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.


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.


Fresh Mussels and Ocean 8 Pinot Gris 2017

If you have been following blogs from The Cottage Chef, you must be aware that she like simple recipes using the freshest ingredients. This is true for both at home and at her cottages. She also like to promote local produces from the Mornington Peninsula.

Ocean 8 Pinot Gris 2017 pairs with mussels, freshly harvested by The Peninsula Fresh Seafood.

Lately The Cottage Chef visited the seafood truck again, and this time she got some mussels that were just harvested. With mussels literally just pulled out from the sea, they should be enjoyed in the simplest way possible.

Some readers may think of just boiling them, not bad actually. Although The Cottage Chef doesn’t believe boiling = boring, but a small dose of magic to enhance its favour won’t hurt. It happened that the nearby Ocean 8 winery had recently released their 2017 Pinot Gris, which will make an interesting pairing. The Cottage Chef has been a long time fan of Ocean 8. We will write another post on Ocean 8 later, it is one of the smaller wineries of Mornington Peninsula making great Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Pinot. Ocean 8 should never be missed by wine lovers.

Back to the dish, The Cottage Chef bought 1.5kg of mussels, cleaned. In a large sauce pan, put in a few garlic cloves chopped, 2 tablespoon of butter, put in the mussels and stir a few times. Pour in a cup of Ocean 8 Pinot Gris, cover and bring it to boil. Turn down the heat after it boils, put in a small grab of parsley finely chopped, stir and cover again, let it  simmer for 3 minutes.

Last but not least, enjoy the rest of Pinot Gris with the mussels.

P.S: A touch of chilli will be fantastic, the Ocean 8 Pinot Gris loves it actually.


Vermentino and Crittenden Estate Winery

If you are a wine expert or a long time Italian wine drinker, please look away. Most wine drinkers won’t describe a wine as “versatile”. However, with hot asian spices, you do need something interesting to go with. Unless, you go with a beer or tea, they always work and work well.

There are 2 schools of thoughts on pairing with very spicy dishes; some would match with an off dry to “relieve” the spiciness, others would match with a high alcohol, high tannin red for a “head on collision”.

I have a different objective. It’s not arm wrestling here. I ain’t looking a wine with favours to co-exists with, nor compete with the spice. I am hoping for something that can add to and enhance the spiciness.

At Crittenden Estate, I found the best match today. Crittenden Estate first planted in 1982. They are also pioneers of wine tourism in Mornington Peninsula, which inspires us MP Cottages to start our holiday accommodation business today. Besides making wine, Crittenden runs a restaurant and accommodation onsite. We dined and stayed at the Crittenden Estate, had a great time. We’d recommend quality competitors, they are one of them.

Back to their wine, Crittenden Estate makes a Vermentino. Let’s begin with our proper wine notes after tasting:

“The Crittenden Estate Pinocchio Vermentino offers lively aromas of pear, white peach, and pink grapefruit with subtle notes of citrus zest. It is a refreshing medium body that could enjoy on its own as aperitif, perfect for MP summer. On the palate, it’s medium acidity and slightly on the riper side with flavors of grapefruit fresh almond. Perfect match with garlic prawns, grilled octopus, goat cheese or even fennel-spiced pork sausages.”

And we put it to a real test ….

What’s harder than pairing a wine with a Sichuan spicy tapa? Try 4. In the featured image you will see the “4 small plates” in our test. They were made with fennel, pepper, aniseed, cinnamon, clove, chili pepper, broad bean chili paste, shallots, ginger, and garlic. Enough? They aren’t dishes made so spicy which numb your lips and tongue, but trust me they have enough. The Vermentino dance in my mouth, I could taste both the wine, the spice and the freshness of the ingredients. It was like magic. I went back and forth around the four dishes and the wine, each time it gave me something new, delicious, savoury and very enjoyable.

I would love to have more. At the time of writing, the Vermentino is no longer on Crittenden’s website. Dear Crittenden (Rollo, Zoe, Garry), if you see this, I hope you haven’t pulled the vines and please continue making it.