BITM – Edward Abbot – The English and Australian Cookery Book: Cookery For the Many As Well as the Upper Ten Thousand

An old cookbook on show at an exhibition in Hobart.

Edward Abbot | The English and Australian Cookery Book … |

Australia’s first colonial cookbook with kangaroo brain, roasted wombat recipes is republished after 150 years

A colonial-era cookbook featuring recipes like battered kangaroo brains deep fried in emu oil and roasted wombat has been republished 150 years after it was written by a Tasmanian gentleman farmer.

With Australians expected to fork out big dollars once again this year on cooking books in the lead up to Christmas, Edward Abbott’s 1864 tome The English And Australian Cookery Book – Cookery For The Many, As Well As For The Upper Ten Thousand, might be just the thing for shoppers looking for that different gift.

Co-publisher Bernard Lloyd said most of the dishes in the cookbook, considered to be Australia’s first, had a distinctly Australian flavour.

“There’s a kind of a fusion going on between the sort of bush cookery of Australia and the traditional old beef of England,” he said.

“Edward Abbott was born in Sydney. His father was a judge, he moved to Tasmania in his teenage years.

“He himself became a landowner, a grazier, a judge, a coroner, and a newspaper proprietor and a parliamentarian.”

Sample these recipes from 1864:

  • Slippery Bob: Take kangaroos brains and mix with flour and water, and make into batter; well season with pepper, salt etc; then pour a table-spoonful at a time into an iron pot containing emu fat and take them out when well done.
    “Bush fare” requiring a good appetite and excellent digestion.
  • Pan Jam: Roast kangaroos tails in the ashes with the skin on; when nearly done, scrape them well, and divide at the joints. Then put them in a pan with a few slices of fat bacon, to which add a few mushrooms, pepper etc. Fry gently and serve.
    First-rate tack.
  • Roast wombat: This animal feeds on grass and roots, and its flesh is eaten roasted; some persons like its flavour, others, again decry it. It is also cooked in steaks. Native porcupines are cooked in a like way.

It was in the final years of his life that Mr Abbott turned his mind to publishing Australia’s first cookery book.

“The book itself is 300 pages, and there are over 1,000 recipes,” Mr Lloyd said.

“He’s got cooking for the destitute, he’s got picnic cooking, he’s got menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner, banquets. He’s got it all.”

Certainly there are plenty of dishes between the pages to keep home cooks busy experimenting in the kitchen, including the dish that features the creatures that grace the Australian coat of arms.

“He’s got a famous recipe which some people quake at but I’d like to try – Slippery Bob, which is kangaroo brains fried in emu fat,” Mr Lloyd said.

That dish might well have been washed down with lashings of a drink called Blow My Skull, a notoriously potent alcoholic concoction that is also featured in the cookbook.

The book also contains advice on how best to roast a wombat or emu.

It is hardly nouvelle cuisine, but for foodies looking for the next big culinary sensation, it might be just the thing to tempt jaded palettes.

“His Kangaroo Steamer is a fusion of kangaroo meat and pork which is then steamed and kept in jars, I think it’s a glorious dish,” Mr Lloyd said.

“He describes cooking wombat; I’ve never had wombat before, it can be had. He’s also got recipes for mutton birds.

I don’t think there’s anything he wouldn’t have eaten … He’s probably the first person to really extol Australian ingredients.

Co-publisher Bernard Lloyd

“He’s got a spectacular recipe for how to cook a turtle which starts off with ‘leave it upside down for a day to kill it’, and then cut off the fins and the head, and it goes on from there.

“I don’t think there’s anything he wouldn’t have eaten.”

Mr Lloyd hoped that by re-publishing Mr Abbott’s culinary tome, contemporary cooks might find inspiration to offer diners dishes unlike anything to be found anywhere in the world.

“I would love to see Australia look more to itself, to invent dishes and to present a cuisine which cannot be had anywhere else in the world,” he said.

“We see the beginnings of that in Edward Abbott. He did think that the cuisine of his day could do with improvement, and he looked at this ‘lamb, lamb, lamb, mutton, mutton, mutton’ all the time and he thought we can do better than this.

“He’s probably the first person to really extol Australian ingredients. He’s got chapters on Australian beers, on colonial wines, on the way the fruits grow here, and he’s full of praise for it.

“So he’s the first person to say look, come on Australia, you can do it.”

Acknowledgements: ABC News, 20 November


Bernard Lloyd, 0434 511 449

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