Thursday, June 30, 2011

Holidays and a few things

Still a few roses about, this one I think is Peace
Holidays have started for the boarding school refugee.  On his first night home I made Eton Mess for pudding, which is indeed a mess, but an utterly delicious one.

I made some meringues with some leftover egg whites (which, by the way, you can freeze...just remember to write how many are in the container/zip lock bag).

3 egg whites
165g castor sugar
1 teaspoon vinegar

Preheat oven to 120c.  Line a baking sheet with baking paper.
Whisk egg whites to stiff peaks.  Add castor sugar gradually while whisking until glossy.  Whisk in vinegar.
Put tablespoons of the mix onto the baking tray and cook  for 1 hour.   Turn off the oven and leave in the oven for an hour to crisp up.

Because strawberries are not at their peak at the moment I decided to roast them, which I did for 15 minutes after sprinkling them lightly with castor sugar.

When they came out I drizzled over some Vinocotto and let them cool.  I also put about 500g of frozen raspberries in a saucepan with the juice of an orange and a teaspoon of castor sugar and simmered them for five minutes.  Then I mixed them with the strawberries to make a lovely sauce.

Whipped some cream with the seeds of one vanilla bean and smothered the meringues with it before pouring over the strawberry sauce.  It was devoured in minutes.

I haven't been watching much of Masterchef this series.  I love the cooking and watching our friend Matt strut his stuff, but I really can't tolerate the "reality" side of it (all that sobbing!).   I did see it last Sunday night when they went to Matt Moran's farm to cook lamb and massacre it on the barbeque.  It was quite telling that the most popular dish of the day was rocky road and is it odd that no-one had much of an idea about how to cook lamb over hot coals?  It is all very well to dish up wanky cheffy dishes for the judges each night in the studio kitchen but I think the contestants need to learn the basics.  The last series was worse.  They just try too hard.  A chop on the BBQ would have probably won the day although I concede not easy to butcher a whole lamb if you've never done it before.  If nothing else it was a marvellous advertisement for our favourite outdoor gear, Drizabone.

Nice picture of no particular relevance
What we have been watching is Downton Abbey, if for nothing else to enjoy the loveliness of Highclere Castle where it was filmed.  If you are finding it a bit slow going, you must watch the Comic Relief version here (Uptown Downstairs Abbey).  It is a hoot.

After last weekend I felt that my beloved could do with his own Bates.  He wore his grandfather's morning coat to a 70th birthday on Saturday and looked every bit as smart and well heeled as Lord Grantham.

On Sunday we watched the start of the local hunt (the birthday was for the Master of the Hounds):

When we got home his clothes were strewn all the way across our bedroom floor.  Where is a Bates when you need one?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Bits and pieces from last week

I picked the last of the granny smiths last week.  I hadn't realised there were any left until all the leaves had fallen.

So I made an apple and raspberry crumble.  I never cook the fruit before putting on the topping.  I sprinkled a bit of brown sugar over the apples and raspberries (frozen).  Then in the Magimix I put a cup of flour, 125g butter, 3/4 cup sugar (white or brown, doesn't matter), 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teasp cinnamon and pulsed it until it resembled breadcrumbs.  I then threw in some leftover almonds that I had toasted in the oven and whizzed up for something else and pulsed again.  Tipped it over the fruit

and baked it at 180c for about 45 minutes until nicely browned on the top:
Sorry pics are a bit blurry, must have had the camera on the wrong setting
The butcher had some lovely pork chops from Otway Pork that I cooked up too.  I think pork chops need a bit of grooving up so I marinated them in this mix:
1 tblsp fennel seeds, toasted in a dry pan and crushed in the pestle and mortar,

2 cloves garlic, crushed, 80 ml verjuice, a sprinkle of dried chilli flakes,  s & p and a few sprigs of thyme.

Two hours should do it, overnight is good.  I then cooked them on the chargrill, and served them with celeriac puree and brussels sprouts.

The other thing I am into at the moment is roasted broccoli.  I am trying lots of ways to cook broccoli in anticipation of a glut out of the veggie garden in a few weeks.

Put some broccoli, cut into florets onto a paper lined baking tray and drizzle with olive oil.

Bake at 180c for about 20 minutes.  In the meantime mix another slosh of olive oil with lemon zest, the juice of half a lemon, a tablespoon of toasted almonds (or pinenuts) and salt and pepper.  When the broccoli is  nicely roasted toss it with the mix and finish with a handful of  grated parmesan. 

My vanilla essence is coming on well.

The first Japonica blooms

Monday, June 20, 2011

Farm time

Early morning

In the last week or so the late afternoons have been beautiful.  The sun comes out and the wind drops and it is the best time to take the dogs for a huge walk.

We had a lovely weekend.  The Little Princess had an overnight birthday party on Friday night so on Saturday morning we set out on a farm tour/pasture inspection in the rhino.
It was freezing so we were very well rugged up...look how wet it is
I did the gates (as usual).
Love the beanie

Those tiny specs are some brolgas we came across....they then flew away..
The bird life this year has been phenomenal.  There are millions of ducks everywhere.
A few ewes have started to lamb:
The rest will start in late July.  And if you think it is an act of cruelty to have lambs being born in the middle of winter just remember THEY WEAR WOOL.  Embrace it people, it is the only fibre for warmth in winter.

I have done my medlars and here they are in the jar:

After putting the medlars (about 500g) in the jar I warmed 375g of sugar in a saucepan with 2 cups of vodka and stirred to dissolve the sugar.  I poured this over the medlars, sealed the jar and gave it a good shake every day for a week.  I now have to wait six months for it to be ready.  This is Sally Wise's recipe from A Year in a Bottle.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A big weekend

The June long weekend is always a big one.  We had two families to stay with all their kids:  a Masterchef judge in one family and a professional landscape designer in the other.  No pressure then...

I did spend last week frantically cooking and tidying up the garden, doing flowers and stocking the fridge.  Our weekend visitors are always very generous with the goodies that they bring and by the time they had unloaded their bounty the fridge was bulging.

Here are some of the things I made last week: chicken for Friday night's dinner,

chicken liver pate,

sausage rolls,

leek and bacon quiche,

pumpkin soup,

pork rillettes,

chocolate ice cream,

and honeycomb crunch ice cream.

There were long walks with lots of children and dogs,

to make room for more food:

All relaxed and fun.  Every child got soaked at least once by sloshing through the creek or lake and they all went into a muddy (nearly empty) dam and came out caked in thick brown sludge, one even got both of his gumboots stuck, and there on the bottom of the dam, they will remain.

Now I need to address the ironing pile and remake all those beds.......

Friday, June 3, 2011

Scanning and scones

I always know when it's time to scan the ewes.

 It is always freezing, often raining.  I get a phone call at about 8.30am requesting smoko, INCLUDING SCONES, to be delivered at 10.30am.  It has become a tradition.  Hard to say no.

Do not presume that I make smoko every day.  It would be very dangerous for the waistline.  I do however make the exception on days that are cold, wet 'n miserable.  Which is how the tradition started in the first place, as the scanning man is an old friend and I felt sorry for them all out in the cold, rain dripping down the back of the drizabone etc etc.  On hot days it's cold beers and, well, more cold beers.

Here's how I make scones.  I usually make them with buttermilk, it does produce the superior scone, but sometimes I don't have it in the fridge.  Luckily I discovered I think, on Smitten Kitchen, that you can make your own if pressed, although I think the bought stuff is better.  Just add one tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup of milk and allow to sit for about 10 minutes.

2 cups SR flour
1 tblsp castor sugar
1/2 teasp salt
80g cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup cream gives a great result too)
Optional: sultanas or dates.  (The crew in the sheepyards prefer them without)
You can double this if you wish, they freeze well and can be warmed up in the oven.  I tend to make a small batch as we tend to scoff the lot.

Preheat the oven to 200 c.  Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Put the flour, sugar and salt into the magimix and whizz till combined.  Add the butter and pulse until it looks like coarse breadcrumbs.  You can do this by hand in a bowl if you wish.  Put it in a bowl.

If you want to add the dried fruit, do so now and mix to coat the fruit.
Add the buttermilk and stir to make a dough.  Turn this out on a floured board, knead gently and shape into a round that is about 5-10cm thick.
A bit rough but I was in a hurry
Using a scone cutter or suitably shaped glass cut out the scones and put them on the baking tray.  Dip the cutter in flour if it gets sticky.  Roll the dough up and keep going until you've used all the dough.  Put the scones close together on the tray and brush the tops with either beaten egg (a more golden top), milk (shinier) or dust lightly with flour (traditional).
Bake in the oven for approx 15-20 minutes until golden.   As soon as you take them out wrap them in a clean tea towel.
Then advance to the woolshed with scones, butter, jam (I think strawberry is best) and thermos.

Then I believe, it is time for the demanding husband and his cohorts to get back to work....

In case you were wondering, scanning is indeed pregnancy testing, which we usually do on our maiden ewes and with similar technology that is used for human pregnancy scanning.  The tarp over the top has alleviated the rain down the neck somewhat.