A winters' table - cooking in Collector


Collector is a small village just off the Federal Highway between Goulburn and Canberra. It is home to some great friends of ours and the kids and I have just returned from a gorgeous weekend there (Tim was in Melbourne for a certain football match). James and Kate McKay live in the heart of this village and are a central part in its fabric. Co-founders of the now enormous Collector Pumpkin Festival, Kate also runs Lynwood Preserves, and writes a regular cooking column for the Canberra Times' food and wine section.

Kate is one of the best, most natural cooks I've ever met and it was just fantastic to hang out in her kitchen and cook and eat together. Particularly when we had such fantastic produce on hand; most of it thanks to our Saturday morning trip to the nearby Capital Region Farmers Market.

Oh it was nice to visit the markets as a punter not stallholder! Held every Saturday on the outskirts of Canberra (Sydney side), this market brings an enormous range of produce together under one roof. We filled our bags with everything from local kiwi fruit to locally grown flowers, bread, apples, bright green new season olive oil, cheese, a thumb-sized piece of freshly un-earthed truffle (all we could afford), stunning coral-coloured mushrooms and organic short-grain rice.

Almost as soon as we got home, the last six items were eased into a simple but rather extravagant risotto. This was lunch, and just to gild the lily, we enjoyed it with a bottle of Collector Sangiovese made by James' talented brother Alex McKay.

Mushroom risotto

20g butter
1 brown onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups semi-brown Koshihikari rice (Randall Organic Rice) or arborio rice
3/4 white wine
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock
2 cups roughly chopped mixed mushrooms
10g butter
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 small black truffle, very thinly sliced or shaved (of course optional, but it is truffle season here in NSW and if you feel like splurging, they are such a big treat)
3 tbsp new season olive oil (we used La Barre from Central NSW)

Heat the butter in a heavy-based saucepan on medium. Cook the onions for about five minutes or until translucent, then add the garlic and cook for another minute or so. Add the rice and cook, stirring for a minute until every grain is coated in the buttery mixture. Pour in the wine and let bubble down then begin to ladle in the stock, one slosh at a time, stirring between each addition until the stock has been absorbed. Keep doing this until the stock is almost all in the risotto, check the rice every now and then, once it is al dente (only slightly crunchy in the middle), remove the saucepan from heat. Very gently stir through the butter, cheese, mushrooms* and half of the truffle). Place the lid on the pan and set aside for 10 minutes. Just before serving, scatter over the remaining truffle and drizzle with the green olive oil. Serve with a green salad and warm bread. Serves 4.

*If your mushrooms are very fresh and quite small, this should be enough to cook them but if you are worried at all, add them in the last ten minutes of cooking instead.

The kids weren't all that into our risotto (thankfully) so had jaffles instead. Some hours later we had a bit of a baking session which resulted in the below wholemeal apple and jam cake, one of the best cakes I've ever made/eaten, and in between all of this we took a turn around town. 

Tom, as is his wont, found a muddy puddle to wallow in and his nose hasn't stopped running since.

Wholemeal apple and jam cake

This recipe was inspired by one given in Kate's copy of Tender, Volume Two by Nigel Slater (such a fantastic book). We made our own omissions and additions and found it just delicious. So much so that I never actually had a chance to photograph the inside of the cake. As soon as it was sliced, every piece seemed to vanish at once. 

220g butter, softened
210g light muscovado sugar
4 eggs
250g wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 tart cooking apples, chopped into small pieces (unpeeled)
125g jam (we used plum)
Juice of one lemon
Demerara sugar

Preheat oven to 160C and grease and line a 20cm springform cake tin. Beat the butter and sugar together until pale in colour. Lightly whisk the eggs and set aside. Meanwhile, sift the dry ingredients together and in a separate bowl, combine the apples, jam and lemon juice, stir to combine. 

Add the beaten eggs to the butter mixture, a little at a time, mixing well between each addition. Gently fold in the dry ingredients and then fold in the apple and jam. 

Spoon mixture into the cake tin, sprinkle with the demerara sugar and bake for one hour or until a skewer comes out clean. Serves 8.


  1. Sounds like a wonderful weekend and the food and markets looked amazing as well. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane, Australia


  2. Beautiful post Sophie, so much delicious colour and local produce. The cake looks to-die-for!

  3. I'm originally a Canberra girl, so reading this post made me quite nostalgic, especially reading about Kate - I loved the Lynwood Cafe at Collector, so sad it closed down! And the Capital Region Farmers' Markets - they are one of the best out there, if you ask me, a proper farmers' market. I love that they list on their website too how far all the stall holders have come to reach the market. I recognise those mushrooms anywhere, Noel's mushrooms are just amazing, aren't they? His mushroom tunnel in between Bowral and Mittagong is simply incredible. But the reason I'm bookmarking this post is for that irresistible apple and jam cake - sounds like just the thing for a winter snack.

    1. Hi Emiko, I agree, it's such a wonderful market. And yep, they are Noel Arrold's mushies - aren't they beautiful!

  4. That Nigel slater whole wheat appla cake is amazing!! I made it a few months back.. and I used orange marmalade.. it was rustic and wholesome and delish!! lovely post!!

  5. This sounds like a perfect weekend.X

  6. I have just pulled this baby out the oven.. OMG.. Heavenly. One of the best cakes ever! Thanks so much for sharing this. Gemma


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