Cookbook Review: The Country Women’s Association Cookbook Seventy Years in the Kitchen

by Cookie McBookie

My rating: 1/2  star

Take note – there is NO Vanilla Slice recipe. WTF!  On the savoury front – NO Shepherd’s Pie!! This book is not the jedi-path to being dinki-di. Also, in contrast to similar publications, there are no boasts of blue ribbon, prize winning recipes that I was hoping to try.

Nevertheless, the book’s appearance is a pleasant surprise. I was a bit concerned that because the book is spiral bound that it would lack “shelf appeal”.  Fortunately, there is a nice spine on the book which covers the spiral (the spiral by the way is a nice touch). Another plus is that the book uses both American measurements ie cups AND metrics eg grams. There are also 3-4 recipes per page and close to 400 pages – which makes for a lot of cooking.

But … the book is going to be daunting for the novice cook.  For example, there are no separate listings of ingredients. Most recipes are one paragraph long and written like a 25 words or less contest.  The recipe for Apple Pie starts with “Cook three apples.”  If you have no idea how to do this then this is not the book for you!  There are also no photos of any of the food so amateur cooks be warned!

The book is full of amusing suggestions from another era, eg for “popular sandwich ideas” on page 51, Minced Tongue and Pickle is listed. Um no thanks.  OR “Mock Oyster Sandwiches” where the mock is actually lamb’s brains (talk about bait and switch).

There is also a two page spread on “Stains and their Removal”.  For example, to remove lipstick it says “Apply and then sponge with carbon tetrachloride*”.  Upon inspection the ” * ” refers to the warning “Carbon tetracholride was formerly used in a wide variety of applications beforeits carcinogenic hazard was well known” (sic).  The editors acknowledge that some of these tips are out of date but I wonder why they bothered including these home remedies in the first place! Surely the CWA ladies remove lipstick in the 21st century (or at least have access dry cleaning).

More importantly, how does the book cook? I had to try the Lamingtons and although I was torn between the sheep’s tongue and ox heart recipes, I felt compelled to stick to the mainstream and sample making the Cornish Pasties.

So first off, lets try the Lamingtons

The recipe is really weird. There is no leavening agent, nor is self raising flour used.  The batter looks more like a paste.

The recipe doesn’t say how large a “rectanglular cake tin” should be so I bought the smallest one I could find which was 14 x 9 inches.

With the paste like consistency, absence of leavening agent, is it any surprise it came out looking like a rectangular brown cookie?

They were so embarrassing, I couldn’t even be bothered icing all of them.

The crumb was ok for a soft buttery cookie but the whole lamington experience was a total disappointment.

Redemption recipe? Cornish pastie

So you would think, the CWA would have to put in a decent pastie recipe right? WRONG.  First of all, the recipe is weird.  I thought it was really strange that they give some detail on making the pastry but omit the words “Chill. Rest”.  I couldn’t believe it.  It was only after I made the dough that I checked the index and in an obscure section of the book does it give the tip “rest pastry dough when making pastries”.  Too late baby.

After handling warm sticky dough and stuffing it with the steak, turnip, potato and onion mixture, I prayed to the gods it would cook in the TEN minutes given in the recipe. WRONG.

How they expected a pastie to cook in ten minutes is beyond me. Some kind of alien clock must work in the country. I ended up having to leave the pasties in the oven for at least 30 minutes for fear of undercooking and death.

Taste test?

They taste like… beige.

Conclusion? – I don’t think there was any recipe testing in this book. It kinda sucks. The good thing is that it gives some amusing insight into life in the 1950s and has a spiral binding.  Otherwise – avoid this book.


Always shop around. I bought my copy at the Borders bookstore (now closed down). At time of post I found good online prices at Country Women’s Association Cookbook: Seventy Years in the Kitchen
and at

The Nile -Australia's Largest Online Bookstore

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  • Kate
    December 12, 2010 - 3:53 am | Permalink

    Cookie, surely you are a bit harsh on the good on country women’s association. As a consumer of the aforementioned cornish pasties I can say that they hit the spot for me and were worth of more than a ‘beige’ reference.

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