Little Black Cow Farm

cityhippyfarmgirl

There was a long sigh of utter contentment, leaning against the fence watching the sun come up. The kids were back at the house watching cartoons, and the smallest and her dad were snoring still in bed.

I’d set the eldest two up and then had quietly slipped out of the house. There was a sunrise to be had over those paddocks and I wasn’t about to miss it.

Staying at Little Black Cow Farm stay had been on the agenda for longer than I could remember. I’d often read Kim’s blog and wistfully planned long weekends away. Finally, after a generous invitation, I actually did.

Little Black Cow Farm stay is a 300 acre working beef farm in Branxton, Hunter Valley. Land of vineyards, photo opportunities and good food. The most glorious of foods. I’d set myself up with a little challenge for the weekend, to only eat as much locally produced food as I could get my hands on. Tricky? Stopping off at the local IGA before we got to the farm, I happily didn’t think it so.

In my basket I had Liberi eggs, Udder Farm Fetta, Udder Farm camembert, Udder Farm milk, sourdough from Morpeth bakery and organic wine from Macquariefields. If we only had dairy, bread and wine for the next three days…well, just quietly I didn’t think I would be complaining.

Settling into the farmstay, the kids are riding on the tractors and I get to quietly wander through the farm stay permaculture visitors garden. Kim has set it up so that her farm stay people can pick anything they want, and so I do.

Whenever I am home, my tiny potted garden brings me a lot of joy, but being here? In amongst the sprawling strawberry tendrils, the bushy parsley and the climbing snake beans I can’t help but have a few moments of ‘one day’ thoughts.

Squeals of delight and general loud kid conversation snapped me out of any ambitious garden plans. I was being ordered to jump aboard as the tractor had other people to pick up and the three year old driver couldn’t wait any longer for me.

garden salad || cityhippyfarmgirl

Dinner that night was a salad I had picked from the garden earlier, sausages from a few paddocks away, (Kim and David make their own which you can buy during your stay) and some of the bread and cheese I had hunkered away earlier. For dessert we had custard- made from the local cream, milk and eggs all done in a piece of kitchen kit, that I had often wondered about, but had never played with, (more on this in a minute.)

From a locavore point of view I was super happy. From a foodie point of view I was deliriously happy. From tired point of view, I was shattered… must have been that country air I suspect. Time to sleep.

A new day and there I was contentedly watching that sunrise. There are a few sure-fire things in this world that will always make my heart sing and watching the sunrise, has always been one of them.

eating locally || cityhippyfarmgirl

Back at the house and I start getting breakfast together. As I mentioned earlier there is a piece of kitchen kit, that is quite the rockstar of kitchen appliances for visitors to use, and I was keen to give it a crack. Was it really everything people raved about? Let’s find out.

Last night I had made custard in it, amazingly I hadn’t exploded anything, and the rockstar really had made perfect custard. This morning though I wanted to test it further, so butter was on the agenda with half a carton of cream left over from last night’s custard. Whoosh…done. Um, one minute that took. Hmmm, hard boiled eggs? Yep did that too. Coffee, why yes please. It is a weekend away after all, no coffee would be completely unaccceptable. Would the rockstar sort that one out? Yes, apparently so!

A wonderful day was spent doing weekend away kind of things. The kids got to harass the animals again, the adults got to talk, we went on a farm tour to the ‘top of the world’ and then suddenly dinner time was whispering again. I thought I would put the rockstar to the test once more. Thai Style Pumpkin Soup was on the menu, dicatated by what was in the garden. A simple soup, with all the ingredients (pumpkin, lemongrass, thai basil and a little chilli) being sourced just a couple of metres away.

Last day arrives and we farewell all the animals. We say goodbye to the dogs, goats, sheep, cows, pony, chooks and I peel small gripped fingers away from the guinea pigs, (I’m sure I heard them sigh with relief.)

I don’t think I have ever stayed somewhere that was so accommodating and involving towards kids and adults, every age was considered. Kim and David are the most wonderful hosts. From a welcome plate of homemade biscuits, kids toys, oodles of books, dvds, farm animals, climbable tractors, jeep tour, individual activities designed around your needs and wants. And one of the best things?…a perfectly edible (and encouraged to do so) permaculture garden at your doorstep.

It was the most relaxing weekend I’d had in a long time, and just quietly… I can’t wait to go back.

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Local Hunter Valley connections to be enjoyed

Little Black Cow Farm Stay– accommodation

Udder Farm– milk, cream, cheese.

Liberi Eggs- boiled, fried, scrambled or runny if you are one of those funny people who like runny eggs.

Morpeth Sourdough Bakery– locally baked sourdough…say no more.

Macquariedale Organic Wine- one glass or two?

Little Black Cow Farm Beef– these are happy beautifully kept cows that taste rather delicious in sausage form.

Sacred Tree Markets– on every third Sunday within the township of Branxton. 

Who gives a crap?

Last year we started getting this toilet paper. It’s good, it feels good buying it. And I don’t just mean on our bums either.

I mean it feels good for my soul buying it. I’m doing something, that is right and just. Something that helps so many others, just by me taking some control over where my purchasing dollars are going to.

Who Gives A Crap

I certainly do. That’s why I buy it

As an added bonus, the individually wrapped rolls are the start of 100 kinds of crafty hours. Whether it’s for you or your small people. I tell you, the different ways in which to play with empty toilet rolls, tissue paper, and a large box is limitless, (only limited by your imagination of course.)

At our house they’ve been made into binoculars, bowling essentials, flowers, people, they were briefly wrapped as presents last Christmas (yes, I so went there.) Pinhole camera accessories were lots of fun and more robots than I care to count. Kids don’t need expensive battery operated plastic toys to play. They need a box of toilet paper…that’s all, I’m sure of it.

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How about you? Have you used this company before, have you thought about it?

Do you Give a Crap?

the green noticeboard || cityhippyfarmgirl

When you need to make a Chocolate Caramel Almond Tart

chocolate caramel almond tart || cityhippyfarmgirl

There was a birthday coming up and the order had been put in. Something chocolatey. It was a loose request that held lots of possibilities. Cake? Nah. I still hold some reservations on the old chocolate cake front, if I can avoid making one I certainly do.

Now this particular birthday request just had to involve chocolate somewhere along the lines of the dessert. Surely I could put something on the table that could be used in a celebratory, I’ve just turned another wonderful year older kind of thing.

I had a coffee, (it’s when I do my best thinking) and came up with a chocolate caramel tart. Doable, certainly doable I thought. Then I promptly forgot about it.

Fast forward several weeks and the day in question arrived. For lots of reasons I was a little distracted in the lead up to it and didn’t plan it in my usual military precision birthday sugary goodness celebratory fashion. Instead it was a little like… oh what’s in the fridge/cupboard, and can I whack it in to build up this tart?

And so that’s how almond meal ended up in there, (toasted mind you, I’m not a complete hack.) Tart got a thumbs up verdict and there were scrambles for the last tiny wedge.

Seems the unplanned Chocolate Caramel Almond Tart was ok.

chocolate caramel almond tart || cityhippyfarmgirl

Chocolate Caramel Almond Tart

Pastry

150gms softened butter

2 cups plain flour

2 tsp vanilla

1 egg yolk

* if you want your pastry sweet as well add 50gs of icing sugar, I thought there would be enough sugar in the caramel and chocolate layers.

In a processor add flour and butter, process until resembles bread crumbs. Tip mixture out to a bowl and add vanilla and egg yolk. Bring together and give a quick knead until it’s smooth. Roll between two pieces of baking paper, and roll out to about 5mm. Carefully place pastry in greased tart base and bake blind for approximately 25 minutes at 180C. Remove beads (or whatever you used to bake blind with and pop back into the oven for another 5 or so minutes or until golden.

Almond Caramel

1 cup condensed milk

1 knob of butter

2 tbls brown sugar

Put these three ingredients in a pot and stir over medium heat, until it turns to caramel. Don’t leave it, continually stir, should take about 4 minutes. (If you let it get too thick it will be harder to manage.)

In another pot over medium heat add 100g of almond meal, gently toast it. Stirring continuously until light golden. Add this to the caramel.

Add the almond caramel to slightly cooled tart pastry.

Ganache

300mls cream

300g dark chocolate

Bring the cream to a boil and then turn off heat. Drop broken chocolate into the cream and stir until melted through. Allow ganache to cool slightly and then pour over caramel tart. Allow to sit for a few hours before serving.

chocolate caramel almond tart || cityhippyfarmgirl

When it storms, I bake

cityhippyfarmgirl.comfetta and pesto sourdough scrolls || cityhippyfarmgirl.com

Gumboots and an umbrella weren’t really going to cut it over the last few days here in Sydney.

Sydney, Newcastle and the Wollongong area have all copped a battering, and while the storm has now lessened, the clean up is going to go on for a lot longer.

After adventurous soggy walks to school in the mornings, there wasn’t much else for me and the small one to do but batten down the hatches, read stories, and do what I can with not much food in the cupboard.

Thanks to bread baking being a wonderful part of my life… we certainly didn’t go hungry, (fetta and pesto sourdough scrolls).

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Some pictures of the storm can be found here.

loving… almost camping

cityhippyfarmgirl

cityhippyfarmgirl

We almost went camping these school holidays. Almost.

Everything was packed, sleeping bags dragged out. The tent dusted off and enthusiasm sat at the door like an impatient puppy.

It wasn’t to be though. It seemed a virus also sat at the door the night before we were to go. Three kiddo’s with fevered heads. Three kiddo’s with glassy eyes. Three kiddo’s with limp, suddenly very small looking little bodies.

Camping in the bush was going to have to wait.

While this post could easily be a sad tale of sick small kids, there are a few brighter sides to the sorry tale.

loving… long hugs that come with unwell kids. There will be a time when they will no longer want to rest heavy hot heads on my shoulder. Even though unwell, I’ll take those long draped body hugs while I still can.

loving… quiet. It was brief, but there was a moment there they were all asleep. During the day and I had a cup of hot coffee by my side. That, doesn’t happen too often.

loving… a cancelled weekend, which means all the usual rules, needs, requirements don’t apply. In my head, this means whatever we all want kind of goes as we weren’t going to be here at home anyway. Nonsensical logic, but I run with it.

cityhippyfarmgirl

Tarty apple crumble with hot runny custard for dinner? Why yes.

Long couch sessions with successive movie watching? Of course.

Sneaky second coffees to get you through another possible night of jack-in-the-box parenting? A given.

A day trip away to somewhere new, which is almost like mini camping. Almost.

So while this post isn’t full of some of the usual loving things, it does have its upsides. The virus that sat by the front door has slunk away into the shadows. My small ones have replaced aching limbs with some of their usual crazy energy, and plans for another camping trip will be mapped out once more. And I’m certainly loving that.

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“Often life’s pleasures pass us by simply because we don’t take a moment to focus on them… Make a point of noticing everyday something that uplifts your spirit or tickles your heart… Stop to breathe in the joy of this moment and then tell someone about it. Share your joy and revel in it. When your joy is savoured, and then shared, it is magnified…” ROBIN GRILLE]

What are you loving at the moment? 

Assistent Original- the Grain Mill

assistent original || cityhippyfarmgirl

A couple of years ago I invested in an invaluable piece of kitchen gear. I bought this machinery of wonderfulness- an Assistent Original.

I researched and researched my options on a kitchen mixer that would hold up to my regular and large amounts of bread making. (If you are interested that research post can be found here.) I decided on the Assistent as it was the one machine that kept coming up while ticking all my requirement boxes. I then did a post on how the machine was faring six months after buying it, (which can be found here.)

I’m recapping a few details here, as it’s been nearly 2.5 years since I bought it and some people have asked do I still stand by it?

In a nutshell…YES! A big beautiful yes. I use the Assistent several times a week, I make several kilos of dough at a time (it can take up to 5 kilos) and it has never given me the slightest hiccup when it comes to bread mixing. For a baker enthusiast that isn’t at commercial levels but bakes more than the average home cook I would highly recommend it. Actually I do, for everyone!

assistent original || cityhippyfarmgirl

After sticking with the basic package, last year I decided I wanted to give a few of the other attachments a go. With the meat mincer, cookie attachment and grain mill now adorning my bench top what do I think about them?

linseed || cityhippyfarmgirl

sunflower seed || cityhippyfarmgirl

Grain Mill

Well hands down the grain mill is a winner in my book. I go through a fair chunk of grains in this household. Linseed, and sunflower seeds being used the most. I buy in bulk as it’s cheaper, that way I can make sure it’s grown locally and/or organic. By using the grain mill I can also make sure it’s kept at its freshest.

So how does it work?

The machine goes on its side, attachments on and grain or seeds in at the top. I adjust the consistency I want of the grain or seeds to be ground at, put the timer on and walk away. It looks a little odd, with the machine lying on its side, but it works beautifully, attaches easily, isn’t noisy and doesn’t make a mess.

assistent original || cityhippyfarmgirl

The cookie attachment and meat mincer I haven’t used as much to give a conclusive assessment at this stage. I would say the cookie attachment is best for larger amounts of cookie dough, (which really isn’t much of a problem in this household!) At this stage I spend more time cleaning this attachment up then benefiting from it properly- so this one will be continued. As for the meat mincer, (as she hangs head in shame, not used at all yet.)

The grain mill though? Yes! A big triumphant yes. And the Assistent Original as a machine for the home cook? 100 times yes. I love it just as much as I did when I first got it two and a half years ago, and would recommend it in a heart beat.

The Crumpet Trumpet

Top tips for Sourdough Crumpets || cityhippyfarmgirl

Talk of crumpets and it usually leads to other words like buttery fingers, dripping honey and piping hot cups of tea.

Crispy on the bottom, soft in the middle. There was something about the humble crumpet that most certainly appealed.

When I started making sourdough crumpets, (now not to blow my own crumpet trumpet here) well that appeal went through the roof.

The fact that they are dead easy, tasted good AND so much easier on the tummy being sourdough…well the requests started to pile up.

It seems everyone else in the family wanted in on the crumpet action as well. There really was quite a loud trumpet for crumpets.

Buttery fingers, dripping honey and piping hot cups of tea? Seems it really is the only way to eat crumpets.

Sourdough Crumpets

1 cup of sourdough starter

1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda

1/4-1/2 tsp salt

extra melted butter

You’ll need a whisk, egg rings and a frying pan to cook them in.

sourdough starter || cityhippyfarmgirl

Top Tips for Sourdough Crumpets

* Your starter doesn’t need to be refreshed for this to work. Straight from the fridge is fine, just leave it on the bench for a little to bring it back to room temp.

* Work on a fairly liquidy starter, if it looks to thick, just add a little extra water. You should see bubbles within the egg ring when you cook them. If it’s too thick you won’t see this.

* If you like the big holes, divide your starter mixture in half before adding the bicarb and salt, stagger the timing and add the second lot just before you start to cook them.

* Use a whisk when adding the salt and bicarb.

* When cooking them, pour the batter into the egg rings- gently rub some melted butter round the edges so the batter doesn’t stick.

* If your crumpets don’t have the bubbles you are after, take the heat up a smidge in the initial cooking period, then turn it down a little.

* After a few minutes of cooking gently jiggle the ring off and leave the crumpet to continue to cook. You can either flip it over to cook the top a little or once the crumpet is 75% cooked, add a lid and steam the last bit of the crumpet. This is purely to keep your holes completely intact so you are not squashing them.

* These can easily be frozen and toasted again later (once cooked the first time of course.)

* Great camping food.

* Also good for kiddo’s to do on the weekend.

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If you don’t have a sourdough starter and you are keen to give it a crack. This tutorial here will get you started.

sourdough crumpets || cityhippyfarmgirl

When the Feast ends

cityhippyfarmgirl

Feast magazine was one of the first foodie magazines that I got really excited about. It was ‘real’ food. It was beautifully photographed and it was food that I wanted to cook. These days I don’t really buy any food related magazines but when I heard that Feast magazine would be turning their last page, well it seemed a bit rude not to buy the last edition.

It is, (was) a beautifully put together drool worthy magazine. Kitchen benches and dinner tables will be the lesser for this magazine not being around.

gingerbread Cake || cityhippyfarmgirl

This is my tribute to a wonderful magazine. Dark Gingerbread Cake, gorgeous recipe, that if you are super quick you might still be able to buy in a newsagent or get the recipe online right here.

this weekend…is on pause

cityhippyfarmgirl cityhippyfarmgirl cityhippyfarmgirl

Easter long weekend,

and everything is slipping into ‘go slow’.

I’m not hurrying, I’m not clock watching and I may well dissolve completely into those magazine pages at some point.

Spelt hot cross buns have been made,

the beach is whispering,

and if someone offers to make me a second coffee? Well I might just say yes.

That’s how this weekend is rolling, and everything else in life?

…is on pause.

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When the Night Comes- by Favel Parrett: wonderful, wonderful book if you are looking for a new book to read.

 

Fairtrade Chocolate….still just as important as last year

Spencer Cocoa || cityhippyfarmgirl

It seems we are heading into the chocolatey part of the year. The time of year when if you peruse supermarket aisles you might see a sea of mass produced, overly packaged chocolate all at really accessable prices.

Now how do these chocolates manage to stay at these comfortable prices? Well, there is a good chance it will be made of compound chocolate- which means it could well have palm oil in it. Food miles are a given. And the work in order to harvest the cocoa? Well it wouldn’t be surprising if it was done under child labour conditions.

So how do we not buy into that whole rather dirty circle? Well, simply put, don’t. Vote with your dollar. Buy fair trade and consider what you’re buying before you do so. What you are really buying into?

Fair trade chocolate. Still just as important as last year.

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Spencer Cocoa– Single plantation chocolate, grown in Vanuatu and made in Mudgee. (pictured above, this chocolate is divine!)

World Vision Fair Trade Chocolate Guide (Australian based- but many of these brands are available internationally, so would still be relevant.)

Tribes and Nations– stockists of Fair trade easter eggs.

Chocolatier– does Fair trade options for Easter.