Cooking this season - March


Baked apples
New season apples have arrived! Hip Hip. I’m going to celebrate by baking four of the new arrivals for pudding tonight. Remove the core a little more than half way through, fill the hole with a tsp of brown sugar, a tiny nub of butter, a clove and dusting of cinnamon. Slit the skin around the centre to prevent the apple from bursting and then place in a small pie-dish with a little water at the bottom. Bake in a low-moderate oven until tender.
Sugar roasted peaches
We are nearing the end of the stone fruit season so I'm trying to squeeze them in to as many meals as possible. These vanilla-roasted peaches from my JustB post this week are definitely worth a try.

Poached pears
Poached pears are a good friend to venison. I usually just poach them in a simple sugar syrup (1 part sugar to 4 parts water) but a couple of weeks ago splashed out and used brown sugar instead and threw in a few juniper berries. They were great, here's the recipe.

Beans with honey hazlenut dressing
Our region’s hazlenut season is a few weeks off but if you have any of last year’s stashed away anywhere you could use them up with this great little side-dish...blanch a few handfuls of green beans and meanwhile roast about half a cup of hazlenuts, once cool enough to handle rub with a tea towel to remove the skins and roughly chop. For the dressing mix one part honey to two parts verjuice and bring together on a medium heat. Place the beans on a nice plate, sprinkle with the hazlenuts and pour over the warm dressing.
Spicy roasted broccoli with almonds
Broccoli is a staple green in our house but usually it’s just steamed and chucked on the kids plates. In search of inspiration I came across this recipe in the fantastic blog My New Roots; Spicy roasted broccoli with almonds; yum. We had it yesterday with some pan-fried chicken on the side and it really was beautiful.
Apple and cabbage coleslaw
Make this beautiful Autumnal coleslaw by finely shredding half a cabbage and tossing with finely sliced apple and fennel. Add some roasted and roughly chopped hazelnuts and toss through some olive oil and red wine vinegar and serve with a golden schnitzel. This cabbage salad with apple and caraway also looks great.

Lettuce and fish tacos
Try and separate the leaves of an iceberg or butter lettuce into little cups. Then either steam or pan-fry a few fillets of sweet white fish. Flake the warm cooked fish into the lettuce cups add some cooked corn kernels and a few halved little cherry tomatoes. Squeeze over some lime juice and serve with some minted yogurt on the side. tacos.

I’m really not a big fan of eggplants, finding them a bit of a ‘carrier’ vegetable but am fond of a good ratatouille. Start by peeling, de-seeding and chopping up four tomatoes. Then heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and cook one diced onion for a few minutes. Throw in a diced red capsicum and cook for another few minutes. Remove this mixture from the pan and replace with one diced eggplant and another splash of olive oil. Cook for about five minutes, return the onion and capsicum to the pan and stir in the tomato passata (or better yet, the roasted tomato sauce below), add the tomatoes, thyme leaves and stir in a couple of crushed garlic cloves. Serve with roast lamb, through pasta or topped with fetta and baked in a shortcrust pastry shell.
Roast tomato sauce
The tomatoes in our garden are only just ripening now....but it’s been that kind of summer. In any case, March is often the time you’ll find big boxes for sale at great prices. Grab one, take it home and cut them all in half. Lay cut side up in baking dishes, preheat the oven to 160C and scatter the tomatoes with sea salt, pepper, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic and throw around a few thyme leaves too. Roast until the tomatoes have collapsed and are slightly caramelised on top. Then blitz in a food processor until smooth and you have one big batch of beautiful tomato soup. Use through pasta, thinned with stock for tomato soup, spread over pizzas, dolloped over chicken breasts before baking...I could go on and on and on.

Pot-roasted rhubarb and prune brownies


We have just returned from a weekend with friends at Cootamundra (about 2 hours from Orange). They have a beautiful farm and are incredible hosts, putting on a proper, grown-up dinner party for us all. So much fun. And such a late night, all the more painful this morning because Thomas wakes with the birds which means we do to. Boiled eggs was all I could manage for dinner and now we are all heading to bed.

I made these brownies and rhubarb for our hosts, the former were consumed at about 1am this morning and the latter I actually forgot to take so we will have them on our porridge for breakfast (sorry Jack).

Pot roasted rhubarb
This is a fantastic way to cook rhubarb, I saw it first in Karen Martini's book Cooking at Home. the stalks keep their shape and the flavours concentrate beautifully. The extra syrup is beautiful sploshed into some sparkling wine (ughh. can't think of that right now) or topped up with some nice cold mineral water (that's better). My rhubarb comes from Neville's garden mentioned here and it's top drawer. If you are in Orange and would like his address please let me know (maybe via comments box below).

10 stalks rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 5cm batons
250g caster sugar
Juice of one orange and two fat strips of rind
1 vanilla bean

Combine all ingredients in a casserole dish and let sit for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 160C and bake the rhubarb for about 40 minutes. Serve warm or cold with everything from these brownies to yogurt or even on the base of a simple sponge cake which I think I'll try tomorrow.

Prune and almond brownies
This is the ultimate melt and mix recipe. The prunes add fudginess (is that a word?) and they keep well for a few days too. I really like them with the rhubarb above and maybe a dollop of cream or ice cream.

100g dark chocolate
200g butter
100g prunes, pitted (I use locally grown Budgi Werri Prunes - they are just beautiful and available at our Orange markets and our great local 'providore' A Slice of Orange)
100 natural almonds
2 large eggs, beaten
300g demerara sugar
100 plain flour
2 tbsp raw cacao powder
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 180C. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a heavey-based saucepan over medium. Place the almonds on a baking tray and roast for about 10 minutes then remove and roughly chop. Combine all remaining ingredients, stir through the melted chocolate and butter and the almonds and then pour into a lined baking tray (about 20cm x 30cm or thereabouts). Cook for about 20 minutes or until the top is slightly cracked but still feeling a little soft. Slice into squares.

Weekend reading and cooking


This weekend I'd like to...

Pick more blackberries and head over here to Justb to make this pie (left)
Virtually visit this Seattle market
Memorise Edna Lewis’s recipe for ‘busy day cake’ (simple, useful and beautiful)

Read this beautiful new UK online mag 91

Make my food last longer
Get scientific about my food and read first issue of the International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science


Have this beetroot carpaccio for lunch

Baby bundt cakes and some news


First my of today I am joining the fantastic website justb as a weekly food contributor. Whoot whoo! If you haven't already had a look around justb, please pop over and do so, it's a great source of ideas, news, advice and of course beautiful recipes. And on that's an idea for some nice little berry cakes.

In the middle of Orange there is a green and white house which sometimes has little sign hanging on the front fence advertising fresh fruit or vegetables for sale. The house belongs to Mr Neville Smith and he is an excellent gardener. When he has something to sell and feels like selling it, Neville puts a sign on his front gate advertising what's available.This afternoon it was rhubarb, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries. We waited by the garden shed as he picked the rhubarb then graded his berries and we paid just $10 for the lot. Nice! The kids polished off most of the berries on the way home but we did save a few for these little cakes. 

Little berry bundt cakes

This recipe can just as easily be made in muffin or friand tins but the bundt moulds are pretty cute and I recently bought mine in in the summer sales for just $14. 
180g melted butter (plus a little extra for brushing)
80g plain flour
190g icing sugar
150g ground hazlenuts (or almonds)
5 egg whites 
100g berries (I used raspberries and a few straberries)

Preheat the oven to 180C and brush the insides of your bundt/muffin/friand tin with melted butter. Sift flour and icing sugar together into a bowl, mix through the hazlenuts and stir to combine. Whisk the egg whites until soft and frothy. Gently fold this through the hazlenut mixture and finally fold through the berries. Spoon into prepared tin so the batter comes about 3/4 up the sides of each mould and bake for 20 minutes or until lightly golden. Allow to cool a little before turning out onto a rack. These are great on their own but would also be beautiful with a little of the cinnamon custard recipe over on today's justb post.

Grill seeking - venison burgers with juniper poached pears


Last week was a busy one for us. We had lots of visitors, a run of runny noses and Tim was pulling 12-hour days on the farm. So it was perhaps inevitable that come Friday night we would turn to the drink. Our lovely neighbours came over for an early dinner and we cooked a few little venison steaks and shoved them into brioche style bread rolls with poached pears. The grown-ups drank lots of bubbles by Orange winemaker Philip Shaw, left at our place this week by his son Damian (above) who brought a bunch of customers over to do a little farm tour and tasting of their brand new sparkling wine Edinburgh on our deck. We gave them venison carpaccio with pickled cherries (recipe here) on little rounds of bread and I think it was a pretty good match.

Hope you all had a great weekend.

Juniper and brown sugar poached pears
1 tbsp juniper berries
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 litre water
4 pears, cored and thinly sliced

Place everything but the pears in a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer, stirring to ensure the sugar has dissolved. Add the pears and simmer for 10 minutes. These keep for a couple of months in the fridge and are great with all sorts of grilled meats and cheeses.

Brioche-style bread rolls
This is a great recipe for kids to help with, it comes, only slightly adapted, from Nigella Lawson’s book Feast and makes the loveliest, fluffiest little rolls that everyone always seems to like. 

500g 00 flour
3 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp caster sugar
350ml milk
30g butter
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp sesame seeds

Place the yeast, flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl and mix together. Warm the milk and butter in a small saucepan until the butter is just beginning to melt. Pour this into the dry ingredients and stir together until just incorporated. Here you can either use your mixer with a dough hook to knead for about 5 minutes or do it by hand. Let the dough rest in a slightly oiled bowl covered with a tea towel for about one hour, or until doubled in size. Now here’s where it’s quite fun to get the kids to help - pull off small amounts of dough and roll into smooth balls. Preheat the oven to 200C. Place the little rolls on a baking tray with about 1cm between each and leave to rise again for about half an hour. Brush with an egg wash, sprinkle with sesame seeds and cook for about 15 minutes or until lovely and golden on top.

Venison steaks
6 x venison leg steaks, for a full list of where to buy our venison have a look here (or of course, any other protein you have on hand, actual hamburger patties of mince would be great too)
Olive oil
Mixed salad leaves

Rub the steaks with olive oil, heat a frying pan or grill to high and cook for a minute and a half on each side. Serve with a few green leaves and the pears, above.

Weekend reading and cooking


this weekend i’d like to...

Go orchard shopping (above) for plums, berries and blackberries and then come home to make this tart.

Read through Orange’s just released F.O.O.D Week program 
and get booking

Imagine Tim hosting a men’s tea party like these ‘noble savages’  (the seed cake recipe here is beautiful)

Get excited that Orange’s orchards have started selling new season apples by making this rosemary apple butter

Convince my kids to eat everything

Feel better about my baking disasters after seeing the ones on Cake Wrecks

Disagree with this argument that junk food is cheaper than cooking at home

Make beetroot and poppyseed muffins

Try to understand how those Freakonomics guys can argue that local food systems are inefficient...

Read up on Slow Food USA’s brilliant $5 challenge;

Get retrospectively romantic with this Valentine’s Day round-up

Lavender and honey ice cream


My first attempt at this ice cream tasted like cold soap. I'd used way too much lavender and it wasn't good. So I tried again each time reducing the amount of lavender, and finally, here we are and it's the most beautiful gentle dessert. Especially good when freshly churned and still soft, even better served next to Gran's Danish almond cake (recipe here). The recipe is adapted from one by Stephanie Alexander via Maggie Beer's beautiful book Maggie's Harvest.

If you can, use a really punchy honey to compliment the floral lavender flavour. I used a Bloodwood Honey from local apiary Goldfields.

1 litre milk
1/2 cup unsprayed, dried lavender flowers*
8 egg yolks
350ml honey
600ml pouring cream

Bring the milk to the boil and then stir through the lavender. 

Set aside to infuse for a couple of hours. Beat the egg yolks until pale, then beat in the honey. Strain the cold lavender milk into this and then gently stir to combine. Stir through the cream and then churn according to ice cream maker’s instructions and freeze. If you don’t have an ice cream machine, pour into a container, place in the freezer for an hour, remove and whisk briskly then return to the freezer and repeat this process a couple of times.

*You do need to find dried lavender that hasn’t been sprayed etc. Mine came from a generous friend whose garden incorperates an old lavender farm, she picked it and tied it into a tight bunch then we hung it in the laundry for a couple of weeks. If you have a lavender bush at home try doing the same, otherwise you can find lavender flowers at most specialist food stores.

Pappa don't preach


Madonna has been on the tele and radio all week and now there’s a concert for Australia! Oh yes.... it’s all good for us Mads fans.

So, in the kitchen this morning we have early nineties Madonna in the background and this on the go for lunch. It only takes a few minutes of chopping and then about an hour on the stovetop. 

Add a plate of prosciutto or salami and you have a really great summers lunch.

While all of that was happening in here, Tim moved this (above) mob of deer to the paddock opposite our house. They looked to be loving all that gorgeous grass, and I’m sure the sounds of Madonna wafting down to them was welcome too.

Pappa al Pomodoro
This recipe comes from from a Tuscan cook Christina (also mentioned here) who only gave me the recipe only if I swore never to add cheese. I don’t feel that strongly about it but agree that there’s no need.

800g fresh, ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
500g stale crusty bread (sourdough is ideal), roughly chopped
1 medium leek, thinly sliced
A handful of basil leaves
1 2cm piece of ginger, finely grated
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp tomato paste
1 1/2 litres vegetable stock
1/2 cup olive oil

In a saucepan over medium heat brown the leek, ginger and garlic in a little oil. Add the tomato paste and one minute later the chopped tomatoes and basil (reserve a few leaves for serving). Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and add the stock, salt and pepper to taste and bring back to the boil. Add the bread, cover, reduce heat and cook for about an hour.

This soup is best served just warm.

Weekend reading and cooking


This weekend I’d like to; 

See lots of people at the Orange Farmers market tomorrow morning!
Buy some stone fruit there and make more jam with Alice
Steal Tim’s Land newspaper for their great coverage of the Northern NSW floods  
Use up some dried lavender in this hot chocolate recipe 
Get all agri-political and fume about farmer misconceptions  
Try to remember some French from school and browse this incredible blog. The food styling is ah-mazing
Make truck drivers pasta in honour of the hundreds of truckies we passed this week driving to and from Adelaide 
Get all inspired by ‘project lunchbox’ and step it up a notch for next week's lunchboxes
Make granola cups (cool idea).

Danish almond cake (this one's a keeper)


We drove from Orange to Adelaide this week (and back), visiting customers and suppliers. And driving through the Riverena region passed some huge almond farms, all mid-harvest. It got me thinking about how best to use these beautiful fresh nuts - my Grandmother's Danish almond cake or Mandelrand.

This recipe really is worth printing out and keeping; it always works, takes very little time and effort, freezes beautifully and can be served with anything from poached fruit, a scoop of ice cream, a dollop of yogurt and a drizzle of orange or chocolate sauce.

Gran was a clever and generous cook and I feel very lucky to have inherited her collection of beautifully printed recipe cards, each one carefully tested and tweaked just like this one.

Mandelrand or Almond cake
4 eggs
200g caster sugar
200g ground almonds
Finely grated rind of one orange

Grease and line a 20cm loose-bottomed tart tin or ring cake mould with baking paper. Preheat oven to 180.  Separate eggs. Beat yolks with sugar until pale and creamy. Add the almonds and stir through with orange rind. Whisk egg whites until stiff and then fold gently into the almond mixture. Pour mixture into prepared cake tin and bake for 30 minutes.  Let cool in the tin a little before turning out onto a plate. You could drizzle with plain white or lemon icing, dust in icing sugar (as I generally do) or leave plain.

Note - Although a bit fiddly, it really is worth lining your cake tin for this recipe, all those eggs make it a rather sticky batter and lining avoids any problems turning the cake out.
Variation - Add a teaspoon of cinnamon with the almond meal.

Visitor's Book - Loukie Werle's linguine with 'the clams that got away'


I first met Loukie Werle ten years ago when we were both working on Australian Table magazine. Her food writing (like her food) is clean, clever and delicious. Just like this quick recipe which comes from her latest book launched just last week. Pasta Rustica was published by Pennypig and is available via her website.

Linguine with ‘the clams that got away’
Exhausted and famished, after a touristy morning at the Vatican, I gratefully sank down in one of the comfortable chairs at Gran Sasso in Rome and ordered the first delectable item  that sprang off the menu: something with ‘vongole’. So I was rather surprised when my plate arrived, smelling heavenly, but not a clam in sight. I asked the waiter and with a typically roman shrug of the shoulders he informed me, already busily walking back to his station, that these were the ‘clams that got away”. Nonetheless, this pasta was so fabulous, I’ve often made it since - the flavours suggest the presence of clams. Recipe follows below picture.

30g pancetta, coarsely chopped
4 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
small handful flat-leaf parsley leaves, no stalks
1/3 cup (80ml) extra virgin olive oil
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
2 large, vine-ripened tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 teaspoons salt
500g dried linguine

Combine the pancetta and garlic and parsley in a small processor and whiz until you have a paste. Combine with the oil in a small frying pan and set over moderate heat until the mixture is fragrant, but not colouring. Stir in chilli and set aside. Meanwhile, combine the tomatoes and salt in a bowl and set aside.

Cook pasta in a large pot of salted, boiling water until al dente. Drain, reserving a small jugful of the cooking water. Transfer pasta to the bowl with tomatoes, add the contents of the small frying pan and a little of the cooking water to moisten, if necessary. Toss well and serve immediately, in deep, heated plates. Serves 4-6

Weekend reading and cooking


This weekend I’d like to;

Have dinner in the orchard again

Spend some time at Confetti Garden, a 'daily sprinkling of beautiful images'

Commit the fantastic new Mandagery Creek Venison newsletter to memory!

Read up on The Makers Project, a love fest of artisan producers

Get on board with the Household Action Challenge

Learn how to have a more home-made life

Make Mussels in saffon cream 

Make this sugar-free granola

Check out  America’s Edible Communities’ website (it looks awesome)

Drink Ginger Tamarind juice from Mali

Get stuck into Spice by Ian Hemphill (yes it’s an actual book and it looks fantastic, sort of like a Cook’s Companion for spices)

What's in season this month and what to do with it


Thanks to my sister-in-law Katherine for this one. It’s sort of an updated ‘egg flip’ and fantastic for afternoon tea as it keeps everyone full until dinner. blend a handful of blueberries (or other fruit) with a little yogurt, an egg, an ice cube or two and some ground nuts (LSA mix is good).

Single ingredient ice cream; Just slice a few bananas into discs and freeze them for  a few hours and then whizz up in a food processor. Keep whizzing for a minute or two and all of a sudden, the nanas turn from being frozen crumbs to creamy, delicious soft serve-style ice cream. Truly. Alice and Tom still think it’s regular ice cream and since banana prices came down we have been doing this every other afternoon. You can also add a spoonful of yogurt if your food processor is struggling to pull it together, a little raw cacao powder and a spoonful of peanut butter makes a beautiful nutty chocolate ice cream too. Pictures and full recipe can be found here at The Kitchn.
Mix some finely grated lime rind and brown sugar together and press into mango cheeks. Cook on a hot grill or saucepan for a minute or so until beautifully caramelised. Yum. Serve with coconut ice cream or plain yogurt. 

This pasta recipe is perfection in summer cooking. It was given to me by a friend in Italy called Christina. She is a beautiful cook and I hope to post more of her recipes here in the coming months. But for now, here it is and I hope you like it as much as we do. Slice up three or four big ripe tomatoes and place in a large bowl with cup of sliced mozarella, a handful of grated parmesan and a cup of ricotta. Mix together with two cloves of garlic (crushed), some dried chilli flakes, a handful of basil leaves and a few good dollops of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and let the mixture sit at room temperature for a couple of hours or until the cheeses are nice and soft and the mixture beautifully aromatic. Cook about 500g of nice pasta and then toss the hot pasta through the sauce. Serve immediately with great bread.

Speedy sweet corn salad (picture above)
Great for a picnic and/or with pretty much any grilled meat or fish. This is also a good lunch, especially with a boiled egg and some crusty bread on the side. Cut the kernels from three fresh cops of corn, cook for a few minutes in boiling water and then drain. Add these to a bowl with one chopped avocado, a finely sliced spring onion, a diced tomato, the juice of one lime, some chilli, and basil or coriander.

Zucchini and pine nut muffins
A great lunchbox alternative to sandwiches; mix 200g plain wholemeal flour with 40g cooking oats and 2 tsp baking powder. Add in seasoning to taste, a few finely chopped basil leaves and 1/2 cup grated parmesan. In a separate bowl mix together 2 eggs, 1 cup of plain yogurt and three medium zucchinis, grated. Mix the dry and wet ingredients together and then gently stir through half a cup of sultanas and the same amount of toasted pine nuts. Scoop into muffin cases and bake in a moderate oven for about 20 minutes. 

The above 'shopping list' of fresh produce is by no means comprehensive but, I hope, a good guide to what to buy for those of us in Eastern Australia this month. Any thoughts/additions welcome. Thanks, Sophie

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