Monday, December 26, 2011


This was meant to be my Christmas Eve post, but time got away.  Our staff Christmas drinks was more festive than expected, leaving us all feeling a bit dusty on Friday.  I am thrilled to report that the tree was finally done, not as huge as last year's, but the man with his chainsaw could only give us 15 minutes of his time...
We relocated to the beach for Christmas.  I made gravlax for the first time and can I say it was really easy and delicious.  We were so not doing the turkey and plum pud this year.  I have just realised that I left my camera cord at home so I will publish the photos next week.

Oh, and we had an inch of rain last Sunday.  It is a simple equation: rain = happy husband.

 I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, and here's to a happy and healthy 2012.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas goodies

Still praying for rain.  It is so dry here.  Apparently some is coming tonight.  The Chinese Star Jasmine doesn't seem to mind.

I love these garlic plants coming into flower, it is like they have their own little hat..
I have been busy cooking up Christmas goodies to give as presents this week.  I have made lemon cordial and summer berry jam as well as preserved lemons and apricot jam,

 which I always make in December.   In a mad rush of blood to the head I was going to make a Christmas cake but decided to make a Bara Brith, which, according to our English jackaroo, is a popular Welsh fruit cake.  It is infinitely easier to make than a Christmas cake and although not necessarily a Christmas treat, I thought I should make it for him, he being so far away from home 'n all, and besides, his mother is Welsh.
After a bit of googling I discovered it is translated as 'speckled bread' and many recipes have yeast, but as luck would have it in a trawl through my recipe folder I found a clipping with an easier recipe, which I think came from Matthew Evans:


500g mixed dried fruit (just sultanas, raisins & currants)
85g sugar
300ml hot tea, best made in a pot
500g SR flour
2 tblsp marmalade
2 teasp mixed spice
1 egg, beaten
warmed honey to glaze

Start the day before.  Mix the fruit and sugar in a large bowl and pour over the hot tea.  Leave overnight.

Preheat the oven to 170c.  Grease and line a large loaf tin (or two smaller ones, it freezes well).
Give the fruit a stir and add the flour, marmalade, mixed spice and egg.  Mix well.
Put the mix into the loaf tin and bake for about an hour or until a skewer comes out clean.  Brush the top with warm honey when it comes out of the oven.  Cool in the tin for about five minutes before turning out on a cake rack.   Good with butter and a cup of tea.  This has been going out with the packed lunches to the sheep yards all week.

Monday, December 12, 2011


The Christmas Lillies are out a bit early.
Good grief...we are not only already in December, we are well into December.. where has the time gone? Christmas is looming and I am deeply ashamed to report that our tree is not yet up.  I need a man and a chainsaw with half an hour spare and that seems to be an impossibility at the moment.
The thing is, we are shearing and weighing and trucking lambs and it is all a bit manic because it has not rained here for ages.  This puts us into panic mode because we need the rain to freshen up the feed to keep the weight in the lambs.  The rain seems to be all going to the north, or to Melbourne and missing us altogether.  There are of course other farmers who are doing hay or harvesting who don't want it to rain...fussy bunch, aren't we?

Otherwise there have been races and school plays, a wedding in Perth, the kitchen garden at school, many trips to Melbourne and a couple to SA and loads to do in the garden.  I harvested my garlic the other day..
and now its hanging in the shed drying out.  I was, according to Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden  book, supposed to leave it until the summer solstice, but I was worried that it was rotting.  It is so nice to have your own garlic, as the imported stuff is sprayed with some nasty chemicals to preserve it.

There has been lots going on in the kitchen, just no time to blog about it.  I have made the bread that I saw on A Wee Bit of Cooking a couple of weeks ago, it is dangerously delicious, especially with strawberry jam...
We have had a great crop of broad beans this year.  I always blanch them and slip off the outer skin before using.  

Mostly I simply dress them in olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice and scatter with some chopped mint leaves...
or add some crispy pancetta and some shavings of parmesan, or even some marinated goat's cheese.

We have had quite a few double yolker eggs this spring....look how big they are compared to a normal egg.
The other thing I have been experimenting with is resting marinades for meat.  I found a recipe for a lamb resting marinade in Maggie Beer's Cooking with Verjuice book and have been trying it out with lamb.  It is easiest with a boned out leg, but can be used with one on the bone as I have done here:
So if you have time you marinate the lamb in olive oil, garlic, rosemary, salt & pepper for a few hours before cooking it as usual.  Then as it comes out of the oven you pour the resting marinade over the lamb, cover and rest in a warm place for 15-20 minutes, turning it over a couple of times.  

Resting Marinade (loosely based on Maggie's version)
1/4 cup olive oil, 3 tablespoons verjuice, a couple of sliced shallots, roughly chopped parsley &  oregano,  s & p.    Mix together.  Maggie had preserved lemon in hers too, which adds a great flavour.

It occurred to me that you could do this with smaller cuts of meat, like steaks or lamb loins and just alter your marinade to suit your taste.