A Tribute To Jack Absalom


Cooking In The Camp Oven

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.

Cooking In The Camp Oven

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

Kidman's Jam Tart

Kidman's Jam Tart

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
  1. 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.  

  2. 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.


April 21, 2019


  1. Reply

    Kate B

    March 31, 2019

    Oh wow! What a book Jane. It has certainly stood the test of time. I vividly remember one of the SOTA song books. It was in high rotation on the piano stand and I still know all of Dad’s favourites xx

  2. Reply

    ewe beauty

    March 31, 2019

    OH Jane ! that Jam Tart graced many a table in my childhood as a dessert , when there was nothing in the pantry save a tin/jar of jam and then of course the home made pastry ! I loved watching mum twist and cut those pieces and couldn’t wait til I was allowed to do the same! Mind you it wasn’t a favourite, too much pastry for me , but always looked so inviting!a good dollop of cream helped it go down 🙂

  3. Reply


    March 31, 2019

    What an interesting book. He seems like a real character. Mum’s staple was always a jam tart. One year we had an overload of gooseberries, so I really remember gooseberry tart on the table.

  4. Reply


    March 31, 2019

    I can remember meeting Jack, his son Peter was our roo shooter. I don’t think we had his cookbook though. My memories are of Women’s Weekly cookbooks, the SOTA cookbooks, and of course mum’s handwritten folder of recipes which my sisters and I all copied out our favourites from at some stage for folders of our own.

  5. Reply


    April 1, 2019

    Food and food photography from the days before fancy messing about! Sounds like a good book.

  6. Reply


    April 1, 2019

    What a treasure of a book! I used to have this tiny paperback cookbook I cooked from growing up that had the best stuffed baked potato recipe in it but somehow when my parents moved it got donated to the salvos. I often think and hope that it found a new home and those potatoes are being enjoyed by someone else learning to cook 🙂

  7. Reply


    April 1, 2019

    Jack Absolom was best known to me for his art in Brushmen from the Bush and his TV series. As for the Kidman Tart, it it often appeared on our family table when I was a child. I found this same tart in Patagonia (in a town in the middle of nowhere) & foisted it on the small tour group as my idea of birthday cake.

  8. Reply

    Alphie Soup

    April 2, 2019

    Jack Absolom was best known to me as one of the Brushmen of the Bush and I remember how excited I was when they brought an exhibition of their work to Melbourne many years ago.
    As for The Kidman Tart, it often put in an appearance on our family table when I was a child.
    I once had to provide birthday cake for a small tour group in the wilds of Patagonia. I walked into a shop in a small town, saw a Kidman’s Tart and bought it, much to the surprise (and possibily dismay) of the mainly European tour group.
    No, I didn’t bake it myself – of you saw some of the things we did make, you would not know whether to laugh or cry.

  9. Reply


    April 3, 2019

    We had the Womens Weekly recipe card library. I went through that so often thinking of all the things I could make, it was wonderful. Not sure how they would all taste now though, but the dreams were great.


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