Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Learn how to make the perfect Christmas cake

Champion cook Emma Kemp will be demonstrating how to make the perfect rich fruit cake in time for Christmas at the Adelaide Showground Farmers Market on Sunday, December 13. Emma will appear with author Liz Harfull at 11am, in the market's popular demonstration kitchen. A major trophy winner at the Royal Adelaide Show, the audacious Emma is one of show cooking's brighest young stars. She has already qualified for the 2010 State Rich Fruit Cake Championship, after winning a qualifying regional final at the recent Lucindale Show.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Full house for Mount Gambier event

A full house of more than 120 people greeted Liz yesterday for her first Meet the Author event in her home town of Mount Gambier. Volunteers from the local Anglican Church created a fabulous spread for the occasion, using recipes from the book; they also organised a magnificent display of old cookbooks and historic kitchen items from the local National Trust collection. Liz talked about her early ambitions to become a writer, her career as a journalist, starting at the local newspaper, The Border Watch, and how The Blue Ribbon Cookbook came about. The event raised funds for the Christ Church Building Fund.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Meeting a favourite author

In between a hectic program of attending country shows, a recent personal highlight for Liz was having the chance to meet one of her favourite authors, Diana Gabaldon, during her visit to Australia this month. Diana has sold more then 8 million books, including the wildly popular, award-winning Outlander series. The seventh novel in the series, An Echo in the Bone, was released in Australia in September. A full-house of more than 200 people greeted Diana at her Mount Barker appearance, where guests were entertained with live traditional Scottish folk music, and refreshments, including wines specially labelled for the occasion.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Author heads home...

Liz Harfull will return to her home town for a special Meet the Author event to raise funds for the Christ Church Building fund in Mount Gambier. “We are really looking forward to hosting Liz and hearing about her adventures in writing the book, and being a published author,” says parish council member, Wendy Monger. “Since the book was released she has traveled the State appearing at country shows and speaking at author events, but this will be the first opportunity most people will have had to hear her speak about it in her home town. We are planning to provide a good old-fashioned afternoon tea for the event, including recipes from the book. The local branch of the National Trust is organizing a special display from its collection, and there will be a display of old recipe books provided by various parishioners.”
The event will be held on November 18 at 2pm at Christ Church Hall, Bay Road. Tickets cost $8, including afternoon tea, and are available from the church office, phone 8723 1353. Copies of the book will be for sale (cash only) and signing at the event.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Bloomin marvellous

The annual Penola Show at the weekend turned on a spectacular display of roses, filling most of Rymill Hall with one of the most spectacular exhibitions of cut flowers you would find anywhere. Because of a sudden, unseasonally warm spell, more than a few exhibitors dragged themselves out of bed in the small hours of the morning to cut their blooms for the event. Up for grabs was a $1000 prize for the overall champion rose - not easy to win given the town's reputation for producing outstanding roses and the increasing number and level of competition.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Eggs galore

Keeping your own chickens is obviously a popular pass-time at Callington. Author Liz Harfull counted more than 60 entries in the egg classes when she attended the annual show yesterday to officially open the event - by her reckoning, not far off the total number of houses in the small, historic mining town between Murray Bridge and Mount Barker. Callington holds what is believed to be Australia's youngest agricultural show. Now in its eighth year, the event is growing steadily, with the support of a very active local community and sponsors. Indoor classes grew so much this year the organising committee had to add a marquee to the side of the hall to cope. The event is also drawing a growing number of patrons from Adelaide, keen to experience the traditions of a country show.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Country Hour cooks up a storm

ABC Country Hour Riverland reporter Natalie Oliveri and trainee reporter Amy Spear didn't have much baking experience to fall back on when they took on competing in the first-ever ABC Country Hour cook-off in South Australia at the Royal Adelaide Show on Friday. The challenge? Using the lemonade scone recipe from The Blue Ribbon Cookbook and a selection of 'mystery' ingredients to make savoury scones. The cook-off took place in the kitchens above the CWA cafe at the showground, where kitchen supervisor Lorraine very kindly provided the necessary equipment. Also on hand to offer advice was Joy Bricknell, from Naracoorte - the winner of this year's inaugural State Scone Competition. Author Liz Harfull acted as on-site host for the event which involved three live crosses during the Country Hour. CWA State president Rosemary Crocker judged the scones as soon as they came out of the over, giving the honours to Natalie for scones flavoured with a combination of capsicum, paprika, bacon and cheese. Visit the ABC website for their report.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A rare double victory for Brigitte

Lucindale cook Brigitte Taylor has become only the second competitor in history to win both of South Australia’s top awards for show cooking in the same year. The relative newcomer has surprised a field of seasoned finalists to take out both the prestigious South Australian Rich Fruit Cake Championship and the State Genoa Cake Competition. Brigitte’s surprising double act make it a clean sweep for South East cooks, with Joy Bricknell from Naracoorte taking out the inaugural State Scone Competition, judged during the same session.
Originally from Bordertown, Brigitte started entering cookery competitions in her twenties, and has only once before had a cake qualify at regional level for the top competitions. While she is not prepared to give away any secrets, she attributes her success to “luck” and the influence of her German-born family who were keen and capable cooks and passed on a love of baking. “My Mum got me started with good old-fashioned German cooking,” she said.
Organised by the Agricultural Societies Council of South Australia and sponsored by Sunbeam Foods and Angoves, the rich fruit cake championship started in 1982 and the genoa competition in 1986. In the 23 years since, Watervale cook Jenny Parish has been the only other person to take out both titles in the same year (2002).
Kay Johnson from Moonta was second in the rich fruit cake championship, followed by Carol Houston from Kangaroo Island. Kirsty Pfeiffer, representing the Northern region, was second in the genoa cake section with Gloria Buck from Millicent, placed third. Joyce Neumann from the Murraylands region was second in the scone competition and Nanette Simpson from the Northern region was third.
You can see all their entries in the Goyder Pavilion throughout the Royal Adelaide Show, which runs until September 12.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

All in a pickle thanks to Mavis

Mavis Lee's prizewinning recipe for mustard pickles worked like a charm for Lisa Jesse in her first experience entering the Royal Adelaide Show cookery competitions. Lisa followed the recipe and tips given by the experienced show cook who is featured in the Kapunda section of The Blue Ribbon Cookbook, with fantastic results. "I have you to thank for the inspiration in entering in the Royal Adelaide Show with my mustard pickles – and I came runner up in my first attempt! I can’t believe it," she wrote to author Liz Harfull. Open cookery and preserves sections at the show were judged on Thursday and are on display in the Goyder Pavilion until the show closes on September 12.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Cakes from Catherine

With some innovative help from her Mum, one of The Blue Ribbon Cookbook's youngest test cooks has used the orange cake recipe from Renmark show cook, Paul Hansen, to make cup cakes. The cakes were a special treat for her teacher's 50th birthday. Apparently, he was very impressed, and given the photo Catherine sent us of her efforts, we are not surprised!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Taking Blue Ribbon to the Outback

Adelaide chef Abbas Ibrahim is on the road this week, cooking for participants in the amazing Variety Club Bash, which raises money for charity. Abbas has had the gig for the past 10 years, with his curry nights a very popular feature for the bash crew. But last night he tried something a little different - serving up a recipe from The Blue Ribbon Cookbook for dessert. Jean Evans's popular apple square recipe, from Uraidla, in the Adelaide Hills, was made for about 450 people attending a special dinner at The Painted Desert, about 90 kilometres north of Coober Pedy. Abbas had help from fellow chef, Chris, at Woodbake in Stirling, who made the squares. When he isnt cooking for the bash, Abbas runs two take-away Indian food businesses under the name indis, at Crafers and Glenside.

Monday, August 10, 2009

And from London to Texas... and barbecue

Life is nothing if not diverse for Liz. Apart from being an author, she also works as a journalist and communicator within the rural sector in Australia, and represents the country on the executive of the International Federation for Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ) which brings together the world's rural press clubs and professional guilds for media and communicators who specialise in food and agriculture. The IFAJ has just held its annual congress in Texas, where Liz got to try barbecue - Texas style. The cook responsible was Sam, who actually works as a cowboy on a nearby ranch. The barbecue beef was a treat, served with a rich potato salad made with mustard and real home-made beans in a smokey barbecue sauce.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

From Paris to London

After attending the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Paris, Liz travelled on to the UK where she caught up with friends, and on her way home this week, made a visit to the famous Fortnum and Masons store in London. The store is famous for its fine foods, particularly tea, and its fabulous window displays. But after spending so much time admiring fruit cakes in show competitions across South Australia, what really caught her eye was this magnificent display of tinned fruit cakes in the main food emporium.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

It's a what?

Liz was fortunate enough to be a guest of the Guild of Agricultural Journalists in Great Britain this week, at the last ever Royal Show in England. The annual event held at Stoneleigh Park, near Stratford on Avon, has been running for 160 years but the society has decided to call it quits and hold smaller, more focussed events for the country's farmers instead. The show is quite different to royal shows in Australia - no side shows, no indoor competitions for general classes like cookery, crafts and art, no show bags. The primary focus is livestock, and what an amazing collection of popular and rare breeds were on show at the last event. For Liz, the highlight was undoubtedly discovering the 'woolly' pig - yes, a breed of pig with a thick, curly coat, originally from Hungary. For a collection of photographic highlights visit

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Slow Food experience

During her stay in Paris, Liz caught up with members of Slow Food, the international organisation which encourages people to explore and preserve traditional food cultures. Members of the Bastille Convivium took her to see a community garden they have established in a residential area in the heart of Paris. Volunteers from the energetic group also cook for their own community restaurant, set up at a local food market. Pictured in the community garden are convivium president, Diane Marshall, an Aussie girl, who left Melbourne about 20 years ago to live in France, Marion Desmartin, who is a publisher, and graphic designer, Corrine.

A blue ribbon experience in Paris

The Blue Ribbon Cookbook was named runner-up against more than 50 other finalists in the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Paris on July 1. Author Liz Harfull travelled to France for the event, held in the beautiful home of the famous La Comedie Francaise theatre company. Food and wine book authors from around the world gathered for the stellar occasion which featured a special appearance by Julia Powell, whose blog and memoir about her daily experiences cooking each of the 524 recipes in Julia Child's famous book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, is about to be released as a feature film starring Merryl Streep and Amy Adams.
The Easy Recipe book category in which Liz's book competed, was won by Spanish author Xabier Guterrez. In announcing the winner, awards organiser Edouard Cointreau (pictured with Liz) pointed out the category was the hardest to win, with more than half the cookbooks sold around the world falling into this sector.
Cointreau, who is from the famous French wine-making family, acted as host and master of ceremonies at the event. Guests were served vintage champagne and cognac, and food prepared by students from the famous Le Cordon Bleu cooking school, which is headed up by his brother, Andre Cointreau.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Rural charms and the odd jelly cake thrill Peter

Friend of The Blue Ribbon Cookbook, ABC radio presenter Peter Goers and his famous love of rural Australia are the subjects of a feature story in this week's Stock Journal. Peter, who launched the book in September last year, talks about why he is a 'barracker for the bush', and his love of country halls, and, perhaps not incidentally, the wonderful tradition of the bring-a-plate country supper, 'with old pine trestle tables laden with curried-egg sandwiches, sausage rolls, jelly cakes and cream puffs.' Click here to read the whole story.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Slow Food event at Stirling

Members of the Adelaide Hills convivium of Slow Food will use recipes from The Blue Ribbon Cookbook to cater for a special open garden at 'Boxwell' in Stirling on April 19. The event is part of the annual Autumn Garden Festival. Liz will be on hand from 10am to sell and sign books, and funds raised from the catering will go towards the Victorian bushfires appeal.

A great night at Marion

Marion Library organised a wonderful Meet the Author event for Liz on Tuesday night, with 170 people turning out to hear more about The Blue Ribbon Cookbook. Many thanks to Jenny Newman and the rest of the wonderful staff at the library.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Blue Ribbon named in top three

The Blue Ribbon Cookbook has been named in the short-list for the Best in the World competition run as part of the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. The book is one of three selected from 54 finalists for the Best Easy Recipe Book section. The winner will be announced at a special dinner at the Comedie Francais theatre in Paris on July 1.

Celebrating 'real' food - move over Nigela

An extremely impressive array of old-fashioned baking, tea pots, eye-catching aprons and blue gingham tableclothes captured the spirit of The Blue Ribbon Cookbook at a series of events in South Australia last month. The sessions were part of The Big Book Club, which selected the book as its February title. At Saddleworth, north of Adelaide, the local mayor praised it as a welcome relief from over-hyped celebrity cookbooks because it celebrates 'real food cooked by real people'. Host communities certainly proved the point through the morning and afternoon teas and suppers they provided, with much of the cooking being done by library volunteers and students from local schools. Liz travelled to Stirling, McLarenVale, Victor Harbor, Gawler, Balaklava, Minlaton (pictured), Saddleworth and Walkerville for the program, often joined by local cooks featured in the book. It was the first Big Book Club event held at Minlaton, and the first time a Big Book Club event has been held in the impressive library at Victor Harbor.

Above: Liz (right) with Clarrie Wandel and his daughter Christine Burford at the Balaklava event. Clarrie's wife, the late Doris Wandel, is featured in the book with her Mango Diabetic Fruit Cake recipe.

Above: Patrons queue up for their books at the McLaren Vale event.

Above: The event at the award-winning Stirling Library.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Taking it slow

Summer means tomatoes and for Italians ripe red tomatoes mean sugo – it’s sauce-making time. Last Sunday I joined other members of the Adelaide and Barossa convivium of Slow Food in a special event at the home of Malvina and Sebastiano Crugnale for their annual sauce making. After processing bucket loads of ripe Roma tomatoes, we enjoyed a simple but extremely tasty lunch of pasta, prepared by their son, Camillo, who is chef at respected Adelaide restaurant, Assaggio. Not about show cooking, but what a treat! And we all brought home two bottles of sauce each as a reward for rolling up our sleeves and helping out.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Big Book Club coup for Blue Ribbon

In a rare honour for a book that is neither fiction or biography, The Advertiser Big Book Club has chosen The Blue Ribbon Cookbook as its February selection. Author Liz Harfull will speak at eight special events in South Australian libraries, starting with her home library in Stirling. Meet the author sessions are also planned for McLaren Vale, Victor Harbor, Gawler, Balaklava, Minlaton, Saddleworth and Walkerville. For more information visit

You can't keep a good cook down...

It takes more than a broken arm to stop a country show enthusiast from doing their bit, as Jean Evans proved yesterday at the annual Uraidla Show, held in the picturesque Picadilly Valley of the Adelaide Hills. Jean broke her arm in two places a few weeks ago, but decided to go ahead and give a demonstration of her prizewinning apple squares recipe, with some help from daughter Janice. Meanwhile husband Bob claimed a special trophy for the local exhibitor with the highest number of points, thanks to a fine collection of pot plants, cut flowers and vegetables. Another daughter, Rosie Schulz, is show secretary. She was delighted with the large crowd who enjoyed perfect weather conditions, in stark contrast to the past couple of years when temperatures have topped 40 degrees.

Blue ribbons in the Barossa

The beautiful Barossa Valley north of Adelaide produces more than very fine wines - its cooks are renown too for their efforts. About 100 people, including some very experienced show cooks, turned out for a Meet the Author session with Liz Harfull, hosted by the Nuriootpa Library and its wonderful staff (pictured). Liz told a few of the stories behind The Blue Ribbon Cookbook, and enjoyed a lively question time before the gathering adjourned for supper, provided by Friends of the Library. Tanunda cook Margaret Hurst reminded people to think about entering the coming autumn shows, with the Angaston event on February 28 and the Tanunda Show on March 14.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Discovering Jubilee Cake on Brophy's road

Melbourne-based Irish-Australian singer and songwriter Vince Brophy sent me this photo of his first attempt at one my favourite recipes - the Jubilee Cake. One of the keen amateur test cooks for The Blue Ribbon Cookbook, Vince usually focusses his energies on making wonderful sauces, relishes and preserves from an impressive backyard veggie patch. But he took time out from adding the finishing touches to his new CD, Brophy's Road, to try his hand at baking with great results.

The Jubilee Cake is a humble fruit cake recipe which originated in South Australia, although there is some debate about which juiblee it was created for. I love it because it requires minimal ingredients, is quick to make and bakes in just 20 to 30 minutes. You apply the runny icing when its warm to speed up the process even more. No doubt it was a farmhouse favourite when neighbours unexpectedly dropped in for a cup of tea and a chat.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Feast in a flash

Country shows are not the only places to test your cooking skills. Adelaide's extremely popular Feast Festival also runs a cookery competition with many of the categories traditionally found at shows. Among the winners in 2008 was professional photographer Rosey Boehm (pictured with her dog Sybil), who won a first prize for her quince jelly and a second prize for her crab apple jelly. If you want to give Rosey a run for her money in 2009 there is a great quince jelly recipe in The Blue Ribbon Cookbook, courtesy of prize-winning Cummns cook, Jan Nitschke, with some great tips from Jan and the judges to help you on your way.

And the winners are...

The Royal Automobile Association of South Australia (RAA) has announced winners of a competition run last year for copies of The Blue Ribbon Cookbook. More than 5300 people entered the competition, the highest for any book competition ever run by the organisation. Congratulations to the lucky recipients - Mrs H Batson, Goroke (Victoria); Mrs S Timm, Goolwa;
Mr S Bressanelli, Broken Hill; Miss J Cockrum, Reynella; and Mrs M Ellis, Pt Augusta West.