Local is Lovely workshop - day 2


Day two of the Local is Lovely workshop began bright and very early. Fired up by our photography teacher Luisa's completely infectious enthusiasm, we met at dawn and each carried a chair, bench, jug of coffee or stack of bowls out through the dew and early fog into a field just by the house.

With sunrise breaking through a row of Radiata pines and our small group of early risers pouring coffee and sharing out granola with yogurt and berries - it was the best, and I have to say, most photogenic breakfast I've had in a long time. Probably ever.

The granola recipe was one from my book, it's full of honey, nuts and spices, lasts for ages and is really great over yogurt, even ice cream and as I found out on the weekend - served with sweet pickles.
The recipe itself is easy, but if you have a small oven like me, just takes a little time if making a big batch as you need to cook it in three or four lots.

Honey Granola

I make this recipe all the time. The kids take little bags of it to school for morning tea (nut free), I have it over yogurt for breakfast and it's also great as a crumble topping but in this case, cook the fruit on it’s own and sprinkle with granola before serving. Makes about 7 cups.

5 cups rolled oats
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup almonds, roughly chopped (or any other nut)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp ground ginger
Pinch of salt
50ml sunflower oil
1/4 cup brown sugar
150ml honey

Preheat oven to 140C. Combine the oats, coconut, seeds, almonds, spices and salt in a large bowl. Place the oil, honey and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir until combined. Set aside to cool for a moment then stir in the vanilla. Pour this mixture over the dry ingredients and mix well, ensuring that all ingredients are well incorporated. Spread across one large or two small trays and cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the granola is a golden brown. Turn the muesli around a bit every 20 minutes or so to ensure that one side of the tray doesn’t cook faster and burn. Cool completely before stirring through any additions (dried fruit or chocolate chips). Then store in an airtight container. 

After breakfast we began the studio session by styling and shooting the cheese plate below. I know. So beautiful.

Our teacher in styling Stephanie Stamatis created the scene then Luisa gave everyone guidance on how to shoot it according to their own style and camera. The background was a slab of zinc that we all fell in love with. Such a fantastic surface, pretty much any food looks great on zinc, particularly raw meat as we found later in a mini-demonstration on shooting this often tricky subject.

The day moved on, all to quickly. After the cheese plate shoot above, I brought over a few fruit tarts which were styled and shot by the group. My favourite was this vibrant apricot version (below). Again the recipe comes from my book, and again you can find it here below.

This recipe is perhaps my favourite sweet thing to make. It takes a little time and love but isn't hard and can be adapted to suit any fruit that's in season (I make it with fresh figs, poached quinces, cherries and stone fruit).

Frangipane fruit tarts

As mentioned above, you can make this with pretty much any seasonal fruit. I particularly love piling mine up with halved fresh apricots but on the day we also made one with cherries, strawberries and rhubarb.

For the pastry
150g cold butter
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 egg
1 x quantity frangipane filling (recipe below)
2 cups apricots, halved

Place the flour and icing sugar in the bowl of a food processor and blitz for a moment. Add the butter and blitz until you have a coarse sand-like texture. Tip this out onto a work surface and bring together with the palm of your hand and work until you have a lovely, smooth disc of dough. Wrap this in plastic and pop in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Roll out between two sheets of baking paper until about 5mm thick and drape into a loose-bottomed tart tin. Return to the fridge for another half an hour. The tart shell can wait for you in the fridge for up to a day at this point, or you can pop in the freezer and bake almost from frozen (just let it sit on the bench for 10 minutes before going into a preheated oven). 

Blind bake the tart shell in a preheated oven at 180C, then spoon in the frangipane mix and smooth out. Press the apricots into the mixture, sprinkle with extra caster sugar and bake for 30 minutes or until the frangipane is golden brown and cooked through.

For the frangipane filling; 
100 salted butter, softened 
1/2 cup caster sugar 
1 egg 
3/4 cup almond meal* 
1 tbsp plain flour 
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180C. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy and add the egg, mix to incorporate well. Fold in the almond meal, flour and vanilla and beat until you have a smooth paste. This can be kept in the fridge or freezer until needed but it's much easier to work with if you bring back to room temperature before spreading over the tart base. 

*It makes all the difference to this recipe if you make your own almond meal. To do this, just dry-roast natural (skin-on) almonds in a moderate oven for about 10 minutes or until fragrant. Let cool then blitz in a food processor until coarse. Almond meal freezes really well so make a double batch then stash some away for next time.

As well as the tarts, we also made and shot a batch of buttermilk jam scrolls. 

Buttermilk jam scrolls

For sweet yeasted doughs like this, I try to use fresh yeast*, but as this isn't all that easy to come by, dry/instant yeast is completely fine. If using dried yeast though, general wisdom says you just halve the quantity of fresh yeast to get the right amount of dried to use. So for example in this case, where we use 60g fresh yeast, just weigh out 30g dried.

This recipe is one of my current favourites. Its genus comes from Danish food writer Trine Hanneman but I've changed it a bit over the past few months. The dough is soft, beautiful to manage and just sweet enough, and the scrolls really not hard to make, you just need to practice a bit to get a feel for the dough. I often make up a batch and then let the un-baked scrolls rest/rise slowly overnight in the fridge. You then just take them out of the fridge, let the oven heat up and bake them as per the recipe below then wake your special people up to freshly baked buttermilk scrolls and I promise they'll feel the love. And really, to make people feel special - isn't that why we bake? Makes about 12.

60g fresh yeast
200mls buttermilk
1 egg
3 cups (450g) 00 flour
1/3 cup (80g) caster sugar
100g unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups jam (we used blackberry)
1 egg, extra, for brushing
1/2 cup toasted almonds, roughly chopped

Crumble the yeast into a bowl, pour over the buttermilk, add the egg and whisk to combine. Or if using dried yeast, sprinkle this over the buttermilk, add the egg and whisk. Place the flour and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook and add the yeast mixture. Mix for a couple of minutes then add the softened butter and then let the machine knead the mixture for about five minutes (you can do all of this by hand of course!).

Tip mixture onto a lightly floured surface and finish off the kneading with a few minutes by hand. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and set aside to rise for an hour or until doubled in size.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently roll into a large rectangle shape. Spread this with the jam then gently roll (from the longest edge) into a nice fat sausage. Use a serrated knife to cut this into scrolls about 3cm thick and lay on a tray lined with baking paper (give them a cm or so on every side to rise). At this point you can return to the fridge to rise slowly or leave at room tempearture  
for half an hour before baking. Brush with the beaten egg and scatter with the chopped almonds and bake for 30 minutes or until golden. Serve warm.

*If keen to try using fresh yeast yourself, just poke your head around the counter of your local bakery or even supermarket bakery and ask if you can have/buy 100g or so. Works for me! 

After the scrolls we also made pasta, turned it into ravioli filled with goat's curd, lemon zest and peas then shared this for lunch (recipe coming in a separate post). And somewhere in between, Luisa talked about and demonstrated how she edits and organises her images and gave us some really useful advice on the business-end of being a professional photographer (pitching stories, charging fees and so on).

Straight after lunch we were back to the studio for an afternoon session on watercolours and sketching by my mum, art teacher and artist Annie Herron. It was so lovely to step away from our cameras, pick up pencils, crayons and/or watercolours and create images in such a different medium (see below). And  as usual, Mum coaxed some beautiful work out of her students. 

And almost at the end of the workshop, we did one more demonstration session with pickles (here's my recipe) before Stephanie and Luisa encouraged and helped everyone to choose from the food and prop 'library' on hand to style their own scenes.

I think we were all a little sad to bring this workshop to a close. And in a slow trickle, we said our good byes as the group departed. Thank you to everyone who participated in this workshop, it was the best.

Local is Lovely workshop - day 1


I’m going to try to keep the superlatives in check with this post, but please forgive me if a few (too many) slip through. Last week, in collaboration with photographer Luisa Brimble, stylist Stephanie Stamatis and my amazing Mum artist Annie Herron, we hosted first Local is Lovely workshop.

The venue was our family home, Kimbri. And at this point I want to say thank you times a million to Mum and Dad for allowing us access to such a wonderful place. This is where Mum hosts her regular residential art classes and her woodshed studio morphed perfectly into a makeshift photography studio! 

Over two days our 16 students learnt everything from photography basics to practical styling and shooting to photo editing. We did some floristry, we visited a local farm and learnt about shooting on location, we painted with watercolours, we pickled, we rolled pasta, we ate together and we talked, and talked. And talked.

Some of us shared rooms and as I wandered around well after dinner that night, turning lights off and bedding down the house, there were pockets everywhere of chattering and muffled laughter. It was like one-big creative slumber party. Everyone contributed and everyone I hope, took away loads of inspiration, knowledge and content.

I have so many words and photos to share from this workshop and will be sharing all we did on day two tomorrow. For now, here is a little visual record of the first day of our workshop. My apologies if some of my pics are less than perfect, I was racing around a bit between the kitchen and studio, and so excited...there may have been the odd incident of 'camera-shake'.

Our teachers; Luisa Brimble and Stephanie Stamatis were so very generous with the knowledge they shared, relaxed in the manner they did so and just loads of fun. Our students quickly formed into a cohesive group, so much so, that by the second afternoon we were all reluctant to burst our little creative bubble and pack up to head home. 

The food we shared between 'classes' was simple, fresh and seasonal. It was fuss-free but hopefully tasty, and I'd done as much prep in advance as possible, to avoid getting stuck in the kitchen and missing any of the workshops. That said, I couldn't have done any of it without the help of my clever, funny friend Willa Arantz. Willa and her husband own Racine Restaurant and Racine Bakery in Orange and she came with bread, charcuterie and lots of great kitchen chat. She is also an artist herself and took naturally to the photography and styling classes. Thank you Willa! For lunch on the first day we had warm slabs of the below zucchini gallette and a few people asked for the recipe. Here it is below.

Zucchini and lemon gallette

This is a really easy and tasty recipe that can be adapted to suit whatever vegetables are in season or your fridge. Tomatoes are great here, as are roasted root vegetables, squash and asparagus. Serves 4-6.

1 x roll puff pastry, thawed (I love using Careme puff, it's a bit more expensive than other pre-made brands but so worth it.)
1 x brown onion, finely diced
1/3 cup white wine
250g creme fraiche
3 eggs
1 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 tbsp thyme leaves
Zest and juice of one lemon
3 zucchini, very thinly sliced (I use a mandolin. With trepidation)
1 egg, beaten
Zest of one lemon, to garnish (optional)

Roll out your thawed pastry on a work surface lightly dusted with flour. You want it to be a rectangular shape, about 30x20cm. Place pastry on a baking tray lined with paper, score a 2cm border around the edges and pop in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes. 

Cook the onions in the butter over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and let bubble away until the liquid reduces by half. In a separate bowl, whisk together the creme fraiche, eggs, parmesan, thyme and lemon zest and juice. Add the onion mixture and stir well. Keep this mixture in the fridge until needed. Preheat oven to 200C.

To assemble, spread creme fraiche mixture over the base of the pastry. Fold in the edges and pinch together so they stay, then layer the top with your sliced zucchini. Brush the pastry edges with the beaten egg and place in the oven for 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden.

Sprinkle over the extra lemon zest and serve warm.

Straight after lunch we were treated to the most gorgeous floristry demonstration by Amelia of the Flower Era. Amelia gave us some great ideas for putting together foraged bouquets and arrangements for styled shoots and/or our kitchen table. She used flowers from Mum's garden and also a bunch of beautiful peonies from Sarah at our local peony farm, Summer Hill.

Then it was back to the woolshed/studio for a little more practical shooting before our field trip to Fabrice Rolando's market garden. Fabrice was a natural with all those cameras and Luisa gave everyone practical tips on shooting lifestyle scenes, dealing with harsh sunlight and capturing natural portraits. We had afternoon tea (iced chai tea and friands - both of which I completely forgot to photograph!) and then drove back through the valley, home to Kimbri for dinner. Some of our students had spent very little time, if any in the Australian countryside (we even had one participant all the way from Hong Kong, on her first visit to Australia!), so this drive through beautiful bushland with Blue Mountain escarpments behind us was just magic.

That night we cooked lemon tarragon chicken, crispy potatoes and asparagus in the wood-fired oven and sat around the fire pit for a while chatting before calling it a (really great) day.

This was the first of what I hope will be many more Local is Lovely workshops and Luisa, Stephanie and I are in the process of finalising a few dates for Autumn 2015. They will be announced soon right here! Thanks. Sophie

Sweet pickles - the whey to go


Jannei Goat Dairy is a ten minute drive from my parents’ place near Lithgow. Here, Neil and Janet Watson keep a herd of goats and with their milk, make a range of beautiful cheeses. I’ve written about them before here (they also pop up in my book), and whenever possible, drop in to say hello and buy a tub of their incredible goat’s curd and my favourite of their cheese range; the creamy, tangy Bent Back Chevre.

Last week, while cooking at Rydal for Mum’s art classes, I made an early visit to keep the cheese stocks on track. Of course, this being a working dairy; Neil and his small team were already up and milking when I got there just before seven. It was a lovely scene to watch; Neil singing out to his goats who then calmly trotted in to be milked while in a yard next door, tiny kids climbed all over their mums and older kids climbed over each other.

As well as their hard and soft-rind cheeses, Jannei's fresh Curd is one of my absolute favourite things. I have it spread on toasted sourdough (topped with some avocado or sliced tomatoes), dollop it on pizzas, toss it through hot pasta and serve it with fresh fruit.

Last week, in preparation for a little demo I'll be giving on quick pickles this Thursday as part of our food photography and styling workshop, I was playing around with a few sweet and savory pickle recipes. And it turns out, of course, that goat's curd is a perfect match for any kind of pickle, but particularly sweet ones. particularly when served with a bunch of crunchy, not-to-sweet crackers to bring the whole thing together.

So here's my absolute new favourite flavour and texture combination; creamy, fresh goat's curd with tangy pickled fruit and a thin, crunchy biscuit. I think this might be our go-to pud this summer.

Orange and quinoa biscuits

These are my new favourite biscuit. Dead easy to make, they taste beautiful and pack loads of crunch. Plus, they last for ages in the biscuit tin and are perfect ‘carriers’ for my curd and pickle concoction (they'd also be great as a base for ice cream sandwiches). Adapted from a recipe given by Trine Hahnemann in her incredible book Scandinavian Baking. Makes about 20.

50g butter, melted
125g quinoa flakes
2 eggs, lightly beaten
250g caster sugar
2 tbsp plain flour,
2 tsp baking powder
Zest of one orange
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 180C and line two baking trays with paper. Mix the melted butter with the quinoa flakes, sugar and eggs. Sift in the flour, baking powder, orange zest and salt and gently mix together.

Drop small amounts of the mixture (about a teaspoon full) on the baking trays, leaving plenty of space for the mixture to spread and bake for 10 minutes (or until golden). Let cool on the tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Sweet pickles are a new thing for me but I’m totally smitten. They are beautiful with goat’s curd and these not-to-sweet biscuits, but also fantastic served with harder, stronger cheeses or even over ice cream or spooned over a simple almond cake. Fiddle around with the ingredients at will, you could use stone fruit too and swap the bay and peppercorns with other aromatics (a cinnamon stick wouldn’t go astray, nor would some freshly grated nutmeg or lemon zest). Maybe just don’t go overboard with the aromatics though, one or two per fruit is a good ratio! Verjus is the perfect ingredient to use here I think, the acid is softer than any vinegar or lemon juice yet still enough to cut through the fruit’s sweetness. The two recipes below are a 'fresh pickle', meaning that they aren't made to last for months, a week or so is enough, and need to be kept in the fridge.

Sweet verjus-pickled strawberries

500g strawberries, hulled and quartered
3/4 cup verjus

1/2 cup caster sugar

1/2 cup water
1 vanilla bean, split
Rind of one orange
1 tsp pink peppercorns

Pack the strawberries into a large jar.  Combine the verjus, sugar, water, vanilla, orange rind and pink peppercorns in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally then set mixture aside to cool for 10 minutes. Pour over the strawberries, seal and keep in the fridge for up to one week.

Sweet verjus-pickled rhubarb with bay

500g rhubarb, cut into 2cm pieces
3/4 cup verjus

1/2 cup caster sugar

1/2 cup water
1 vanilla bean, split

Rind of one lemon

3 bay leaves

Pack the rhubarb into a large jar.  Combine the verjus, sugar, water, vanilla, lemon rind and bay in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally then set mixture aside to cool for 10 minutes. Pour over the rhubarb, seal and keep in the fridge for up to one week.

The Friday List


Good morning! Another week has flown by and we are now only a few days away from the first ever Local is Lovely food photography workshop with Luisa Brimble and Stephanie Stamatis (it kicks off next Tuesday). So exciting! Somewhere in between now and then, we've also got a market to do (Tim will be at Northside Produce market tomorrow) and a Farm Kitchen event on Sunday. Phew.

Oh, and as I mentioned on good old FB last night, this very morning, Tim is in Hobart as one of just 30 ambassadors presenting Australian food and wine at tomorrow morning's Restaurant Australia Market Place. His fellow ambassadors include some of Australia's top chefs and producers so it's beyond exciting to see such a hard working farmer in there too. According to Restaurant Australia, at tomorrow's market place, our ambassadors will be welcoming some 80 of the world’s most influential and respected food and wine VIPS. Go Tim!

Lots happening. But always time to grab a cup of tea and have a little browse around my favourite blogs and sites...here's today's Friday List. Have a great weekend everyone. 

We really enjoyed this carrot cake (pictured above) last week. I didn't make Jamie's marscapone icing; instead just whipped some cream cheese, icing sugar and lots of lemon juice together. It was tops.

Need to get my hands on some fresh honeycomb for this recipe by My New Roots.

Alice and I just planted four tomato plants today so will count the days till we can make this savoury tomato and parmesan crumble with our harvest.

14 reasons to love tahini (as if we needed them).

In my next life I'd quite like to have a moveable shop just like this.

Just a whole lot of French coolness, from the south to the capital, Stop by the Corner offers loads of painfully beautiful armchair travel.

Can't wait to try this flourless chocolate cake with ginger and sea salt oh, and these cinnamon and raisin knots and maybe also this fig and anise pull apart bread. Oh stop it.

Thanks lovely Liv for introducing me to this amazing new-to-me blog Bojon Gourmet - how incredible does this apricot custard pie with cardamon look? Yep. I know. Only a month or so until apricot's are go and we can all make this.

This post from Tasmania by the crazy-talented Katie Quin Davies...so much beauty. Including a sneak peak into the gorgeous home of one of my favourite bloggers Michele of Hugo and Elsa. Lots of kitchen envy going on here.

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