A selection of cakes made from Meroogal recipes Photo © James Horan for Sydney Living Museums Photo © James Horan for Sydney Living Museums
Cooking was an integral part of the rhythm of life for the family at Meroogal, near Nowra on the south coast of New South Wales. 

The family were avid entertainers, hosting ‘at home’ tea parties each month for family and friends, and took great pride in their homegrown produce and homemade treats. Among the many cookery books in the family’s collection are several notebooks containing handwritten recipes.

To give you an idea of the books’ contents, we have digitised a repurposed ledger-book which appears to have been compiled by Helen Macgregor, who lived at Meroogal in the early 1900s, for other family members as a keepsake. It contains family favourites and specialties, many of them accredited to those whose recipes they originally were. Some pages have been edited over time, with tips, comments and adjustments added by the original author or subsequent generations.

With the help of our talented team of Eat your history volunteers the text has been transcribed and the recipes have been tested to see how well they stand the test of time.

You’ll forgive us for not lauding the use of dripping in cakes, for example, but it is interesting to see the need for scrimping on butter and eggs, even in country kitchens. Similarly, recipes for blanket wash and carpet cleaner remind us that the making of cleaning products – often involving highly volatile chemicals – was a domestic art. These formulas are not intended for modern use, with a resounding warning, ‘do not try this at home’. Other recipes transcend time and are ideal for modern cooks to make in their own kitchens. They provide the perfect opportunity for us to share – and eat - Meroogal’s history.


A long table set with cakes, cream and fresh fruit.
A selection of cakes made from Meroogal recipes. Photo © James Horan for Sydney Living Museums
Scanned pages from manuscript of recipes including handwritten notes and transcription.
Recipe ledger, page 4, recorded by Helen Macgregor, undated. Meroogal Collection, Sydney Living Museums

About the Author

Jacqui Newling wearing a red top and glasses
Dr Jacqui Newling
Assistant curator
Creative Services
Jacqui brings over ten years of ‘visitor first’ interpretation experience to her role as a curator at SLM. She specialises in place-based social history and heritage, bringing meaningful stories from our past to contemporary audiences through various forms of media, from exhibitions to interactive opportunities for visitors in our museums. 

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