Cinnamon Crackle Biscuits

Jack arrived last night and left a blanket in his wake as thick as you like in the garden. Frost settled softly on ground, on the leaves, on the car and the chicken's drinking water was sealed with a hefty layer of ice.  Brisk you might say.

It was good timing too, with most of winter's firewood stacked on the weekend, the garlic planted and the chook house cleaned and refreshed with plenty of dry straw, we are, surprisingly, ready for winter.

Inside the house, the shelves are filled with dozens of bottles of passata, preserved apricots (first time ever) preserved peaches and plums. There are bottles of sloe gin, damson gin and medlar vodka silently maturing away, hidden in dark corners away from temptation, (but we've finished summer's blackcurrant cassis already I'm afraid). And as always there is jam, tons and tons of jam, the output of summer's little jam factory.

Now while this vision may present the illusion of smug domestic accomplishment, let me assure you that beyond the kitchen and the above mentioned, my life is disorganised chaos. Truly. Laundry piled high, dust bunnies in the corners, unread school notes and boxes of outgrown clothes waiting to be taken to the opshop that have been sitting by the back door a little too long.

Sometimes I think to myself, "Ba! housework, 'tis not important" and that works for a little while, but to be honest, I don't believe it for very long and the urge to keep house calls.   But before the housework gets done there is the state of the garden to consider, sure I've got the raised beds (relatively) under control with garlic, board beans, cima di rapa, english spinach and raddiccio all coming along nicely, but that's where the cheery story ends.  The rest is desperate for attention. Edges need trimming, trees staked and pruned, beds weeded and remulched and the rest of those winter jobs that a more enthusiastic gardener would relish.

Well, given the chilly state outside, and the cosy state of the kitchen, indoors is where you'll find me today.   For while there are chores to be done, I find nothing better than a good bout of procrastibaking is in order.

If you'd like to join me, there is plenty of tea and batch of these delicious warm biscuits waiting just for you.

Cinnamon Crackle Biscuits

These easy biscuits are crunchy on the outside with a lightly chewy centre and an irresistible gingery treacle flavour. You do need to drag out your stand mixer, but I feel if you're avoiding heavy gardening duties it's the least you can do.

125g softened butter
150g brown sugar
2 tbs golden syrup
1 egg
300g self raising flour
1 tsp bi-carb soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
white sugar, for dipping

Preheat oven to 180C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

In a stand mixer, cream the butter, sugar and golden syrup until light and fluffy.

Add the egg and beat until well combined. It may curdle but don't worry.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, bi-carb soda and spices.

Add flour mix to butter mixture and beat until just combined. The dough will be quite stiff.

Roll heaped teaspoonfuls of the mixture into balls. Dip the topside into the sugar.

Place on the baking tray, sugar side up and flatten slightly with your finger tips.

Sprinkle the biscuits with a few drops of water to give them a crackle effect.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden. Put the kettle on and marvel at a job well done.

Wonder what else you can bake.

Crabapples hedgerows and a book

Could I plant my own hedgerow?

That's what I thought to myself as I looked at a wild and unkempt space in the garden. It's a thin piece of land, on the boundary, running along the vegetable patch and is full of weeds like blackberry, nettles and wild potatoes. In my mind I can picture a rambling, dense row of trees that I could tenderly nurture myself.  I would plant crabapples, damsons and sloes, a rosehip, a medlar or two and even a quince.

T'would take a bit of work in the first few years, to prepare the ground before planting, protect the little trees from possums, and make sure they had plenty to drink until the hedgerow was established. But after a few years, it'd be marvellous not to have to scramble down snakey ditches on scarily busy highways to score that lovely wild fruit. It would be right there in my garden. And I dream of all the deliciousness I could preserve with the bounty.

Roadside scrambling aside, I did get a decent haul of crabapples from the garden this year, at least 10 kilos off my crooked little tree. It was so prolific, there was enough fruit for the parrots to feast on as well as enough for me, which is a very rare occurrence around here.

What to do with all the crabapples, you ask? I could pickle them I suppose, preserve some in syrup, but I just so happen to I have a copy of this new beautiful new book, Not Just Jam.  A book that I had the pleasure of not only styling, but I actually wrote a lot of the recipes too, so you might say I co-authored it, or perhaps you might say I was the recipe developer. Either way, I'm as equally thrilled to have my name on the title page, and to have worked on such a gorgeous book.

Just as the title suggests, there are not just jam recipes, but pickles and sauces too. And jellies.  Which brings me to the crabapples, patiently waiting to be turned into jelly.  Crabapples make the best jelly, as they're so high in pectin it sets really easily, so its not too sweet, and is the most rosiest of pinks. It can be used like jam, but I like spoonful on the side of my plate with roast pork, or roast lamb to cut through the riches, a bit like apple sauce but fancier.

You can find the recipe for crab apple jelly here, along with a few others from the book. In the meantime, I'm off out to the garden to measure that space, to see if I really could plant my own hedgerow.

The last of the summer peaches.

With the foggy mornings we've been having this week, you think I'd be tempted to embrace an autumn themed menu with apples and quinces, pot roasts and mashed potatoes.  But I'm not ready for autumn just yet.  Here in the valley, March is harvest time, the days are still warm, and we're bursting with the best of the late summer produce. The tomatoes are still coming thick and fast, there are inky dark plums, paper skinned tomatillos, autumn raspberries and the last of the summer peaches.

Every surface in the kitchen is filled with boxes of produce waiting to process. Tomatoes into sauce, plums into jam, and there is also half a cow from my neighbour, waiting to be turned into sausages.  Currently distributed across three boxes sitting on the table, the cow will have to sit there until I find some space, any space, in the fridge, in the freezer or in the beer fridge and put it aside until sausage day.

Though I ought to be content with this lot, I just can't say no to another box of produce, thinking somehow I'll figure out a way to make the time and space for it to fit.  Since it is a good ten months of only eating apples ahead before the stone fruit return, I didn't hesitate to buy another 20kg of summer's last peach, the O Henry.  A giant, fat slipstone that's perfect for bottling and one of the very last peaches to ripen, around mid March, the O Henry gets all that summer sunshine to grow and develop a big luscious flavour.

I also couldn't resist a bag of Golden Queens, a deep yellow peach that are just well, peachy. They are the type that are put into tins, so they have a lovely nostalgic flavour for me, as I grew up eating tinned peaches. However with all those O'Henry's bottled on the shelf, I think we'll eat the Golden Queens now, roasted with butter and brown sugar and poured over hot crispy waffles.

There's a lot of juggling here in the kitchen at this time of year, rotating space on the cooker for the preserving pot, the giant vat of tomato sauce and stewing plums for porridge, juggling fridge space, bench space, then shelf space for the jewel filled jars.  But it's all so worth it, when the pantry shelves are full and we have plenty of delicious things to eat over the winter.

When all the the boxes are emptied and the jars are filled, and there's finally space in the fridge, that's when I'll feel ready for autumn. That's when I can turn my attention to the quinces and apples. That is unless the sweet corn shows up.

PS. A note re the image, we have shockingly slow internet right now, and that one image took 45 minutes to upload. Yes it's roasted plums with butter and brown sugar, there's not a peach insight, despite the title of this post. But I hope you get the picture anyway. 

Product of the Huon

Hi it's me!  Oh gosh! Totally gone AWOL there. Sorry about that. What a hectic start to the year it's been.

You know, I miss writing here, I really do. Sometimes, when I go about my day, words and stories are swirling around in my head just crying out to be written down here. But I've been working, a lot. Which is great because they are fantastic fun projects with great people.  And while working full time takes the pressure off financially, it leaves little time for creativity, writing and gardening, and I miss that. It's a dilemma isn't it? How to balance work with creativity.  How do you manage it?

Two things I wanted to tell you about, firstly about a fantastic campaign our local council have launched to celebrate the people, produce and places of the Huon Valley called, well,  The Huon.  I was thrilled to be invited to part of the campaign and you can see the gorgeous short film they made below.

Check it out...

And the second thing is that I'm heading to the Tamar Valley Writers Festival this weekend. It's an incredible program with some truly inspiring writers. I'm feeling nervously excited!

I'll be on two panels, one with Peter Cundall, and one with Tino Carnevale.  That's a life goal unlocked right there.

Next week, I am going to try and write more here, stories about the plums, and apples, the cakes and Rayburn, because that's what I like.  See you then! x

Above photo of me by the very clever Nick Osborne who made the short film.

Perth Writers Festival 2016

Hello! How's your summer?

I thought I'd pop in to let you know that I'm heading to Perth for the Writers Festival in February.  I've never been to Perth so it's pretty cool that not only do I get to finally visit but I also get to chat with bookish foodie types.

I'll be taking part in three sessions, talking about some of my favourite things like food, dreaming, and cosiness with people that I love an admire such as Pip Lincolne, ace blogger and crafty type: Anna Jones, chef, writer and food stylist and mate of Jamie Oliver: Sophie Zalokar nearly all of Maggie Beer's books mention Sophie, so I'll be so pleased to meet finally her IRL and Valli Little, legendary food writer and editor.

Here's the details of the three sessions.

Dare to Dream Saturday 20 Feb 10am 
With Sophie Zalokar and Alice Zaslavsky we'll be discussing turning your food dreams into a reality.

Book Here

Eating With The Eyes Saturday 20 Feb 1pm
I'll be joining food stylists Anna Jones and Valli Little for this one.

The old adage that we eat with our eyes couldn't be more relevant given that, our first response when a dish is served is often to whip out a smartphone, photograph the meal and share it online.  

How does the presentation of our food affect our enjoyment of it?  

Book Here

Hygge Sunday 21 Feb 1pm
I am so excited that I get to chat with my pal Pip Lincolne about our recipe for happiness! (But first I better learn how to pronounce Hygge!)

The Danish word 'hygge' is usually translated into English as 'social cosiness' or "wellbeing'

It's a way of life rooted in togetherness and appreciating life's joys, and it's one of the reasons the people of Denmark are some of the happiest in the world.  Should Australians take a leaf out of the Dane's book? 

Book Here 

If you're around come and say hello! And let me know, do you think it will be too hot for gumboots?

Raspberry and white chocolate bundt cake

Hello! Happy New Year to you!

We've been spending long lazy days around here scoffing our faces with cherries, peaches and raspberries.  And quite rightly too, it's the least we can do to support our local farmers, right? 

But sometimes the kitchen calls and it's time to bake a cake. I've been falling in love with bundt cakes recently. I love their shape, they're easy to serve plus let's face it, they look magnificent without too much faffing once they're out of the tin.  My favourite tins are from the * Nordic Ware range, incredibly solid (so solid, you'll be passing them on to your grandkids) with lovely vintage shapes. 

Most cake recipes can be adapted to fit into a bundt tin although they do have a tendency to dry out, so I prefer recipes that are on the moist side, with a rich batter laden with lots of yoghurt or buttermilk. 

This one makes good use of the raspberries in the garden, and the 2 litres of creme fraiche I made that's lurking in the fridge. Although you can easily swap it for thick Greek style yoghurt or sour cream.

Raspberry and White Chocolate Bundt Cake 

225g softened unsalted butter
200g sugar 
2 tsp vanilla

250g plain flour 
60g ground almonds 
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda 
1/2 tsp salt 

3 large eggs
240g creme fraiche, yoghurt or sour cream
85 g of white chocolate chips, chopped into small pieces if large
250g raspberries 

Icing sugar for dusting 

Preheat oven to 180 C

Grease and flour a 9 cup bundt tin.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter, vanilla and sugar on a high speed until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, sift dry ingredients into a large bowl and using a whisk, stir to combine.

Add the eggs, one at time beating for 20 seconds after each one to combine.

Gradually add the dry ingredients in three batches, alternating with the creme fraiche and mix on high for 20 seconds, scrape down the sides to ensure thoroughly mixed.

Fold in the white chocolate chips and raspberries.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and smooth the top.

Bake 55 - 65 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the centre.

Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

I like a dusting of icing sugar over the top to show off the pretty shapes. You can serve with thick cream and fresh raspberries if you like but it's perfectly good on its own.

* I thought I'd mention that Williams and Sonoma sent me some bakeware to try, and this is one of the resulting recipes. All thoughts and opinions are my own.