Local is Lovely on the Country Style blog!


Australian Country Style's beautiful blog features a Local is Lovely recipe today! Head over here for a harvest time afternoon tea, grape schiacciata 

This weekend...


This weekend I'd like to....
1. Plan to get a truck like this for the farm (off-message I know - but pretty cool!).
3. Be inspired by artist Harriet Goodall's blog, starting with the recent post about her beautiful beautiful wedding! And by the way, Harriet is hosting a basketry workshop here at our Farm Kitchen on Friday August 10. More information will be coming through shortly, but if you would like to put your name down please email me.
4. Make apple sauce and then head over to fab blog Food in Jars  for the recipes on its 'Preserves in action' page.
5. Swing by my favourite shop in Sydney, The Bay Tree, while in town this weekend for a hen's party, whoohoo! 
6. Read and start cooking from this awesome book.
7. Make Sarah Wilson's sugar-free raspberry ripe slice.
8. Make soup for next week's school lunches.

My posts elsewhere this week
The Basics - Bearnaise sauce over at JustB Australia 
Healthy lunch box idea - Potato and Leek soup for a thermos at Village Voices
Let comfort food season begin - Sweet potato, lamb and tomato 'pie'

Farm Kitchen Dates


Firstly welcome to Local is Lovely's new look! We have given the blog a little face-lift thanks to the very clever Ana Degenaar of Blog Milk. And secondly, here's a quick note with some dates for events at our new Mandagery Creek Farm Kitchen. If interested in coming along to any of the below then please email Sophie. We also host groups for private events (meetings, lunches, dinners etc) so please ask us about that too.

May 20 - Venison cooking class with Michael Manners, $70pp (BYO) Join one of Australia’s most respected chefs as he shows us his favourite ways to cook with Venison. Lunch and recipes included. 
May 26 - Farm Lunch and tour, $70pp (BYO) Starting with a glass of bubbles, we’ll take a look around the farm before heading back to the Farm Kitchen for a standing entree and brief cooking demonstration. Following that will be a relaxed 2-course lunch then coffee. Bring a group of friends or just yourself and join us for a great day.
May 27 - Sunday Lunch, $35pp (BYO) A relaxed lunch by the fire at our big communal table. Today’s menu will be venison osso buco with parsnip mash, salad and bread followed by a warm crumble with homemade ice cream. 

We host lunches at the Farm Kitchen on the fourth saturday and sunday of each month. For more information on Mandagery Creek Venison please visit www.mandagerycreek.com.au or to book, please email sophie_hansen@me.com or call 0400 032 326

An easy caramel and apple cake for Village Voices


Village Voices is a brand new website hosted by Kidspot. It's a cleverly curated collection of posts from nine regular bloggers covering everything from cool interior design tips to realistic advice on travelling with kids and of course food. My contribution will be a weekly post about cooking with kids and I'm kicking off with this this recipe for a beautiful, melt and mix caramel, apple cake.
Ps - Mum, before you call me... I have cut Tom's fringe since that photo!

This weekend....


This weekend I'd like to...

  1. Read the latest issue of online magazine Styled
  2. Make this healthy 'sprouted' granola
  3. See the sun shine for the second Forage walk this in Orange Saturday where we will be serving our Mandagery Creek Venison to a crowd of 600 plus. Wowsers. Then on Sunday take the kids to Orange F.O.O.D Week's fantastic closing event 'FOOD Affair'.
  4. Make these delicious looking goat's cheese, honey and pistachio truffles
  5. Make up some quick pear tarts
  6. Browse through this cute collection of table settings 
  7. Have a loaf of this cocoa-carrot cake stashed away for school lunches next week
  8. Stock up on these cute boxes by new Australian e-store Blank Goods for food gifts.
My posts elsewhere
The perfect butter cake recipe on JustB Australia
Apple and Fig tarts over at Kidspot

Mont Blanc, yes that old chestnut


Last week’s visit to a local chestnut farm taught me two mildly important life lessons.

One, never take a toddler to a chestnut farm without shoes. Two, never attempt to peel chestnuts when you are short of time and patience or you might end up tipping the whole lot in the sink, bleeding a little and swearing a lot.

Alice, Tom and I visited David Ogilvie’s 'Brittle Jacks' chestnut orchard just as he was beginning this year’s harvest. Down the middle of each row of trees were low piles of burrs waiting to be shelled by a couple of French backpackers who were sitting on upturned milk crates and wearing thick gloves to extract the nuts from each burr. It was a picturesque scene and I quite wanted to join them. If it wasn’t for my poor shoe-less son, hobbling around, ouch-ouch, on the burrs, I might have. And as an aside, I really don’t make a habit of taking Tom to town without footwear, but in this case had mistakenly thought a pair of boots were in the boot.

Anyway...David has been growing chestnuts for over 30 years and is an incredible source of information about this beautiful tree and nut. Anyone can visit the farm by appointment and I highly recommend doing so, he is a great guide and it’s a beautiful spot.

We left with three kilos in the bootless car boot and that night, in a fit of misguided excitement I attempted to make venison and chestnut scaloppine for dinner. As indicated above, on that occasion we had the venison but not the chestnuts.

I have since discovered that peeling chestnuts, for me at least, requires a quiet hour after dinner and time to sit and peel in peace with preferably a nice big glass of red wine to your right. In this scenario, peeling chestnuts can be a pretty good way to spend an early Autumn evening.

Since that night we have tried putting chestnuts in a variety of dishes, these three were our favourites.

Mont Blanc

If ever you see this on a menu, order it. The mixture of crisp meringue, soft cream and nutty, smooth chestnut puree is delicious and absolute justification for the not inconsequential amount of work that goes in to making it.

For the puree
12 chestnuts
1 cup milk
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste

Preheat oven to 200C. Place a small slit on the middle of each chestnut and pop in the hot oven for about 15 minutes. Check them often as they can overheat and explode in the oven which is annoying and messy. As soon as you remove them from the oven, place in a tea towel and peel one by one. For more comprehensive tips on doing this, visit Chestnuts Australia’s website.

Once you have your peeled chestnuts, place them in a heavy-based saucepan and cover with milk. Add the sugar and vanilla and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes, or until the chestnuts are nice and soft. Add a splash more milk as you cook if they look to be drying up at all. Then tip this into a blender and puree until nice and smooth, or use a potato ricer if you have one.

For the meringues
Makes about 9 medium-sized meringues

4 egg whites
240g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 100C (120C for conventional ovens). Line a large tray with baking paper. Beat egg whites still stiff peaks form and then add the caster sugar one tablespoon at a time. Now add the vanilla and keep beating until the mixture is thick and glossy.

Using a large metal spoon, drop spoonfuls of meringue onto baking tray, (I do about two dessertspoons per meringue). Space them about five centimeters apart as they will spread a little as they cook. Smooth the tops with the back of your spoon and cook for 1 ¼ hours or until crisp with a firm base.

To serve, whip some cream until nice and soft and place the meringues on a pretty serving platter. Top with a little cream and then a good spoonful of the chestnut puree, grate over some dark chocolate and serve.

Lesley Russell’s Chestnut Cake

Lesley runs a fantastic cooking school in Orange. She is a great teacher and the classes are always good fun. Have a look at her website for upcoming classes.

100g butter
200g caster sugar
5 eggs, separated
250g cooked chestnut puree*
1 tablespoon lemon zest
150g ground almonds
1 tablespoon SR flour

Grease, flour and paper a 20 cm cake tin. Preheat the oven to 180C.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, lemon zest and chestnut puree. Stir in the ground almonds and the flour. Whip the egg whites to soft peaks and fold them through the mixture. Spread the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 50 - 60 minutes or until a skewer comes out of the cake clean. Serve with fresh figs, cream or thick yogurt.

*For chestnut puree
Boil chestnuts in the skin for 15 – 20 minutes. Cool slightly and then cut chestnuts in half lengthwise. Scoop out the flesh and puree in a food processor while still warm. For 250g puree, use approx 400g chestnuts.

Prosciutto-wrapped chestnuts
These are delicious with a glass of bubbles before (or for) dinner.

24 fresh chestnuts, shell removed (serves 6)
12 slices prosciutto
one large bunch fresh rosemary

Preheat oven to 220C. Pull most of the rosemary leaves off each stems and cut in half.
Cut each slice of prosciutto in half too and wrap chestnuts in a halved prosciutto slice each. Secure with a rosemary stem. Place on a baking tray and bake for 10 mins or until prosciutto becomes crisp.

Lunch at the Shed, and a couple of recipes


Last Sunday we launched the Mandagery Creek Farm Kitchen with a ‘trial’ fun lunch for family and friends. Here are some pictures of the day, though please bear in mind that it’s not quite finished. We still have pictures to hang, light fittings to fit, a kitchen to finish a small-ish list of tweaks to implement before this coming Sunday. 

The menu kicked off with venison and pistachio terrine topped with warm red currant compote (recipe below) then moved to bread-sauce flavoured potato gratin with prosciutto-wrapped venison fillet (recipe link here), salad and sourdough rolls. For pudding we had pear frangipane tart with homemade vanilla ice cream and then coffee with hazlenut meringues. 

Once we established that the oven works (probably not smart to cook with gas for the first time when feeding a crowd - see our smiles of relief as we carved the meat!), and more importantly that the space worked too, it was a great way to spend Easter Sunday. The kids hung out down at the house while we had lunch, babysat by our lovely young neighbours, and then peace was shattered with their arrival, subsequent games of hide-and-seek-tip in the nearby deer yards and a few ‘pop-ins’ by other neighbours with bottles of wine.

For more information on upcoming lunches (we are holding them on the fourth Saturday of every month), please email me, sophie_hansen@me.com. Photos by me and my clever sister-in-law Penny. 

Venison and pistachio terrine with red currant compote
This is a simple, easy terrine that makes a beautiful lunch when served with some crusty bread and this warm compote
Serves 10
450g venison mince
450g pork mince
2 tbsp juniper berries
1 tbsp pepper corns
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
100g shelled pistachio nuts, chopped in half
30 juniper berries, crushed
4 oz (110 g) shelled pistachio nuts, coarsely chopped
2 tsp salt
200ml white wine
200g bacon, rind removed
For the compote:
1 cup fresh or frozen red currants
zest and juice ½ lemon
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
½ level teaspoon hot Madras curry powder
40g sugar
150ml red wine
1 dessertspoon red wine vinegar
Preheat the oven to 150C. Grab a large bowl and place the venison and pork mince in there. Crush the juniper berries in a mortar and pestle and add them to the bowl. Then do the same with the peppercorns. Add the remaining ingredients (except for the bacon) and mix well. Line a loaf tin with the bacon and fill with the terrine mix, packing it down well. Cover the tin with a double layer of foil. Place a large roasting tray in the oven, put the terrine tin in that and then pour a kettle-full of boiling water around the terrine so it comes about half way up the sides. Cook for 1, 3/4 hours.
Remove from the oven and let sit until cool. Then sit a bunch of tinned tomatoes (or similar), or a brick if you have one handy, on top of the terrine, and place in the fridge overnight. When ready to serve, slice thinly and place on a little piece of toast, spoon the warm compote on top.

Brutti ma buoni (hazlenut meringues)
I ate way more than my fair share of these little hazlenut meringues while living in their birthplace, Piedmont Italy. They are easy to make, last for up to a week when stored properly and seem to pair perfectly with a strong cup of coffee. Or, more traditionally with a pretty glass full of warm zabaglione. 
400g hazlenuts (we use and love hazlenuts from Fourjay Farms)
4 egg whites
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
a pinch of ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla paste
Preheat oven to 180C. Roast the hazlenuts in one layer until just becoming fragrant. Rub them in a tea towel to remove most of the skins and then blitz in a food processor until you have a beautiful soft hazlenut meal. Whisk the egg whites until stiff, add the sugar a little at a time and then stir through the hazlenut meal, caster sugar and vanilla.
Place the mixture in a heavy-based saucepan over a low heat and gently stir for about 10 minutes. The purpose of this exercise isn’t really to cook the meringue further but to ‘dry’ it out a little. Let cool and then spoon in teaspoons onto baking trays lined with paper. Cook for 20 minutes or until hard and just beginning to colour.
Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

This weekend and a recipe for soup and milk rolls


This Easter, I'd really like to go on picnics, rest and hang out on the farm with Tim and the kids. Instead we are launching our Mandagery Creek Venison Farm Kitchen (whoowhoo) with a lunch on Sunday so most of it will be spent getting ready for that. Tim is away in Sydney for the Pyrmont Growers Market tomorrow and just to spice things up, the kids are sick. Tom is particularly miserable. All he wants is to sit and be cuddled which is lovely, but tricky when there's so much to do. 

To cheer him up, I made these milk rolls with carrot, ginger and honey soup for our dinner tonight. It's not the traditional Good Friday fish supper I know, but comforting, easy to eat and yummy. Most of the soup came from my vegetable box provided earlier in the week by Katie from the Nasdhale Fruit Company. And while the rolls may look like lots of work, really they're not, and kids love playing with the dough and rolling it up into little balls. Of course, after making this particular supper just so Tom might eat something, he didn't, not one mouthful. Alice and I did though, she had her rolls with butter and I spread Jannei Goat's Curd on mine. It was good, comforting and mood lifting. Which is I suppose, the most you can hope from your food. Happy Easter everybody.

Carrot,  ginger and honey soup
2 tbsp olive oil
150g onion, sliced
20g root ginger, peeled
300g carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
300g pumpkin, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tbsp honey
juice of one lemon
900ml boiling water
40g butter

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan, add the onions and cook gently until soft and translucent. Add the carrot, pumpkin and ginger and cook for a couple more minutes. Now pour in the boiling water, add the honey and lemon juice and cook on a low heat for about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and puree in a food processor until nice and smooth. Throw in the butter and whizz again. 

Milk rolls
500g plain flour 
3 tsp instant yeast
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp salt
400ml milk
20g butter

For egg wash
1 egg
1 tbsp milk
1 tsp poppy seeds

Combine the flour with yeast, salt and sugar. Heat the milk and stir though the butter until it melts. Add the wet ingredients to dry and bring together until you have a wet dough. Knead using the dough hook of an electric mixer or by hand if you don't mind a bit of mess. Knead until you have a smooth dough. 

Leave the dough to rest in a large, oiled bowl (covered with a damp tea towel) for about an hour or until doubled in size. Now's when you can get the kids really involved. Have them pull small pieces of dough off the whole and roll into nuggets about the size of a golf ball. Place these about 2cm apart on a baking tray. Cover these and leave for another half an hour. 

Preheat the oven to 200c. Beat together the egg and milk and grab yourself a pastry brush. Brush the rolls gently with this wash and sprinkle with the poppy seeds. Bake for about 10-15 minutes or until golden. Serve while still warm. This recipe was inspired by one by Nigella Lawson in her beautiful book Feast.

Hot cross buns and a local, weekly meal plan


We are just back from a great weekend at Mum and Dad's place near Rydal just over the Blue Mountains. Mum is an artist and art teacher (the bronze birds pictured above are one of her works) and so her studio is heaven for Alice who is all about drawing and craft at the moment. Yesterday while they pottered in there I pottered in the kitchen and made some hot cross buns. 

Not being a big fan of currants etc in cakes (controversial I know), I make mine with apple and cranberries. The recipe given here makes sweet, cake-ey buns that are at their best the day they are made (or warmed gently in an oven the next day). 

Today we 'helped' Dad move his herd of Belted Galloway cows which sort of went pear-shaped when Tom decided to go swimming in mud puddles instead. 

Mum also runs residential art classes from Kimbri, she is an incredible teacher, the farm is beautiful and the food delicious, you can read more about them here.

Cinnamon and apple hot cross buns
1 cup caster sugar
1 lemon
2 apples, unpeeled, cored and diced
1 cinnamon stick
5 cups plain flour
50g Craisins
14g instant yeast
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
380ml milk
100g butter, cubed
1 egg

Combine half of the sugar and 375ml water in a saucepan, add the juice of the lemon and the cinnamon stick and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the apple, bring to the simmer and then reduce heat and let cook for about 25 minutes. Strain, reserving fruit and the syrup but separately.

Combine all but 1/3 cup of the flour in a large bowl, add the craisins, yeast, 2 tsp of the cinnamon, the ginger and remaining sugar. Pour the milk into a small saucepan, add the butter and stir gently until the butter is mostly melted. Remove from heat and whisk in the egg.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and then pour in the warm milk mixture. Add the diced and cooled apple then either knead in a mixer with a dough attachment or by hand on a floured board for about 6 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and let rise for about 30 minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 200C, Knock back the dough and then divide into about 12-15 pieces, kneading each one into a smooth ball. Arrange these on a baking tray and let rise for another 30 minutes. Meanwhile mix remaining flour with a little water to make a thick paste, spoon this into a piping bag fitted with a small nozzle or a small plastic sandwich bag and then snip off the bottom to pipe a cross on each bun.

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. While this is happening, bring the reserved apple syrup back to a simmer, add the cinnamon and grab your pastry brush. As soon as they buns come out of the oven brush them with this glaze and set aside. Serve warm with jam or just a smear of butter.
This recipe borrows heavily from one printed in the April 2010 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller. The original can be found here.  

Local Harvest Local Eating Challenge and our meal plan for this week

This week we are teaming up with a few friends in the area to take the Local Harvest Challenge. This means we have committed to buying (almost) all our food locally for the next seven days.
Our major ‘suppliers’ this week will Slice of Orange, a fantastic shop in the centre of Orange stocking only products sourced from within a 160km radius. Through them we have sourced the biggest, most beautiful box of fruit and vegetables from Katie of the Nashdale Fruit Company. For bread we will look to Shaun and Willa Arantz of Racine Restaurant and we'll also pay a visit or two to our clever local winemakers.

Unfortunately we won’t be able to source absolutely everything we need from the area, particularly dairy products which we can’t really forgo because the kids love their milk etc. I’ll also have to source things like salt, flour and yeast elsewhere but that’s about it.

So to keep me honest and organised, here is the Hansen family’s meal and shopping plan for this week. The recipes are all pretty simple though possibly some are a bit ambitious; I'm not sure I'll have the time to make gnocchi on Wednesday so may have to give in and buy some dried pasta. I also haven’t put in all of our lunches and snacks as I thought that might border on over-sharing. If you feel like doing the challenge with us and are keen for any of the recipes listed below please do let me know and I’ll email them through (most will pop up on the blog over the next couple of weeks though). And if you live in Orange, please contact Slice of Orange as they will happily organise you a produce box and sort you out with other local produce too.

Happy local shopping, cooking and eating!

Dinner - Venison scallopine with chestnuts and sage
Dessert - Fresh Turkish Brown Figs

Afternoon tea/lunchbox- Chestnut and rhubarb cake
Dinner - Quince, kale and hazlenut salad with Goat’s curd croutons

Lunch - fennel and mint bruschetta
Dinner - Classic ragu with gnocchi and steamed broccoli

Tomato, goat’s curd and rainbow chard pizza
Apple crumble (VV - cooking with kids)

Afternoon tea - Spelt, Pear and honey cake
Dinner - Hit one of our great local restaurants

Lunch - Sorrel soup with corn fritters
Dinner - Roast garlic chicken with spiced pumpkin  (LIL)
Dessert - Poached pears with honey’d yogurt

Shopping list

From A Slice of Orange
goat’s curd
olive oil
Venison (Mandagery Creek of course!)
Goat’s curd

Fresh produce via the Nashdale Fruit Company at Slice of Orange
Turkish brown figs
Cloudy apple juice
Dutch cream potatoes
Rainbow chard

From our garden
Quinces, cherry tomatoes and herbs

From our local cellar doors
Red and white wine!

Bread by Racine via Slice of Orange

Exceptions....ie ingredients we need to source from outside the region
wholemeal flour
spelt flour
Porridge oats
Tomato paste

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