Trifle. Or is it just a cake in a glass bowl?

It all started a few weeks ago when I was clearing out cupboards and posted on Instagram and Facebook a call for ways to use some old crystal bowls I have and am never likely to use for a number of reasons.

CrystalThat horrible dilemma when you really don’t like something, you can’t imagine ever using them again but they do have sentimental value and aren’t worth anything to sell. Some have been wedding or engagement presents and  have emotional ties.  If I gave them away I would prefer they go to someone I know or who is part of the family. I don’t usually have any issues discarding things I cannot see value in keeping, but these have worked their way into and under my skin. I think it stems from being brought up thinking these things were ‘the good’ stuff only to be used for special times and they demonstrated we weren’t poor when people came to dine.

I had many interesting responses on what to do with them or how to repurpose them, ideas such as creating some garden ornaments similar to these,

crystal-garden-ornaments

or a bird feeder like this,

crystal-bird-feeder

or even as pretty vessels for burning tea light candles in.

crystal-tea-light-holder

There was even a suggestion some could be used as the missile for the annual smashing  of our Christmas gingerbread house (cheers Stuart). That, I wasn’t going to entertain! Glass in the grass is not good when you don’t wear shoes.

Then came the trifle ideas, many voted that the larger bowl was definitely a candidate for trifle to be served in. My niece is a really good cook and sent me a couple of links for some nice sounding recipes, one was a limoncello one that looked pretty good. Celia reminded me she had a recipe on her blog that was easy as well as delicious and Francesca said she had a whole book dedicated to trifle and would like to send it to me. The selection in this book has to been seen to be believed, I will revisit this in the future I think.

img_0678I’m not convinced about trifle, childhood memories still make me gag at the thought. I hate custard, not the good stuff like creme pat, but the packet or store-bought goo labelled as custard. I also have memories of soggy peaches stuck into horrible, grainy  cake that tasted like sawdust. I do remember though that I liked the jelly and cream, especially if it was a nice dark jelly like port wine etc. Convinced by my cheer squad that a good trifle is great and I should go for it, I decided that my quest was to create a trifle to share with guests at our Australia Day BBQ. The research began and I must have looked at 100’s of recipes but could not decide on a finalist. I started to see the pattern of ingredients emerge so I winged it, convinced we would end up with yet another soggy, grainy mess.

Basically I was making a black forest cake in glass bowl.

This was my concept,

  • Layers of chocolate cake which had been sprinkled with booze which is traditionally kirsch in a BFC.
  • Thin Layer of  chocolate mousse
  • Layer of cherry jelly made using the juice from canned cherries and a splash of booze
  • Layer of black cherries
  • layer of whipped cream

Pretty simple  really. So this is how I did it, I made a jelly using the juice from the 2 cans of black cherries thickening it with corn flour and throwing in a splash of rum.

I made a simple chocolate mousse but thinned it down slightly so it wasn’t too thick. This was the alternative to custard part of the creation.

Annabelle Langbein’s Ultimate Chocolate Cake was baked  in 2 small round tins rather than one big springform tin.

Cream whipped, what can go wrong?

My cake was cut and ready to start assembling the layers in the bowl  but not unexpectedly, I had not been able to get Kirsch at any of the bottle shops. My next option was Cherry Brandy but no, not available either. I considered making cherry juice but gave that a miss. I took a leap of faith and decided to use some white rum as we had a supply of it in the cupboard. So here we have my Black Forest Rum Chocolate Trifle.

But look at the bowl………………..please ignore the creamy smudge. I know you wouldn’t notice it if I’d used the cut crystal but that’s karma I guess.

Chocolate Black forest Trifle After all of that I just couldn’t bring myself to use the crystal. I just don’t like it but I do think it might make a nice bird feeder! This was a winner with all of our guests, people could take a small spoonful portion or dig in and take as much as wanted. The rum was an absolute winner and I think that will be repeated if I make this again. There was no graininess, just boozey, chocolatey, creamy, rich yumminess. Now, a couple of days later the flavour and texture has improved even more. Verdict by Mr ATMT is that it was a cake in a glass bowl, a delicious cake in a glass bowl, but not a trifle. My internal psyche must have overruled I think.

Here are a few of our Australia Day BBQ snaps. Beautiful afternoon, great people and some great food for sharing. As well as my Black Forest Chocolate Trifle I made a Pavlova and peeking in the background is a lammington roll that a friend brought along.DessertsI baked a selection of sourdough breads. From L to R, baguette, baguette, sesame loaf, tomato paste, thyme and feta, baguette, caramelised onion and parmesan loaf (DELICIOUS) and a roast tomato focaccia. I believe the focaccia was great but the vultures devoured it too quickly to sample.img_2247 I was going to say we are so lucky to have such a beautiful area to share these events with family and friends, but it is mostly due to some very hard work on our part to create this space. Australia Day 2017

All worthwhile and we are lucky, very lucky.

 

 

 

 

 

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So, 2017. What is planned?

We knew 2016 was going to be a big year and it was. Our first grandchild (I cannot believe he turns 1 on Saturday), a wedding, an overseas trip to Greece and Turkey, our exteno close to finished. In what was an unplanned and somewhat hasty move I decided to pull the plug on a job that was sending me nuts. Best decision I could have made and most importantly, yes, I have a kitchen. A kitchen with everything in the same room, an oven bigger than a pocket handkerchief and a space that is a delight to work and entertain in.

img_1617  Consequently, I find that I am spending a huge amount of time ‘playing’ in this new space. I do struggle some days trying to justify my ‘playtime’, but then remind myself that it has been a very long time since I have had the opportunity to really enjoy being in the kitchen. I love the fact I don’t have to get anxious about fitting whatever I decide to make into a tight timeline but can cruise and enjoy. That is a little hard to get used to but I’m practicing a lot at getting it right!

Because of this my vegetable garden has also been a bit neglected but things seem to be taking care of themselves pretty well considering. A bit of water has been splashed around on those really hot days but the wicking beds seem to be doing their job well. The basic food stuffs are growing  and starting to bear,  tomatoes, capsicum, eggplant, cucumber, pumpkins, chills, beans and herbs. I must add some salad greens next week. I made this little video doing a tour of the veggie patch.

 

So what are the plans for 2017?

Painting is definitely up there. The windows, both new and old all need painting. Mr ATMT is planning on cracking on with painting the outside of the house and that is huge.

We are heading to New Zealand for  4 weeks a little later in the year so I am looking forward to eating (and drinking) our way around both islands at our own leisure.

As always there will be tinkering in the garden with setting up a couple of new areas, moving an old building (the visiting dentist’s room) to create a courtyard off the kitchen and tarting up the front yard a bit.

Bread-lots more bread! I really want to focus on developing more and more skill with sourdough baking. I am concentrating on milling my own grains, using lower hydration starters and creating more baked goods using sourdough. Things such as muffins, pastries, crackers (dry biscuits) and more. These are some sourdough croissants,

15936863_10155014395349455_8363030558073077763_oThese loaves are made using my home milled whole wheat and blending it with organic white flour.15800610_10155009828704455_2292718470782370349_oI have so many friends who want me to do some classes that I need to plan and work out the logistics of how this can happen.

I also want to get back into cheesemaking. I won a few awards at the Red Hill Show many years ago and have done intensive study at Gilbert Chandler University in Werribee. We dug out these old awards when moving ‘stuff’ out of the dentists room we are moving.cheese-awardsI stopped making cheese for a couple of reasons, due to arthritis I had undergone joint fusion in my fingers so I was a bit nervous about lifting 20 litre containers of hot liquid without incident, it was overtaking our home (the old home), kitchen, lounge-room and garage and the family were having to live around all of the paraphernalia and then there was the change in health regs and it became increasingly difficult to source a milk supply from local dairy farmers. This last point is going to be a challenge still, as many of the dairy farmers have opted out of dairying due to the hammering they got from major supermarkets squeezing the cost down to a point where it was just not viable. I would never be able to sell my cheese but is a process I loved doing and friends and family that ate the results loved it. Ah, our nanny state……. one wonders how Europeans have survived for so long.

These things along with spending time with our delightful little fella will take up more time than I imagine now. I might fit in a bit of work too, who knows what the wind will blow in?

 

 

 

 

 

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Another Gingerbread House bites the dust!

I was going to keep this as part of my “In My Kitchen” post, but we were so happy with the way this demolition went I’m doing a separate post as my farewell to 2016.

As many of my followers know, it has become a tradition to come up with all sorts of weird and whacky ways to demolish the gingerbread houses I have been making as part of Christmas since 1982.

We have had lots of ‘smashing good’ fun over the years but it has been especially nice now we have the ability to record the ‘smashing’  as we can revisit the memories at anytime. I’ve spent a bit of time viewing old ‘smashings’ and it is a great trip down memory lane seeing everyone so young, all together for Christmas and  how things have changed and evolved over the years. I hope you enjoy this years smash, I’ve put it up from 2 different angles. We were particularly impressed with how the house landed almost back on the board. Our older son Cameron has been a key player over the years with leading the smash and he didn’t disappoint this year. We did leave plenty of clear space as a safety net for our little fella!

Gingerbread house 2017

Happy New Year and cheers to a great happy and safe 2017. Thanks for sharing your laughs, tips, stories and lives in 2016.

 

Maree

 

 

#gingerbreadhouse #family #tradition

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Christmas Eve Fare.

Christmas for me is about making time to get together with family and friends and celebrating how much we value having them in our lives. When I was little it was all about presents, although we were never as focussed on that as many families I knew. Usually just one or 2 special items and a couple of fillers.  I remember fondly the Christmas day gatherings of my family and my country cousins if they happened to be visiting for the season. I remember when sixpences were put in the pudding and there was a competition to see who accumulated the most value. I remember cherry spitting competitions and dangling pairs of cherries on your ears as earrings. I remember water fights and running under the sprinkler if it was hot. I remember mum stressing and chucking a wobbly the day dad threw out the pudding cloth. I remember being mesmerised by the beautiful tree lights, sitting or lying under them and just watching them sparkle. I still do this, I love sparkly Christmas tree lights!

Christmas tree lights We once again hosted a gathering on Christmas Eve for our friends and it was a great night. The aim of the night is to be very relaxed, to enjoy each others company and I like the opportunity to make a few treats for us to eat. A few of the dishes we had this year were,

Dumplings! Ever since I read Celia’s post about dumplings that led me to the Dumpling Sisters site, I now regularly make dumplings from scratch. They are so easy to make, a little time-consuming but easy and they taste so much better than the bought ones. I’ve posted about these a few times but I can’t help myself, they are so good and were a big hit on Christmas eve.

Dumplings

Dumplings with ginger soy dipping sauce

Dumplings

Dumplings, my pleating isn’t too bad considering.

Another dish I made was Midye dolma or stuffed mussels. I tasted these when we went to Turkey and have wanted to have a go at recreating them ever since we returned. You can find street food sellers right along the waterfront in Turkey and they sell thousands of them. The mussels are stuffed with a mixture made from rice, currants and spices then cooked and served with a squeeze of lemon juice. I used the recipe from Ozlems Turkish Table and they were a hit. I have to add though, it is no mean feat cleaning and opening 60 odd mussels to stuff with dodgy hands, I have a whole new level of respect for the vendors in Turkey! My hands are still suffering and sadly don’t think these will be a regular item.

Midye dolma-Anatolian stuffed mussels

Midye dolma-Anatolian stuffed mussels

I made some mini sourdough croissants and filled them with ham and cheese and served them warmed through, very nice and definitely a repeat again item. I used the sourdough croissant recipe from Shipton Mill and reduced the cut croissant size to 7-8 cm by 15 cm and they were just right for finger food size.

Mini sourdough croissantsI also made some mini sourdough ‘baklavants’, croissants with a baklava style filling and a honey and rosewater glaze but they didn’t make it out and are now in the freezer for another time. We did have a few on Christmas Day with breaky.baklavantOf course there was a couple of platters of general nibbles, marinated mushrooms, oven roasted cherry tomatoes, focaccia and other assorted sourdough bread (oops, no pics apart from the tiny snippet front right below).img_0538 And of course our favourite Indian Pakora made using the recipe from Annabel Langbein’s Free Range Cook Book. These would have to be one of the best vegetarian party foods you can present. I served them with a yogurt and mint sauce made simply by blending yogurt and mint together. These are now a much loved tradition every year and it is always a hit.

Pakora

Pakora

It was a delightful Christmas Eve, our little fella decided he loves spicy stuffed mussels (and everything else really). Very clever of him to work out you can use a mussel shell as a spoon too!img_0560 img_0571We thoroughly enjoyed the night and were very well behaved which meant we were able to enjoy Christmas Day as well! I’ll do a short post on that next. Unfortunately we didn’t get to catch up with everyone we had hoped to but that will be addressed in the New Year. I hope everyone else has had the pleasure of having such a relaxed and enjoyable Christmas, it’s been lovely having a kitchen to work in!

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Farewell to My Sunbeam Toy Oven-Pizza Bake N Grill Winner!

When we moved into this “new old house” in January 2013, it meant we didn’t have a real kitchen and had no idea it would take almost 4 years before we would  For all this time I have managed to create some pretty amazing dishes thanks to the little 19 litre capacity $80 or so Sunbeam Pizza Bank N Grill Oven which I affectionately have referred to in my posts as my ‘Toy Oven’.Sunbeam pizza bake and grill ovenI decided to buy this just in case it took a little longer than anticipated to do our renovations, I would have been burnt at the stake as a witch in mediaeval times, it took so much longer than anticipated. This little oven along with 2 butane gas camping stoves, our hooded BBQ  (Sunbeam as well as it turns out), a larger gas ring for big jobs like preserving and tomato passata, 2 slow cookers and we haven’t missed out on anything, even making our own sourdough bread very week.

New gas cookerWell, now that I have my beautiful new Falcon double oven with 5 gas burners, I can bid my ‘Toy Oven’ a fond farewell. I haven’t yet decided whether or not to keep it to take when we go camping (if there is power supply) or to piff it but that seems wasteful when it still works (and oh so well!). Unfortunately the poor thing is in such a preloved state that it isn’t up to scratch to offer to someone or donate to charity. It may even become the mud pie oven for when kids are in the back yard.

I cannot believe how well this little oven has performed over these few years, my only negative comment is that I could only make a couple of things at a time, so large quantities when required of biscuits, muffins, party foods like sausage rolls and mini quiche had to be made at my daughters place or at work. Luckily those times were few and far apart so not too much of an issue.

Thought I’d honour this little ‘Toy Oven’ recapping and revisiting some of the food it has churned out for us over the last few years.

My first bake in the oven was spinach and ricotta muffins, tick.Spinach ricotta muffinsSome mini pavlovas served with brandy snaps and fruit. See, only 6 at a time can be cooked.Mini pavlova Mini Pavs in tin

Many small roasts and meals where the meat was cooked in the slow cooker and the veggies roasted in the little oven have been made. This was Dorper lamb we bought in South Australia cooked in the slow cooker and veg in the ‘toy oven’.Roast Dorper Lamb I even sterilised some jars prior to preserving food. These were used for bottling some Christmas Puddings, very successful!Sunbeam Pizza Bake N GrillMany batches of potato, kale and feta rolls.Kale, Potato and Feta rollsThe most amazing slow cooked quince I have ever tasted, this was delicious!Slow Roasted Quince Quince RecipeSometimes fitting cookware in was a challenge. This slice tin was made to fit with the aid of a spanner or such.Making tin fitand you couldn’t quite fit the Dutch Oven in with the lid on.Dutch Oven in Toy OvenSometimes I had to split cooking methods, like here where the meat was done in the ‘Toy oven’ and the veg in the BBQ.Roast lamb Jamie OliverSome more meringues but I was getting better at fitting in more than 6 in a muffin tray. I got  7 in by using the pizza tray.Nigel Slater cinnamon meringueI still managed to bake the pieces that I use to assemble my Christmas gingerbread house in.Gingerbread house 2014 Gingerbread house piecesMany different varieties of foccacia.Peter Reinhart foccaciaTarts, this is a blood plum tart.Blood Plum Tartand my all time favourite, lemon tart. alice-medrich-lemon-tartPies or in this case, piesties.Piestiesand of course my passion, sourdough bread.Barbecue breadEven with only having had this little ‘toy oven’ I managed to turn out 2-3 loaves, sometimes more, of sourdough bread every week. I would not have believed this unit was capable of being such a great unit until I tried it. There has been white, wholemeal, rye, fruit, grainy, pumpernickel, hot cross buns, baguette, pizzas, bread sticks, flat breads and more. The only way I could bake in this toy oven was to use a Dutch Oven, this reduced the exposure of the dough to the heating elements thus reducing the likelihood of it becoming toast before it was even cooked. I also faced the challenge that the lid didn’t fit in because the handle/knob just made the unit too large for the baking chamber. I remedied this by removing the knob and filling the hole with some bread dough. Every now and again I would replace the dough and it worked extremely well.

Dough plug Dutch OvenThere are so many more great things that have been churned out by this little oven and I have really enjoyed revisiting the relevant posts. I am so appreciative of the beautiful space and equipment I have now, it is hard to understand how I managed to create anything really.

There were a few times when I was taking bread to a party or we were entertaining here that I needed to resort to using the Sunbeam barbecue for baking bread. I got the method pretty well down pat after a few attempts and would happily bake this way again if necessary. I will admit though, it has knocked the poor old barbecue hot plates and grill around. I might end up keeping this unit just for bread. We’ll see.Sunbeam BBQ Bread Sunbeam BBQ BreadWell, the poor little old ‘toy oven’ is nowhere near as pretty as she was a few years ago but by goodness, what a run she has had! I don’t think these units were designed to get quite the workout that this one has had. I think the price is now up around the $120.00 mark but if you need a unit that is versatile, reliable and fun to use I can’t recommend this highly enough. Thanks, my little ‘toy oven’, it been fun.

sunbeam-pizza-bake-n-grill

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In My Kitchen December.

Well the month started with a landmark birthday for me so to celebrate we headed to Echuca on the Murray River to take charge of a houseboat for 7 nights. Myself, Mr ATMT, my 3 sisters, brother-in-law, our 2 closest friends and our 2 sons (interchanged throughout the week) spent some lovely hours doing absolutely nothing apart from eating, swimming, drinking, dozing and playing games. Unfortunately our daughter couldn’t make it as they were in Hawaii and were delayed getting back.

Brittania on The MurraySunset starting to roll in.img_3539 Most nights we just ate, played games, had a few drinks and did lots of laughing while the cockies squawked loudly around us.img_1243

In My Houseboat Kitchen.

We ate like kings! Unfortunately I seem to have waylaid a few photos but I can share the Finnish Flaxseed Sourdough load that was made from the recipe Francesca over at Almost Italian had posted, this loaf was delicious and I have been requested to make more and more and more. The recipe was spot on which always makes me happy!

Finnish Flaxseed Sourdough

I had packed some basic supplies and ran a mini ‘how to’ session for making sourdough. The house boat had a gas oven that wasn’t all that good at keeping in the heat so it needed some assistance. You do what you have to do!oven-doorThe loaf actually turned out pretty well considering, but I have had a bit of experience cooking in a dodgy or even without an oven.bread-on-boatWe had a butterflied lamb leg that my sisters purchased at the sensational butcher in Yae. The meat from there was some the best I’ve had in a very long time, roast BBQ’d lamb, lovely fresh asparagus and salad and we were happy campers on a boat.

roast-on-houseboatI was blown away by this lemon & ginger cheesecake that my niece made and was brought along by my sister as a surprise birthday celebration. It was delicious and I kept sneaking a piece every day when no one was around.img_0131-001 I took a batch of Glenda’s orange muffins as these have become somewhat addictive for us. I had made and frozen them to take, they really last the distance very well. Not sure what made me place it on the BBQ to take a picture of, but here it is, looking back at the Murray River before it gets gobbled up.img_0184-001 Before we left I made a batch of sourdough croissants with the intention of taking them with us.img_1161They didn’t make it away and they were delicious!Sourdough croissants Finally In My Kitchen back at home was the making of the Christmas pudding. As is tradition at our place, whoever is around has to have a stir for luck. Look who I found! I’m loving having our grandson around, you turn into complete idiots entertaining him and I love every minute of it!

Pudding stirring

Pudding stirring

Thanks to Liz over at Bizzy Lizzy’s Good Things who takes the time to link us all together for these peeks into what goes on in other kitchens.

Wishing everyone a safe and happy Christmas and holiday season. I’m pretty excited about having a kitchen to entertain and cook in this year! 🙂 

 

Posted in In My Kitchen, Travel, Uncategorized, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , | 34 Comments

A quick whip around the patch.

I haven’t done a post for a while on what’s happening in the veggie patch/garden. This is most likely because I haven’t really been doing much out there. With us now being into the third season of establishing the garden, we are finding that it is much more about maintenance rather than building new areas. We are still working on developing paths, contemplation spots and have yet to start tackling the front yard so it won’t be all sit back and relax for a while yet.

Peeking into the greenhouse.

I have a couple of sugar baby watermelon seedlings that appear to be happy and growing well. These may just take over the entire greenhouse!

Sugar baby watermelon

Sugar baby watermelon

One of last years capsicum has over-wintered well and is throwing flowers with some baby caps appearing, this is much earlier than usual.

Capsicum flowering

Capsicum flowering

I have taken some cuttings from the perennial Rocoto chilli and these seem to be quite successful. I’ve used the method similar to planting laterals that are removed from tomatoes that grow so well.

Rocoto cutting

Rocoto cutting

There is a flower on the mature Rocoto Chilli. It was very rude and wouldn’t look at the camera!

Rocoto flower

Rocoto flower

Out in the Patch

The flowers on my Souvenir de la malmaison rose have suffered badly from the excessive amounts of rain we have experienced but it is growing nicely.

Souvenir de la Maison Rose

Souvenir de la malmaison Rose

I have however, had some good results from the roses in the laneway but I didn’t get a good photo. The lilac is magnificent! First time flowering this year and I am in love.

Lilac

Lilac

This years garlic crop is looking terrific.

Garlic 2016

Garlic 2016

The shiitake mushrooms are giving the best yield in quite a few years. I think the high rain and humidity is just what they demand.

Shiitake

Shiitake

I have some baby figs, YAY!

img_0045and some baby apples.

Apple babies

Apple babies

This button lettuce is proving to be a lovely variety. It is working well as a ‘pick as you need’ lettuce and bounces back quickly. The silver beet and kale behind it is all that remains from the last planting. I need space for tomatoes!

img_0059In the berry house, the raspberries, loganberries and thornless blackberries are all flowering profusely.

Berry house

Berry house

and the grapevine is starting to cover the climbing frame on the roof well with lots of grape clusters evident.

Grape vine

Grape vine

I have some pretty little daisies that bees and hoverflies just love and it is making me smile every time I see it.

Happy daisies

Happy daisies

All in all, it’s looking pretty good.

img_9909I trimmed a lot of the parsley stalks that were threatening to seed, picked some lemons from our new tree, found some beetroot I didn’t know about (too woody for roasting but I think it will be ok as a dip), some new potatoes, some self sown garlic, mint and herbs and we had enough to throw into a salsa verde for tea.

Harvest pickings

Harvest pickings

A  peek in the new bedroom.

I have decided that I will now continue working in one room at a time and it will be completely finished before I move onto the next (please remind me of my pledge when I stray). We always seem to fall into the trap of saying “we will get back to that” and it takes a very long time to get back, but no more. I am absolutely going to follow through on this! This is the new spare (guest) bedroom that was part of the exteno. Painting is almost finished, carpet is booked for laying,

img_1023We have rehung the old kitchen door on this room and that needs to be repaired and painted. Mr ATMT did the skirting in the robe space this afternoon so that now needs painting. I absolutely love this colour. The walls are Taubman’s Raincloud and the ceiling and trim is Dulux Classic White. img_1024 I have almost finished painting the window and it is looking great. The radiator that was in the old room before demolition has been cleaned and polished. This was pain, one of those jobs where you use a knitting needle with a cloth over the end to get into all the little nooks and crannies but worth it.img_1022I am already becoming aware while I write, that there will be one unfinished part of this room and that is internal fit out of the wardrobe. We will use a set of the shelving units we had in the temporary kitchen  I think. They are really good and will leave some options for the final design.

What jobs do you leave until you put the house on the market?

Posted in Fruit, Grapes, In The Garden, Lemons, Mushrooms, Raspberries, Shiitake | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments