Weekly Wrap. Baking, Pasta, Junk and Beauty.

My youngest son turned 26 on Tuesday. Where has the time gone? One minute he’s a tiny little thing and the next he’s about to become a husband, owns his own home and is an extremely talented handyman. I am so proud of the wonderful adults all three of our children have developed into. I think sometimes it’s a great big lucky dip as to how things turn out.  It has taken a huge amount of input,  I wouldn’t hesitate to do it all again.

We went out for dinner to celebrate his birthday and when I asked if he would like me to take a cake he jumped at the offer (scary with my oven situation). His first choice was a black forest cake but I just didn’t have the time for that so his second choice was pavlova. For years I have used the good old Australian Womens Weekly ‘Marshmallow Pavlova’ recipe and I have never had a fail yet. It’s marsh-mallowy inside, with a light crusty meringue outside. It also gave me an excuse to see how my new Ankarsrum mixer coped with doing the basics of beating egg whites. Not a problem at all! Due to my oven’s size limitations I didn’t make a double quantity as I would normally do for a birthday cake, but I made 2 and turned it into a pavlova sandwich. Filled with cream, peppermint crisp and strawberries and then also topped with more of the same. It was a winner!

IMG_2446With the egg yolks, I made pasta using the pasta attachment on the mixer. I haven’t made pasta from scratch for ages and it was fun and worked really well.

IMG_2448You may remember a couple of months ago I posted about how I had stupidly ‘cooked’ a Tupperware lid on the toaster. Well a lovely Tupperware consultant kindly came to my aid and supplied me with a replacement. What a wonderful surprise and greatly appreciated!

IMG_2471With the Gardivalia event getting closer, some finishing of jobs in the backyard has been a priority. Mr ATMT finished off the path that goes to the new garden shed,

IMG_2472and we did some more work on the screen fence made from old greenhouse shelving. This screens lots of building materials, gardening bits and pieces and timber we will need in the upcoming reno. The area on the left is where a ‘Bus Stop’ will be built. This means it will be a quiet place to sit and contemplate, a water feature will also be incorporated here.

IMG_2484I tacked up a few more bits of ‘junk’. This is the old gas hot water unit that came from the bungalow we removed. Sitting over the bath that has potatoes planted in it, I thought it a fitting placement.IMG_2482


















A long time ago Mr ATMT found two cast iron firedogs shaped as ducks at the tip. Rather than toss them, they have been mounted on the entry to the veggie patch. A scrub with the wire brush is called for I think!IMG_2452


















Our  ball shaped ficus plants have suffered major frost damage over winter. I cut the damage back to where a new shoot is coming through so I may be able to save them but it will be a long time before they are looking great I fear.



















The pin oak in the front yard is starting to come into leaf.



















and the magnolia has been absolutely beautiful this year. I think the cold winter has been good for it.

My bread bake this weekend was Peter Reinhart’s San Fransisco Sourdough Loaf from his Artisan Breads Everyday book. This appears to be quite a light loaf, smells great and has a real golden colour to it. I haven’t done  a crumb shot because it’s going straight into the freezer. It’s not grabbing me as one of my most satisfying bakes but every loaf brings  another bit of learning with it.

IMG_2511School holidays now for two weeks. I’m very happy about that!



Panmarino, Chilli baguettes & Macaroons.

There’s nothing quite so frustrating as when you have a new toy and you don’t feel flash enough to play with it! This weekend has been a bit like that. I bought myself a new mixer, one that I have been ogling for years and due to the dropping value of our dollar, I decided to bite the bullet and buy, rather than wait until our kitchen was finished and I had somewhere to keep it. (well, that’s my justification!). I have bought an Ankarsrum assistant, made in Sweden and it is built like a workhorse. More about that in a separate post, when I feel a bit better. Even though I felt awful I wanted to run it through a few paces and get the feel for using it, as it is quite a different approach compared to traditional mixers. This is what she looks like.













I’m really looking forward to putting this machine to work over the next few months so I can get to understand it fully. My first play session was to make some hazelnut & date macaroons. I am not a fan of the brightly coloured, perfectly shaped macaroons you see everywhere these days. The ones I have tried don’t seem to have a great depth of flavour and are just a bit too perfectly formed for my liking. This Hazelnut and Date Macaroons recipe makes a chewy macaroon that tastes great. This is the macaroon mix on the ‘toy oven‘ tray. I had to bake in a couple of batches due to size limitations.


There was a bit of trouble communicating with my pizza oven yesterday. I think I just wasn’t up to it and kept taking shortcuts, consequently the chilli and feta baguettes I made (even though they tasted nice and had a good texture) looked like a train wreck and were burnt in spots. This is the best of the 3 I made and also a picture of the finished macaroons cooling.

This weeks “The Italian Baker” test bake.

My bake this week from the highly acclaimed Carol Field  book, The Italian Baker, is Panmarino, or Italian Rosemary bread from the Ferrara region of northern Italy. One of the very first breads I made about 30 years ago was a complete failure and its only saving grace was that it was full of rosemary and made excellent toast. I smile and remember that bread every time I smell rosemary! I’m pleased to say that this attempt has been a far greater success. The story of how this bread came to be is that a moustached baker named Luciano Pancalde (meaning hot bread) recreated a bread he read had been served during the times of the d’Este family ruled Ferrara. ” The rosemary bread was served with a crust like sparkling diamonds……” . These diamonds are the result of sea salt being sprinkled over the star cut on the surface of the dough before baking. I baked one loaf in the ‘toy oven’ in a dutch oven, and another loaf in my ‘La Cloche‘ in the gas pizza oven. The pizza oven and I were on much better terms today!

Panmarino Bread
Loaf on left in pizza oven using La Cloche. Loaf on right in dutch oven in my Sunbeam Pizza Bake N Grill.



I guess if you imagine hard enough and maybe have a couple of vinos, the salt could resemble diamonds!


None the less, this bread smelled magnificent as it baked and it does look impressive. I’m very happy with the recipes from this book turning out well with no unwanted surprises and quantites have all been spot on apart from some minor tweaking of water, which all bread bakers are used to.  I have also found a few sites that assist with converting using dried yeast to using sourdough starter in these recipes. I have really noticed a difference using dried yeast again, nowhere near the depth of flavour as when using natural leavening.




Spring is definitely springing up! Garden Share Collective.

At the risk of painting the devil on the wall, I’m going to say that Spring is well and truly here and I doubt there will be any more frosts. There, I’ve said it! This past winter has been a ‘real’ winter. Very cold, lots of frosts, lots of rain and I’ve loved it! I really like seeing the seasons roll around and for the past few years there have been strange happenings such as things bursting into flower in mid June, then frost burning them off and trees  shooting out new leaves before the old ones have fallen. This year it has been a definite autumn, into winter and I hope now into spring. The daffodils are a sight to behold and they have been in bloom for a good three weeks so far. There are also irises and freesias about to pop open.



















IMG_2313One of the irises has opened its heart.

I’m not so confident about no more frosts yet to remove the frost protection, sure as eggs………………


We’ll end up with more of this! This was a beautiful ball shaped fig, didn’t even think to cover it and it has been whacked terribly by the frost. Not sure how well it will come back but I’ll give it a bit of TLC and see.


Then there’s the ever pleasing sight of asparagus spears shooting. I’ve already picked 3 or 4 and munched on them as I work outside.



















The broad beans were planted late but are going really well. In previous seasons I’ve found that they don’t set pods until the bees are out so I may be in with a chance yet! The wire support on the poles is working really well keeping them upright. I’ll add another layer as they get taller.


The garlic at the end of this bed is rocketing along. These brassicas are nearly done and there are some radishes in here too that I pick and eat as I walk by. This bed will be mostly tomatoes and corn this summer.



















The silver princess gums are flowering and we love checking daily to see if the little gum nut caps are any further open. It is amazing how well the caps hold on even though the flower is in full bloom. This is one of my favourite plants!



















You could swear our keeper of the garden is relishing the afternoon sun on his face.



















As I sit in our small, front room in front of the open fire where bread is proving and we are eating the warming, spanish chicken dinner I made last night,

IMG_2376I wonder how many more nights we have to enjoy such cool climate comforts.


I’ll try to add this post to the Garden Share Collective site but I keep stuffing up due dates   so it may just go on the FB GSC page.


IMK September! ……

Ah, the Winter freeze is thawing somewhat and Spring is technically here, but it’s still cool enough to enjoy comfort food from the slow cooker. With the state we are in with this house, I just don’t know what I’d do without this trusty appliance. I had a pork shoulder going begging and was a little tired of the asian or mexican style pulled pork, so I went random and threw in to the pot, the pork, some celery, carrot, onion, juniper berries, apple, ginger, cloves, a little apricot jam and a stubby of beer. Before serving I added some peas and reduced the sauce on the stove till it was rich and sleek. Served with some mash, topped with chopped spring onion and some toasted baguette. One if those ugly but really tasty meals!


The sourdough baguettes served with it  were a short, chubby version due to my oven size limitations. Autolyse of about 10 hours (accidental) and overnight bulk ferment in the fridge. These were cooked in the gas pizza oven and even though I dropped the tray as they went in I was happy with the result. Beautiful crust and crumb and tasted really good.


I recently attended a cooking class at Relish Mama in Cheltenham. The theme was Middle Eastern Vegetarian and although I didn’t learn a great deal about the food, I was really impressed with the format and structure of the day. There were several assorted dishes cooked which we all tasted, I certainly didn’t have to cook dinner that night! A beautiful set up and I got some wonderful kitchen design tips and had lots of laughs. One of the dishes made was a beautiful Freekah salad, not being able to source Freekah locally it was on my list for when I next visited Dandenong. That was Saturday (becoming more frequent), so along with the freekah,


I picked up some glutinous rice flour to make stuffed Indonesian Pancake (Dadar Gulung). Green batter, coloured with pandan and filled with a sweet, coconut filling it makes a lovely tasty and visual dessert.  I am wanting to have a go at making some Turkish style ice cream but need 2 ingredients I can’t find locally. One is mastic and the other is Salep or Sahlab. I found the mastic in Dandy but not the Salep, doesn’t appear to be too much online either. Happy for someone to steer me in the right direction or even advise if it is necessary to have a success with ice cream or if it can be left out.


For those who get my regular posts, you are most likely aware of my demolition Monday’s in removing the old kitchen. We have 12 foot ceilings and I’ve been up the ladder with my trusty wrecking bar, sledge-hammer and renovator tool removing the old cupboards. Finally the last of them are gone. Wish I could say I was sorry and how much I’d miss them!

We can now start marking out some of the new kitchen’s concepts to get a feel as to if it will work or not. The brown wall on the right will be going and the room extended about another 5 metres creating a kitchen/eating/living space.

IMG_2295 I’ve also started sprouting some sweet potatoes. Simply just cut in half and sitting in water that gets changed regularly. I keep the container over one of the hydronic heating vents and should have sprouts appear in a few weeks. The soil in the greenhouse will be quite a bit warmer warm by then so I will be able to plant these out. WARNING, the photo is a bit loud!


That’s my lot for this months IMK. Thanks Celia from Fig Jam & Lime Cordial for linking us all up. Oh, if anyone has some tips or recommendations for a trip we are planning to Turkey & Italy next year I’d love to hear them. So much to choose from, so ideas from like minded people are always invaluable. 🙂



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