A Day With Belinda Jeffery
As the heavens opened, the rain poured down creating a fine mist over the small village of Federal, located in the stunning Northern Rivers region of NSW. Pools of water quickly appeared along the road-side and there was a beautiful sense of calm as I sipped away on my warming cup of Matcha.
This calmness was overcome by an incredible feeling of nervous-excited energy as the day had finally arrived! The day that I had been looking forward to for so long. As I skipped over the rain-soaked blades of grass into the old Federal town hall I was welcomed with open-arms and a warm hug by someone who has inspired me greatly. A kind-hearted, encouraging, beautiful lady who has taught myself and many, many others the true essence of what it is to cook, bake and create with joy.
After attending a pastry masterclass with Belinda a couple of years ago, (has it really been that long!?) at Tamsin Carvan's beautiful home in South Gippsland, Victoria. And declaring it is one of the happiest days I have experienced. One can only imagine my excitement for this day, as during this time, thanks to the wonderful world of social media, I feel that a very lovely and special friendship has been formed between Belinda and I. I feel so incredibly grateful for her vongoing support and words of encouragement for not only myself but for her many, many followers. She takes the time to write back to most, if not all of her comments with the most heart-felt words and I think that's pretty special, considering how full her life is. Her husband, Clive is also such an incredibly lovely man and they make the most wonderful team. Isn't it just so lovely to see the love and support that couples have for each other even after years of marriage! And what may seem like a never ending production line of dirty dishes! Now, that's saying something.
Walking out onto the deck at the back of the hall was a wall of greenery and tall palms creating the lushest of backdrops. It was here that I met the lovely, Sophie, we had an instant connection, quickly discovering that she also had a bubba who was just 2 weeks younger than Beau.
As we took our seats on the old church pews, thoroughly enjoying a deliciously moist flourless almond and coconut cake, Belinda began to explain all of the dishes that we would be creating and they well and truly had a our tastebuds in a tizz! All of which were to be made with locally grown produce which had either come from their home or from the many farmers and growers who produce some of the freshest, flavour-packed food I have had the pleasure of eating. Take the humble hazelnut for instance. Never have I ever tasted one like it until this day. They were not only a sight to behold but the flavour that burst into my mouth as I slowly chewed away was like nothing I had experienced. It was in fact a "real" Hazelnut!
We all made our way into the kitchen. Apron strings were tied and we positioned ourselves at the bench. Chopping board, knife and recipes at the ready it wasn't long before the kitchen filled with chatter, laughter and mouth-watering aromas all mingling together as pots bubbled away on the stove-top; the hum of the food processor whizzing away as everyone scurried about, mixing, kneading, chopping and tasting while Belinda was always just there at our sides to lend a helping hand or offer words of advice. Never once allowing us to feel intimidated or worried that we would do the "wrong" thing.
Local handmade cheeses lovingly created by Debra Allard from "Cheeses loves You" together with homemade pumperknickel soda bread provided the fuel we needed to finish everything off in the kitchen.
It all came together like a patch work quilt . A few of us stood around the bench segmenting oranges together, allowing the sweet juices to run through our hands. At this particular point I remember thinking quietly to myself that I would always remember this day as one full of great happiness and contentedness.
We all sat down at the long rustic timber table out on the deck, which had been set with beautiful linen napkins, white crockery and petite glass vases full of the prettiest little orange, yellow and purple flowers. Our tastebuds could wait no longer and we tucked into the lightest, fluffiest hummus which we spread onto smoky, crunchy pide crisps and little dill and lettuce "cakes" which accompanied the most delicious, garlicky almond skordalia. This was just to start us off. What followed was truly divine.
A ricotta, rosemary and goats cheese torta was the perfect wedge of cheesy deliciousness to go with Belinda's mum's dolmades, twice-cooked honey and harissa glazed eggplant, sweet and sour peppers and a refreshing fennel, watercress, pear and roasted pecan salad with a white balsamic dressing. As the sunshine broke through the clouds conversation flowed, glasses were topped up and the sound of cutlery on empty plates suggested that our bellies were well and truly satisfied. But, there is always room for dessert! Even more so when its a beautiful Sicilian ricotta, praline and hazelnut cake (which Sophie and I made!) It was served alongside those sweet, juicy caramelised oranges which were the most perfect match against the slightly crunchy top and the orange and chocolate spiked ricotta filling.
I tried to hold onto every moment of the day and soak it all up, every delicious second!The problem being that it just flew by so quickly and before we knew it the plates were cleared; the aprons came off and we farewelled our fellow food loving friends.
The day was everything and more that I had expected and as we said our good-byes to Belinda and Clive, I had the strongest feeling that we would soon catch up again in the not too distant future. I left the old Federal town hall that day smiling from ear to ear, full of inspiration and new learnings with an eagerness to create even more magic in the kitchen.
If you ever do get the opportunity to attend one of Belinda's classes I highly recommend you do. You will be treated to a day that will leave you full of not only deliciously delectable food but many happy memories too, and what could be better than that! Food and memories, its what life is all about!