Saturday, February 15, 2014

Weekend Cooking: Merle's Country Show Baking and Other Favourites by Merle Parrish

A couple of years ago I reviewed Merle Parrish's first cookbook. I  had originally borrowed it from the library but I liked it so much that I ended up buying it. Now if only I could find it, but it is here somewhere.

Firstly, here is a little bit of history about Merle Parrish. She first entered a country cooking show at 7 years of age and has competed for more than 70 years winning many prizes for her baking. She is also now a judge. Whilst I am sure she was known within her circles, she came to prominence when she appeared as a guest on Masterchef a couple of years ago.

On the back of that appearance, she got a book deal for the first book and now she is back with second cookbook at 81 years of age!. This time the book features many classic cakes that are entered in to the cooking competitions at the shows. but also some of her favourites. As you read through the book all of the recipes which are show recipes are clearly marked so in theory you could keep on practicing and start entering yourself if you really wanted to!

The great thing about this book is that there are many simple yet delicious looking recipes that nearly anyone can do, including some of those intimidating recipes I mentioned last week like sponge cakes, a pavlova roll, and lots of recipes where she gives instructions on how to make your own pastry.

The book itself is broken into a number of different sections:

Baking hints,
Cakes, Bread,
Scones and Muffins,
Pies and Tarts,
Biscuits and Slices,
Jams, Marmalades and Jellies,
Savoury Preserves

At the beginning of each section there are various tips on the basic techniques that will be required in the chapter. Some of the recipes that caught my attention included Apple and Rhubarb Pie, Lemon Curd, Apple Crumble Cake, Capsicum and Chilli relish and Sponge Cake. You would definitely be able to work through some of the classic recipes until you had the techniques down!

One thing that did amuse me about this cookbook is in the introduction to each chapters there was more than once when she said something like I am not that keen on this particular recipe but my husband/kids loved it so I have included it here. Not sure I can name many cookbooks where you would see that kind of thing said.

If I knew where the first book was I would go and have a look to see how much repetition there is in terms of recipes, because I do have a feeling there is some. If I had to pick between the two, I would say that the first book was a keeper, but this one certainly has merit too.

When deciding which recipe to share for this post it seemed like it would be a bit odd to go past the recipe which bears her name so here is Merle's Slice. For my own purposes I am going to be sharing the scones recipe next week (or at least that is the plan right now).

Merle's Slice


1 cup self-raising flour
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 cup brown sugar
pinch of salt
125g butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla essence


1 cup icing sugar
40g softened butter
cup lemon juice
desiccated coconut, to sprinkle

Preheat the oven to moderate (180C). Grease a 26cm x 16cm (base measurement) slice tin and line with baking paper, hanging over the two long sides.

Combine the flour, coconut, brown sugar and salt in a mixing bowl, and make a well in the centre. Add the butter and vanilla and mix until evenly combined.

Press into the prepared tin, smoothing the surface with the back of a spoon. Bake for 20–25 minutes, until golden brown. Set aside to cool completely.

To make the icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and add the butter and lemon juice. Use a wooden spoon to beat until smooth. Spread over the slice and sprinkle lightly with coconut. Leave for about 20 minutes, to set.

Lift out of the tin, and cut into fingers to serve.

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  1. Hard to beat a proper Aussie slice! I love these old-school recipes, so must have a look at her books.

  2. Must say this looks easy enough for last-minute baking. I remember when you reviewed her first book and I thought she sounded like a fun person to get to know.

  3. I like the writing style you have shared on this author. Of course that cake is calling to me now.

  4. Great that she got a book deal via Masterchef! Cheers

  5. Oh, the commentary before chapters makes me want to check this out even more! Honesty in advertising. *grin* I wasn't familiar with Merle either, but I'll be looking for this in my library catalogue...