I'll take an Australian Christmas over a wintry white northern affair any time.
Our long summer days lend themselves to happy travelling and beachside holidays.
There are simply more hours in the day to enjoy festivities with friends and family.
A midsummer Christmas can be embodied by the great Australian social tradition of gathering around a barbecue laden with prawns or lamb chops.
But for me it's the perfect time to dust off that old pavlova recipe because late December means the Australian berry season is in full swing.
- READ MORE: Alliance between Orange, Cabonne and Blayney
Orange and the surrounding region is rightly renowned for its abundance of top quality fruit and Huntley Berry Farm is a real jewel in the crown.
The farm is set on six hectares just south of Lucknow where a wide range of fruit, vegetables and nuts are grown without chemicals and according to organic principles.
Huntley Berry farm is a not-for-profit Australian Disability Enterprise owned and operated by OCTEC.
Tony Belmonte manages the farm with his brother Gianni, and the pair have revitalised the venue in recent years.
The brothers have developed the infrastructure, expanded the offerings and overseen real growth in both the farming component and the disabilities program.
This season's probably been the best ever, because the rain has come at the right time and we've had this extra sunlight.Tony Belmonte from Huntley Berry Farm.
They currently employ 16 full-time workers with disabilities, providing training and skill development that can lead to work outside of Huntley Berry Farm.
Berry season runs from mid-November till May and customers can pick their own or buy from the shelf at their shop.
Besides berries, customers can purchase at different times of the year; cherries, figs, grapes, peaches, nectarines, pears, feijoas and lemons.
Chestnuts, hazelnuts and walnuts are also available as well as a number of vegetables including lettuce, capsicum, broccoli, tomatoes, eggplant, pumpkin, zucchini, cauliflower and squash.
If that's not enough choice, visitors can take home farm fresh eggs, mineral spring water, housemade jams and chutneys or young plants from the nursery.
Despite showing some early promise, last season was disastrous.
Continuous drought conditions had already made things tough before bushfire smoke kept the bees dormant so they wouldn't perform their pollination duties.
The COVID-19 shutdown slammed the door on salvaging much from the latter part of the season.
However, like many other food businesses in the region they're enjoying a strong bounce back this summer thanks to terrific tourist numbers and this year's much needed rainfall.
Since reopening to the public four weeks ago they've already greeted around 3000 visitors.
Tony says "I've never seen weekends in Orange this busy".
Strawberries and redcurrants have been extremely popular in recent weeks and raspberries are coming into peak season right now while a bumper crop of blueberries will be ripe in a couple of weeks.
"This season's probably been the best ever, because the rain has come at the right time and we've had this extra sunlight," Belmonte added.
RECIPE OF THE WEEK
- Summer Fruit Pavlova
- 6 x egg whites
- 270g caster sugar
- 2 t cornflour
- 1 t white vinegar
- 300ml thickened cream
- 150ml strawberry jam
- 1/2 x mango, cut into long thin slices
- 1/2 C strawberries, hulled and halved
- 1/2 C raspberries
- 1/2 C blueberries
- 1/2 bunch fresh mint, cut into ribbons
- Preheat oven to 120 degrees.
- Line a baking tray with baking paper and grease lightly
- Whisk the egg whites in a mixing bowl while slowly adding the sugar so that it dissolves easily.
- Continue whisking for up to 10 minutes until very firm peaks.
- Mix in the cornflour and vinegar.
- Spread mixture onto baking tray making your preferred shape and keeping a consistent height of about two inches.
- Place into oven, turn it down to 105 and bake for 90 minutes.
- Turn oven off and leave the door slightly ajar for one more hour.
- Whip the cream to medium peaks and gradually add the jam.
- Transfer pavlova base to a serving platter.
- Spread the strawberry cream generously over the base and arrange the fruit loosely on top.
- Garnish with the mint and a dusting of icing sugar.
Richard Learmonth is an experienced chef and will be writing a food column for the Central Western Daily every second Saturday.
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