The last couple of days have been, in a word, freezing. To call it cold, wet and miserable is being kind. Proper, western district bleakness that requires two jumpers (one wool, one possum), two pairs of socks, ugg boots and a roaring fire and the chill still goes right through you. The little princess (darling daughter, aged 10) had to play netball yesterday afternoon in the pouring rain and it was seven degrees. It was no fun to watch either, it took hours for my feet to thaw out (note to self, next time cast fashion aside and wear gumboots). I felt too guilty to sit in the car and read my book with the heater on flat out..
How I have managed to endure this winter (remember, bluestone house, no heating) can be answered in two words: woollen socks. Beautiful thin woollen socks have changed my life as I hate not wearing shoes in the house (mostly because my feet get cold and you can detect underfoot the shortcomings of your housekeeping) so I need thin socks for my inside shoes. Then I have a thicker pair to put on when I go outside and put on my gumboots or blunnies. I was alerted to the wonders of woollen socks by Ewan Sparrow, who came to visit in May, mercifully before winter had really taken hold. Ewan is the head of the New Zealand Sock Co: www.nzsock.co.nz/ and he buys some of our wool for the socks, hence the visit. He is the man when it comes to socks and the kiwis know a thing or two about being cold and they have developed an amazing array of socks, some of which he showed us. He then sent us a few samples and we are loving them. Tim swears by them and has declared that he's never worn better, especially then ones you tuck your jeans into before putting on your gumboots.
I love that a family owned business is still successful and has not sent its manufacturing overseas. (I know it's NZ, but at least it's our wool). DJs stock their socks in Australia.
Anyway those lemons just don't want to go away, so time for a nice winter pud. This is a classic that is probably in every CWA book there is.
Lemon Delicious Pudding Serves 6
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup castor sugar
2 tablespoons SR flour
juice and zest of 1 lemon (I use the zest of two to make it more lemony)
1 cup milk
2 eggs, separated
Preheat oven to 180
Cream butter and sugar, add flour, lemon juice and zest, milk and well beaten egg yolks. Beat well.
Beat egg whites until stiff. Fold whites into butter mix and pour into a buttered pudding dish.
Set in a baking dish of water and bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown on top.
Serve with cream or ice cream.
I served this with some caramelised oranges, which was very chalet girl-ish but quite good....
We had a lovely weekend with a visit from some old friends which was a welcome distraction from the tedious ongoing federal election saga. I wish I cared more, I know I should. Back to the weekend...the weather yesterday was beautiful and spring-like and it was a treat to sit on the verandah in the sun and have a barbeque lunch. The girls had a mud fight..
I was expecting it to be a cold and miserable weekend so I cooked a big roast pork leg on Saturday night followed by a good wintry pudding to use up some of the rhubarb, the only thing flourishing in the veggie garden at the moment:
Rhubarb Pudding Serves 8
6 stalks of rhubarb
3 pears, peeled, cored and sliced into wedges
1 tblsp brown sugar
zest of one orange
200g castor sugar
185g butter, diced
1 teasp vanilla essence
150g self-raising flour, sifted
2 tablespoons almond meal
75ml buttermilk (normal milk is ok)
Roughly chop rhubarb and place in a saucepan with brown sugar and 150ml water. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, then add the pears and cook for a further 4 minutes. You don't want the rhubarb to collapse completely. Taste and add more sugar if necessary (it will depend on the rhubarb, I added a tablespoon of my mother-in-law's loganberry jam, you could use strawberry or raspberry, entirely up to you). Add the orange zest and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 180. Cream the butter and castor sugar until pale and beat in the eggs one at a time with the vanilla until smooth. Gently fold in flour, almond meal and milk.
Strain the fruit and reserve the excess syrup in a jug. Put the fruit into a baking dish and spoon the batter gently over the top. Bake for 40 minutes until golden and cooked through (check with a skewer).
Serve with ice cream or cream and pour over the reserved syrup.
I made the Orange and Cardomom Ice Cream from Stephanie Alexander's Cook's Companion which went with it beautifully.
May I confess that the leftovers were my dinner last night...
Oh my golly gosh have we had some rain! Three inches in two days. The creek (left of picture) nearly broke its banks and the other creek (on the right, out of the picture) has flooded the flats. As we are in the thick of lambing some rescue missions were required and although we lost a few lambs the damage could have been worse. Sheep are not the brightest of creatures but I have to say they are tough and some are amazing mothers.
An old bridge was nearly swept away and a tree fell over in the garden and I have spent the last couple of days picking up fallen limbs and tidying up the mess. As I was going about the garden I came across a million other jobs that need doing but it is such a miserable day today, I have decided to cook instead.
I picked a basketful of cumquats and instead of marmalade I think I will make pickled cumquats from a recipe in Stephanie Alexander's Cook's Companion (the orange one). I made them last year and they were fantastic shoved into the cavity of a chicken or duck before roasting. You can then slosh some of the vinegar into the roasting pan after the bird is cooked to deglaze and make a sauce with wine or stock.
I will also make some soup. I am one of those tedious people who regularly make chicken stock as I cannot bring myself to use the bought stuff. I also freeze some in ice cube trays. I know this sounds rather earnest but I do use them all the time. As we are all trying to shed a few kgs it will be a vegetable soup with some soup mix added. I have found a good organic one which you should be able to get at the health food shop, try http://www.goodness.com.au/ . It is full of lots of good stuff and makes the soup seem more hearty and nourishing for these bleak winter days.
We really do have the most preposterously bounteous lemon tree in our garden. It is very old and sits in a north and east facing corner of the house, gets absolutely no attention and is laden with lemons all year. Its roots must sit in a leaky old pipe as I have never watered it, nor fed it. I feel so privileged to have it, I know lemons can cause problems for some...they get sick, they die. One thing I do know is that they need to be in a sheltered spot. This is what it looks like underneath:
I use lemons all the time so would hate to have to buy them. A gin & tonic is not a gin & tonic without lemon, and life is too short not to have the occasional lemon tart or lemon delicious pudding. I use them for sauces, vinaigrettes, on seafood, stuffing in a chook, marinating lamb and most of all to make lemon cordial. Luckily my lemons are very juicy and sweeter than the average so I use much less sugar than most recipes for cordial. Ten seconds in the microwave will soften them to help get the juice out too.
With this abundance of lemons I decided to make Preserved Lemons last week. I just cut them up, tossed them in coarse salt and shoved them in jars with a bay leaf, half a cinnamon stick, and a few cloves. I added a bit more salt then squashed them down with the bottom of a glass to release all the juice and topped the jars up with juice. You need to leave them for a month or so before using. I think they would make a nice present too.