Friday, 27 June 2014

Friday baking- Lemon Syrup Cake

So the end of another week has quickly arrived. And what a week….I thought winter had already arrived but oh no…it had just been teasing us with a wet month and dreary weather. The icy winds came a knocking this week and the wind has been chilling. Our kids have all had head colds and that horrible barking cough. There have been a few sleepless nights and even a midnight panic of should we head to the emergency ward and get this heavy whiziness checked out??? Thankfully they seem to be on the mend- a sign of this is 'back to active' kids racing around the house and creating complete kaos!

Yesterday I drove over to Barham which is about an hours drive to the west of Echuca. I met with Katrina and Tim Myers who own and run a fantastic farming business called Barham Avocados. Its hard to think that avocados can be grown here, but they do and the Myers certainly know how to grow beautiful and delicious Avocados! Im looking forward to sharing more about their business next week.

But, I have digressed a bit from todays recipe. As its been a week or so since my last lemon post, our tree is well and truly bursting with ripe fruit. Im so excited the day has finally come that we can just go out and pick lemons off the tree as we need them. It also does mean though that we have quite a few to chomp through and there are lots of new blossoms and young fruit starting to form too…so we won't be running out in the near future.

I can't quite remember where I found this Lemon Syrup cake recipe. I think it was found in a magazine back in the nineties during my Uni days. I handwrote it into my cooking journel and it has been one of those favourite cakes that never fails. I hope you enjoy it too!

Lemon Syrup Cake
250g unsalted butter, softened
The zest from a  finely grated lemon
1 cup caster sugar
4 large eggs, mixed together lightly
2 cups self raising flour with 1 teaspoon baking powder-mixed together and put aside
100ml milk
juice of one lemon

2/3 cup caster sugar
juice of 1 lemon

Heat oven to 180 deg celcius. Lightly grease and line with baking paper a 23 cm cake tin. Preferably springform.

Beat butter, sugar and zest together for 5-7 minutes or until mix is light and 'fluffy' in appearance.
Whilst still mixing, add the egg in four doses. In between each addition of egg, add a tablespoon of the flour and baking powder. Once eggs has been added, mix in remaining flour. Add the milk and lemon juice and gently continue to mix until combined. The mix is quite thick and foamy looking- so don't stress if you think it looks like it has curdled!
Pour cake mix into the cake tin then place in oven for 40-50 minutes, or until golden brown on top and skewer comes out clean when you poke into the centre of the cake.
Whilst cake is baking, quickly make up your syrup simply by putting bith sugar and juice into a small saucepan and stirring until sugar has dissolved. Then boil gently for a few minutes. Turn off heat and put aside to cool down a bit.
When cake is ready, place on a cooling rack (still in tin and straight from oven). Using a skewer, poke lots of holes into the top of the cake. Then pour over the warm syrup. Dont panic, it make look like a lot but the cake will absorb it. Once you have made it a few times you can alter the amount of syrup to your own liking.

You can drizzle over a simple lemon icing but I actually find it too sweet and prefer having it as is.
This cake can be frozen for up to a month- always a bonus! I have also made mini versions and patty cakes too- cooking time is just adjusted to whatever size you are baking- keep checking.

This cake is so moist and bursting with lemony flavours. 
Serve with some cream or lovely natural yoghurt. 
My kids love having this with cream or custard for dessert.

Hope you all have a warm and relaxing weekend……xx

Monday, 23 June 2014

Let's get Pickled!

I love a good cheese platter. But for me what makes a good cheese platter is the sight of some sort of pickled veggie or a caramelised fruit (think fig). Not only do they add some fun colour to the platter but they are a perfect accompaniment to your classic cheese combo's.

Ive been making these sweet pickled peppers for many years. The recipe came from a friend who gave me a jar as a Christmas gift. I fell instantly in love with them. So sweet and sticky and so incredibly moreish. My Dad is also a huge fan and often very subtly drops hints that his supply needs replenishing.

The time to make these is obviously when you spy cheap red capsicums. Last week I found some for $2 a kilo, so I stocked up and came home to pickle away.

The bread and butter cucumbers are a fairly recent find (despite being around for a very long time). On each visit, our good friend Stacey always brings up her latest batch of home made jam (which are delicious!!) but also a jar of her Mum's bread and butter cucumbers. Anne makes the best ever bread & butter cucumbers. They never last long in our house so I decided to sift through every CWA cookbook I have looking for a classic recipe. Oddily enough I didnt find what I was looking for. So, I turned to google and was drawn to this recipe.

Sweet Pickled Peppers
6 capsicums
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1 tablespoon finely grated garlic
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
Cut capsicums into half then de-seed. Then slice into thin pieces. Put in a large bowl and sprinkle with about 3 tablespoons of salt. Mix through and leave overnight. The salt helps to draw out the water from the capsicum.
The next day, rinse capsicums well. Put all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to boil, then turn down heat and allow to simmer for at least an hour. Spoon capsicum and syrup into sterilised bottles.
Serve with your favourite cheese. Goes particularly well with brie, camembert or cheddar.

Bread & Butter Cucumber-  Recipe from Lizzie Moult and her blog Strayed from the Table
5 large lebanese cucumbers, trimmed and sliced into 5mm thick slices
1 medium brown onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons salt
375ml apple cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon tumeric powder
1 teaspoon black peppercorns

Place the cucumber, onion and salt into a bowl stirring the salt to coat the vegetables. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for 2-3 hours. Rinse the cucumber mix in a colander and pat dry with paper towel to remove all excess water.
In a medium to large pot, place the remaining ingredients and stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Add the cucumber mix and bring to boil.
Transfer the mixture into steralised bottles or jars and seal. Set aside for a week to allow flavours to develop. Keep jars in a cool dark place. They will last up to a year (unless in our house where they disappear rather quickly!). Refrigerate once opened. Goes perfectly with a mature and crumbly cheddar. Oh, and dont forget the wine!

So, are you a fan of the pickled veggie?

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Our favourite Chocolate Fudge Cake

Today is sunny, but cold and fresh….a lovely winter's day, well, the sort I love if it's going to be cold!

Such a lovely day calls for a delicious chocolate cake, and this one is a family favourite.

I wish so much I could share how good our house is smelling right now as I type this post…..Im wafting into chocoholics nirvana…..

As with all my recipes on this blog, this is easy and relatively quick. The only catch is the melting of the chocolate, butter, sugar and coffee- which needs to cool before continuing the baking process. So, it's not the kind of cake you can whip up in 20 mins, however, if you have a craving (and trust me its definitely a cake to crave for…) then I normally do my 'melting' before or during breakfast. Let it sit, and after everyone is dressed, the odd pre school drop off and so on, the mixture is cool. Add remaining ingredients, then bake and voila….the result will be a very memorable morning tea!

Our Favourite Chocolate Fudge Cake
250g butter, diced
150g dark chocolate, in pieces
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup strong coffee
1 cup self raising flour
1/2 cup cocoa
2 eggs
3/4 cup ground almonds

Preheat oven to 180 deg celcius. Grease and line a 22cm springform cake tin.

Place butter, chocolate, sugar and coffee in a large saucepan. Cook over a medium heat stirring until it melts. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl and leave to cool.
Add sifted flour and cocoa to melted chocolate mix. Then fold in eggs and almond meal. Mix until well combined. Pour into cake tin and bake for about 45 minutes, or until skewer is clean when inserted into middle of cake. Allow cake to cool before icing.

Chocolate Ganache
2 tablespoon cream
90g dark chocolate, chopped

Warm cream to just below boiling then remove from heat. add chocolate pieces and stir until well combined. Drizzle over cake.

Recipe from one of my favourite 'go to' cookbooks- In the Kitchen by Allan Campion & Michele Curtis

Now it is time to sign off and go eat some cake……xxx

Friday, 13 June 2014

When life gives you lemons……

Last week I was very lucky to be given a few bags full of lemons from both my Mum and my Mother in Law.  Our tree is also full of fruit which have just turned yellow but still need another week or so to ripen up completely. Ive been waiting for this moment for…well, ages! I love lemons and have been frustrated seeing them in the supermarket for such ridiculous prices. I use lemons alot in our kitchen, although, like avocados over the summer, I stopped buying them. Now it seems we have a glut…but Im ok with that!

Today's cooking session involved making some delicious lemon curd and then using the curd to make some simple tarts and friands. Curd is so versatile and handy to have in the fridge if wanting a quick dessert or adding it to a cake for an extra something special. Its even just lovely to have on a toasted muffin for a snack.

Lemon Curd

75g butter
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup caster sugar
Juice and finely grated rind of 2 lemons- I used Meyer Lemons

Melt butter in a metal bowl or saucepan over a larger saucepan filled with some barely simmering hot water. Once melted, whisk in eggs. Add the sugar and whisk until thoroughly combined. Still whisking continuously, add the lemon juice and zest. Cook over simmering water for about 20 minutes, stirring often, until thickened. Allow to cool to room temperature. Pour into a steralised jar and keep in fridge.

Recipe from Falling Cloudberries- Tessa Kiros

Lemon Curd Friands

1/2 cup plain flour
1 1/2 cups ground almonds
1/3 cup icing sugar, sifted
5 large egg whites
200g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
fine zest of 1 lemon
5 teaspoons of lemon curd
Icing sugar to dust tops of cake- optional
Natural Yoghurt or cream to serve- optional 

Pre heat the oven to 180 deg celcius. Grease and lightly dust with flour 10-12 hole friand pan really well. Set aside.

Mix the flour, ground almonds and sugar together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with a fork until foamy. Add to the almond mixture along with the butter and lemon zest, stirring to combine with a wooden spoon. Spoon into the prepared pan, dividing the mixture equally amongst the holes. Top each friend with 1/2 teaspoon of lemon curd. Use a toothpick to swirl the lemon curd lightly through the batter.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until a light golden brown. Remove from the oven. Let sit for a few minutes before loosening with a knife and removing to a wire rack to finish cooling completely. Dust the tops with some icing sugar- optional. You can serve these with some extra lemon curd for spooning and whipped cream or natural yoghurt if desired.

Recipe source found here on The English Kitchen Blog

Tart Cases

70g butter, slightly softened
30g sugar
70g plain flour
25g ground almonds
pinch of salt

Cream together the butter and sugar with wooden spoon or hands. Add the flour, ground almonds and  salt and mix well, using your hands when it becomes a little stiff, until the pastry comes together. I found the mix to be a bit 'wet' but just dusted in flour then shaped into a disc. Wrap with some cling wrap and place in fridge for 30 minutes. You can also choose to freeze the pastry at this stage if you want.

Grease and lightly dust with flour a shallow tart case tin. Once rested, take pastry out of fridge and roll out on a dusted bench top to about 5mm thickness. Cut out 12 or so circles to fit your tart tin. Place pastry in tin and place a small cut out square of greaseproof paper in each case followed by some baking beads or beans before blind baking for about 8-10 mins. Cases should come out with a golden glow. You could even bake for 6 or so minutes , take out of oven, remove paper and beads then put back in oven for remaing few minutes. Allow cases to cool once out of oven. Gently remove- these cases are quite delicate so be careful. Once cool, fill with curd…..mine were quite rustic looking but I actually dont mind the look! If you want to cheat, just buy some pre made cases from your local deli or supermarket, or even use some frozen sweet shortcrust pastry. I can say though this pastry is lovely and not difficult to make so definitely worth making.

Recipe from Falling Cloudberries- Tessa Kiros

This weekend I plan on baking some the all time favourite lemon slice which disappears very quickly in our house and perhaps this lemon and blueberry tea cake.

Have a great weekend!! xx

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

This little piggy went to…… Bundarra Berkshires

Just down the road from my favourite egg farmers, a few kilometres east of Barham (Southern NSW) you will find another wonderful farming business- Bundarra Berkshires

Owned and run by Lauren and Lachy Mathers, 'Bundarra Berkshires' is a 100 acre free range, pig farm. The Mather's breed Berkshire pigs which are reknown for producing very flavoursome and tender meat. The pigs roam free and graze on natural pastures. Happy pigs make for delicious meat!

Despite Bundarra Berkshires being an hours drive away from where I live, it was still a good opportunity to call in to visit their farm, meet Lauren and buy fresh meat that was literally cut up in front of me. Lauren is a self taught butcher who is an absolute whizz in their farmstead butchery. The great thing about visiting is that you really get a better understanding of where your produce comes from and the hardwork and dedication that this family puts into raising their animals and supplying us, the consumer, with a top quality product. It was lovely watching Lauren's two small daughters race around on their bikes outside whilst we chatted about pigs, farming and food.

Lauren and Lachy are very much involved in the local farming community and Lauren in particular is involved with quite a few food groups. They are a part of The Backroads Trail and Red Gum Food Group, which both do a great  job in promoting the food producers of the area. Their farm is proof of their iniative, passion and hardwork in building up a hobby in to a successful business and a wonderful 'one stop farm shop'. 

Through a recent crowdfunding event they managed to raise about $18,000 which will be used to build a commercial kitchen and a dry curing chamber along side their butchery,  enabling them to make all their own small goods on farm.

They also run a few Workshops on sausage making, butchering a whole hog and also how to cure and smoke your meat in the traditional way. On the 21st of this month they will be hosting Hogfest which is a winter weekend workshop where you will learn how to butcher a whole pig and make all sorts of delicious small good pieces. Includes a long lunch and optional to stay on for dinner and camping. Check out the website for more details….Sounds like a fun weekend for any foodie or wannabe home butcher!

For more details on where and how you can purchase some Bundarra Berkshires pork please see their   website.

And if you live or are visiting Melbourne and don't feel like cooking but rather prefer dining out, you can still experience Bundarra Berkshires Pork at Movida Aqui, Movida Original, Bar Nacional, Pope Joan, The Majority-Brunswick. Locally you will find Bundarra Berkshires Pork at the Long paddock Food Store, Koondrook.

I have to say, my visit to Bundarra Berkshires was so much nicer than the usual visit to the supermarket… it's time to cook up my pork goodies! xx

Bundarra Berkshires
929 East Barham Road, Barham, NSW
Ph. 03 54532392 or 0458 532333

Follow on Facebook or Twitter

Recently nominated for the 2014 ABC Delicious Produce Awards (well done guys!!!)

Monday, 9 June 2014

Shopping Local at Wallingford Flowers, Echuca

I thought today I would tease you all with some images I took from a recent visit catch up with local Echuca florist and Flower Queen, Lisa O'Connell from Wallingford Flowers.

Lisa runs her business from a gorgeous old dairy at the rear of her family home on the outskirts of Echuca. She specialises mainly in weddings and other special functions and her floral arrangements can be found in quite a few well known restaurants and venues around Echuca, such as Oscar W's, Perricoota Station, Tindarra resort, Morrison's Winery, Perricoota Vines Retreat,,,,,just to name a few.

With 26 years experience up her sleeve,  Lisa has quite a big and impressive portfolio. She offers a very personalised experience which is exactly what you want when organising a special event.

The day I visit Lisa, her studio is full of flowers (Lisa tells me she has a few weddings and a bridal expo to prepare for). The old dairy is bursting with character and has a very quaint and inviting feel to it, making a visit to Wallingford Flowers a very personal one. You can't help but love the cornflower blue door and a gorgeous old vintage chandaleir hanging from the ceiling, which I think says alot about Lisa's style and her warm and bubbly personality.

Lisa tries to source her flowers as locally as possible, but also from a specialist buyer to ensure the quality is high. Surrounding the studio is Lisa's lovely garden and in particular a beautiful rose bed filled with all types of roses which are also used in her floral arrangements. As you drive up the front driveway you will see a paddock filled with lavender that Lisa uses as well.

Throughout the year Lisa offers a few flower workshops which are held in the old dairy. A lovely and fun way to spend a day with friends and learning some new skills. More information can be found by following on Wallingford Flower's facebook page, or contact Lisa directly.

For more information or to arrange an appointment with Lisa, please contact-
 Wallingford Flowers
9179 Murray Valley Highway, Echuca
Phone- 0414 709376
Stay up to date with Facebook and Instagram

Friday, 6 June 2014

Catching up with Emma from She Sows Seeds

She Sows Seeds is a blog written by the very talented and clever Emma Steendam. Emma writes about snippets of her life, living in rural Gippsland, Victoria, with her farmer husband and soon to arrive Baby.

I have been following Emma's blog now for about a year. Back then, Emma and her husband were living and working over in South Australia on a farm. Earlier this year they moved back closer to family and friends, to their home region of Gippsland.

Emma shares stories about their life in a rural community, setting up a home and growing a garden. She is very handy with a crochet hook and a sewing machine, and a real whizz in the kitchen. She is also a professional photographer, so her photos are always a delight to look at. And to add to all of that, Emma even has her own online store selling all her own homemade children's wear and accessories, called Little Miss Emma- definitely worth having a look!

Emma is currently 38 weeks pregnant (as this post goes to air!) and so She Sows Seeds has also been a lovely way to document her pregnancy and for Emma to share this special and personal journey along with her thoughts and plans for motherhood.

What I love about this blog, is that for me it represents pure and simple country living. Emma's stories and photos are what I yearn to see in Country living magazines…..for me, this is what real country living is all about!  I love that her content varies- recipes, crafty DIY tutorials, garden updates,  decorating her home,  thoughts on living in a rural community and now the excitement of a baby soon to arrive, which will no doubt add another lovely dimension to Emma's blog. She Sows Seeds is beautifully written; romantic yet real. Emma is incredibly passionate about rural living and supporting the farming community. My visits to She Sows Seeds are like catching up with a dear friend. And did I mention….Gorgeous photos- Emma can make even a mint plant look simply amazing…see below!

So today on our "Catching up with" series,  Im thrilled to introduce the very lovely and very heavily pregnant Emma Steendam……x

1. What do you love most about living in the country?
Gosh - where to begin...the space, the freedom, the slow pace, not having (close by) neighbours, the sense of community. I do love Melbourne, and lived in the city during uni and boarding school, but my heart belongs to the country, after a weekend in the big smoke it's always nice to come home.

2. Name three things you currently can't live without?
A crochet hook nearby (I have way too many projects on the go at once!), orange juice I've craved throughout my pregnancy and my comfy pillow I sleep with these days as I'm 37 weeks pregnant and getting a bit uncomfortable with not much sleep!

3. How would you define your personal style and where do you find your inspiration and creative ideas from?
I think my style is a combination of modern country farmhouse, a bit of French provincial, a bit of classic Cape Cod, a bit of vintage eclectic. It depends on my mood! I love to scour markets like Camberwell or Glen Waverley bazaar and antique and vintage shops, and although our home is bursting at the seams I still like to look and get inspiration, sometimes for an idea to evolve into a crafty blog post or decorating idea. 

4. Tea or coffee…?
Tough call...but probably coffee. Good coffee.

5. Favourite time of the day?
First thing in the morning at the moment as I'm getting up super early with my pregnancy insomnia! The day is fresh and anything could happen, full of possibility. My husband makes me breakfast, I make the coffee, simple stuff.
6. Why did you start your blog, She Sows Seeds?
I've blogged since early 2008, first as 'Little Miss Emma' (my handmade children's wear business) and then as 'Cinderella at Brindabella' when we moved home to Gippsland to my family's farm. After our wedding we packed up our life, sold our car and dogs, quit our jobs and headed north indefinitely, working on a cattle station in outback Queensland and then traveling around Australia. I blogged about our adventures on 'The Happy Campers'. When we finally returned and back to reality, I craved having a home and garden again, I'm a total nester at the best of times, and I really missed having a consistent blog full of content that I was passionate about. 'She Sows Seeds' was born just as we embarked on a new adventure living and working on the Limestone Coast in South Australia. As I'd changed blogging identities so much over the years I wanted She Sows Seeds to be my 'forever home' for blogging. I try to keep content simple to homely things, gardening, baking, sewing, decorating and crafty bits and pieces. She Sows Seeds tries to celebrate a simple country lifestyle that we try to lead, with a focus on rural living and farming.  

7. Some favourite blogs you love following?
I'm addicted to Beth over at BabyMac, I also love Kate from Foxs Lane, Jodi from Practising Simplicity, Em from The Beetle Shack. There's some chicks in the Aussie blogosphere kicking some serious butt at the moment.

8. Dream job?
I think I have it right now! I'm a freelance photographer (currently on maternity leave) - I studied photography for three years at university, majoring in commercial photography so probably should be taking photos for car advertising campaigns or something...instead I point my lens at things I bake for the blog, newborn babes, happy families and lovely couples on their wedding day. I have a love/hate relationship with the type of work I do - sometimes I absolutely love doing weddings and children's shoots, but I also like to keep my hand in the commercial field for magazines and businesses to keep my commercial photography brain ticking. 

9. Favourite recipe (at the moment)? If recipe on blog- can link to!
I made this pear and walnut custard tart recently which was a bit of a hit, the shortcrust pastry is super easy to make in a food processor and my husband is a huge custard lover so this went down a treat... (photo below).

10. Current DIY project?
So many! I'm desperately trying to put the finishing touches on our baby's nursery, if you could see our lounge room at the moment there are about seven crochet projects strewn across the couches and coffee table and floor! I'm working on a giant doily floor rug which is causing me a bit of grief, as well as several baby blankets because I just couldn't decide which one to make so I'm making about five! I've also got some little overalls for our cousin's little baby's 1st birthday on my sewing machine I need to finish off. Always unfinished items floating about!

Some delicious home cooking….image from here.

Image from here.

Some pre baby crafting….image from here.

and here.

A few travel stories…..image from here.

A bit of gardening….image from here.

 Some gorgeous photos around Emma's home……

and, life in the country….both images from here.

If you haven't already discovered She Sows Seeds, please pop over and say hello to Emma.
I know her gorgeous blog won't disappoint you.
It's definitely worthy of a pot of tea and some alone time so you can emerse yourself in Emma's lovely life in country Victoria.

Stay up to date with She Sows Seeds on Bloglovin, Facebook and Instagram.

Special thanks to Emma for taking the time to partake in 'Our Catching Up With' Series, especially being so close to having her baby. Best wishes Emma and I look forward to reading the next instalment of She Sows Seeds- The Next Generation!
Such exciting times ahead for you both! xx

All images courtesy of Emma Steendam, She Sows Seeds.

Enjoy xx