The Mixing Bowl, pizza and seed saving all wrapped up.

A couple of weeks ago I went to a demo for making French afternoon tea scrumptiousnesses (I know that’s not a word) with the lovely Anne at The Mixing Bowl Hallam. I deliberately went to the class as it was the last session Anne was running before the imminent closure of this business, which I have been dealing with for nigh on 27 years. The first class I went to with Anne, was when they first changed their business to ‘The Mixing Bowl’ and she ran a class making Hot Cross Buns at the old Buln Buln Shire Offices. Been lots of Hot Cross Buns under the bridge since then and all of them delicious!

A business doesn’t stick around for this long by chance, Anne and Geoff have always offered premium goods at extremely reasonable prices, have a great range of flours, every baking gadget, tin, and accessory you could imagine and have given out more information than you’d find in an Encyclopaedia Britannica when it comes to baking. On top of that, they have always been on top of the ladder with customer service, although my kids will never forgiven them for not stocking the same mint leaves we used to always stop and buy on the way to Melbourne, they still whinge about losing those! I will be extremely sad to see this wonderful business go and where on earth can I recommend to my students to go to for bread making supplies?

I wish Anne & Geoff a very happy retirement, they deserve to put their feet up and enjoy their family, have holidays and be free of flour dust. All the best Anne & Geoff, its been a delight.

Anyway, this tart is the result of the demo Anne did, an apple, Frangipane tart which was absolutely delicious.

I made it as a little treat to myself for mother’s day, and of course you must have double cream on the side. It was lovely having all the gang (apart from one son-in law who was saving us all from the bad guys in the world), to lunch. We set up a pizza making station outside my little bakehouse and then baked them in my Rofco microbakery oven. The pizza dough was not sourdough as I find yeasted better for pizza, but I am working on perfecting a good sourdough one!

When we planned the microbakery we had envisioned the space would double as a kitchen for using when entertaining outside too. This was put to the test today and it worked really well. Pic on the left is looking out onto the courtyard and the one on right is peeking in to the Rofco as the pizzas bake.

 The pizzas baked up beautifully, they went in on trays for first few minutes than were placed directly onto the oven sole for finishing off. Delicious. Where were the olives Em?

I can see that painting and cleaning up the outside of the microbakery is now on my short list of jobs!

   My daughter in law gave me some bees wax wraps as my Kris Kringle gift for Christmas and I love them. I have been using them for all sorts of things since Christmas and they have proved to be extremely versatile. Little Bumble Wraps is a local business and also run workshops on making wraps so support local and check them out. They also offer on-line shopping. I used them yesterday for wrapping croissant dough in between folds and also for the tart pastry while chilling.

The little tacker and I spent a few quiet moments saving bean seed from this years crop to have for planting next year. I treasure these moments dearly.

Our hard work is becoming evident.

We are at a major turning point in our exteno. My emotions are mixed, I love the new works but I also love the old, original parts of the house that add quirkiness and character (along with some interesting odours!) to the personality of it. I really believe we are marrying the best of both periods to the home. Keeping as much as we can to stay true to the character of the house, while, still being practical about what works with our long term plans.

I was quite emotional when now tonight,  I can really begin to see the efforts of all the hard work coming to fruition. I’m not talking about the exterior, that is different, I mean the space inside that will become the warm hub of the home where people meet, food is created and lessons are taught to others. Drinks and eats around the table, laughter and probably tears. This is what I greeted me when I came out from the makeshift kitchen (see below) and it moved me. The plaster is well under way which means the last of the old black, 3ply ceiling is about to be hidden. The chimney brickwork is looking beautiful and the hours of work on removing the paint from that are proving to be worth it.

IMG_0247It was after I had spent a few hours tonight making some mini quiches to take to work tomorrow for a morning tea that it struck me for the first time just how arduous its been actually getting anything cooked. I think I must have a bit of ‘just suck it up and get on with it mindset’.  It isn’t until I try and turn out bulk quantities of food that it really gets to me. Do you have any idea how long it takes to turn 1 packet of puff pastry into mini quiches when you can only cook 6 at a time? Bloody ages is the answer.

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But you do get there. While the quiches were cooking I put together a few loaves of bread that I will bake at work.

There is the herb, chilli and feta cheese loaf which comprised 400g  40% rye sourdough gently pulled out and spread with freshly picked herbs, feta cheese, a little cheddar (left over from quiches), and some hot chilli flakes. I’ve rolled this into a batard shape and will prove overnight and bake tomorrow.

Herb, feta chilli sourdough loaf breadNext was the walnut, cranberry, sultana and apple loaf. Chopped some walnuts, spread out 400g white sourdough and spread, walnuts, cranberries and sultanas that I had soaked in a little juice to rehydrate over it. I then sprinkled, brown sugar, dutch cinnamon and a grated Granny Smith apple (ours) which I had squeezed the excess juice from  and spread over the nuts and fruit.

IMG_6695then rolled the dough into a bun/scroll shape. This will also be baked at work tomorrow.

IMG_6697It’s nights like these I get extremely excited about being able to cook in a much more relaxed and organised manner. It really is quite an effort continuing the way we have been. I know everyone has been telling that, I just chose to ignore it and make do.

The final tweaking of the kitchen layout is done! It may have resulted in me having a MAJOR panic attack but we got there. That gap on the left is the chimney space.

IMG_0242It really does look like I’ll fit a bit more than I thought into the space. Can’t wait!

Weekend Wrap

Leave it!

It’s about this time of year we get fed up with the leaf litter and do a major clean up. Even though there are more to fall, it gets a bit out of hand. Everywhere you look, leaves, leaves and more leaves!

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They get piled into one spot and this week I will be mowing them to chop them up a bit and making a couple more leaf mould bins. The chopped leaves will be layered with lime, manure, some greens and mature compost. Wrapped up for 12 months then the resulting leaf mold will be spread onto the garden beds. This acts more as a soil conditioner than a fertiliser and I love watching the process take place.

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We hadn’t seen this area for months!  The before shot is on the right above. There has been the fire wood that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago dumped here, the trailer stored and then the leaves started falling. I’ll bet by tomorrow it will be covered again!

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Some more work was done on thinning out the  ‘spooky’ area out the front,

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Compost and coffee grounds are collected from work, I even have the cleaner bring me in spent coffee grounds from her husbands bakery. I’m sure she think I’m nuts, she’s probably right! Great for the worm farm and compost bins though.

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We have ordered another garden shed and started marking out where it will go. We will need every bit of space possible when the back of the house comes off when the extension starts. Had to move a couple of plants, hope they cope with this! I really like the way this bed is coming together, hard to imagine just 2 years ago it had a revolting old bungalow here.

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I finally cracked it about my tiny little oven! As good as it has been, I had to take something to work for morning tea last week and it took me over 2  hours to cook a standard size batch of mini muffins as I could only fit a small tray in to bake so it was done in succession. I’ve been trying to think of ways around this for a while but the problem has been that it doesn’t matter what we bought, it would have to be moved/disconnected when the kitchen reno begins. That seems a little extravagant and wasteful so I have bitten the bullet and bought an LPG gas pizza oven that I hope will pretty much function as a normal oven. I have set it up on the side verandah along with a temporary light and table. This area should (in theory) work well and when the building works start I can move the oven anywhere. As I write this, my first loaf of bread is in cooking. Bit nervous about taking the lid off the dutch oven! I can’t believe the delight it brings being able to put a pot in without having to take the knob off first so it can fit in!

I’ve just been out to remove the lid, temp up to about 230c and loaf looks pretty good so far. Might be a challenge learning to manage the temp control but I can cope with that. I could actually take the lid off the dutch oven without having to remove the whole pot. Yay, progress!

The loaf I am testing this week Is Josey Baker’s ‘Your First Sourdough Loaf’, I wasn’t that pleased with the way the dough was behaving so I might need to make some adjustments because of the whole-wheat flour I am using. I have a bag of Callington Mill organic whole wheat and it seems to take up less water  than other whole wheats I’ve used.

Drumming my fingers in anticipation for the timer to go off……………. Drum roll please!

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I’m pretty happy with that! Think the temp might have been a bit too high for starters but it smells great, I am looking forward to tweaking and learning how to use this oven more effectively now.

 

 

 

 

Hangin’ in the hammock. Spelt, flowering gums & books.

What an absolute cracker of a weekend  it’s been weather wise! Autumn is my favourite season, but  I especially love it when the weather has been as lovely as the last couple of weeks. We’ve had cool, almost balmy nights, sunny days ranging from 18-30 degrees with just a slight breeze, promises of cooler nights advancing by the dew that’s on the grass and cars in the morning and the golden tinge of colour change in the leaves of the trees. Perfect camping weather, hope it holds for a few weeks.

I was not going to miss the opportunity to enjoy this weather while I could, so in between all the weekend chores and jobs I took time to retreat to my beloved hammock and have some ‘smell the roses’ time.

If I was asked to make a short list of my favourite things to do, reading, camping and hanging in my hammock would be top of the list. If I can do all at the same time I’m in heaven!

I recently borrowed a book from the local Mobile Library and although a very different genre to my beloved crime mystery I thoroughly enjoyed it. The book was ‘The Briny Cafe’ by Susan Duncan and it is a nice story based around some Aussies who live off shore from the mainland and have a strong community  that they cherish and we get to share their lifestyle. I loved the tone of Susan’s writing and have since read the sequel, Gone Fishing which I found just as delightful. So, on to reading her ‘memoirs’, Salvation Creek which I have also enjoyed immensely. Close to my heart, we all are or have friends in the same places she has been and I felt it a very honest and light-hearted approach to disclosing her unbelievingly difficult experiences. Close to the end of the book, I was in between stretch and folds of my bread dough, stirring of the tomato and plum sauces so I treated myself to a stretch in the hammock with a ‘coldie’ (aka chilled beer), my book and a relaxed attitude. Heaven!

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Coming back in between tasks, I picked a few things to go in our dinner that I hadn’t planned. Lemons, lemongrass, capsicum, zucchini and some potatoes. Found some chicken in the freezer  so we had a chicken, lemon, lemongrass, capsicum, zucchini, thyme and potato bake. Threw in some small tomatoes to add sweetness and served on rice cooked with lemongrass and some star anise. Wasn’t a dribble maker, but it was fresh, tasty and hearty.

IMG_0407 IMG_0411My sourdough bread bake this weekend was a 50% spelt flour mix, in a 68% hydration dough. We bought this flour at Callington Mill in Tasmania last September, its best by date has passed but it looked ok, smelled ok and performed well in the loaves.

IMG_0449While lying in my hammock I was positioned so I could keep peeking at this beautiful flowering gum. We had to remove a large flowering gum tree when we moved in and I hated doing it. This one is a smaller grafted variety and the shape of the leaves, buds, flowers and I presume  the resulting gum nuts are so beautiful. Not usually a pink kind of girl! First time its flowered, beautiful.

IMG_0427As I’m putting this post together there is a leg of lamb in the slow cooker laced with 2 heads of garlic, lots of rosemary, a cup or so of balsamic vinegar and a bit of brown sugar and stock. Smells beautiful! Will let you know how it goes.

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Ahhh, love Autumn.

 

Getting snuggly!

We’ve finally bitten the bullet and commenced work on the room that was originally the doctor’s surgery. We’ve labelled this room the snug. We haven’t been able to decide on colours and we are not likely to any time soon, so we’ve just picked one out of a hat and are going with it.

When we bought this house this room was still set up ready for patients who were brave enough, complete with lots of glass bottles, surgical instruments and used morphine vials.

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We removed the gas heater and opened up the fireplace, lifted the mouldy, damp and rotten floor coverings, took out the sink and have been using the room as our winter ‘snug’. This room gets the most natural light of any in the house and it is quite cosy for just the two of us to use, particularly in winter.

Dado panelling has been removed and the walls are being insulated where we can. We had planned on removing all the plaster board and fully insulating but that will have to wait. Seems more ridiculous to waste perfectly good wall coverings at this stage. All the gaps that we can find are being filled to reduce drafts and heat loss/entry. Hopefully some noise reduction will also be achieved.

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We’ve  covered the floor boards with cardboard to prevent damage from paint and the mobile scaffolding unit we rely on for all our renovation work. The colour we are going to paint is a big secret. No, it’s not green! Mostly secret just in case I hate it and feel the need to send Mr ATMT back up the scaffold to change it. It already feels more snuggly!

I also started cleaning up the cedar doors with the same treatment I used on the skirting boards. So far it looks very promising that they will come up well.

This is a section of the first door before getting at it with metho, steel wool and sandpaper. The second shot is after a clean up and one coat of tung oil applied. We have a little  problem with one of the infills. It appears that at some stage the panel had been kicked in (disgruntled patient?) and replaced very shoddily with ply wood. See the difference in second photo, top left. Apart from that I’m really pleased about its rejuvenation. The natural colour of red cedar is stunning!

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A couple more coats and its will be ready to rehang. Only 7 doors to go after that!

 

 

 

 

In My Kitchen-February

I cannot believe it this time again!

First up for this months post is “In My Camping Kitchen”. We spent a couple of weeks at our favoured annual camping spot, Pambula Beach, which is on the mid east coast of New South Wales. Beautiful, safe, surf beach that is close enough to our campsite so you wake up, wonder down and jump in the surf then back to camp for not much at all. Anyone who knows me understands that I love camp cooking. I love the fact I can plan ahead and that I can sit in a camp chair with a glass of wine doing whatever preparations are necessary for our evening meal. This year I was super organised and stored some photos on my mini iPad of some suitable Annabel Langbein’s recipes, I made sure I had the right spices etc packed and it made it really easy to create our meals. I love Annabel’s recipes and have not yet been disappointed with any of them. This photo is of my version of Annabel’s Chicken Tikka kebab recipe, served with hot plate chips (par boiled first), hot plate grilled pumpkin, red capsicum and beans.

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I had a crack at baking a loaf of bread (yeasted) on top of the gas camp stove (in a camp oven). I was quite happy with the result albeit a little dark on its bottom. I think with a bit of tweaking and refining of the cooking vessel, I will be able to come up with a pretty consistent result.

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It was still better than fluffy bread and made a great base for bruscetta and our morning poached eggs with mushrooms cooked with garlic, cracked pepper, butter, white wine vinegar and basil. Got a few requests from fellow campers about these.

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I took some of our tomatoes that kept ripening while we were away and they were beautiful with basil, bocconcini and olive oil. I did take a plant pot of herbs ready for these meals. Its amazing what a few fresh herbs can add to any meal.

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Back home and In My Kitchen is, a couple if gifted Araucana eggs. Sadly, hard to see in the photo but they are a lovely blue colour. The Araucana chicken is a not so common breed that originated from Chile

IMG_9595 IMG_9605I was also gifted a lovely big bag of blood plums. Yet to decide their fate, any ideas are welcome as we not huge jam eaters. Think some spicy plum sauce is on the list.

On the window sill are a few tomatoes picked and ripening away from greedy black birds.

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My favourite so far is this performe abruzzese variety which to me looks like a lovely little draw string purse.

periforme abruzzese tomatoMy take on Bangers & Mash for dinner. Our home-made lamb sausages with caramelised shallots, a few tomatoes thrown into the pot to cook down. Mash was made with mint, spring onion, butter, S&P and milk and gravy was made using flour, red wine, rosemary, mint and I wish I could remember what else! Add in the peas and it went down a treat.

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Finally In My kitchen is a little “thing” that a friend spied in an op-shop and thought I may like. I do! Not sure exactly what it is, but it is a hanging rack of some sort, obviously very old and I know I will be able to put it to good use when I get a kitchen.

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Thanks again Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial who is the IMK caretaker and delightful host of these posts. How about going and checking out what’s happening in other people’s kitchens this month. You can learn so much from these gracious people.

 

 

Weekend wrap.

While I’ve been busy playing with bread dough and cleaning out cupboards Mr ATMT has been doing some back breaking work to make the front yard look a bit more attractive. A couple of months ago I posted about how we did the initial marking out for the front yard layout and now it has been well and truly locked in! Brick edging set on place around the pathway and toppings added to create a new look completely. There is not a lot we can do because of the big pin oak so we aim to just fill the entire area with low maintenance, bird and bee attracting yet pretty and very tough plants. We are also on the look out for a suitable centre piece or water feature for the centre of the circle . Nothing too fancy or glitzy, just tasteful. Got any recommendations?

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Toppings in and partly mulched some of the area that will be planted. No cupids or statues of David allowed as the feature.

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Our own little Downton Abbey with a crunchy gravel entry to the front door.

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Foccacia take 2.

Last night I posted about the Peter Reinhart foccacia I made and tonight I made up the other half that I had kept in the fridge since yesterday. Tonight’s topping was olives, sliced up stuffed with feta capsicum, garlic, olive oil, sea salt flakes and cheese. Tick to this recipe, so light, silky and easy. I rarely wrap up my own food too highly but this is a winner!

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So that’s it for the first weekend wrap of 2015. Back into the office tomorrow, but hopefully I will get things sorted in record time and not have to stay too long.

Corny dilemma!

I planted corn seed a week or so ago and it was all starting to shoot nicely but I came out yesterday and noticed 95% of the new shoots had been cut, sliced, chopped off at ground level. Lucky it’s still reasonably early in the season so I don’t mind replanting but I decided the bed needed some attention to eradicate the pests that may have been responsible for the carnage. Best guess of the responsible pests is either cutworms, earwigs or cockchafers. I set the chooks to work on the bed to cleanse it and will give them carte blanche every night this week to forage and hopefully prepare for fresh planting this weekend.

IMG_6673They had a ball in the bed and I do think the most likely culprits have been cutworms. Fingers crossed the new seeds planted will not face a similar demise!

Fridge proofed sourdough.

Tonight I baked a sourdough loaf that had been slowly proving in the fridge for the last 24 hrs.

I’ve been experimenting on tensioning the dough to get a better loaf shape and it seems to be working well. Little steps towards a good result.

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Always on a journey, never know the destination!

 

Sunny Saturday.

What a bottler of a day! Not too hot, not too cold, not too windy, just right. The kind of day where you’d be nuts if you stayed inside. It was also our state election in Victoria today, which I must admit I feel very ‘ho hum’ about. I used to take my politics very seriously and stress over how I was going to vote, but these days I think they are all pretty much ‘tossers’ and put their ego well before commitment to leadership and democracy. I do feel though, that you need to cast your vote seriously or you don’t earn the right to complain. But that’s enough of that!

As in the iconic Aussie Bob Hudson Newcastle song where he sings “don’t you ever let a chance go by” this week I did just that. We had been advised that Vicroads were going to remove the tree on our nature strip (verge to those outside Australia), so I taped a bloody big sign around it asking the tree people to leave us any mulch and if possible the wood from it’s removal. Didn’t think anything would come of it but lo and behold- 2 great big piles of beautiful wood and a great big pile of mulch that we can put to really good use under this pin oak. IMG_6546 Bit of a work out for Mr ATMT as a fair amount of it had to be chain sawed into smaller lengths and we will need to split it into good oven sized bits at some stage. IMG_6561While he was working on the wood I began fitting the posts to our large wicking bed. As well as giving me somewhere to tie my tomatoes to (cordon), these posts also make it easy to bird proof with netting or add shade cloth when it gets too hot. I suspect that may be the case this summer! I didn’t take a photo but this is what they are like on the other beds.IMG_2297I had a lovely time ‘pottering’ around in the garden today. I picked some Elder flowers and I’m going to have a go at making some Elder Flower Cordial. I have never tasted, seen or been told what this should be like so it will be interesting. They are however the prettiest flowers so worth having just for that.IMG_6550 Elder flowersI got into the greenhouse and had a tidy up and hung racks so the tomatoes in there can be trained and supported. The sweet potatoes on the right here are going berserk.IMG_6572 IMG_6570It was nice to sit back and like what I saw in the ‘patch’. It’s really starting to look like it’s been there a while, not only the 1 year it’s been.  The garlic is about ready to harvest,I’ll do a separate post about that.IMG_6568The grapes are getting bigger,IMG_6573and the magpies tried to beat me to the hammock.IMG_6564A lovely tea of snow pea, broccoli, chicken and ginger pasta to top off a lovely day.

Off to the zoo tomorrow, I’m excited.

Thanks to Lizzie at strayed table for hosting the hookup for the monthly Garden ShareCollective.

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Happy Birthday Warragul Farmers Market!

The weekend started magically with me having my monthly visit to the Warragul Farmers Market to stock up on some of the sensational organic and locally produced providence that is showcased there.

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The market celebrated their 1st birthday this weekend and it has just grown from strength to strength since its inception. I always think a good market not only offers great produce, but it creates an emotional link within the community. People develop relationships with traders and other community members, they come together to chat, relax, share stories and take home some wonderful things. A feel good experience! This market offers all of this, set in a beautiful location, music by local artists, activities for the kids and some of the best produce Gippsland has to offer!

Warragul Farmers MarketI really look forward to my visit to this market to see what will jump out and ask me to take it home. Some of my favourite and highly recommended traders are, Thorpdale Organics, Gippsland Mushrooms, Mirboo Pastured Poultry, the Apple lady (I’m embarrassed to say I don’t know from where but I always buy her apples!), and after tasting Jindivick Hydroponics tomatoes they are up there too.  Although I didn’t buy  as much as I normally tend to, I came home with some lovely tomatoes, lettuce, mushrooms, apples and a warm heart. Some of these went into a carbonara style pasta using our home grown broccoli, snow peas, broad beans and herbs, added some of Thorpdale Organics eggs into the sauce and voila, a fresh, mostly organic and made with love dinner. Thanks Warragul Farmers Market!

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Flour woes

I reverted to using the ordinary old ‘organic bread flour’ in my sourdough this week and it just cemented how good the flour I brought back from Callington Flour Mill in Tasmania is. Dough hydration was 75% but this flour just doesn’t have to ‘guts’ to cope with that much water so it’s a very wet dough.  I used a portion of the dough into a ciabatta style loaf and will just keep my fingers crossed for what I expect to be a very flat loaf with the rest. Looks OK, smells great but it’s too early to cut to check if I’ve got those lovely big ciabatta holes in the crumb. Time will tell. It is amazing how much variation there can be with flour and protein levels, water absorption and general structure. Back to the Callington Mill flour next week!

Ciabatta sourdoughWe spent most Sunday at the Traralgon Poultry Auction. That was a new experience indeed, not sure if I’d relive it, but it’s something new I can say I’ve done! My son and his fiancé wanted a couple of chooks to include in their backyard so off we went thinking an hour would probably knock it over. WRONG! Finally, a long 4 hours later, they did manage to secure 2 lovely little chooks, not sure of variety but I think there is some Rhode Island Red mixed with maybe some Australorp in there. They have obviously settled into their new home well as I got a message from D&A with a photo of 2 eggs. Pretty impressed and happy they are! I get a real sense of calm knowing that all 3 of our children, grow things, cook things and love fresh unadulterated produce.16112014Got the fence around the veggie patch fully painted/stained, I’m really pleased the way the stain has made the fence blend in with the old hard wood. Bit hard to see here cause of the shadow, but the patch and chicken coop are now really looking integrated.IMG_6372

IMG_6375 Nice weekend indeed. Hope you enjoyed yours too!