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Carte de visite portrait of Nina Beatrice Terry as a child, 1883-1891 Rouse Hill House & Farm Collection, Sydney Living Museums
Create some delicious edible gifts this Christmas, from cherished favourites made with love over the generations, from our book, Eat your history: stories and recipes from Australian kitchens. Most recipe collections include a classic ginger bread, cake or biscuits creation. 

A handwritten gingernuts recipe was found tucked inside Nina Terry’s (nee Rouse) copy of Warne’s model cookery (c1890s).  The treacle gives the biscuits a deep rich colour and full flavour. Depending on how long you bake them, they can be hard and crunchy or a softer gingerbread style.

Nina Beatrice Rouse (1875–1968) loved cooking. In her youth she would sit and watch the Rouse family cook, Kate Joyce, at work in the kitchen at Rouse Hill House & Farm. As Nina readied herself to marry George Terry and become lady of her own household in 1895, she was taught to cook by Kate. 

According to family histories, Nina was not a gourmet cook but her food, made with fresh homegrown produce including meat, eggs, milk and cream, was rich and tasty. She delighted her granddaughters with pink or white blancmanges (moulded milk-based puddings) and ‘real’ cupcakes baked in teacups with chipped or broken handles. Afternoon tea parties were often held on the verandah, under shady bowers in the garden or in the summerhouse, and the gingernuts would have made a perfect addition to the array of sweet treats on offer.


Recipe: Gingernuts

Ginger nut biscuits, provenanced recipe, Rouse Hill House & Farm, in kitchen at Vaucluse House (detail). Photo © James Horan for Sydney Living Museums


  • 225 g treacle
  • 110 g butter
  • 110 g brown sugar
  • 450 g (2 2/3 cups) plain flour
  • 25 g ground ginger
  • pinch salt, optional
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) milk
  • icing sugar, to dust (optional)

Preheat oven to 160°C (140°C fan-forced). Melt the treacle and butter together in a saucepan over low heat. Leave to cool a little.

Meanwhile, put the brown sugar in a bowl. Sift the flour, ginger and a pinch of salt (if using) into the bowl and mix lightly together.

Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in the milk then add to the butter and treacle mixture, stirring well. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well until a smooth, glossy dough is formed.

Line a baking tray with baking paper. Taking small, walnut-sized portions, roll the dough into balls and flatten them in your hands or gently press them into shape on the baking tray. Alternatively, if you are using a biscuit cutter, divide the dough into two and roll each batch between two sheets of baking paper to about 0.5–1 cm thickness before cutting the dough into shapes.

Bake for 30 minutes for semi-hard biscuits, 40 minutes for crispier ones, or adjust the cooking time to suit your preference. The biscuits will harden as they cool, so you might want to test a few before cooking the whole batch. Dust with the icing sugar, if using.

Makes up to 30 biscuits.

See the original recipe on the Cook and The Curator Christmas cookery blog post.

About the Author

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Jacqui Newling
Gastronomer/Interpretation curator
Creative Services
Jacqui explores our history and heritage through food. Our historic properties have been home to many hundreds of people and they all had to eat. And while we can’t meet them for a chat, we can get a taste of their lives!

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