Celebrating our Mums

Lemon biscuits at Meroogal.

A plate of Tot's lemon biscuits at Meroogal.. Photo Scott Hill © Sydney Living Museums

Our houses have been home to thousands of residents, and of course, hundreds of Mothers! For Mothers’ Day this year, Meroogal is hosting a very special afternoon tea and Mums can visit our houses and museums for free. See our main website for the special Mother’s Day coupon. Perhaps you could also spoil Mum (or let your kids spoil you) and make some of Tot’s lemon biscuits for Mother’s Day? (see recipe below)

Beatrix, Walter, Mavis and Mrs David Thorburn at a table set for tea and cake, on a veranda.

Beatrix, Walter, Mavis and Mrs David Thorburn at a table set for tea and cake, circa 1920. Meroogal Collection, photo © Rob Little RLDI

And while Meroogal has been our feature property this month, we thought we’d introduce and reintroduce you to some of the Mums and matriarchs from the families we celebrate at Sydney Living Museums.

The matriarch of Meroogal, Jessie Catherine Thorburn seated, with her eldest daughter Mary Susan standing to the side.

The matriarch of Meroogal, Jessie Catherine Thorburn seated, with her eldest daughter Mary Susan. Meroogal Collection

Mrs Edwin Rouse and family at Rouse Hill, the house can be seen behind.

Mrs Edwin Rouse and family, Rouse Hill, September 1859. Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW: A 3804 PXA 780

Framed watercolour portrait of Sarah Wentworth 1805-1880. She is seated and looks directly at the viewer. Wears a pink dress with white lace decoration.

Sarah Wentworth, William Nicholas, 1853. Vaucluse House Collection

Oil painting of Mrs Alexander Macleay.

Mrs Alexander Macleay, artist unknown, before 1847. Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW: ML 20

Oil painting of Elizabeth Macarthur.

Elizabeth Macarthur [portrait by unknown artist]. Dixson Galleries, State Library of NSW: DG 221

Sepia toned portait of Mrs Sarantides

Dorothea ‘Rose’ Sarandides, 1939, photo attached to Alien Registration papers. National Archives of Australia

Mary 'Girlie' Andersen in No 58 Gloucester Street basement kitchen, c1950s.

Mary ‘Girlie’ Andersen in No 58 Gloucester Street basement kitchen, c1950s. Courtesy Jack Andersen

Exterior view of Rose Seidler House.

Rose Seidler House, designed by Harry Seidler for his mother Rose. Photo © Justin Mackintosh

And let’s also spare a thought for all the mothers who lost their children to Australia – as convicts, or ‘orphans’ of the Irish famine – some of whom were removed from their mothers as times were too tough for them to care for their children or immigrants hoping to make a better life.

Lemon biscuits

Ingredients

  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 225g (1 cup) white granulated sugar
  • 1 very large egg (or 2 very small eggs)
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • good pinch of ground nutmeg (optional)
  • 450g (2 2/3 cups) plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

Note

Family members recall Auntie Tottie Thorburn cooking these biscuits, cut into fingers, on large baking trays in the fuel stove at Meroogal.

Makes 30–50 depending on size

Directions

Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced).

Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, then beat in the egg thoroughly. Add the lemon zest, 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice, and the nutmeg, if using, and stir well.
Sift the flour and baking powder into the butter mixture and mix until fully incorporated. Turn out onto a well-floured board and knead into a smooth dough, adding a little extra lemon juice if the dough is too dry.
Working in small batches, roll the dough out to 3–5-mm thickness between two sheets of baking paper and cut into desired shapes with biscuit cutters. Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper and cook for 12–15 minutes or until the biscuits just start to colour. Transfer the biscuits to a wire rack and allow them to cool and harden, and repeat the process until all the biscuits are made.

Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
  • M

    These biscuits are so more-ish it’s dangerous… You have been warned.