A Thank You Carrot Cake For A Special Lady!

This is a little extra post for a lovely lady, who has always been so supportive throughout my blogging journey! And yesterday, I was extra thrilled when she wrote a special post just for me! How sweet is that! Here is the link: https://chronicleofellen.wordpress.com/2017/02/28/follow-mrs-blooms-shes-got-cake/.

We share so many interests from craft to baking, books, the environment and the good life!  And while she is a far more accomplished knitter and crocheter than I am (or ever will be!), I still gain so much from her woolly posts, as can be evidenced by my recent martenitsas! Her post on ‘If Craft Were Outlawed’  was a classic and a standout in my memory! See: https://chronicleofellen.wordpress.com/2015/08/26/if-craft-was-outlawed/ .

I love her easy writing style and she’s always got something interesting to say or some fascinating project on the go, so be sure to check her out. And now, by way of thanks, a delicious carrot cake recipe, which I must admit is not mine, but borrowed from : The Essential Baking Cookbook by Murdoch Books 2000. I think we should call this ‘The Carrot Cake Award‘ for supportive fellow bloggers!!!blogsummer-gardenreszd20img_0896This is the recipe that I used for my St. Valentine’s Day Cake on Tuesday a fortnight ago, when I was a little desperate, as our food supplies were getting low and there were none of the usual cake ingredients like apples, oranges or lemons! BUT, we had carrots! Perfect! And because this recipe is normally for  a 23 cm (9 inch) round cake and the heart tin was smaller, I was able to use the leftover mixture to make a 13 cm (5 inch) tiny round cake for another special lady for her birthday three days later. I kept the cake in the fridge and was hoping it would still be fresh enough for the Friday and it was! Carrot Cake keeps so well – it’s just that this recipe is so delicious, it usually gets eaten in one sitting! So without further ado, here it is…!!! (Sorry about the slightly blurry photo- not one of my best!)blogcarrotcakereszd60%2017-02-17-11-39-42-copy-2Carrot Cake

Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius and line a 23 cm (9 inch) round tin with Gladbake.

Sift 1 cup (125 g) self-raising flour and 1 cup (125 g) plain flour; 2 tsp cinammon; 1 tsp ginger; and 1/2 tsp freshly-grated nutmeg; and 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl and make a well in the centre.

Whisk together in a jug : 1 cup (250 ml) oil (I usually use grapeseed oil); 1 cup (185 g, though I normally reduce the amount of sugar by 1/3, so more like 125 g) soft brown sugar; 4 eggs; and 1/2 cup (175 g) golden syrup (though this time we had run out of golden syrup, so I used honey instead, which worked equally well!)

Pour liquids into the flour mixture and gradually stir in the dry ingredients with a metal spoon until smooth.

Stir in 2.5 cups (400 g) freshly-grated carrot and 1/2 cup (60 g) of chopped walnuts or pecans.

Spoon into tin and smooth the surface. Bake for 1.5 hours (I think my smaller cakes only took 45 minutes or so), or until an inserted skewer comes out dry and clean.

Leave the cake in the tin for at least 15 minutes, before turning it out onto a wire rack to cool.

I left out any icing, as my husband prefers cakes without it, though I did dust some sifted icing sugar over a heart-shaped stencil on the surface, then my artistic adviser helped me decorate around the edge of the cake with fresh rose petals, which looked superb! We finished it off with a pair of unopened pink rosebuds in the centre of the heart! Just perfect!!blogsummer-gardenreszd20img_0894BUT if you want to be truly decadent, here is the icing recipe and it is divine on this cake!

Lemon Icing

Beat 175 g softened cream cheese and 60 g softened butter with electric beaters until smooth. Gradually add 1.5 cups (185 g) sifted icing sugar, alternately with 1 tsp vanilla essence and 1 to 2 tsp lemon juice, beating until light and creamy. Spread the icing over the cooled cake, using a flat-bladed knife with a sprinkling of freshly-grated nutmeg on the top if desired. The cake can also be sliced in half horizontally, the two layers then sandwiched together with half the icing!blogsummer-gardenreszd20img_0891I’m sure this cake will become a new favourite, mind you I still really enjoy that apple cake…! Thank you again! xxx

Birthday Curry and Cardamom Cream Cake

It was my son’s birthday this month and since he loves curries, the hotter the better, we decided to celebrate with an Indian feast – beef curry with pappadums and a variety of vegetable sambals.BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-23 17.40.48 These recipes have been long-time favourites with my family. In fact, they are inherited from my childhood, when Mum used to make it using an early Indian cookbook called ‘Curries from the Sultan’s Kitchen’ by Doris M. Ady (Reed, 1968). As kids, we used to love mixing up all the fragrant and colourful spices. It was so much more exotic than the ubiquitous curry powder of the times! All of the recipes serve 4-6 people and we often had delicious leftovers for the next day.BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-23 17.40.52 Even though we have such a wealth of multicultural dishes these days compared to my childhood, the combination of all the different colours, textures, scents and flavours still makes these recipes a wonderful birthday treat and is indeed a feast for all the senses!

Indian Beef CurryBlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 14.03.41

Mince 6 garlic cloves, a 1 inch piece of ginger and 4 chillies and dice 1 onion. Dice 750g chuck steak. Measure out 60g ghee.*

Fry garlic, onion, ginger and chillies in some of the ghee.

Mix  spices in a separate bowl : 1 tbsp coriander; 2 tsp cumin; 1 tsp turmeric; 1 tsp mustard and 1 tsp poppy seeds. Reduce heat and add spices, cooking slightly. Remove from pan to a bowl.BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 14.08.46BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 14.10.07Using the rest of the ghee, fry the meat.BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 14.17.56Add spice/ onion mix and 1 cup beef broth. Cover and simmer on a low heat for 1.5-2 hours.BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 14.19.00Serve with rice, chapatis or pappadums; sambals and small bowls of sultanas; dessicated coconut; sliced banana; mango piecesmango chutney and plain yoghurt.BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-23 17.41.02* Note : Ghee is basically clarified butter. It comes in a green tin, but if you cannot source any ghee, you can make it yourself: Simmer 500g melted butter for 1.5 hours; Strain through a fine muslin into a metal container. Luckily, it is readily available from most supermarkets these days.

Green Apple SambalBlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 17.52.49Peel, core and dice 2 Granny Smith apples and squeeze over the juice of 1 lemon.

Add 1 sliced red or green capsicum, 1 finely sliced onion and 3 tbsp dessicated coconut, soaked in a little hot milk, sugar and salt.

Cucumber Sambal

Sprinkle 1 sliced cucumber with salt, rest for half an hour, then rinse in a colander in cold water. These days, we always use Lebanese cucumbers, which don’t need peeling or salting.

Grate 2 heaped tbsp frozen coconut cream and add to cucumber.

Flavour with lemon juice, salt and pepper.   OR

Cucumber and Yoghurt SambalBlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 17.40.27Cut 1 Lebanese cucumber into quarters lengthwise and slice finely. Remove seeds.

Add one quarter of red capsicum, sliced lengthwise and cut into 1 inch lengths.

Add 3-4 tbsp yoghurt, chopped chives, salt and pepper.

Tomato SambalBlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 17.40.30Chop 3-4 tomatoes roughly.

Add 2 sliced shallots, half a sliced capsicum, 1 tbsp dessicated coconut, a dash of vinegar, salt and pepper.

Green Mango Sambal

Peel and grate 1-2 green mangoes.

Mince a half inch piece of ginger, 1 fresh red chilli or a quarter red capsicum, diced finely.

Add 1 tbsp dessicated coconut, 1 tsp sugar and salt to taste.BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 17.53.02All these recipes can be made beforehand, so all you need to do on the night is steam the rice, heat up the curry and fry the pappadums. As kids, we used to love watching the latter bubble and swell as they quickly cooked! Just be careful of the hot oil, which tends to spit!BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 19.14.44BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 19.09.54

For dessert, we would often have a can of lychees with icecream, but since it was his birthday, I made him a Cardamom Cream Cake instead. I found the recipe on : http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1017901-cardamom-cream-cake

The recipe looked complicated, but the accompanying video made it look a lot easier!

Cardamom Cream CakeBlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 21.46.37Drain  680 g fresh, whole-milk ricotta in a fine mesh sieve placed in a large bowl for 1 to 2 hours until very thick (unless it already is very thick, in which case, eliminate this step!)

Make the milk syrup: It can be made 3 days beforehand and stored in the fridge.BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-20 15.05.31In a small saucepan, combine  475 ml whole milk and 4 cardamom pods. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer the milk until it reduces by half (30 -45 mins).

Stir in 75g  sugar until it dissolves, then continue to simmer until the mixture thickens to the texture of half and half, about 10 minutes longer.Let the mixture cool.

Strain the mixture to get rid of the cardamom and any coagulated milk, then stir in 1.5 tsp  rose water.

Make the cake:

Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line two 9-inch cake pans  with Gladbake. My tins were actually only 7-inches wide, but it doesn’t matter-it just means each cake is a little thicker, making it easier to slice in half!

Lightly whisk together 4 large egg whites, 240 ml whole milk, 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1/2 tsp rose water.BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-20 14.43.12Using an electric mixer, beat 170 g softened unsalted butter.

Sift 330g flour, 300g sugar, 20g baking powder, 1/2 tsp cardamom and 1/4 tsp fine sea salt and add to butter with a third of the milk-egg white mixture.BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-20 14.43.26Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed and beat for a minute or so until everything is very smooth.

Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the remaining milk mixture in 3 batches, beating well between additions. Scrape down the sides.BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-20 14.50.15Transfer the batter to the prepared pans and smooth top with a spatula. Bake 25-30 minutes till skewer comes out clean. Cool in the pans on racks for 20 minutes, then remove from tins and cool completely.BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-20 15.49.46BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-20 15.51.32Make the ricotta filling:BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 11.42.25Using an electric mixer, whisk drained ricotta, 120 ml heavy cream and 95g icing sugar until quite smooth (30 seconds).

Beat in 1 tsp rose water to taste. Beat on medium-high speed for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. The mixture will thicken.

Make the mascarpone frosting:BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 12.09.20Using an electric mixer, beat 170g unsalted butter, 125g  icing sugar, 1 tsp rose water and 1/2 tsp cardamom until fluffy, about 2 minutes.

On low speed, beat in 240 ml cold mascarpone and 60 ml cold Greek yogurt, until the mixture is just combined and looks smooth. Do not overbeat or the mixture may curdle. I was so careful to use the marscapone and yoghurt straight out of the fridge and underbeat, to the extent that it probably wasn’t quite as smooth as it should have been, but I was paranoid about botching the recipe and losing all the ingredients!

An easier frosting is to add the rosewater and cardamom to a standard cream cheese butter cream :

Beat 250g unsalted butter and 250g cream cheese till light and fluffy.

Beat in  2 cups icing sugar, 2 tbsp milk and 2 tsp vanilla.        OR

Ice the cake with whipped cream flavored with a little icing sugar, rose water and cardamom.

When the cakes have cooled:

Use a long serrated knife to trim the tops of the cakes, so the tops are flat and even. Then cut each cake in half into 2 layers, to make a 4-layer cake.BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 11.51.10Brush cake layers on all sides with milk syrup. Place one cake round on a cake stand or serving platter, then top with one third of the ricotta filling, leaving a small border around the edge of the cake. Repeat with the remaining cake layers and ricotta filling.BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 11.57.25BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 11.58.59Frost top and sides of the cake with the mascarpone frosting. Use strips of Gladbake under the cake so you don’t get icing all over the plate.BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 11.59.05BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 12.01.16BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 12.19.33BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 12.20.14 Top with 50g chopped and toasted pistachios and candied rose petals for garnish; chill until ready to serve.BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-23 19.33.49This cake was delicious! Very rich and very good for osteoporosis, though not so good for the waistline!!! I loved the rosewater and cardamom flavour, set off well by the pistachio topping! A great success and my son loved it!BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-24 14.02.52BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-24 14.02.00BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-24 14.02.24There are a number of different methods for making candied rose petals. I consulted a lovely little book in our home library called ‘Edible Flowers‘ by Claire Clifton. A variety of flowers can be used : tiny rose buds or rose petals; violets; mimosa; lilacs; cowslips; fruit or herb flowers and mint leaves. Pick them on a very dry day, remove all the stems and green, trim the white heels from the rose petals and wash and dry thoroughly. I discovered the reason for the latter advice when I picked a lovely LD Braithwaite rose, only to find 3 tiny snails also enjoying the petals. Be assured that I did not use the petals they were on and I did wash the rest of the rose very well! I also used our first violets for the season.BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-23 14.34.50BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 16.46.16BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-23 14.32.43

BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 16.47.40
Hitching a ride!

I chose the first method in the book, which was to cover all petal surfaces with beaten egg white, then dip each petal into caster sugar using tweezers and place on a baking tray in a warm oven with the door open to dry. Unfortunately, I mistook salt for caster sugar, so I had to start all over again! The egg white bubbled up in a messy glob, but I took most of it off and given the crystallized rose petals are sprinkled in little broken bits over the top of the cake, it didn’t really matter, but I might try a different method next time!!!BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 16.50.25BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-21 17.16.36BlogBirthdayCurry20%Reszd2016-04-24 14.03.00

 

 

 

 

Easter Baking

The Easter break can be a busy time, both for visiting or hosting visitors, so I thought a post on Easter baking would be useful with the holiday period fast approaching. I am going to share some old favourites with you : Mardi’s Date Loaf; Dutch Ginger Cake; Mrs. Wilson’s Walnut Cake and Speculaas, as well as some new favourites: Date and Ginger Cake; Easter Biscuits and finally, Annabel’s Ginger and Apricot Biscuit Slice.

Mardi’s Date Loaf

This was Ross’s mother’s recipe and I used it for many years. In fact, it was the mainstay (along with Anzac Biscuits) for Ross’s natural history tours, when Ross would make his guests afternoon tea out in the bush. He often had international visitors and whenever I make this recipe, I am reminded of a pair of German girls, who were initially very suspicious of this loaf, but after the first few tentative nibbles, went on to demolish the lot very quickly over their cuppa!!!BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0889Set the oven temperature to 180 degrees Celsius and line a loaf tin with Gladbake.BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0878Bring to the boil in a saucepan : 1 cup chopped pitted dates, 1 cup sugar, 1 tbsp butter and 1 cup boiling water. BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0880BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0881Take off the stove and immediately add 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda, which will cause the mixture to fizz! Allow to cool.BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0882Add 1 well-beaten egg. Mix in 2 cups sifted self-raising flour and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts.BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0883BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0884Spoon into loaf tin and cook in the oven for 45 minutes. Make sure it doesn’t overcook or get too dry. Delicious with butter, but equally tasty on its own!BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0885BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0886BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0892Dutch Ginger Cake

I think this one came from the good old Women’s Weekly recipe book years ago and it fast became a firm favourite, not just because it is quick and easy  to make (apart from the baking time that is!), requiring no mixmaster or beaters, but also because it’s really DELICIOUS and dangerously more-ish! But BE WARNED! Consumption of more than two wedges at one sitting is definitely NOT RECOMMENDED!!! It is very rich (it’s all that butter!), but even though I have tried to reduce the butter amount, it’s best with the full ration!BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0888 I use the glace ginger in its own syrup, sold by Buderim Ginger. Do not use crystallized ginger.BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0873 I often used to make both Date Loaf and Ginger Cake at the same time, because they both take 45 minutes to bake. Their flavours also complement each other well.BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0887Set the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line a 20 cm round cake tin with Gladbake.BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0870Melt 125 g butter. Sift 1.75 cups plain flour. Add 1 cup castor sugar and 125g chopped glace ginger.BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0871BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0874Mix in melted butter and 1 well-beaten egg. BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0875Spoon mixture into cake tin. Glaze with milk and 30 g flaked almonds.BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0876Bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Do not expect the cake to rise too much. It’s more of a flat shortbread. Cut into thin wedges!BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0877Date, Honey and Ginger Cake

Since we love both the recipes above, as well as honey (my husband being the human reincarnation of Pooh Bear!), I was keen to try out Matthew Evans’ recipe from his lovely book : ‘Winter on the Farm’ . It’s a beauty and is on a par with the faithful old Date Loaf in my affections!BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0838Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line a 24cm square cake tin with Gladbake.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0713Boil 1 cup water in a saucepan, add 150g chopped pitted dates and 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda, then remove from the heat and set aside.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0708Beat 250g softened butter with 250g castor sugar and 350g (1 cup) honey with electric beaters until light and fluffy, then add 3 eggs, one at a time.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0716Fold in 450g sifted plain flour, 1/2 tsp salt, another 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda, 2 tsp ground ginger, 2 tsp mixed spice, 1 tsp cinnamon and 150g (1.5 cups) lightly chopped walnuts.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0717Drain the dates, saving the liquid, and fold dates into the batter. Add enough water to the saved date liquid to make up a cup (250 ml) and add to the batter. Stir well till combined.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0718Pour mixture into a tin and bake for 1 hour or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 20 mins , then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0844Mrs. Wilson’s Walnut Cake

Mrs. Wilson was a teacher at my children’s primary school and she brought this divine cake along to a parent-teacher evening one year. For even more exotic flavours, hazelnuts and lime juice can be substituted for the walnuts and lemon juice. Both forms are delicious and make a lovely moist cake.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0632Preheat the oven to 160-180 degrees Celsius and line a 20cm springform cake tin with Gladbake.

Toast and finely blend 200g walnuts or hazelnuts.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0439Cream 125g butter and 150g castor sugar. Add 1 egg and beat till light and fluffy. Stir in 3 tsp grated lemon rind or lime rind and 2 tbsp brandy.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0440Sift 50g plain flour and 50g self-raising flour together and fold into the mixture gently with the nuts. Spoon mixture into tin. Bake in the oven for 1 hour.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0441

Make a hot syrup from 60ml lemon or lime juice and 55g castor sugar and pour over the cooked warm cake.Cover with foil and cool slowly to room temperature. Keep in the fridge.

Serve dusted with icing sugar. I often use a stencil to create a pretty pattern on top.

 

Now for the biscuits! Both the Speculaas and the Easter Biscuit recipes come from a lovely book called ‘Festivals, Family and Food’ by Diana Carey and Judy Large.

Speculaas

Traditionally baked for consumption on St Nicholas’ Feast in the Netherlands (Dec 5), Belgium (Dec 6) and around Christmas in Germany, the true speculaas are made in wooden moulds, decorating the thin spicy wafers with images of Christmas.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0022 I use cookie cutters in appropriate seasonal shapes instead. For example, sleighs, fir trees, Santa Claus and stars for Christmas;BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0024 Wombats, kangaroos, kookaburras and other Australian animals for Australia Day or international visitors;BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0016 And  rabbits, eggs, flowers and hearts for Easter.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0021 I have a big tin of cookie cutters from my children’s childhood and still find it hard to resist purchasing new shapes when I see them!BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0005 Even though these biscuits take a while to make, I still often make them before a big car trip, because it’s a generous recipe, making a large number of biscuits, which last well (apart from gobbling them up!)

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0003Cream 250g butter and 175g brown sugar, a pinch of salt and the grated rind of one lemon.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0006Sift 250g plain flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 2tsp mixed spice and 2tsp cinnamon.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0008Fold flour mixture into butter mixture and add 1dsp milk.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0010Roll out thinly. I often use a sheet of Gladbake between the rolling pin and board to prevent sticking.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0012Cut our shapes and place on a biscuit tin lined with Gladbake. Bake for 5-10 mins.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0015BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0017BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0019 (2)Easter Biscuits

These are pretty little biscuits when cut with a fluted round cookie cutter and contrast well with the spicy brown Speculaas on the tea table.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0719Preheat oven to 190-200 degrees Celsius.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0703Rub 125g butter into 250g plain flour with your fingers.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0704Add 125g castor sugar, a handful of currants, 1/2 tsp each of mixed spice and cinnamon and a squeeze of lemon juice.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0705Mix in 1 beaten egg with 1 tbsp brandy and form a paste.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0706Roll out thinly on a floured board. Here again, you can use a sheet of Gladbake between the rolling pin and board to prevent sticking.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0707Using a fluted round cookie cutter, cut into rounds. Sprinkle with caster sugar if desired.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0712Bake in oven for 10 minutes. Be careful to not burn or brown too much.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0709Annabel’s Ginger and Apricot Biscuit Slice

Sourced from ‘Free Range in the City’ by Annabel Langbein, this is a very easy, no-bake slice with some of my favourite ingredients: dried apricots, ginger, pistachios and sweetened condensed milk! I always love a good excuse to open a can of condensed milk, especially when the recipe doesn’t use the whole tin. A teaspoonful of sweetened condensed milk cooled in the refrigerator is divine, although these days I am a lot more self-disciplined!!! I use Marie or Nice biscuits for the biscuit base and crush them to fine crumbs in a double plastic bag (ie :  2 plastic bags, so if one gets holey, you don’t lose the crumbs!) with a rolling pin.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_1446Line a 30cm x 24cm baking tin with Gladbake.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_1397Place 100g butter and 3/4 tin sweetened condensed milk in a pot and heat gently till the butter melts. Remove from heat. Crush 375g sweet biscuits.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_1399Mix 1 cup finely-chopped dried apricots, 1/2 cup finely-chopped crystallized ginger, 1 cup dessicated coconut, 1 tsp ground ginger, 2 tbsp lemon juice and finally, the crushed sweet biscuits.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_1401BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_1402Add butter and condensed milk mixture and stir to combine. Press biscuit base into the prepared tin and set in the refrigerator for 1 hour.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_1405BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_1406Make Lemon Icing : Melt 50g butter and mix to a smooth consistency with 3 tbsp boiling water, 1 tsp lemon juice and 3.5 cups icing sugar.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_1407Spread icing over biscuit base and sprinkle with 1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger and 2 tbsp chopped pistachios. When the icing is set, cut into slices and store in a cool place.

I hope you enjoy making and eating these cakes and biscuits and have a Happy and Safe Easter, especially if you are travelling on the roads! Here are some fun photos from Easters past!

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Easter Bunny in the Crab Apple tree
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Two very blurry bunnies!
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My clone bunny!!! Happy Easter Jen and Happy Baking!!!

 

 

The February Garden

The February garden has been full of excitement and industry with the construction of the Main Pergola, the decommissioning of the pumpkin patch and the harvesting of all the Summer fruits and vegetables, not to mention finishing the brick edging of the Moon Bed and the multitude of Summer tasks from weeding, watering and mulching to lawn mowing and planting out new vegetables and seeds!

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The February Garden 2016
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Harvest time!

We were so thrilled with the Main Pergola and even though it is far from finished, the positioning of the new stringybark uprights gives a real sense of its potential and provides a framework and a perfect entrance way to the garden, as can be seen in the photos below. We used 2 old tall fenceposts (from the old Kiwi trellis) in the middle of the pergola. which lend it a rustic air and fit in well!BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0235BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0236BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0237

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Looking back from the garden to the street

Wombat Ross dug all 6 holes by hand, all to a depth of 850 mm, which was as long as his arms could reach to scoop out the loosened soil with an old salmon can, but that was sufficient!

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Wombat Ross
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Super-Ross! Do not be fooled!
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The First Post!

We strung up a horizontal wire and tied the laterals of the climbing roses to it, finally providing them with their much-needed support! As we source the wooden beams, we will gradually complete the top of the pergola, but the major part of the work has been done!

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Adam finally under control!
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Devoniensis opposite Adam
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Adam’s beautiful Tea bloom

Having achieved the major goal for February, Ross then turned his attention to the rampant pumpkin patch, which was again threatening to take over the maple tree and was growing pumpkins up the back chook fence and sneaking through to the neighbour’s garden!BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0062BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0300Even though it was still producing tiny new pumpkins on a daily basis, we felt we had more than enough for the season and Ross was keen to reinvent the No-Dig Bed. My friend’s prized dahlia seedlings were up and running and we need to thin them out and transplant the extras to a larger area. I just hope that they last the distance and can reveal their beautiful flowers before the late Autumn frosts!BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0060BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0196BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0285He was also keen to establish a Winter crop of peas, cauliflowers and brussel sprouts, while we still have this wonderful growing weather. He has already planted new chard, carrots, lettuces and baby spinach, as well as a late Autumn crop of Dutch Cream potatoes.BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0063But back to Ross’s revenge attack on the pumpkin patch! It was swift and it was brutal and in no time at all, we had a new vegetable garden, as well as 37 Queensland Blue pumpkins and 4 GINORMOUS marrows, which are really zucchinis or courgettes, which have been let go (or forgotten in our case!)BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0195

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Devastation!
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Hidden treasure!

Leaving one for our neighbour, we stored the rest in the shed in our trailer, bringing back memories of Ross’s mercy mission, when he and his brother delivered a trailer load of Queensland Blues to the starving people of Brisbane after the massive 1974 floods! A bit ironical really, given that Ross has always disparagingly referred to them as ‘pig food’! Please don’t read that the wrong way!!!

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The start of the Pumpkin-for-pears scheme!
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Ready for the next flood!

We much prefer the smaller, striped Jap pumpkins, which are growing in the future chook enclosure and to which we have allowed a grace of one extra week to fully mature!!!BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0173BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0175So, plenty of hearty Winter Pumpkin soups ahead! Fortunately, our son is staying with us at the moment, so not only was he able to help Ross out with the pergola posts, but he has been concocting the most delicious lunches and dinners from produce, fresh from the garden, including the dishes photographed below. As my son remarked, he feels he has given the humble and much-maligned marrow a measure of respect! Even though considered quite bland and requiring other ingredients with strong complimentary flavours, the texture of the flesh was superb! I had half expected this old zucchini to be tough and stringy, but it is tender and really quite delicious, even on its own. I’m a fan!!!

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A proud father!

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Delicious Roast Marrow slices baked with Bolognaise sauce and fried egg
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Warm Chicken and Marrow Salad, made with chicken, onion, marrow, red cabbage, lettuce, mallow (the last 4 ingredients home-grown) and a dressing of soy sauce, lemon juice, white wine vinegar, tomato paste, olive oil, chilli and pepper. Divine!!!
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Delicious Marrow Soup with bacon, onion, carrot, tarragon and chicken stock
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Vietnamese-style Pumpkin Flower Soup with onions, coriander, basil, chilli and chicken stock. The green flower ends were a bit bitter, but the rest of the soup was lovely!

Today, we enjoyed an exquisitely light and creamy  home-grown Red Cabbage Soup, garnished with parsley and an Italian Lavender flower! Red Cabbage is also incredibly healthy: see website:http://www.weightlossresources.co.uk/healthy_eating/eat-a-rainbow/anthocyanins-blue-purple-food.htmBlogFeb Garden20%Reszd2016-02-20 13.25.36We harvested the last of the Dutch Cream potatoes. When Ross dug up the old pumpkin patch, he discovered another bucketful of this delicious and much-coveted potatoes. We are storing them in a bucket under the house, but I dearly wish we had kept our old wire safes to store them!!!BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_7043

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Beef Stroganoff with our own broccoli and delicious Dutch Cream potatoes

We have also been very impressed by our colourful capsicums, a first-time crop for us!BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0262BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0316BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0317BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0167The heritage tomatoes also produced a large crop and we made tomato chutney and a spicy tomato sauce, not unlike Barbecue Sauce, as well as using them in all our salads and on toast for lunch!

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An interesting character!

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Making Tomato Chutney
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We filled these old commercial bottles with Spicy Tomato Sauce- Home brand in the true sense of the word!
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A delicious Summer lunch! Tomatoes and Basil on toast.

We also made a Sweet Apple Chutney from our small apple crop. Unfortunately, the birds had demolished a fair number of them, even though they were not ripe enough to eat!

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One of the few apples showing signs of ripening!
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A meagre harvest!
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Sweet Apple Chutney

The neighbour’s Beurre Bosc pears appeared to be about to suffer the same fate, so we picked them all for her (and lucky us!), to later discover on researching their harvesting that pears are always picked unripe and stored in the fridge to ripen. We have already enjoyed 3 delicious dessets of stewed pears and cream. It really is a beautiful pear with a sweet taste and firm flesh.BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_7074

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Bird attack!

BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0248 I knew it was only a matter of time before the birds stooped to harvest the tiny new crab apple, being one of the last fruits left for the moment, and I didn’t want to see the fragile branches damaged with the weight of the raiding Vikings, so I picked all 135 fruit, yielding 758g fruit, just enough for 2 scant jars of crab apple jam. The fruit was quite golden by this stage, despite the reddish tinge, so I am assuming its labelling as a ‘Golden Hornet’ crab apple was correct after all!!!BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0210BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0102So now we are waiting for the raspberries, our one fig (courtesy of the neighbour on the other side!), our first lemonade fruit and our cumquat marmalade crop!

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Our raspberry crop shows great promise!
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A lonely and very brave fig!
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Our first Lemonade fruit!

Ross continues to wage war on the stink bugs, who have now just discovered our new citrus trees, as have the Orchard Swallowtail Butterflies (Papilio aegeus) ! Despite the fact that they are bad news for citrus trees, I really do love these huge handsome butterflies, who are a mainstay of the garden. I have been voyeuristically chasing courting pairs around the garden with my camera, obviously to no real detriment, as their spiky progeny is now appearing on the citrus leaves!

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Chasing round the garden!
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Heaven!
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Post-coital recovery!
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The peak of condition!
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Slightly bruised and battered, but still hanging in there!!!
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Baby larvae of the Orchard Swallowtail Butterfly
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Teenage Orchard Swallowtail Caterpillar

These slightly plainer brown butterflies are also very attractive, as are these stunning flies, wasps and beetles!BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0183BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0191BlogFeb Garden40%Reszd2016-02-06 15.41.38BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0111BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0322BlogFeb Garden20%Reszd2016-02-12 10.24.58The praying mantis keeps a much lower profile in my washing basket, as do the house spiders with their cunning camouflaged egg sacs, masquerading as leaves, suspended mid-air in their webs.BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_6887BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0013

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Egg sacs of the above spider
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Similar egg sacs, but belonging to a different spider- see photo below.

BlogJanGarden20%Reszd2016-01-03 15.20.28Mid-air antics are not just the preserve of the arachnids however! On investigating some luminescent shiny tracks on our stone wall one night, we were introduced to the fascinating Leopard Slug (Limax maximus), one of the largest of the keeled slugs. Apparently, they mate mid-air, spiralling down a thread of their own mucus, which they consume after exchanging their sperm! For more information, see : http://www.molluscs.at/gastropoda/terrestrial.html?/gastropoda/terrestrial/limax.htmlBlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0022BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0020We did not see their twirling dance, but for mucus of a different kind, see the next photo:BlogFeb Garden20%Reszd2016-02-13 16.28.20My sewing room is proving to be an excellent vantage point for bird photography! I really must clean my windows!!! Often, I will have my head down writing or sewing, only to look up at a Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo quietly watching me from the Pepperina tree or a King Parrot feeding its offspring!BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0097BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0092BlogFeb Garden20%Reszd2016-02-13 16.28.54BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0120Now that the apples have finished, the King Parrots are feasting on the maple seed.BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_7027BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0084BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0350BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0080 We often watch them from the verandah or surprise them as we walk down the path, but they must be very hungry or very quiet, as they rarely fly off. And some like Oliver are just plain nosy parkers! He often startles us by swooping in close by our heads to land closeby and check out our latest activity!BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0365 Candelo really is Cockatoo Heaven! This month, we hosted a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo Convention down in the bottom corner of the garden. We are mystified about their food source, as the plums and apples are all gone. Perhaps the tiny fruit of the Floribunda crab apple has fallen!BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0137

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All in order!
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From the State Box!

And my beloved Gang-Gang Cockatoos have returned, doing their morning and night-time flyovers every day, though unfortunately, I haven’t yet captured them on film. I can however show you a photo of them feeding on Hawthorne berries last Autumn!BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_2645We have also had garden inspections from a Spotted Turtle-Dove , a  Red Wattlebird, a female Satin Bowerbird and some migrant Dollarbirds, as well as a very noisy, but as yet unphotographed, Cuckoo baby (possibly a Stormbird or Koel- its timbre is the same!), whose non-stop demands must really annoy its overworked host parents even more than us!!!BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0083 (2)BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0290BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0272And finally to the flower garden…BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0284BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0306BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_6995

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We now have a ‘Full-Time’ carpet around the sundial!

The Soho Bed, as generous and abundant as ever:

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Fair Bianca with her own carpet of white petals
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Eglantyne also has a pale pink carpet
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Eglantyne
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Fair Bianca
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Heaven Scent
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Lady X
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Just Joey
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You could drown in a bloom of Just Joey!
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Copper Queen

The Moon Bed, glowing in satisfaction with her beautiful soft David Austin blooms and flowering Paris Daisy, as well as her fully completed brick edging at long last!BlogFeb Garden20%Reszd2016-02-19 13.27.36

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Paris Daisy (Euryops chrysanthemoides)
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Golden Celebration
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Windermere
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Lucetta
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Lucetta
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Heritage
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Troilus

Leander, the cutting which we just planted out on the shed corner, has been generously proving her worth, as has the continuous flowering Cornelia in the Pink Hybrid Musk Hedge and Frau Dagmar Hastrup in the Rugosa hedge against my neighbour’s fence.BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0265

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Leander
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Cornelia
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Frau Dagmar Hastrup

The Cutting Garden has been ablaze with colour, the Zinnias taking over from the Dahlias, which are just about on their last legs.BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0294BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_7014BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0258BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_6949BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0056BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0059BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0260 We also have some late Cosmos, in amongst the stock, and Foxgloves.BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0311BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_6985BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_6982 I finally discovered the identity of these weird looking plants. I was mistakenly sent seeds for Nigella orientalis ‘Transformer’ instead of the blue variety : Nigella hispanica, which I had ordered.BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_6906BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0299 They certainly have dramatic seed heads!BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0039My Ceratostigma plants have finally flowered and have an electric blue colour, which goes well in mixed bouquets (see rose bouquet later).BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0161 The Sunflowers were casualties of the pumpkin rampage, but fortunately most of their blooms had finished. I tied paper bags to their spent heads and hung them under the house to dry, so I can save their seed for next season.BlogFeb Garden20%Reszd2016-02-12 10.21.10 Our other giants, the Tree Dahlias, having attained their full height, are now gearing up for their brief spectacular finale before the first frost obliterates them. The grevilleas and Silky Oak in the rainforest area behind the shed are powering along!

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Tree Dahlias ready for action!
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Grevilleas growing well!
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Silky Oak hitting the high stakes. Last year on planting, it was one quarter the size!

And the Giant Bamboo on the side fence has finally made a recovery, as has the Banksia Rose over the outdoor eating area! BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0016The Woodbine is also well on the way to scaling the fence and has such pretty scented blooms! BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0291BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0292The hydrangeas are still blooming. I love their soft blue-green petals and the purity of their white blooms. BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0118BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0354The Cannas are beautiful at the moment with their orange flowers and ruby-red fruit!BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0373It is impossible to resist making up bouquets with all the beautiful garden blooms :

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Heaven Scent, The Children’s Rose, Troilus, Jude the Obscure, Blue Sage, Lavender, Ceratostigma, Feverfew, Stock and Catmint
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Sweet and simple Cosmos
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Old-fashioned Hydrangeas
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Zinnias with Zing!

I just had to include a photo of my neighbour’s beautiful rambling back garden. I feel we complement each other well!!! Till next month…!BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0219

 

It’s Party Time!

It’s my eldest daughter’s birthday today. Unfortunately, she cannot be with us today, as she is travelling round Australia and having some wonderful adventures (to read about her travels, see : exploreadventurediscover.wordpress.com), so I thought I would do a special birthday party post to celebrate, with a few delicious birthday recipes thrown in for good measure!!! Happy Birthday Darling!!!Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0021During their childhood, my kids had many wonderful birthday parties at home in an era of MacDonalds-hosted parties! Their friends used to love our parties! Admittedly, they were a lot of work and often it was so tempting to wriggle out of them as the party day approached, but once all the preparation was done, we really enjoyed them!Blog Itspartytime20%Reszd2015-10-13 16.48.28The birthday table would be set with lots of colourful tasty dishes including :
• Meringue mice with black licorice tails and eyes and pink musk stick noses and ears
• Jelly boats in orange quarters with jelly made from orange juice and gelatine, toothpick masts and sails of tissue paper
• Banana muffins decorated with viola flowers
• Bowls of smarties
• Melting moments
• Freckle sandwiches and
• Fruit Salad in a bowl or a carved watermelon – see The Sweet Spot : https://candeloblooms.com/2015/10/01/the-sweet-spot/.BlogSweetspot20%Reszd2012-12-21 15.04.00 - Copy

One year, I made a beautiful jigsaw puzzle ginger cake, whose recipe I found in ‘Entertaining at Home’ by Sheridan Rogers. See : http://www.sheridanrogers.com.au/about/books/entertaining-at-home/. Unfortunately, this lovely book is now out-of-print, but it would be worth trying to find a copy. I have included this particular recipe later in the post.Blog Itspartytime20%Reszd2015-10-13 16.48.40For drinks, we’d make a delicious fruit punch from a large tin of pineapple juice, 2 large bottles of orange juice and apple juice and pieces of pineapple and chopped kiwi fruit, passionfruit, mint and ice blocks- so much nicer and healthier than fizzy drinks with red food colouring! I’m sure the parents appreciated it!!!Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0061The birthday cake is always special! I love that moment when the birthday cake, aglow with candles, emerges out of the dark! It’s so magical! Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0025

For many years, we used my Mum’s old Chocolate Birthday Cake recipe- see later- decorated with strawberries.Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_6930Ross’s favourite birthday cake is a layered sponge cake with cream and strawberry jam- see recipe later. His birthday is in the Spring, so one year, we decorated the top of the cake with dusted icing sugar, pink striped candles and apple blossom.Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0064I loved it when the kids were finally old enough to cook my birthday cake!Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0023We have also made very rich chocolate mud cakes, carrot cakes and even pavlovas for birthday cakes.Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0054Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0047As you can see from the photos, we always have a lot of fun decorating the birthday cake! Flowers are essential! Often, I will ice the cake and mark out the birthdayee’s name or age in silver cachous balls or fruit, but sometimes, I just dust the top with icing sugar. I have some wonderful plastic cake stencils, which I use to create beautiful patterns. Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0063Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0022Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0045Candles vary from metallic silver or gold to coloured stripes and dots; singing candles and frustrating candles, which won’t blow out; long skinny tapers and even sparklers, which are very dramatic! We always tie a bow around the cake knife. Once the candles are blown out, the birthdayee cuts the first slice and makes a wish!Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0039

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Finished off with a singing candle!

We’d play lots of old-fashioned games including :

• Pin the Tail on the Donkey
• Musical Chairs
• Pass the Parcel- with a little gift for everyone
• Treasure Hunt
• The Chocolate Game

The last game was a particular favourite. The game was timed, so at the start of the session, you had to don woollen cap, scarf and gloves, then use a fork and knife to eat as much chocolate as you could before the time was up! We always made sure every child had a prize and a party bag of sweets and a slice of birthday cake to take home.

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Solving clues in the treasure hunt

Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0059Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_6928As the kids got older, the parties became fewer, though just as memorable, and the kids were able to have much more input. Caroline’s 18th birthday party was a surprise party, organized by her friends and hosted at home.Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0030Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0032Jen had a wonderful Middle eastern party for her 19th birthday just before she left to start her university studies. All the guests came dressed as Arabian sheiks, harem girls and belly dancers. One clever fellow came as a camel in a coat. He bought 2 matching tweed coats from the op-shop and cut one up to cover a polystyrene foam boulster hump.

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Bedouin tent created from sheets hung from the ceiling

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We transformed the lounge into a Bedouin tent with multi-coloured sheets draping the ceiling and sat on floor cushions to partake of our Middle Eastern feast! Some of the food included:

• Pomegranate dip
• Freshly-made flat breads
• Fruit salad in a watermelon with a carved camel
• Layered pavlova with cream, strawberries, blueberries and rose water
• Camel birthday cake
It certainly was a night to remember!Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0037Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0042

And now for some special birthday recipes !!!

Mum’s Chocolate Birthday Cake Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0046

  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  • Cream 125g butter and 250g sugar. Add 3 eggs singly.
  • Sift 250g self-raising flour, 1 tsp cream of tartar, 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda and 1 tsp salt at least 3 times.
  • Add to the butter mixture alternately with 1 tsp vanilla in 1/2 cup milk.
  • Add 1/2 cup cocoa, dissolved in 1/2 cup hot water.
  • Spoon mixture into 2 cake tins (18 cm diameter), lined with Gladbake.
  • Place on middle shelf of the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes.
  • Turn out onto cooling racks.
  • When cool, ice one of the cakes with chocolate icing made from : icing sugar, cocoa and 1 tbsp melted butter. Decorate the top with silver cachous balls or berries and candles.
  • Place the other cake upside-down on serving plate, spread with strawberry jam then a layer of whipped cream (with 1 tsp sugar and a few drops of vanilla in it), then top with the iced cake. Make sure the serving knife is tied with a bow, then light the candles! Happy Birthday!!!

 

Jigsaw Puzzle Cake  (Credits : ‘Entertaining at Home’ by Sheridan Rogers)

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  • Cream 250g softened butter and 185g brown sugar. Beat in 2 eggs, one at a time, then add 300g honey.
  • Sift together 750g plain flour, a pinch of salt, 3 tsp ground ginger, 2 tsp cinammon and 1/2 tsp allspice.
  • Add to butter mixture alternately with 3 tsp bicarbonate of soda, dissolved in 125 ml boiling water. If the dough feels too soft, add more flour. Shape dough into a ball, wrap in Gladwrap or greasedproof paper and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.
  • Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Line a baking tray (40cm by 33cm) with Gladbake.
  • Roll dough directly onto this tray to a depth of 5mm with a well-floured rolling pin.
  • Trim edges, leaving 1 cm round the sides to allow for spread.
  • Cook for 15 minutes, then remove. Cut into large jigsaw shapes with a sharp knife.
  • Return to oven, reduce heat to 150 degrees Celsius and cook for a further 25-30 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and separate the jigsaw pieces slightly. Cool on wire rack, keeping the puzzle in shape.
  • Brush crumbs off each piece and coat with royal icing smoothly with a spatula. Leave to set for 2-3 hours or overnight.
  • When dry, paint a picture on the surface with small clean paint brushes and food dyes, diluted in water or mixed to produce different shades. Have fun !!!

Royal Icing

Whisk 2 egg whites until stiff. Gradually, beat in 500g sifted icing sugar and the juice of a small lemon. Beat till smooth. Keep icing covered with Gladwrap to prevent it from drying out.

Sponge Cake     (Credits : The Essential Baking Cookbook Murdoch Books, 2000)

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  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line 2 cake tins (22cm diameter) with Gladbake.
  • Beat 6 eggs in a large bowl with an electric beater for 7 minutes. Gradually, add 220g caster sugar, beating well after each addition.
  • Sift 150g self-raising flour and 75g plain flour 3 times and using a metal spoon, quickly and gently fold in sifted flours and 2 tbsp boiling water. Do not beat.
  • Spread mixture evenly into the 2 tins and bake for 25 minutes till lightly golden. The sides of the sponge should have shrunk slightly away from the sides of the tins.
  • Cool in tins for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
  • When cold, spread 1/2 cup strawberry jam over one of the sponges. Beat 1 cup cream, then spread on top of the jam and top with the other cake.
  • Dust with icing sugar and decorate the top with flowers and candles.

Melting Moments   (Credits : The Essential Baking Cookbook Murdoch Books, 2000)

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  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line 2 baking trays with Gladbake.
  • Cream 250g softened unsalted butter and 40g icing sugar in a bowl with electric beaters until light and fluffy. Beat in 1 tsp vanilla essence.
  • Sift 185g self-raising flour and 60g custard powder and mix into the butter mixture with a knife, using a cutting motion, to form a soft dough.
  • Roll level tablespoons into 28 balls and place on trays. Flatten slightly with a floured fork.
  • Bake for 20 minutes till lightly golden. Cool slightly on trays, before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.
  • Make Passionfruit Filling : Beat 60g unsalted butter and 60g icing sugar in a bowl, then beat in 1.5 tbsp passionfruit pulp. Use to sandwich the biscuits together. Leave to firm before serving.

Meringue Kisses : An instant sugar hit!!!

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  • Preheat oven to 110 degrees Celsius.
  • Beat 6 egg whites until stiff.
  • Add a pinch of salt, ¼ tsp cream of tartar and 1 tsp vanilla.
  • Add 1.5 cups caster sugar 1 tsp at a time and beat well. When all the sugar added, beat for a further 6 minutes.
  • Spoon mixture into a piping bag with a 1cm star tip and pipe kisses onto a tray lined with Gladbake.
  • Reduce oven to 100 degrees Celsius and bake for 1.5-2 hours till dry to touch.
  • Note : You can use the same recipe for Meringue Mice. Pipe the mixture into a long body; cut tails out of licorice sticks, with tiny bits for eyes, and ears and noses out of finely chopped pink musk sticks. For Meringue Hedgehogs, pipe as for meringue kisses, then use slivered almonds to create the quills and tiny licorice bits for eyes. You can also sandwich them together with a coffee cream filling made from 1 cup icing sugar, 3 tbsp unsalted softened butter, 1 tsp vanilla and 2 tsp coffee dissolved in 2 tsp hot water OR 5o g unsalted butter, 1/4 cup (45 g) icing sugar and 1 tbsp Kahlua or another coffee-flavoured liqueur.

Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0017Sending lots of meringue kisses your way, darling Jen! Happy Birthday once again and may your year continue to be filled with lots of wonderful adventures, laughter, love and happiness! xxx

Blog Itspartytime20%ReszdIMG_0013PPS. We have been checking out the planets at 4 am each morning in the first week of February. See : http://theconversation.com/all-five-bright-planets-come-together-in-the-morning-sky-53226. The night sky is so beautiful! If you have missed out this month, all five planets will be lined up again in the evening sky in August. I just had to include this dodgy photo of Venus for Jen’s birthday : it really is the Planet of Love!!!

BlogCreativity120%ReszdIMG_7060


 

When the King comes to Tea

Lovely soft Spring rain this morning and wonderful for the garden. I love the look of the rain droplets in the new leaves of the maple and next door’s Tortured Willow.Blog Whentheking20%ReszdIMG_0531Blog Whentheking20%ReszdIMG_0534Its a perfect day for baking, especially as we have a visitor for morning tea tomorrow, so I thought I’d share some of my basic recipes with you :

  1. Anzac Biscuits
  2. Voom Voom Bread
  3. Apple CakeBlog Whentheking20%Reszd2015-09-04 10.54.38

Anzac Biscuits

I have been making these biscuits for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, we christened them ‘Chokilolegs’, for the obscure reason that we happened to be reading the  story of  ‘The Ugly Duckling’ at the same time as we were eating them, a fact which my children found inexplicable when trying to enlighten their friends! My childhood recipe included bicarb and coconut, neither of which I use today. I was never quite happy with them and hankered after the chewy texture of Anzacs made by other people.

I discovered the secret when reading Matthew Evan’s Macadamia Anzac recipe in his book ‘Winter on the Farm’. See http://www.matthewevans.net.au/what/books.

It is important to let the melted butter mixture cool before adding it to the dry ingredients. Simple ! It was a light bulb moment, akin to the time when I learnt from a friend that when you want to make egg sandwiches, don’t even bother to peel the eggs, just cut them in half and scoop out the egg ! It’s obvious, isn’t it ?!!

Since then, I’ve always used Matthew’s recipe. While the macadamias are divine, they are expensive, so for an every-day biscuit, I omit them. I keep a constant supply of these biscuits on hand and they are so quick and easy to make. I usually melt the butter, sugar and syrup while I make the morning porridge, let it cool on the verandah while I eat, then mix the lot together and bake them over toast and tea. Easy ! So here it is :

Anzac Biscuits

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Ensure your racks are at the right level. Line your biscuit trays with Gladbake.

Melt 100g butter, 100g caster sugar and  70g golden syrup in a small saucepan over low heat. Let it cool.

Mix 100g rolled oats and 100g sifted self-raising flour and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Matthew adds 100g coarsely chopped macadamia nuts here – I have also tried walnuts, which are quite nice too.

Mix cooled butter mixture into the dry ingredients. The mixture should be quite moist.

Loosely pick up a rough spoonful of mixture and place on the tray. This recipe should make 24 biscuits. Bake for 20 minutes, swapping oven levels half way through. Cool for 5 minutes on the trays, then transfer to a cooling rack.

As I said- easy!  All ingredients are 100g except for the golden syrup and salt of course !Blog Whentheking20%Reszd2015-09-04 09.57.36

Voom Voom Bread ( with apologies to Carol Bates! ):

When I was a new wife many years ago, I read ‘The easy No-Knead Bread Book’ by Carol Bates and it quickly became my bread bible. It is a very easy recipe and all it requires is that you can check in on the rising dough from time to time. No need for bread making machines, special bread mixes or even heavy duty kneading ! It is so easy in fact that it is equally easy to maintain a bread making routine and the bread is delicious and so nutritious ! It is affectionately named by my children as ‘Voom Voom Bread’ (they’ve inherited their mother’s naming propensity, though to be fair, their reasoning is much less obscure and will become obvious as you read the recipe !)

Voom Voom Bread :

Rub a large bowl with 2 tsp extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil. I use a metal bowl, so it conducts the heat to help the dough rise. The oil is one of the ingredients, but by rubbing it into the bowl at the same time, its much easier to clean up afterwards!

Measure out 1200 ml warm water. Pour one third of it into the bowl.

Add 5 cups of organic stoneground wholemeal flour. I buy my flours from the local wholefoods shop in 5kg bags, which each  fill a large tupperware container. If you live in a hot place, keep these tubs in the fridge, otherwise the weevil eggs will hatch out and your flour will be ruined !

Add 4 tsp salt ( spread well round the bowl), 3 tsp instant dried yeast and 1 tsp honey. I use Premium Bakers’ Yeast, which I keep in the fridge. I used to use 2 oz (56g) of fresh compressed yeast, which I also kept in the fridge. But beware ! My sister-in-law needed to borrow some yeast for her bread one day and accidentally took the kids’ play dough instead ! No wonder her bread was rock-hard and didn’t rise !

Add another third of water, then 5 cups of organic unbleached white flour. Reserve half a cup of this flour to use later on the bread board. Put away the flour tubs.

Add the rest of the water, then using an oiled hand (again for easy later cleaning !), mix the dough, ensuring there are no dry patches. This will only take a few minutes.

Cover with Gladwrap or a warm wet teatowel and place bowl in a warm or sunny spot. Check on it occasionally- it should take 1-2 hours max. This recipe is so forgiving ! If you have been diverted to return to dough climbing out of its bowl and on the rampage, just knock it down to size and put it back in its place!

When the dough has risen to the top of the bowl, oil your hands again, as well as a 2nd high-sided bowl,  and scoop the dough out of the bowl onto a floured board.

And here is where my children affectionately mock me and the source of this recipe’s name ! Working from the far side, bring the dough into the centre, then repeat from the left and  the right, then turn the whole lot over and put into the 2nd oiled bowl : VOOM, VOOM, VOOM, VOOM!!!

Replace the same Gladwrap/ wet teatowel  on top and leave to rise again in the sun  for another hour or until the dough has reached the top of the bowl again.

Oil 2 high bread tins. Its worth buying proper deep bread tins – they are expensive, but worth it if you are going to be baking lots of bread and the loaves  are so much better if the dough has room to rise in the tins. Make sure the base, sides and even the top rim of the tins are well oiled, otherwise it will be very difficult to remove the baked loaves from the tins without tearing the bread !

Preheat oven to 240 degrees Celsius and make sure your oven shelf is at the correct level ie : not too close to the bottom (burnt bases) or top ( major oven cleaning job ) !

Bring dough out onto the same floured board and divide into 4 quarters. I find the curved edge of a handheld rubber  bowl scraper is great for dividing the dough. Shape each quarter into a ball and place 2 quarters in each tin. Spray or just wipe the tops of the loaves with water, cover with Gladwrap/ wet teatowel again and leave for its final rising in the sun.

I usually put the two tins  in the oven (without the faithful Gladwrap//teatowel!) on another baking tray ( in case the dough is so enthusiastic that it decides to colonize the oven!),  when the dough has barely reached the top of the tins, as they will continue to rise during baking and this way it makes a more manageable loaf, which is easier to remove from the tins.

Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and  check if it is done by either knocking on the bottom of the loaf (hollow sound) or sticking a skewer in it ( it should come out clean ). Remove bread from the tins and cool on a cooling rack.

Divine when eaten warm straight out of the oven and slathered with butter and honey, but equally good as toast !

Notes :

Keep on to the washing up. Put the bowls and board to soak in water straight after use and they will be so much easier to clean !

If the loaf is stuck to the tin, try using a cold wet tea towel around the outside of the tin for a few minutes to cool down the tins, then if all else fails, carefully encourage it out of its home with a blunt knife. Don’t worry – as my Mother always said, it will look worse in your stomach !

This recipe is very adaptable and flexible. I have given you the very basic version, which we make twice weekly. We keep one loaf in the fridge and freeze the other loaf for later. Experiment with different flours, different grains and even dried fruit. You can top the bread with sesame seeds or poppy seeds. Make it in different shapes- rolls, twists, sticks, rounds, ovals, in flower pots, whatever takes your fancy ! I think the rolls take half an hour to bake from memory. It is worth reading Carol’s book if you can get hold of a copy for other ideas. I think the book is out-of-print, but you may be able to buy it secondhand. Try sourcing it from AbeBooks: http://www.abebooks.com/book-search/title/the-easy-no-knead-bread-book/.Blog Whentheking20%Reszd2015-09-07 11.29.25Blog Whentheking20%Reszd2015-09-07 11.32.12

Apple Cake

This one is from my mother’s recipe book and I’m not sure where she sourced it.

Line a 20cm round cake tin with Gladbake and preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Sift 250g plain flour with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda.

Rub in 125g butter.

Add 250g caster sugar, 2 cooking apples, which have been peeled, cored and diced into small chunks, 60g chopped walnuts and 6og raisins.

Beat 2 eggs with 1 tsp vanilla and add to dry ingredients. Mix well and get rid of any dry pockets of flour. You can add a bit of milk to help, but I never have needed it.

Bake for 1 hour. Cool on cooling rack. Cut into wedges when cool. Yummy !Blog Whentheking20%Reszd2015-09-04 09.57.50A very exciting event occurred after breakfast today. Three King Parrots visited the verandah ! They were so quiet that I suspect they may have been fed by our neighbours or perhaps they heard I was baking !! They are one of our favourite visitors to the garden, often feeding in large flocks on the apple tree, privet or Duranta bush, though recently, they have been enjoying the Prunus blossom!  I thought that I already had some great photos of them, but today’s photo opportunity was amazing !Blog Whentheking20%Reszd2015-05-13 08.28.19Blog Whentheking20%Reszd2015-05-13 08.26.06Blog Whentheking20%Reszd2015-05-14 07.26.44Blog Whentheking20%Reszd2015-09-03 08.33.17Blog Whentheking20%Reszd2015-09-03 08.34.05Blog Whentheking20%Reszd2015-09-03 08.33.28Blog Whentheking20%Reszd2015-09-03 08.32.30Blog Whentheking20%Reszd2015-09-03 08.33.24I love these special moments when nature communes with you without fear. My two other stand-out moments were sitting with puffins outside their homes, which they shared with rabbits on the cliffs, when we stayed at  the Bird Observatory on the Fair Isles when the kids were little;

Blog Whentheking20%Reszd2015-09-04 10.15.19Blog Whentheking20%Reszd2015-09-04 10.15.07And  the  Providence Petrels on Lord Howe Island in Winter. We climbed Mt. Gower for my 40th birthday and the kids were enthralled when we called the birds out of the sky to land at our feet and allow us to cuddle them ! Amazing experiences !!!Blog Whentheking20%Reszd2015-09-04 10.20.24Blog Whentheking20%Reszd2015-09-04 10.18.03