Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Deep mid-winter

The daphne bush is finally flowering.  I so love the alluring scent of this wonderful plant..
It's been a busy week or so in the garden, pruning fruit trees and roses and general tidying up.  It is unbelievably wet so we have to get out there when it's not raining.   I am finally picking some things from the veggie garden: rocket, lettuce, spinach and the broccoli and cauliflowers are nearly ready..

I went to Melbourne on the weekend with my friend Soph to go to the Design Trade Fair.  There were a few good bits and pieces, and just like my friend over at Kelly Green, we saw some lovely chairs.  On Saturday we had a very amusing trip to Costco and after initially thinking we wouldn't find much of interest amongst all those huge mountains of things-you-don't-need, came out with this:
While we were gone husband and daughter acquired a new chook run designed to sit over the vegetable garden beds.  It arrived with tenants included.  We now have a golden speckled Hambug and two more Wyandottes.

I cooked a lovely pot roasted chicken the other night.  
Before carving

 I saw a similar recipe in Matthew Evans' new book but did it slightly differently.  I think this is a good way to use a chicken that is not top quality as the liquid imparts a delicate flavour and the meat is beautifully juicy. 


1 chicken, preferably free range
6 sprigs of thyme (or sage)
1 lemon, sliced
a couple of knobs of butter
1 sprig rosemary
1 bay leaf
125ml verjuice
125ml chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 200c.  Place a couple of sprigs of thyme and a few lemon slices inside the cavity of the chicken.  Under the skin push a knob of butter on each side of the breast, followed by a couple of sprigs of thyme.  Season the whole bird really well.
Heat some butter and a slosh of olive oil in a large casserole.  Brown the chicken well on all sides
then add the verjuice and the chicken stock.  Cook uncovered in the oven, basting occasionally, for about 45-60 minutes (test with a skewer, the juices should run clear).
Rest for 15 minutes (covered, in a warm spot) then carve and pour over the pan juices.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sunday Lunch

The Tree Dahlia I planted two years ago is finally flowering

Holidays over and normal service resumes.  It was very hard to get out of bed on Monday morning to fill the lunch box and ensure prompt arrival at the front gate for the school bus.

No exotic holidays for us, but it was fun just to be at home taking it easy.  There have been lots of paddock picnics and catching up with friends.

Look at those tasty chops
Best of all, there were two very pleasant Sunday lunches.  Cooking Sunday lunch would have to be one of my favourite things to do.  On the first occasion we had slow roasted lamb, forgotten what sort of potatoes and salad followed by a rather nice apple pudding for which I should have made custard, but ran out of time:
Please excuse the fingerprint in the ice cream....0/10 for presentation
To start with we had my roasted olives which are effortless to make and quite expensive to buy.
Just put some kalamata olives in a baking dish and drizzle generously with olive oil.  Add a couple of strips of lemon peel (use a peeler, you don't want any of the white pith), a chopped chilli (seeds removed), a sprinkle of fennel seeds, a sprig of thyme or rosemary and a quick grind of pepper.  Cook in a moderate oven for about 40 minutes until nicely softened.  Give them a shake every so often.  They keep well in a jar in the fridge, just warm them gently to serve.

We sat at the dining room table with all the kids and enjoyed a few reds by the fire.  Can't beat it.
Last weekend, we had friends to stay and the husbands went to Melbourne to go to the footy on Saturday.  They returned, tired, hungover, in time for lunch on Sunday and I made glazed corned beef, mashed potato and tray baked root vegetables followed by a nutty golden syrup pudding similar to the one in Matthew Evans' new book Winter on the Farm.  I didn't photograph the corned beef, but I will soon, and let you know how I cook it.

In the second week my daughter did a Cattle Handling and Showing Course at the Melbourne Showgrounds.  As we don't have cattle, she was given a recalcitrant little Belted Galloway that she had to feed, learn to groom and show over the four days.  Here it is not standing up.

It took a pusher and a puller to get it into the ring for the final judging so she did very well.  The kids all slept in swags on the concrete floor of the Woodchop Pavilion and had an absolute ball.

I meanwhile was kept busy attending to some shopping, idling about in bookshops, wandering around the city and going out for dinner.  I went for lots of walks and loved seeing all the michelias and camellias in full bloom.  
The ewes are lambing like nobody's business.  It is amazing so many are surviving given how wet it is.  The Lochaber Creek flooded last night, but luckily there is some higher ground for the ewes to go to.
I can't take any photos of them as we don't like to disturb the ewes too much as it leads to mismothering. Further updates next week.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Geocaching and an easy treat

You may be wondering why there has been no recent mention of the AGA stove that I was hoping would arrive in May.  It has been held up in the UK where clearly the entire country took the months of April and May off work to celebrate the royal wedding.  It is now due in August and at this stage we are not amused.

Holiday jollies continue unabated.  I took the kids and some friends to Tower Hill last week to go Geocaching, which is an iphone app.  You use a compass to find locations when you find it there is usually a small "treasure" box with a sheet of paper to write when you found it and you can see who has found it before you.  All great fun until you go off the track and get lost and everyone starts whinging and I had to walk all the way back to get the car and drive back and pick them up...

We did see some interesting wildlife though,

The dark blob is a koala

On the way home we stopped at the spot that Von Guerard did his famous Tower Hill painting.
It was getting late and raining and the children were decidedly unimpressed, but at least I made some attempt  to get them interested in Australian art.

They were more interested eating something yummy, so just as well I had made this date loaf to keep them quiet (small disclaimer...not all of them liked it but trust me, grown ups will). 

1 cup chopped dates
juice of 1 orange
1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
60g butter[
1 cup boiling water
1 3/4 cups SR flour
1 teasp bicarb soda
1/2 teasp each of cinnamon and nutmeg
1 teasp vanilla essence

Soak dates in orange juice for 30 minutes (longer is ok)
Preheat oven to 180c.  Grease and line a loaf tin.
After soaking, add sugar and butter to bowl.  Pour over boiling water and stir until the butter is melted.
Add sifted flour, bicarb soda, cinnamon and nutmeg and mix well. Stir in vanilla essence.
Pour into tin and cook for 45-50 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
It is rather good with butter, but also with cream cheese and orange zest.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Holiday entertainments and cooking

While the weather was good last week we planted some fruit trees in the new veggie garden.  Two plums, a cherry, an apricot, a nectarine and two heritage apples that had been grafted by our local primary school.

The  weather has fallen in a bit of a heap this week.  Howling winds and a lot of rain. We have been busy collecting kindling.  I find the best kindling is collected from underneath all the English trees in the garden, not the natives.
We had a weekend at the beach with some friends, the sun came out briefly..
And we managed some wine tasting..
I have been cooking lots of lamb, here are some chops I brushed with honey, grainy mustard and a little olive oil before grilling in the oven.  
It is just too cold to be outside with the barbeque at the moment
Sometimes in the winter I crave lighter food.  Fennel is beautiful at the moment and I am loving shaved fennel and orange in a salad, with some rocket and greens from the garden.  All it needs is a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice or verjuice, plus lots of salt and pepper.  It's even better after it has sat for a while.  
Sang choy bow has made an appearance too.  

If anyone is interested in purchasing some heritage apples trees, please contact Anton Boyd at Woolsthorpe Primary School:  03 5569 2241 (when school goes back).  He has hundreds of varieties available and it is a great fundraiser for our school.