj (www.thesilos.com); an Iranian fire-pit and barbecue meat fest with Eddie. The generosity of spirit and enthusiasm for cooking was the essence of a magnificent week that had taken huge effort to arrange by Rosemary and Ken – huge thanks to them.
But, even the best laid plans couldn’t have prepared us for the drama that was unfolding as I was still chatting with Fred. Toby and another friend had slipped down to the beach for a quick swim. Within minutes, a rip tide had dragged them out 300 metres from the beach and was pulling them further out. Thankfully, 12 year old Hannah had spotted them (not waving but drowning) and her family called the emergency services. We arrived to find police cars massing alongside paramedics and lifeguards with two helicopters close on their heels. Eventually a surfboard lifesaver reached them with the board providing extra flotation as they had reached critical levels of exhaustion and cold. One-by-one, they were helped back to shore and encased in huge foil and thermal warming suits – they looked like two capons ready for roasting! But, it was no joke at the time as they were probably less than 10 minutes from tragedy. The emergency services did a wonderful job and I cannot be more thankful to them. And the whole drama completely upstaged the Baking Blind activities on the local TV – you can watch the clip on YouTube.
There’ll be lots more videos and recipes from this latest visit as soon as we have edited them – probably early next year so please do keep tuned in.