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In the area of Victoria that I live, Summer only has a limited time to bother us: Autumn arrives bang on the beginning of March. We had our first frost on March 2nd, which to be honest was rather early and was the talk of the town that week. However, the trees have started their glorious run.


Summer is beautiful here, where the trees stay fresh and green for most of the hotter weather, only starting to look tired right at the end of February.


After that first frost, the first blush didn’t take long to start appearing.


Having grown up on the West Coast of Australia, where summer drags on for months and months at a time, where you can have a hot Easter (as in in the 30C’s), I find my (new, although we have been here 2.5 years now!!) home town delightful in it’s four defined seasons, and cooler weather.


These trees are late comers to the party, but at the beginning on May, is whole strip will be brown & bright yellow. I love the hedge hidden under the big oaks here.


I think this year it is this tree (on the right of the power pole) that has surprised me the most. Last Autumn, it was the first tree on the street to change it’s colour. But this year it’s lagging behind a bit!

I’m going to be making a pictorial edit of Autumn in my town over the next two months or so, taking pictures of the above locals once a week, so I can share the beautiful colour and transformation that our town’s foliage goes through.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Julie/Julia

I recently flew to Singapore for a family holiday. I am not at all accustomed to flying a “short” distance overseas. When I have traveled in the past, it is always to somewhere far away from Australia, which requires a LONG plane flight: Europe, the US, or Canada (the longest of them all – I flew via Korea!). However, I found myself on a 7 hour flight to Singapore, with no connection. How odd.

Delightfully, I found myself on an A380, which despite having their own very special issues with QANTAS & their Rolls Royce engines blowing up or, gods forbid falling off, I was intensely looking forward to. I have to inject here that the A380 is a wonderfully superior aircraft: quieter than any other plane I have been on, and actually roomy in cattle class (sorry; economy). Especially when one’s delightfully talkative (and I actually mean that in this case. We had a lovely chat!) seat-next-door-person moves, so she can sit next to her partner, who was two rows ahead, and on the other side of the plane. Not so delightful was the family with small children behind me (I quite obviously don’t have children), although to be quite honest, apart from the seat kicking and crying every hour, were no worse than a normal family with children, and I dare say they could have been much worse. (I do not envy anyone who must travel with small children. If you do or have, you’re very brave.) But four people in three seats is always going to be squishy.

What I found also delightful on my flight was the movie Julie & Julia, which I had not seen before. What a wonderful movie! For a (very occasional, I must point out, in the past) food blogger and cooking lover as myself, this movie was an absolute joy to watch! Julia’s relationship with her husband was so wonderful to discover. And Julie’s voyage of self-discovery during her year cooking her way through Julia Child’s book was great! I don’t think I could ever attempt to do that. For one, our diet has changed so drastically in the last few months (which is another blog entry altogether) that we simply couldn’t eat what I was cooking! But what a challenge! I couldn’t imagine making aspic! To be honest, I can admit to having a meltdown similar to Julie’s at times in my similarly tiny kitchen!

I used to harbour a bit of a fantasy of actually going to a cooking school in France, as we were once tossing up the idea of going to live in Paris for a year or two, but now I wonder if I shouldn’t just indulge a little closer to home.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Crumpets!

I love crumpets. Something about their holey texture that soaks up butter & honey is just magical. Mmmmmm mmmm! However crumpets, along with english muffins, remained in my mind for many years something I *had* to buy at the store, something I couldn’t make at home. Well, I was wrong about the english muffins (which I can now make at home) and I was wrong about crumpets!

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Snow Peas

So, since we moved to the country, I haven’t had that much luck growing things. In fact, my gardening mojo has somewhat left me, and more than likely moved back West, to where it is relatively warm all year round. Where we are now? It gets cold, real cold in winter, and as a gardener, I have to deal with sub-zero temperatures at night and frost and very occasional snow/sleet. In essence, I have completely altered growing regions from Mediterranean to Cool Temperate. This means I can’t just grow the things I used to grow in my garden on the West Coast, especially in winter. Some of the vegies just wont get through the frosts we have up here.

Luckily, some will.

Snow Peas & Spring Onions, week 1

These are a punnet of snow pea seedlings (at the back) and about a third of a punnet of spring onions that I planted up this afternoon. They’re in a styrofoam box that had no more use at my workplace, so I filled it with some new soil that I picked up at the garden store this afternoon, and transplanted the snow peas from their punnet, and the spring onions from their two way-too-small pots. Snow peas like to climb (as do all in the pea family: sweet peas, snow peas, green peas, beans) so I’ve rigged up a climbing frame behind them for them to latch on to as they grow.

I’ll keep you updated ;-)

Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake is one of those cakes where for me the ingredients miraculously bind together, taste terrible in the bowl (who doesn’t lick the bowl!) and make a wonderful tasting cake after they’re baked. Obviously, this is the joy of baking, but for years, Carrot Cake was something other people baked and I did not. I have very fond memories of slabs of carrot cake, thick with cream cheese icing and juicy with lots of carrot and pineapple (apparently this is an Australian thing!), being sold up the street at a fantastic food place whose owners were actually German. They made the best dark rye bread I’ve ever had the pleasure to taste (thick with sesame seeds on the outside and almost black in colour), an amazing black forest ham, and this carrot cake.  Since then, and I’m talking up to 20 years ago now I guess, ever carrot cake has just paled in comparison. I’ve eaten some good ones, but that delicious moist cake remains vivid in my memory as the best carrot cake I’ve ever eaten.

I first made carrot cake for my birthday back in 2007 (around the time I started this blog), and it was a partial disaster! It was a sheet cake and unbeknown to me, the oven in our flat actually sloped forward, and I ended up with a cake that was thin at one end, thick and the other, with half of it burned on the floor of the oven. It tasted pretty good, but wow – disaster. Definitely a LizziebeeFail! I was a bit horrified at the amount of oil and eggs in the cake, and thought I’d give it another go later. Which didn’t happen.

In January, the lovely Afeitar posted a carrot cake that she made for her boyfriend’s birthday, taken from the Hummingbird Bakery recipe, and I thought the time has come: carrot cake is my partner’s favourite cake, and I decided to make it for his birthday this year.

And it’s a good cake!

I had to substitute a few things, just because I didn’t have them in my pantry when I started to put the cake together: like a blended vegetable oil (mostly canola with a little soyabean) instead of the Sunflower called for, and I had no cinnamon, so I upped the ginger and popped in some nutmeg.

The cake itself is also huge. *laugh* There is only two of us, and there is a LOT of cake to eat! I have a feeling that I’ll be taking cake to work to share with everyone @ the bakery.

Carrot Cake (as per Hummingbird Bakery, via Afeitar)

300gm soft light brown sugar
3 eggs
300ml sunflower oil
300gm plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarb
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
300g carrots, grated
100g shelled walnuts, chopped, plus extra whole to decorate

Preheat the oven to 170c

Put the sugar, eggs and oil in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat until all ingredients are well incorporated,  slowly add the flour, bicarb, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt and vanilla extract and continue to beat until well mixed. (If you don’t have either a freestanding mixer or a handheld, you can do what I did and just mix it by hand.) Stir in the grated carrots and walnuts by hand.

For goodness sake, split the mix into two tins. I didn’t, and my cake took about 75 minutes to bake, and it’s a BIG cake. If you split it into two sheet cake tins, you can freeze an entire cake for later, or feed a lot of people. If you pop it into two bigger circle tins (and I’m thinking 10″ or more), you can make a double layered tin. Split into two, your cake should take around 35-40 mins to bake. Check it at 35: if it’s still wobbly, you’re looking at another 10-15 minutes.

Take out when a skewer inserted comes out clean and cake is dark golden. Leave to cool in the tins for 5 minutes, and then turn out to cool.

ICING

500g icing sugar
100g unsalted butter at room temp.
1750g cream cheese, cold

Beat the butter and 100gms of the icing sugar together by hand, or in a mixer, to start to incorporate the mix. Add half of the cream cheese and beat mixture in the mixer, or start to use a handheld mixer. Slowly add half of the icing sugar left (to make sure it doesn’t redecorate your kitchen in white), then the rest of the cream cheese, and finally the final icing sugar that remains. Beat until pale in colour and fluffy. You don’t want a heavy cream cheese icing.

Spread over the cake thickly and evenly. If you’ve got two halves, you will have enough to cover the top, middle & sides. If you have one BIG cake, you will have frosting left over. (Like I do!) I would suggest halving the mix, or at least cutting it down.

Sprinkle some walnuts over the top for a special look.

Devour.

Blueberry Muffins

It’s the end of summer here. The weather changed about 10 days ago, but we’re experiencing the last burst of heat. With a week of February to go, it’ll be Autumn in 8 days, and I can not wait. I am over summer and the heat this year: we had summer come early last year with a big heatwave for about three weeks in November and only bursts of cooler weather since. It’ll end up being a 4 month summer this year, and whilst we haven’t had the searing heat of last summer (which resulted in one awful day of 47C and many many deadly fires), it’s still been stifling in patching. It’s far more bearable here in the hills than it is over on the west coast, but still: over it. To celebrate the end of summer, I cleaned out my freezer today and ended up with these beauties:

Some blueberries left over from a blueberry smoothie about a month ago (regular readers may remember my post on it – Mmmmmm smoothie) featured in my muffin mix today, and gosh they were good.

And to think that I was worried I hadn’t put enough blueberries in. My first muffin was more blueberry than muffins I think!

This is my basic muffin recipe that I made the banana muffins out of. I noticed that I needed to add a splash more milk to counter not having the mashed up banana included in the wet ingredients. However, I think they worked super well, and the only way they could have been better, would have been with a sprinkling of raw sugar on the top of the muffins before they went into the oven, to add a bit of crunch on the top.

Blueberry Muffins

1 1/4 cups SR flour (or 1 1/4 cups plain flour & 1 teaspoon of baking powder)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
40 gms melted butter
1/3 cup milk (+ a splash, just under a 1/4 cup)
3/4-1 cup blueberries (to be honest, I just put in three scant handfuls)

Mix dry ingredients in bowl. Beat egg + add milk & melted butter, then pour wet mix into bowl. Stir mixture together until just combined. Add in blueberries and fold. Spoon into 4 big muffin cups, and bake for 25 minutes in a 200C oven.

Great quick Sunday morning breakfast :) In fact, I made the mix before I put the laundry on, they baked whilst the machine was working, and I munched on down after my laundry was done. Fantastic!

Afternoon Tea

What better thing to indulge in on a lovely Saturday Afternoon, if it’s not afternoon tea! This was my little bit of arvo tea today, except you’re looking at a cup of coffee… Hmmm. *grin* NOW I’m having tea, but it’s iced tea. The brownie in the picture is from the bakery I work in, and is actually a mint ‘hedgehog’ slice. Very fudgy this bake, made on Friday afternoon, I couldn’t resist taking some home :)

Do you like indulging in afternoon tea?

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