Thursday, December 18, 2008

Blue Ribbon Cookbook wins a prize of its own

In very exciting news for author Liz Harfull and the team at Wakefield Press, it has been announced this week that The Blue Ribbon Cookbook will represent Australia in the 2008 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. The book has been selected from a record number of entries to be named Australian winner for the Best Easy Recipes Book category. It will now compete against finalists from other countries for the Best in the World award, due to be announced at a gala dinner in May 2009.
‘It is extremely exciting to have the book recognised at such a high level, and a great tribute to the team at Wakefield Press who worked on it, as well as the talents and generosity of the show cooks who so willingly shared with me their stories and knowledge,’ Liz said.‘The organisers of the awards tell me there were more entries than ever from Australia this year, and of a high quality. Apparently there were many competitors in the easy recipes book category, including two previous Gourmand Award winners in other categories.’
The Gourmand World Cookbook Awards aim to honour people who ‘cook with words’, and to find the best out of some 26,000 food and wine books produced around the world every year. The awards were founded in 1995 by Edouard Cointreau, a member of the family behind Cointreau liqueur, which has owned vineyards in France since the 13th century.Thousands of books are entered every year, with entries assessed by an international jury. In 2008 there was an estimated 15% to 20% increase in entries, from 102 countries.
Find out more about the awards...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Motoring along

More than 5300 people entered a recent competition to win one of five copies of The Blue Ribbon Cookbook. The competition was run by the Royal Automobile Association of South Australia, through its samotor publication. Public relations coordinator Kimberley Willmer says the number of entries received was the highest for any book competition ever run by the organisation. Winners will be announced at the end of December.

Monday, November 24, 2008

All in the family

Kangaroo Island cook Grace James made free samples of her wonderful Economical Steamed Plum Pudding recipe for patrons to try at this year's Kingscote Show. Grace and her recipe are featured in The Blue Ribbon Cookbook, along with a wonderful photograph taken in the late 1920s which shows Grace and the rest of her family enjoying a picnic at the showground. The photo was replicated on the front of this year's Kingscote Show book as a tribute. Author Liz Harfull was officially invited to open the event as well as launch the book locally, and present a signed copy to Grace, who took out quite a few trophies again this year despite serious competition from her sisters, Olive May and Joyce West. Two of her grand children continued the tradition by winning in the junior classes, presenting the third generation of the descendants of Jack and Olive Elsegood (Grace's parents) to compete at the show.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It's official - the Blue Ribbon Cookbook is a bestseller

The Blue Ribbon Cookbook found it's way onto the Top 10 Bestseller list in South Australia this week, much to the excitement of author Liz Harfull and the team at Wakefield Press. Astoundingly, the book outstripped in sales the recently-released second version of Australian cookbook phenomena '4 Ingredients'. A second edition of the tribute to country show cooks and their prizewinning recipes has been ordered, only a few weeks after the main shipment of the first edition hit book stores. But there are no guarantees the next edition will arrive in time for Christmas so Wakefield are encouraging people who are thinking about buying copies as gifts to do it sooner rather than later.

Barb's cheesecake the best

Barb Smithies amazing baked cheesecake wowed cookery judges at the Callington Show on Sunday, taking out the championship ribbon. But local Blue Ribbon Cookbook cook, Cherrol Wundersitz, didn't do too badly either, winning another prize for her curried zucchini relish which is featured in the book. Cherrol and author Liz Harfull were on hand to sign books for patrons at the which had one of its best crowds yet. The youngest show in the State, the event only started about seven years ago and continues to build in popularity, with more than a few city visitors dropping in to discover what a country show is all about.

Well just look at me now...

The indoor section at the Mount Gambier Show took on a fresh and impressive look this year with competitive classes being displayed in stylish new cabinets. The cases onced graced the floor of the Royal Adelaide Show pavilion housing cookery, cake decorating and handicraft competitive classes, but they weren't needed any longer with the completion of a brand new pavilion earlier this year. Despite unseasonably hot weather (over 30 degrees C on Saturday) the Mt Gambier Show attracted a healthy crowd, with many finding sanctuary in the cool show hall. Apart from the usual array of baking and preserves, they also had the chance to view entries in the regional final for the State rich fruit cake and genoa cake competitions. Shirley Harvey, from Strathdownie, who has won the rich fruit cake title seven times, won the regional qualifier again this year, and Gloria Buck, from Millicent, took out the genoa cake semi. Both women will now contest the state finals in September 2009.

Everything's coming up roses at Penola

One of the highlights of the annual Penola Show is its $1000 rose competition. It's a tribute to the strong traditions of a town which supports Australia's famous Coonawarra wine region, and the longstanding links between grape and rose growing. The local show society presented author Liz Harfull with a beautiful rose bush to thank her for speaking at a special afternoon tea in Penola last week. The event aimed to encourage people to buy The Blue Ribbon Cookbook and enter cookery and preserves classes at the show which will be held on October 31 and November 1. It also brought together again Liz and the two junior cooks from Penola featured in the book - Bella Minge and Caitlin Fulton.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Eat your heart out Nigela...

Uraidla show cook and beef cattle producer Jean Evans proved a hit when she and author Liz Harfull made their debuts as cooking demonstrators at the very popular Adelaide Showground Farmers Market on Sunday. A little nervous about the experience, Jean turned out to be an absolute natural, even while comparing herself unfavourably to television cook Nigela Lawson. Jean showed an enthusiastic audience how to make her prizewinning apple squares, a fantastic apple shortcake recipe passed on to her by her mother-in-law who was a World War I war bride from Scotland. Jean brought along her favourite backing pan, a tin made from a Mottram's flour tin lid during the Depression years and used faithfully ever since to make the squares.

Mavis does it again...

Temperatures topped 30 degrees C at Coonalpyn on Saturday but it didn't deter people from supporting the local show where ABC radio personality Peter Goers was a hit. Peter loves visiting regional areas and paid tribute to country people and the enormous contribution made by volunteers to community life during his opening speech. Among the crowd was prizewinning show cook Mavis Klitscher who has been going to the show since it started more than 60 years ago, with her father as president. Although Mavis doesn't cook any more she tries to enter at least one class in the indoor section, to keep in tact her record of competing in every single show. This year she only entered one thing - a gerbera in the cut flowers section - and won champion flower. Go Mavis!

Back home...

One of Liz Harfull's earliest memories is lying in bed listening to the arena announcements start up on show day, just a few paddocks away from the farm where she grew up at Mil Lel. It was a signal that it was time to get up and enjoy the excitement of show day. Years later and the sound is the same, according to Liz who returned to her 'home' show as a special guest on October 11. And what a day it turned out to be. Held in absolutely perfect spring weather, the event attracted a record crowd and an expanded program of displays and attractions, including a staggering seven rings for horse events. Not bad for one of the only two district shows (as opposed to a show held in a township) still being held in South Australia. Overseeing activities in the hall was convenor and local show cook Margaret Douglas, pictured with her daughter Helen, who was on hand to help.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Minlaton Show celebrates 130 years

Despite a few early showers of rain, locals and people visiting Yorke Peninsula for the school holidays, turned out in large numbers for the Minlaton Show on Wednesday. The society was celebrating a very special occasion - its 130th event. The grounds feature one of the oldest show buildings still in use, and the home of its indoor competitive classes. While the cookery and preserves entries were outstanding, it was the number and quality of entries in the floral and pot plant classes that really drew the admiration of showgoers. Read more about the show...

MASH takes Minlaton

Young Angus McEvoy thought outside the square when he came up with this prizewinning entry at the Minlaton Show on Wednesday. Angus decided to pay tribute to the popular US sitcom set in the Korean War, in a special class for decorated trays with a TV theme. Not sure the judges would have seen too many heaps of cold potato in this class before, but it draw more than a few chuckles from people as they explored the indoor exhibits. Good one, Angus!

Go Marj

Kingston cook Marj Maczkowiack was undoubtedly the star of this year's Kingston Show which attracted a bumper crowd to the popular Limestone Coast event on Sunday. No sooner had regional show association president Garry Possingham launched The Blue Ribbon Cookbook than queues of people starting forming to buy copies and get Marj to sign them. Queues are nothing new for Marj - people line up in the town's mainstreet every Easter to buy her astounding sponge rolls from a community fundraising stall. Now in her 80s, Marj still cooks through 24 hours before the show to prepare her entries. This year she was rewarded with a perpetual trophy for her cockles (which she has won 11 times according to proud husband Rodney) and the aggregate trophy for the open cookery section. At the end of the afternoon a large crowd gathered for the trophy presentations, with secretary Kathy Wright and committee member Judy Taplin pictured doing the honours.

A little bit of magic at Bordertown

Perfect spring weather brought plenty of young families out for the annual Bordertown Spring Festival last Saturday. Liz officially opened the festival, which is the current name of the traditional Bordertown Show. A ute competition and a visiting magician were highlights of the program, but one of the more unusual spectacles was this tame kookaburra, which was part of the popular animal nursery. It was fascinating to see this remarkable Australian bird so close up.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Riverland renaissance

The Loxton show society organised a wonderful afternoon tea on Friday to host the Riverland launch of The Blue Ribbon Cookbook. About 60 people filled the town's small CWA hall for the event, which also raised money for the society. President Linda Wiltshire and secretary Lynn Schmaal were thrilled with the success of the day, with the society selling out its order of books. Author Liz Harfull talked about how she put together the book and shared stories about some of the cooks, encouraging people to enter in the region's upcoming shows at Loxton on October 5 and 6, Pinnaroo on October 8 and Renmark on October 25. Special guests at the afternoon tea included Loxton cook Joyce Braun, who shares her cinnamon coffee cake in the book, and Pinnaroo cook Dorothy Barker, who brought along one of her prizewinning chocolate layer cakes. It was the first time Dorothy had made the cake since her sister died. Dorothy tells the story in the book of how she 'lost heart and gave up' on making the cake after her sister died a few years ago. Liz is pictured top with Linda and Joyce.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Everyone a winner...

Wilmington turned on its best spring weather for their annual show on Sunday, where author Liz Harfull helped make presentations to the Prince, Princess and Show Personality winners. The competitions were extremely popular with young show goers, with more than 20 children lining up to participate. Judging was not too onerous a task - the winners of the first two competitons had their names drawn out of a hat and every participant received an ice cream and a gift voucher. No wonder it was so popular! Despite side show operators letting them down at the last minute, the kids seemed to find plenty to do, including riding around the arena in a grand parade of historic vehicles. There was a great community atmosphere at the event which had some very well supported indoor sections despite the small population of this historic town in Beautiful Valley. Indoor sections were well supported, with the fruit and vegetables, flowers and junior art classes proving particularly popular. A stunning cabbage grown by junior gardener Phillip won the champion vegetable, and this handsome rooster from Peterborough did quite well for himself in the poultry section.

Wheat over the centuries

A special feature at the Kimba show was a display, created by a local farmer, showing samples of major wheat varieties grown in Australia since the first years of settlement. The seed was provided by various research institutions. It included varieties popular in the Roman era, the first varieties bred in Australia, including Federation released in 1901, and popular current varieties. It was fascinating to see the difference in grain size and numbers, height, and maturity.

Not just about the book...

It is strange the things a writer can find themselves doing, especially if they take on writing a book about country shows. On Saturday, for the first time, Liz found herself officially opening an agricultural show - at Kimba - and helping to make presentations to two new life members of the local show society. She definitely needs to practice her badge pinning techniques, although at least she managed not to stab anyone in the chest.

Despite blustery weather there was a good turnout for the event, with some impressive entries in the cookery section, particularly the sponge rolls which were mouth-watering works of art.

And speaking of sponge rolls, a special treat was getting to share lunch with Wudinna cook Mavis Sampson who shares her honey sponge roll recipe in The Blue Ribbon Cookbook. Mavis travelled to Kimba to especially to meet Liz - the two had to rely on telephone discussions to create the Wudinna section of the book.

Many thanks for show secretary Janet King, local cook and convenor Dianne Hamblyn, and their colleagues for their hospitality. Janet is pictured viewing the world from the customer window of the secretary's office, which saw quite a bit of traffic on Saturday.

Liz travelled to Kimba with Bob and Margaret Rankin from Wilmington, who are featured in The Blue Ribbon Cookbook with their lemon butter recipe. The Rankins were called on to help judge junior handicrafts, and preserves sections at the show, but they also siezed the opportunity to take some entries along for the cookery section, and some entries from daughter Pauline for the handicrafts section where she won a trophy.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The West is calling

Author Liz Harfull is off to the West Coast of South Australia this weekend to officially open the Kimba Show on Saturday. She will also be part of a local launch for The Blue Ribbon Cookbook and catch up with local show cook Dianne Hamlyn who provided her prizewinning chocolate cupcake recipe for the book. Then on Sunday she will be a special guest at the Wilmington Show.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

On the Yellow Brick Road

Liz joined volunteers from country shows across the State at their stand at the Royal Adelaide Show last week. The display was part of the extremely popular Yellow Brick Road trail which takes people around the showground collecting food products. Liz spent time at the site most days, signing books and sharing stories about cooking and show cooks. She is pictured (left) with Uraidla Show secretary Rosie Schulz.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

First shipment sells out in five days...

What an amazing week it has been for The Blue Ribbon Cookbook. The first shipment of the book sold out in just five days, thanks to overwhelming interest by the media and patrons at the 2008 Royal Adelaide Show. The publishers are expecting the second shipment to be unpacked and in book stores by the end of the month. Apologies to disappointed show patrons hoping to purchase a copy during the event, which ends on Saturday.

Something in the water...

A few square kilometres of country covering the South Australian/Victorian border at the southern tip of Australia is proving to have more than its fair share of prizewinning cooks. The tiny farming district of Mil Lel, known for its lush pastures and high-producing dairy farms, is also home to Emma Kemp and Margaret Douglas. Born and bred on a dairy farm at Mil Lel and now living in the Adelaide Hills, Emma has won the 2008 aggregate trophy as the most successful exhibitor in open cookery classes overall at the Royal Adelaide Show, also winning most successful exhibitor awards in pastries and desserts. On the same day Margaret won the State Genoa Cake Competition, judged in conjunction with the launch of The Blue Ribbon Cookbook, written by Liz Harfull, who, you guessed it, is also originally from Mil Lel. And the State Rich Fruit Cake Championship was won by Shirley Harvey, who comes from Strathdownie, the neighbouring farming district on the Victorian side of the border. Another cook from Mil Lel, Beryl Hill, her daughter Judith Wood, and grandson, Geoffrey Wood are also feature in the book as champion cooks for the Mount Gambier Show where Beryl was the first woman president. Must be something in the plentiful underground water sources for which both districts are known... Pictured at the show are (from left) Geoffrey, Margaret, Shirley, Liz, Beryl and her husband, Murray.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Meet the author

Liz Harfull is having the time of her life this week at the Royal Adelaide Show - Australia's leading city-based agricultural show in terms of attendance per capita. More than half a million people pass through the show gates in eight days, drawn by an amazing mix of competitive classes for everything from embroidery (and cookery of course) to livestock, grains and dairy products. Liz is on hand most days between 11am and 1pm, and 2pm and 4pm, to sign books at the Country Shows stand in the Farm Expo pavilion. She will also be joining ABC radio presenter Peter Goers on his evening show, broadcast from the ABC site near the Secretary's Office on Wednesday evening, at about 8.30pm.

Life is a jubilee...

The humble Jubilee Cake is taking the spotlight this week thanks to the efforts of guest ABC cookery presenter Allie Reynolds, who featured the recipe from The Blue Ribbon Cookbook, during her regular monthly spot on Carol Whitelock's afternoon program.

Broadcast from the Royal Adelaide Show, the program yesterday featured Allie talking about the recipe and serving pieces of a cake she had baked to the crowd. Allie is fascinated by the history of the recipe, which is proving a little elusive. It has been spotted in cookbooks dating as early as 1928, but we are still trying to work out which 'jubilee' it celebrates. The latest theory, is that it was created in South Australia to mark the 25th anniversary of federation. We would love to hear from you at if you know more.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Blue Ribbon cooking with Rosa

Author Liz Harfull will be joining chef Rosa Mato in The Meating Place demonstration kitchen at the Royal Adelaide Show on Thursday, September 11 at 12.30 pm. Liz is not too sure how her skills as an author writing about mainly baking and preserves making is going to help her tackle the assignment, but why not come along and find out...

The new 'Green and Gold'

It has been an amazing few days in the life of The Blue Ribbon Cookbook, with 180 guests gathering to celebrate the launch in the stunning new Goyder Pavilion at the Wayville Showground in Adelaide. Local ABC radio presenter Peter Goers (pictured left with author Liz Harfull) officially launched the book, describing it as a "love letter" to country shows and country show cooks. And Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society of SA president Charlie Downer forecast it would become the new 'Green and Gold', refering to the iconic 1920s cookbook that is still in print and found on shelves in almost every South Australian household. A highlight of the launch was the afternoon tea, featuring 30 of the recipes found in the book, made by the cooks themselves, who were guests of honour. They travelled from as far as Port Lincoln and Tumby Bay on the West Coast, Kulcurna Station, just over the Victorian/NSW border on the banks of the River Murray, and Mount Gambier in the south-eastern corner of the State.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Come and join us for breakfast

Author Liz Harfull and three of the cooks featured in The Blue Ribbon Cookbook will be special guests at this year's Royal Show Breakfast on Thursday September 11. Hosted by Rural Media South Australia, the breakfast is an annual highlight during Adelaide 'show week'. Joining Liz in a fun-filled celebration of show cooks and their surprising stories will be Mary Starkey from Mount Pleasant; Angaston winemaker Carol Riebke, and RAHS treasurer and rosarian, Walter Duncan, who comes from one of the State’s most prominent show families. Liz is well known to Rural Media members for her work as Australia’s representative to the International Federation for Agricultural Journalists. To book for the breakfast visit

Gawler Show takes first place...

Gawler cook Kath Palamountain was honoured at the 152nd annual Gawler Show yesterday (Saturday August 30) when author Liz Harfull presented her with one of the first copies of The Blue Ribbon Cookbook. Kath has been involved in the cookery section of the show for 45 years and is about to retire. Her rock bun recipe is featured in the book - and it won Kath another first prize this year.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Have cake will travel

For the past few years Mundulla cook Kath Herrmann has been putting a sultana cake on the bus to travel more than 3000 kilometres to Darwin as an entry for the northern city's annual show. At her first attempt she won third and last year she came second. This year her persistence has finally paid off and she won first. Kath's award-winning recipe and her tips for success can be found in The Blue Ribbon Cookbook.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

It should be a hoot

Plans are well in hand for the official launch of the book by popular ABC radio presenter Peter Goers on September 4. To use one of Peter's favourite sayings, "it should be a hoot!"
Many of the cooks featured in the book are planning to bring their signature recipe for what promises to be one of the best afternoon tea spreads people have seen in years. The cooks are all looking forward to meeting each other, and the team of test cooks who put all the recipes through their paces are very excited about meeting the people behind the recipes and comparing notes.

Crossing the Rubicon

Yesterday I had the chance to meet other authors at the Salisbury Writers' Festival, a wonderful event for literary enthusiasts held annually in the northern part of Adelaide. It was my first outing as a speaker at a writer's festival, instead of being part of the audience - a strange sensation indeed.
I shared the morning session with rural 'icon' Angela Goode, well known for her popular Great Working Dog Stories, and best selling fantasy and crime writer, Fiona McIntosh. Angela recently stopped writing her weekly column in The Advertiser - a great shame given that it was the only regular column in Australia focussing on rural issues.
The event was also the first public outing for The Blue Ribbon Cookbook. Although we had no actual copies of the book (they are on their way back from the printer), we offered a preview via a special PowerPoint presentation.
Feedback from participants was extremely encouraging, and the excitement is building as the team responsible for creating the book awaits the arrival of the first copies within the next week or so.