Posted by: Lisa Hill | September 19, 2012

Produce to Platter: Yarra Valley & the Dandenongs (2012), by Jonette George

Oh, I wish this book had arrived the day before it did!  I have just harvested the beetroot crop from Vegie Patch No 1 and prepared it for making into borscht – and if I’d had this book yesterday I would have tried out Domaine Chandon’s recipe for Caraway Picked Beetroot with pine nut encrusted goats feta, crisp beetroot and carrot puree instead!

Produce to Platter, Yarra Valley & the Dandenongs is one of a series which celebrates the wealth of great produce we have in the regions just outside Melbourne.  I haven’t seen the one featuring the Mornington Peninsula. but having explored the area with considerable enthusiasm, I can imagine it.  This edition featuring the Yarra Valley & the Dandenongs is about one of our favourite spots too, great for day trips to a winery or for a relaxing weekend getaway.  The Spouse and I celebrated an anniversary at the De Bortoli winery restaurant not so long ago and Yours Truly was in ecstasy over the cheeses…

The book features full colour photography and text, including a foreword by Melbourne food writer and consultant, Rita Erlich.  (She co-edited The Age Good Food Guide from 1984-1998.)  There’s a map showing where the featured locations are, and a bit of the history of the area including a welcome from the Wurundjeri People.  What will interest Foodies is the comprehensive survey of the wineries, restaurants, specialty farms, produce merchants and cooking schools of the region.   The photos are very enticing.

But what interested me the most was the recipes from local chefs, of course.

Produce to Platter is more than a recipe book, but since it includes recipes, it has to pass the The Spouse’s Test: he wants his recipe books to be more than just pretty, he wants them to be useful.   Once again, here is his list of requirements for a recipe book:

  • good photography that actually shows the finished food including ideas for garnishes and any steps that are tricky
  • clearly set out lists of ingredients, with ingredients that are not too difficult to obtain
  • clear and unambiguous instructions that are not too complex or time-consuming for a competent home cook, and
  • appealing, interesting, unusual recipes that are fun to cook and to eat.

By and large, Produce to Platter meets his specifications except that they could have saved me a Google search to learn that a mâche is a European salad green and that wombok is a kind of Chinese cabbage. The recipes all look easy enough for a competent home cook to achieve – except for Rochford wines Free Range Rare Breed Black Pig 4 ways – it looks scrumptious but is too complex for a home cook.

Recipes to be tried soon chez T&L include

  • Bella Vedere’s Oven Roasted Duck with porcini mushroom custards
  • De Bortoli’s Honey Pannacotta with fresh figs and chestnut flower honey
  • Riverstone Estate’s Chicken Filo with (my favourite) Camembert cheese, and
  • Vines Restaurant’s Lemon and parsley linguine with Buxton smoked trout

A couple of gripes:

  • My pet hate is the stray apostrophe and it makes an entrance on page 30 in the page heading, where it’s hard to overlook: recipes from local chef’s doesn’t need it.
  • Some sets of photos are a bit small, making the layout feel a bit cramped.   I think it would have been better to select just one or two per page, especially when, for example, a photo of some cows in a paddock doesn’t really enhance the text anyway.

Overall, however, this is a book useful for foodies in Melbourne, and it would make a very nice gift.

Authors & contributors: Jonette George, Daniele Wilton, Rita Erlich and Charlie Brown (photography)
Title: Produce to Platter: Yarra Valley & the Dandenongs
Publisher: Smudge Publishing, 2012, due for release Oct 15 2012
ISBN: 9780980789157
Source: Review copy via Scott Eathorne from Quikmark Media.

Pre-order from Smudge Publishing or from Fishpond: Produce to Platter Yarra Valley
Fishpond currently have stocks of the Mornington Peninsula edition as well: Produce to Platter: the Food and Wine Lovers Guide to the Mornington Peninsula


  1. Ah, sounds lovely Lisa … and I like your recipe book criteria though I think the Spouse’s idea of what is not too complex may not be everyone’s judging from the things you’ve chosen!

    I reckon a produce book like this could have had a glossary. I would have known Wombok — it’s a very nice cabbage that I have used on several occasions. You’ve probably seen it, it’s long/oval (and a bit curly like savoy) rather than round, and is pretty easy to find here, even in supermarkets. Never heard of mâche though.

    Do report on how well the recipes work – with pics!


    • *chuckle* Due to traumatic experiences with cabbage in my UK childhood, I do not have any acquaintance with any kind of cabbage if I can avoid it. (That goes for Brussels sprouts too).
      I bet I’m the only person on the Cox and Kings tour who managed to spend a fortnight in Russia and not eat cabbage even once.
      PS Will do my best with the photos. I just forget to do it at the crucial moment, i.e. before we start eating!


      • LOL, you really should try them again. There are a lot of varieties out there. I wasn’t a fan as a child … But I like them many ways now.

        Oh, and I can tell you’re not a food blogger, then!!


        • Oh. I *have* tried them again, every which way. Now I’m old enough to be a pensioner, I reckon I can give up. Forever.


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