Monday, January 04, 2016

The Tasmanian Potato Cookbook; 1932.

Today, and for the next full week, I will be holidaying in Tasmania. I have therefore decided that my theme will be Tasmanian food as seen through the eyes of newspaper columnists and cookery book authors of times moderately past.

I am planning to enjoy the cool temperate climate of this island state – it will be a welcome relief from the sultry sub-tropics.  I am also planning to enjoy the food offerings from the state.

In the second half of the 1920’s the potato industry was in some strife, as it struggled with competition from New Zealand producers. One of the strategies of the Tasmanian Potato Board was to produce a small book of recipes, and I am going to feature some of them today. There are not just potato recipes within its pages, as you might be forgiven for expecting, the explanation being:

“For the purposes of the present Board’s operations, turnips, carrots, parsnips, or, in fact, any vegetable in respect of which inspection fees are collected under the Plant Diseases Act, 1930, are comprehended in the word “potato.”

Without further ado, from The Mercury (Hobart, Tasmania) 5 November, 1932, I give you the following:

Tasmanian Recipes
I wonder how many readers have obtained a copy of the very useful little book lately issued by the Potato Marketing Board of Tasmania? The Board, which has its headquarters at Burnie, is to be congratulated on an initiative more reminiscent of the wide-awake U.S.A. than of our sleepily complacent island. Naturally most of the recipes given deal with vegetables, but there is a really remarkable range of new ideas and it would be a good thing if our tourist hotels and boarding-houses took advantage of the assistance offered and broke away from the monotony of boiled and roast deplored by so many visitors. I am giving three of the fifty or so recipes included, hoping they will interest those readers who have not yet seen the booklet.
Stuffed Potatoes.
Take eight equal-sized potatoes; bake them and cut a slice off each. Scoop out as much inside as possible and pass it through a sieve; season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, add a third of its quantity in grated cheese, moisten with beaten egg-yolk and milk. Whisk stiff the egg-white and quickly fold into the mixture. Fill hollowed spaces with it, return to oven, and serve hot with garnish of fried parsley.
Russian Sweet.
Wash and scrape some carrots and put into a saucepan in the proportion of one cup of sugar to each cup of carrot. Simmer until the mixture is almost stiff, and then add to each three cups, one level teaspoon of grated ginger. Turn out on a wet board. Blanc and cut up some almonds, spread on to the confection, cut into shapes, and leave to set. This delicious sweet, if kept airtight, will last for some time.
Parsnip Toast.
Boil some parsnips tender, but not mushy, in salted water. Drain and slice across about a quarter of an inch thick. Lay them on oblong pieces of hot buttered toast, dust lightly with pepper, salt, and a very little castor-sugar. Cover with good cream sauce and serve at once.

We would all be better for eating more vegetables, and the State’s finances would improve if we increased our support of local products, so this seems an easy method of killing two birds with one stone.

I managed to find an online copy of this book, so also give another recipe from it - my personal favourite choice:

Autumn Leaves: Afternoon Tea Special.

Slice raw potatoes and cut into required shapes. Grease underneath side slightly with butter. Place on slide and cook in very slow oven in order to prevent the slices from curling up. When almost cooked, brown off quickly. Spread with butter when nearly cold and serve on dish garnished with autumn leaves.

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