Reproduced from my mother's kitchen & the CWA Cookbook recipe c1970s.
~ Ginger Slab ~
~ Ginger Slab ~
250g butter softened
¾ cup sweet white devil
1 cup self raising white devil
1 cup plain white devil
5 ts gound ginger
Ginger top -
2 ¼ cups of icing sugar
¼ cup of golden syrup
4 teaspoons ground ginger
Measure butter then cut into chunks and rest on a plate on the window sill in the afternoon winter sun. Gaze out window.
…haven’t made this for years…since..actually when I did I last make this…I know Ginger Slab comes up in my conversation at least once a year, but hmmm…have I not made this…since I was a teenager?
The recipe came from the Country Women’s Association Cookbook. CWA 'making life easier for women and children in rural and remote regions'. I used the ring bound edition, issued to members when my mum joined the CWA in the 1970s. I loved that book but it was my mum who taught me how to cook.
I didn’t think about it then, but I imagine the scene now, a group of older white women and one lonely Aboriginal woman, a young mother miles from home in a mining town who reached out to other women for company.
The recipes were easy to follow and included ingredients that you would have found in any station kitchen – country staples like flour, sugar, dried mixed fruit and golden syrup.
You’d have more than likely had a big pantry full of boxes, tins and flour bags.
The tin camp homes that were made out of flattened supply tins, and clothes worn, made from flour bags, you might catch in an old black and white photograph.
A fair sized station, and you’d expect to find a freezer room big enough to store large cuts of meat, and enough butter, milk and cream for months.
The freezer was big enough to walk in, and threaten to lock a sibling inside. The freezer room I know best has a tap on the outside, so you could fill up a water bag with cold rain water. The last time I tried it, it must have been a while between drinks because the water came out icy cold, brown and rusty.
The CWA Cookbook of my youth was a collection of recipes, handy survival tips, and menus for smokos, dinner parties and special events.
If you saw dust coming your way, you’d have whipped up a batch of scones before they’d opened and closed the last gate into the home paddock.
Kitchen work was day time work, because there were limits to who could be in there after dark. You could be in the washhouse till midnight stoking the fire for the big copper pot for washing the house linen, but you were not permitted in the back door of the big house.
My favourite section of the CWA Cookbook was the tips: save a burnt cake: how to achieve maximum lightness or shininess; and the substitutes for ingredients if you happened to be caught short.
Tips like this when even your best hen wouldn’t lay:
If you run short of eggs when making a fruit cake, try mixing ½ teaspoon bicarb soda with 1 dessertspoon vinegar & add to the batter last. This will substitute for 2 eggs.
More CWA tips are here.
I tried a few other recipes – the swiss roll and the chicken pot roast – but the Ginger Slab pages were the most stiffened from sticky floury fingers while I carefully checked the quantities.
I haven’t seen the book for years – and can be reduced to ugly crying thinking that maybe it was thrown out by accident during one of my moves, and for that reason alone, I don’t ever want to unpack my book collection.
These days I don’t even own a measuring cup or a standard size set of spoons. It’s all guess work and I add or subtract on whim.
I know now, I cook like my mum – by look and feel. I am breaking every rule in the cooking show lexicon when I say I never taste test. No need when I know exactly what I am getting.
My mother also had a great sense of smell – 'is that burning? I smell burning'.
I wouldn’t set off the smoke alarms with such regularity if mum was here to ask me – 'are you sure that isn’t burning...?' Maybe that’s why I didn’t get around to making Ginger Slab for nearly 40 years – because mum wasn’t in the next room saying, ‘keep an eye on it’.
And maybe I would trust the friendship of other women more if my only means of communicating was to join a group of strangers, who would have used separate doors into the kitchen, to talk about how to save a cake.
Ginger Slab recipe
Preheat oven – 180c
Cream 250grams butter + ¾ cup of white sugar
Stir in 1 cup of self raising and 1 cup of plain flours and a teaspoon of ginger.
Press into slice tin – 20cms by 30cms.
Bake at 180c for 20-25 minutes.
Heat 80grams of butter, 2 ¼ cups of icing sugar, ¼ cup of golden syrup and 4 teaspoons of ginger on stove top.
Optional – dice chunks of ‘naked uncrysatlised ginger’ and add to mix.
Pour over cooled base.
And in closing, I recently found this in an old magazine….
I call it an Amy Cake, so if your name was Amy and your child’s birthday cake failed to rise in all the right places, there’s nothing a bit of icing wont fix.
Amy herself of course is on a trajectory that only knows one direction – up.