Well, 2016 is over and as we are entering 2017, I want to wish all of you, dear readers, a very Happy New Year, hoping it is as kind and generous to you as 2016 has been to us. New boat, new business, much socialising and entertaining have made for a hectic year and while I am far from complaining (life is good after all) I admit it all impacted on our health somehow in the end. Nothing life threatening, but both Terry and I found ourselves exhausted last week, and after a 2-day marathon Christmas celebrations and one last ladies lunch hosted by yours truly we “shut down the shop” and retired to the quietness of home, in an effort to recharge and relax.

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In previous years we would have jumped on the boat and cruised to the Harbour for the NYE fireworks, but this time we didn’t feel like dealing with crowds, either on land or on the water. Uncharacteristically, I was in no mood to cook, so we opted for a movie and dinner in Cronulla instead. We saw Allied, which was great as far as love stories go, average though for an action flick, but Brad Pitt made it all worthwhile…Dinner was late at Squires Loft, a steakhouse which serves plates big enough to serve 3 people! As I wasn’t feeling a 100% my memory of the night is probably subjective ( I only had 1 glass of sparkling wine then drank water, how boring for a NYE!) but all I remember is the large pieces of steaks, massive servings of french fries and enough salads and vegetables to feed twice as many people. This is the kind of place you need to arrive hungry for, definitely not after slurping some frozen coca cola and eating a a bucket of popcorn ( I am talking about Anne, not me!)

Since there was no NYE party to speak of, let me share our Christmas feasts instead.

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As usual, we started with Christmas Eve at our house. This time, with 26 of us ( Terry’s side of the family), I asked guests to bring a plate of starters to nibble on, while I would take care of the main course, side salads and desserts. I read somewhere recently that it takes some dictatorial person to organise a dinner where everyone brings a dish. Well, I don’t consider myself dictatorial, however I do provide hints and make notes of who is cooking what so that we don’t end up with too many pies or 3 cheese platters! In the end I, like everybody else, look forward to tasting other’s signature dishes and this Christmas Eve didn’t disappoint.

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Craig put together a lovely platter of olives, feta, baby tomatoes and prosciutto. Shelley and Tania made a delicious smoked trout pate

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, Carolyn could not decide which dip to bring so she made two: a spinach dip served in a cob shell and a mexican layered dip with corn chips

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I know that’s a lot of dips, but they were all delicious each in their own ways. Danielle made these fantastic salmon parcels, stuffed with creamy cheese and prawns.

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Maliney provided chicken tulips, Vida baked some chicken wings, and Leanne cooked meat balls. All hot dishes were so popular I didn’t have the time to take a picture before it was too late!
The main course never changes, it is always duck magrets (breasts). Terry and the kids expect it on the Christmas menu every year, as do the others i suspect. The same goes for the accompaniment of potatoes roasted in duck fat. There is more leeway with the salads however, and I always like to do something different every year. This time I decided to base them on a couple of seasonal fruits I had picked up at the markets: a box of mangoes and a packet of cranberries. I paired the mangoes with some shredded white cabbage and an asian dressing, while the cranberries went in with green beans and walnuts. They both went beautifully well with the magrets. And yes, I cooked 26 individual duck breasts and baked 6 kilos of potatoes!

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I always like to make a chocolate log for Christmas dessert, but I could not get my head around altering the recipe for 26. So I made my usual size one, that could still serve 12, and ordered a Croquembouche from my favourite Sydney patissier, Looma. His is specially made for Christmas and the choux are filled with vanilla custard, coated with thick dark chocolate, and painstakingly piled up and decorated with Christmas figurines. Delivered on the day, it took pride of place on the sideboard and was a huge hit with adults and kids alike.

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Talking about the kids, I should mention the ritual of exchanging gifts, which occurs before dinner is served. We usually try to nominate an adult and a child in charge of handing out the presents in some sort of orderly fashion, but it always ends up messy and this year was complete mayhem with 26 of us as several kids (including mine) lost patience and dove in. Hopefully all gifts were handed to their intended recipients… Ahhhh, families!

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All neat and tidy before the the present opening mayhem. Sam was guarding the tree, sort of…

The next day was round 2, Christmas dinner. In the past Maliney or her friend Peppy used to host the meal for 25 or so people. This year, with Peppy overseas, and Maliney visiting from Melbourne, I offered to host the dinner at our house with Maliney and the girls in charge of the cooking. This was to be a small gathering of only 12. Not wanting to make a fuss, Maliney suggested to keep the meal simple eschewing the hot vegetables and the turkey while only cooking a ham. That was counting without the kids (young and old) who look forward to turkey once a year, particularly the stuffing! So turkey we had, along with the marmalade glazed ham,Tania’s famous caesar salad and Carolyn’s spinach and orange salads.

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Shelley didn’t want to feel left out and brought oyster and king prawns as well!

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As most of the guests had already eaten breakfast and lunch somewhere else ( there is always the other families to visit on Christmas…) I didn’t stress about appetisers, and only offered neatly revamped leftovers. We also didn’t bother with the hot vegetables. Besides, we all had to make room for Maliney’s traditional fruit cake and the brownie cake for Shelley’s birthday.

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By then, my sides were hurting with all the food. We were told by Shelley it was poor form to sit back and proclaim ourselves “stuffed”, declaring instead we had done very well (some wisdom she picked up from one of her in-laws). So, as I struggled to even take a sip of water, I acknowledged that indeed we did extremely well to put together 2 massive feasts in as many days.

I knew we would have an insane amount of leftovers, so had bought plastic take away containers in anticipation, and sure enough, everyone got a decent share of turkey, stuffing, ham, fruit cake, brownie cake. I froze mine, waiting for an occasion when I will stop feeling bloated…
Maliney and the girls were the perfect guests, clearing the dishes as we went, while the others found more to drink and eat…I just hovered, grateful to know that beside a hangover and food coma, at least the kitchen would be clean!

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I’d like to take the opportunity to thank you all for visiting my blog and following me in my ramblings. Here is hoping you are having a relaxing holiday (in Australia anyway, I know readers in the Northern hemisphere will be going back to work or school soon…) and looking for more food stories in 2017.

 

Festive Granola

A few weeks ago I caught up with a cruising friend, Magali, who recently relocated to Sydney after years spent overseas (sounds familiar?). Beside a love of the sea and both hailing from Europe, we share a passion for food and cooking and think nothing of discussing a particular dish for hours or planning lunches anywhere in Sydney. She is also a new mum with a 4 months old baby, which means she has not had much time to cook as extensively as she used to. As a person who feels out of sort if I don’t make at least one thing from scratch everyday, I can only imagine the frustration. Since we live in opposite sides of Sydney I can’t really cook for her or offer to baby sit. What I have been able to do though is share some of our family’s favourite food, granola. Technically, it is breakfast food, but it is so delicious and nutritious, I can’t see any reason why not have it for lunch and/or dinner. Especially when you are so busy or tired (or both) that you could not be bothered to do more than grab a bowl, fill it with some crunchy goodness and pour some milk/yoghurt.

For years I have used the same recipe, though it has become more of a template allowing for variations depending on produce availability or tastes. For example, I no longer use butter, preferring a small amount of oil instead (it stays crunchy for longer, not that it matters so much in our house as the whole jar can disappear in 3 day!) I have increased the amount of vanilla extract and spices for extra flavour. Also, now that I have a better oven (i.e one that won’t cook unevenly and require constant turning of the food) I have done away with the pre-heating, reduced the temperature and increased the baking time which makes for a toastier, crispier, not-a-single-bit-burnt granola! You will note that this version is still very nutty, I don’t include dried fruits in it. Though I like the idea of speckles of dried cranberries or sultanas shining thru, no one in our family likes the taste or the extra sugar, preferring to add fresh pieces like chunks of mango, pear slices or blueberries. But to each its own.

So, here is my latest version. It has proven popular all year round not only in our house but also with the friends who tasted it. In fact, since this is the time for giving, I think Granola may become our signature edible gift for 2016!

Festive Granola

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Makes 5 cups

Ingredients:
3 cups traditional oats (not quick oats)
1 1/2 cups nuts and seeds ( I used 1/2 cup walnuts, 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, 1/4 cup sunflower kernels, 1/4 chia seeds, 1/4 flax seeds)
1/2 cup desiccated or shredded coconut
1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp oil (rice bran, coconut, sunflower…but NOT olive oil)
6 tbsp maple syrup (the real thing, NOT maple flavoured syrup)
1 tbsp vanilla extract (to taste)

  1. In a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, seeds, coconut, cinnamon and sea salt. Mix well.
  2. In a small bowl, mix oil, maple syrup and vanilla extract with a fork or small whisk
  3. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir well to coat
  4. Spread the granola mixture in 2 parchment lined baking trays (if you have a 90cm oven you may only need one tray), making sure the layer is not too thick or it won’t crisp up properly.
  5. Bake at 150C for 30 mins, stirring once. Once cooked, leave to cool in the oven. Make sure the granola is completely cool and dry before storing into jars.

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November is pumpkin month at our place!
It is mostly due to foreign influence, all these years of travelling abroad meaning we’ve adopted some other countries’ customs.
Starting with Halloween (technically occurring in October, with only one day to spare…) in the USA, then All Saints commemorations in France, the Day of the Dead festivities in Mexico and ending with Thanksgiving, another American tradition. We used to join in the celebrations when we lived there, but now that we’re back in Australia, they are more subdued occasions, mostly marked with the elaboration of a nice dinner at home.

 

Late last month, as Anne begged me to buy a whole basket of lollies in preparation for Halloween, I came across rows upon rows of carving pumpkins. Normally, I would have walked straight past them, but somehow I thought that if I could distract my daughter from the lolly aisle for one second with the idea of pumpkin carving, it would be worth carrying 10 kilos of pumpkins home!! Believe it or not, it actually worked ( I still ended up buying a few Freddo frogs and snakes, but nowhere near the amount she originally asked for). Since you can’t eat carving pumpkins, I decided to buy a whole edible one (the Kent variety) and do some carving of my own.

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The inspiration came from Lorraine and her pumpkin fondue, which consists of a whole Kent pumpkin used as a bowl to bake cheese in. If you like cheese fondue and pumpkin as much as I do, you can’t go past this kind of dish! The recipe is pretty straight forward, and can be found on Lorraine’s blog along with a myriad of fantastic Halloween food ideas. I served it with the obligatory bread cubes ( I always keep stale bread for such occasions!) and because we usually like to have some meat with our vegetables I cooked some pork spare ribs to serve along. That was a big mistake, let me tell you that the combination of melted cheese, bread and roasted pumpkin is so filling there is no need for anything else, except maybe some green salad to cut thru the richness of the fondue.
Another mistake of mine, was skimming thru the list of ingredients and not paying attention to the size of the pumpkin. Lorraine’s was 1.5 kilos, a baby compared to mine which I guessed must have weighed a good 4 kilos. The cheese mixture didn’t quite fill the pumpkin bowl to the top, not that it mattered since we could only eat half of it anyway! But it means that we were left with a whole baked pumpkin and a decent amount of melted cheese at the bottom…

The next few days saw me switching to leftover cooking mode: pumpkin soup, check.

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Cheesy pumpkin pie, check.

And this delicious savoury Spiced Pumpkin Lunchbox Bread, which recipe I found in the Australian’s Woman Weekly’s Love to Bake book.

 

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I didn’t come up with the description, they did, and it is quite fitting as this bread livened up the kids lunch boxes for a couple of days as well as pairing with sausages and slaw for a casual dinner. I like how it makes good use of leftover cooked pumpkin and common pantry items. Next time, I think I may try baking individual muffins instead of a loaf…

Spiced Pumpkin Lunchbox Bread
Adapted from the AWW Love to Bake

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Serves 8

Ingredients

2 cups self-raising flour
1 tsp sea salt flakes
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp chilli flakes
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1 cup masked cooked pumpkin
1/2 cup buttermilk
60g butter, melted
2 eggs
1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan
2 tsp thyme leaves (fresh if possible)
1 tsp dried oregano leaves

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180C/350F. Line a 11cmx18cm loaf pan with baking paper
  2. Combine flour, salt, and spices in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre. Stir in combined pumpkin, buttermilk, melted butter and eggs until just combined ( do not overtax or the dough will be tough) Spoon the mixture into pan, smooth surface. Sprinkle with combined pepitas, parmesan and herbs.
  3. Bake the bread for 55 minutes. Leave in the pan for 10 minutes before turning , top side up onto a wire rack. Cool for 30 minutes before serving.

 

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This one escaped the carving frenzy and spent a few days in the herbs garden instead!

I don’t know about you, but November is the time of the year when I realise the festive season is fast approaching, but somehow I am still convinced there is lots of time to get ready. Besides we have just recovered from Halloween sugar-laden feasts and Australian spring festival celebrations, so I like to sit back and enjoy a quiet week or two before the Christmas frenzy takes hold.

Last week started as usual with a trip to the supermarket, looking among other things, for cold meats to make sandwiches for lunch. All I had to do was to head to the deli counter and ask for shaved ham. But of course, no sooner had I stepped thru the door I was reminded that Christmas is indeed coming very soon, and when I normally try my best to ignore the tempting offerings of puddings, chocolate, and condiments to grace our festive table, I caved in and decided to buy a ham instead. Not a whole ham mind you, just half of one. Enough to feed 4 people for dinner, and have plenty of leftovers to make sandwiches for a week!

By the time I arrived home, my casual dinner plan had morphed into a Christmas dinner rehearsal, as I realised that every ham I have ever eaten at Christmas has been cooked by someone else. Yes you heard it right, nearly 30 years in Australia, and I have never baked a ham for Christmas or any other time. To be fair, Christmas Eve dinner has always been my thing, with a traditional menu of seafood, duck and chocolate log. Christmas day feast I leave to my aussie family and friends to deal with, I usually rock up with a couple of Champagne bottles and offering to help with the dishes!

Terry and the kids got really excited at the idea of a Christmas ham, and asked next what glaze I was going to use. The look on my face must have given me away, as I was told in no uncertain terms, that there was no such things as an unglazed ham. It’s not that I didn’t want to glaze the thing, I just couldn’t decide between cola bourbon glaze, honey soy glaze, apricot liqueur glaze….I finally settled on a maple syrup and dijon mustard version, inspired by French chef Guillaume Brahimi who now calls Australia home.

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Choosing the side dishes was easy. We spent a few months cruising in the USA 4 years ago, and even though it is spring season in Australia, I always associate November with autumn flavours: sweet potatoes, pumpkins, cabbages, apples,…One of my favourite vegetable dishes is braised cabbage and I decided to experiment with the red variety. For crunchiness, you can’t go past a mixed salad of broccoli, wild rice and walnuts ( an updated version of the brussel sprouts, bacon and pecans I used to cook on the boat while in the US). And for a different take on potato bake, I cooked a cheesy sweet potato gratin, to keep with the fall theme.

 

As you’ve probably noticed, there was a lot of baking involved. This was intentional. You see, I have just purchased a new cooking range and am very much in a testing mode. So far the stove and grill plate have been used daily, the oven not so much beside reheating party pies and bread rolls. This was the opportunity to put the “beast” thru its paces, filling its massive cavity with a 5 kilo ham, a large baking dish of sweet potatoes, and a small casserole of cabbage.

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It turns out, we cooked way too much food, and even after I invited Craig and family to share our rehearsal Christmas fare, we still had ham and vegetables left for another 3 days. Which was a good thing, because now I could practise on ways to accomodate Christmas leftovers!

Anyone else rehearsing Christmas dinner? And what is your favourite glaze for ham?

Ham with Maple Syrup and Mustard Glaze

Adapted from a recipe by Guillaume Brahimi

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This recipe will make enough glaze for a 7kg ham, I used a smaller ham (5kg) but I didn’t want to waste the excess glaze so I basted the ham with a double layer of glaze every time.

Ingredients:

7kg ham
200g brown sugar
40g Dijon mustard
40g maple syrup
20ml sherry vinegar ( I used apple cider vinegar )
1 tbsp cloves

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160C
  2. Take the skin off the ham, using a sharp thin knife, making sure to leave a good layer of fat.
  3. In a large bowl, mix sugar, mustard, maple syrup and vinegar until blended.
  4. Score the fat of the ham in diamond pattern. Place the ham on a parchment paper lined baking tray. Brush with the glaze and spike a clove in each diamond.
  5. Place in the oven. Bake for 90 minutes, basting with the glaze every 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 30 minutes before carving.
  6. Serve with side vegetables (recipes follow), mustard and pickles.

Braised Red Cabbage

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This is a photo of left over red cabbage served with roast chicken the next day. Very versatile dish!

Serves 6 as a side

Ingredients:

500g red cabbage, finely shredded (use a food processor!)
1 tsp salt flakes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
1 tsp caraway seeds
4 cloves
1/2 tbsp juniper berries, bruised
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup apple juice (water is fine too)
1/2 tbsp honey
20g butter, chopped

  1. Toss cabbage and salt in a bowl until combined. Stand for 1 hour to soften, then rinse under cold water and drain well.
  2. Heat the oil in a dutch oven or casserole over medium heat. Add onion, bad leaves, caraway seeds, cloves and juniper berries, cook stirring for 5 minutes or until the onion is soft but not coloured. Add cabbage, wine, apple juice and honey. Stir to combine, cover with baking paper and the lid. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is evaporated.
  3. Remove from heat, add butter and stir vigorously until the cabbage is creamy and glossy. Keep warm until serving time.

Sweet potato Gratin

This is a very simple recipe which both adults and children love. I use a mixture of buttermilk and full cream milk because that is what I had on hand, but thickened cream would do very nicely too (actually would make the sauce richer, yumm!!)

Saves 6-8 as a side

Ingredients:

800g small sweet potatoes, thinly sliced using a food processor or mandoline
600ml mix of buttermilk and full cream milk ( or thickened cream)
1 tsp salt flakes
2 cups of grated tasty cheese
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg (optional)

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180C.
  2. Grease an oven proof with butter, Layer the sweet potato slices across the base of the dish. Pour slowly the buttermilk mix, making sure it covers all of the vegetables. Top with the grated cheese and nutmeg (if using). Set aside for 10 minutes to soak and bake for 1 hour or until tender when pierced with a skewer and the top is golden.
  3. Serve the gratin warm.

Broccoli and wild rice salad

When visiting Disney World a few years ago, I promised myself to buy one souvenir, on the condition it wouldn’t be a toy or a shirt. I found a cookbook (what else!) called Chef Mickey which features old and recent recipes from Disney Chefs, with some of the dishes on offer in the various Disney resorts and onboard Disney Cruise Line ships. One of my favourite is Broccoli Slaw, which is still on the menu at the Disney Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, as part of the dinner buffet. I have tweaked the original recipe a little, to allow for local produce availability, swapping walnuts for cashews, wild rice for bacon, raisins for cranberries, and lightening the dressing with the addition of buttermilk while leaving the sugar out completely. It is pretty tasty and healthy to boot!!!

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Serves 6-8 as a side

Ingredients:

3 heads of broccoli, trimmed in bite size florets (keep the stalks for another use)
1/2 cup walnut haves
1 cup cooked wild rice
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup raisins
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup buttermilk
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil, Add broccoli and cook for 1 mn, drain and immediately put into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. let cool and drain well.
  2. Combine broccoli, wild rice, walnuts, red onion, raisins in a large bowl.
  3. Mix mayonnaise and buttermilk in a small bowl, stir into broccoli mix. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Chill before serving.

We wake up this wednesday morning to a beautiful sunny day on the South Coast. Surprisingly fresh considering the amount of wine and beer consumed the night before, I venture to say the brisk walk home must have had a lot to do with clearing our foggy heads. It is 8am and I am itchy to start the day with a long walk along Mollymook beach. We’ve decided to skip breakfast, as we have a wine tasting tour and a light lunch booked for later in the morning. I also reserved a table for dinner at one of the fancy restaurants in the area (more on that later) , so the key for the day is to pace ourselves. Starting with a couple of bites of ginger biscuits and strong long blacks courtesy of the Nespresso machine in our room.

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The stroll along the beach is magical, I am amazed to find it so quiet despite the school holidays. We come across a couple of fishermen, the few surfers in the water and a young family frolicking in the shallows but that’s just about it! Terry suggests that, since we’ve only switched to daylight saving, most people would still be in bed. Well I am certainly mainly making the most of a near deserted beach!

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Today’s excursion takes us to Cupitt’s Winery, a family estate located in a pasture only 5 km inland from Ulladulla and Milton, overlooking a plot of vines. We have booked a Tour and Tasting experience, led by Wally Cupitt, one of the sons of Rosie and Griff Cupitt, the owners of the property. He explains how cattle farming was the original idea behind the purchase of the then Washburton Farm, but Rosie who is a horticulturist turned oenologist, decided to try her hands at winemaking, so the winery was born. As well as breeding Black Angus cattle, they grow some of their own grapes (semillon and sauvignon blanc) while also sourcing other grapes from the southern regions.

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The wine is crafted in their custom built cellar (or barrel room as they call it), hidden under the hillside.

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Diggy, one of the family dogs

 

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Louis, the other family dog, quite partial to the flower garden we hear.

Aside from the cellar, the tour takes us thru the kitchen garden, where a lot of the produces they grow are served in the restaurant. Today it is in transition, being tended by the resident gardener preparing the soil for the next crop, but one side still has artichokes and some asian herbs thriving.

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Inside the brewery

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Hops and malts 

Of great interest to Terry is the micro brewery, the brain child of Wally and his brother Tom. Yes, you heard right, an estate that offers wine AND beer. Wally pulls out samples of hops and malts and talks us thru the brewing process, all a new world for me whose knowledge of beer making is somewhat limited. What started as a hobby is now growing into a small boutique business, with their distinctive ales available for purchase at the restaurant (sadly, the production isn’t big enough to allow for beer tasting!)

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Rosie’s goat cheeses in production 

Next building is the fromagerie, where Rosie and a couple of ladies are busy making a batch of goat cheese. Like the beer, production is small. It is a recent venture that Rosie’s thrown herself in, and her enthusiasm is obvious when she pops her head out of the room to offer us a sample of the blue cheese she is working on, all the while describing the various processes needed to produce the different varieties of cheese. Currently, Cupitt exclusively produces goat cheese, served at the restaurant and available for sale at the cellar door.

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Serious wine tasting in progress

Ah the cellar door: housed in the old creamery, this is where the tour ends and the tasting starts. Wally hands us over to Michael who expertly pours and describes every wine produced by the estate, starting from the lightest (Semillon) to the strongest ( Shiraz). One of the ladies in the group is pregnant, and I do feel for her as she waves away the glasses on offer having a sniff of her husband’s instead. That must be torture, but I tell her it will probably tastes very special after the baby is born! Terry is as taken by the wine as I am, loving nearly all of them and we have trouble deciding which ones to take home. We finally settle on 2 cartons, have Michael arrange the packing while we shuffle next door to the restaurant for lunch!

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We tried them all!

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The blankets are available to visitors should you wish to have a picnic on the grass…

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I could think of nothing better than sit here with a book and a glass of wine.

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The creamery still has its original roof

The large room is bathed in sunlight and overlooks the vineyard and Burrill lake below. The French inspired menu looks lovely, and I am very tempted to settle down for a 3 course lunch. But we are going out for dinner later, so we decide to try the morsels menu instead, which offers lighter fare in the more casual setting near the fireplace. We order some local oysters and the cheese board. The oysters are from the Clyde River, only 50 klm away, and taste deliciously briny served with a simple shallots and red wine vinegar dressing. We also share a selection of goat’s cheese: Mild blue, Aged Gouda, Crouton and Tomme…all delicious, ranging from sharp, to salty, served with some quince paste, marinated baby figs, apple and crackers. They are nicely paired with the house Semillon! Terry shunned the wine, preferring a tasting paddle of 4 house beers: a “light” Hefeweizen, a Pale Ale, an IPA and a Brown Ale. The waitress advised us that the servings do not total more than a pint, which is good as it means that Terry is ok to drive after lunch!

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Outside the restaurant

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Taste paddle of beer… 

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Taste board of cheese….

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Clyde River oysters…

I am not a great passenger at the best of time, the car motion always puts me to sleep. Today is no exception, especially after the wine tasting and lunch, small as it may have been. Terry decides to take us on a scenic drive to Batemans Bay, 1 hour down the road, which courtesy of my dozing, only seems to take minutes! I can’t say much about the place, as the weather turned rainy and grey, we didn’t feel like exploring the beaches and chose to retire back to the motel for a spa session instead, hoping it would make us hungry for dinner.

Before we left Sydney, I had read about Tallwood Eatery in Lorraine’s blog and also found out that its chefs would feature in a Good Food month event this month. My curiosity picked, it is on top of the list of places to eat this trip. We decide to walk the 2.5 klm path along the beach, to work up an appetite.
This is not a beachfront restaurant, though not far from the sea, it is located in a suburban street in a small shopping complex and next door to Bannisters Pavilion. We are early, amongst the first customers, so enjoy the full attention of the waitress.The menu features a lot of the regional produce, a contemporary take on classics, it all looks nice to me but the specials of the day win us over: tuna tataki for starters and a share plate of Wagyu beef served with 2 side salads.

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Tataki of Tuna

I have always loved fresh tuna, and this dish brings me back to our cruising days when we used to catch yellowfin and find ways to cook it. Tataki ( or seared tuna) used to be my favourite way of preparing the fish, and Tallwood’s version with miso dressing, sliced kohlrabi and puffed rice is right down my alley. There is just enough for 2 ( 3 slices each ) so would think of ordering 2 plates for a bigger table.

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Leek and spinach gratin

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The main is definitely big enough. with a 500g piece of what is referred to as Wagyu rib eye, though the meat is cooked medium rare to perfection, I can’t help think that Wagyu should be melt in the mouth rather than just tender. The salt crystals on the outside are a nice touch however. The sides are outstanding: the leek and spinach gratin is sooooo comforting. while the radish and quinoa salad is very refreshing and satisfying. These are the highlights of dinner for me! By the time the dessert menu is presented, the restaurant is quite busy with a mix of locals and tourists alike. The people at the table next to us have obviously dined here before, and without hesitation ordered the fishcakes while asking what the chef is cooking tonight. The lady whispers to me “the desserts are to die for”, but as much as I would like to try some, I am just too full. I can’t even finish the glass of wine I ordered at the start! Terry still has a bit of room left, but is not in the mood for Roasted Rhubarb or Fennel Cake. All he wants is Affogatto, which I remember seeing on Bannisters’ menu.

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So off we trot next door, walk up to the Rooftop Bar and Grill for dessert. The place is pumping, most tables are taken by what I assume are hotel guests, lots of families and couples. No one seems to mind that we are here for dessert only, and we are seated near the bar. Terry goes straight for the Affogatto with spiced vanilla ice cream and chocolate tuile, and I get talked into ordering the special of Creme Caramel and Coconut Sorbet. The plan is mostly to share it with Terry, since I am full, but somehow the lightness of the creme caramel and the freshness of the sorbet win me over and I have polished the plate clean! I did share with him the balls of Dulce de Leche accompanying the creme, they were too rich for me anyway.

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The bar at Rooftop Bar and Grill

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Before I was full, now I am fuller.

We briefly consider asking for a taxi to go home, but decide to stroll back instead. It is actually quite a pleasant way to end the night, walking off a full day of food and wine. And once again there is not a soul to be met in this dark moonless night. End of day 2.

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