This book was always in our kitchen when I was a child and the photos and recipes are etched firmly in my mind. I’m not sure how many times it was actually used but as a bush family who loved outdoor living it was always full of inspiration and familiar places and names.
Now, as an adult we have two copies in our house, one old hardcover and a newer paperback. I know my brother also keeps a copy permanently in his camping tuckerbox. Outback Cooking In the Camp Oven was first published in 1982 by Jack and his uncle Reg Absalom and photographed by Jocelyn Burt.
I do not claim to be any kind of food or photography expert but I do spend a lot of time on these two subjects. When I look back at this book now it is just as appealing as it was when I was a child. The photos are taken in dazzling, bright outback light. A lot of the backgrounds are quite stark with almost no props, apart from some basic implements and perhaps a salt shaker or a bottle of sauce.
While I love handmade ceramics, vintage props, pieces of aged linen, moody lighting and a dusting of icing sugar I love this simply, clean photography. It reflects this simple food from a different era in a genuine, no nonsense style.
I am not sure how many people worked on this book but there is no mention of stylists, editors or a marketing team. You get the feeling that Jack, Reg and Jocelyn just hit the road with their camp ovens and a few basic ingredients, calling in to remote stations along the way.
Jack Absalom passed away recently in our local hospital, aged 91. He was a colourful character in our community best known as one of the Brushmen Of The Bush . I didn’t know him personally but I always enjoyed his colourful interviews on our local ABC radio. Now I will remember him through this recipe book.
As a tribute to all of the good bush cooking memories I baked the famous Kidman’s Jam Tart, made in an enamel plate, just as it is in the book.
I have shared this recipe, also exactly as it appears in the book.
Do you have a book from your childhood that is etched into your memory, as if it was yesterday?
Happy Sunday, friends x
Recipe from Outback Cooking In The Camp Oven, Jack and Reg Absalom.
- 250 g flour
- pinch salt
- 120 g clear fat or butter
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tsp sugar only needed for sweet dishes
- 3/4 cup jam
Sift flour, add salt and sugar if for a sweet dish. Rub in fat or butter with tips of fingers. Pour the water in the centre slowly making a stiff dough that will leave the sides of the dish clearly. Tip out onto floured board and knead slowly with tips of fingers and thumbs. Then turn rough side down and roll out to required size.
Roll out to plate size. Place pastry in the bottom of the pie dish and cover with the jam. Bake in a hot oven for 15 minutes.
A favourite on Kidman’s Station. Especially when they had sold a big mob of cattle. Jack Absalom.