The Friday List and (another) pear cake

7.24.2014



Hello and good morning! Here is a little list of reading and cooking ideas for the weekend. Hope you all have something fun planned. I'm heading off first thing tomorrow for a night away with some girlfriends to paint, eat, maybe drink a glass or two of vino and chill out in great company. And I really cannot wait to get.in.that.car.

In the meantime, I posted the above picture of Tim's birthday cake on Instagram a couple of weeks ago and a couple of lovely people have since asked for the recipe. It's actually just the Danish Apple Cake recipe from my book, also published here in the blog last year. With a few alterations; I doubled the recipe, used poached pears instead of apples, dropped the currants (he's not a fan) and instead of sandwiching the pears between the batter, just dotted them across the top then sprinkled the lot with cinnamon sugar. It was yummo. 


This is the prettiest cake I think I've ever seen. I'd like to eat it, with endless cups of tea, in this tree house

Apple cider and salted caramel creme fraiche coffee cake - yes it’s a mouthful. But I’d say a pretty delicious one...

Has anyone cooked with spruce tips? Apparently they go well with venison! Might try this lemon risotto with spruce and match it with some bbq'd Mandagery Creek Venison leg steaks this weekend!

And from the same author; this winter cauliflower soup with crushed juniper berries. What a beautiful flavour combination. Am thinking this would be a lovely starter at our next Farm Kitchen lunch!

Gorgeous rhubarb upside-down cake from the Green Kitchen Stories. And from the same source; if you are getting a bit tired of the old porridge with brown sugar combo; here’s three fab new ones to try.

Hello there...lemon ricotta pancakes with whipped camomile cream. Oh my. Can somebody please make this for breakfast (for me) tomorrow?

A really simple, yummy soup from Pip at Meet me at Mikes. Is it just me or does everyone else feel happier about the world after a little spell in Pip's world? I just signed up to her 'Feeling a bit sh**t" digest, the one she sends out on Sunday nights at 7pm when we're all feeling a bit sh**t and think eveyrone should do. A definite mood lifter!

It’s the middle of winter. But weirdly, instead of hot chocolate, I’d love a big frosty glass of this pineapple coconut water.

Love the idea of this flour and fire day. One day, when we have a wood-fired oven too, we might host something similar. Gorgeous post Jane!

If you have a blog, love blogs or want to start one - check out Blog Society's website and, of course, blog. So much good stuff here! I'm yet to make it to one of their events but live in hope...


Ladies who lunch - very very rarely

7.21.2014

The idea of a mid-week lunch with my friends is heaven to me. Unfortunately, it happens all to rarely. Hardly ever actually. So when the lovely Prue of Olive and Clover, said she was coming to Orange with some new pieces for her online store, and could I please take a few pics of them for her blog....an idea was born.

We decided to meet at another friend, Willa Arant's restaurant Racine. Then gather a few girls together, dress up and take some pics. Here are the results, and Prue has posted more, with recipes too, over on her blog.



With her chef-husband Shaun Arantz, Willa runs Racine with great style and grace. The restaurant has been awarded a chefs' hat two years in a row now,  and is renowned for innovative fine dining grounded (literally) in its use of local produce (including ahem...our Mandagery Creek Venison!). More recently, the couple opened their restaurant up from 10am on Thursdays and Fridays with a more casual cafe-style menu offering everything from pastries to bowls of soup, salads and share plates (the more formal restaurant menu is also available).



The whole set up is just ideal for relaxed catch ups over coffee and pastries (from Racine's bakery in town) or light lunches. And, unlike many restaurants and cafes it's absolutely child friendly. Because the restaurant is situated right in the middle of a vineyard, there's plenty of space for kids to run around (including a wide green lawn often used as a marquee space for the weddings Racine often hosts). Willa provides crayons and paper for creative little people, and encourages the more active young guests to bring soccer balls and have a kick on the lawn while the rest of their party has lunch. Nice hey!


You can find all of these beautiful garments over on the Olive and Clover website. And for more information and/or bookings for Racine, jump over to their site for all the details. Thanks!


The Friday List and snow!

7.17.2014


Tom came careering into our room this morning yelling, 'it's snowing'. We raced outside and he was dead right; the world was white. I've never seen snow like this in my nine years here in Orange and am just as excited as the kids. Yes it's freezing outside, but it's crisp, bright and crunchy underfoot too. Tim quickly jumped on the quad bike and did a lap of the paddocks to check the herd and they seem completely unfazed by the snow, mostly just sitting around in the paddocks waiting for the red tractor to arrive with their breakfast (we are giving them extra grain in these cold days to keep their energy levels up).

So after snowmen were made and snowballs thrown, I drove the kids to school, which was also covered in snow. And now, although there are deadlines to meet and phone calls to make; have just spent the morning playing in the white garden taking photos and eating snow with syrup.


My fridge always seems to have a few jars of leftover fruit poaching syrup in its depths, so I pulled these out (one quince syrup and one from some moscato poached pears we served recently at the Farm Kitchen) and made snow cups drizzled in syrup.

 They are so delicious - and of course, on the off-chance you don't have a garden full of snow (this is the first time in years we have!), you could easily make these with ice blitzed in a blender and then drizzled with syrup or nice cordial). I've now stashed a container of snow in the freezer for the kids tonight, and might even drizzle a little Stone Pin Gin over the grown-up snow cups. Because it's Friday. A white Friday.



The Friday List

I've been wanting to visit Anna Tasca Lanza's Sicilian cooking school since meeting a recent graduate in Turin 15 years ago. Am now thinking this post might be the closest I'll come to ever getting there. Sigh.

In the snowy/icy theme of this post; here's a spot of armchair travel to Iceland, via Cannelle et Vanille

This raspberry ripple buckwheat porridge looks just perfect. Perhaps we in the Southern Hemisphere can make ours with rhubarb? Or stewed apples even?

Such a cool idea - this restauranteur and chef are cycling across America to talk to strangers about what they eat. Here are a few pics from their stint in the Rockies.

Another great article about cool people doing cool things - this time over in Berlin. Meet the dudes behind Infarm; an inner-city farming project growing great things. 

A belated nod to Bastille Day....Le Grand Aioli. Might have to wait for warmer weather to make this one!

I always love popping in at Dinners with Friends; such a great snapshot of different places, seasons and people.

Apparently New York's Shake Shack does the best burgers in the states, and here's the recipe (or an interpretation of the real thing at least!)

Potstickers from Two Red Bowls. Would love somebody to make these for me tonight!


Delicious comes to the farm

7.16.2014


A couple of months ago, a team from Delicious magazine came to visit. They were here to work on a winter feature for the August issue which goes on sale today!

Photographer Mark Roper, the magazine's Art Director Shannon Keogh and food stylist David Morgan were such fun to work with, all so enthusiastic and keen to get the very best shots - and we were blown away by how they work together to produce such beautiful images. Mark risked life and (burnt) limbs to get just the right shot of the venison on its hot plate. David was an excellent 'stage mom', coaxing Alice to keep smiling as she stood in the freezing cold holding her cake until the light/composition/everything was perfect. And Shannon kept it all on track, holding light reflectors, giving gentle direction and loads of bright ideas.


Just some of the beautiful props David brought along for the shoot (I was kind of hoping he'd forget a few bits and pieces, no luck sadly).


Thank you so much to everyone at Delicious, mostly Food Director Valli Little who first approached us with this idea. It's pretty exciting for Tim and I to see our Mandagery Creek Venison, literally from paddock to plate, featured in a magazine like this and we are very grateful.

This issue is also celebrating the Delicious Produce Awards which have just been announced (full list of winners can be found here), talk about being in good company!

Here above and below are some pictures I took of the shoot as it progressed. And also a snapshot of the feature itself. For more - please grab a copy yourself. It's a beautiful issue and we are proud to be part of it.

Guest post - Emiko's Canberra

7.15.2014





Hello and here we are back with our special guest this week; photographer, blogger and food writer Emiko Davies. Yesterday Emiko shared some beautiful photos and recipes from a recent truffle hunt near her home in the ACT. Today she gives the dirt on her favourite places to shop, eat and play in our Nation's Capital. Thanks again Emiko!

What brought you to live in Canberra? And what do you love about it?

Although I've spent more than half of my life living overseas, I was born in Canberra and grew up here. My husband (a Tuscan, born and bred) and I made the move to Australia a couple of years ago and were based in Melbourne but when our daughter was born we soon realised that with a little one we wanted to be closer to some family. So I'm back after more than 20 years, which is basically like living in a new place!

I love a lot of things about Canberra – the museums, the great farmer's markets, and (it's undeniable) it's so very easy to get around, which makes life with a toddler a lot easier! Also I love the weather here compared to Melbourne – the winters in particular are glorious, with many sunny, blue skied days, which makes sitting outside and sunbaking during winter days such a treat.

Can you describe for me your perfect Saturday morning in our nation's capital?

A trip to the Capital Region Farmers Market is the first thing – get there early to beat the crowd. It's probably one of the best farmers markets around, featuring proper locally-grown produce and handmade food. I like to make a visit to pick up Cuppacumbalong eggs, Randall organic rice, mushrooms grown in a train tunnel between Bowral and Mittagong and organic seasonal vegetables from Chokubaijo, grown in Canberra, amongst others.

Although I can never resist picking up something to nibble on at the market, a nice breakfast out (or if time doesn't permit then at least a coffee!) is in order after an early start, usually somewhere close to home like in Kingston, where I might end up at my favourite bakery Silo (not just for their wonderful baguettes or pastries but their short, seasonal menu is a real treat too) or at Penny University for a good coffee or a breakfast smoothie.


What are you loving cooking right now?

I love that winter gives the perfect excuse to cook hearty, warming soups and slow-cooked stews. It's just what I crave! I've been making Sneh Roy's chicken, chickpea and cauliflower curry a lot lately, it's become a family favourite, but I also love a good minestrone, a bean or farro soup or a slow cooked ragu. I had my first ragu made with beef short ribs recently, I think it's a keeper!

Can you give us any of your insiders' tips on great places to shop, eat and play in your city and area?

The remarkable thing about Canberra is how fast it's growing and changing – I'm not surprised that it was recently written up about in Gourmet Traveller and the New York Times! I'm still trying to catch up on trying every new restaurant (New Acton, the whole of it, has a very buzzy feel about it these days) but Lonsdale Street in Braddon is a good little spot for boutique shopping and coffee sipping. It's got an industrial feel to it that remotely reminds me of Melbourne's Brunswick or Collingwood (ok, I may be stretching it just a bit but you get the idea!). You really can't go wrong with a coffee at Lonsdale Street Roasters, a shop around the Lonsdale Street Traders (a warehouse with an eclectic mix of shops, including Craft ACT, vegan cafe Sweet Bones and beautiful florist Moxom & Whitney) and a meal at Italian & Sons (seriously good pizza!).

And then there's the quiet little gem that is Courgette (full disclosure: my husband, Marco Lami, is the sommelier here so I'm only partially biased!). The menu is degustation only, the food spectacular (the venison is of course Mandagery Creek and a must try) and although the wine list is still a work in progress, Marco is trying to bring in an interesting line up of natural, biodynamic and organic wines by small producers, which is pretty unique in Canberra!

For a view, pop into the National Arboretum cafe, which sits on a hill top overlooking Canberra. If you have children in tow, they will love the wonderful playground here too. And do check out either the National Gallery (the sculpture garden is beautiful), the National Library or the Portrait Gallery – or all three! There are some wonderful things here in Canberra that, being the nation's capital, you won't get to see anywhere else!

The other thing I love about Canberra is how easy it is to get out of town and out into the countryside. Quaint towns like Bungendore and Braidwood are under an hour away and you can find places like Sully's Cider at the Old Cheese Factory. Canberra region wines are also worth checking out – Lark Hill, a biodynamic winery and restaurant, is one of my favourites.


Thanks so much for all those great tips Emiko. Before we go, can you give us a bit of your background? How did you get interested in/involved in food and photography?

The short version is I did a Fine Arts degree in the US, I majored in printmaking but had my first taste of photography during art school and loved it. After university, I ended up in Italy, Florence to be exact, to study art restoration and did a darkroom photography course there (teaching eventually too!) and although I have always loved food and cooking, it was this time in Florence (seven years in total) where the food and photography thing came together in the form of a blog. It was something about the traditions, the culture and the approach to food there in Tuscany that really inspired me. That and there are so many good food stories to tell.

Please tell us a bit about your blog and photography work? What inspires you and drives you to keep creating in this space?

The idea behind the blog is to create regional Italian dishes, staying true to the traditions, telling the stories behind the recipes and interweaving it all with home life and the things that go on around me. It's the food, foremost that inspires, but also places we visit – often, especially in Italy, the place and the food are so strongly connected. We recently went “home” to Florence for three months and inspiration was literally around every corner. Recipes that I read about that intrigue or ingredients that are in season all provide more fodder. But possibly one of the most important things that keeps me going is following other inspiring blogs that create beautiful images or weave beautiful words together that make me aspire to always do better – a bit like, as an artist, you look towards the masters to learn.

And to finish - if you were to have a dinner party this weekend, what would your ideal wintery menu be?


Well, having a truffle in my possession after the recent hunt at Terra Preta farm, I can't help but have truffles on my mind. It's also a great thing to share around when you get one as a little goes a long way and they're best used as fresh as possible! I'd start with a simple antipasto of crostini, perhaps including some polenta crostini with mushrooms and truffles. Then a very simply dressed handmade pasta with fresh truffle grated directly on it and a roast chicken with truffles pushed under its skin, served with cauliflower gratin or mash (after seeing Hannah Plummer's recipe recently!) and cavolo nero sauteed with some garlic. For dessert, I love a good fruit crumble in the winter, perhaps with pears and hazelnuts and a scoop of truffle ice cream (delicious! – have made it from scratch before, which works well as you infuse the milk and cream with the truffle before freezing it but I think you could even soften some bought vanilla ice cream and grate some fresh truffle into it, stir it through and try that).

Guest post - truffle hunting with Emiko Davies

7.14.2014



Hello and welcome to my first proper guest post on Local is Lovely! And I am so proud that we are kicking off with such a goodie. Emiko Davies is like blogging royalty to me. An experienced and professional photographer and journalist; her blog is the best of its kind. Always full of wonderful images, recipes and words bound together by Emiko's contagious love of what she does. Here below, she shares some images and words from a recent truffle hunt she attended close to her home town of Canberra (though she is only recently back from a seven year stint in Tuscany with her Italian Husband). She's also written and photographed for us, a couple of recipes showcasing black truffles, which are in season (if not somewhat out of most budgets, right now). The good news is, as Emiko says, you really only need a very little taste to understand what all the fuss is about. And as our local trufferies here in the Central West are digging them up right now, I'm thinking about going halves or thirds in one with a friend. Anyone keen? But back to Emiko. Please, grab a cup of tea and take five minutes for a bit of a read...Thank you Emiko!



I’ve had the fortune of becoming well accustomed to truffles. My first proper experience was visiting the town of San Miniato, just a little outside of Florence. It’s a pretty hilltop town surrounded by a beautiful hilly and wooded area, famous for its abundance of the very rare and really incomparable white truffle. Every November they have a truffle festival that lasts about three weeks and the entire town is taken over by the scent of truffles. A couple of months later, I met the man who is now my husband in Florence and it turned out he was born in San Miniato. So a love of truffles naturally runs through him. Naturally, we never missed a truffle festival.

Then, here in Australia, I had the pleasure of researching Australian black truffles for The Locavore Edition’s Field Guide to NSW Produce and came into contact with the Marshall family from Terra Preta Truffles in Braidwood. The Marshalls, Kate and Peter, invited me around for a hunt last year and afterwards treated me to a wonderful home cooked truffle meal. It was unforgettable. Quite a different experience to Italy but unforgettable nonetheless. I went back again recently, for another hunt, this time as part of the Canberra Truffle Festival and research for Food & Wine liftout of The Canberra Times and it was just as good as I remember, but this time they also introduced me to another fantastic local family run business — a cider making Welsh family who prepared us a truffle lunch. But back to the truffle hunt.


Possibly the best part of the hunt is watching the hunters themselves at work. The dogs, that is. There’s something I find quite fascinating about the fact that we humans aren’t able to find truffles on our own. Dependent upon the nose of a well-trained dog (or a pig, as it used to be), truffles need to be expertly sniffed out. Shadow, a slippery little black dog, and Sal, a golden retriever, are experts, but watching them with Kate Marshall and her youngest daughter Rita, it’s pretty clear that there’s something special at work in this partnership between dog and handler.
 

The truffle hunt is just as exciting as finding buried treasure. Following the dogs' lead in the patch of carefully curated hazelnut and oak trees, Kate and Rita begin carefully shifting around dirt until, like the tip of an iceberg, the top of a truffle is revealed. It is excavated and wiggled out while the dogs patiently wait for their reward. The heady scent of damp earth and earthy truffle mingles in the cold, crisp air. It's certainly a good way to work up an appetite. Luckily, not far away, the Sully-Watkins family over at Sully's Old Cheese Factory are preparing us lunch.


The specialty over at the Old Cheese Factory is not cheese, as you might think, but cider. The Sully-Watkins family have done a really beautiful thing, reviving a historical industry of Braidwood (cider making! Who knew?) with their own Welsh heritage, scouring the area for heritage trees, brought over with the early settlers of the area. In the meanwhile, they have dug up some very interesting local history and produced some truly artisanal ciders.
 

They are passionate about sourcing and supporting local Braidwood produce and it makes all the difference. With Gina in the kitchen, brother Gary making the cider, and parents Bob and Margaret helping out, it's a whole family affair. We're welcomed out of the cold with some of their hot mulled cider, a treat made with their heritage cider apples. For lunch, Gina has cooked up a vegetable soup with truffle pesto and divine individual pies made with local free-range chicken, their own champagne cider and truffles. For dessert, she made truffle rice pudding with poached quince and candied walnuts (pictured above) followed by handmade white chocolate truffles (with truffles!).

Truffles are easy to use in the kitchen. A couple of tips I have are:

  • Don't be intimidated about using truffles – although they may be a bit pricey (this is because of their extreme seasonality and their rareness, along with the fact that they're not the easiest things to find!), they go best with really simple, humble dishes.
  • Go all out – don't try to save little bits of truffle to make it last longer. Use the truffle at its freshest as it will lose aroma (and weight) day by day.
  • Probably the best way to savour it is simply shaved or grated fresh as a garnish, allowing the warmth of the dish to bring out the aroma. This is better than cooking it, as it will lose its most potent aroma with too much heat.
  • The simpler the better. Truffles pair wonderfully with ingredients such as eggs, potatoes, cheese, butter and cream – things like potato mash or a good old fondue are great with a grating of truffle over the top. I like to make my own truffle butter (recipe below) and use it to dress some fresh egg pasta or scrambled eggs.
If you get the chance, go on a truffle hunt so you can see what all the fuss is about!

The Canberra Truffle Festival continues until the end of August. Terra Preta farm conducts truffle tours on Sundays or their truffles can be found at the Capital Region Farmers Market at EPIC on Saturday mornings until the end of the season. Sully's Old Cheese Factory is open by appointment or for cider tastings on Sundays only.


Truffle butter

Truffle butter is a wonderful way to savour your truffle and also to keep it lasting longer. It can pretty much be used for anything and makes everything taste better! Stir through mashed potatoes, polenta, pasta or scrambled eggs. Or perhaps serve it on top of grilled steak. It's just wonderful to eat on fresh bread too. You can cheat by simply combining a softened, good quality, cultured butter with grated truffle, but making your own cultured butter at home is easy and fun – I was inspired by this video from Pepe Saya on how to do it. Just keep in mind that it doesn't keep as long as commercial butter; use it within a week.

500 grams creme fraiche
about 20 grams grated truffle
a good pinch of salt flakes

Whip the creme fraiche in a deep bowl (you can use a stand mixer or hand mixer) until it splits, forming buttermilk and the solids begin to look like “popcorn”, about 5-8 minutes.

If you want to keep the buttermilk, prepare a strainer by lining it with muslin or a clean linen tea towel and place over a bowl. Pour off the buttermilk through the strainer and place the butter in the muslin, pressing the butter to squeeze as much liquid as you can out of it. Pour the buttermilk into a jar and keep in the fridge.

Place the butter in the bowl the buttermilk was in and rinse it with about half a cup of ice cold water, pressing the butter against the sides of the bowl to squeeze out the liquid. Pour off the liquid and add more cold water, pressing the butter and repeating until the liquid that comes out is clear, not cloudy.

The butter should now be firm and mould-able and at this point you can add salt and the grated truffle. Knead with your hands to combine well, then shape in a log or a wheel and wrap in baking or greaseproof paper. Keep in the fridge and use up to a week. You can also freeze it.


Truffle pannacotta with poached pears and dark chocolate

Pannacotta is a really delicate dessert that lends itself well to little adaptions, in this case being perfumed by black truffles. I do think it's worthwhile infusing the pears with some truffle too if you want to make the most of this truffle dessert (I'd put a few slices of truffle in the pot once you have taken off the heat and leave to infuse like a tea until you need to serve them) but otherwise plain or half a vanilla pod is quite nice too.

A note on the gelatin – I prefer using leaf gelatin (I find it's a more neutral flavoured option and there's less risk of any lumps) over powdered gelatin but you can use either. The conversions between the two are notoriously controversial and depending on what you read you might get different answers. However, I've found that this works well with about 2 ½ teaspoons of powdered gelatin.

Note that the truffle ends up floating to the bottom so if you upturn them, you get to see the pretty speckled truffles on top. If flipping the pannacotta intimidates you, you can also set these in ramekins (or even little tea cups) and present them as is, so no flipping is required but you won't see the truffle until you get to the bottom!

Serves 6

2 small pears
175 grams sugar
375 ml cream
125 ml milk
2 tablespoons finely grated truffle
3 leaves of gelatin (about 6 grams)
50 grams dark chocolate, chopped finely

Peel and slice the pears first into quarters then each quarter into three pieces.

Heat about 500 ml water with 100 grams of sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Add the pears and bring to a simmer. Cook until the pears are soft and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside until the pannacotta are ready for serving.

For the pannacotta, place the cream, milk and the rest of the sugar in a saucepan and heat until the sugar is dissolved. Don't let the mixture boil. Remove from the heat. In the meantime, soak the gelatin leaves in cold water for about 5 minutes or until softened.

Take the gelatin leaves out of the water and squeeze out any excess liquid. Add to the warm cream mixture and stir to dissolve the gelatin. Add the truffle and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into a 6 cup silicon muffin tray or 6 small ramekins. Refrigerate until set, a few hours.

To serve, remove the pannacotta from fridge about 30 minutes before serving. If you have used the silicon muffin tray and you are upturning the pannacotta, slide a knife around the edge of the pannacotta carefully then dip the bottom of the tray momentarily in warm water to loosen and then carefully tip the pannacotta out onto plates one by one. If using ramekins you can serve as they are in the ramekin. Serve with slices of poached pear, drained, and a sprinkling of chopped dark chocolate.

 

Words and images all by Emiko Davies. Isn't she awesome!

Of picnics and pikelets

7.10.2014



The valley below Oberon, between the villages of Tarana, Sodwalls and Rydal is one of the prettiest in NSW (to my mind at least). We have just spent the past few days in this area (my parents live nearby), and for the kids this meant school holidays with some of their favourite people. For me it meant that too, plus a good stretch of screen-free time. And though I'll pay for it with lots of late nights next week, it was heaven to be unplugged and outside all week. So do I apologise for not posting a Friday List today but instead, thought I'd share a few pictures of our week away and the beautiful valley we spent it in.

If you live in or around Lithgow, Bathurst, Oberon or Orange or just fancy a drive; one day, please take a detour off the Great Western Highway and drive the scenic route to Oberon yourself. There's loads to do; from picnics on the Fish River to bushwalking up Evan's Crown, lunch at the Tarana Pub, foraging for mushrooms or truffles in Oberon or just taking a slow drive along the beautiful country roads. Oberon's Tourism Information Centre and its website has loads of information on the area, it's history and how best to explore it all. And here endeth my sales pitch. 


The church pictured above is St Peters' of Mutton Falls, then below, and not too far away is Flat Rock, a public picnic spot on the Fish River that is one of the best places I can think of to spend a sunny winters' day. Directly above is Tom, pretty happy to be in possession of the wholemeal apple and jam cake we made for our picnic (recipe here) and below is the disused railway bridge between Tarana and Rydal.


When the weather turned grey and frosty, we retreated to Mum's studio for a spot of painting and pikelets (here's my recipe - which also happens to be the first post I ever wrote here). All up, there were moments of cabin fever and the odd issue with sharing or the lack thereof (mostly on the part of my Tom, below) but that aside, it was the perfect winter break with the kids.


Mind the zombie - below!



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