live life, celebrate food, share both with those you love

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Billy Tea Rooms, Glenrowan, Rural VIC

Are you a Melbourne based snow bunny about to drive down the Hume Highway to Mt Hotham or Falls Creek? Then you probably know that the only food you will find along the way is McDonalds. Now even I have been known to indulge in a Big Mac every now and then, but might I suggest a quick detour into Glenrowan for a true hit of Australiana culture?

Just 1km off the Hume are the Billy Tea Rooms and Accommodation – it’s the short building on the left side of the street before the Glenrowan Tourist Centre Theme Park where you can see the famous Ned Kelly re-enactment… but this blog is about food so back to the Tea Rooms, I go!

The Billy Tea Rooms are owned and run by the amazing Linda, a true entrepreneur and sales woman.  She will welcome you with her dazzling smile and offer you hot tea and fresh scones, quickly pointing out she has gluten free scones if you so desire.  But for a true Aussie treat, get the Damper! (For the uninitiated, Damper is a style of bread that is traditionally made in a camp oven)  When we popped in, Linda had just taken one out of the oven and very proudly showed if off to all who entered. It was as perfect as it looked! Crunchy on the outside, moist and steaming hot on the inside, slathered with butter… ok it was actually margarine, but it’s still worth it!

Even if you’re in a rush to carve up some soft, white, powdery snow, take a moment to head into town and support a great local business in the process.  Oh, and pick up a couple of jars of Glenrowan jam too, they are amazing!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Recipe: Pavlova

For the uninitiated (how have you survived without this treat?) this is a quint essential Australian dessert, featured at many a Summer barbeque.  It's basically a type of meringue with a crispy outer shell and a soft, marshmallowy interior... drool!

It's my hubby's favorite dessert and SO easy to make, I whipped one up last night!

4 eggwhites, room temperature
1 cup caster sugar (also known as superfine sugar)
2 teaspoons white vinegar

Traditional - whipped cream, passionfruit pulp and fresh fruit, usually strawberries
Healthier - your favorite yoghurt, berries, honey and mint sprigs
Fancy - double thick cream, stewed pears and grated chocolate


Thick, glossy eggwhites!
- Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F).
- Pop the eggwhites* in a clean, dry bowl of an electric mixer and whisk until stiff peaks form.
- Gradually add the sugar and continue whisking for around 10 minutes, until the mixture is stiff and glossy.
- With the beaters still running, add the vinegar and whisk until just combined.
- Turn off beaters and touch a little mixture between your fingers, if you still feel sugar granules, whisk for another minute.
- Shape the mixture into an 18cm round on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper.
- Turn oven down to 120°C (250°F) and bake for 1 hour.
- This is where I stray from the rules... I take the Pavlova straight out of the oven and let it cool completely, but most recipes say 'turn the oven off and allow the pavlova to cool completely in the oven'. I haven't had a flop yet so see what works for you.
- Add your topping of choice (use your imagination and whatever ingredients are fresh) and serve.
Serves 6.

* Be very careful separating your eggs, if any shell or yolk gets into the whites, the meringue will not triple in volume and become thick and glossy, like in the photo.
- The bowl and beaters must be clean, dry and room temperature, or the meringue won't rise.
- The low heat puffs up the meringue while the long cooking time dries it out to give you a crispy shell.
- DON'T open the oven door whilst cooking, it may cause the meringue to flop. 
- Store your pavlova, undressed, in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days. If dressed, best to keep in the fridge for a day or two.
- This recipe is so easy to halve, double or triple!  Just remember that the eggwhites will triple in volume.  In my experience most large bowls will hold 10-12 eggs.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Know your current limits... but don’t hide behind them!

Why are so many people afraid of cooking?  It’s just food!  Do you really think that Jamie, Nigella and Mario get it right the first time, every time?  Once upon a time, you couldn’t tie your own shoelaces, but eventually you mastered that.  So with a little encouragement, I’m sure you can master Bolognese, Curry, Roast Beef, or whatever else takes your fancy.

Our new motto: I’m not a master chef, but I can still cook!

I have loved to cook, ever since I can remember, but it doesn’t mean there haven’t been disasters!  My first attempt at Lemon Moroccan Chicken ended up with me driving to McDonalds – yes, it really was THAT bad.  But I learnt that I don’t like cinnamon in savoury dishes.  It’s ok not to like flavours, to experiment and to swap things around until you find a mix that you like, embrace your individuality!

And yes, sometimes cooking feels like a total chore.  Some nights I would just rather slump into my couch with a glass of red and not move until morning!  But I’m a regular Jane.  I work full time, I live within a budget (booo!) and I still haven’t worked out how to afford a personal butler.  So I let myself drink my glass of red and somehow that makes cooking dinner all the more fun and experimentive!

So let’s stop hiding behind our current limited skills in the kitchen, and embrace the Domestic Divas within!