Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Summer days at home

So, Christmas is over for another year.  To be honest, it took me a while to get into the Christmas spirit this year but once the day finally arrived our day was fun and low key.   We enjoyed a manageable amount of food, drinks and gifts with various parts of our families.

After lunch on Christmas afternoon, I am a big believer in having some sort of an expedition or activity.  I find staying in and around the house all day long quite claustrophobic and getting out and about in the fresh air creates further opportunities for conversation and fun.  This year we gathered together some friends and food and headed to one of our dams.  We watched the full moon rise while the kids set yabby nets and lit a little fire.  As the night progressed a spectacular storm rolled in creating the perfect ending to our Christmas Day.

On Boxing Day we lit our wood oven and kept it steadily burning for a few days.  With some cooler days and a little extra time on my hands I felt like getting stuck into some cooking that I hadn’t managed to get done before Christmas.  This big batch of home-grown apricots went into the wood oven to dry, following on from a Boxing Day lamb roast.

The vegetable garden is also enjoying the cooler days.  It has become an unruly tangle of cucumbers, zucchinis, tomatoes, beans, basil, rock-melons and chickpeas.  

For Christmas my love gave me some gorgeous, indulgent gifts.  Just for fun he also gave me this little caravan, car and a girl with a camera.  Looking at this little set up just makes me smile.  

With the wood oven back in action there was always going to be bread and bread photos.

How are your days looking?

Have you recovered from Christmas? 

I wonder if you love a Christmas afternoon expedition?

Monday, December 21, 2015

Pre-Christmas moments

As we hurtle towards Christmas I am feeling slightly unprepared compared to previous years of precision organisation.  It has been hot and dry and life has been busy.  So, this week I am going to work hard on breathing and focusing on what is important and meaningful in my life. 

I have generous, thoughtful blogging friends and Celia is one of them.  Celia recently sent me a gorgeous little parcel containing a bracelet, earrings and a pendant handmade from sterling silver and vintage Swarovski crystals. Celia tells me that years ago she used to make jewellery and collect old Swarovski crystals.  Is there anything this talented woman can’t do or make?   Thank you Celia. 

Every sunrise is special.   The cool stillness of the morning is my favourite part of the day, no question about it. 

This year I have already gifted countless bags of homemade Christmas biscuits to associates, family and friends.  A handful of special people have received mini gingerbread houses.  I favour an understated gingerbread house and prefer simplicity over thickly layered lollies and sweets.  Tiny pendants from Paperboat Press always feature just to add a little non edible magic. 

Tomatoes and basil from my garden, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Family, friends and horses in the early morning light, I will never get sick of capturing moments like this.

My snake beans have just started to produce their long, crisp beans.  These are one of my favourite vegetables to have in the garden.  

Pip's blog posts are always full of useful thoughts and tips and I found this recent post about keeping cool at Christmas really helpful.  You might too!  

Are you feeling organised this week?
Are you finding some special, quiet moments?  

Merry Christmas, friends.  xx

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Summer colour

We are lucky to have connections to a local stone fruit supplier who occasionally sends a few boxes of perfectly packed fruit our way.   The aroma and taste of these nectarines instantly takes me back to the summers of my childhood.  An easy nectarine and almond tart seemed a good way to use up the slightly softer fruit.  

Cool dark walls provide a moody backdrop for pretty flowers and glittering ornaments.  It is always so exciting to see a new shop open in a country town, best wishes to the Botanica team.  This little space is a breath of fresh air in our main shopping strip.

These beautiful, golden Trevatt apricots in my garden are destined for stewed fruit, drying, gifting and perhaps a fruit tart or two.

Red dust and a soft pink sunrise as my husband takes off in his plane for another day of station work.

Sunrise at the horse yards while Sugar takes it all in.  The only way to manage horse riding in our summer is to start early.  Catching the pretty morning light is a bonus.

Feral goats come in an endless assortment of colours but I thought this little mob seemed nicely colour coordinated.  

I hope you have some pretty colour in your world!

Happy weekend, friends x

Friday, December 4, 2015

In My Kitchen, December 2015

Welcome back to my kitchen.  In between finishing off school for the year and preparing for a busy month of sheep work I have managed quite a lot of cooking.

This focaccia recipe came from Lunch Lady magazine and it is a winner.  As some of you know sourdough is my bread of choice but sometimes it is nice to go back to an easy recipe that contains instant yeast, just for fun.  I topped this loaf with strips of zucchini from the garden, garlic and fresh thyme.

Christmas is coming at us quickly and at this time of the year I always launch into some serious gift biscuit baking with some help from my big dough mixer. 

At Christmas time I find it very useful to have an army of mini gingerbread men on hand to give to teachers, hairdressers, mail delivery people and unexpected guests, as well as family and friends. 

My children picked this bunch of sticky gum tree flowers for me.  Apparently they climbed a rather tall, rusty old ladder to reach them but they assured me it was all very safe.  I loved the flowers and didn’t ask any more questions.

Curly cucumbers make pretty, temporary bracelets.  Home grown cucumbers make me happy, even if they do grow into strange shapes. 

Poppy seed heads remind me of tiny sculptures and I love saving them and throwing their tiny seeds around the garden.  I am trying to think of a creative way of using this little bunch, on our Christmas table perhaps. 

I am rather sad to hear that Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial will no longer be hosting this link up of kitchens from all around the world.  If you get a chance, please call into Celia’s blog for a dose of kindness, sharing, friendship, family and creativity. 

Happy Friday friends x

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sourdough experiments

Over the years I have cooked a lot of sourdough using two basics methods.  My dough proves in bannetons and then it is cooked directly on the floor of our wood oven or directly on a layer of terracotta tiles that live permanently in our gas oven.

I know a lot of fellow bread friends, including Celia sometimes cook their bread in various pots with a lid.  Recently I decided I needed to try this method for myself.

My pots of choice were two cast iron camp ovens which we use regularly in our wood oven for cooking almost everything.  Camp ovens are hardy enough to withstand high temperatures, they hold their heat for long periods and are perfectly suited to the sometimes unforgiving world of wood oven cooking.  They are also heavy and need to be handled with care, especially when they are hot.  Enter, welding gloves. 

On this occasion I cooked four loaves directly on the wood oven floor and placed two loaves into cold camp ovens with the lids on.  The camp oven bread and the bread that cooked directly on the floor all went into the hot oven together. 

The loaves that were placed directly on the floor cooked and rose faster than their counterparts in the camp ovens.  The loaves in the camp ovens spread out more and didn’t achieve the height of the other loaves.   The camp oven bread also developed a more golden colour.  The bases of the camp oven loaves were perfect thanks to an extra layer of protection from the wood oven floor.  Perhaps my biggest challenge with wood oven bread is preventing the bases from burning.

Overall, I didn’t find a huge difference in the taste or crumb of these loaves.  Although our camp ovens are always clean and thoroughly seasoned perhaps the loaves had a hint of lamb shanks or slow roasted goat about them.  Not altogether a bad thing.    

For anyone who is interested, the loaves on either end of this line up were from the camp ovens and the four loaves in the middle were cooked directly on the floor of the wood oven. 

Happy Sunday friends, I hope you are baking something tasty x

Monday, November 16, 2015

Pondering and pretty things

I have been thinking about a lot of things lately.

No matter how many babies are born, it is always a miracle.  When a special little girl recently entered the world I couldn’t help feeling nostalgic as I put her gift together. 

We have been spending some time with a wise horsewomen who has been teaching us about the basics of natural horsemanship.  This is a new way of thinking for us and along the way an easy friendship has developed.  It is wonderful when new things lead us to like minded people and exciting opportunities.  

Christmas can be a special time but it can also be a time of ridiculous excess and family tension.  I pondered all of this while I was making a simple wreath from a soft gum tree twig one hot afternoon.  

My friend Zara is very talented with the sewing machine, amongst other crafty things.  Have you ever seen Australian themed tea towels look so pretty?  These cushions suit our home perfectly.  Thank you Zara, these colours brighten my day every time I look at them.

This year my garlic bulbs are not particularly large, but they still smell delicious.  Do I need to even say how much I detest seeing Chinese garlic in the supermarket? 

In a quiet corner of my kitchen I have some beautiful beeswax candles given to me by a special friend.  Also, some pretty reading material from the talented Lunch Lady and Fete magazine. Both of these magazines are printed on delicious, thick paper which I love.  

I listen to more music now that I have in years.  My taste is varied to say the least.  I like a little bit of country both old and new, I love the big hits from the '80s but I also listen to Triple J  whenever I can.  Guitar Town was released by Steve Earle in 1986.  I hadn’t seen the video until recently; I do love an old school country tune to get my toes tapping.  Check out the styles and the classic tour bus in the video.  

What are you thinking about, friends?

Garlic, horses, music or Christmas?  

Wishing you peace this week x

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

In My Kitchen, November 2015

Lately things have been fairly simple in my kitchen.  While some of the food we eat isn't necessarily quick to prepare it all contains simple ingredients.  Sourdough baking and vegetable growing are entwined in the rhythm of our life and the processes have become second nature over the years. 

I don't think I will ever get tired of preparing, baking, eating and photographing bread. 

Sourdough cinnamon buns made using Brydie's recipe.  My dough turned out to be quite wet and sticky and so my shaping was not nearly as neat or creative as Brydie's but they still filled my kitchen with that unmistakable smell of cinnamon, bread, butter and goodness. 

On a dusty shelf in an outback shed holding long forgotten nails, nuts and bolts, my husband found this gorgeous old ice cream tin and bowl.  The little bowl is by Johnson Bros of England and I have it on good authority that this particular shape is quite rare in the world of op-shops and Johnson collectables. 

Sourdough pizza topped with home cured olives and fresh spinach and thyme from the garden.  

A circle of spring goodness, baby zucchinis, asparagus and thyme from the garden.  

In our house it is unthinkable to run out of yoghurt.  It is comforting to know that when the supply runs low it doesn't take much effort to make a bowl of silky, creamy yoghurt to keep everyone happy.  

Last summer I grew chickpeas and with some help from Mum and the kids we harvested enough peas to eat and some to sow again this year.  My hand model had been picking mulberries in case you hadn't guessed.  I have found chickpeas make a hardy green manure crop to grow in the summer and picking the peas is a bonus. 

Are you keeping things simple in your kitchen?

I hope the middle of your week is full of good things.  

As usual I am linking up with Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. Please visit her kitchen and other kitchens around the world, if you get a chance.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Doing the rounds

My life is stretched between a lot of different compartments at the moment.  Sometimes these compartments feel synchronized and other times they don’t.  I struggled to give this post a particular theme or feel and then I realised that lately our life has gone in hundreds of different directions almost daily so how could I possibly string it all together in one neat package.  

There are brief early morning moments spent in the vegetable garden noticing the ants feasting on the zucchini flowers.

There has been a hot afternoon spent bringing home a load of old hay and horse manure from the yards to the vegetable garden, complete with two happy car dogs.

There is distance education where in amongst the satellite lessons and spelling tests we get to be creative with flowers and paint out in the fresh air.

At the end of the day we make our living off the land and when the men folk are away working on other properties the kids and I do our best to check cattle, sheep and water tanks.  We may have also been known to take a few photos while we are doing the rounds. 

For us October always means back to back horse events.  As a family we have camped under the stars with our own horse and young rider while my husband continually contributes his time and skills to several bush racing committees.

Life is busy and sometimes it gets a bit gritty but I feel fortunate that we are able to do all of these things.  Some people may never get the opportunity. 

Is your life neatly packaged at the moment? 

Or perhaps you are juggling a few different compartments too?

Riding horses or growing vegetables?

Happy Sunday friends x

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sand hills and zesty treasure

It was just prior to sunset on a typically balmy spring evening when we pulled up at the back of the orchard where the promise of abundant lemons laid waiting for us.

Nearby, the white and yellow paper daisies on the sand hills were calling out for my camera but I knew if I waited a few more moments the light might just improve.  I estimated we had twenty minutes to pick our lemon bounty before I needed to capture those gorgeous outback flowers with my lens.  It is funny how nowadays my family doesn’t even question my constant quest for the better light.

With a cold beer in hand we filled two big bags with lemons, mostly off the ground.  We barely touched the heavily laden branches.    

The daisies on the sand hills were waiting for me and back in my kitchen, my best friends butter, sugar and eggs were also waiting.

Over the next few days I gently spooned homemade lemon curd into a batch of warm, plain muffins.

This tangy lemon slice was a new recipe for me taken from the current issue of Fete magazine.  My tribe loved this slice and I loved the no-nonsense recipe and the generous amount of eggs it used up.  

Lurking deep in the freezer I found a chunk of sourdough focaccia.  You guessed it; lemon curd seemed the obvious topping.

Some friends have received lemon gifts and there is lemon juice destined for the freezer.  

Over the years I haven’t had any luck growing lemons and all of this zesty goodness feels like treasure.

Do you have a favourite lemony thing?

Are you waiting for the prettiest light with your camera?

Happy Sunday friends x