Visit to Lara to meet the bees and the pizza oven

I meet so many wonderful people in the cooking classes at Cooking on the Bay. My work is a delight and brings me such joy.

One such joy was the recent invitation from a class attendee, Cheryl Hassett, to visit her property at Lara, to meet their bees, to collect some honey, to be followed by pizza and dinner cooked by her husband John in their garden pizza oven. My friend Sue drove with me to Lara; Sue is a school teacher, is interested in bees and cooking, plus she is great company.

It is a family affair there on their property at Lara. John is chef-in-charge of the pizza oven, and chief herb and vegetable gardener, Cheryl makes preserves, jams, relishes, cakes and slices for her produce store at the Altona Beach market, daughter Tiffany is the official taste tester, son Kane, a former brick layer made the pizza oven with John, and sons, Aaron and Rhett are the bee-keepers!

What a great experience. John is the expert at the pizza; he made a delicious pizza dough, thin and crisp, and topped the pizzas with his homemade tomato passata, home grown tiny tomatoes, basil, prosciutto, mozzarella and aubergine. Pizzas were followed by a slow cooked leg of lamb with garlic and rosemary, baked potatoes, cooked in the pizza oven, of course, accompanied by fresh salads made by Cheryl, and all made with the produce from their garden – it was a taste sensation. And we were sent home with bags of freshly cut herbs, salad greens, capsicum and cucumbers.

John and Kane made the beautifully built oven, five years ago, and now they have regular dinner parties sitting around the oven with their family and guests, who make up their own pizzas from the selection of toppings they provide – a great way to entertain. The oven provides some warmth on the cooler evenings too, although we were fine last week with perfect weather. The entertainment included the nearby Avalon air show and fire-works at the Avalon airbase.

Before dinner we enjoyed a visit to the property bee hives. I have not seen honey extraction from a bee hive before and so was totally fascinated. Fresh honey is such a wonderful taste sensation you will never forget it, nor will you ever buy commercial honey ever again once you have tasted it straight from the bees!

Aaron and Rhett collect the honey every few months so fortunately it was now due to be done again; they donned their protective, white bee suits and really looked the professional part. It was about 4.30 in the afternoon and the bees seemed very quiet. To soothe the bees, Rhett gently puffed smoke into and around the hive, as Aaron quietly removed the lid to take out the first frame of honey and honeycomb. These frames hold the beautifully formed hexagonals filled with honey and covered with the bees wax. The hive was full of honey. We took one of the frames inside to scrape the wax off and to cut out the honey, which is in between the wires of the frame. You can see the beautiful colour and, believe me, the taste was extraordinary.

Cheryl sells their delicious honey, plus her preserves, jams, slices and cakes at the Altona Beach Market, on Logan Reserve, Pier Street, Altona. The market operates every Tuesday, from 8.00am to 3.00pm – pop in, say hello and buy some!

Cheryl very kindly gave us each a jar of their beautiful fresh honey, as well as her home-made apricot and Cointreau jam.

It was such a wonderful evening full of interesting conversation, great food and lovely wine!

By | 2016-12-07T19:32:34+11:00 March 3rd, 2015|Bees, Condiments, Food|Comments Off on Visit to Lara to meet the bees and the pizza oven

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