Apple Blossom Pie by Kate McGhie »

Memories of an Australian country kitchen

By Sara Schwarz
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Apple Blossom Pie: Memories of an Australian Country Kitchen by Kate McGhie

Apple Blossom Pie: Memories of an Australian Country Kitchen by Kate McGhie

 

Walking down my drive one recent morning, I enjoyed the delicate fragrance and colours of the last of the blossoms clinging to our ten heritage apple trees. The pale pinks and creamy whites of the petals shone against the verdant spring growth of new leaves.

Such a beautiful sight, I can well understand, would capture the imagination and inspire the creation of a dessert as fabulous as Kate McGhie’s signature Apple Blossom Pie.

Kate McGhie, for the uninitiated, is one of Australia’s most respected food writers and personalities. She has written a column for the Herald Sun for the past 30 years, and is the epitome of an honestly Australian ‘paddock to plate’ foodie. Before she could ride a horse, she could bake a cake and snatch a chook.

Having grown up on a farm in Victoria’s Western District, her food education came straight from the land and people around her. Ms McGhie learnt the arts of gardening, preserving, foraging and baking from her mother and grandmother, who served up three seasonal meals a day plus some rather impressive morning and afternoon teas.

This is a book of honest, country food and is filled with recipes your grandparents would both recognise and delight in. No light or low fat ingredients will you find here. Instead healthy dollops of full cream milk, packets of salted butter, glugs of liquor and lamb chops with the fat left on fill each tempting page.

Morning and afternoon tea seems to be a very important part of McGhie’s childhood, so when some old friends called out of the blue to ask if they could pop in, it seemed an excellent opportunity to test out a couple of recipes from the chapters marked ‘Baking Day’ and ‘A Good Tea Table’. I flicked through recipes such as A VG Carrot Cake (p255), Little Peach Cakes (p261), and No-Bake Lemon, Almond and Coconut Slice (p270) before settling on a Honey Spice Cake (p259) and Inside-Out Scones (p268). 

I am by no means an expert baker, but these recipes seem so tried and tested that even a baking novice such as myself has little chance to fail. My scones emerged from the oven, light and fluffy on the inside with a crisp outer shell, and my Honey Spice Cake had my partner and son fighting over the crumbs – the dog was fastest however! Our friends were impressed with the spread (secretly, as was I), and left hours later with full stomachs and happy hearts.

Aside from the very important baking pages, you’ll find a range of recipes to suit any day of the week, visitor or occasion. With over 100 pages of recipes, each chapter sensibly divides up produce from the orchard, garden and paddock with names like The Salad Bowl, The Veggie Patch, Gathering and Foraging, The Soup Pot, The Herd, Birds and Bunnies, and Christmas.

You will find recipes for good country basics such as a White Sauce, Creamy Potato Salad, Lamb Shank Stew and Chicken Stock. There are also recipes to turn rather maligned ingredients into gourmet delights, such as brussel sprouts paired with sweet potato and fried sage to create a gorgeous winter salad, or silverbeet with minced beef and bread, full-cream milk, eggs and cheese resulting in a tasty looking pudding.

Almost all the recipes in Apple Blossom Pie inspire me and I feel confident to try. The ingredients are all readily accessible and amounts are shown in cups, grams and ounce form, leaving no guess work for those like me who have no idea how many cups worth of flour 250g is. The preparation and cooking instructions are all straightforward with helpful tips included where necessary.

I really enjoyed the inspiring imagery of this book. Photographer Alan Benson and stylist Sarah O’Brien have used a charming collection of granny’s cutlery and crockery, old wooden tables and vases of fresh-picked garden flowers to enhance each dish, to great effect. Each page makes me hungrier than the last and I can’t wait for excuses to cook my way through a bunch of them.

One recipe however, I think I might need Ms McGhie’s help with. The Apple Blossom Pie is a dish reserved for VIO (very important occasions) and is a layered pie of sweet pastry filled with fruit puree, custard and marshmallows, crowned with piped pale pink cream stars resembling the blossom of those beautiful apple trees. It looks absolutely divine and I’m sure would be a winner at any dinner party or local cake show.

Perhaps by the time my apple blossoms turn into ripe juicy fruit, I’ll have the confidence to try this beautiful recipe, or perhaps I’ll ask my mother to help me. Apple Blossom Pie seems like the kind of recipe and book that should be cooked with and shared amongst the generations.
   

Apple Blossom Pie: Memories of a Country Kitchen by Kate McGhie is published by Murdoch Books (Sydney, NSW, Sept 2015, HB 336pp). It is available in good bookshops and online from the publisher

RRP A$49.99

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November 08th, 2015
 
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