Wednesday, December 24, 2014

On Christmas Eve

An army of mini gingerbread men all packed up and ready for a special delivery.  Eight hundred and fifty of them to be precise. 

We have picked and chopped around 13kgs of apricots off my little tree.   Happily this became a family affair, thanks Mum!

 My first tomatoes have been picked and put straight onto pizzas. 

I have been experimenting with drying apricots in our wood oven.    

Sourdough baguettes have been cooked in the wood oven to share with family and friends on Christmas Day.  Perhaps they will be topped with some smoked salmon, one of my favourite Christmas treats.    

Thank you all for calling into my blog this year.  There has been times when your generous comments have almost made me cry with joy and gratitude.

Happy Christmas, however you chose to celebrate the occasion. 

Jane x

Friday, December 12, 2014

Lately, from the paddock to the kitchen

In the paddock

The men have been sorting out cattle: mustering, drafting, branding and weaning the calves.   For the kids and I this has meant occasionally drifting along behind the mob in a ute with smoko on board and the camera, naturally. 

Accomplished stockmen pull up alongside each other briefly, exchange a few words, survey the mob of cattle in front of them and ride on. 

In the kitchen

I have purchased a Fowlers Vacola preserving kit complete with all of the necessary bits and pieces.  I have never used one of these before; I see some You Tube tutorials in my future. 

In the vegetable garden

Originally I planted chickpeas as a spring green manure crop to replenish the soil.  The bonus is that we now have our own chickpeas to dry out and eat.  This has been a successful and hardy crop and I will definitely be growing it again next spring.  

Out and about

Our family business has recently purchased another property.  The first time the kids and I visited we were greeted with a dramatic storm which happened to be brewing in the sky right behind the rain gauge.  A good omen I feel. 

Happy Friday friends.

What is happening at your place this week? 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Country Style

Way back in June, Country Style magazine came to visit us.  Back then we were in our winter clothes, the garden was full of winter vegetables and our paddocks were lush and green.  It feels like so much has happened and changed since then.  I took one photo for the whole day and it was taken on my phone.

Photographer Michael Wee shooting Miss Annabelle holding a bundle of freshly baked sourdough baguettes.  

It feels quite surreal to appear in one of my all time favourite magazines.  

A special thank you to Claire Mactaggart for making all of the arrangements and for her patience as she pieced together our story.  If you are interested we are in the December issue, on sale today.

Friends, I hope you are having a lovely week.  

Monday, December 1, 2014

In My Kitchen, December 2014

Is it a savoury scroll or is it a rolled up pizza?  I am not really sure.  I took a piece of bread dough from my last batch of sourdough, rolled it out roughly into a rectangle and topped it with tomato chutney, chopped ham, grated cheese and fresh thyme.  Then I rolled it up into a sausage, cut it into seven slices and cooked them in a hot oven. It couldn't be any easier and reminds me of just how versatile sourdough is, once you have a bread making routine established. 

Walls, roof pieces, attic windows and tiny doors, building material of the gingerbread variety.  At Christmas time there is just something about gingerbread houses that I love.  I find the only way to achieve stress free building success is to make the pieces early and freeze them.  Then, closer to Christmas it is easy to construct my houses without the pressure of baking.  I favour a fairly simple structure with not too many embellishments. 

Zucchini season has started in my garden and I cannot wait to make a batch of Rohan's pickles

My cousin and his gorgeous wife recently had their third baby, a precious little girl.  I made Sarah a batch of oatmeal lactation biscuits.  Apparently these are great for boosting milk supply.  When I was at the breastfeeding stage of life I had not even heard of these.  The magic ingredient is brewers yeast, I wonder if anyone else out there has tried them?

Garlic from my garden.  This harvest has not been my biggest but I am still thrilled to have home grown garlic after months of having no garlic in the house at all. 

I have been baking biscuits like a maniac.  Some are for Christmas gifts, some are for everyday snacks, some are for hungry workers to dunk in their tea or coffee and I am also in the middle of a massive batch which is a one off paid biscuit project.  I made this batch using my favourite gingerbread recipe finished with a sprinkle of candied fennel seed from Herbie's spices.  They were crisp, spicy and robust enough to be packed up for farming men on the move.  My favourite type of biscuit. 

Are you baking, building or breastfeeding? 

Wishing you a happy week.  

As always I am linking up with Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Christmas balance

How are you feeling about Christmas this year?

Are you filled with excitement and anticipation or perhaps you are not in the least bit enthusiastic?

Are you from a traditional family who gather around the tree in harmony?  Or is your family partly fragmented and while gathering together is good in theory it might not always be achievable in reality?   Honestly, I am more in the latter category. 

On a positive note I am looking forward to giving our children and close family members a manageable quantity of affordable and practical gifts.

Setting the table properly and cooking some special food is something I love planning.  

Christmas baking, gift making and some easy craft projects are three of my favourite things at this time of year. 

I do not love shopping bags bursting with useless plastic junk.  Hot, crowded shopping centres make me anxious.  Trolleys overflowing with enormous amounts of Christmas food also remind me of the crazy excess that people feel obliged to indulge in. 

This Christmas I will be working on finding a balance somewhere between a special family celebration and unnecessary excess.

For me, online shopping and homemade gifts are a better alternative to shopping in the heat and making hasty, last minute decisions.  

I will gather my groceries well in advance and be happy to improvise with the rest.  Our menu will be quite non-traditional this year, using at least two recipes inspired by Sophie from Local is Lovely.

I will take my children to drop off some food at a local collection point for charity.  They may or may not completely understand but I feel this is an important part of our Christmas.   

How do you tackle this time of year?

Has your strategy changed over time?  I know mine has.  

Happy Sunday friends.  

Sunday, November 9, 2014

In My Kitchen, November 2014

Over the years I have gathered quite a collection of old kitchen implements.  Amazingly, I have not bought much of it.  Most of it has been scrounged or given to me by thoughtful friends, family and fellow bloggers.    The dints and worn handles remind me of outback cooks, shearer’s kitchens and solid lunches eaten in the paddock. 

These old knives could tell a story or two about white bread, hearty meals and real butter.  I am not actually sure of the correct name for the middle implements but I find them very useful for lifting warm biscuits onto cooling racks. 

At some point I decided I quite fancied old thermoses.  I bought one at a second hand shop and shortly afterwards a whole box of old thermoses found me.  Life is funny like that.  The little glass Cottees bottle has sentimental value, apparently it always travelled with at least one of these thermoses whenever milk was required. 

I know some of you will have memories of these brightly coloured metal cups that stack neatly into soft leather pouches.  These two sets have never been used and are just waiting for a picnic or road trip.   

One day I hope to get invited to a vintage themed picnic.  When I do, I will be ready with at least four Willow brand picnic tins all in varying condition.   This old cane basket has three compartments within it, making it perfect for carrying thermoses or bottles. 

I am not really into mashed potato but these old mashers are lovely.  The graters are buckled and bent, just right for grating wayward fingers.  They will live out their retirement happily in the props cupboard far from active duty in the kitchen. 

I could go on.  I haven’t even started on the sifters, aluminium colanders and teapots, rolling pins or enamel ware.   Another day perhaps?

Are you collecting or baking or creating?  I hope so. 

This post was partly inspired by Francesca from Almost Italian and her charming collection of green thermoses.   

As always I am linking up with Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.  

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Cold beer and frisky horses

Each October we have a busy schedule of weekend horse events. 

It all kicks off in the tiny town of Pooncarie with their annual race meeting.  With a dirt racetrack and just enough lawn and shade to keep the crowd happy there is always a great atmosphere at this bush race meeting. 

The airstrip happens to be right next to the racetrack.  No baggage scans, taxis or trains required and since accommodation is scarce some aviators just roll their swags out underneath their planes

From there we load up Annabelle’s pony and head to a racetrack in the bush called Nanua for amateur racing and hotly contested gymkhana events.  There is no town for at least 140kms, just a dirt track, basic amenities, a busy bar area and plenty of keen horses and riders. 

The next and slightly more refined outing is to the Silver City Races in Broken Hill.  We dress up and buy member’s tickets, meet up with family and friends and enjoy the charm and shade of the historic grand stand.  

Bush horse events involve plenty of travelling, dust, cold beer and steak sandwiches.  They are also major fund raising and social occasions, especially for the smaller communities.  Long may this tradition continue, we love it.    

My husband plays an official roll at these events which is part of the reason why our month is so horsey.  It is also a great excuse to be sociable, take photos and watch the horsey world go by.

Are you into horses I wonder?

Horses or not, I hope you are having a lovely Sunday.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Summer flowers and good bugs

With 40°C predicted for today it feels like summer is well and truly here, a full month early.

My garden is buzzing with bugs, beetles, wasps and bees which can only be a good thing. I have worked hard on incorporating flowers into the vegetable patch to keep our bug friends happy and add some colour.  Randomly scattered sunflowers are not far away from flowering.

Cosmos flowers always make me smile. 

Coriander is another favourite and it grows here almost all year round.  The delicate flowers are a bonus and at the end of the cycle I find collecting the seed quite therapeutic. 

These tall, slender Alliums look like mini sculptures as they reach for the sky.  I cannot remember what variety they are so when they finally open their buds it will be a surprise.

It certainly feels like summer with these vibrant zucchini flowers quietly opening underneath the green leaves of the variety Long Florence.  According to the Diggers Club this particular variety has some of the largest flowers.  The ants and bugs are enjoying these too and that makes me happy.  

Does it feel like summer where you are?

What are you observing in the garden?

Wishing you a restful Sunday friends x

Friday, October 10, 2014


Our eldest, Annabelle, celebrated her eighth birthday with a picnic in the bush.  Along with our neighbours and one set of grandparents we shared cake and a simple fire cooked dinner.  To add a touch of spring and celebration to the occasion we created this flower table entirely from wild flowers, bits from the garden and recycled containers. 

I experiment a lot with bread but sometimes it is great to get back to the plain white sourdough loaves that started my bread journey.  Every time I bake bread, particularly in the wood oven I learn something new or take away a little bit of extra knowledge.

Our current horse situation has outgrown this little horse yard.  I have decided to put this space to use and plant it up with summer vegetables.  In particular, pumpkins which have a habit of completely overrunning my actual vegetable garden.  It is the perfect space as it has previously been fertilised by horses, it is fenced securely and there is a water supply.  It doesn't look like much now but watch this space.  

Meanwhile, back in the actual vegetable garden this Long Florence zucchini is progressing well.  

Thyme is just so delicate and pretty isn't it?

Home grown asparagus, eggs and coriander.  Simple ingredients with so much potential to be turned into something tasty. 

Happy Friday friends, I hope you have had a lovely week! 

Friday, October 3, 2014

In My Kitchen, October 2014

Wild flowers from my love; all secretly picked in the paddock while he was out and about checking sheep and tanks.

I have found a shortcrust pastry recipe that has helped to boost my pastry making confidence.  It started with lamb shank and chickpea pies made from a previous lamb shank dinner.

With the off-cuts I made small jam tarts.

We have been picking leafy, green bouquets of celery.  Home grown celery is almost as good as a bunch of flowers don’t you think?

A slab of chocolate brownie and a batch of chewy rolled oat and sultana biscuits to keep hungry workers and children nourished.  

One afternoon I had a quiet, creative moment in the garden and dreamt up these mini skewers made from rosemary and olive twigs.  Later, I used them to skewer chocolate dipped strawberries for a special birthday celebration.

Indulgent yet easy to make, this dark chocolate and cinnamon scroll covered in a shower of icing sugar proved popular in our house.  The recipe came from the winter issue of Fete magazine which has been added to my list of favourite reading material.  

Are you cooking or growing or creating?  I hope so!

As always I am linking up with Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.  Thanks for hosting this fun kitchen tour Celia.