Tag Archives: Celebrations

Birthday Bonfire

This year our cousin’s husband, Colin turned 70, and to celebrate, their annual bonfire became a very festive affair. Held on the property where our grandparent’s home once was, people travelled from everywhere to join the party – the yard looked like a caravan park when we pulled in on the Saturday night.

To get there, Gary and I left home at 10 am and travelled to Melbourne where we stopped to pick up my sister Sonya. Then we continued on to Stawell and had a lovely visit with my mother for a couple of hours before finally arriving at Navarre just after 6. It was dark and cold. But with the power and water turned on, we soon had the house warmed up and dinner cooking. We were all a tad weary…

After listening to the rain on the tin roof through the night, we were wondering how the bonfire would fire up the next night, however when we got up in the morning, the rain seemed to have cleared, even if the skies hadn’t! Sonnie and I had work to do… Sonnie had made the birthday cake and had to decorate it, she had also made a pavlova that needed to be finished off. I needed to make a dessert as well. This is where the fun started….

Sunset at Navarre

Firstly I set to making the dessert, it was to be a gateau of rhubarb, apples and almonds. The recipe for the base was in French, but I knew that I could follow it. I had brought all the ingredients from home including rhubarb from our garden and bottled apples from our store. So I drained the apples and got the rhubarb into the oven to bake. Then it was time to make the cake. With the mixer uncovered I got all the ingredients ready and got to work. The egg whites whipped up beautifully. Following the recipe I then whipped up the egg yolks and sugar, and added the dry ingredients – ughh, the mixture seized – what to do… I grabbed another egg and added that in, it helped to loosen the mix a little, so then I started to fold through the egg whites, not perfect, but it would have to do. With the mixture poured into the lined tin, it went into the oven to bake while we set to cleaning up the mess! The timer went off and when I took the cake from the oven, I saw that it was very uneven and very thin in one corner, really – what next. I shouldn’t have been surprised though. The house is very old and the land is subject to flooding… The cake looked OK, even if a little lop-sided.


Next it was Sonnie’s turn. She needed to make the butter cream for the birthday cake. The problem here was that the mixer seemed to have only one speed – very fast! So with the butter in the mixer, the bowl was almost ready to take off!! Then the icing sugar went in, or should I say, went out, up, and everywhere, including over Sonnie! We threw a tea towel over the whole thing to try and calm the situation down a little. All we could do was laugh. With persistence, the butter cream was made and Sonnie set to decorating the cake. She dropped a couple of little round sweets on the floor and they all rolled to one corner – yes, we decided that the reason for the crooked cake was because we were in a crooked house.

Our other sister Jan arrived and we all had a lovely afternoon sitting and chatting, then set to filling the pav and finishing off the cake. I carefully sliced a slither from one of the higher corners and used some of the fruit syrup to attach it to the lower corner. Sonnie whipped the cream for both the pav and the cake and we decorated them.

All ready, we just needed to await the arrival of the younger members of our family – they were all traveling from Melbourne and running a little late. Sonnie rang Sandra to find out what time they wanted us down there, it was about 6 pm when she rang. They had already finished the main and were on to the speeches. Sonnie, Jan and Gary quickly loaded the cake and desserts into the car and headed down, while I waited for the kids to arrive. Finally with everyone there, we joined the rest of the family at the bonfire and, as usual, it was a wonderful friendly night.  We got to catch up with members of our family, listen to music, and all the time, we were kept warm (at times very hot) by the roaring bonfire.

As we were to late for the food, when we got home we quickly prepared a supper of soup and fried rice, before all turning in for the night.

Oh and I have now translated the recipe as it was written in French, and yes, I had followed the instructions. So the version here is a much revised version!

Gateau of Rhubarb, Apples and Almonds - Gluten Free

I offered to take a dessert to a birthday party. I wanted to use rhubarb from our garden because it was looking amazing. A magazine arrived from France early in the week and had a recipe for a rhubarb and strawberry cake and that was my inspiration for this beautiful cake.


  • 500g rhubarb
  • 5 medium sized apples
  • 1 orange
  • 60g sugar
  • 90g brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 50g flaked almonds
  • 200 ml whipping cream
  • ½ tsp vanilla bean paste
  • For the cake
  • 200g almond meal
  • 50g custard powder – gluten free
  • 1½ tsp baking powder – gluten free
  • 6 eggs
  • 140g caster sugar
  • pinch of salt


  1. Preheat oven to 180˚C.
  2. Wash the rhubarb, trim the ends and cut into 2 cm pieces and place into a shallow baking dish in a single layer. Pare two very thin strips of zest from the orange using a sharp knife, or a peeler and then juice the orange.  Tuck the rind in amongst the rhubarb, sprinkle over the brown sugar, and drizzle with the orange juice. Bake for 20 minutes until the rhubarb is tender. Carefully remove the rhubarb from the dish and strain the juices and set both the juice and the rhubarb aside.
  3. Meanwhile peel, core and quarter the apples, add to a saucepan with the 60g of sugar and just enough water to cover the apples. Bring to the boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the apples are tender, gently turning them now and then so they cook evenly.   Strain the apple and set aside the fruit and the syrup.
  4. Place both the rhubarb juices and apple syrup into a clean pan. Bring to the boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook until the syrup is reduced by half. Set aside to cool.
  5. Preheat oven to 190˚C and line a swiss roll baking pan with baking paper. Separate the egg yolks from whites. Place the whites together with the salt into the large bowl of a stand mixer and mix on high speed until soft peaks form. Add yolks and beat, then add the 140g of caster sugar gradually. Beat well. Sift in the almond meal, custard powder and baking powder and carefully fold through the egg mixture. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until golden. Turn out on to a wire cooling rack and remove baking paper. Allow to cool completely.
  6. When you are ready to assemble the gateaux, whip the cream, 1 tbsp of caster sugar and the vanilla bean paste until stiff peaks form.
  7. Heat a pan over low heat and add the flaked almonds. Carefully toast until they turn golden. Be careful not to burn them. Set aside.
  8. To Assemble the cake, spread a little of the syrup over the cake, then spread a layer, no thicker than 1 cm of the whipped cream on top of that. Arrange the apple and rhubarb on top of the cream, sprinkle over the toasted flaked almonds and drizzle with the remaining syrup.


  • Baking the rhubarb helps to retain its shape and stops it going mushy, it also intensifies the flavour.
  • I like to cut each apple quarter into chunks before arranging it on top of the cake.
  • You could replace the whipped cream with crème pâtissière

Until next time…

Happy  cooking & bon appétit!



Gateau of Rhubarb, Apples and Almonds – Gluten Free

Mrs Collins’s Pavlova

Family, fun, love and food

Christmas morning dawned and we woke to the voices of children, our grandchildren, not all of them, mind you, the last one would arrive later in the morning along with other treasured members of our family.

Preparations had been underway for some time, and the day before, late afternoon, our Christmas began with the arrival of my husband’s daughter and her family from Roma in Queensland – it had taken them three days to get here. We were so excited to see them and have them join us in our new home for Christmas. This year was going to be very special with all of our children and grandchildren together with us for this special time of year.

It was going to be a hot day, but there was a lot of cooking to be done. A huge slab of pork belly was prepared and put in the oven, it needed to cook slow for a couple of hours. Chickens were filled with handfuls of fresh herbs and placed on a spit out on the terrace.

Meanwhile the vegetables were prepared – trays full for roasting, and others for the steamer. I had made a the day before and we also made a beetroot, orange and fresh herb salad.

The arrival of our son and his family from Melbourne, created great excitement with the family from Queensland meeting their little cousin, Cooper for the first time. There was a lot of catching up.

The cooking continued, electric fans were dusted off and set up to try and cool things down. Cream was whipped, Irish Mist Cream prepared to accompany the plum pudding which was bubbling away on the side burner of the BBQ alongside the chickens.

The vegetables were placed in the oven and the temperature bumped up so that we would have beautiful pork crackle.

The last of our guests arrived, my two gorgeous sisters, Sonnie and Jan, together with my beautiful mum and our great-nephew, Aussie. With everyone here, it was time to think about carving and serving, but alas, the oven was not cooperating with the quantity of food in it, the veg weren’t cooking fast enough and the crackle was definitely not happening!   The oven could not go any higher – Our lunch was going to be late, but what could I do!

The ham that I had cured and smoked was retrieved from the fridge – it would be served cold alongside the corned silverside, they were both carved. The chickens were carved, salads placed in bowls, veggies steamed, gravy made and finally the pork had to be carved, even though the crackle was not as I wanted – there was very little left, and the meat was succulent, tender and moist.

People gathered around, filled their plates, and then everyone decided to sit around our kitchen table, which comfortably seats six! Chairs were seconded from throughout the house and squeezed wherever they would or might fit, our table was surrounded by fourteen – it was amazing.

After the meal was finished and everything cleared away it was time for something the children had been waiting for all day…. Gifts from under the tree – they couldn’t wait… Everyone gathered in the sitting room and Jan, Chris, and I played Santa, handing out gifts, to some particularly eager little ones, and some almost as eager older ones – it was mayhem, but wonderful mayhem.

Unfortunately time was close for Chris and his family to return to Melbourne, so we quickly served a little dessert for them to eat before they left.

Once they left, Pavlova with lashings of cream and fresh berries, cheesecake heaped with cherries, peaches, and various other fresh fruits, and of course, the plum pudding with Irish Mist Cream, brandy sauce and icecream were set out for all to enjoy. As we were enjoying our sweet treats, Sonnie walked in and said “don’t eat the cream – it’s off!” Everyone stopped, and then it dawned on them that there was nothing wrong with the cream – it is her favourite and she was just trying to stop eveyone eating it.

So that was our Christmas feast – family, fun, love and food, one cannot ask for anything more, can one.

The afternoon continued with time to cool off in the pool, and I was surprised that people were interested in eating again later that evening. So brought out a platters of local cheeses, fresh fruit, cold meat and fruit cake, and we all sat around the table on the back porch and nibbled and chatted. Before setting up beds for all, for a good night sleep.

Until next time…

Bon appétit!











Aussie’s 18th Birthday Celebrations.

Last weekend we hitched up the trailer, packed up some food, a couple of birthday cakes, bedding and a little wine and hit the road. We had a six hour drive ahead of us, as we headed to central Victoria for a weekend of camping, birthday celebrations and loads of fun. When we arrived at camp, those that had already arrived had settled in around the camp fire and were enjoying pre-dinner drinks, so instead of unpacking we decided to join them. But finally thought it prudent to get unpacked and set up so that we could start thinking about dinner.

In planning for the weekend, Dave, Sonnie, Aussie and I had prepared a meal plan so that we knew what food to bring. The main thing was to keep it as simple as possible…

  • Friday night – pizzas cooked in the camp pizza oven that Dave says was inspired by me. (apparently I suggested that a pizza oven would be great at the camp site, so Dave googled and then set about making one, a few years ago) we would also cook sausages cooked at the camp fire.
  • Saturday lunch – homemade bread cooked in the pizza oven, rissoles, potatoes cooked in the camp oven with toppings, and coleslaw.
  • Breakfasts – everyone to look after themselves.
  • Saturday night – birthday dinner at the Logan Pub

13939407_10208694780598884_8744332955621302759_nAs we unpacked and set up, Sonnie, Cath and Aussie prepared the pizza toppings, and when I got our Esky out I sent down the food that I had bought to add to the evening. Everyone got to make their own pizzas selecting from the toppings available, and Dave was in charge of cooking them in the pizza oven – What a treat… What an eye opener for Fabien, a friend and chef from Paris who was visiting with us for six weeks. With the sausages cooked at the camp fire, we all sat around enjoying some laughs and catching up on recent happenings. The night was freezing, everyone was tired, so we all decided to head off to bed for the night.

The next morning we were up nice and early, the DSC03986night had been a very cold one, and the campfire was inviting, as was a nice hot cup of tea. Brekky for our family was bacon and egg sandwiches. The fun was beginning. There were quad bikes and motor bikes to ride, a drone to fly, the camp fire to keep burning, the pizza oven to get fired up, wood to cut, more people arriving etc. etc. While the men, or should I say, boys, hooned around on the bikes, and cut wood, Cin learned how to ride the quad bike and she and Chris took our grandson Cooper to see the bah bahs (AKA sheep). For the rest of the day that is all he wanted to do – go see the bah bahs…

As the morning wore on it was time to make the bread, so, using bread mixes, I added the yeast and water, and worked the dough making it ready to set it aside for its first rise – I did this by placing the dough into very large, floured pots and setting them close to the camp fire. When they had proved and doubled in size, I knocked them down, formed them into loaves and set them on trays, again, covered by the large pots and put them back by the fire for their final rise before they went into the pizza oven. While this was happening, I sat and individually wrapped a stack of potatoes in foil ready to be cooked. When everything was ready, Sonnie and I jumped on the quad bikes and took off while Dave, Jan and I’m not sure who else looked after the cooking of the bread and the potatoes.

When we come back the bread was cooked, and all that was to be done was to cook the rissoles that I had made, put out bread, the amazing coleslaw that Sonnie had made, and

the toppings for the potatoes, and let everyone help themselves. It was a late lunch and I can tell you, there was not much left at the end of the meal.

Late afternoon we took to whatever mode of transport was available and went and watched as the sunset on what had been a wonderful day…


Sunset Perfection (Photo by Chris Malyon)

But all was not finished.   There were cakes (Chcolate Mud Cake and Nana’s Chocolate Cream Cake) to be decorated before we set off then we set off to the Logan Pub Aussie’s 18th birthday dinner. (They sent a bus to pick us up from the middle of a paddock, in the middle of nowhere, and took us to the pub.) We settled in and had a great meal, cake and a lot of banter before we all headed back to the camp site. After more time around the camp fire, it was time to turn in and get some rest.


The next morning we had to break camp fairly early, as we had to get back home and prepare for the next trip in a couple of days time. There was a lot of work to do and very little time to do it in…

Happy Birthday Aussie, we hope it was the best one yet!

Until next time…

Bon appétit!


BBQ Beef Rissoles

Thai Flavoured Pork Rissoles

Our Mum’s Dressing for Coleslaw

Nana’s Chocolate Cream Cake