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Producing and sharing scrumptious food with the people she loved around her table was Robyn Cameron’s favourite thing to do.
She was famous among her friends and family for her endless ability to create easy, flavoursome dishes out of nothing.
"She wanted everyone to be able to experience delicious food made simply and grown locally.
"Out of all of her talents, she had perfected simple, elegant dishes made to share. Long, white, unpretentious platters that could be passed around."
That talent is central to some of her daughter’s strongest memories of her mother, who died of metastatic breast cancer in 2019.
"Sitting across the kitchen counter from her, it was like watching someone in a kind of dance. She would effortlessly pour glasses of Champagne and hold interesting conversations while busy cooking in the kitchen. With her Japanese chef’s knife in hand, she would move gracefully from the fridge to the pantry and dice with a rhythm."
Sophia Cameron has fulfilled a promise to her mother by producing the cookbook Rob’s Kitchen, something her mother was working on but never got to finish. In tribute to her mother, proceeds from the book will go towards breast cancer charity Sweet Louise.
"Rob’s Kitchen isn’t just about the creation of food, but the creation of memorable moments with friends and family."
It follows her mother’s travels in the 1980s around the world studying different cuisines, from the streets of Morocco to the coastlines of Greece. Quotes from her letters and travel diaries feature throughout the book.
Cameron says one of Robyn’s biggest lessons from the Mediterranean region was the importance of gatherings — "bringing small or large groups together around a table to share simple dishes over long conversation".
She brought that home, loving hosting gatherings whether a Sunday long lunch, a beach fiesta or a simple girls’ afternoon tea.
"These dishes are my interpretation of recipes that had meaning to Robyn and a tribute to the love friends and family have provided over her lifetime."
Robyn’s approach to food changed depending on what she felt like and what was available at the time.
"One thing that was consistent in her cooking is that she used herbs, citrus fruits, aromatic spices, and nuts to complement primary ingredients. Shelled nuts and dry chia seeds absorb other flavours, lending richness to meals without being overwhelming."
These recipes are extracts from Rob’s Kitchen, by Sophia Cameron. RRP $49.99. McKenzie Publishing.
Girls’ afternoon tea
"Some days after school, Mum and I would get out Nana’s teacups and sit in the sun with an Earl Grey and some freshly baked scones. This menu is designed to share with friends on a Sunday afternoon or as a dessert following your gorgeous dinner party."
"Today I found myself in the little village of Moretonhampstead where there are cute cottages and country lanes around every corner. I spent the afternoon sampling ‘Devonshire teas’ with raspberry jams and thick clotted cream." — Robyn, England, 1983
3½ cups self-raising flour
1 cup lemonade
1 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 200degC fan-bake and line a tray with baking paper. Lightly combine self-raising flour, lemonade and buttermilk in a large mixing bowl — the dough should be quite sticky.
Turn dough out on to a floured surface and pat into a round disk shape about 3cm thick. Using a knife or a cookie cutter, cut the dough into rounds and place on to the baking tray a couple centimetres apart.
Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden. Serve with jam and whipped cream.
Nana’s tan slice
Rob’s nana used to make this tan slice recipe often. It has a buttery shortbread base with copious amounts of caramel on top and is divine for a Sunday afternoon tea.
275g standard flour
75g caster sugar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 tin condensed milk
4 tbsp golden syrup
2 tbsp walnuts, roughly chopped
1 tsp coarse salt
Preheat the oven to 170degC fan-bake and line a 20cm×30cm rectangular sponge tin with baking paper.
Cream the butter and sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Add the flour and salt and fold until a dough forms. It should be quite a crumbly texture. Add ⅔ of the mixture to the sponge tin and spread evenly.
In a saucepan, heat the butter, condensed milk and golden syrup. Stir continuously until the ingredients have melted and are fully combined. Pour the caramel mixture over top of the biscuit base and spread out evenly. Crumble the remaining biscuit mixture over the top of the caramel along with the chopped walnuts and salt.
Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until golden brown.
A light dessert Rob would make for celebrations. She would also often swap out the Champagne with a probiotic kefir for settling her stomach.
½ cup caster sugar
½ cup water
1 bottle pink Champagne
15g gelatine powder
2 large handfuls of fresh berries
In a small saucepan on medium heat, stir together the sugar and water until the sugar has dissolved.
Turn up to high heat and simmer for 5 minutes until the liquid becomes thick and syrupy. Remove from the pan.
Pop the Champagne and pour it into a large bowl. Add the gelatine powder and stir until dissolved.
Pour the sugar syrup into the bowl of champagne and whisk to combine.
Divide the mixture between six dessert flutes, sprinkle with berries and refrigerate overnight or for 4 hours until completely set.
Lavender, orange and almond cake
One of Robyn’s go-to cakes in summer. The mixture of lavender with orange screams girly afternoon tea.
5 sprigs of fresh lavender flowers
1 ½ cups caster sugar
2 fresh oranges
3 cups ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
½ cup sliced almonds
1 Tbsp icing sugar
zest of 1 orange
The sweet, fragrant flavour of lavender pairs nicely with orange, while the oils are a natural relaxant. Place the fresh lavender and caster sugar in a food processor and pulse until the lavender turns to fine granules.
Slice the top off the whole oranges, and place the oranges in a medium pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour until soft. In a food processor, puree the oranges, along with their skins. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 180degC and line a cake tin with baking paper.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and lavender sugar together until light and fluffy. Add in the orange puree and the eggs. Beat for 1 minute until thoroughly combined. Fold in the ground almonds and baking powder. Pour the mixture into your lined cake tin and sprinkle the sliced almonds on top. Bake for 1 hour or until cooked all the way through.
Let the cake cool slightly for 15 minutes, then turn out.
Sprinkle with icing sugar and orange zest to serve.
The best gingerbread
This really is the best gingerbread. It is delicious warmed up with a bit of butter and a cup of tea on the side.
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp ground ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1 cup brown sugar
⅔ cup golden syrup
¼ cup maple syrup
½ cup oat milk
½ cup water
⅓ cup sliced almonds
Preheat the oven to 160degC fan-bake.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, ground ginger, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl.
In a saucepan, melt together the brown sugar, golden syrup, maple syrup and butter. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the butter and golden syrup mixture. Crack in the eggs and pour over the milk and water. Whisk everything together until combined.
Line a loaf tin with baking paper and pour in the gingerbread mixture. Sprinkle over the sliced almonds and bake for 1 hour until cooked.