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Fig and Ginger Jam

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.
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!
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!


Guava Jelly


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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

Brookfield Show 2014

The 2014 Brookfield Show is just around the corner, with entries for the Cookery closing this Sunday 11 May, and entries due at the Showground by Thursday 15 May 9.30 am at the latest.

We are expecting a large number of entries this year, after substantial early interest. Last year we had a record 650 entries, and this year could see even more!

Go to for more information, and for the link to enter the Cookery online.

Even if you can’t enter this year, please drop up and say hello at the Show, and of course we always welcome new volunteer Stewards to help out.

Don’t forget to check out the Show Cooking Tips on this blog (click on the heading to the right of the page), and there are also a lot of great recipes here for entering the Show.

Keep up to date with the latest information by subscribing to the blog, and the twitter feed, and keep checking back here for new posts closer to the Show.

See you at the Brookfield Show!

Vale Daphne Dowdle

Daphne 96th Birthday 2013

Daphne 96th Birthday 2013

It is with great sadness that we advise friends of the Brookfield Show Cookery Section that Daphne Dowdle passed away peacefully on 20 October 2013, after a brief illness, at the age of 96.

Daphne was the long serving Chief Steward of the Cookery Pavilion at the Brookfield Show, and served in that capacity for 40 years. Her last year was 1998, and after that she continued as a Steward until two years ago, when her advancing years made it difficult to participate. Even so, she listened keenly to tales of the Show, and wanted full details of what had happened, and who had asked after her. A natural leader, she capably ran a large Show section with everything written by hand, and kept careful records and formidable standards. Despite this, she had a heart of gold, and loved seeing a lot of entries, and every year in recent times her first question about the Show to me was “but were the shelves in the Pavilion filled with exhibits?”

She was very ably succeeded in the role by Yanina Hughes, who had also worked closely with Daphne in the last few years of her role as Chief Steward. Daphne loved working with her large group of faithful Stewards, including old friends and what she called the “young ones”, who have now taken over running the Cookery Section. Under Daphne’s watchful eye, we dared not change much, as we knew that Daphne would sniff it out, and when change did come it was gradual, but her firm standards have been maintained and always will be.

Daphne’s particular love was the children who entered year after year, and she was so thrilled when they grew up, and their own children entered. Not having children of her own, she worked tirelessly for the community, through the Show Society, the Brookfield CWA and the Kenmore Uniting Church, ensuring that it was a better place for every one else’s children, and has left an enduring legacy which will never be surpassed.

On a personal note, Daphne was a much loved friend to us all, and we will all miss her very much. Daphne taught me everything I know about Show cooking, and like countless others, I was blessed to have her in my life, and that of my family. At 96, she bridged with ease the post-war era of austerity through to the present time, and never tired of passing on her many years of accumulated wisdom to anyone who asked. We are much the poorer for her passing.

Vale Daphne.

Geraldine Mackenzie
Chief Steward

Orange cake


Orange cake is one of my all-time favourites. I have an old family recipe which my mother used to make and I love. I have entered it enough times in the Show (many years ago) to know that it isn’t a Show recipe, but I hope that the recipe below will bring you more luck! This recipe is adapted from an old madiera cake recipe.


120 g butter
120 g sugar (use caster sugar for Show work)
grated rind of an orange
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
180 g Self Raising Flour


Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Beat the butter and sugar on high speed in Mixmaster or KitchenAid until lighter in colour and creamy in texture.

Add the orange rind and mix well. Add the eggs one at a time to avoid curdling. Reduce speed to minimal (or hand mix), and add the flour and milk, alternatively, starting and ending with the flour. Fold in the flour and milk, do not beat.

Place mixture into a greased and lined cake tin. Cook approximately 45 minutes, or until the mixture comes away from the sides of the pan, and springs back to the touch.

Cook on a wire cooler (covered with a tea towel for Show work), and ice with orange icing when completely cool.

Sweet orange marmalade


Orange marmalade is one of the most popular preserves, and one of the easiest to make, however as with all marmalades, there are tips and tricks to get a successful outcome. For this recipe I have used navel oranges, which are highly recommended, and will give the best outcome. I also grow Seville oranges which make an excellent marmalade, and these come into season very late and well after other winter citrus, around August/September. There are many different methods of making orange marmalade, and the one below is simple to follow and works consistently. For show work, some exhibitors make a jelly marmalade using the squeezed juice and very thinly sliced in very fine strips, which is very difficult to jell, but spectacular when it works and the fine strips of orange skin are suspended in the jelly.

For this recipe I used five oranges, the juice of one lemon, and sugar, lots of sugar. Apart from taste, sugar is a preserving agent, and an important part of the chemical process which sets a jam, jelly or marmalade. Getting a preserve to set is a magical combination of sugar, acid and pectin, which in the right combination, and at the right temperature, sets to give jams and marmalades that distinctive texture or jell. With a sweet orange marmalade, the juice of a lemon will often be necessary to provide the necessary acid.



Top and tail the oranges, cut in half or quarters lengthwise, and slice the oranges as thinly as possible. Place in a bowl and cover with water. I do this by feel and experience, and there is not specific amount of water. Bear in mind that a lot of the liquid will be boiled off.

Soak the oranges in the water overnight or for at least four to five hours. If you are using oranges with seeds (naval oranges don’t normally have seeds), these need to be removed and soaked separately in a small container to remove the pectin. Strain the seeds after soaking, and add the liquid to the rest of the mixture.


After soaking, boil the orange slices, uncovered, for one hour. This is an important step, and is needed to ensure that the orange slices will be tender.

After cooking, test the mixture for pectin content, the amount of which determines the amount of sugar to be added. To do this, add one teaspoon of the cooked orange liquid to three teaspoons of methylated spirits, and tip onto a plate. If there is one big clot of the fruit mixture, you can add the sugar cup for cup. If there are smaller clots (see picture), add 3/4 sugar per cup of fruit mixture. If there are no clots, you have a problem and are unlikely to get the marmalade to set. Add more lemon than you otherwise would to give it a chance of setting.

After adding the sugar, put back on the heat, but ensure that all of the sugar is fully dissolved before it boils. If you have a candy thermometer (strongly recommended), add it now.


Once the sugar is dissolved, boil rapidly until the marmalade jells. This will take approximately 20 minutes.

As the marmalade approaches the setting point (104 degrees Celsius), the bubbles will change and you will see a rolling boil. It will also send up the occasional spit. At this point, being testing for jelling, and also keep stirring to prevent the marmalade from sticking to the bottom and edges of the pan.


Once the marmalade is set, remove from the heat, and allow to sit for 5 minutes.

Pour into heated, sterilised bottles (after sterilisation, heat for 15- 20 minutes in the oven at 150 degrees), then lid immediately.


James’ Connoisseur Meats Kenmore


No Show Society can exist without commercial sponsors, and the Brookfield Show Cookery section is no exception. Each year we have some wonderful sponsors, and our most long standing is renowned local butcher James’ Connoisseur Meats. We have lost count of how long this business have faithfully supported us, but 20 years would be about right!

James and his wonderful team have such high quality meat that customers come from far and wide. But he doesn’t just sell meat, as “the butcher that cooks”, he also produces a mouthwatering and very popular range of pies, curries and other prepared meals. The pies are all fantastic, but the chicken pies are to die for, and recently won a major pie competition (no surprise to me!). They also stock a wide range of other gourmet products, including Maggie Beer.


Please support our wonderful sponsors, I certainly do!


Anzac biscuits


Anzac biscuits are an Australian and New Zealand Anzac Day tradition. There are as many recipes around as there are stories as to the origins of the biscuits. Legend says that they were made to send to the troops in World War I serving in Europe, but it seems that the original biscuit, or tiles, as they were called, were much harder and long lasting with more basic ingredients. Interestingly, the name “Anzac” is protected in Australia with an exemption for the biscuits, provided they stay true to the original recipe. Although rolled oats, sugar, coconut, flour, butter and golden syrup and bicarbonate of soda are now key ingredients (never eggs), coconut was not included in the original tile recipe, available on the Australian War Memorial website. There are a lot of recipe variations available, but they should still contain the traditional ingredients, not macadamias, ginger, chocolate, and all manner of other things. Some recipes use less sugar than this, but I checked this against the recipe published by the Australian War Memorial, which also uses one cup of sugar, but amend to your own taste.

This recipe made 27 generous sized biscuits, in three batches. It’s quick and easy and a great one for the kids to make on this special day.


1 cup rolled oats
1 cup plain flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
pinch salt
125 grams butter
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda


Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Mix together in a bowl the first five dry ingredients. Melt the butter, golden syrup and water in a saucepan or microwave, then add the bicarb soda and mix well, which will bubble up. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon.

Anzac biscuit mix

Roll into small balls and put on a baking tray, flattening the balls with a fork.


Bake for 12-15 minutes in moderate oven (180 degrees), checking after 12 minutes. When golden brown, remove from oven and allow to sit for a few minutes, then slide onto a cooling tray. The easiest way to do this if the biscuits are still hot is to slide them off the baking tray still on the baking paper. As they cool, they will crisp up and harden.


Show cooking hints

Ensure you sift the flour and bicarb soda (not together!) before adding to their respective mixes. Check that the balls are the same size, and put fewer on the baking tray so that they don’t touch during cooking. The judges will be looking for a medium sized biscuit (not too big or small), evenly cooked, with a great flavour. Crispness of the biscuits is an important characteristic, so ensure that they are flat enough to crisp up as they cool.

Cookery judging myths and misconceptions

Brother Howard judging the preserves section, Brookfield Show

Brother Howard judging the preserves section, Brookfield Show

At every Show we get a lot of questions about the judging process in the Cookery. So here are some commonly asked questions including myths and misconceptions, and the answers you have been seeking!

Do the judges taste everything?

It is a persistent urban myth that the judges don’t taste all of the entries, and I get asked about this many times a year. In fact, the judges taste each and every entry, unless there is some reason not to, for example, there was mould present in the jam when opened (which happens occasionally). In fact once when we opened the lid on a preserve for judging, a cockroach flew out, but that’s another story!

With the preserves, the judge takes a small amount with a spoon from the side of the jar. With the cakes, unless the cake is in the decorated cakes section (these are judged on appearance only), the cake is cut in half, and a small wedge cut off one side, including the icing (if any). With biscuits, slices, small cakes and the like, the judge takes a small piece off one item for tasting.

What are the judges looking for?

The judge looks for colour, texture, uniformity (with small cakes or slices), and a great flavour which is appropriate to the item being judged. With cakes, the texture should be even throughout with no or very few trapped air bubbles or under or overcooking evident. If for example it is an orange cake section, the judge will be looking for a strong orange flavour, and good mouthfeel. A cake should be moist, but not overly so, and how moist will depend on the variety. The judge will be able to tell straight away that it has been properly cooked, and that quality ingredients have been used.

With preserves, the judge is again looking for flavour and texture. A proper set is important for jams, marmalades and jellies, but sometimes great flavour can overcome a preserve which may not be perfectly set. Ideally jellies and marmalades should be perfectly clear and glistening. Chutneys and relishes should be perfectly cooked, reflect their variety, and be of the appropriate texture so that they can be easily spooned out and are not too runny. Any overcooked preserves will be rejected by the judges, who can tell straight away by appearance and taste. The judge can also tell straight away (by taste and texture) if you have used an artificial jam setting product, and this is frowned up in Show work.

Is judging anonymous?

Absolutely! The judge never knows whose entry they have in front of them, as all judging is done anonymously.

Why do the same people win prizes year after year?

This does happen (but not as often as you think), and is not because the judge knows who entered the exhibit. The same people win prizes because they are very experienced, and know what the judges are looking for. You can get the same results by entering, learning from your mistakes, and knowing how to win prizes. This can be a lot quicker than you think!

Jams, jellies and marmalades

preserves jars on display

Entering the Preserves section of a Show can be one of the most daunting, frustrating and rewarding experiences you can have in cooking. But making the perfect clear glistening jelly or marmalade an is an incredibly satisfying experience. Getting it to set properly is another story, which will be the subject of another post! Ultimately, the only way to succeed in the Preserves section is practice, practice, practice, and to learn by your mistakes.
• For jam making, cut fruit evenly, don’t over boil. Use a candy thermometer (available at kitchen shops) for more accurate cooking to test for jelling point. A thermometer is much better than guesswork for Show work. Even then, you need to use your judgment
• Cut fruit for marmalade as finely as possible for Show work. Marmalade should be clear, with fruit evenly suspended. After soaking fruit overnight, cook thoroughly before adding sugar. This is absolutely critical. Most recipes specify an hour cooking before adding sugar to marmalade.
• For jelly making, after fruit has cooked, allow to drip through jelly bag overnight, without squeezing. Jelly should be completely clear and properly set.
• Ensure that jars are properly sterilized before use. Clean in dishwasher if possible, and then thoroughly sterilise before using. Use oven mits to avoid burns with hot jars and preserves.
• Put lids on jars immediately after filling with preserves to inhibit moulds. Store carefully – in the fridge if necessary.
• Make chutneys a month or two ahead of time if possible to allow flavours to develop. This is a common reason why otherwise great chutneys don’t make it to the winner’s circle. If you make it the day before the Show, unfortunately it will taste like it.
• Jam, jelly and marmalade making is often a frustrating experience. Sometimes the fruit is overripe, there was too much rain before the fruit was picked and not enough pectin in the fruit, or it just doesn’t work out. It happens to everyone, and sometimes when it doesn’t jell, it’s nothing to do with the skill of the cook. If instead of a jam you have a runny sauce, your family might appreciate a nice dessert sauce instead!