Dinner Club ~ Retro French Style

3 Dec

A dinner prepared by Michele is always certain to be a very stylish affair….

The Menu

Gougeres with French Champagne
Ham hock terrine with herbs and cornichons
BBQ prawn, chorizo & potato bowls
Free range d
uck confit, quatre epices, creamed puy lentils, pickled pear
Bombe Alaska with cherry sorbet, cherry ripple ice-cream

Michele and Jon run a biodynamic farm Main Ridge Olives, producing amazing table olives. Michele comes from a food focussed family with a German background and has worked as a cook in Europe as well as on the Mornington Peninsula. She always puts so much thought into every small detail… a meal prepared by Michele is always stunning, thoughtful and delicious.

The inspiration for the menu was the Bombe Alaska dessert that Michele had her heart set on making. It took many nights of prep in advance, making 2 types of iccream and sponge cakes. It set the theme for the evening. Retro French.

A special guest for this dinner club was Michele’s sister, Brigitte. They seemed to have had a lovely experience planning and cooking together for this dinner.

There were so many highlights. One of them for me were the Gougeres, based on a Phillipe Mouchel recipe, they were the most divine puffs of air, matched to Egly-Ouriet champagne, which I believe was also from a bio-dynamic French vineyard. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then my whipping up many a batch since to much acclaim, then Michele & Brigitte & Phillipe… you should be flattered!

The confit duck was also very special, a rare breed, free range duck, c’est incredible! A lovely fresh salad of bitter leaves with a chervil and mustard dressing was the accompaniment.

My wine contribution, one of my most favourite wines from the Peninsula ever and one of the reasons we moved here. Nat and Rosalie White’s Main Ridge Estate Half Acre Pinot Noir. I wish I had a couple in my cellar to be able to pull out one slightly older! What a wine.

And now, for the Piece de Resistance! La Bombe. The Inspiration. Icecream centre and sponge in tact and perfectly turned out, plates at the ready.

Italian meringue whipped perfectly

Applied expertly

Michele really enjoyed wielding the blow torch, pretty impressive & dramatic results…

The anticipation…

The first cut


Michele just raised the bar totally out of sight. This meal will be in memory as one of the truly great ones forever.

Damn. My turn next.

The Cherries of Red Hill

29 Nov

It’s cherry season on the Hill and it’s come a little early, so if you were wondering where to find the cherry farms in Red Hill…. this post is for you.  It’s pretty easy really, just follow the signs! Marketing geniuses, their business relies on their signage, and there is a trail of it to each farm!

cherries signs

Most of the cherry farms are run by the 2nd generation of the farmers that established the farms. I wonder what will happen when they retire? I am not sure their children have the same desires to follow in their parents footsteps.

Red Hill is prime gathering country for a wide range of ethnic groups that prefer to pick & cook their own food. Many of the cherry farms said their customers were 90% ethnic and one lady cited more than 70 nationalities that have visited her farm.  Rarely seen in the restaurants of the peninsula but prolific gathering cherries, mushroom picking and other seasonal bounty. There were more cars at the cherry farms than any winery cellar door! Whereas “Anglos” prefer to buy their food from supermarkets and eat it in restaurants.

The other thing that was evident was the diversification and ‘value adding’ at the cellar doors. These businesses all have something extra on the go as well.

If you are the kind of person who wants to know a bit more, here you go;

Delgrosso’s Apple Juice Co.

In 1937, Angelo Delgrosso was one of the pioneers of Red Hill. He set up his fruit and vegetable farm on Stanleys Road when it was a muddy track, no-one owned cars or trucks, and once a week, he used a sleigh with a couple of horses to haul his produce up the hill to Tar Barrel Corner.

Red Hill has many such quirkily named, colloquial local intersections, here he would be met by Chambers carriers who took his produce to markets… in a truck.

Tony and Karen inherited half the farm, and have continued the family farming tradition, specialising in apples and apple juice and cherries when in season.

Cherries from: mid November
Until: mid-January
Phone: 5989 2091
Closed to the public. Available for wholesale and at a number of local farmers markets, including Red Hill, Mornington, Rosebud, Rosebud West, Rye, Boneo
Value Adding: Apple orchard, crush own apples for juice, plums, pears

Web: MP Gourmet


Delgrosso’s Apples & Cherries

Right next door is brother Bruno & wife Julie Delgrosso. Also growing apples & cherries. Both their children help run the business which consists of a farm gate, markets and some diversification into an abundance of other produce
Open: mid November
Until: mid January
Hours: 7 days 8am-5pm
Phone: 5989 2604
Address: 107 Stanleys Road, Red hill South
Pick your own: No
Pre picked at the farm gate : 1kg $12 / 5kg $45 / 2kg $15 for lighter fruit
Also at Markets : Gleadell Street Market Richmond, Mulgrave Farmers Market and Mount Eliza Farmers Market
Varieties: Approximately 17, Van is most popular around Christmas.
Value Adding: Apples, pears, plums, citrus, rhubarb, peaches nectarine, garlic, honey, jams, juice

Farnsworth’s Apple & Cherry Orchard

Another pioneer farming family of Red Hill.  Located down the picturesque Paringa road, the orchard and market garden was established in the 1930s by the Farnsworths with horses & plough.
Open: mid November
Until: mid January
Hours: Weekends 9am-5pm but honesty box in shed at all other times
Phone: 5989 2196
Address: 26 Paringa Road, Red Hill south
Pick your own: No
Pre picked at the farm gate: $10 – $12 /kg
Varieties: Bergdorf are their earliest variety, they have over 40, but you “don’t see them all in the shed in a season”
Value Adding: Apples, nectarines, apricots, peaches, plums pear, lemons and eggs and a lovely selection of jams & chutneys.

Hillside Grove Orchard

Another multi-generational farm, run by 2 generations of the Valente family, for over 50 years. Their farm is approximately half apples and half cherries
Open: 1st week November
Until: late January
Hours: whenever the sign is out
Phone: 5989 2568
Address: 1 Hillside Grove, Red Hill South
Pick your own: No
Pre picked at the farm gate: $10 /kg
Varieties: Approximately 10 varieties
Value Adding: Apples, peas, raspberries, redcurrants, figs, jams


Red Hill Cherry Farm

If you bump into charismatic local Trevor Holmes, he has a world of local history to share! The family settled in Red Hill in 1890, there were three adjoining valleys, owned by three brothers.  Cherries were first planted 70 years ago on his property.  Trevor would say he started tourism on the Mornington Peninsula, by being the first Pick Your Own farm gate!  It is certainly one of the best known farms, and the abundance of ripe fruit on the trees was simply delicious.
Open: mid November
Until: mid January (if no ripe fruit available, signs are down, farm is closed)
Hours: 7 days 9am-4pm
Phone: 5989 2237
Address: 61 Prossors Lane, Red hill
Pick your own: Yes $12 / kg +$10 entry
Also available pre picked at the farm gate
Varieties: Approximately 20 varieties. Also have the prized Morellos after Christmas.
Value Adding: Avocado crop reaching maturity & cherry dessert wine

Web: Facebook

Ripe ‘n’ Ready Cherry Farm

Run by 2 generations of the Easy family, who set up the orchard in 1947, this is one of the biggest on the Hill.  They also have more varieties than most, with over 70 types ripening throughout the season, they are open for the longest season also.
Open: 1st week November
Until: last week January
Hours: 7 days 9am-5pm
Phone: 5989 2578
Address: 52 Arkwells Lane, Red Hill (also enter from Whitehill Road.
Pick your own: Yes $8 / kg +$10 entry
Also available pre picked at the farm gate
Varieties: Bergstoff are the first one to ripe in early November, their most prolific is Lapins, the Burlaps are a big favourite but easily split by rain. Also have the prized Morellos after Christmas.
Value Adding: Trout fishing in the dam for 800gm rainbow trout, also raspberries, blueberries and silvanberries

Web: www.ripenreadycherries.com.au



My final mention is to a little farm… I am not allowed to say where it is or who runs it. Lets call her M. A gracious & delightful lady who has owned this pretty farm since 1970. Many of the cherry trees are over 60 years old, and they have many older varieties. Strictly pick your own, this farm is full of character and charm.


I hope this helps people to track down a cherry experience in Red Hill that surprises and delights

Dinner Club ~ Autumn

14 May

Autumn, a beautiful, rustic display of autumn’s colours & flavours set the scene

This balmy Autumn evening was our 7th dinner club, spread across 2 years, and it was Fi & Reid’s 2nd time hosting.  Fi is our resident food stylist, recipe developer and tester.  Superb presentation and a thoughtfully designed theme is a highlight of dinner at Fi & Reid’s . Fi also has a passion for homegrown, organic, seasonal & local produce which features in this menu. We are delighted to be her guinea pigs for her experiments.

The Menu

Quail eggs with dukkah
Local wild mushroom bruschetta w herbs & cheese
Rabbit broth
Slow cooked lamb w pickled quince & kale
White polenta
Roast baby vegetables
Poached pear with olive oil icecream

The secret ingredient for the night was verjuice. All dishes except the quail eggs used it. Fi was working on a project for recipes including verjuice, although she was very secretive about it, and I don’t think she even told us that on the night.

One thing Fi loves about Dinner Club is the shared appreciation of what it takes to plan, prepare and create a meal for a group of friends. I have peeled a few quails eggs in my day, and trust me Fi, I know how long it takes and how hard it is to not only peel them, but to peel them perfectly. Appreciated.

Wild mushroom bruschetta, topped with a mix of piquant blue cheese and marscapone.

Take one rustic platter… they looked beautiful. There was something very ‘fresh’ about the taste, not as oily maybe? Slight zing to them? Yep, it’s the secret ingredient of the night… verjuice, it really lightens it up, or a splash of lemon juice for a similar effect.

Rabbit broth. Fi had sourced an array of quaint vintage teacups to serve this flavoursome broth into, the slithers of rabbit could be prised out daintily with the wee forks.

Any Italians in the house? We need to stir the white polenta for 20 minutes.

Lucky we have Joe, the Italian wine guy, he stepped up to the plate.

Roasted baby beets and mixed heirloom varieties of small tomatoes with herbs

Piled onto the perfect polenta

The main course featured a long slow roasted shoulder of lamb, accompanied by Fi’s homegrown pickled quince.  A fresh handful of sauteed kale with red onion and a hint of chilli. Superb. Our contribution, this amazing bottle of Barbera from a special release range of wines from Dalzotto Wines.

For me, dessert was the dish of the night…. everyone was floored by this dish. Homegrown pears poached in verjuice, then roasted, served with olive oil icecream. The icecream was completely dairy free and amazing. Olive oil, egg & sugar. Maybe some other stuff too, but that’s the main part. So delicious.

Thank you Fiona & Reid for sharing the bounty of the seasons harvest with us.

The Wild Mushrooms of Red Hill

13 Apr

The first mushrooms of the season are always so exciting. Today was the first time this year there has been enough to get buckets full.

Checkout this one, probably shouldn’t each it, it looks a bit like the one that might be edible unless it mixes with alcohol in which case it is deathly. Do not touch.

This is what I am after, the perfect little pine mushroom. Known locally as Pineys, they can also be called saffron milk caps, pine caps it botantial name is Lactarius deliciosus they are common in Red Hill as they grow around the bases of pine trees, of which we have many.

Here are a few perfect little specimens.  Smaller than the palm of your hand, only a day or two old, they will be delicate and tender and fresh.

The fairy toadstool also grows around them in the same conditions.  This one is only for the fairies to live in, do not eat.

The fields are paved with them.

Bucket loads in one quick outing

My dinner tonight, a selection of a few of the smaller, perfect ones.

And this is how I like to eat them. Quickly panfried with some butter, herbs & olive oil piled onto a crusty baguette with Main Ridge Dairy marinated chevre. I also did one round where I fried pancetta in the pan first before adding the mushrooms.  So simple and tasty.

Whilst foraging, may as well get a few bags of apples too!

I love Autumn.

Red Hill Show . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Thrill on the Hill

30 Mar

The Red Hill Show, which is in it’s 83rd year, is probably the biggest thing to hit Red Hill every year.  Held on the 4th Saturday in March, it is un-missable.

There are very few Agricultural shows so accessible to so many with a full program of events.  From fruit & vegetable growing and arranging, all kinds of baking, preserves, drinks, every kind of animal from sheep to Rat Fanciers Society to the horse riding competitions, art and photography.  One very popular category is the “Healthy Lunchbox” for young kids, right through to “seniors”. Fantastic stuff.

The big attractions are always the Dog High Scramble and the Woodchop, both attracting thousands to watch them

Over the years, new categories have been added to the program due to their increasing prevalance on the Mornington Peninsula, such as alpacas, avocados, olives, berries, cheese making and incorporates the Cool Climate Wine Show.  I wonder what has been dropped over the years?

The amazing thing about the show is that almost every family I know in Red Hill enters something. This generates a great interest in our children for riding, chopping, baking, growing and going on carnival rides!

My 6yo daughter tried her hand for the first time with the decorated biscuits, a hotly contested category, with around 30 entries in the 6-8yo group. We were so proud when hers won! Our first blue ribbon in the family.

And we all had a fun time making them. The girls loved it. I was amazed at how capable they were. Look at their focus.

My second time trying for the prestigious sponge category, thrilled to get second prize, last year I couldn’t make one good enough to enter. So great progress.

My third year entering the “cake made with almond meal”.  After 2 years of coming second, I switched recipes and the prize was mine! Here is my recipe.

Preserves category is HUGE.

My mate Rick prides himself on his homemade/homegrown Limoncello which he enters every year.

Steaming spicy bowl of Pho for lunch.

The day started early to help my neighbours with plaiting up their pony for the show…. really brought back the memories for me.

And she is a winner… must have been the plaits.

And here is Rick with his son having just won a prize in the fancy dress.

The woodchop is one of the highlights requiring grandstand seating. This boy was one of the youngest competitors.

My neighbour Phil (far left) is a champion on the “hot” saws (also known as chainsaws) and his son James (far right) is competing now and I think beat his old man in this race.

The alpaca shed was probably the largest category of animals exhibited, there were hundreds, as you can see by their white coated attendants, it is serious business.

This group had a display of alpaca wool spinning and knitting with yarns and finished products to purchase.

The dog high scramble or dog jump, is the highlight event of the day, coming right at the end.

Usually the kelpies do pretty well, but this German Shepard did suprisingly well considering her size.

Another pole on…. getting serious now


Just scraping over

The winning jump

The Champion. Her name is Ishtar, and is dearly beloved by her owner (my old friend Katie’s brother) who found her in Costa Rica, and when he returned to Australia, she had to live in quarantine until she was allowed in the country. Dedication. Quite a story.

Happy pony princess blue ribbon winning girl

The end of a great day. The Red Hill Show makes an amazing contribution to keeping alive the interest in many skills that are rapidly diminishing in our fast moving society. And for that, I thank it.

How to bake the winning chocolate cake

29 Mar

It was with great interest on 29th March I read the article in Epicure A Slice of Heaven, the quest to bake the perfect chocolate cake.  I think my cake story, culminating in a blue ribbon winning cake on 27th March, could have challenged their results!!!

I have been on a similar quest myself.  To bake the blue ribbon winning ‘Cake made with Almond Meal’ at the Red Hill Show.  For the past 2 years I have come 2nd, with my gorgeous apple, ginger & almond meal cake.  But the winner was always a chocolate one.

This year I needed a new recipe to really have a red hot chance at the prize. So I called on my friend Fi, food stylist & recipe writer, she came through with the goods.  I have practiced it once, and it worked.  It’s pretty simple.  This kind of flourless chocolate cake, often sinks a bit when removed from the oven, however this one doesn’t. Really important for show baking.

So if you want to really bake the “winning chocolate cake” this IS the recipe, as it won the blue ribbon on the day.  And yes, I was excited.  Here’s the recipe, and below are the pics with some of my methods also. Have a go, it’s a great cake.

Almond & Chocolate Cake

25cm (10in) round tin

250gm (90z) unsalted butter, chopped, plus extra for greasing
250gm (90z) quality dark chocolate
8 eggs, separated
250gm (90z) caster (superfine) sugar
250gm (90z) ground almonds (almond meal)
Dutch cocoa for dusting
Berries & thick cream for serving

Preheat oven to 180deg (360F).  Grease a 25cm (10in) spring form cake tin with butter and line the base with baking paper.

Place a saucepan half filled with water over a low heat.  Place the chocolate and butter in a heat proof bowl and site over the saucepan, making sure the water does not touch the base of the bowl.  Melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally.  Remove the bowl from the heat and cool for 5 minutes (you don’t want to put it in too hot & cook the eggs)

Using electric beaters whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until thick, pale and creamy.  Stir in the ground almonds to combine well.  Pour the melted chocolate mixture into the yolk mixture and stir with a wooden spoon to combine.

Using electric beaters, whisk the egg whites in a clean dry bowl until firm peaks form.  Lightly fold half of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture until just incorporated and then add the remaining whites and continue folding gently to combine well.  Pour mixture into the lined tin and spread evenly.  Bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted (My skewer did not come out clean, I added at least another 15min cooking and still it didn’t come out clean, this is such a moist dense cake, it is unlikely to ever come out clean, so don’t panic about this).  Cool completely in tin on a wire rack.

Remove spring form sides of tin. Dust cake with cocoa and slice into thin wedges to serve.  Thick cream or icecream and berries are nice accompaniments to it.

It may still sink a little in the middle when cooling, that is OK, and it looks beautiful piled with fresh raspberries and dusted with icing sugar.

The cake can be made a few days ahead, it keeps well.

All ingredients out, measured, pans greased.

Using the ‘double boiler’ method melt the chocolate and butter together

My 3 bowl method of separating eggs.  I always separate an egg into two bowls, then if successful, I put the whites in one bowl, and for this recipe, the yolks went straight into the mixing bowl.  Too many times have I got to the 7th egg and smashed the yolk up into the whites and lost the lot! This way is foolproof.

Yolk/sugar/almond mix on the left, cooled butter/chocolate mix on the right, ready for combining.  Greased pan at the ready.

After whites folded in, the batter is in the pan.  I dropped the tin a couple of times on the bench to knock some air bubbles out of it.  I didn’t want it too light and cracky for the show.  If you don’t do this, your cake will probably drop a little in the middle and have more of a crust that may crack a little, which all looks gorgeous on your table at home.

A bit of damage with the skewer testing, easily covered by cocoa powder, probably didn’t need to worry too much about doing this.  The outsides of the cake did have a crust to it, as the cake cooled and shrank a little, the crust cracked, but it was still pretty good.

The winning entry.

And what did I do with it you ask?  Well I wasn’t going to eat it all myself, so at 4.30pm when you were allowed to collect your entries, I took it back to the beer tent, sliced it up into about 50 squares with my swiss army knife, and shared it around with my friends and admirers🙂

And for anyone who wonders… Why?  I believe that a proper country agricultural show provides opportunities to nuture and encourages skills that are slowly disappearing and not being handed down through families.

Whether it’s the wood chop, biggest pumpkin, best eggs, kids pikelets, quince paste, decorated cake or cake made with almond meal, there is something for everyone to have a go at.

My kids were interested and inspired and we had a lovely time making biscuits together.  A lot of my local friends all entered something, or their kids did, and the result is a fun competition, a hugely successful event for our region, and the fostering of agricultural based skills.  Seeing so many kids taking an interest in growing and making things was just inspirational.

There’s nothing wrong with a bit of healthy competition, and I like to make my contribution to the show staying getting enough entries to stay such a vibrant and significant event in our community.

Farewell lunch ~ Icebergs Dining Room & Bar

28 Mar

Whilst I love the way Melbourne looks inwardly at it’s beautiful buildings, secret laneways and shopping strips, Sydney just flings her arms out wide toward the sea and says “look at me”. How can we not.

Icebergs Dining Room & Bar was the special “Sydney-style” restaurant we chose to share our last meal in Sydney with good friends. It made us happy being there, everything is so sparkly and bright, the prosecco, the beautiful people, especially our prosecco.

First up we shared the antipasti with buffalo mozzarella, artichoke hearts, anchovies and Ligurian olives. The little bottle of oil with a rosemary brush was a nice idea.

Also shared was the Carne Cruda Battuta di Vitello, a dice of raw milk fed veal, beaten until tender, pickled mushrooms, chives, truffled pecorino, toasted crostini with truffle butter.  This dish was one of our favourites. Delicious.

Both ‘fish’ and ‘beef’ had a separate, extensive menu page dedicated to them, highlighting where they are sourced, cooking method, range of sauces, ageing and who their parents were! Impressive.

Given the setting, we indulged in the extensive seafood options. Harvey Bay ‘hand dived’ scallops on the half shell with tomato, green chilli, garlic, radish salad. Simple, fresh, glorious.

The Brewer selected the special, tuna tartare (poor memory for the details) tasted as incredible as it looked.

Service was excellent. The waiters were like elegant ballerinas, gliding around the floor silently in their black dresses, and setting up a table to mix our salad next to us. Theatrical!

This trip really highlighted the things I love about Melbourne.  I wish our city hadn’t quite turned it’s back so much on our amazing beaches, but I do love how everything in Melbourne feels like you are ‘discovering’ it.

Thus ends the series of posts on Sydney. My blog will now resume it’s regular Mornington Peninsula oriented programming.

Hope all my Melbourne readers got a little ‘taste’ of the great things Sydney has.


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