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!!!

 

 

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!!!

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It’s Show Time!

One of the delightful aspects of living in the country is the myriad of small local shows. Unfortunately, we missed the Candelo Show last year, as we had literally only just arrived and were so exhausted after all the unpacking, that we just didn’t have the energy to shower and change to go out and meet all the locals!!! However, because it is our local show and has a great reputation, we were determined to attend this year!

We did however manage to visit the Bega Show (or to give its full title : the Far South Coast National Show!) last February, which we thoroughly enjoyed. The Bega showground is in a lovely situation on the edge of town, with the mountains providing a scenic backdrop to the ring events.BlogItsShowtime20%Reszd2015-02-22 09.26.17We started at the top of the hill with the Poultry section, one of my favourites, and the Animal Nursery, always a crowd pleaser!I loved this Light Sussex hen and Indian Runner duck.

BlogItsShowtime20%Reszd2015-02-22 09.35.11BlogItsShowtime20%Reszd2015-02-22 09.34.26Unfortunately, we missed the cattle, but we did see some beautiful Angora goats.BlogItsShowtime20%Reszd2015-02-22 10.29.40BlogItsShowtime20%Reszd2015-02-22 09.27.57I love country shows. They are a wonderful way to involve the entire community and a great opportunity to showcase the local produce and incredible talent in the area. With its wonderful climate and diversity of agricultural produce, Bega is a pretty special place when it comes to food from potatoes, sunflowers and corn to apples and pumpkins! I’ve never seen a fridge full of local cheeses and oysters before!BlogItsShowtime20%Reszd2015-02-22 09.49.29BlogItsShowtime20%Reszd2015-02-22 10.33.45BlogItsShowtime20%Reszd2015-02-22 10.34.00BlogItsShowtime20%Reszd2015-02-22 10.36.50The pumpkins were enormous! The one on the far right of the 3rd photo weighed 156 kg, netting its owner, an NM Watson, first prize!BlogItsShowtime20%Reszd2015-02-22 10.34.30BlogItsShowtime20%Reszd2015-02-22 10.38.26BlogItsShowtime20%Reszd2015-02-22 10.33.30Then there is all the the home-made produce!BlogItsShowtime20%Reszd2015-02-22 10.38.02And the fleece section…BlogItsShowtime20%Reszd2015-02-22 09.54.24

I always love the flower section!BlogItsShowtime20%Reszd2015-02-22 09.49.16BlogItsShowtime20%Reszd2015-02-22 09.51.39BlogItsShowtime20%Reszd2015-02-22 10.27.07The kids had a lot of fun decorating pumpkins and biscuits!BlogItsShowtime20%Reszd2015-02-22 10.34.39BlogItsShowtime20%Reszd2015-02-22 10.34.55BlogItsShowtime20%Reszd2015-02-22 10.36.11As well as enjoying all the sideshows…!BlogItsShowtime20%Reszd2015-02-22 12.24.28BlogItsShowtime20%Reszd2015-02-22 12.24.36There was lots of input by local groups like the SCPA South East Producers and the Seedsavers’ Network, the Bega Valley Weavers, the Wyndham Basketeers and the Far South Coast Bird Club. It was a great show and the organizers deserved a well-earned break at the end of it.BlogItsShowtime20%Reszd2015-02-22 12.13.08

We looked forward to the start of the 2016 show season. Candelo Show, held last weekend on Sunday, 17th January, was one of the first to kick off, beaten only by Pambula Show on the 9th January. Here is the schedule for the rest of the shows for the Far South Coast of NSW, just in case you are visiting the area :

Eurobodalla Show 23-24 January; Nimmitabel Show 6 February; Cobargo Show 13-14 February; Bega Show 19-21 February; Delegate Show 6 March; Dalgety Show 6 March; Bemboka Show 12 March; Cooma Show 14 March and finally Bombala Show 19 March.

And so to this weekend.. the long-awaited 129th Candelo Show! The first Candelo Show was held in the School of Arts building on 21st December 1883 and in 1884, an area of 13.6 acres (5.53 hectares) was officially gazetted as the Candelo Showground.

It is in a lovely situation  on the side of the hill overlooking the arena, with the scenic backdrop of Mt Dromedary in the far distance.BlogItsShowtime20%ReszdIMG_5709I love old show pavilions and all the exhibits. It’s such a great way for showcasing local produce and we were surprised by the size of the display for such a small area.

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The Kameruka Pavilion, built in 1907

BlogItsShowtime20%ReszdIMG_5680The weather was perfect and the show was well attended by lots of families.  It’s wonderful seeing all the kids participating!BlogItsShowtime20%ReszdIMG_5684BlogItsShowtime20%ReszdIMG_5682

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A kid of a different kind in the Animal Nursery!

Candelo Show is a lovely little agricultural show in the true sense of the word, as there are no fairground rides, sideshows or show bags, which makes a refreshing change! Instead, there is a Kids Kastle, as well as Hobby Horse races and pony rides and lots of other activities like goat milking, Akubra hat throwing, the dog high jump and a chook washing demonstration.

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Waiting for the High Jump!

There were displays of historic machinery and vintage cars, as well as felting, spinning and woodworking demonstrations. There were a few food outlets for lunch; the famous Wheatley Lane sourdough bread, made just round the corner from our house; our favourite home-made icecream lady from Cobargo, who sells at the local markets; a watermelon shed and a few hopeful politician stands!BlogItsShowtime20%ReszdIMG_5742BlogItsShowtime20%ReszdIMG_5706Entertainment was provided by the Queanbeyan Pipe Band, as well as an Irish folk group and local musicians.BlogItsShowtime20%ReszdIMG_5687BlogItsShowtime20%ReszdIMG_5677BlogItsShowtime20%ReszdIMG_5740We loved watching the ring events, especially the show jumping. There are some very talented local equestrians, some of them very young!BlogItsShowtime20%ReszdIMG_5682 (2)BlogItsShowtime20%ReszdIMG_5708It was a lovely day out and we finally got to see our cows!BlogItsShowtime20%ReszdIMG_5700BlogItsShowtime20%ReszdIMG_5704All inspired by the wonderful produce we had just seen, we returned to our garden to harvest our huge clump of rhubarb for rhubarb and apple crumble that night. It was delicious!!! Till next week…!BlogItsShowtime20%ReszdIMG_5711BlogItsShowtime20%ReszdIMG_5741

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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