When we visited the Southern Highlands in autumn last year, we were really enchanted by the beautiful colours of the trees and vegetation. We are just a little early this year but nevertheless, we see so many beautiful colours around Bowral, Berrima, Sutton Forest, Exeter and Bundanoon.
This year, we are staying at Hatch cottage within the ‘Mali Brae’ estate in Moss Vale, a quaint little country dwelling that was first built in 1860.
“1860 … that’s one hundred and fifty two years ago?”, I thought to myself as we drove past the cobblestone signage leading to the cottage that is on a 40-acre stretch of rolling hills and farmland.
With these thoughts, I drove slowly towards the wooden cottage. We are here as Mysaucepan‘s mother and a friend are visiting us in Sydney and she thought bringing them to the country would give a very different experience from merely spending the week in the “big smoke”.
A cosy and crackling fireplace greets us the moment we step into the cottage.
I should have taken some photos of a few issues of Australian Women’s Weekly in 1965. There are heart-warming recipes of a very young and beautiful Margaret Fulton and I could imagine what it was like cooking those hearty meals in this cosy little kitchen back then.
The two bedroom are elegantly furnished, comfortable and warm as the weather is quite chilly when we arrive.
Although the cottage is not big, it is adequate for the four of us and we feel so cosy by the fireplace.
Gum trees dot the landscape and make this vast bushland distinctively Australian.
There are about forty heads of cattle grazing in the hills and when we walk out onto the garden from the cottage, we have a vantage point of the entire farm where there are three trout ponds at the bottom of a small creek.
And as the sun sets upon us on this first evening, I am eager to prepare dinner with some of the ingredients that we brought with us.
These fruits and vegetables are so fresh, I restrain myself on the salt to try and get its natural flavours coming through.
The weather is cold and tonight, we are looking at about 8 degrees Celsius. I gather more firewood to make sure we keep the fireplace going throughout dinner and into the late evening.
We decide on some roast vegetables to make use of the heat and aromas of a warm oven. A drizzle of EVOO and sprinkle of salt and pepper onto roughly cut sweet potato, zucchini and potato slices and they look ready for the oven.
Mysaucepan prepares a fig and goat cheese salad with lettuce leaves and some roasted hazelnuts for a bit of crunch.
I love cooking in this small cottage because the aromas from the oven and open kitchen are so enticing. As usual, the ladies prefer fish as it is lighter and searing salmon fillets on a hot pan with EVOO is a simple yet delicious meal.
Lamb cutlets are lightly seasoned with dried mixed herbs, salt and black pepper. I sear these cutlets on very high heat and each side becomes gently charred with some crusty texture while it is beautifully medium rare inside.
A cosy cabin with a log fire cannot be complete without a hearty home-style soup in this cold weather.
I sautee some finely chopped leek, smoky bacon, carrots, onions in EVOO and then add a few pieces of smoked beef bones into my stock pot and simmer for a couple of hours.
Add some finely chopped zucchini, tomatoes and soup pasta towards the end and you have a hearty smoked bacon, zucchini and pasta soup to complement a toasty and glowing log fire.
Of course this wonderful meal is not complete when there is no music.
Listening to Ella Fitzgerald‘s silky voice singing Embraceable You is like sweet honey being trickled onto your lips. While gazing at the fireplace I feel like I’m being cuddled by a thousand beautiful angels.
The radiant heat from the fireplace makes our living room so toasty and this inspires Mysaucepan to ruffle up a simple dessert to treat her mother. She slices up a few pears and makes a sugar syrup that is poured onto the pears in a cast iron pan. A layer of pastry then covers the pears and is brushed with some melted butter.
It comes out from the oven golden brown and I do the honours of flipping the pear flan onto a dinner plate.
Such a simple yet beautiful dessert and our only regret is we do not have any ice-cream in the fridge.
Dawn is a beautiful time of the day in the country. Sometimes, you can hear the roosters and other times, the cows and goats.
I am up early to prepare breakfast for everyone. Mysaucepan‘s mother loves her breakfast eggs and today, we have a box of free range eggs from Berrima Ridge.
The barbeque gets an early morning sizzle with pork sausages, bacon and tomatoes.
For some reason, bacon and eggs for breakfast in the country feels so hearty and wholesome.
I couldn’t resist tossing a couple of lamb chops onto the barbeque which have been marinating from the evening before and they taste absolutely delicious. The two cattle dogs that greet us each morning are sniffing the air where the aromas of bacon and sausages are heavenly. This hearty breakfast is definitely setting us up for the day as we plan to go chestnut picking and a bit of bush-walking.
It is a glorious day without a single cloud in the clear blue sky.
Talk about a walk along a tree lined street, I was captivated by the sight of Mysaucepan walking along this little pebbled road in the farmland.
We drove towards Bundanoon to a chestnut farm where we are right in the middle of a small six-week window for chestnut picking. After an hour or so, Mysaucepan, her mom and friend emerge with about three kilograms of raw chestnuts.
The cosy fireplace is perfect for roasting chestnuts in a cast iron pan.
The four of us sit on the wooden deck, peel our chestnuts, drink, laugh and gaze into the horizon where the beautiful evening sun is setting.
We soak up the calm and tranquil setting, where the only noises might be chirping birds or the occasional call from the cows. Can life get any better than this?
So dear readers, have you been to the Southern Highlands and if so, which is your favourite place there?
562 Nowra road
Moss Vale 2577
New South Wales