Strawberries in the Desert

Story telling from Australia

I’d like to thank Michel Roux’s mother and the lady in the corner shop

This wasn’t the Oscars it was a simple cookery competition, but it was probably as close as I’ll ever get to a prize-winning moment of such magnitude, and if I had been asked to comment I’d have thanked both Michel Roux’s mother and the lady in the corner shop. You see, thanks to them, I scooped ‘Best in Show’ at last Saturday’s CWA chocolate cookery competition in Sydney.

I'd love to say these were mine but this pic of Michel Roux's mousse was taken from

I’d love to say these were mine but this is a pic of Michel Roux’s mousse, taken from

I can’t bake, as anyone who saw my recent attempt at lemon biscuits can confirm. My last unsuccessful burst of enthusiasm for baking was prompted by a neighbour’s donation of home grown lemons. How kind, I thought. In return I shall magnanimously bake you a batch of home made lemon biscuits.

It was a task I approached with more enthusiasm than skill, which is why the finished biscuits resembled bonfire toffee. I have no idea why, since I did everything the recipe said. There was a glimmer of hope when I thought of dusting the biscuits with icing sugar. Perhaps that might disguise their awful wretchedness? It didn’t. The final lemon biscuits looked like lumps of coal caught in a snowdrift. My neighbour, needless to say, never got to see them.

Believe me, I can’t bake.

So when the Sydney city branch of the Country Woman’s Association announced they were holding a chocolate cookery competition I knew I wouldn’t be baking anything, but the thing was, I really, really wanted to participate.


CWA judges are very, very particular

Most cookery competitions organised by the CWA are governed by strict regulations, with hard and fast rules on what you can and can’t make, how big your cake can be, how flat its bottom has to be and where the icing should go.

But this, thank goodness, was more easy-going – a free for all between friends with a wide-open theme of chocolate, and since I’m a new member of the CWA and the women in the Sydney city branch are lovely, I was determined to submit something.

A quick search of the BBC food website revealed several recipes for chocolate mousse. This sentence in particular caught my eye:

“Chocolate mousse is very easy to make.”

It seemed there was no flour, no baking and no actual cooking involved; in fact, as far as I could tell, all I’d have to do was a bit of melting and mixing. How hard could that be?

I won’t go into detail about just how precise you have to be in order to produce the kind of salted caramel chocolate mousse that Michel Roux’s mother used to make, but if I’d paid any attention to the fact that the recipe I’d chosen came from a famous French chef’s mother, maybe I’d have thought twice about tackling it.

I went through 24 eggs, nine bars of chocolate and an entire jar of golden syrup before I finally produced something I could submit, even for an easy-going ‘we’re all friends so let’s just have a go’ kind of competition. The lady in the corner shop must have been thrilled when I went back a third time, desperate for more eggs, cream and chocolate. I reckon she stayed open later than usual that night, just in case.

The first batch of caramel was too runny because I didn’t use double cream, I used single, and the second batch of chocolate was too hot, so when I added the eggs it curdled; it was only at eight o’clock on Friday night that I finally managed to produce something vaguely resembling the beautiful photographs on the BBC website, by which time I felt like Goldilocks. I went to bed with chocolate stuck to my eyebrows.

Waiting for the taste test

Waiting for the taste test

The next day my three small shot glasses of mousse looked rather insignificant next to quivering cheesecakes, magnificent mud cakes and plates of perfectly formed biscuits, but since this wasn’t an authorized, officially sanctioned competition (mousse wouldn’t make it past the front door of an officially sanctioned CWA cookery competition) it all came down to taste.

I reckon if you melt good quality chocolate and mix it with enough butter, eggs, sugar, salt, cream and golden syrup you’ll get something that tastes unbelievable, no matter what you do with it, and the judges seemed to agree.

Which is why, last Saturday, I took out Best in Show at a CWA cookery competition.

I can declare with absolute confidence that I will never have occasion to use that sentence again. Members of the Sydney city branch who really are extremely skilled at baking cakes – like Silvana and so many others – can rest easy. I shan’t be in the running for any proper prizes.

I’ll leave you to enjoy these photographs while I steadily work my way through all the failed batches of salted caramel and chocolate mousse sitting in my fridge, browsing through my very welcome prize: a copy of Silvia Colloca’s beautiful book, Made in Italy.

One thing’s for sure – I have no intention of quitting sugar any time soon.

Both these cakes tasted utterly gorgeous

Both these cakes tasted utterly gorgeous

Silvana's delicious 'no bake' entry

Silvana’s delicious ‘no bake’ entry

Annie, Pat and Jodie, who took out the prize for best gluten free cake

Annie, Pat and Jodie, who took out first prize for best gluten free cake

CWA judges Pat (left) and Annie (right) with competition organiser Silvana

We all had fun. CWA judges Pat (left) and Annie (right) are pictured with competition organiser Silvana

This was my gorgeous prize

This was my gorgeous prize

It's fair to say I was extremely pleased

It’s fair to say I was extremely pleased

21 comments on “I’d like to thank Michel Roux’s mother and the lady in the corner shop

  1. Congratulations! I know what fabulous cooks you were up against!


  2. Rosenary Campbell
    July 2, 2015

    Congratulations from a chocoholic.


  3. bkpyett
    July 2, 2015

    What a coup! Congratulations Deb. Loved reading about your experience here. I was surprised to hear your recipe had golden syrup in it, that would make it taste different. Can’t beat such a gorgeous dessert.


    • debhuntwasinbrokenhill
      July 3, 2015

      Thx Barbara, I never used to like dessert but I’m now addicted to salted caramel chocolate mousse, never had to buy golden syrup before so no idea what it does that’s different from sugar (which this pudding also had lots of!)


  4. Carricklass
    July 2, 2015

    You never know Deborah, you may have caught the cookery bug… I’m sure it exists, though I know I haven’t got it either. Having said that I’m going to look for that mousse recipe – sounds delicious, though a touch heavy on the calories, I suspect. Good on you, the win sounds well deserved.


    • debhuntwasinbrokenhill
      July 3, 2015

      All I can say is thank God for stretchy fabric and elasticated waistbands (and I never thought I’d catch myself writing that sentence either)


  5. pbmgarden
    July 2, 2015

    Congratulations. What persistence you have.


  6. Eliza Waters
    July 2, 2015

    Congrats, Deb! I admire your tenacity at getting it right, three is the charm, I guess. 😉 It looks so delicious and must have tasted the same to win BIS!


  7. cathmarriott
    July 2, 2015

    Well done Deb,
    You will have to add passionate about gardening and exceedingly talented at making Chocolate Mousse! Would be lovely have with a superb cup of proper brewed tea – that is my latest thrill. Thank you and great job well done on the persistence for the chocy mouse! xo


  8. nantubre
    July 3, 2015



  9. debhuntwasinbrokenhill
    July 3, 2015

    Disappearing fast…


  10. monsoonwendy
    July 4, 2015

    As I said….looking forward to trying some. And Deb, can I just say how FANTASTIC that necklace looks on you!


  11. candidkay
    July 6, 2015

    Oh, this looks like one level of Heaven! Congrats to you and I hope you ate heartily:).


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I'm a writer based in Australia with a passion for gardening, remote places and people with a story to tell.

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