The Bard’s Banquet

I write this post from the opposite side of the world – my favourite place to visit – France.

Last year I was asked if I would head up the catering for the banquet at the 2018 Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Victoria. After talking to Gary about it, and asking my sister, Sonya if she would join me, I agreed. This was a voluntary role, and we would be catering for up to 120 people, including the volunteers and musicians. There would be four courses, but the meat would be managed by someone else.



Selection of Marinated Olives, Marinated Mushrooms & VegetableToss (vegan/gf)

Red Capsicum Dip (vegan/gf) with Rosemary Breadsticks (v/gf)


Carrot Soup (vegan/gf) (served with natural yoghurt and cumin salt)


Roast Lamb & Roast Chicken Platter with Homemade Jus (gf)

Roasted Pumpkin & Beet Salad w. Spinach and fresh herbs (vegan/gf)

Salad of Pear and Baby Rocket Dressed with Shallot and Raspberry Vinaigrette (v/gf)

Vegan Option

Cauliflower Steaks with Chunky Tomato Sauce and Olive Salsa (vegan/gf) 


Mini tarts – Lemon butter, Mocha/Chocolate, Rhubarb & Orange (v/gf)

Cheese plate w. Quince paste & GF crackers (v/gf)

Vegan Option

Lemon Cream Tarts with Fresh Berries (vegan/gf)

With the menu set, recipes tested and olives and mushrooms marinating. The day of the banquet was drawing near…

Sonnie arrived on the Thursday prior to the banquet, and we set to work making the pastry and baking mini tart shells for the dessert. The lemon curd was prepared and the rhubarb, freshly picked from the garden, was roasted with a little orange.

In the afternoon we met up with others from the festival committee to ensure that we had all the serving dishes etc. required for the night, before heading to local vegetable grower at Forsyth Farms to collect boxes and bags of vegetables to be used in the starter, soup and main. With donations of eggs by our friend, Luke from Naturally Neerim Pastured Free Range Eggs, olive oil from Alloway Olives and cheese from the Maffra Cheese Company we just needed to collect the remaining ingredients from the local supermarket on our way to the Mechanics hall the next morning.

Day two dawned and we continued baking before packing up the car and heading to the Mechanics Hall where we meet up with friends who had also volunteered their time for the cause. The car was unloaded and everyone set to work… Carrots and zucchini were sliced into thin ribbons on a mandolin for the vegetable toss; the carrot soup was set to cook in large pots on the stove-top; the capsicum and red onion were roasting in the oven for the dip; two large pumpkins cut up and peeled, along with 32 beautiful large red beetroot, before being tossed with olive oil and seasonings in readiness for the next day; and, all the greens were washed and placed in containers with paper towel.

With the capsicum roasted, it was then pureed, seasoned and set in ramekins in readiness for the following evening, this would be the dip for the starter. Natural yoghurt was spooned into individual jars and cumin flavoured salt was placed into little dishes to be placed out alongside the billies of soup on each table. Finally the carrot soup was pureed and with all the prep done, everyone headed home for the evening.

Saturday 28 April – the day of the banquet had dawned, and it was time to bake mini gluten free breadsticks. We baked and baked and baked… but still we needed more!

Back in Stratford to finish the prep for the evening… trays of little tarts were filled,

vegetables roasted, dressings for the salads made, peas and broccoli blanched, etc. but there was more to be done…

Back at home, we continued to bake more breadsticks, a last minute decision meant that we would make a separate dip for those with special dietary needs, and we had run out of lemon curd, so had to make another batch.

Finally a quick change, and we were back in the car, heading back to Stratford. My wonderful husband, Gary, had offered to come and do dishes, so we took him up on the offer, and he followed a little later.

With the hall decorated beautifully by the committee and the meats cooking on a spit under the watchful eye of “Chef Tony”, a fellow volunteer, we all set to work. The starters were plated and set on the tables in readiness for the arrival of the masses. The soup was being painfully slow to warm up, but finally it started bubbling, and with final seasoning, it was ladled into the billies, and the young waiters were set to work placing them out on the tables – we were on schedule.

The lamb was cooked to perfection but the chicken needed more time, so there was a delay in the serving of the main.

But with the salads all prepped and plated, and the vegan/vegetarian option ready,

Cauliflower Steaks with Tomato Sauce and Olive Salsa

Cauliflower Steaks with Chunky Tomato Sacue and Olive Salsa

as soon as the chicken was done, it was all hands on deck! The salads went to the tables followed by platters of roast chicken and lamb, and jugs of jus.

Finally, the dessert and local Maffra cheeses needed to be plated, and with the help of our enthusiastic young wait staff, they were in place and ready to go.

Chocolate Mocha Tart
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Resting time
2 hrs 45 mins
Total Time
50 mins

This tart is very rich - definitely one for the serious chocolate lover!

As someone said to me, "You know it is going to be bad, which means it is going to be delicious!"

Category: Dessert, Pastry, Sweet Pastry
Style: Gluten Free
Keyword: Chocolate, Chocolate Tart, Mocha, Sweet Tart, Tart
Quantity: 1 25 cm (10 inch) tart
Author: sbaskitchen
  • 500 g Chocolate Short Crust Pastry (see notes below)
For the filling
  • 400 ml pure cream
  • 10 g instant coffee
  • 400 g Plaistowe 70% Cocoa Chocolate
  1. Roll out the pastry and line a lightly greased 25cm / 10 inch round, fluted, loose-bottom tart tin.

  2. Place in the refrigerator to chill for 20 mins.
  3. Mean while, preheat oven to 180˚C (fan).

  4. Line the pastry case with baking paper, cover with baking beans and blind bake for 10 mins.
  5. Remove beans and continue to cook for a further 10 minutes.

  6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

  8. Pour the cream into a saucepan, add the coffee and stir over a gentle heat until the coffee has dissolved (approximately 50˚C).

  9. Break the chocolate into small pieces and place into a heatproof bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water. Stir until the chocolate has melted.

  10. Add the coffee cream mixture to the melted chocolate and stir with a metal or silicone spoon, until the chocolate and cream mixture come together to form a smooth, rich chocolate sauce. (Note the mixture looks curdled initially, but do not despair... Keep stirring and it will come together nicely.)

  11. Set aside for 10 minutes to allow it to cool a little, then pour into the baked pastry case.

  12. Cool at room temperature for 45 minutes then refrigerate 2 hours.

  13. Remove the tart from the tin and place on a serving plate, garnish with strawberries, or other red berries.

  14. Serve with unsweetened double cream.

  • You could use store bought Chocolate Shortcrust Pastry, make your own or if you would like a gluten free version, this is the link to my Chocolate Shortcrust Pastry - Gluten Free
  • To cut the tart, I use a sharp knife that has been dipped in boiling water,  wiping the blade before each cut, to ensure a nice clean cut.

What a team… My thanks to my wonderful husband, Gary, for supporting me in this little venture and helping at home and on the night, to my beautiful sister, Sonnie, for travelling from Melbourne to help me and working tirelessly over the few days, to my amazing friends and fellow volunteers, Maggie, Shirley and Anne, and festival volunteers Judy and Tony as well as Margie and her team of wonderful young waiters.

Needless to say we were exhausted by the end of the night, and with the hall kitchen cleaned, and the cars packed we finally headed home. Gary opened bottle of our favourite, and we sat down to a well earned glass of bubbly with bread butter and cheese.When it is all done and we get home - dinner... 1

It was now time to think about our departure for France in three days time!


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