Friday, April 11, 2014

Candles and welcome rain

I celebrated a birthday this week, complete with the yummiest little cake assembled by my family. 

Small, thoughtful birthday gifts are the best.  Wooden stamps, a piece of muslin cloth for cooking and a precious card designed by this talented artist

Thyme potted up in an old canister that I have had packed away for years. 

75mm of rain has fallen on our property since the end of March and suddenly both our paddocks and our outlook feels healthier and happier. 

My dependable little lime tree.  Very soon I am going to try to this Lemon Crème Bar recipe from the Lunch Lady using limes instead of lemons.

The school holidays are almost upon us.  One little Easter hat parade to contend with and we will be home for two weeks of digging in the vegetable garden, lighting our wood oven and enjoying some chocolate here and there.

Can you almost feel the school holidays?

Are you enjoying autumn?

Have a lovely weekend friends.  

Friday, April 4, 2014

In My Kitchen, April 2014

Autumn is finally here.   The light is gentler, the mornings are cooler and the weather is perfect for cooking.  This month I have used every available opportunity for baking.
This sourdough focaccia is always a winner and cooking it in the wood oven gives it plenty of colour.  It can be very dangerous to wander away for too long when the oven is hot!

As some of you know, sourdough is my usual bread of choice and I don’t often cook yeasted bread.  However, after a recent croissant baking venture I had some leftover fresh yeast in the fridge.  Not wanting to waste the yeast I baked this soft white sandwich loaf from The Bread Bible.  Naturally, the kids declared this to be some of my best ever bread.  It was deliciously soft and moreish and with butter in the actual dough it smelt and tasted a little like brioche. 

A tray of home raised, home killed chicken with garlic and herbs from the garden and a splash of our own olive oil.  Although we have always killed our own red meat, ten years ago I would not have dreamed we would get to this point with home produced chicken, olive oil and herbs.  

Round zucchinis, not home-grown but purchased from a local grower in Mildura.  As I completed my transaction the friendly stallholder enthusiastically shared her favourite way to cook these and asked me which colour I would prefer.  Seriously, is there any better way to shop?

Zucchini, barberry and hazelnut loaf loosely based on this recipe.  This was just one of those things I had to try and it was tasty, especially lightly toasted with a generous swipe of real butter.

Cucumbers are rampant in my garden at the moment.  After a very lean summer vegetable season I finally feel like the garden is almost productive again.  Tzatziki or Greek salad anyone?

What is cooking in your kitchen?
Do you have a favourite way to eat cucumbers?

Thank you to Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting this fun kitchen tour.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Stocktaking the good things

Today I am reflecting on some good things from the past few days.

A morning spent with my daughter and her pony.   It was both peaceful and heart-warming to watch them walk, trot and jump as a team while the sun rose. 

Once a week I deliver fresh eggs to a local café.  My egg business is not a million dollar industry but my café friends love fresh eggs and I love delivering them.  It is a happy arrangement.

On Friday I met a dear friend for lunch and I gave her a box of cucumbers from my garden.  She gave me a jar of her luscious Fig, Ginger and Pepper jam.  Paula offers gentle, wise support and cheerful conversation.  In the past she has also given me countless pieces of bread equipment and produce.   We share friendship and a love of food things.

My children aged 7 and 4 have been collecting dried bean pods for seed saving, soaking seeds ready for planting, harvesting cucumbers and helping with autumn seedlings.  They have done a lot of this independently using their own initiative.  I really couldn't ask for better helpers in the garden.  

I have found some really amazing friends through blogging.  Sophie is one of them and she is about to release a book.  I received an early copy in the mail, thank you Sophie.  This book is farm life, warmth, family, goodness and real food all bound together with some gorgeous artwork from Sophie’s mum.  If this book does not inspire you to get into the kitchen, absolutely nothing will.  Book details here

In the past week, just like everyone else I have experienced moments of tiredness, frustration and mess.  But, on this Monday morning I am stocktaking the good stuff and trying to let go of the less important stuff.

Do you ever stock take the good stuff in your life? 

Wishing you a happy week x

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Festa della Vendemmia, 2014

When an email popped up from Slow Food Mildura informing me that tickets for Festa della Vendemmia - Feast of the Grape Harvest were once again on sale I scrambled to book immediately.  Arrangements for children, accommodation, travel and dining companions would eventually fall into place, I hoped.  

This would be our second dinner at the Garreffa family vineyard.  The 2013 event featured on my blog here, apologies in advance if this post feels like deja vu.

As we found our seats on the long tables alongside old and new friends we felt the enormous table grapes literally bumping our heads, a reminder that we were dining in a very unique location.     

Together with locally made wine and beer the menu included cured meats made from free-range pigs, traditionally made antipasti, pillowy rabbit ravioli, slow roasted lamb and a dense cake featuring local carrots accompanied by an intriguing eggplant sauce.

To end our evening we helped ourselves to a massive wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano surrounded by muscatels.  The happy crowd were drawn to the smell of coffee as tiny cups of affogato with Frangelico semi-freddo were assembled in front of our eyes.  Heading into the darkness to board our bus I realised my handbag and camera were covered in a shower of icing sugar from the hand-made crostoli.  Such is life.  

Thank you to Slow Food Mildura and the Garreffa family for this truly beautiful event.  To be surrounded by people who are passionate about growing, making and sharing real food has once again filled my mind with thoughts, ideas and possibilities.  Long may this tradition continue.  

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Autumn seeds and no-knead

Every year, at around this time School of the Air hosts a conference relating to all things distance education and home schooling.  This year, as well as socialising and strengthening friendships we learnt about thinking styles and patterns, Kinesiology, Brain Gym and other skills to help us educate our children.  The experience was valuable and a good break away from the farm and our routine. 

However, by the end of the third day I started to miss home.  I missed dinner conversation with my husband, our coffee machine, the vegetable garden and mostly my ability to make bread.  As I drove home from our conference I thought about my chooks, no-knead bread, sowing my autumn vegetable seeds and generally doing all those homely things that keep me grounded. 

Recently I had a conversation with Rohan about making no-knead sourdough bread and he was kind enough to share his recipe with me. I have always gone through a lot of steps with my break making.  I knead, or if I am making a big batch I use an electric dough mixer.  Kneading is followed by resting, a bulk prove, knock back, shaping, final prove and scoring.  To simply mix, prove and bake felt very different.

My loaf was distinctly sour, but not overly so. It was certainly tasty but it was a little gummy in texture.  I feel my no-kneading could do with more practice but in reality I like kneading.  For me, the physical process is therapeutic.  It was an interesting trial and something I will continue to experiment with.  Rohan, thanks for sharing.  It is always fun to chat with fellow bread enthusiasts. 

Are you kneading or no-kneading or chatting about bread? 

Are you planning or planting?

Friends, have a lovely Sunday.  

Sunday, March 2, 2014

In My Kitchen, March 2014

A baking action shot in the early morning light.  There is almost nothing I love more than waking up early to a dark, silent house to bake bread.  Just the oven, the bread and me. Bliss.  

I have been experimenting with semi-sourdough baguettes.  These tiny rolls were the result of me chopping up a spare baguette into small pieces.  These were great for the kids but also for the adults, sliced thinly and served with antipasto.  Bread is exciting, adaptable stuff isn't it?

After finishing a recent bread project I was left with two chunks of spare dough.  I could have put them in the freezer for later use but instead I rolled them out, topped them with some of our olive oil, salt and pepper and cooked them quickly in a hot oven.  They puffed up, and then collapsed in spectacular fashion.  Cut into wedges and topped with a little more olive oil, they disappeared quickly.  I suppose they were like a plain pizza. 

This little plastic canister and pretty Pyrex bowl once belonged to a legendary cook in the family and they make me smile.

Three little apples from our trees.  I have a Granny Smith and a Pink Lady and both of these tough little trees are producing beautifully.  I am still in awe of the magic that happens when the kids pick an apple and eat it straight off the tree. 

My friend Sarah grew these magnificent onions.  I am still trying to decide on the best way to use them.   

Are you playing with bread?

Do you have a favourite time of the day in your kitchen? 

Linking up with Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.  

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Love in my kitchen

I think you will understand what I mean when I say love often originates in the kitchen.  From a simple cup of tea, a nourishing weekday breakfast or more elaborate baking projects, good food makes us all feel loved.

While we are talking love, on Valentine’s Day supermarket red roses and smiling soft toys are really not my thing.  However, when I discovered our kitchen almost completely covered in heart shaped sticky notes I had to smile and count my lucky stars.  Theses hearts then transformed into a spontaneous artwork above our coffee machine.  Who would have thought a $3.00 packet of sticky notes could create so much fun and love.

Candied fennel seed from Herbie's were also a gift from my love.  What is not to love about a man who knows his way around the spice section and isn't afraid to buy something different?

Few things fill the kitchen with love more than a batch of homemade biscuits.  I do not claim to bake super healthy biscuits but I am happy knowing they contain the basic ingredients of proper butter, flour, sugar, eggs from our chooks, and homemade vanilla extract.  A teaspoon or two of cocoa or a handful of sultanas helps to keep things interesting.

Are you feeling a little love in your kitchen?

What are you cooking or loving at the moment?

Happy weekend friends x