The Friday List and a pear cake


The first week of school holidays has flown by for us with me hardly managing get to my desk at all (hence another brief Friday List). On the flipside, the kids and I have had a great few days hanging out at home, catching up with friends and cooking (see pear cake below!). Hope you all have a great weekend and I'm looking forward to putting together a couple of great posts over the weekend for next week. See you then!

 The Friday List

One of the really cool things about blogland are all the collaborations that seem to keep popping up all over the place; like The Photo School; a new project by Kate Berry  and Peta Mazey which, is going to teach us all 'how to take ace photos of your life'. With yummies catered for by my new crush; Jade O’Donahoo of Eat this My Friend (do check out this blog - it's awesome).

And of course, the incredibly talented Beth from Local Milk is coming to Australia in a couple of months with Rebekka of the Camellia Fiber Co to host two workshops (by the way, how stunning is this post by Rebekka on her recent Kinfolk gathering). Australian photographer Luisa Brimble is making it all happen and will be teaching at them too. Tickets are available here, how I'd love to go!

Armchair travel - achingly beautiful shots from Santorini, Greece.

Vegies for Breakfast is a gorgeous, illustrated and new-to-me blog. Looking forward to having a proper read through this weekend.

Food Woolf can always be counted on for a good read. 

And I've just discovered this blog by Perth-based stylist and designer Meghan Plowman. So much eye candy  here.  

What Katie Ate is back! Whoot. And it's a whopper of a post. Well done Katie!

Gluten-free pear cake

I made this yesterday as we had friends dropping over. It was just delicious with some honeyed yogurt but next time I'll definitely add some finely grated fresh ginger for extra oomph. 

1 1/4 cups caster sugar
4 Buerre Bosc pears
160g butter, softened
4 free range eggs (at room temperature)
1 tsp vanilla paste
1/2 cup almond meal
2 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 cup spelt flour
2 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 180C and grease and line a 24cm round springform cake tin. Place 1/2 cup of the sugar and 1/4 cup of water in a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. Cook for a few minutes on low until you have a deep caramel. Meanwhile, thinly slice the pears and arrange on the base of your tin. Pour over the caramel and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Fold in the vanilla, almond, ginger, flour and baking powder until just combined. Spoon batter over the pears and smooth the top.

Bake for 50 minutes or until the top of the cake is just firm to the touch and the sides have begun pulling away from the tin. Let cool in the tin then turn out onto a serving platter. Serve with honeyed yogurt. 

Feeding the artists part 2


It's been a few weeks now since I temporarily abandoned Tim and the kids for a stint in my Mum Annie Herron's kitchen, cooking for the students who come every Autumn and Spring to paint and learn at her residential art classes. And going back through my photos to put together today's post, I am ever-more thankful to have had the opportunity to work with Mum and cook for, eat with and get to know all of the people who came along.  Actually, after such a busy 12 months writing, recipe testing and putting together my book plus keeping up with other commitments - it was heaven to just be in the kitchen and cook whatever I felt like on the day. To work with such beautiful produce and take it wherever my mood, the weather and our guests felt.

Here's my second and final installment of recipes from this experience. And as I mentioned on the first post in this mini-series (!!), there are still a few spots available for the Spring classes and Mum has also just set next year's dates so get in touch if you might like to join us one day at Rydal.

Day four of the five day class is usually, weather-permitting, a picnic. Mum and the students' pack up a basic kit each and they head outdoors to practice a bit of al-fresco sketching and painting. Dad is in charge of setting and tending a little fire for chops and sausages. And I bring down salads, tea things and cake. The above lentil and celeriac salad was my favourite and seemed to go very nicely with the thick sausages Dad cooked over the fire.

Lentil and Celeriac salad

The idea for this recipe comes from Yotam Ottolenghi's amazing book Plenty. It's such a great side for this time of year and goes particularly well with barbecued venison steaks (but to be honest - what doesn't!). Serves 4

1 cup green 'Puy' style lentils
1 large celeriac, peeled, trimmed and cut into 1cm thick batons
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1 bunch baby eschallots or spring onions, finely chopped
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp brown sugar

Place the lentils and two cups of water in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and cook for 15 minutes or until the lentils are tender but still keep their shape. Meanwhile, cook the celeriac in a pot of salted, boiling water for about 10 minutes or until al dente. Drain and toss with the lentils. Add the almonds, eschallots and parsley. Whisk together the dressing ingredients then gently toss with the lentil salad to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Back at the studio, Mum had the little pot-belly stove going almost constantly, plus a buzz of music and happily-painting-people. The weather wavered from snowy grey days to cool but sunny blue skies so we changed the menu and table setting to suit.

Rhubarb, quince and almond cake

Rich with nuts and full of punchy fruit flavour, this is one of my favourite cakes to make and eat. Here I've used a mixture of poached quince and fresh rhubarb and it was the perfect end to a lunch of soup and salad.

1 cup poached quince, thinly sliced
4 stalks rhubarb, cut into cubes
1 orange
50g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod

For the cake
150g unsalted butter
150g caster sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup buttermilk
180g freshly ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder

For the topping
Finely grated zest of one orange
30g butter
25g brown sugar
1/2 cup slithered almonds
Icing sugar, to dust

Finely grate the rind and squeeze in the juice of the orange. Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line a cake tin with baking paper. Place the fruit, orange rind and juice and sugar in an ovenproof dish and toss to combine. Bake for 20 minutes and then scrape in the vanilla seeds.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one by one. Fold in the buttermilk, almond meal and baking powder and spread into the prepared cake tin. Push the fruit (with its juices) into and over the cake and bake for 1/2 hour.

For the topping, finely melt the butter and stir in the grated zest and almonds. Spread this over the half-baked cake, lower the heat to 160C and bake for a further 20 minutes. Cool the cake in the tin and then top with the almonds and dusting of icing sugar before serving.

Everyone (except our gluten-intolerant friends!) always falls on a big tray of warm scones with jam and cream with great delight. There's something very indulgent but still comforting about this treat and they do, obviously, make the perfect morning tea. These ones came from Leslie Russel's big scones recipe which appears in the book but here too.

Pan forte

One of the best things, I think, to serve after a big lunch or dinner, pan forte is not too sweet and feels like a very grown-up treat. Especially when cut into little squares and handed around with coffee. Plus, it lasts for ages (so is a great present too) and is very easy to make. Like everything I suppose, there are many different interpretations of pan forte out there and this is mine (though it was originally adapted from one given by baking queen Belinda Jeffrey in Mix and Bake).

Edible rice paper or baking paper, for lining
½ cup plain flour
1/3 cup best quality cocoa
1 tsp cinnamon

Pinch freshly ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups roughly chopped dried fruit, soaked for at least one hour in verjus (I used a mixture of dried figs, currants and dried apricots)
1/2 cup candied orange peel, roughly chopped
2 cups mixed roasted nuts, coarsely chopped (almonds and hazlenuts are my favourite)
70g butter
2/3 cup caster sugar
200g honey
Icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 180C. Then grease and line a 20cm square or round cake tin and line the base and sides with the rice paper or baking paper. Combine the flour, cocoa and spices in a large bowl, then strain the dried fruit and add this to the flour mixture. Add the nuts and mix well.

Combine the butter, sugar and honey in a saucepan on medium and cook until the butter melts and you have a smooth consistency. Bring to the boil and cook for 4 minutes, pour over the flour mixture and stir well. Press mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the surface. Cook for about 40 minutes then remove from the oven and let cool in the tin.

Pan forte will last for weeks when wrapped tightly and stored in the fridge.

When life gives you lemons...


Make lemon verbena curd. Or maybe a lemon and pistachio cake?

With winter now officially in course and citrus trees around our region starting to do their thing, I thought it might be timely to share a couple of recipes making the best of these golden globes.

Lemon verbena curd

This is now the fourth recipe for lemon curd I've shared on the blog so far - and my current favourite . First there was the lemon and apple curd (more like a custard really but still so good), then Josie Chapman's passionfruit curd (which I also adore but passionfruits aren't all that handy to me at the moment), and a lovely old school 'lemon butter' recipe picked up from The Country Show Cookbook.

So yes, I love lemon curd. Who doesn't! This last one comes from my book with the verbena as an added extra. The latter isn't essential but really does lend a nice extra layer of flavour; slightly minty and a bit floral. I like to leave a few leaves in each jar and just fish them out when necessary. Last week we had it for pudding spooned into little gluten-free almond shortbreads and the whole thing was completely delicious. The shortbread recipe comes from Emma Galloway's beautiful book My Darling Lemon Thyme, and it's a cracker.

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
zest of 3 lemons, finely grated
a very scant pinch of salt
110g unsalted butter, cubed
1 handful lemon verbena leaves 
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup caster sugar

Combine the lemon juice, zest, salt, butter and verbena in a heatproof bowl over a simmering pot of water. Stir, with a wooden spoon, until the butter melts. In a separate bowl, whisk the yolks and sugar together until pale and fluffy and then pour over lemon juice and butter mixture. Whisk to combine then cook, stirring constantly, for about 10 minutes, or until the mixture thickens and coats the back of your spoon (I find it really does take that long). Pour into sterilized jars then let cool in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving. Keeps in the fridge for about a week. Makes 1 1/2 cups.

 Lemon pistachio cake

This recipe is very slightly adapted from one given in the River Cafe Easy cookbook, I've just upped the lemon and pistachio content a bit and ditched the flour in favour of a little more almond meal. In any case, like every other recipe in this book, it's an absolute classic and one of the most useful lemon cakes you'll ever come across. The amount of pistachios I've used here is a bit extravagant but the cake goes quite a long way and is a really great special occasion number so worth it I think! 

1 cup natural almonds
1 cup pistachios (I love Murrungundy Pistachios)
250g unsalted butter
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
1tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
4 eggs

Zest and juice of three lemons
1 cup pistachios, roughly chopped
1/2 cup caster sugar

Preheat oven to 150C and grease and line a 22x12cm loaf tin or two smaller loaf tins. Combine the nuts in a food processor and blitz until you a have a coarse meal. Cream the butter, lemon zest, vanilla and sugar together until pale and fluffy, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition.

Fold through the nut meal then gently spoon mixture into prepared tin (or tins). Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the cake is pulling away from the tin's sides and/or a skewer comes out clean. Let cool in the tin for 5 minutes then turn out to a cooling rack.

For the topping; combine the zest, juice and sugar in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Boil for a few minutes then remove from heat, stir through the pistachios and spread mixture over the top of the cake.

Soup and cake for cold days


Hello from Rydal! After a few days at home, I'm back in the kitchen, cooking again this week for the art classes my mother, artist Annie Herron teaches here every May and October. And because I'm feeling a bit sooky about leaving my little (and big!) people again, thought I'd post a recipe for two of their favourite things - soup and cake.

Apple and pumpkin soup is Alice and Tom's current favourite, and actually, mine too. The apple lifts and brightens the flavour and the creamy pumpkin is like throwing a little blankie over your knees - comforting but not cloying.

I've been collecting recipes and photos from my time here in Rydal and will post the lot in one hit next week but for now, lets eat soup and cake. Have a great week! Sophiex

Apple and Pumpkin Soup

If you make one soup this Autumn....this should definitely be it. Easy, cheap and delicious it's one of the best things I've had in ages - and everyone at the art classes loved it for lunch too! You can swap the apple with pear if you like or throw in a mixture of whatever is in the fruit bowl.

4 cups butternut pumpkin, peeled, de-seeded and roughly chopped
4 tart cooking apples, quartered and cored
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 leek, roughly chopped
1 handful sage leaves
3 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
40g butter
Natural 'Greek' style yogurt, to serve

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Combine the pumpkin, apples, garlic, leek, sage, olive oil and seasoning in a large baking tray and toss to combine. Place in the oven and roast for about 45 minutes or until the pumpkin is cooked through and just beginning to caramelise.

Blitz, in batches with a little of the stock and butter until you have a big saucepan full of golden, delicious soup. Serve with a spoonful of yogurt if you like (we do) and a plate of warm, golden ciabatta bread.

The below zucchini and pistachio cake is another favourite in this house. You can find the recipe here, but since making it last, I've upped the lemon in the cream cheese icing quite a bit and also added a touch more cinnamon too.

Orange apples


Our district of Orange has been growing apples since the 1840s and is still one of the best apple growing regions in Australia. So with apple picking season in full swing and the Orange Apple Festival kicking off in a couple of weeks, I thought it might be a good time to visit one of Orange’s loveliest orcharding families, the Halls.

Alice, Tom and our Swedish friend Ellen recently visited these guys at their Bonny Glen apple orchard on the slopes of Mount Canobolas, about 15 minutes drive from our own farm. We went after school with cake and tea.

Fi is married to Bernard Hall, and with Bernard’s brother and parents, the couple run four orchards in the district plus a busy packing shed. They grow Red Delicious, Royal Galas, Pink Ladies, Jonathons, Granny Smiths, Fuju and Kanzi apples plus cherries and do it all with great professionalism and passion. They are also parents to three kids Charlie, eight, Billy, six and Maggie, 4. Right now the Hall’s are in the middle of apple picking and packing season and the family are working around the clock.

Easy brown sugar apple tray cake

I love the idea of baking up a big slab of apple cake for afternoon tea. And I really love the idea of doing this in the middle of an orchard with the family that grew the apples in said cake.

250g butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
4 eggs at room temperature
1 2/3 cup plain flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking powder
2 Jonathon apples (or whatever fresh, crunchy ones you have available!), cored and fairly thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 180C and grease and line a baking tray with deep sides (about 5cm). Cream the butter and sugar together in an electric mixer until pale and fluffy (this should take about 5 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Sift the flour, cinnamon, ginger and baking powder together then fold this through the butter mixture. Spoon this into your prepared tray, press apple over the top then bake for 35 minutes or until the sides of the cake are just pulling away from the tin and a skewer comes out clean. Let cool in the tin, dust with icing sugar and serve.

Apple chai tea

This is a really simple idea but a nice change from regular black tea! Just brew up your favourite chai tea (mine comes from Kettle Town - their teas are incredible) and serve with a few slices of freshly sliced apples.

The Orange Apple Festival runs from May 9-11 and there are some really great local events running over the three days, including baking classes, school apple pie drives, apple bobbing at the farmers market and farm tours too. Event details can be found on the Taste Orange website.

Blackberries, cake and The Friday List


Happy Valentines Day everyone. Whether or not you really go in for this particular 'celebration', maybe it's just a good excuse to tell all the nice people in your life how much you lurve them...and maybe cook them something pretty and sweet? Like the butter cake below perhaps.

Last weekend we ducked town to my parents' place for the annual Rydal Show (more on this in an upcoming post) and had the chance to catch up with most of my family (with a few notable exceptions - you were all greatly missed...). We picked blackberries, took the kids swimming in the lake, cooked and ate and it was great. The perfect little escape from our dry, hot reality at home.

In any case, the blackberry harvest was impressive so Mum made jam and sent us all home with a jar or two (and by the way Dad - it set perfectly!), then I pilfered a few handfuls to garnish the simple butter cake made for morning tea on Sunday (recipe comes after the Friday List).

The Friday List

Things I want to cook very soon; Felafel patties with harissa yogurt from a new favourite A Couple Cooks then No bake granola bars from David Lebovitz and maybe a batch of Peanut butter pretzel bars from Top with Cinnamon.

Looking for some last-minute Valentine's day inspiration? Perhaps this beautiful confection, or this beetroot cake with goat's cheese and thyme glaze will fit the bill. Or for a complete love-in; what about these healthy/heart-shaped chocolate caramels?

Welcome to the Harvest is one of the coolest sites I've seen in ages - and every recipe has now been bookmarked for future kitchen time; leading with these star anise and ginger plums then these quark and peach morsels with rosemary and cinnamon infused syrup (yep I know...sounds so good).

Two more great Australian blog-y discoveries; from Tasmania comes The Sunday Best and from all over our great continent comes Common Threads; a collaborative blog project by six Australian bloggers all posting on common themes. Beautiful. 

If you've ever wanted to make edible, lickable wallpaper for your kids' rooms (who hasn't?), then this post from The Guardian is for you...

Lots of great discoveries in this post by Kenko Kitchen, and a beautiful recipe for ice cream pavlova too! Talk about over delivering...

Simple butter and yogurt cake

This recipe is pretty basic but useful to know as it yields a delicious loaf that goes well with pretty much any fresh or poached fruit. This version did sink a little in the middle, but that was only because an impatient Tom Hansen opened the oven every five minutes or so while it was cooking.

250g unsalted butter, softened
1 cup caster sugar
3 eggs
2 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
Finely grated zest and juice of one orange
3/4 cup natural (Greek-style) yogurt

Preheat oven to 180C and line a loaf tin with baking paper. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat well between each addition. Fold through the flour, baking powder and lemon juice and zest and then the yogurt.

Gently spoon into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cake is cooked through and just beginning to pull away from the tin's sides. Let cool a little then serve in thick slices with a little extra yogurt and fresh berries.

Swap the orange with lemon.
Fold fresh chopped fruit through the batter before baking.
Ice with a tangy lemon glaze and finish with extra lemon zest.

Bake Club at the Farm Kitchen


It didn't start well. 

The clever/talented/lovely Anneka Manning of Bake Club had travelled to our Farm Kitchen just out of Orange to host a 'no time to bake class' and we had started early, setting up for the morning to come. I turned the oven on and set it on moderate, then in went the first cake of the day.

Pretty soon it became obvious that there was something wrong. The oven thermometer was showing 240C and wouldn't budge no matter where we moved the dial. Holy self-raising-flour - the temperature dial was broken and a full class of ladies were due to arrive any minute.

At this point I simultaneously cut open the top of my index-finger and began to panic, or perhaps the former was a quickly manifested consequence of the latter. In any case, it was getting hot in the kitchen and on my part there was blood, sweat and one or two tears. Anneka on the other hand stayed cool as a cucumber.

This lady really is a baking pro. She calmly asked if I could duck down to our house (2kms away) and turn on that oven. And so while everyone arrived and Anneka greeted them with tea and coffee;  I drove backwards and forwards with tins of cake batter on my knee until we figured out how to work with the hot oven. And therein lies the beauty of Anneka's recipes - they are so good that even a cranky hot oven can't send them south.

The caramel walnut cake pictured below, (its aesthetics a casualty of the hot oven), was sliced, iced and actually one of the nicest treats of the day. Anneka explained how to rescue baking disasters like this and the class/morning proceeded beautifully. We made a whole orange cake, oat and honey slice, blue cheese and walnut biscuits, almond shortbreads and sweet little baked donuts. All in the space of two hours and all with oven dramas.

Our class's attendees went home with boxes full of goodies, a folder full of fantastic quick recipes and a beautiful complimentary oven mitt from Dandi. I went home, dressed my poor finger again and swore that one day I'd be as grown up, collected and clever as Mrs Manning.

Hopefully Anneka will return next year for more classes (and I promise the oven will be fixed well before then) but in the meantime, please check out her website for loads of recipes, class dates and baking tips. Anneka is one of Australia's best food writers and baking experts and also happens to be an absolutely lovely person - her classes are the best.

Melt and mix caramel walnut cake

Thank you so much Anneka for sharing this recipe here - it's such a winner! This recipe is a great ‘stand-by’ one that is perfect to whip up at a moment’s notice – it’s particularly good for cake stalls and picnics! The best thing about this cake though (if you omit the buttercream and just sprinkle it with icing sugar) is you don’t need any special equipment – just a saucepan and a wooden spoon! - A.

200g (1 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar

100g butter, cubed

100ml milk
1 egg, lightly whisked

75g (3⁄4 cup) coarsely chopped walnuts

150 g (1 cup) self-raising flour

Caramel Buttercream

100g butter, softened

115g (1/3 cup) golden syrup
110g (3⁄4 cup) icing sugar, sifted

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C. Grease a 9.5 x 20 cm (base measurement) loaf tin and line the base and long sides with one piece of non-stick baking paper, allowing it to overhang the sides.
2.  Place the brown sugar, butter and milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the butter just melts. Remove from the heat. Use a wooden spoon or balloon whisk to stir in the egg and walnuts.Add the flour and stir until just combined.
3.  Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the surface with the back of a spoon. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Stand for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
4 . To make the Caramel Buttercream, use an electric mixer to beat the butter and golden syrup in a medium bowl until pale and creamy.Add the icing sugar and beat until well combined and very creamy.
5.  Spread the cooled cake with the buttercream and serve cut into slices

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