Monday, 28 May 2012

currant slice and 'in it goes bread'

i played in the kitchen today and made this currant slice which is a recipe from one of my recent old recipe book op shop purchases..the book is a hard copy of '100 delicious biscuits and slices' published by the australian women's weekly in 1972 bought for $1..

currant slice

lately i've been making at least one yeasted loaf a week of what i call my 'in it goes bread'..what i mean by that is that if i have a bit of leftover whipped cream, a bit of milk sitting in a jug, the end of a carton/bottle of milk, whey from yoghurt straining, the end of a batch of yoghurt, a little previously melted butter, the last scraps of a pat of butter, some close to use by date semolina, discarded sourdough starter and so on, well, in it goes..i've cut down on the amount of yeast i use to 1/2 a sachet and i don't measure the liquid any more..i just add enough cold liquid to form a wettish dough and i find that by the time i've rested and kneaded it a few times it's very manageable..i've also been practising my slashing technique and i'm much happier with the way i am getting an 'ear' on one side of the loaf (as described here)

the 'ear' refused to show up in my whole loaf shots

the 'ear' shows up a bit better here

currant slice recipe

1 cup plain flour
pinch salt
125 gms butter
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar* lightly packed

1 cup currants
1/2 cup sultanas
1 tablespoon (tbs) cornflour
1/2 teaspoon (tsp) cinnamon
1 cup water
1 tsp grated lemon rind
1 tbs lemon juice

glace icing
3/4 cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp butter
1 tbs milk
pink food colouring

~sift flour and salt and rub in butter and add oats and butter
~press mixture into 18 cm x 28 cm greased lamington tin
~spread over cooled topping
~bake 180 deg c for 35 minutes
~ cool and drizzle** with pink icing
~cut into bars
place fruit, cornflour, cinnamon and water in a saucepan
~cook over medium heat stirring until the mixture boils and thickens
~add lemon rind and juice
glace icing
~sift icing and add butter and milk***
~colour pale pink with a few drops of food colouring
~stand bowl of icing over hot water and stir until pouring consistency

* i used moscovado sugar
** i put the icing into a small sandwich bag, cut the corner off, and piped the icing onto the slice
*** i decided to adhere to the recipe the first time i made it but next time i would add a little lemon juice

wishing you all a happy week..x

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

afternoon tea..

tuesday is work on my house day for alex and me but i left her to it today and i pottered in the kitchen instead..for afternoon tea i made vanilla custard cupcakes and because it was balmy we were able to sit outside and christen my new old table and chairs..we even lit candles..

alex finished the 'raspberry' table (see here for a before photo)
 she also sanded, stained, waxed, polished (three sides) and painted (one side) two doors that i found in the shed
 i will put them back on the doorless kitchen and sitting room to make the rooms cosier

cupcakes with hazel's (my paternal grandmother) vanilla custard

ingredients cupcakes
155 gms self raising flour sifted
155 gms castor sugar
155 gms unsalted butter (i used myrtleford butter*)
2 eggs
75 mls milk
1 teaspoon (tsp) vanilla extract

~cream butter and castor sugar until pale and fluffy
~beat in eggs one at a time 
~add flour, milk and vanilla and beat until mixture is smooth
~place in 9 cupcake cases and bake at 180 deg c for approximately 15 minutes or until golden and cooked in the centre 

ingredients hazel's vanilla custard
1 cup full cream milk (i use non homogenised organic)
1 tablespoon (tbs) sugar or to taste
1 egg yolk
1 heaped tbs corn flour
1 tsp vanilla (homemade)
extra 25 mls  milk

~put milk with the sugar in a heavy based saucepan and heat 
~mix the cornflour with the extra milk and then mix in egg yolk 
~add a little of the warmed milk to the cornflour/egg mix stirring constantly
~remove the milk from the heat and strain the cornflour/egg mix into the milk stirring
~return to the heat and cook over a moderate heat until the custard is thick and just coming to the boil
~remove from the heat and add vanilla
~cool before use

extra ingredients
1-2 tbs strawberry jam
1-2 tbs icing made with icing sugar, hot water and a little cochineal
1/4 sheet of edible silver
small sandwich bag

~cut a cone from the cupcakes and set the top aside
~put 1/2 to 1 tsp jam in the cupcake cavity 
~spoon in a heaped tsp custard on top of the jam
~replace the cupcake top
~put the icing into a corner of the sandwich bag and snip the corner off 
~pipe a small dot on the top of each cake
~using tweezers place a piece of silver on top of the icing

* i used this quality butter to find out whether there was a discernible and positive difference in the taste of the cupcakes..alex and i both thought the flavour was better than when i use a lesser quality butter but at $9 for 250 gms i will only be using it for special occasions..

serve with a big pot of tea, coffee or other beverage of choice..x

Thursday, 17 May 2012


when i asked my daughter alexandra what meal she would like me to make for her birthday she requested moussaka and a warm bean salad.. when she asked for moussaka i was reminded of a day when she was 7 months old and as yet she hadn't eaten any solids..the rest of the family were eating moussaka for dinner and she made it very clear that she wanted some of it..i remember hesitantly feeding her a little spoon of it and thinking that she would spit it out but she ate that spoonful and many more with great enthusiasm and with no negative repercussions..from then on i would cook her vegetables in a tomato base because she wasn't interested at all in typical baby food..

i love having enough left for the next day's dinner!

moussaka recipe
i don't follow an exact recipe so some of the measurements are approximations
serves about 8


vegetable layer *
4-5 medium sized eggplant
4-5 peeled sebago or other waxy potatoes
1/2 cup olive oil

meat sauce
600 gms minced beef or lamb (i mince my own)
1 large onion cut fine
1 celery stalk cut fine
1 carrot grated fine
1-2 garlic cloves cut fine
1 (teaspoon) tsp honey
1 tablespoons (tbs) tomato paste
1 tbs plain flour
350 mls tomato puree (i used my own that i bottled in summer)
1 cup meat stock or water
1/2 cup dry white wine
2  tbs dried oregano
1 tsp allspice or to taste
1/2 tsp cinnamon or to taste
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

cheese sauce
85 gms butter
120 gms plain flour
3 cups milk
3 eggs beaten
1 cup grated cheese **
grated nutmeg to taste
salt and pepper to taste

30 gms melted butter
1/2 breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated cheese **
1 tsp grated nutmeg or to taste

notes re ingredients
* the vegetable layer can comprise just one vegetable or a variety..i sometimes add zucchini too when it's in season
** the cheese can be parmesan, kefalotyri, pecorino, vintage cheddar or mizithra..this time i used a mix of mizithra, pecorino and vintage cheddar because that's what i had on hand


~cut the eggplant into 1 cm slices and sprinkle with salt and set aside for about 1/2 hour
~rinse the eggplant slices and dry
~peel the potatoes and cut into 1 cm slices and steam the slices in batches until al dente
~pat the slices dry
~lightly brush the slices of eggplant and potato with oil and place on a ridged grill and cook until each side is browned

meat sauce
~brown the meat in batches in a heavy based pan and set aside
~cook the onion, carrot, celery and garlic in a little olive until softened
~return the meat to the pan with the vegetables and add the flour stirring well over a moderate heat for a few minutes
~add the wine and cook for a further few minutes to evaporate the alcohol
~ add the tomato paste, honey, tomato puree, stock or water, allspice, cinnamon, oregano, chilli flakes and salt and pepper, mix well, lower heat to a simmer and cover and cook for about 45 minutes
~taste and adjust seasoning

cheese sauce
~melt the butter in a heavy based saucepan, add flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg and stir until well blended
~remove from the heat and gradually stir in the milk
~cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce is thick and smooth
~remove from the heat, add the eggs and cheese, and adjust seasoning


~brush a large rectangular dish with half of the melted butter and sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the extra breadcrumbs
~layer the base with half of the potatoes and eggplant
~cover the vegetables with the meat sauce
~layer the remaining vegetables over the meat sauce
~pour the cheese sauce over the vegetables
~drizzle with the remaining melted butter and sprinkle with the remaining breadcrumbs, extra cheese and nutmeg
~bake at 180 deg c for 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown

note re serving

i like to rest the moussaka for about 1/2 hour before serving..i find that it's easier to serve and that it presents better when it's had a chance to firm up a bit

warm green bean salad

300 gms or so of green beans
1 red onion finely sliced 
1/4 cup finely cut parsley
olive oil
lemon juice to taste
salt and pepper to taste

~lightly salt the red onion and leave it to 'pickle' for 1/2 hour to soften and remove the heat
~steamed the beans until they are al dente
~place the beans in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper while they're hot
~mix the onion with the beans and add the parsley and lemon juice* to taste


* i find it's better to add the lemon juice to the beans just before serving to prevent discolouration

happy thursday..x

Monday, 14 May 2012

today i made a bag..

out of an old blanket and a vintage sheet that i purchased from an op shop.. it was a practice run to see if my idea of repurposing these fabrics to make a bag was a success or not..i am quite happy with how it turned out and i'm looking forward to making more of them using other lining fabrics..i'll be keeping my eye out too for more suitable blankets in other colours..there are many great blankets available but they are too thick for my purposes..i need them to be well worn but undamaged or stained.. 

happy monday everyone..x

Saturday, 12 May 2012

ladysmith cake

early in my blog life last year i came across a website by the name of 'ladies, a plate' to which i subscribed..i discovered that the new zealand author, alexa johnston, had also written and published three cookery books called 'ladies, a plate: traditional home baking', 'a second helping: more from ladies a plate' and 'what's for pudding?'..i had aspirations to own one of them on the basis that i have a strong interest in old fashioned recipes of the type in these books but i decided not to order any of them because i like to peruse books before i purchase..

when i was in new zealand recently i remembered the books and so i went in search of the end i decided to buy 'a second helping' rather than 'ladies, a plate' because i was familiar with most of the recipes in the latter book..

it's taken me longer than i planned to make a recipe from the book because i still have a persistent cold that i got in new zealand..anyway today i baked the 'ladysmith cake' which is apparently a new zealand invention that celebrates the lifting of the four-month siege, during the boer war, of the south african town of ladysmith in february 1900.. it's just one of the many interesting and different looking cakes in the book..

ladysmith cake
from 'a second helping: more from ladies, a plate'
alexa johnston


185 gms butter
185 gms sugar (i used castor sugar)
1 tsp vanilla essence
3 eggs
185 gms plain flour
1 tablespoon (tbs) cornflour
1 teaspoon (tsp) baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice*
4 tbs jam**
50 gms walnuts


~preheat oven to 180 deg c
~grease and line an 18 cm square cake tin
~sift flour, cornflour and baking powder
~cream butter and sugar
~beat in vanilla and add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition
~gently fold in dry ingredients 
~divide mixture in two and add spices to one half
~spoon this mix evenly into prepared tin
~spoon jam evenly over the spicy cake mixture 
~top with the remaining cake mixture and sprinkle with walnuts
~bake for 50-60 minutes or until cooked
~cool the cake in the tin for 10 minutes and then remove the cake to a cake rack to cool


* cocoa can be used instead of mixed spice
** raspberry, strawberry or blackcurrant (i used homemade strawberry jam)

this is a lovely cake with interesting flavours and's moist and light with a subtle spicy flavour..the addition of the jam is welcome because the cake itself is not overly sweet and the toasted walnuts add a nice crunchy contrast..i think it's a great cake for afternoon tea and i can see myself making it often in the future..the only thing i would do differently next time is to add a little more jam..

happy mother's day to all those celebrating tomorrow..x 

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

a metaphor for life

i know this will probably seem a bit odd to most of you but i've never owned an outdoor table setting..i did have a wonky old trestle table in my last garden but there was no under cover protection for it and so it eventually rotted..i loved that garden because it had a trilogy of beautiful enormous pin oak, a very large liquid amber and a smaller but well established copper beech..the trestle table sat under the canopy of the pin oak and many meals and afternoon and morning teas were eaten from it..but because the garden was so large it was quite a business to haul the supplies (including the chairs we sat on) to and from the house..i remember joking that i wanted to have a special boiling water line tapped to the site to save me from having to make so many trips back and forth..

i loved that garden for so many other reasons but mainly because it felt like a bit of country in the city..when we moved there no house could be seen from our back yard..the land had a gentle slope to the back where our expanse of lawn gave way to the neighbours veritable jungle of trees, blackberries and wandering jew..i spent many many hours developing curving perennial garden beds along the eastern border and i planted a copse of 12 birch trees underplanted with several hundred daffodil bulbs at the bottom of the north facing garden..i also planted climbing roses with the likes of albertine with a view to them rambling and festooning over the fences..on the western boundary was the chook run and where i put in a vegetable patch.. and i planted cherry, almond, fig, damson, apricot, mandarin and medlar trees..out the front i planted perennials and roses too but it was much easier because the infrastructure for the garden beds was in place and the paths were already brick paved..

unfortunately my dreams for that garden were short lived..bit by painful bit i had to let go of aspects of it so that by the time i sold the house there was almost no sign of all the work i did..some of the trees and all of the roses died and the invasive lawn took over my hard won (i never used chemicals to kill the grass) garden beds..the only beacon was the pin oak that stood mighty in the middle of the garden defying drought, neglect and rampaging possums..

my new old house has an undercover area out the back that needs to be pulled down and redone but in the meantime it's been a fantastic area for all my furniture restos and for entertaining..but each time i've wanted to have an outdoor do i've had to rally the troops to help me move a table you're probably wondering at this point why i haven't gone to one of those outdoor furniture places and bought a setting..well i didn't because i had a vision of what i wanted and they don't sell the sort of setting i was fact my vision wasn't purchasable..

since i moved here i'd found four suitable chairs at two different op shops..two of them were a very very bright sunnies needed yellow and the other two were a maudlin maroon..they languished outside in the reno dust while they waited for the i mentioned a couple of posts ago i recently found the table i'd been waiting for and yesterday my daughter and i sanded and oiled the top..i was going to repaint the remainder of it but i decided that a light sand might be all it needed..i love this table with all it's's a metaphor for life..

i don't think this photo does the setting justice but i was trying to avoid photographing all the dodgy bits of my not very salubrious outdoor area..expect to see more photos down the track of my table with tea things on it and enamel and flowers and food..oh..and by the way the setting, including the terracotta tea light holder but not including what i paid my daughter, cost me $154..

Thursday, 3 May 2012

yoghurt gone wrong bread

as usual i put aside a few tablespoons of yoghurt to make another batch but it sat in the fridge in a covered bowl for about a week which is longer than i would normally leave it..when i went to use it i noticed that it had a slightly different smell than normal but i threw caution aside and went ahead and used it to make another batch of yoghurt i did leave it in the insulated flask for quite a while..about 18 hours..apparently that's ok..but later when i went to spoon some out for breakfast it had separated into two very distinct layers..a watery whey layer and a curdy soft cottage cheese layer and it did smell more cheesy rather than yoghurty..having had a gastric disturbance recently i didn't want to risk causing any more misery so i decided to use it in bread making..

yoghurt gone wrong bread


250 gms white bread flour
250 gms wholemeal flour
1/2 tsp yeast
1 1/2 tbs murray river salt
1 tbs molasses
about 1/2 cup starter discards
500 gms yoghurt gone wrong (mix of whey and solids)
lots of extra flour because it was a very wet dough 


~place dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer
~add wet ingredients and mix for 1 minute
~rest for 10 minutes and mix for 1 minute
~repeat rest/mix cycle again
~remove the bowl from the mixer and cover with cling film and leave until doubled
~scrape the dough onto a well floured bench and knead adding extra flour to form a soft pliable dough
~shape into an oblong, place between the folds of a very well floured tea towel and leave to prove
~when doubled dust the dough with flour and slash as desired
~place the dough on a rice flour dusted pre heated tray and bake at 220 deg c for 20 minutes..reduce heat to 180 deg c and continue to bake for a further 20-30 minutes until cooked

my yoghurt gone wrong loaf turned out well with a nice crunchy crust and a soft, tasty and not too dense crumb..i do love to make something yum from something makes me so happy..

oh..and by the way i've been wondering whether my sourdough starter got friendly with the yoghurt and that's what effected the yoghurt culture..but i haven't found anything definitive online to help me solve the mystery..any ideas?

happy weekend one and all x

ps..will do a new zealand post soon