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Thursday
Aug042016

shedmania is born

Had I been following Michelle Crawford's beautiful Hugo & Elsa blog for too long? Dreaming of her Tassie life wearing gumboots, everyday. Maybe I'd eaten one too many warm Rugelach direct from the oven at Lotus Eaters Cafe in Cygnet.

Perhaps I was hooked from the very 1st time we basked in the sun overlooking the d'Entrecasteaux Channel from Peppermint Bay restaurant across to Bruny Island. 

It's a lovely experience too, Going behind the scenery  from the comfort of one's desk. There are so many authentic Tassie stories on this website. But on reflection, it's pretty easy to pinpoint the exact moment ...

My husband & I were sharing a tasting paddle of cider last year in Willie Smith's Apple Shed when we decided we MUST somehow, someday, take a bite of Tassie's special Huon Valley for ourselves. 

"At least a few acres" we said... "and wouldn't one of these old timber sheds be fab too!" we laughed, as he'd often threathened to live the 'simple life' in a mancave.  They'll be no steel Titan in this rustic dream.




Beware: A cider or coffee stop at Willie Smith's can quickly turn to addiction. Of course the cider is mulled at this time of year, so it's pretty spesh when it comes to you hot.

Wassailing at the Huon Valley Mid Winter Fest might seek to drive the bad spirits out from the cider trees, but let's be honest, this Festival is an attractant - who'd ever want to fly away from this place. The whole weekend is all atmosphere, community, brilliant bands & paddock to plate.

Festivals, sheds & cows in ankle deep mud aside for a moment...

My Mum was born in Hobart & has early memories of Huon fruit picking. Row upon row of tightly packed preserves in the pantry are part of our heritage. It was the norm for most Tassie families to preserve the seasons & never waste nature's gifts. You gotta love a little town where the local IGA still stocks the full range of Fowler Vacola's preserving bits & bobs.

The Valley's oldest established township, Franklin, is a scenic drawcard for those who enjoy being riverside, onboard or simply admiring weathered timbercraft at the famous Wooden Boat Centre & boardwalk. 


I can't help but wonder what life was like 'way back when', living in the sunny South, Apple Valley Tasmania.

Photo courtesy of LINC Tasmania Online library

OK... I'll be honest, we've already signed on the dotted line. The SOLD sign is on, just up the hill a little & next door to a young apple orchard, surrounded by the juicy bounty of Autumn. It's wonderful to see the trees reappearing all over the valley.

Planting our first 6 trees was a happy day. Our whole block had once been apples & pears for many decades. I can't imagine what it was like for the farmers when the government paid to pull out their orchards in the mid 70's due to the British export market collapse. 1,300 growers going down to just 60.  

Thank you Woodbridge Fruit Trees, for keeping heritage varieties alive & well. I've got so much to learn about growing cold climate fruit. My heart belongs to citrus & jaboticaba, but is quickly swelling to include juicy new possibilities.

 

Life is calling us to plant Comice (a french Pear variety from the 1850's), grow Raspberry canes like weeds for jam & loaves & turn John Downie crab apples into neat rows of jelly jars. Not to mention eating cherries & pastries at Christmas, that haven't travelled any food miles. Washed down with a fine Tassie Pinot.

All good dreams have interesting characters don't they? Even if sometimes they're a little crazy. So far in our dream the characters include; 2 shedmaniac 'mainlanders' (us), 2 happy girls (our daughters who've almost forgotten how to forget their homework & get muddy) and a hairy girl called Ziggy - the Highland Cow across the road. You can see why we're so tempted to give her a fringe trim.

I'm sure come Spring, they'll be many more interesting characters along for the ride, plus heaps of possums & wallabies come to eat our new fruit trees. Gotta get that netting up!

Structurally speaking there's; 2 original barn doors eagerly awaiting restoration, plenty of rotten hardwood, hay in every crevice, a leaky roof, drainage issues, no town water, pear packing instructions on falling down cladding & rows of pretty Poplars.

Plenty more Shedmania is scheduled for our September holidays. And I'm hoping to start documenting & photographing the character-filled timber sheds of the Huon & their stories. Will keep you posted. 

In the meantime, hope to see you at the farmers markets x 

Tuesday
Jul192016

Murwillumbah fortnightly

Dear MFK friends, I'm attending the truly authentic growers market at Murwillumbah showgrounds each Wednesday fornight (I'm there again tomorrow) 7am - 11am, hope to see you there.  Tomorrow I'm taking gluten free Persian Love & Lemon Coconut Slices & old fashioned Highland Slice, along with my usual winter line-up of handmade Preserves. The winter veggies are so fresh there, they almost talk to you. Our amazing crop of Tangelos will only last another few weeks, but there's plenty of homemade cordial left to enjoy. Big hugs all round Susie x

Sunday
Feb142016

border crossing

Hi. Some lovely MFK friends are asking my whereabouts...

Well, I'm not preserving or baking anything commercially at the moment, sorry, but I know it's still handy for you to be able to reference my recipe postings here in the one spot. The Recipe Search button isn't going anywhere & here for you whenever you get the urge to bake something for your Valentine or precious family. 

My family & I have crossed the border, now living in Northern NSW, however still enjoying our regular trips, fruit picking & farm therapy at our beloved Weka Weka. We are on the border of the Tweed Valley, where the rain gauge fills more regularly & there's always something to pick in the backyard or bumper roadside stall. 

I'm studying horticulture this year & really growing my edible garden passion (& botanical Latin!) in the classroom. There's so much more I want to learn. It's a wonderful course & definitely not too late to start if anyone is interested in joining us green thumbs at Kingscliff  - I'll give you all the details.

We have plenty of established citrus in our new backyard & a boot full of just picked Meyer lemons from Weka, so I'm guessing those jars of mine won't stay empty for long. I feel a big batch of Lemon Butter coming on. Hope you are all staying safe, healthy & happy, warmest regards Susie

The Swiss cow pic today is in Andrew's honour. We lost our beautiful brother this week, whom many of you know. He (we) really appreciated all your support of our fundraising efforts for the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation & we'll continue on fundraising for all those touched by this disease x

Sunday
Jun072015

finally ripe & ready

The orchard is bursting & I'm busy preserving. Looking forward to chatting with you at Palm Beach Currumbin Markets fortnightly Saturdays from June 20. PBC Markets are now 6am to 11.30am all year round, no special Winter times.

Can't tell you how pleased we are to see the back of the Summer heat, wasn't it a long one... I feel abit cruel saying this when our Tassie friends are telling us they could have counted the Summer days on one hand down there. And their Winter has started quite brutually.

It seems like a sweet treat to finally be able to crank up the oven at any time of the day, get the gas jets firing & stoke up the fireplace. The snakes & goannas have finally gone into hiding (hip hip horray!), except our resident big Daddy carpet python coming out onto the rooftop to sun himself of a morning. A few funny stories to relay to you, especially prehistoric lizard encounters. Another time..

Sadly you won't see the Jam Van this Winter :-( as she's on the road travelling around Australia without me. So it'll be just me, my market table & usual shiny jars filled with the seasons best.

My secret old Ruby Red Grapefruit tree is still growing strong. Our girls have finally found its hidden location in the Weka rainforest. Makes the best marmalade of the lot, in my humble opinion. Fortunately my Mum planted quite alot more Meyer Lemons over the past seasons, so all the lemons I use are now ours. Even enough finally for big batches of Preserved Meyer Lemon for casseroles, hummus, cous cous & stir-fries. 

The Rosella trees I planted in Summer are growing beautifully - but as many of you know, it takes a massive lot of rosella buds to make a decent size batch of this ever popular jam. I'll try to get some more Rosella Jam back in stock soon. The Jaboticaba trees are sleeping & saving energy for their next big flowering. Sorry in advance, they'll be no Tangelo Cordial this Season. You've probably heard me say Tangelos like to take a year off & then return with great vigour the following Season - always worth the wait. In my next life I wish to come back as a Tangelo tree.

The absolute highlight of our Summer (perhaps my life) was a heavenly long weekend in the Barossa Valley. And meeting Maggie. Maggie Beer & her family were delightful & inspiring. Her recently restored Orchard House, just a stroll from the Farmshop, is divine & most definitely surrounded by the rhythm of the seasons.

Maggie's granddaugher Lilly took us on the grand tour of the Barossa Valley Farmers Markets. Reminding me at every turn exactly why it is we do what we do with our hands & heart. That it's perfectly OK to be small & seasonal in business. Completely OK to say no way to Supermarkets. And keep insisting we know exactly how & where our food is grown, produced & by whom.

If you haven't already been to the Barossa, you must must plan a trip soon. Other highlights to name just a few; Hentley Farm Seppeltsfield, CasaCarboni Enoteca Angaston & Elderton Winery Nuriootpa.

A happy welcome to Winter MFK friends. I hope to see you soon x

Thursday
Feb052015

are you looking for The Jam Van?

Hi MFK friends,

The Jam Van & I are parked opposite Currumbin Marketta, the buzzy Currumbin Sanctuary Friday Night Food Market 4 till 9pm Fridays - Tomewin St Currumbin Beach. I'm parked across the road in the parking area & currently jam-packed with; fresh lemon & passionfruit curds, red wine chilli jelly, sweet tomato relish, jaboticaba jelly, special raspberry vinaigrette, salad dressing, just baked dessert slices and much more. Some gorgeous lotus flowers & pods too - just picked!  Hope to see you soon. Have a wonderful weekend x





 

 

Wednesday
Jan072015

jaboticaba sorbet

Happy New Year MFK friends! I'm very excited to tell you My Gelato at Kirra have turned our beautiful Brazilian Jaboticaba Berries into sensational Summer Sorbet. You'll adore Jaboticaba Sorbet! Sprint, fly or waddle on down to Kirra to try it as soon as possible. Our well-loved Jaboticaba Jelly is also just preserved & back in stock at the farm. Just shout if you'd like a jar or two sent out.


In my humble opinion, this is the Best Gelato maker in the Southern Hemisphere. Bravo Davide!

Paddock to plate, or in this case paddock to cone or cup is simply special. 100% Nature's pure flavour & colour. Enjoy.

Thursday
Dec112014

late afternoon free-ranging

Hi. The rain this week has been sooooooo long coming, much like my blog writing. It's an understatement to say how very welcome it is around here, filling 4 tanks, our dam, water ponds & pool.  All sorts of new growth & birdlife already appearing.

Thought I'd share this duck surprise with you. Weka Weka is best known for images of our Indian Runner ducks, trotting along the pond edge. It's been the most popular handmade card I've sold this year.

So I was excited to find some new wild duck mates, happily playing in amongst the chooks just now. Free-ranging together in the grass after this afternoon's good drop.

I've just learned they're called Plumed Whistling Ducks. Very handsome - all covered in chocolate brown, nougat & chestnut. Their high-pitched whistling call will be a new addition to the soundscape here at Weka. One of two whistling or tree ducks found in Australia. It has such a tall long neck & pretty plumes. Funny mottled grey & pink bill. What a contrast to the Indian Runners.

Still nothing ripe on the orchard trees. But even without all that Preserving, farm life remains busy & lots of fun. I just hope this rain is reaching the farmers who need it most. Warm regards Susie x

 

Saturday
Jul192014

freshly squeezed Tangelo Cordial

When life gives you an amazing crop of Tangelos... or any fresh citrus for that matter

make cordial, or marmalade, or citrus curd or cake or muffins ...whatever takes your fancy x

 

 

Friday
Apr112014

the jam van - part 2

At last ... the MFK Jam Van is ready to load up & hit the road.  Can't wait to show you this little cutie & say hi at Palm Beach Currumbin Farmers Markets tomorrow morning. And every Saturday from 6am to 11pm.  See you soon n have a terrific weekend x

 

Tuesday
Mar182014

dark and delicious

I've titled this Post dark and delicious. And for once I'm not talking about or eating chocolate. Although it is the time of year when in the lead up to April I'm always thinking about what new or varied chocolate treats I can create for the Easter celebration.  

Melbourne has got to be right up there on my favourite foodie town list. Some crazy food revolution is happening down there that I can only dream about in SEQ. And wish to be closer to. It's wonderful to be able to visit this bustling city that lives & breathes to feed us well. And loves putting its local produce on the table for everyone to enjoy.

If you ever have the opportunity to attend Melbourne's Food & Wine Festival - grab it with both knife & fork. On arrival the flowers are often as well presented as the plates of Australia's top chefs.  The horticulturalist in me just loves that.

Each time one visits Melbourne you can't help but wonder how so many food business live, compete and thrive together in such a small geographic area. Wonderful city lanes, pumping with life, flavour & fab coffee. 

To attend one day of the weekend masterclasses at the festival is heaven. If you can get away & indulge in a whole weekend of gob smacking foodie indulgence you'll never forget it.

Saturday
Mar152014

MFK at Palm Beach Currumbin Farmers Markets

Big sincere thanks to all MFK customers (old & new) who made our 1st market day back very special. I love baking & preserving for you! Special thanks to Nicole V & my brothers for inspiring me. See you next Saturday and have a lovely week x

 

Tuesday
Mar042014

orange lightning cake

A very popular cake I made every few days at Le Petite Pantry was the Orange & Almond Cake. The flourless one most of you will be familar with. Based on 2 or 3 whole boiled oranges, lots of almond meal & often topped with toasty almond flakes. In the beginning I would often use mandarins - the no fuss Bill Granger inspired me to do so in Bill's Food. I still think his Mandarin Almond cake recipe is the best of them.

But I gave up 2 things for good when I gave up my bakery. And they'll never be welcomed back. Coffee grinds on the benchtop - the reason I bought a Nespresso machine so quickly. And boiling oranges for hours on my stovetop. Watching oranges boil, topping up water, waiting for them to cool - arghh!!!! Anyone who has made this cake knows what I'm talking about. Impatient young players too, scorching hands while plucking out the orange seeds before processing.

So nowadays the thought of a very moist orange cake that's as quick as lightning to prepare is the go. Still using whole oranges to ensure that wonderful full flavour. But without the prep.  My mantra - easy recipes that don't require fancy icing. This one fits the bill well. Sprinkle the cake with icing sugar or brush with orange syrup if you fancy. Serve with chantilly cream ie. a good dash of vanilla extract & icing sugar added to the thickened cream while whipping.

This one comes courtesy of favourite Kiwi chef, the Free Range Cook - Annabelle Langbein. Fab books & TV series if you haven't yet seen them. 

Ingredients - 1 orange unpeeled, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 125grams butter softened, 1 cup sugar, 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 2 cups plain flour, 1 cup sultanas or raisins, ½ cups chopped walnuts or almonds (optional)

Method - Preheat oven to 160deg C. Use a 20cm diameter springform cake tin. Grease sides with butter and line base and sides with baking paper. The orange should be cut into quarters, remove the seeds and pulse in your food processor until mushed.

Prep time: 15 minutes tops

Baking soda should be dissolved in ½ a cup of water and added to the oranges, along with the soft butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and flour.  Whizz up to combine. Then add sultanas or raisins and nuts if using. Fold through with a wooden spoon until just combined.

Pour mixture into the prepared tin and bake until springy to touch in the centre - about 1 hour. Test with a skewer if you like. That's it. Serves 6-8

At the moment I fence sit between this Lighting Orange Cake & Torta Arancia - the orange & olive oil cake that was my gift from a year in Sardegna. They've been cultivating oranges in Sardegna and neighbouring Sicily since around 1000AD. Like many nuances of Southern Italian cuisine, the influence was introduced by the Arabs in the form of bitter orange varieties.  Both cakes are equally divine ways to use up the last few oranges of any orange variety in the bottom of your fruit bowl without any fuss. Enjoy :-)

Thursday
Feb202014

as sweet as fudge

I called a dear friend "as sweet as fudge". And then it dawned on me that I hadn't yet shared my classic fudge recipe with you.  Now I know some will say add baileys, turkish delight, apple pie, peanut butter and the like. Each to his or her own, of course. But you know what I'm going to say next, before I even say it ... shouldn't fudge taste like creamy succulent squares of caramelised sugar? NOT cherries, bubblegum, rum or nuts. In the recipe book of my dreams, that isn't classic fudge.

Occasionally I'll admit to adding 60grams of dark eating choc or the seeds from 1 vanilla pod to a batch, but that's that. It's like a coffee pod infused with choc orange or vanilla cherry. Give us our coffee tasting like freshly ground coffee please and the old fashioned sweet treats our grandma made, just the way she used to make them. 

Classic Fudge

Ingredients  395gram tin of condensed milk ❤ 150 ml full cream milk ❤ 450 grams sugar, I use demerara sugar (explained below) ❤ 115 grams unsalted butter, chopped

Equipment: a candy thermometer is a must, otherwise its pretty tough getting temperature bang on & a shallow tin (30x20cm, 15cm square or whatever you'd got). Gas is best, but not up the sides.

Method   Grease tin with butter & line with baking paper, extend paper 5cm over the tin sides.

Put all the ingredients into a non-stick large saucepan and heat gently. Stir with a wooden spoon until all the sugar has dissolved well, without boiling.  Bring to the boil and simmer gently, uncovered for about 10 minutes until syrup reaches exactly 116 deg celsius (240F) on your candy thermometer.  Place thermo in hot water before placing right down into the syrup, resting on the pan side for convenient reading. Don't touch thermo until degree reached. Only ever take the temperature to 116 'soft ball' stage for fudge. Then remove the pan from heat immediately. Carefully, without shaking it.

If adding choc or vanilla, do it now before beating. It's how you treat your fudge from now on that affects its texture. If you allow it to cool and crystallise first before beating (when lukewarm) your fudge will be smoother in texture. The old fashioned way. For firmer, more granular fudge beat vigorously by hand while still hot. Purely personal choice.

Beat by hand (not electric mixer) with a wooden spoon for about 10 minutes until thick & shine taken off. A small amount when dropped from a spoon should hold its shape.  Don't attempt fudge on a muggy day like today in QLD, unless you've got the house closed up with the aircon on. Sugar boiling is affected by atmosphere. A clear & dry day is safest for great results.

Pour the fudge mixture into the tin quickly. Cover with tin foil and stand.  If you wish to cut into small pieces before it hardens, wait about 15mins before using a sharp knife to score the surface into squares without cutting all the way through.  Then cut into neat squares and remove from the tin when set, about 3 hours depending on the climate.

This recipe makes approx 750g of fudge.  I like to cut my squares again, on the diagonal, cause a little bit of fudge goes such a long way. And fits on the saucer next to tea or coffee perfectly.  If storing, pop in an airtight container in wax paper for up to a month.

Sugar tips: White sugar is easiest to caramelise as you can easily watch the colour turn from pale gold to dark brown. For extra flavour, brown sugar works well in fudge. I substitute with a ½ cup of light brown sugar when making chocolate fudge for a more pronounced taste. Why use demerara sugar in this recipe?  The large crystals of raw cane sugar add extra sweetness and texture. White caster sugar works well and dissolves quickest. Keep the side of the pan free from sugar grains with a pastry brush or pop lid on for a minute or two to let steam wash the pan sides clear.

I'm sure many of you have a family fudge recipe & flavour you wouldn't stray from. In that case please ignore my fudge ramblings & share with us. Enjoy your day sweet MFK friends. 

Tuesday
Feb182014

my little jam van - part one

Meet Ernie - vintage Morris Minor Bakers trailer, cardboard number plate ERN751.

Like many of us, she came from the motherland. London, England in the 1950’s. Shortly after making the long trip to Australia, she had her van nose chopped off and was made into a delightful Morris Bakers Trailer. Maybe she delivered bread to your mum or your Gran’s doorstep. Who knows?  Just like the milkman, those were the days when the local baker happily delivered fresh bread door to door. Money sitting waiting under the front doormat. 

Little treasures come along in life that are worth rescuing, don't you think...  Animals always, a special piece of furniture, kitchenalia, work of art, old dinner set.  What's your weakness? Die hard op shoppers & garage sale fanatics unite. I know you’ve done this many times. Taken things home to treasure, restore, display, wishing 'it' could speak. The stories it would tell.

This little Morris van trailer in backyard Brisbane spoke to me in January. Saying “Susie, take me home, rescue me from these overgrown weeds and restore me. I might be well over 60yrs old but I still have a purpose in life. I’m a proud vintage Morrie and I’m not ready for the scrap heap yet!.”   

Whether rust or wrinkles, it feels good to look deeper. To reflect back on a time when cars weren't often stolen, or computers, or personal identities. Before privacy statements and trans fats. To a time when butter was always considered better.  When food allergies hardly existed. When my local butcher would hand Mum a stick of cabana for us kids to chew on while she placed her weekly meat order.  

Back in 2014... and there's only so much talk of bodywork & bog, sandblasting & subframes, winches, rust & dollywheels a girl like me can take.

But rescuing an old treasure opens new doors, contacts & interests previously unthought of. Special thanks go to my brother Chris. This Morris rescue mission wouldn’t have gone down without you. I don't know anyone else who can (or would even be willing to try) to back an old ute with a wide car trailer attached on dewy, wet grass at 6am. Then once loaded to squeeze this arrangement through a narrow brick backyard fence without waking the neighbours or dismantling the brickwork. omg! thank heavens for brothers.

Ernie, for want of a better name, has been sandblasted now. Back to bare metal. No rusty holes barred. This old van would just love to deliver my handcut marmalades, grandma's salad dressing, sweet tomato relish, red wine chilli jelly and fresh pastry bites. Stay tuned for Part 2 of resto project. 

In the meantime, if you see an old treasure worth rescuing, I reckon grab on to it with both hands. We'd love to hear about it. 

If you’d like to suggest a name or colour (please keep it kind & exclude the terms rust or bucket :-) just leave a comment at the top of this post or head on over to the MFK facebook page.  I'm partial to lemon or retro orange. What do you think?  Thanks for reading and more recipes soon.

Saturday
Feb082014

fresh design works

Some people are born to create, aren't they..

Nicole Verna, my graphic designer is one such person, an inspired creative gem. I hope you love our re-designed Jar labels, stickers, cards etc.. as much as I do. And that you'll feel & taste my passion (& Nicole's) for freshly picked citrus, everytime you open a jar.  Happy to pass Nicole's details on to anyone searching for inspired ideas and super sweet branding. Enjoy the weekend mfk friends.

 

Sunday
Feb022014

preserving paradise

Heaven help us if there's ever a day in Australia when we can't buy freshly picked seasonal fruit from our favourite grower and have to substitute with imported canned fruit.  Why are our supermarkets still laden with cheap American citrus while our growers can't sell what they've produced locally for a fair price?  All fruit, all year round, regardless of season, source or price just doesn't make sense to me. What do you think?  

There's an apple grower from Stanthorpe who sells at the Palm Beach Farmers Market on Saturdays. Think I've mentioned him once before. When I was baking my Mum's Apple Strudel.

For the past few weeks he has had the most amazing little pears I've ever seen. He calls them Paradise Pears. They've finished now :-(  And there's only three trees at his farm to pluck from. So if anyone happens to know another paradise pear grower, please let us know. For these are truly a petite treat from nature. Also known as Faccia Bella Pera - beautiful faced pears in italian.

I wanted to buy the lot - by the case load. The cutest things I've ever laid eyes on.

In case you haven't come across them yet, this is how tiny they are, next to a regular sized pear

Those that know me know my fetish for jugs (ceramic type) and pears.  I had no other choice but to share faccia bella here on the page and leave plenty behind at the markets for the enjoyment of others. 

They taste more like a Nashi than a Pear. Had great intentions of poaching & preserving a large number but just couldn't stop eating them. Ending up with too few to pack my preserving jar nice & tight. The reason you see them starting to float in the pic below. Oopps. Not a desired result. Poke a knife down to pop your little air bubbles before sealing. And you'll want to pack em in tight and leave just a little headspace up top.  

POACHED PEARS    (or Peaches, Plums or Apricots) - to preserve or eat straight away

Bring Summer stonefruit to your table in the middle of Winter. Lovely served with a smidge of Raspberry Coulis or chantilly cream.  Aim to have at least one row of poaced summer fruits in your pantry for later and for old times sake. Many cooks like poaching in balsamic vinegar or earl grey tea these days. Vanilla is still my simple preference.

So easy, prep time 5 mins, cooking time 10 mins. Serves 6-8

Ingredients

8-10 large pears or other summer stone fruit in season (18-20 tiny pears if you are lucky enough to find Paradise)

1 ½ cups white sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 whole star anise

1 vanilla pod

Wash your stone fruit well first. You can leave whole or halve them, whichever you prefer. Obviously little pears are too cute to cut up.  Heat the sugar, vanilla extract, vanilla bean & star anise in a large pot with 3 cups of cold water. Don't stop stirring until the sugar is well dissolved. After adding the fruits, cook on very low heat until tender. Bigger whole fruits may take up to 20 minutes cooking time. Remove from heat.

While still hot, spoon the fruits carefully into your sterilised Preserving Jar/s. Pour in the very hot sugar syrup till topped right up, just leaving a little headspace.  Run a knife around the inside edge of your jar to pop any air bubbles, before sealing tight with screw top lids.  Will keep for several months (and years) if stored in a cool, dark place and vacuum sealed. ie lid sucked inward when you sealed tightly. Living in humid Queensland, we often keep them in the fridge and enjoy within a matter of months. Great with vanilla bean ice-cream or yoghurt too.

 

Thursday
Jan162014

lavandula in bloom

Sweet wishes for 2014 to you and your family.

I'm thrilled to be free to blog again. And what better way to celebrate than a return visit to delicious Daylesford in country Victoria. Outside Daylesford at Shepherds Flat the lavender is ripe for the picking at Lavandula Swiss Italian Lavender Farm. In fact their Annual Harvest Festival took place last weekend. You might remember my last visit there, Alla Wolf Tasker's fabulous Lakehouse lunch & the beautiful photos my sister Lise captured. 

Revisiting Lavandula, whether in person or in pictures is always good for the soul. 

Down the road from Daylesford in the town of Musk Vale lives Kate Ulman. I was thrilled to read that Kate of Daylesford Organics & Foxs Lane blogspot recently gave herself 6 months off to road trip around Australia in a vintage caravan. Her family's inspiring story and farm is featured in this January's Country Style magazine. Bushfires, floods and locust plagues just can't keep a good Aussie down. Certainly not when there's a dream to catch. We love your spirit Kate & your new book too  'Vantastic' .

For me 2014 will bring some freedom to catch dreams too. I'm finally able to enjoy online jottings and lots of zesting & bottling.  As always the citrus at Weka Weka just can't ripen quick enough for me and my jars. The trees are heavily laden with green fruits. I've used the last of my Ruby Red Marmalade and Preserved Lemons :-( but won't be long before there's more. Thank goodness for Grandma's Salad Dressing & plentiful stocks of Red Wine Chilli Jelly and Tomato Relish for that summer entertaining. Just let me know if you've run out. Happy to post some to you.

Can't wait to connect more regularly with you my MFK friends. And the new local businesses that have popped up during my absence in corporate coffeeland. Lovely stores like Paint Me White in Mudgeeraba village. That Annie Sloan Chalk paint is truly fab. No priming, just swish it on your special timber pieces and hey presto!  

My sincere hope is that you've had time to stop and smell the lavender over the holidays, bake and even perhaps restored a treasured piece of old furniture. No resolutions at this end, just a plan to invest more time in preserving the seasons, my girls, new friends and the sanctum of kitchen & garden spaces. That's where I'll be. Perhaps back at our local Farmers Markets too, selling my wares. I'll keep you posted on that one.  

Warm wishes. I look forward to talking and sharing with you regularly throughout the year. Don't forget to take the Pavlova with you this upcoming Australia Day weekend.  Whether at the beach or out in the countryside, may you enjoy our beautiful sunburnt country. Happy Australia Day.

quintessential aussie bathing sheds at Mornington, Vic. a recent holiday stop

Monday
Jan212013

lattice cheesecake summer slice

Here’s a slice for you so simple and scrum you'll soon be singing its praises. As a general rule I avoid no-bake slice recipes. Especially no-bake cheesecake recipes.  In my humble opinion they're mostly disappointing. Shouldn't a slice be all custardy and not long pulled from the oven? And then along comes an oldie but real goodie - a serious opposer to my silly no-bake rule. And it’s been so darn hot and humid. I’ve made this for friends and family three times this past fortnight - freezes a treat too. Biscuits don't even go soggy in the fridge or freezer. 

A square or two of this luscious beauty fell onto my plate over the Christmas holidays. This is the first chance I’ve had to share it with you all. Happy New Year MFK friends - I look forward to sharing many more throughout 2013. You can flavour it with lime, lemon, orange, crushed oreo cookies, passionfruit, vanilla bean, whatever takes your fancy or needs using up. 

For baking friends in the snowy Northern Hem, perhaps stick with the best baked version of lime slice I know…. entirely satisfying for Winter and revisit this one on a warm Spring day.

Lattice Cheesecake Slice

Ingredients - 3 packets Arnott's Lattice Biscuits (you'll probably use 2 ½ packets, depending on your biscuit tin size 250 grams (8ozs) unsalted butter at room temperature 250 grams (8ozs) cream cheese at room temperature 250 grams (8ozs) caster sugar 2 heaped teaspoons powdered gelatine 4 tablespoons hot water ❤ 2 tablespoons lime juice & rind 2 small limes  - or other citrus of your choice

Method - Line your biscuit or slice tin (25 x 37 cm or thereabouts) with tin foil or baking paper. Place half the lattice biscuits in tin, top glossy caramel side facing down. You may need to cut a couple of biscuits to finish tin sides to edge neatly using a sharp knife.

Place powdered gelatine in hot water in a small saucepan and heat gently on the stovetop, stirring until creamy and fully dissolved. 

Place butter, cream cheese, sugar, citrus juice and rind into a meduim sized bowl. Pour in gelatine and beat well with mixer or handheld beater until combined and creamy. I use an old fashioned handheld whenever I beat cream cheese. Just find it quicker and easier.

Spread biscuits with cream mixture. Place the other half of your Lattice biscuits on top, top glossy caramel side facing up.  Refrigerate till set and cold. Cut into squares or fingers when ready to serve. Dust generously with icing sugar. Enjoy the colder the better.

Thursday
Dec132012

gingerbread holiday fun

When Xmas holidays come round and it's time for gingerbread, I often use pastry-cook Natalie Paull’s recipe from Stephanie Alexander's The Cooks Companion. It's a terrific gingerbread every time and I adore turning it into houses, men, stars, trees and all manner of shapes. Especially at this time of year and with the enthusiastic help of my daughters, niece and nephew.  Best done in 3 simple steps over 2 days, including resting the dough overnight in the fridge.

We've been making a house for each branch of the family for a few years now and the kids love getting really involved. This one pictured is my nephew's work - a great job for Master 12 years old don't you think... Also enjoying the paper xmas trees the kids made at school from unwanted magazines sprayed with glitter.

You'll find this recipe and the assembly of the house and lolly placement so much fun. Much cheaper and tastier than store bought too.  It's hilarious watching the kids go wild with their decorations. I pop my favourite gingerbread house pics away and leave OCD perfectionist tendencies behind. It's a special time to enjoy watching the kids use their creativity and favourite sweeties to construct the little cottage of their gingerbread dreams.

Ingredients Gingerbread  - 170 grams softened unsalted butter ❤ 90 grams dark brown sugar ❤ ½ cup golden syrup ❤ 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten ❤ 470 grams plain flour ❤ ½ teaspoon salt ❤ 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda ❤ 2 teaspoons ground ginger ❤ 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon ❤   ½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg ❤ ½ teaspoon ground cloves  ½ teaspoon white pepper ❤ ½ teaspoon ground allspice

Glaze - 1 tablespoon caster sugar ❤ 2 tablespoons water ❤ ½ teaspoon powdered gelatine  

Royal icing - 2 egg whites ❤ 500 grams pure icing sugar sifted ❤ ½ teaspoon lemon juice 

Extras - 1 sheet of cardboard 28cm x 33cm ❤ covered board ❤  assorted lollies of your choice ❤ Summer Roll (or similar) for chimney, cut on an angle ❤ pure icing sugar for dusting

Method - Step 1 (Day 1) Dough - beat butter, sugar and golden syrup on medium speed until creamed, using the dough paddle attachment on your mixer. Mix in egg. Sift flour, bicarb, salt and spices together. Add dry ingredients, mixing in well on low speed. Once dough has come together, divide into two portions, flatten into a rectangle and wrap each in plastic wrap to chill overnight in the fridge.  

Step 2 (Day 2 morning) - Dough Pieces - remove dough from fridge and sit for 30min to 1 hour (depending on weather) to soften up. Lightly flour plastic wrap and roll dough out to a thickness of less than 5mm.  Rest again in the fridge while cutting cardboard/baking paper pattern.

Cut cardboard and baking paper into a 20cm square and 20cm equilateral triangle. Preheat oven to moderately slow 160°C (325°F). Grease and line two large flat baking trays with baking paper. 

Cut shapes from dough using cardboard/paper patterns. Slide onto the oven trays, still resting on baking paper. Use a sharp knife to cut out a small door and window from one triangle piece and bake these with the other shapes (approx 15mins for door and about 20 minutes for the larger pieces) or until firm to touch. Cool a little then glaze using your pastry brush.

For glaze - combine sugar, water and gelatine in a microwave proof bowl and zap for about 30 seconds on medium heat.  Stir well to dissolve and brush all over warm gingerbread with a pastry brush.

Step 3 (Day 2 afternoon or evening) - Icing & Construction. For royal icing - sift pure icing sugar ready to go.  Beat egg whites with a hand held beater until only just frothy. Add sifted icing sugar gradually to the egg whites, continuing to beat until glossy and stiff peaks form.  Add a small drop of lemon juice and stir through. Place icing directly into your piping bag or otherwise cover over bowl with plastic wrap or damp cloth to prevent icing from drying out. It normally sets to rock hard within one hour.

Spread a thin layer of icing on the board where the house edges will go to make the house pieces secure. Assemble house pieces on the board, trim them first if necessary to make neat and more even edges. Pipe icing along all the house joins and edges to secure.  Pipe around the door and/or any extra decorations you like. Place cut summer roll on the roof for chimney, attach with icing and pipe around to secure. Decorate with assorted lollies/sweets, using a drop of icing to attach each one. Dust all over with icing sugar to complete. Store in a closed box if not displaying or eating soon. Gingerbread pieces can be frozen for later assembly. You can make approximately six large or a dozen smaller gingerbread men with the leftover dough. Just put a large hole in the top edge if you’d like to hang them from your tree with raffia. Bake little men for approx 10-12 minutes depending on their size or until firm to touch. 

If you do get a say on design or are making one for yourself or a friend, you might like to try a red and white themed house like this cute one from Taste  If it’s the minimalistic approach (ie. low fat/lolly free) you are looking for, check out Australian Country Style's 1st ever Christmas issue .  I’ve never seen a plain gingerbread house look soooo stylish. Can't wait for my 2013 subscription. Thank you Santa.

Australian Country Style Mag - 1st ever Christmas edition. Lots of inspiration inside.

For MFK friends in Queensland, perhaps best to wait for a cooler and less humid day (like today!) for construction. Rest assured this quick royal icing will set well in all climates. Would someone please remove the leftover lollies from my grasp... I have no willpower whatsoever at this time of year.  Cheers and happy gingerbread memories to you all x  

Sunday
Dec022012

that first sniff of the xmas season

 

How's your XMAS baking coming along?  Dec 1 & I'm thrilled to say that I've only managed the Xmas Pudding,ShortbreadShrewsbury Biscuits and a few dozen Rumballs so far. Hopefully I'll make some Melting Moments today too...the butter is just coming to room temp.  It's a small yet important collection of traditional favourites in my family. I hope you'll try some too. Just click above and bake whichever recipe most takes your fancy. 

Now if I can't tempt you away from your own tried and true Xmas recipes, then I completely understand.  I never mess with tradition in the kitchen during December and the first sniff of rumballs does me in every season.  

My long hot days of producing 100's of XMAS hampers overflowing with handmade baked goodies are well and truly gone. I'm still a little sad that those well deserving recipients won't get one on their doorstep. However I must share with you the joy and luxury that is 'baking whatever you like, for whomever you like' - rather than 'to order'.  It's such a pleasure I appreciate and celebrate now and every day, especially at this busy time of year.  

To those of you working with quality food and bev this XMAS, whether it be in cafes, restaurants, providores, retail, wholesalers or caterers, I send you an extra big Xmas hug. To those retailers shrink wrapping stale boxes of unwanted stock into cheap baskets with standard bow on top, please stop now! Noone wants to buy them and they haven't wanted to for many, many years. 

I'd love to hear from you when your oven is off, kids asleep and you've got a quiet moment over the holidays. Let me know your favourite xmas recipe or which MFK recipe of 2012 was best received at your place.  Sorry again that the site has been down... I promise I won't ever change web hosting providers again! xx