Entertain in style

Create impact with Birdcage-inspired flair

By Marcel Aucar

By Marcel Aucar

This year, more of us than ever will be watching the Lexus Melbourne Cup from our own homes, but that shouldn’t stop us from creating a celebration to remember – with plenty of style, but minimum fuss. If you’re aiming for sophistication and luxury, take your inspiration from some of the incredible Birdcage marquees in 2019 such as The Perch and the Lexus Design Pavilion. Their attention to detail, use of colour and furniture and sense of fun are the same qualities that you want to bring into your space for a superb and memorable race day. Take the opportunity to transform your living space, backyard or deck into an event for the senses: make it visually beautiful, let the aromas of your cooking drift through the air, and play music (between races!) to liven things up.

To create a Birdcage worthy menu, The Big Group has generously shared two of their delicious recipes that you can prepare at home. With seasonal ingredients and flavours that delight, these dishes will be real showstoppers that impress your guests. With some forward planning, you can enjoy a Cup Week like an A-lister!

Seppelt sparkling shiraz cured trout, crème fraîche and roe

Don’t be intimated by the fancy-sounding ingredients: this recipe can be easily assembled at home and is perfect as a light starter. Curing trout adds another dimension of flavour and paired with creme fraiche, roe and the citrusy zing of orange and mandarin, it will delight the senses.


  • 1 side of trout (1-1.5kg)
  • 1kg creme fraiche
  • 125g salmon roe
  • 1 punnet edible flowers
  • 1 piece purple daikon, thinly sliced

Curing mix for trout

  • 1 bottle of Seppelt's sparkling shiraz
  • 400g sugar
  • 100g salt
  • 200g grated beetroot

Preserved orange gel

  • 250ml orange juice
  • 250ml mandarin juice
  • 48g gelatine powder
  • 100g sugar
  • 5g citric acid


  • For the cured trout, place the sparkling shiraz in a heavy-based pan and simmer until it is reduced by a third. Allow to cool completely.
  • Add the sugar, salt and grated beetroot.
  • Place the trout in a deep tray and smoother it with the curing mix, making sure all areas are covered. Cover with foil and allow to cure for 24 hours in the fridge.
  • After 24 hours, remove from the fridge and rinse off the cure mix under cold water and pat dry with paper towel. Slice thinly with sharp knife.
  • For the preserved orange gel, bring the orange and mandarin juice to a boil.
  • Meanwhile, in a medium mixing bowl, mix the gelatine powder and sugar together with a whisk before adding to the juice mix.
  • Add citric acid and continue to whisk for a minute.
  • Remove from heat and pour the mixture into a deep tray to allow to cool and set (a lasagne tray is ideal).
  • Once set, transfer the set mass into a jug and blitz with stick blender.
  • To assemble, take slices of the trout and place randomly place on your plate/platter.
  • Place the crème fraîche into a piping bag and pipe dots of the mixture onto the plate/platter near the trout. Ensure that there is a good ratio of trout to crème fraîche.
  • With a teaspoon, sprinkle salmon roe over the trout, then with your hands, proceed to sprinkle the purple daikon (if using) and edible flowers onto the plate/platter.

Serves 25 as a light starter or grazing board

Bento box: beef tataki, ginger ponzu, sticky rice and pickled cucumber

Japanese cuisine is made easy and delicious with this simple and tasty recipe. Guests will love having their own bento box, which is also a great idea to avoid sharing food. The fresh flavours will appeal to all as they savour every mouthful.


  • Thinly sliced rare beef
  • Ponzu gel
  • Kewpie mayo
  • Pickled kohlrabi ribbons
  • Black sesame seeds
  • Togarashi mis
  • Pickle baby cucumbers
  • Fried julienne ginger
  • Sticky rice (sushi rice cooked as per package direction)


  • Place some rice on one section of the box. Place a teaspoon of kewpie on one side of the rice and a teaspoon of ponzu gel on the other side of the rice.
  • Place thinly sliced beef on top of rice. Mix black sesame seeds, togarashi and fried ginger together. Sprinkle some of this mix on top of beef.
  • Place some pickled kohlrabi in other section of the box and pickled cucumber in last section of box.

Ponzu gel


  • 500ml GF soy sauce
  • 75ml Yuzu juice
  • 90ml Mirin
  • 90ml Sake
  • 10g Katsuobushi
  • 20g kombu
  • 9g agar


  • Mix all ingredients together except yuzu and agar in a pot. Bring to the boil and turn off.
  • Remove Kombu and strain. Place back in a pot and add agar. With a whisk, mix very well until it reached 90° Celsius.
  • Add Yuzu and transfer to a container. Let cool to set in the fridge.
  • Once set, blitz with a food processor to a pipe-able gel.

Beef striploin


  • 1kg Beef tenderloin


  • Clean all fat off the striploin, remove the cap from end. Cut in half.
  • Place grill plate over the burners or use BBQ with the smooth/flat side facing upwards.
  • Rub the beef with vegetable oil and season generously with salt. Sear all sides relatively well, without getting too much of a crust as this will make it difficult to slice.
  • Transfer to a flat tray and cool in the fridge. Preheat oven to 80° Celsius.
  • Cook beef until the internal temperature reaches 46° Celsius (approx. 30 min- depends on size).
  • Chill immediately. Once completely cool, slice very thinly with a very sharp knife.

Pickling liquid


  • 500ml white wine vinegar
  • 500ml water
  • 250g sugar


  • Place everything in a pot and bring to the boil.
  • Cool down completely and place in fridge.

Pickled kohlrabi ribbons


  • 1 Kohlrabi
  • 200ml pickling liquid


  • Peel kohlrabi. Chop in half is required so that it is not wider than the peeler you are using.
  • Using a peeler, make ribbons and place in a container with pickling liquid (enough to cover it) for at least 2 hours.

Fried Julienne ginger 


  • 1 Fresh ginger


  • Peel ginger and slice as thin as possible to create little strips. Heat a small pot with oil up to 160° Celsius.
  • Place ginger strips in hot oil, being careful as it may spit hot oil.
  • Once ginger has crisped up and some colour, strain with a strainer into a hot resistant container. Let cool.

Pickled baby cucumber


  • 100g baby cucumber
  • 200ml pickling liquid


  • This component is to be done just before serving.
  • Slice very thinly each cucumber.
  • Place in pickling liquid for about 15min. Drain completely and serve.

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