Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Merry Christmas, the abridged version

I had a lovely Christmas post planned for you but it has all caught up with me.  It's now New Year's Eve so Christmas greetings have passed me by.  I hope your Christmas was calm, peaceful and happy.  Our tree is still up but we took the decorations off last night.  I'll have to wait for some help to get it out.  We always try to get a tree from the side of  the road, and this year, it seems, there was no holding's a whopper.

In the spirit of the season, I really wanted to show you the first small crop of cherries I picked off our tree..they were beautiful.  Connorville raspberries behind....just divine.
My fruit trees have been subject to lots of pests this year, not sure why.  The crab apple has a shocking infestation wooly aphids and the pears. quinces and cherries have been hit by some awful black slug so are not looking their best.  Fruit trees can be a bit of a labour of love, but I always forgive them in the spring when their blossom looks so pretty.  Look how dry it is:
So dry in fact that the day before  Christmas Eve we ran out of rainwater.  Admittedly there had been people to stay and we have two English backpackers living in the house for the summer so the dishwasher and washing machine have not stopped, but still hard to believe.  Same thing happened only two years ago.  So a local water carrier came and filled it up with bore water which is okay, but not so good for drinking.  Imagine if it had happened on Christmas water for two days, possibly four....
It's very busy in our region at the moment, Christmas is a mere blip in the radar of harvest, shearing, lamb selling, hay carting etc.  We spent last Saturday weighing lambs:
In between long days there has been plenty of fun and lots of cooking.  We took our visitors yabbying:
and I spent the day in the kitchen with an old friend who loves cooking as much as I do.  She and Sophie made this beautiful pannetone bread and butter pudding for our Christmas work party:
I have also been making bread to feed the four starving teenagers:
Sorry, no recipe today as our internet is sporadically dropping out, but I'd like to wish you all a Happy New Year and may 2015 be happy and healthy for you all.  

Thursday, December 4, 2014


I am delighted to announce that it rained yesterday.  Not torrential, but just nice, gentle rain.  It has been so dry and the garden is loving it.
More gratuitous rose shots
You can water all you like but nothing beats the nitrogen-rich real thing.  Plus it stops my lawn from looking like a badly formed Venn Diagram as I try to get my sprinklers to overlap and cover the whole area but fail miserably.  I am also quite pleased as it has been non-stop in the garden this Spring with several groups coming to visit.  It's been very pleasant to have a break from watering/raking/mowing/weeding and spend the day pottering around in the kitchen, which really is my favourite thing.

I've picked most of the broad beans, shelled them, blanched them and frozen them in bags.  I haven't done this before but am hoping that they can be re-blanched and podded.  Even the chooks might be relieved that the broad beans have finished...
The lemon scented gums went pink in the rain...must have been the shock.
I have a new culinary fixation that I need to share with you. I expect that as usual I am slow off the mark and you are all completely familiar with za'atar, but  I have only just realised that it is very easy to make.  I had heard of this zesty Middle Eastern spice and herb mix, mostly by reading my Ottolenghi cookbooks but never really tried it.   Then I had lots of thyme that was about to flower and needed to find something to do with it.  Well.  Nothing is safe from a sprinkling of za'atar this summer.  It is perfect on an egg...
and completely brings your avocado on toast to life.  You could use it as a rub on any meat and sprinkle it over a soup.   The four simple ingredients and dried thyme, toasted sesame seeds, sumac (available in good food stores) and salt.  I picked the thyme, put it on a baking tray and gave it half an hour in the simmer oven of the a normal oven 15 minutes at 150c should do it.  Keep an eye on it so it doesn't get burnt.
Strip the leaves off the stalks and using your thyme pile as a guide, toast the same amount of sesame seeds (I do this in the oven....don't forget about them though!)
Mix it up and add some salt (about a teaspoon went into the above brew)
Put it in a jar
and sprinkle to your heart's content.