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.