…And the winners are!

Cattle resting at the Nowra Show, February 2016. (c) Scott Hill, Sydney Living Museums

If you walked past Meroogal on your way to the show you may have sampled some 19th century fare. 

Ornamental chickens and wood-chopping aside (admittedly the two areas I spent most of my time), a feature of any rural show is the competition for preserves and baked goods.  And the competition can be fierce! (Jacqui – ‘the Cook’ – is a judge in the Regional Fine Food Awards at the Sydney Royal Agricultural Show.) At the Nowra Show the displays are held within the 1905 pavilion that we featured in the Cook and the Curator a fortnight ago.

Display of cakes, breads, biscuits and scones at the Nowra Show, 2016. Photo © Scott Hill for Sydney Living Museums

 …and the envelopes please!

Prize-winning preserves at the Nowra Show, 2016. Photo © Scott Hill, Sydney Living Museums

Prizewinning entries at the Nowra Show. Photo (c) Scott Hill Sydney Living Museums

In memory of Tottie Thorburn’s association with the Nowra show, each year Meroogal sponsors 5 prizes – “three fruits in syrup” (recalling Tottie’s preserved Damsons), chutney, a plain damper, ANZAC biscuits and, of course, shortbread. This year the winners were:

 Class 30001 Fruits in Syrup – three kinds: Heather Ferguson 1, Heather Ferguson 2

Class 30014 Chutney, any other variety: Yvonne Lucas 1, Heather Ferguson 2

Class 31012 Damper – Plain –  Debra Hawkes 1, and Sandra Martin 2

Class 34014 Anzac Biscuits – four (4) pieces: Tristan Wisniewsky 1,
                                                                                    and Shanonh Signarong 2

Class 34020 Shortbread – whole: Bree Robinson 1, Tamara Kreis 2

Particular congratulations to Heather Ferguson and Yvonne Lucas, who both won Most Outstanding Exhibit in their categories:

Some of Heather Ferguson’s prizewinning entries at the Nowra Show. Photo (c) Scott Hill for Sydney Living Museums

“19th century biscuits and lemonade! Be the envy of your neighbours!”

If you walked past Meroogal -at the corner of Worrigee and West streets, Nowra – on your way to the show you may have been accosted by an enthusiastic pair of lemonade and biscuit hawkers by the gate. We were doing tastings of 19th century recipes to make you feel right at home as the 1890s clicked over to a new century. The lemonade is a a simplified version of a recipe that makes a delicious cordial. You can read the recipe and see a short video of Jacqui making it here.

Lemon biscuits at Meroogal.

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

Original recipe for Totties lemon biscuits. Meroogal manuscript collection, Sydney Living Museums

The biscuits are the same recipe that Kennina (Tottie) Thorburn used to make, preserved in the manuscript collection at Meroogal. We talked about it back in 2013 (it seems so long ago!) when we first featured Meroogal. Another recipe well worth trying is the ‘Meroogal sponge’, which Jacqui features in “Eat Your History’ (2015, p224). You can read the recipe here, and also watch a short video where June Wallace, Meroogal’s last owner, talks about the house and then makes the sponge by beating the eggs on a plate with a knife. Perhaps next year we’ll see some Meroogal recipes back in the Show!

Lemon biscuits


  • 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


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


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.