All about Show cooking

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I don’t make this claim lightly, but this is the best version of a chocolate self-saucing pudding that I’ve ever tasted!  The recipe comes from my mother, many years ago, and I don’t know its origin, but it’s very similar to one featured in the cookbook bistro, by the wonderful Philip Johnson, owner and chef of the highly decorated e’cco bistro in Brisbane. I was fortunate to attend the launch of that book in 2004, where Philip spoke about the origins of his recipe in New Zealand, with his own mother and a school or community cookbook. The main difference between his and mine is that mine doesn’t have an egg in the cake mix (and he has swapped in some chopped chocolate with less sugar), but other than that, the similarity is such that they must have had the same origin, 50+ years ago, and I spoke with him about it when he signed my copy of the book, which I still treasure. It demonstrates that sometimes the origin of recipes can’t be traced, but small tweaks (like my version having no egg), creep in. I’ve seen many versions of this classic home-cooked pudding, but none as good as this one, at least in my view! Here is my version:

Cake
1 cup self-raising flour
Pinch salt
1/2 cup caster sugar (my mother’s recipe had 3/4 cup (imperial), but it seems too sweet, adjust to your preference
2 level tablespoons cocoa
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 tablespoon melted butter

Topping/sauce
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1 3/4 cup hot water

Method
Heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Sift dry ingredients together, then add melted butter, milk and vanilla. Mix until smooth and pour into greased ovenproof deep dish. (If you are in a hurry you can mix it in the cooking dish too!) Separately, mix sifted cocoa and sugar, and sprinkle over the top of the cake mix, pour the hot water over the top. The topping will become the sauce, and the cake will end up on top. Bake for approximately 30-40 minutes (check after 30 minutes). Serve with vanilla icecream, cream or both.  Enjoy!

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Fig and Ginger Jam

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I bought some excellent figs at the Brookfield Markets from Sunrise Strawberries from Stanthorpe, who have beautiful figs and strawberries at their stall at the Market, which is held every fortnight at the Brookfield Show Ground. Tempted as I was just to eat them, I decided to make fig and ginger jam, which is superb with cheese, particularly blue cheese. I already have a fig jam recipe on this site, so I won’t repeat the method in detail, but here is the short version of how to make it, which is very easy.

Take a minimum of 500g figs, ripe but not overripe, and chop into quarters. You can go smaller if you wish. Place figs in a bowl and cover with an equal amount of sugar. Add approximately two tablespoons of prepared ginger pieces in syrup, finely chopped. This is a great product (from Buderim Ginger), which really adds to the flavour of the jam.
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Leave 3-4 hours until the sugar “dissolves” and the figs disgorge some of their liquid. You shouldn’t be able to see the white sugar anymore. Place into a large pot to make the jam, and add juice of a lemon or lime. I used two limes as they are in season and limes are smaller than lemons. The acid in the citrus is important to get the jam to set. If your figs are a little overripe, I would add a little more lemon or lime juice. Don’t add any water to the mixture with this method.

Bring slowly to the boil, making sure that all of the sugar is properly dissolved before the mixture boils. Once it boils, the jam will jell quickly as there is very little liquid to evaporate, so watch it carefully that it doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pan. This isn’t a jam mixture to walk away from!
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As soon as the mixture is at the setting point, take it off the heat and allow to settle in the pan for 5 or so minutes. Pour into prepared, heated jars, and seal immediately. I find if you have properly sterilised the jars, this jam keeps until the next Autumn when you are ready to do it again, but be sure to store it in the fridge once opened. Enjoy!

Spiced Pear Paste

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I bought some great pears at the local farmers’ market a week ago, and decided to make spiced pear paste which is delicious with cheese. It was incredibly easy to make.

Ingredients:

600g pears, finely chopped or processed (around 500g peeled and cored)
500g sugar
Juice of a large lemon or lime
Spices of your choice, I used a piece of cinnamon stick, six cloves and a small piece of star anise – all wrapped in a muslin, or use a pinch of each spice straight into the pan

Place the pears in a large pan with the sugar, spices and juice, and heat until the sugar is dissolved. If the pears were chopped instead of processed, mash them down at this point. Bring to the boil and allow to cook until the mixture thickens and darkens. This will take around 10 minutes, but watch it carefully as mine started to catch on the bottom. When slightly cooled (but only a few minutes or it will set in the pan), pour the paste into small jars or into a pan lined with paper and cut into squares. If you want to keep it for any length of time, sealed jars are the best choice.

Lime Marmalade

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Lime Marmalade is my favourite preserve to make and is always delicious with a beautiful tang and slight bitterness, which all of the best marmalades have. Limes are plentiful right now and at the peak of their season in mid Autumn. My lime tree was bursting with fruit, and the crop was the best I’ve seen. Lime marmalade is relatively uncomplicated to make with no seeds to deal with, and a good one to start with if you haven’t made marmalade before. All you need is limes, sugar and water. I started with around a dozen limes, but you can successfully make lime marmalade with half that, and this recipe is very flexible. If you are a beginner, it is best to start with smaller batches, rather than one large one.
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Top and tail the limes, cut into half longways, and thinly slice. For Show work, you need to slice very finely. Put the lime slices in a large container, just cover with water and soak (covered) overnight or at least three to four hours.
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Next, put the limes and soaking liquid in a large pan, bring to the boil and simmer (covered) for an hour. This is an important step to soften the peel, which will not soften any further once you add the sugar.
If you want to be sure of how much sugar to add, test for pectin (1 teaspoon mixture to three teaspoons methylated spirits), and tip the mixture onto a white saucer. If you have large clots, add the sugar cup for cup. If smaller (which is unlikely as limes are rich in pectin), you should add less sugar, closer to 3/4 cup sugar to each cup of mixture. In this case I added the same amount of sugar to the pan as the lime mixture. Note: you will be adding a lot of sugar, but this is important as it preserves the mixture, and fortunately you only eat a small amount of the marmalade at at time!
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After adding sugar to the pan, add your candy thermometer (if you have one), and turn on the heat, ensuring that you allow the sugar to fully dissolve before it comes to the boil. At that point, boil the mixture rapidly until it comes to setting point, which is 104 degrees. The mixture at that point will come to a rolling boil, and will spit. You can also test for set using a small amount on a cold plate which will wrinkle, or use the spoon test, where the thickened mixture will “sheet” off the spoon. Watch the pan carefully at this point, as it will have a tendency to boil over. If this happens, when you are finished, add water to the spill and it is easy to clean up.
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When the mixture reaches setting point, take it off the heat and allow to sit for 15 minutes so that the peel will distribute evenly. Don’t leave it too long, or the marmalade will jell in the pan. After letting it sit, take your heated jug and sterilised and heated jars, and carefully pour the marmalade into each jar using oven mits and protection.
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Fill each jar to the top and seal immediately with the lid. image
Finish filling all of the bottles and don’t move them until they are cold, so that the marmalade can properly set in the jar. I made around a dozen bottles from this batch. If properly prepared and sterilised jars are used the marmalade will keep for 6-12 months. Enjoy!

Guava Jelly

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It’s guava season, and making guava jelly is a perfect way to use up a huge crop if you have a tree in the back yard. Unfortunately the possums got to my tree before I did, and the ground was littered with guavas with one bite taken out, but I did manage to salvage enough for a batch of guava jelly. Guava jelly is delicious with roast pork, or eaten on its own as a preserve as you would a jam. It is also superb with cheese, particularly blue vein.

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To make guava jelly you will need guavas (I had around 12 smallish guavas), sugar, water, and either some limes or lemons. Chop the guavas roughly, and place in a pan, just covering them with water.
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Bring to the boil and simmer, with the lid on, for around half an hour. Strain through a cloth in a sieve for a couple of hours at least, preferably overnight. Important, do not press down or squeeze the fruit while doing this, allow the juice to slowly drip out.
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After all of the liquid has dripped out, you need to test for the pectin content. Take one teaspoon of the liquid and mix with three teaspoons mentholated spirits in a glass, and tip onto a saucer. If there is one large clot, your mixture is strong in pectin, and you can add sugar cup for cup. If it has several clots (like I had, see below), add 3/4 cup of sugar to each cup of liquid. In the end I had three cups of liquid, and added three X 3/4 cups of sugar.

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At this point, put the sterilised glass jars you are going to use in the oven on low heat, around 130 degrees, as well as a pouring jug (I use a glass oven-proof one). Add a candy thermometer to the pan if you have one, and slowly bring the mixture to the boil, ensuring that the sugar is fully dissolved before the mixture boils. Add the strained juice of two limes or one lemon. You will need to adjust the amount for your own quantity, but the proportion is around two tablespoons or lemon or lime juice to two cups of sugar. Lime juice is best with guava jelly if you have it.

Allow to boil until it gets to jelling point, which will be pretty fast. Mine took only 10-15 minutes. If you have a themometer, jelling point is 104 degrees, or you can use the spoon or saucer tests, which I have described in other preserves recipes. The other way in which you can tell is the smell, which changes at the end (it will smell amazingly good!), and the bubbles which get larger and start spitting – see picture.

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Take the jelly off the heat, and prepare your jars. Pour relatively quickly into the prepared jars, or it will set in the pan, which you don’t want to happen! Pour slowly down the side of the jars, and seal immediately. My batch made one and a half jars, which was OK, considering I had shared most of the fruit with the possums in my back yard!

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Did you know?

We have 650 entries each year in the Cookery Section of Brookfield Show from over 200 exhibitors. Each year, almost half of the exhibitors are new to the Show.
It takes seven judges to taste, prod and admire each entry. Each and every entry is tasted except for the decorated cakes and the eggs.
25 volunteer stewards assist in the Cookery, each with specialised skills from database management, to logistics, to display and marketing. Our experienced stewards expertly swing into action each year to assist with the judging and run the Pavilion. As our volunteers retire or move away, we welcome new stewards each year to join our group.
Brookfield Show Cookery is one of the largest of the non-Royal agricultural shows in Queensland. We are also one of the longest running Cookery Sections, and can trace back our roots to the Brookfield Country Market over 100 years ago.
There have only ever been four Chief Stewards in the post-World War II history of the Cookery Section. The longest serving, Mrs Daphne Dowdle, served in the role for almost 40 years, and only retired in her 80’s. Daphne was much loved by generations of Cookery exhibitors, and only passed away at the age of 96 in October 2013, active to the end despite crippling polio as a child and its after effects. The Cookery Pavilion and Grand Champion prize are named for this inspirational community leader.
The Lyn Nayler Champion Preserves prize is named for Mrs Lyn Nayler who served alongside Daphne Dowdle as a steward for many years, and was a preserves specialist, winning the championship prize herself on many occasions. Lyn was a kind and generous friend to all, and her name and spirit lives on through the Champion Preserves prize. She was thrilled to be acknowledged in this way.
The Children’s Cookery section grows bigger each year, greatly assisted by the active involvement of the Kenmore State High School Home Economics teachers and over 70 keen students who enter each year to test their skills. The last two Children’s Cookery Chief Stewards grew up entering in the Children’s section, and were themselves Children’s Champions under the watchful eye of Daphne Dowdle.
Each year we get bigger and better as the Cookery Section slowly moves with the times, although never forgetting our roots in the Agricultural Show tradition.

Don’t forget to come and admire our beautiful exhibits this year, buy some fudge or other products, and pick up a raffle ticket to help us run the Pavilion.

See you at the Show!

Brookfield Show Cookery is delighted to announce that Queen Fine Foods is again a major sponsor for the Cookery in 2015.  Our lucky special prize winners in the Cookery Pavilion will win a prize pack of beautiful and innovative baking products from Queen.  We will also have a display stand of the range of Queen products in the Pavilion, which will be raffled off during the Show.  Make sure that you come in and get a ticket!

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Queen is a 100% Australian-owned family company, dating back to 1897. Known for an amazing selection of food colourings, vanilla and other traditional items, many of which are natural and organic, they now sell a wonderful range of icing and other decorative baking products.

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Queen Fine Foods provide an ideal range of products for use in Show cooking, from flavourings to speciality cake decorating products. The wide range of products caters to both very experienced, and very new cooks, as well as fantastic decorating ideas for children who love to make their own designs on cupcakes or cakes.

The Queen website also is an excellent source of inspirational recipes: http://www.queen.com.au.

A great Australian company providing a fantastic range of products. Please support our wonderful sponsors!

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