Douglas has been a professional food writer since 1986. He is also an award-winning actor and director in Community Theatre and has been for many years. His blog may be found at: www.urbaneguerilla.wordpress.com
Published March 17th 2016
A Devonshire tea of scones, jam and cream is hard to beat
The CWA gets made fun of a lot - from being called the 'Crazy Women's Association' to being ridiculed in the ABC's The Games.
But like many another institution affectionately made fun of, the CWA is widely respected and does a great deal of quiet good.
Maureen at work on the Family Scones (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
In South Africa the similar group is called the Women's Institute, a scion of the UK group of the same name all descended from The Women's Institute founded in Stoney Creek, Ontario, Canada by Adelaide Hoodless in 1897.
I have a copy of the WI Cookbook that my mother bought shortly before she married my father in 1950.
It is much loved, has pages stained by cake mixture brushed off, has notes in my mother's hand correcting an amount to one she preferred or the odd comment - 'Douglas' favourite'; 'Alastair hates this' and so on.
Maureen gently imparting tips (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
This is in every sense a family cook book and it offers sensible, low cost, simple recipes for all levels of skill. And that pretty much is what the CWA Cooking Classes each first Tuesday of the month is all about.
The CWA and WI have a much, much wider brief to improve the lot of women in the world by making available opportunities and education not previously possible.
But part of that is reviving skills that our mothers took for granted. We, who cook for the family, rely perhaps too much on quick, pre-packaged meals, or high-priced take-aways.
Fresh from the oven (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
This class is aimed at teaching attendees to cook a home-made meal for four people for under $12.
CWA Midland has been running these classes for two years with the aid of grants and the support of the City of Swan who make the commercial kitchen in the Town Hall available.
I attended what I was assured would be a 'Scone class'. The classes are a sort of floating, rotating, group of about twenty with ten or so at each class plus the demonstrator and her helpers.
Our cook tutor was a charming, motherly woman called Maureen, who has almost certainly forgotten more about home cooking than I'll ever know.
The classes are very convivial and collegiate with all participants contributing their thoughts and asking questions and they made me and the other first timers feel very welcome.
Maureen whipped up two batches of scones - family and cheese. Her hands working swiftly and surely while she talked and imparted tips born of her long experience. Always use butter, never margarine; work quickly, get them in the oven as soon as the added liquid is mixed in; use a round-tipped knife with a cutting motion and when placing them on the baking tray nestle them close so they help each other to rise - a high sided baking tray will do the same.
For the family scones Maureen used as raising agent sifted self-raising flour, baking powder and lemonade. Maureen brushed the tops with milk lightly (I prefer beaten egg myself as I think it makes a glossier finish) and baked - in a new fast oven this should bake in about twelve minutes.
We eat the fruits of Msureen's labours (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
While this was cooking Maureen made up a batch of Cheese Scones - using Mersey Valley Pickled Onion cheese, which was wonderful.
You can actually taste the pickled onion in the finished scone - which we all sat around a long tables with cups of tea and coffee and ate our way steadily through the fruits of Maureen's labour accompanied by home-made strawberry jam and rich cream.
The family scones were light and fluffy, the cheese savoury and delicious.
I left, clutching my copies of the recipes in my hot hand and keen to try them out asap.
The classes cost $5 and you get to eat your work communally afterwards. Next time the subject is 'Interesting things to do with sausages'. I can't miss that one.