Holidays, cherries and buttermilk cake


Summer - thank you for coming! And just in time for Christmas. We are saving our pennies for a week at the beach at the end of January so between Christmas and New Years are staying home and catching up with visiting family. My gorgeous cousin Nicci and her family came to dinner last night, we had gravlax with honey mustard sauce (recipe here by clever local cook and food writer Adelaide Harris, she wrote it for Gourmet Traveller magazine in 2009 - fantastic and easy) and then a pretty uninspiring but toddler-friendly dinner of marinated drumsticks, potato salad and corn on the cob. Dessert was a simple but really lovely buttermilk cake with honey and cherries. The recipe (below) was inspired by this one from Smitten Kitchen.  

It’s cherry time in Orange, and driving to and from town the signs are everywhere; advertising for both cherry pickers and sales. Yesterday Alice and I picked a haul from the Vardenega family’s orchard on the slopes of Mount Canobolas. Back home we sprinkled some on the top of our buttermilk cake and pickled the rest (recipe below) to have with a carpaccio of venison (recipe to come) with horseradish cream for New Years Eve.

Buttermilk cake with cherries and honey

1 cup self-raising flour

50g unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup caster sugar

zest of one orange

2 tbsp aromatic honey (I love white stringy bark from local apiarists Goldfields)

1 large egg

3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk

1 cup cherries, pitted

1/2 cup slivered almonds

2 tbsp raw sugar
 Preheat oven to 180C and butter a 25cm round cake tin. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the egg and whisk until well combined. Beat in the honey and zest. Fold through the flour, alternating with the buttermilk. Pour into the cake tin and smooth down the top. Scatter with the cherries, almonds and dust with the sugar. Bake for 20/25 minutes. Let cool in the pan for five minutes and then let cool on a rack. Serve with thick cream or ice cream.

Pickled cherries
Recipe adapted from Stephanie Alexander’s Cook’s Companion
These are beautiful with venison and other game dishes.

1 kg cherries, de-stalked
700g sugar
500ml white wine vinegar
350ml apple cider vinegar
1 cinnamon stick
4 bay leaves
1 tbsp cloves
1tbsp black peppercorns

Place everything except for the cherries in a large saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Let cool completely and then pour over cherries and seal in sterilised jars. Keep for months and months.

Spiced fruit scrolls and roasted vanilla berries, a make ahead Christmas breakfast


Whoohoo it’s almost Christmas! We are in serious festive mode here and Alice is beside herself that it’s just three sleeps till Santa arrives. We have family arriving for the weekend before the main man so in a nod to organisation have just stashed the below in the fridge for Christmas morning. Snaps for me. They really are beautiful recipes and worth trying if not on the 25th, for any special brunch/morning tea over summer. Happy Christmas and thank you for supporting Local is Lovely in its first few weeks.

Spiced fruit scrolls
Prep time 30 mins Cooking time 25 mins (plus 2 hours proving time)

Allow an hour or so to put these scrolls together; while they are simple in terms of technique they do need a little time and love. They reheat beautifully and as I can’t think of anything worse than rolling out dough on Christmas morning so made a couple of batches this morning, wrapped them in foil and tucked them in our overcrowded freezer to gently reheat in a moderate oven as soon as we wake on the 25th. The alcohol-free spiced fruit mix is beautiful in this and lots of other tart/cake/pudding recipes.

4 tsp yeast1 cup warm milk
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup/125g butter, melted
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
4 cups strong flour
 1 cup warm milk 1/4 cup caster sugar 1 egg, beaten 1/2 cup/125g butter, melted 1 tsp salt 1 tsp cinnamon 4 cups strong flour
  1 cup warm milk 1/4 cup caster sugar 1 egg, beaten 1/2 cup/125g butter, melted 1 tsp salt 1 tsp cinnamon 4 cups strong flour  filling 2 cups Christmas fruit mix (recipe below) 120g chocolate, chopped into small pieces 60g melted butter 1 tsp cinnamon glaze 1 egg beaten 1 tbsp water

Sprinkle the yeast over warm milk. Add a teaspoon of the sugar and stir. Let stand for a few minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and knead for 10 minutes, either using a mixer with a dough hook or by hand. Set aside, in a lightly oiled bowl covered with a tea towel, in a warm place for one hour or until dough has doubled in size. Transfer to a floured board and roll out to a large rectangle, the dough should be about once centimeter thick. Spread with the butter, sprinkle with the fruit and chocolate and dust with cinnamon. Roll into one long sausage and then cut that into slices, about three centimeters thick. Place these in a greased and lined 28cm cake tin (or square baking tray).
Cover and leave again to prove for one more hour, or thereabouts. Preheat the oven to 200C. Brush the scrolls with egg mixed with the water and bake for 25 minutes. If making this ahead, wrap in foil and freeze, otherwise serve warm with lots of milky tea. Pull out of the freezer the night before you want to serve it, leave in the fridge and then gently reheat in a moderate oven.

Spiced Christmas fruit mix
2 cups mixed dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, lemon and orange peel etc)
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 tsp cloves
1 cinnamon stick
peel and juice of one orange

Place all ingredients except for the fruit mix in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Let bubble for a few minutes until the sugar has dissolved. Strain out the cloves and then add the fruit mix. Pour into a glass jar and keep in a dark, cool place for a month or so. It does get better the longer it sits but is fine to use after just a few hours. 

Roasted vanilla berry parcels
Serves 6
Prep time 5 minutes, Cooking time 15 minutes
This will be the most delicious and aromatic present you’ll open on Christmas morning. Make it up a day or two before and keep in the fridge ready to pop in a hot oven just 15 minutes before you need it. The hot, vanilla syrup and soft, sweet berries are just beautiful with toasted granola and berries, or served next to a stack of toasted panettone or brioche. This is also a great dessert idea, I’ve just tried it with a stack of little meringues and whipped cream. Yummo. Thank you to the latest issue of Donna Hay magazine for inspiring this recipe.

700g mixed berries
1 cup caster sugar
juice and peel of one orange
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped

Mix everything together in a large bowl. Cut two large strips of baking paper, lay them in a cross, pour the fruit in the centre of
the cross and wrap up so the berries are tightly bundled up. Tie with kitchen string and place in a baking tray, in the fridge or on the kitchen bench until you need them. 






If wishes were cookbooks... top 12 list for Christmas


Last week's post was about what to cook on Christmas Day, today it's about what to give. With five shopping days left, here are a few thoughts/hints for those still Christmas shopping (Tim?). I'll be posting some Christmas morning recipe ideas on Thursday, so until then, have a great Christmas week, 
Ps - Click on the book titles below for more info/prices/where to buy.

Girl Hunter by Georgia Pellegrini
Georgia Pellegrini is an all-hunting, all-gathering cook who likes to hone her 'pioneer spirit' with the help of a shotgun, fishing rod and rudimentary kitchen. She is awesome and so is her blog.

Four Seasons by Manuela Darling-Gansser
It's hard not to suffer some lifestyle envy of the beautiful, 'inveterate traveller' and food writer Manuela Darling-Gansser. She travels, eats and writes in some of the world's most glamorous locations and does it all without a hair out of place. This book is combines four previous publications into one beautiful collection of recipes and stories from travels around Italy.

Home Made by Yvette Van Boven.
Finally this beautiful book has been translated into English (from Dutch). Heaps of preserving recipes here, plus lots of lovely illustrations by the clever author herself.

Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz
David writes a fantastic blog and this book pulls together his greatest hits - literally. He is the master of home made ice cream.

The River Cottage Family Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall and Fizz Carr
Hugh - thank you for cutting your hair, now I can love you unconditionally. This book isn't new (released in 2008), but I have been coveting it this past year and think the time has come.

Country Chefs, by Country Style magazine
What a great showcase of Australian regional food culture.

The Insiders’ Guide to New Zealand , NZ Life and Leisure
If you haven't yet come across NZ Life & Leisure, try and track down a copy (purchase online and in some, larger newsagents); I think it's the most unique and inspiring lifestyle magazine out there. Have ordered three copies of this for Christmas presents and am hoping they'll arrive in time.

The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook by Rachel Saunders
This book is apparently an authority on jam, I have tried a few recipes from their site with happy endings so here's to the whole book.

Free Range in the City, by Annabel Langbein
Having loved this book's country cousin 'The Free Range Cook', I can't wait to read NZ chef Annabel Langbein's latest collection. Her recipes always ALWAYS work beautifully and she writes with generosity and common sense. 

Artisan bread in 5 minutes a day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois
Baking a successful loaf of bread is one of the most satisfying things you can do in the kitchen. A friend gave me the no-knead bread recipe from this book and it is one of the best recipes I've ever made.

Menus for Chez Panisse by Particia Curtan
Chef and letterpress artist Patricia Curtan worked with Alice Waters in the early years of Chez Panisse. She would hand print menus every night and the originals are now collectors items. Here Patricia has collected her favourites. I can't wait to get my hands on this book and read the menus that made this restaurant one of the world’s best.

Feasting by Karen Martini
I love a solution and Karen Martini's book Feasting provides them in spades.. I first discovered this book via a friend, she cooked the slow roast lamb with couscous menu for us one night and had the whole table fighting over leftovers. Thank you Ali!

Farm news and a Christmas day menu


Cold and wet - that’s been our summer so far and the farm is loving it*. All that extra rain after a nice warm spring has boosted the natural pastures and our deer are happily grazing on rich, green grass (we farm according to holistic principles, using a rotational grazing plan - if you are interested in sustainable farming, have a look at Allan Savory's website, he developed the system and his website is full of great information).

Meanwhile we are cooking up big things for Mandagery Creek next year, including a farm kitchen, an expansion of our branded beef program, bringing on a few (hundred) boer goats and if Tim has his way, free range chickens too. All of the animals will rotationally graze together. Lots to do. We are up for the challenge - I think - so watch this space! 

*While the rain has been a good thing for us, we are thinking of our mates trying to get a grain or cherry crop off this summer. It's been a difficult harvest.


But back to the kitchen, and if you are stuck for inspiration on what to cook for Christmas day, we have the answer!

Christmas Day Menu; venison-wrapped prosciutto with red-currant preserve and bread-sauce flavoured potato
gratin and a beautiful barbera.

The main event
Rub venison tenderloin fillets or eye round/girello with olive oil and thyme leaves. Wrap with prosciutto. When ready to cook, heat the barbecue to high and cook the fillets for 3 mins on each side and 1 minute on each side for the steaks. Rest well and then serve with all of the below.

The sauce
Redcurrant, cinnamon and star anise (the below photo represents the sum total of our first red and black currant crop...we are hoping for greater success next year but for now have had to make up the quantities with redcurrants from Mum and Dad's healthy crop).

Makes 1½ to 2 cups
350g redcurrants (and black if you have them)

2/3 cup sugar

1 orange zested and juiced

3 whole star anise

2 cinnamon sticks
2tbsp sherry vinegar

Place all ingredients into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir.
 Once mixture has come to a boil, turn heat down to medium-low and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes or until the cranberries have cooked down and the sauce has thickened. Stir frequently.
 Remove from heat and allow the cranberry sauce to cool. The sauce will thicken more as it cools.  

The greens
We like a mixture of baby spinach and rocket with lots of toasted pine nuts and a simple balsamic dressing.

The potatoes
Nigella Lawson's bread sauce-flavoured Potato Gratin
Serves 6 and is perfect with venison. I used sebago potatoes grow at John Streatfield's Barry farm and picked up last weekend's Orange Farmers Market

500ml full fat milk
500ml double cream (don’t fret, it’s Christmas)
1 onion
2 cloves
1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
3 bay leaves
1 tsp salt
2g floury potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 220C. Lightly grease a large roasting tin (37x30cm or thereabouts). Put the milk and cream in a large saucepan. Peel the onion, cutting it in half, then stick each half with a clove, adding the studded pieces to the pan. Add the mace, bay leaves and salt then bring to nearly boiling point. Turn off the heat and put the lid on to infuse the milk for half an hour. Add the potatoes to the saucepan and cook over medium heat until almost tender (about 20mins). Fish out the onion and bay leaves and pour the whole thing into the roasting tin. Grate a little more nutmeg over the top and either cover and keep in the fridge until just before lunch or cook for 20 minutes.

The wine
Cargo Road 2008 Reserve Barbera
Winemaker James Sweetapple aced it with this beautiful barbera. It is packed with rich flavours from ripe fruit to dark chocolate with balenced tanins, acid and fruit. Yummo, perfect with our venison. When next visiting Orange, be sure to visit James’s cellar door, it’s a cracker.

Ducks, apple mint ice cream and raspberries


We did Orange Farmers market on Saturday, and feeling flush from our first sale of the morning splashed out on some ducks. As you do. So now our chooks are making room for nine Muscovy ducks and four ducklings. The girls will start laying soon and I can’t wait. In fact I couldn’t wait, so brought a dozen from Trish and Ross Bragg. Their Paling Yards Grove produces fresh, punchy olive oil and their ducks lay beautiful, pale blue eggs just like ours will (I hope).

Duck eggs are fantastic for baking and ice cream, giving extra richness and beautiful golden colour. I made the below recipe yesterday and it was beautiful on its own but even better with raspberry syrup (also below).

Apple mint ice cream
This is a great base recipe for all kinds of ice cream and is just as good if you swap the mint with orange zest, vanilla, melted chocolate, fruit puree or any other flavour. If you don’t have an ice cream maker follow the instructions below or just serve it as a beautiful fresh custard. Makes about one litre.

500ml thickened cream
500ml whole milk
1 cup apple mint (or normal mint)
6 tbsp caster sugar
7 duck or 8 chook egg yolks

Place the cream, milk and apple mint in a saucepan and gently bring just to simmering point. Set aside for about an hour so the mint flavour infuses the milk/cream mixture. Meanwhile, whisk the yolks with three tablespoons of caster sugar. Push the milk/cream mixture through a sieve, pushing every last green drop from the mint leaves. In a clean saucepan, gently bring this back to warm. Whisk a little into the yolks and then pour this yolk mixture back into the saucepan. Make sure the heat isn’t medium only and keep stirring all the time as it’s easy to turn beautiful custard into sweet scrambled eggs. After about five minutes, you’ll notice the custard has become lovely and thick. Remove from heat, pour into a jug and pop in the fridge over night.

Churn the custard in an ice cream machine or place straight in the freezer, removing to whisk every couple of hours. 

Alice and Tom picked these raspberries at James and Katrina Sweetapple’s Cargo Road Winery. They have a mass of raspberry bushes around the winery and are always very generous in letting us come and pick our own. Zest and juice from blood oranges cut through the sweetness.

Raspberry and Blood Orange Syrup
Batch one of this syrup was made as Christmas presents for Alice’s pre-school teachers. Batches two and three have been set aside for our pavlova on Christmas Eve and cocktails Christmas Day. It’s dead easy and just delicious.

1 cup raspberries
1 cup caster sugar
zest and juice of 2 blood oranges

Bring everything to the boil, reduce heat and let simmer for five minutes. Pour into a blender and whizz up until smooth. Then press this through a sieve to get rid of the raspberry seeds. Store in glass bottles and close tightly.

Hello and pikelets


Tim started our business, Mandagery Creek Venison in 2004 and has been doing farmers markets ever since, I joined in six years ago. Every Saturday we scribble cooking tips on paper bags and hand out newsletters full of recipes while the stallholders on either side of us do the same. Here's where all of those recipes will (gradually) be collected. Today though, for reasons explained below, I am making amends to my children and husband through pikelets and caramel.

So last weekend was a big one for our little family. On Saturday we were in Sydney for the Good Living Growers Market (Pyrmont), then back to Orange that night to pick up the kids, another market on Sunday for me and a big day in the yards for Tim (thank goodness for grandparents). Monday morning rolled around cold and blustery, and in our house we were all tired. I was stroppy. And then I felt bad. So in penance, during quiet time and pre-school, made a really nice afternoon tea. 

They all like me again I think - caramel works wonders in this house.


wholemeal pikelets with salted caramel sauce and fresh nectarines

The pikelets were a bit special thanks to freshly milled wholemeal flour and creamy whole, non-homogenised Jersey milk, both from the lovely guys just two stalls up from ours on Saturday; Over The Moon. The caramel (inspired by this post from Call me Cupcake) profited from the same stand’s freshly churned jersey butter and cream. And the nectarines were from the Zavaglia family’s stand. Their orchard is in the Sydney Basin, there they grow beautiful stonefruit, figs, fresh borlotti beans and other vegetables.

Wholemeal Pikelets
1 egg
1 cup wholemeal flour
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp orange zest
A little oil

Whisk everything together until you have a thick, smooth batter. Heat a frying pan on medium and add a splash of oil. Drop batter on the hot pan in dessert-spoon-fulls, three or four at a time. As soon as the pikelets begin to bubble, flip them over for a minute on the other side. Set aside covered loosely with foil. These are just as nice I think, served cool, and make a great School morning tea sandwiched together with a bit of butter and jam.
Salted Caramel Sauce
100g caster sugar
80g butter, diced
1tsp sea salt (optional)
150ml heavy cream

Heat a heavy-based saucepan on medium. Heat the sugar without stirring, you can swirl the pan around a bit once it starts to melt. Once all of the sugar has melted remove from heat (it can burn quickly at this point). Whisk in the butter and salt and stir until well incorperated. Pour in the cream, it might seize up a little but keep whisking and then bring the whole thing to be boil for a few minutes, stirring all the time. Pour into sterilised jars and let cool.

It will harden up a little in the fridge but should return to a runny state on reaching room temperature. Keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.This sauce is beautiful served warm over vanilla ice cream, spread over a basic sponge, poured over poached fruit, dolloped into sweet tart name it.

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