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Monday, December 31, 2018

Yearly Roundup

It has been my tradition for the past nine years to do an end of year retrospective and I find it interesting to look back and remember a few highlights. In all of life's busy-ness it's easy to forget some of the blessings that makes life great.

There were many FAMILY highlights this year,
especially the eagerly awaited arrival of two new grandchildren born two weeks apart.
Julien is thrilled with his new sister and cousin.

I had a very exciting visit from a cousin whom I hadn't seen in decades and also from a nephew who has grown so quickly into a young man.

We had lots of house guests when we started our dry stone walling courses and we made so many nice new acquaintances.

Looking back we really did lots of hard work around the house with the garden taking on a more solid structure.

I completed the front garden and it is full of white flowers and has been blooming through every season, even the poor battered Teddy Bear Magnolias - they really are tough to survive there.

We constructed a crazy sandstone paved path, and I still can't stop looking at it!

In fact there were lots of gardening posts as I revelled in the new tulip plantings and structures and next year we hope to get some more gravel paths in...

We even had a large dump of snow in the middle of year and you can see the video of the garden in snow here.

We also had a a couple of garden groups visit the garden
and an artist came to paint en plein air too...

There were quite a few posts about the origins of the property and the fascinating finds that we dig up. You can read about these stories in...

Amid all the usual preserving, cooking, sewing, knitting and gardening we had a couple of firsts;
We made Parmesan cheese for the first time and we grew chickpeas.

Sadly I haven't finished a couple of projects that I had hoped to have finished by now but another year beckons and I hope we will travel along together as we have into the tenth year of recipes, gardening, discoveries and shenanigans. 

Thank you for taking time out of your days to join me and comment and discuss your thoughts. Wishing you all a blessed and prosperous new year full to the brim of good things as I have this year.

Friday, December 28, 2018

The Birthday Bower

The feasting continued Boxing Day as we celebrated the 100th anniversary of my Nan's birthday and my youngest daughter's birthday. Much of the warm afternoon hours were lazed away under the trees in the cool and the babes dozed at intervals.

There are a couple of dishes for the day that were outstanding that I want to note the recipes for.
The first,

Macadamia, Mango and Haloumi Salad
(This is my recipe for 12 people)

 3 cups of prepared cous cous
700-800g of Halloumi 
300g of macadamias 
3 ripe mangoes
Very large bunch of mint and parsley
Macadamia oil
Salt and pepper

Dice the mangoes, chop the mint and parsley and add to the prepared cous cous.
Slice the halloumi and cook in a med-hot pan then quickly pan roast the macadamias
Cut the halloumi into bite sized pieces and roughly chop the macadamias.
Mix all the ingredients together with a drizzling of macadamia nut oil.

This makes a sweet, nutty, minty dish with a texture explosion of the cous cous and the soft mango with the hard meaty nuts and the chewy almost squeaky fried halloumi.
Visually it is bright and festive too.

The roulade is a bit more fiddly and complicated but Izaac and Camilla volunteered to do this one and equated the process to something a bit like childbirth; a bit complicated with many stages and sweat with a great end result and after about three years the memories fade and you are ready to tackle it again.

We spent a lazy four hours outside under the trees sipping sparkling wine and cutting the beautiful flourless orange cake. It is a Nigella Lawson recipe and a light refreshing morsel after the two days of feasting.

A family game of quoits and a bit more chatting and snoozing...

bowers of roses about our beds...
This one is called "Coral Dreaming"
(The rose in the top picture is called "Dark Desire" and is for making rose petal jam, The rose featured in the middle is the very popular"Pierre de Ronsard") 

Happy Birthday Nan and Emma x

Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Festive Period

Well I think I am going to declare this Christmas one of the breeziest we've ever had. The children all united and decided that we wouldn't do gifts this year.....except for second hand buys and hand made. They are all becoming more conscious of their environmental impact and bees wax wraps were definitely a common theme.

Even my boss got the recycled/hand made treatment. I found a half restored plant stand in an antique shop that he definitely needed and it goes so well with the age and style of the house that is our clinic. Craig removed the rest of the old paint and sanded it. I then did the finer sanding, oiling, French polishing and waxing. It took quite a few hours but a delightful outcome.

As well as making Peanut Chilli Brittle and Coconut Ice, I made soap for gifting. This one is a tallow/olive oil/coconut oil mix with a couple of blue layers upon the natural creamy soap and flecks of silver mica on the top after I gave it a sea swell look. I'm calling this one "shore".
For our children I made them several different bags of roasted and ground Indian spice mixes for authentic curry making. They all like cooking and I think this will take their curries to a new level, thanks to my trusty Thermomix. The house smelt soooo good!

The Christmas Cake this year was made by combining to of my Grandmother Murray's recipes. It was a whopping 11" and had 10 eggs and a whole pound of butter. I did a quick family research poll and they elected to have it not iced this year but it was liberally dressed every few days with good brandy. Plenty for visitors so do call in.

Our singing group gathered at the Anglican Church this year for the community carols as it was so windy out of doors

We also did our fair share of feasting and pintrest has helped me amp my "cheese platters" to a whole new level....

But on the whole we kept Christmas feasting to a simple but special design.

This epic show stopper of a salad was a key component. It is made of lots of fresh leaf lettuce ("Forellenschluss" or speckled trout) picked from the garden with thinly sliced pear, quartered figs, Italian prosciutto and pomegranate with a pomegranate and oil dressing.

Our home grown leg of lamb was glazed with a blackberry and balsamic reduction and stuffed with pistachios, breadcrumb, onion and blackberry and thyme. The Balsamic Potatoes from Jamie Oliver's Christmas Cookbook were a very big hit. The directions call for lots of cooking that sounds completely impossible but it just works. Fresh peas from the garden lightly steamed added the final touch to our carefully constructed menu. An elegant berry pavlova with berry curd and extra cream was the perfect light, refreshing finish.

Christmas Mass was held at 9pm on Christmas Eve and I wish I had stopped to get a photo of St Michael's from the outside as I was leaving. The stained glass windows lit from within looked stunning in the deepening twilight.
I have jumped into the modern world with Spotify and streaming replacing my huge Christmas CD collection and I have even managed to blue tooth it all to the car so it has been hours and hours of Christmas songs. I feel thoroughly drenched in festivity.
Thank you to key family members and friends for your help and good cheer, making this one of the cruisiest and fully celebrated times of joy.
All that is left is to wish you the same joy and may it last throughout the year.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Beer and Chilli Peanut Brittle

I've started my Christmas cooking this week and the ever popular peanut brittle is a must.
So deliciously moreish I've had it from myself as well as The Shearer!
I first made this in 2015 so here is the recipe again....

I used per batch - 

260g of raw sugar
200g of lager beer
600g of salted peanuts
1/2 teas ground dried chilli

Pre-heat oven to 180C and line two non-stick biscuit trays with baking paper. By all means lightly grease with butter but we only did it with the first lot and kept recycling the peeled off baking paper and it worked fine.
In a medium sized stock pot on medium heat, combine the sugar and beer, stirring gently till the sugar is dissolved.
Add the peanuts and reduce the heat and simmer for about 15mins stirring occasionally. At this point the liquid is quite reduced and thicker, partially absorbed by the nuts and steamed off.
Remove from heat and mix in chilli. (Add a couple of teaspoons of salt too if you are using unsalted nuts.) 
Tip the mixture onto the biscuit trays and place in the oven.
The next step will take approx 15 mins but you do have to watch it to make sure it doesn't burn. If your oven isn't even you may also need to switch trays and shelf positions during cooking. What should happen is that it will self level a bit bubble away turning a bit more toffee. 
Remove from the oven and place on cooling racks to set.
The paper should peel away easily when cold and you'll be able to break the sheet into rough chunks.

Some notes-
This is best made during dry hot days and humidity will definitely have a bearing on the "snap" to the brittle. Likewise store in air tight containers to keep brittle.
If you are making subsequent batches, DO wash you pot and spoon between batches to prevent crystallising the sugar. 

Thursday, December 6, 2018

My Frost Protectors

Can you see my frost protection?

How about now?


That's right, these over-run perennial borders of poppies are one of the ways I protect tender plants from late frosts. Growing in the midlands is a challenge and last week's low temperatures showed us we are still not safe from frosts.

We are tentatively planting out tomatoes and zucchinis but we're ready with the covers just in case. Unfortunately the poppies weren't tall enough six weeks ago and all but a couple of my iris buds were destroyed but I can't cover everything. Actually in those frosts we even lost things in the poly-tunnel.

Long time readers will remember that when we moved here a few years ago we had our hands full with the house and the garden (paddock!) just had to wait, so I sprinkled some poppy seed hoping to have some spring beauty and a way of keeping some weeds down and mulch at the end.

Besides being cheap, easy, showy and then providing mulch and seed ....
It helped to cut some of the winds and I found it was wonderful protection for emerging dahlias and salvias etc. They are so expendable and if they get broken or blown it really doesn't matter. At the very least they put on a colourful show after the bulbs and blossom have finished and the bees adore them. 

And next year they come again....

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