Tuesday, November 27, 2012

More from the garden

I can't tell you how stunning the roses have been this year.  They obviously don't mind the dry spring which is making our lush green pastures go "off" (brown) in a flash.
It is a busy time in our region at the moment.  Lots of people are making hay..
Canola is being windrowed, farmers are gazing at the sky for some rain to get the summer crops going and we are shearing..
Love this before and after shot

I have been in the garden trying to keep it all tidy, which mostly has involved watering and pulling out all the forget-me-nots, which are lovely at the start of spring when nothing else is out, but really earn their name when they are finished:

Last time I said I'd give you the recipe for the sticky buns that I made for the garden group that came a couple of weeks ago.  My fond memories of Sticky Buns goes back to my teenage summers at Robe, where a local cafe served "Dog Team Tavern Sticky Buns", which were considered by all as the most decadent indulgence and I spent much of my hard earned waitressing money consuming them.   Many years later I was given the recipe by a mutual Sticky Bun fan from back in the day and discovered they contained of all things mashed potatoes and involved yeast and dough and really they just looked too hard.  I found this simpler (though not quite the same) recipe ages ago in a book by Ina Garten and have never had the chance to make them until the other day.  They are impossibly delicious and ridiculously easy.  There is a lot of sugar and butter involved so if you are trimming down for the beach, look the other way...

STICKY BUNS -  Makes 12

165g room temp butter
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts)
2 sheets of frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 tblsp melted butter, melted
1/2 cup or so of brown sugar
1 tblsp cinnamon
1 cup raisins or sultanas

Preheat oven to 200c.  Line a baking sheet with baking paper and put your muffin tray on top.
Cream the 165g butter and 1/3 cup brown sugar in and electric mixer.  Place a dessertspoon of the mix in each muffin cup and sprinkle with the nuts.
Put a sheet of pastry on floured board and brush with the melted butter.  Sprinkle with half the filling amount of brown sugar, 1/2 the cinnamon and half the raisins or sultanas.
Roll it up, trim off the ends and cut into 6 even pieces and place in the muffin cups.  Repeat with the other pastry sheet.
Bake 30 minutes until golden.  Allow to cool for five minutes then invert onto the baking sheet below.  Spoon out any filling that is left behind and put on the top of the buns.  Then hide them.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Just so you know.  I started this post about, oh, two weeks ago and haven't had a spare second to finish it.  This how far I got:
We have been busy with lots of sheep work lately.

I cooked an interesting salad for some Chinese visitors we had yesterday.  It had been so warm earlier in the week I thought a salad would be a good idea.  Of course it was a cool day and soup would have been better, but the salad worked well.

6 chicken thigh fillets, cut in half
2 teaspoons grated ginger
1 tblsp rice vinegar
Juice of one lime (or lemon)
2 teasp castor sugar

1.5 cups jasmine rice
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon, extra
About 1/4 cup olive oil
Mint, basil and coriander, a good handful of each, plus more for garnish, chopped
1/2 cup shredded coconut, toasted in a dry frying pan
1 long red chilli, seeds removed if you prefer, sliced
2 mangoes flesh chopped
1/2 cup cashew nuts, toasted
6 spring onions, chopped
Lime wedges for garnish

Preheat the oven to 180c.  Season the chicken thighs, place on a baking tray and cook for about 15 minutes until the juices run clear.  You could also just fry them in a pan on the cook top if you prefer.  While they are cooking mix the ginger, rice vinegar, lime juice and sugar.  Make sure you taste it to get the balance right, the measurements are only a guide.  When the chicken is cooked and cooled slightly, slice it into smaller pieces and place in a bowl, adding the pan juices.  Pour over marinade, mix together and leave for an hour or so (doesn't matter if it is for less time).

Cook the rice with a teaspoon of salt according to the packet instructions.  
While it is cooking whisk the lemon juice, lemon zest and oil in a bowl, and season well.  Taste and adjust if necessary.
Drain rice and refresh in cold water.  Transfer to a bowl and add most of the dressing, chopped herbs, toasted coconut, chilli, mangoes, chicken and most of the nuts and toss to combine.
Turn the salad out onto a pretty platter and finish with a drizzle of remaining dressing, extra herbs, cashews and spring onions.  Scatter lime wedges around the edge.
That is where I got to.  It seems like months ago, the last fortnight has been frantically busy, either travelling to Melbourne for Cup Week festivities or head down in the garden preparing for a bus group who visited this morning.  Visitors to the garden are an excellent motivation to get things tidied up and I was very proud of how lovely it all looked today.  I have been dying to pick some roses, but have resisted the urge so that the bushes look full and lush....a job for this afternoon.
I made a little morning tea...
Next time I will tell you about the goodies I cooked, especially the sticky buns...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

More spring

Spring might be pretty, but it is also fickle.  Last week  it rained, blew and hailed and we were back in the woollen jumpers and lighting the fire.  I so love the lilacs in the garden, the scent is heavenly...
We had a lot of fun in the school holidays.  There was the Melbourne Show,
some farm work,
friends to stay,
billy tea and marshmallows.

I love finding new ways to cook our lamb.  Last night I made a marinade that I used on some mini roasts that I rescued from the depths of the freezer.

Olive and almond paste for lamb
This amount made enough for 3 mini roasts, and would be enough for a small leg or 8-10 chops.

3 tblsp pitted olives (black, green or a mixture of the two)
2 heaped tblsp ground almonds
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 dessp of balsamic vinegar to taste
1 teasp rosemary leaves, chopped
salt and pepper.

Roughly chop the olives and put them in a container suitable for a stick blender.  Add the rest of the ingredients and whizz to form a paste.  You could do this in a food processor.  Taste the mix and adjust according to your preference, you may prefer more or less balsamic, and it does depend on how salty the olives are.  The almonds give it a good texture.
Spread the mixture over the lamb and refrigerate for a few hours if you can.  
Take the meat out of the fridge an hour before you want to cook it to get it back to room temperature.
Cook to your liking, either in the oven (start it off at 220c for 15 minutes then turn it down to 180c to finish) or on the BBQ.  It doesn't look much below, but it tasted great.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Beautiful canola crops in the Western District
I am often heard to say that autumn is my favourite season, it is the end of the heat of summer, the relentless moving of hoses and sprinklers and the fire season.  But this year's spring has nearly swayed me with her charms.  The garden is bursting with activity and the evenings in particular, when the wind drops, are glorious.
Blossoms seem to appear overnight..this is the quince tree: (the blossom is actually a delicate pale pink, although they look white in this photo).

And so do the weeds:
I am in the garden most days and I cannot believe how they sneak up on me.  This one was looking me in the eye it was so big.  

Not much to report on the cooking front, I made a pan pie (not really a quiche, not really a pie) which worked quite well:
I had some pastry left over from making a quiche, but not enough to make another one so I rolled it out put it in a cast iron frying pan, threw in some cooked bacon, pumpkin and spinach, then cracked three  eggs onto it.  I mixed another egg with a bit of cream and drizzled it over the top with some grated cheese and seasoning.  Into the hot oven of the Aga and 15 minutes later, lunch is ready.

I learnt another great tip from a friend recently.  When she makes cauliflower cheese instead of steaming the cauliflower first, then pouring over the thick cheese sauce and baking in the oven, she puts the sauce straight over the raw cauliflower and cooks it at a slower temperature for about an hour.  A grating of parmesan on the top will brown it nicely.  I do love a short cut that makes something better than the original..
In other news, our great friends Sara and Jerry Grayson have made an incredible IMAX film called "The Earth Wins".  They have had a great response for it in the States and are seeking some support for its distribution.  It features footage they have taken over the last few years whilst aerially filming (mostly in a helicopter) international sporting events such as the soccer World Cup in South Africa, the Athens Olympics and the Doha Asian Games and it is AMAZING.  I have only seen a promo, but to watch this on a full size IMAX screen would be breathtaking.  Also the music is brilliant and  includes The Temper Trap and New Order, as well as Cold Play and The Who.

This film needs to be seen, especially by, as the website says, "an entire generation of young adults who are about to inherit the earth".   Click on this link and be a part of a truly inspiring project.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A lot on

It was a stunning morning yesterday..
The clivias are looking so pretty..
We have, as Tim would say, got a lot on at the moment.  We're lamb marking, Tim is in China on a trade delegation looking for lamb markets, there's been sports day and a school dinner, it's frantic in the office, golf, the weeds are bouncing out of the ground (how do they get so big in such a short time??), there's mowing and cutting back to do constantly and we seem to be always on the road to Melbourne.
Still I'm loving the blossom
and the spring flowers:
Needless to say, not much interesting cooking has been going on but now that the days are getting longer I have definitely moved into spring mode with less long and slow cooking and more throw it all in at the last minute.  This chicken dish is a perfect example:
I know it's a bit soon for home grown cherry tomatoes, but sometimes needs must.

Preheat the oven to 200c.
Allow 1 1/2 chicken thighs per person, cut them all in half.
Put them in a roasting dish lined with baking paper.  Halve an appropriate amount of cherry tomatoes and black olives and scatter them over.  Add a couple of unpeeled garlic cloves.  Drizzle with olive oil (I used a little Cobram Estate garlic olive oil and a little basil infused olive oil) and season generously with salt and pepper.  Cook in the oven for approx 20 - 25 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.

While that is happening I steamed some cauliflower and pureed it with a little butter, sour cream and salt and pepper.

Serve the chicken with the cauliflower and some chopped basil over the top, making sure you drizzle over the pan juices.  Quick, delicious and low fat.  We had this with some pan fried rainbow sliver beet from the garden.

I braised the last of the brussel sprouts, broccoli and carrots from the garden a few nights ago:
I just melted a small knob of butter in the pan, added the vegetables and poured over about 1/2 cup of chicken stock.  Cooked them until tender and finished them with lots of salt and pepper a sprinkling of fresh parsley.  So simple.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Winter's still here..

You know how I said a couple of weeks ago that the winter hadn't been too wet?  Well we had 30 mm of rain two weekends ago....
The creek flooded and we had to rescue some horses and move them to a drier paddock:

which they were very happy about.
An old elm tree split in half and fell over...
The new pup is settling in well..she enjoyed her first paddock picnic:
Her companion was wary to begin with, but it was only a matter of time..
Lots of cooking has been going on, it's just finding the uninterrupted time to tell you about it.  I made my own celery salt the other day, which I saw on 101 Cookbooks.  It is so easy...I have loads of celery in the garden so it is a great way to use some up.  You just wash and dry the leaves, dehydrate them on a tray in the oven (180c for about 5-8 minutes, don't let them burn), cool and crumble the leaves and mix with an equal quantity of your favourite sea salt.
It is wonderful on a poached egg, and I am finding myself adding it to all sorts of dishes.
I made chocolate afghans for the picnic the other day...these definitely fall into the oldie but goodie category.
This is Mum's recipe.  These biscuits have a lovely light crumb, thanks to the addition of cornflakes.


200g butter
1/2 cup castor sugar
1 teasp vanilla essence
1 cup SR flour
1/2 cup plain flour
2 level tblsp cocoa 
3 cups cornflakes, lightly crushed
2 tblsp desiccated coconut

Preheat oven to 180c.
Cream butter, sugar and vanilla till light.
Sift flours and cocoa and add to butter with the cornflakes and coconut.  This is how I crushed the cornflakes:
and this is how crushed they need to be:
Mix thoroughly, roll into balls and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper.  They may seem a bit crumbly, but they hold when baked.
Bake for 15-20 minutes.
Remove from the tray and leave to cool.


1 cup icing sugar
1 1/2 tblsp cocoa
30g melted butter
Mix the above together and add about a tablespoon of boiling water and stir till you have a nice icing consistency.  Ice the afghans and if you want them to last more than five minutes, you can freeze them in a bag.