Traveling with Pets in Summer

According to RSPCA, about 62% of Australian households own pets. There are an estimated more than 24 million pets in Australia. Dogs are the most common pet, with 38% of households owning a dog. There are estimated to be 4.8 million pet dogs in Australia; 20 dogs for every 100 people.

Dog owners often have a difficult decision to make when they travel, “what to do with their dogs?”. Options are expensive pet hotels which is often a germ bath; part time dog carers, and of course, bringing them along.

It is very sad to exclude your family member from your travels. There is extra work and attention required to bring your dogs with you but my experience says that it is well worth it. All you need is some careful planning. Here are some quick tips from my own experience:

  1. Make frequent stops on the road, not more than 2 hours in between breaks. This is also the maximum time suggested by Vic Roads for the reason of driving safe.
  2. Bring a few pieces of their favourite toys and their own bedding.
  3. Offer water at every stop or opportunity.
  4. You don’t sit next to your luggages, so do your dogs.
  5. Keep a running fan next to them.
  6. Plan ahead for pet friendly stops, including parks, restaurants with outdoor areas, beaches, and accommodations.
  7. Listen to them. When they look stressed, tired, not motivated, or have dry noses, it’s time to take a break and let them rest.

In my last trip, both we and our furry family members had so much joy using a cordless misting fan. It is battery operated and pumps water from a bucket or connects to a garden hose. We use it in the car (without misting), at the restaurant, campsite, basically at our every stop, Once the dogs have satisfied their thirst, we refill their large drinking bowl with water, then place the misting fan over it. This combo works like a dream.

dog enjoying a misting fan
dog enjoying a misting fan

Have you traveled with your pets? Please share your pictures and experience on our Facebook page.

Grilled Veal Rack

We are very lucky to have access to quality meat in the Mornington Peninsula like at the Hillock Downs. A veal rack is as hard to find as hen’s teeth. The Cottage Chef finds a nice rack today and here is her recipe.

Veal has its unique texture. The Cottage Chef decides to marinate it with Asian ingredients and grills them over charcoal.



One whole rack of veal

Marinate – green onion, shallot, ginger, Chinese cooking wine, corn starch, raw sugar, fish sauce, dark soy sauce, garlic, lime juice, white pepper, cooking oil.

  1. Finely chopped all ingredients.
  2. Cut the racks into individual pieces.
  3. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients and sauces and apply them evenly over the rack pieces.
  4. Leave to marinate for 1 hour.
  5. Grill over charcoal.

Tip: leave in the freezer for a day or 2, and you will get a different texture.

Wine match: Bass Phillip Crown Prince Pinot Noir


The Happy Cattle at the Hillock Downs

The Hillock Downs was as large as 1000 acres and it had been used as part of the training grounds for troops in World War 2, they have records going back 100 years. You can get more than fresh meat and vegetables at their produce store. You also learn about their history and the hard work they put in for our safe, delicious food.

Hillock Downs Produce Store
The Hillock Downs produce store occupies what was the old Dairy at the front gate entrance.

Rump steak was often chewy and The Cottage chef normally won’t prepare it as a steak. But at Hillock Downs she found the most tender rump steak ever.

The Hillock Downs cattle are raised and grown locally in Mornington Peninsula, they aren’t feedlot fed and are free to roam open pasture paddocks. They are turning off 450kg to 530kg milk vealer cattle at 9 to 10 months of age. There are no hormones and are antibiotic free.

This means young, tasty, tender beef, and we aren’t consuming antibiotic drugs in any of their meat product. This reduces our fear of introducing superbugs through antibiotics overuse.

Besides farming, owner Eddie volunteers with CFA, protecting the local community from fires. We got some useful tips to make our cottage and BBQ facilities safe during the busy summer season.

The Hillock Downs produce store is opened Friday, Saturday and Sunday. They only sell freshly butchered beef and they call it a day when they’re sold out. It has been popular among the locals. To avoid disappointment, contact them before you go. Sally, a.k.a the farmer’s wife who works at their produce store is very friendly and knowledgeable. She also grows the vegetables sold at her store. Hillock Downs is only a few minutes drive from our cottage. Get some for your BBQ during your stay, or to bring home, you won’t be disappointed.


Peninsula Fresh Organics

We aren’t running out of ideas for this subject line nor this is an ad. We aren’t paid to write this. But the name Peninsula Fresh Organics really sums it up, we do believe it is an accurate reflection of their produce and this post.

Staff loads the produce which are always harvested the night before
Staff loading the produce which are always harvested the night before

Fresh? If you aren’t aware until now, the vegetables sold at our regular grocery shops aren’t picked when they are ripe. In facts they are often harvested early to increase their shelf life. They ripen in the trucks and insides their boxes. Many of the favours and nutritions aren’t there. It’s very apparent when you are having them as salad, or making soup or sauces. At Peninsula Fresh Organics they pick the evening before.

Organic? Detox and fasting have been popular habits lately. People become more cautious of what they put into their stomach. I’m very supportive of food science and technologies. They allow food to be grown faster and bigger, solving many crisis. But the unnatural substance introduced do accumulate in our bodies. Instead of detoxing we can simply put less harm in. The higher price of organic produce can be preventive, I admit I cannot afford it every day. However let’s support our farmers occasionally, our bodies will say thank you. The Peninsula Fresh Organics website says that their produce are certified, I ain’t lab technicians but I believe in them.

Delicious? Please try it and we’ll leave the verdict to our readers. The Cottage Chef certainly think so, see her recipe here.

A good place to visit in the Peninsula? Definitely. They have been farming at their Baxter location for more than 40 years and into their 5th generation now. Through the entrance visitors will enter the rustic property with many antique tools on display, greeted by their friendly staff, and seeing freshly harvested produce being loaded onto shelves.

Our favourite are their round zucchini and heirloom root vegetables. Don’t miss it while you’re heading down to the peninsula. It makes a great first stop on the way from the city; load up with fresh fruits and vegetables for your stay, or enjoy them back at your home.


Zucchini Carpaccio with Wine Aged in Terracotta

The Cottage Chef takes on a new recipe and wine pairing challenge, with emphasis on retaining the original favours of freshly harvested organic zucchini. She came across these delicious vegetables after a visit to the Peninsula Fresh Organics in Baxter.

Pairing Zucchini Carpaccio with the Trofeo Estate Amphora Chardonnay

A “less is more” approach is therefore taken. The Cottage Chef will use a recipe which adds little seasoning, to ensure diners are actually enjoying the zucchini, a “light taste” vegetable itself. The same is required from the wine, best if it is nothing but grape juice; well fermented grape juices. Luckily the Mornington Peninsula offers a good variety of wine making styles and methods.

At Trofeo Estate they make wine which is aged in terracotta. According to Trofeo, “Terracotta does not impart any flavour, so the wines produced in the Amphora display all of the delicate fruit aromatics and flavours, pre-existing in the grapes. Terracotta is an inorganic medium, and as such does not harbor spoilage micro-organisms, thus reducing the levels of Sulphur required to safeguard the wine.” The Cottage Chef found their Amphora Chardonnay to be a good match. The Chardonnay grapes were hand harvested and whole bunch pressed. The wine is aged in Terracotta Amphorae for 10 months accompanied with periodic stirring of the lees. Besides the natural favour of the fruits, there is mouthfeel texture and complexity, adding a good natural contrast to the zucchini.

Zucchini Carpaccio
Zucchini Carpaccio

Zucchini Carpaccio


Extra virgin olive oil, rocket salad, lemon juice, rind, sea salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese.


  1. Trim the ends of the zucchini and slice diagonally into wafer-thin rounds. Place in a bowl.
  2. Combine the oil, lemon juice and rind, and season with salt and pepper. Pour mixture over zucchini and leave for 5 minutes. Pile the rocket onto serving plates, then top with the zucchini and finish with the parmesan. Serve as a first course or as an accompaniment to simply grilled meat and fish.

This is such an easy dish to be prepared and enjoyed at our cottages. Getting the wine and vegetables at the Trofeo Estate Winery and Peninsula Fresh Organics are great attractions themselves. We recently had guests asking for a bigger fridge to keep the food they brought in. To our dear guests, why are you bringing your own?! Let’s just enjoy all the Mornington Peninsula can offer.