Lemon Rush

Not sure about everyone else, but I’m ready for the warmer weather to start. I’ve just about cooked everything in my winter repertoire and my taste buds are ready for a change! Is it just me or do we all seem to stick with the tried an tested recipes? I think it’s a time/effort scenario. In winter if I can cook it in bulk and freeze leftovers I’m happy, or just throw everything in the pan and let it cook by itself. I’ll sometimes try a new variation-but mostly it’s the same dish just re-worked. Lamb shanks got a re-work this year. Traditionally I’ve gone the Italian route with a tomato base sauce, but this year I was into the Moroccan spices. You can find my recipe in list above or in a previous post here. The addition of dried apricots, prunes and chickpeas made for a nice change in many of the Moroccan dishes I tried, but the one I really loved was the preserved lemons. The sharp fresh flavour of the lemons was just so good. Sharp & fresh aren’t usually words you associate with winter cooking. Anyway we have an abundance of lemons this year so I thought I’d give it a go and preserve some of our lemons.
This is a recipe based on the one in Stephanie Alexander’s book “The Cooks Companion”

Preserved Lemons & Lemon Curd
Preserved Lemons
250g Coarse Kitchen Salt
10 Lemons, washed and cut into quarters
1 Bay Leaf
2-3 Cloves
extra lemon juice
Place a spoon full of salt into a sterilised jar (approx.1 litre capacity)
In a separate dish mix the lemons and salt. Stephanie suggested massaging the skin…I think this would have been easier before I’d cut the lemons.
Place the lemon quarters into the jar along with the bay leaf and cloves. Press down on the lemons as you go to release as much juice as possible. I found that squeezing each piece as I put it into the jar helped released more juice. Place any leftover salt into the jar along with the extra lemon juice. The idea is that the lemons are covered by the juice. I found that I was a little short on the juice so I topped it up with some boiling water. I also added 2 extra teaspoons of salt so that the brine remained salty enough.
In every recipe that I’ve read they always mention that if the lemons are not covered by the brine they can develop a white mould on them. Apparently its harmless-it just looks yuck!You can probably see from the picture of mine that because the jar wasn’t packed tight with lemons so when I added the extra water they floated to the top. I’m not sure if this is going to effect the end result-we’ll just have to wait and see. I did get a tip from my friend Natalie from at Moore Farm Fresh Produce. She sliced her lemons so they sat flat in the jar. This allowed her to stack them up to the top of the jar. Clever! I think I’ll try this next time.

Almond Cake with Lemon Syrup


So the weather forecast was not entirely correct. Go figure!!
Saturday was ok, so I managed to ride both of my horses, weed around the fruit trees and give them a little fertiliser. (aka horse poo that I’d picked up.) I then tackled a few of the more mundane household task that I had been putting off. Funny how they don’t magically disappear even when you ignore them….
Sunday was cold and raining. Most people would find this depressing but I found it just perfect for relaxing by the fire reading my book, drinking cups of tea and eating cake. Almond cake with lemon syrup to be precise. With lemons from our very own tree! Recipe below. Hope you enjoy.

Cake

4 eggs
1 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
150g melted butter
1 cup almonds- (1 cup almonds blitzed in the food processor)

Lemon Syrup

1 cup caster sugar

1/2 cup water

1 tsp vanilla extract or essence
2 Lemons thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 160C and grease either a large loaf tin or a square cake tin.
Note for young players- a loaf tin works best. The cake takes longer to cook in the square tin and you risk the outer edges drying out.

Lemon syrup; combine the sugar, water and vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the lemon slices and simmer for 15 minutes or until they are completely soft. Arrange the slices on the base of your cake tin and then pour in the syrup.
For the cake batter; combine the eggs, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk for 10 minutes, or until the mixture is pale and tripled in volume. Fold in the flour and baking powder. Then gently fold in the butter and almonds.
Spoon batter into the cake tin, smooth over the top and bake for 45 minutes or until cooked through. Let rest for about 5 minutes then turn out onto a platter making sure to collect all of the syrup. Serve as it is or with vanilla ice cream!! 

Wednesday …with a view to the weekend

Is this just the most perfect time of year? Look at the weather forecast for the weekend. PERFECTION.

I’ll be making the most of the beautiful days. The garden is starting to look a bit tired but there is still plenty to do before the winter frost arrive. Weeding and mulching around the citrus trees will be first on the list. Also draping nets over the trees to protect the fruit from the cockatoos. It’s such a shame because the trees look so beautiful when they are loaded with fruit. However nothing breaks your heart more than to see all of the almost ripe fruit laying on the ground. 
The cooler weather also means we light the fire at night. Our nights look a lot like this…

We’ve also been busy preparing the villa for our guest over winter.
Check out the website to see the new photo’s.
www.vallelaguna.com.au

Another Job for Winter

There is nothing I love more in winter than sitting in front of the fire and gazing into the flames. The  warmth seems to reach into every corner of the room. What I dont love is the extra work that it creates. Aside from the work involved in collecting and stacking the fire wood, there is the monotonous task of cleaning it out each day and re-setting it.
I’m not sure if it’s the type of wood that is being burnt or the effect of a slow smouldering fire that causes the glass to turn black. Whatever it is, it’s a nightmare to clean. Over the years I’ve tried many different methods of cleaning it off. Hot soapy water, Gumption, vinegar & bi carb soda. None really worked that well and they all made a huge mess. Then out of the blue my Mum gave me the secret recipe. In my world this is what’s known as a “Game Changer”.

Take a few pieces of newspaper, scrunch them up then dampen them slightly with plain old water. Dip it into the cold ash at the bottom of the fire. Using a circular motion wipe the inside of the glass. Hey Presto! The ash makes a fine abrasive paste that takes off the burnt on black soot.

 It might take a few pieces of paper to get it totally clean, but I just throw them into the fire and they dry out by the time you need to re light the fire. If you do this at the first sign of discoloration then it’s a 2 second job.

 

 

Week Of Wild Weather

Wow! Can we just take a moment to reflect on this week of crazy weather? I mean really enough already.

Monday & Tuesday saw us flooded out of the farm. The creeks came up so quickly. I feel nobody was really prepared for this flood. Previously when we’ve had flood warnings or the creeks are “up” and they predict more heavy rain you assume that flooding is likely so you get yourself prepared. Add wind gust of over 100klm per hour and its serious stuff.  Come Friday the water levels had dropped so we were able to get into the farm to asses any damage. Luckily there was no damage to the house or villas, and we only had a few trees down across the fire trails. Others in the Hunter Valley were not so lucky. Tragically 4 people were killed in flood waters and may people lost their homes.
Due to the widespread damage across the region it took 7 days for the power to be restored.

 
Saturday afternoon brought the second wave of freaky weather in the form of a hail storm. Sydney was hit the worst, but we got a light covering of hail that made the paddocks look like a winter wonderland.

 
Some of these photos are mine, others I’ve taken from the Wollombi Fire & Flood Face Book page. The FB page is run by volunteers who do the most amazing job in keeping people connected in times of crisis. Community spirit at its best!
 

Winter Wardrobe

It’s February and there is the tiny hint of change in the air. The nights are getting cooler and a few of the leaves have started to dry out and slowly change colour. I cant wait for winter. Crazy? Maybe, but it’s my favourite season. I love everything about winter.
The “first drop” of winter fashion has started to arrive in stores. This is my signal to start sorting.  What I have, what I need and what I want. Over the years I’ve developed my own style. The outfit’s I wear time and time again. The things that work for me and suit my lifestyle. It’s one of the many things I enjoy about getting older. No longer do I feel the need to spend a small fortune on this season must have. I might pick one or two things replace something that is worn out or add a splash of this seasons colour, but overall I stick with what I know suits me and suits my lifestyle. I like the ease of winter layering. Starting with a simple silhouette of core pieces then adding scarves, jackets, hats, gloves, and boots. So what are my core pieces for winter?
Weekend/casual wear will always be jeans or tights, a fine wool jumper and a jacket. Depending on what I’m doing I’ll wear boots or flats. I then pull the look together with a scarf.  I’ve also fallen hard for the poncho over the last few seasons. It’s a more relaxed and fun look than the jacket and it a great way to breath new life into the core basics. 

 

Looking at what women have been wearing in the northern hemisphere over winter I’m predicting cobalt blue as this season colour. 


I also noticed a lot of lace up shoes. I’m approaching this trend with caution. It could be tricky. Much like over the knee boot where it’s a fine line between chic and cheap, this flat lace  up could have you looking totally on trend or like you are wearing school shoes.

Summer Days. Heat & Humidity

Summer can be a very unforgiving season in the country. One year the talk is all about how dry it is and our desperate need for rain. The cost of hand feeding stock can be devastating to farmers.
 This year we have the opposite.  Heat and humidity. OMG!the humidity.  It sucks the life out of you like nothing else. On extreme days, any outside work is restricted to early morning or late afternoon. For all that bemoaning, there are some very big positives.  Add high rainfall to the heat & humidity and you have the best possible grass growing weather. Perfect for fat, content cattle and overflowing rain tanks. Not so perfect for keeping lawns & weeds under control.

35 mill of rain over 7 days + Average daytime temp of 32 degrees = Happy Farming.