Archive | March, 2011

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

Struggling…..

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.

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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.

Kx

Icebergs Dining Room and Bar on Urbanspoon

Spicy Sydney Stories

27 Mar

Main Entry: Sydney (or sexy)
Part of Speech: adjective
Definition: being erotically attractive to another
Synonyms: arousing, come-hither, cuddly, flirtatious, hot, inviting, kissable, libidinous, mature, provocative, provoking, racy, risqué, seductive, sensual, sensuous, slinky, spicy, steamy, suggestive, titillating, voluptuous

I mentioned in another post that visiting Sydney feels a little like you are cheating on your beloved Melbourne. Such a fun place to have a “fling” with, but I would always want to come home to the one I love.

This post is a mix of some highlights of Sydney, they were beautiful, vibrant, or just downright hot. And you wouldn’t find them in Melbourne.

Ms G’s

Sprawled over 5 or 6 levels, cleverly decked out to look like some kind of Asian old-town rickety building, MsG’s is the epitome of all the above. So hot right now, we just loved it here, sitting at shared tables with Sarah & Lachlan Murdoch and all the other beautiful people, hopefully a little rubbed off on us!  Everything about it is clever. The red neon light sign 621 (the ingredient number for MSG), the name, the slushy packaging, fitout, even the fat straws.  It has it’s finger firmly on the pulse of having a good time with food in the neon lit streets of Sydney.

We were ushered up a few flights to the bar where the DJ was playing some cool tunes, I drank limoncello slushies, packed & sealed behind the bar, whilst The Brewer had a few simple Asian lagers.  The stools in the bar were all cases full of beer in various heights of stacking, and during our drinks, twice our bar stool was whipped away to the fridge, very practical storage.  We had planned on pre-dinner drinks and wanted to hang in the bar for an hour or so, so the wait was no problem for us. The uber cool door chicks knew what was happening, it was packed.

Tables were bare, with boxes that held napkins, sauces, cutlery and straws. No setting required. Service was fast, cool & efficient. All our dishes were really enjoyable, best shared with friends and had the fresh, fun appeal of the restaurant itself. Our fave was the Vietnamese steak tartare, it had crispy shallots on it and was served with prawn crackers.

Mini banh mi also were delicious as were the egg noodles with XO sauce,
braised duck and soft poached egg, we also had the grilled prawns with sambal. We came out of there with barely a dint in our wallet, pretty good value for a fun night out. And we asked the waiter would they mind if we took a handful of the fat colourful straws home for our kids, they didn’t, the kids were thrilled.

(02) 9240 3000
155 Victoria Street
Potts Point

And my note on the beers; plenty of clean, crisp, big brewery, asian lagers, boxes of them everywhere, they make great barstools. Maybe 1 or 2 other fuller flavoured ales available also.
Ms G's on Urbanspoon

After Ms G’s we fancied a post dinner treat, so went for a peaceful (Hells no, not in this town on a Sat night) stroll from Potts Point, through the Cross to Surry Hills & into Bentley Bar for a few single malts.

Kings Cross

Hookers, strip joints, bucks nights, girls passed out on footpath, ambulances, backpackers, touts, tattoos, clubs, pubs, Xrated, heaving. Only in Sydney.

A morning walk to clear the cobwebs took in the following sights…

City of Bride’s as Muriel Heslop would say

More stairs. These ones, the Butler stairs, are quite famous, connecting the slums of Woolloomooloo to the posh folk in Potts Point. It was a big walk. Now you wouldn’t see that in Melbourne.

We had walked past the warehouse of Toby’s Estate Coffee, and our Melbourne noses sniffed a decent coffee.  Then discovered their cafe just at the top of these stairs. Great coffee, a real Melbourne hole-in-the-wall packed to the brim with people brunching, getting takeaways, anything goes. Food was really delicious. So how was it different to Melbourne, loud disco music throbbing, think Donna Summer, Pointer Sisters, and people were wearing loud colours. One stylish girl in bright canary yellow, top to toe. Bit glary for me over coffee. But great coffee, food and bustling, efficient service.

(02) 8356 9264
81 Macleay St
Potts Point
Toby's Estate Potts Point on Urbanspoon

Paddington Markets

I fell big time for these tactile, sensuous ceramics by Amorelita Designs. They were beautiful to hold and lovely colourings.  Maybe not the best to pack in a suitcase, but couldn’t resist, I bought 10 cups and a bowl. Love the coffee cups with the splash of blackboard. I use it every day.  I am waiting for the future Brewers to write sweet messages on them when they bring them to me in bed filled with coffee on the weekends. Waiting. Waiting.

A great day at the markets, lots of lovely clothing, original jewellery, textiles and vintage finds. And it’s right in the middle of a fantastic shopping strip.  Where do we have this in Melbourne?

One more post of Sydney to come, a very special lunch.