5 November, 2020
Remote area station cook shares her love for old style cooking
'I was going to be cooking in the middle of no where in an old silver bullet caravan kitchen and sleeping in a swag.'
I HAVE been a remote area cook since 1996. Cooking on cattle stations, for shearing
teams and in pubs. I run a page on Facebook called Raq’s kitchen, which I
initially started to share my cooking with my family and friends but has since
got more followers from all over. I also manage a large station cooks group
that is a meeting hub for remote area cooks where we swap recipes, gossip and
support each other.
When I was approached to do a monthly cooking column for the Rural Leader, I jumped at the chance to continue sharing my love for basic old-style cooking. I am excited to open your eyes to a part of Australia’s history that some of you may not be aware of. The tough ol’ station cook and take you on a taste journey of old recipes that are steeped in tradition, history and hard times.
I have three gorgeous handwritten books that I started in 1996 when I was on my very first cooking job as camp cook on Carlton Hill station in the Kimberley. Each of my recipes tell a story and I hope you enjoy the stories as much as I enjoy sharing them with you. Each recipe has notations of who liked them or what it was best served with. In the front of each book is a list of places I have cooked and that tells its own story.
This month’s recipe was a favorite of that very first stock camp. I was as green as they come when it came to cooking. I had no idea what I was getting into when I travelled from Glen Innes, NSW to Kununurra, WA on a bus. I was fresh out of the RAAF and looking to see what civilian life had to offer. I arrived in Kununurra to be picked up by a tall and dusty vision in Wrangler jeans and Akubra hat and was instantly smitten. When I left, my friends said I would be back in six weeks and now 24 years later here I am still loving it.
I had to learn fast. I was going to be cooking in the middle of no where in an old silver bullet caravan kitchen and sleeping in a swag. I did not even know then what a swag was! Thankfully, we had the best station cook, Emma who was kind and patient and extremely helpful and the boss’s wife Claire who was a bottomless pit of information and advice. I not only had to learn to bake and cook but I had to learn how to butcher beef and what each cut was, How to cook corned beef and how to use left overs to get me through the two weeks between store deliveries. I think I did okay as no one died!
In the mornings I would walk around waking everyone up. We all had our swags set up as far from the camp as we could… under trees or behind spinifex clumps. I had a small tape player (Remember those!), and I would play “Ringer from the top end” as loud as I could get it to get them all up and awake. The song by Slim Dusty was written about Carlton Hill. They would stumble into the camp and each bloke’s coffee would be ready and waiting in his own cup which they thought was rather good.
This cake was my most requested. I am still not sure if it is because it was good or just because it was a cake that always worked. I sat down one day and converted the recipe from old pounds and ounces to measurements I could understand. I had also decided the idea of beating sugar and butter to a cream was a waste of my time so most of my recipes were also converted to “one bowl” cakes.
FIVE MINUTE ORANGE COCONUT CAKE
(Sam and Loch were two of the ringers who loved this cake and would eat the whole thing if I had let them.)
Set oven to 180 degrees. Grease and line your cake tin of choice.
In a bowl combine 1 ¾ cups self-raising flour, 125g softened butter, 2 eggs, 2 tbsps desiccated coconut, pinch of salt, ½ cup sugar, ¼ cup milk, ¼ cup fresh orange juice and finely grated rind of half an orange.
Mix until well combined then set your beaters to a medium speed and let mix five minutes or until the batter is creamy and has changed to a pale colour.
Spoon into prepared tin and bake for approx half hour depending on your oven.
If you press it with your fingers and it does not bounce back give it a few more minutes. Let the cake to cool in tin for five minutes or so then tip it out onto a cooling rack.
Ice with a basic orange butter cream icing.
- Do not open door to take a sneaky peak before the half hour or you risk your cake sinking in the middle.
- If you need to add more milk then go ahead but not more juice or your batter will curdle.
- Room temp everything for best results.
You can reach Raqual at firstname.lastname@example.org or search for her page on Facebook.