The Lemon Meringue Cake Crisis

 

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A lemon meringue cake, that was the brief. Decorate it however you want mama…

No problem what so ever kiddo, of course I can do that. With three obvious components to the recipe, this should be an easy one, and not something to be worried about at all right?

Right??

Cake, done and dusted. I made that the day before. Curd? Yep, being the efficient person I can be, I made that one two days before. On the celebratory day, it’s just a simple Italian meringue and assemble the thing. Easy peasy.

I was using a new candy thermometre, which I thought was particularly adult of me, instead of the usual guess work that I normally do to get to hardball stage. The thermometre didn’t seem to work out so well though.  I burnt the sugar syrup before it had even gotten close to the magic temperature it needed to get to. Which as I’m sure you can image, burnt sugar is a pure joy to clean off.

Start again, new eggs, new sugar, clean pan. I didn’t move a muscle, no distractions what so ever. Just my full attention in the pot, and yet it seemed to be heading in the exact same damn direction as the first failed lot. Why oh why? No time to wonder, I had to slap this all together quick sticks and make do with what I had.

And it’s at this point, where a good cake, that had lots of potential just began to look sadder and sadder. Three upturned waffle cones, with piped (slightly burnt tinged, but we can ignore that) italian meringue with pretty cachous and rock sugar sprinkled throughout sounds like a good idea.

Well turns out it looks like a snow-capped earthship. Even the smallest declared I might have put a bit too much ‘icing on’. I kept adding to it, hoping it would get better.

It didn’t.

I added tall beautiful beeswax candles, that did help a little as a distraction technique, and then all we had to do was cut into it.

All was ok again once more, it really did taste great.

Lemon and olive oil cake with lemon curd and italian meringue is a combination that works, that part is definitely tried and true. It’s the decorating bit that needs an overhaul, unless you are wanting a snow capped earthship building cake of course, and then hey, I’ve got you covered.

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Lemon and Olive Oil Cake recipe here.

Three Blue Ducks Lemon Curd recipe

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Oranges, lemons, limes…oh and meatloaf

I’ve been given rather a lot of citrus in the past few weeks. Bags shoved into idle hands, baskets left at front doorsteps, ‘do you want some oranges/limes/lemons/grapefruit’ added in at the end of casual conversations.

So where does that leave me? Tickled pink, I tell you as this is M.A.R.M.A.L.A.D.E season, and I need to ensure that I make enough for a year of toast and teas. While also allowing enough spare jars to be popped into hampers and needy hands for those that might like the eating, but less of the making.

With all that in mind, I found myself cooking up 6 kilos of chopped up fruit, water and sugar. Now six kilos is a fair whack to be cooking in one batch, ambitious even.

Why? Because cooking up that amount takes a while, and when ‘a while’ happens, my mind can wander. Wander to the garden, wander to the laundry, wander to the computer, wander to instagram, wander to children with multiple demands of x,y,z etc, etc. Which made the sticky question extra pertinent… Could I keep this precious cargo from,

a) Sticking to the bottom of the pot?

b) Overflowing?

c) Over or under jelling?

Answer? Well as Meatloaf once said (as yes, I know he probably wasn’t singing about his marmalade making) two out of three ain’t bad.

Citrus Marmalade Ratio

2 kilos of finely chopped citrus mixture

2 kilos of sugar

1.5 litres of water

(Everything you ever needed to know about marmalade and jam making, right here.)

Damn straight your coffee makes a difference

So you plan your coffee drinking, you take your reusable cup everywhere just in case, (and you obviously drink organic fairtrade locally roasted beans.) Now if by chance you do forget to bring that when the caffeine call goes out? Well, you decide to sit down and drink it, or simply do with out.

Which is all rather excellent. But what next? How can we go that step further in reducing the 1 billion coffee cups that Australia goes through each year?

Talking with a friend recently who held a chai market stall, and was offering a discount if you brought your own cup. Not one person did throughout the day. Which is pretty disappointing really. Speaking again with another friend, I was appalled to hear that in recent times she had been charged extra to get her take away coffee, in her own cup.

There’s obviously still a fair amount of misunderstanding and opportunity for education still to take place.

Which is where you, the humble consumer gets to step in. While your individual coffee habit is clean as whistle, there are still multiple opportunities to step and lead the community. The ABC’s War on Waste is still a talking point for many people, so it’s created the perfect vehicle for conversation, and if you didn’t happen to see it, or know of the program at all, well, all problems highlighted on the show are going to be relevant for some time, so jump on in.

But how?

Start by hitting up your local community.

Here in Australia we have a great website called Responsible Cafes. Simply type in your address and it will show all the cafes around you that give a discount on your take away coffee if you bring your own cup.

To me this illustrates a few things. One, you are spending your important dollar on a business that is making a conscious decision in making an effort (albeit a small one.) Two, there’s a dramatic reduction in needless landfill, and three, hey, you get a discount.

If you find there are cafes in your area that aren’t listed, why not start that wonderful conversation at your local.

Ask if it’s possible. Generally cafe owners will respond to customers demands, if enough people ask for bowls of green diana-berry smoothies. Well they are going to fill that demand.

Same goes for those takeaway coffee cups. The way you drink it makes a difference. What it comes in makes a difference, and those conversations that you start?

They make a huge difference.

 

Helpful Links 

Responsible Cafes

War on Waste

Fixing your coffee Habit

 

 

 

Must have gut lovin’ goodness list

We are looking at take two of the ‘viral beast’ coming for a visit round these parts. It’s not an exciting visit, and to be honest I’m a bit miffed that the beast is back so quickly after the last time. Seriously the first round of coughs hadn’t even subsided properly.

However, it is what it is. Long naps, slow days, spluttery nights and afternoon sun snuggles…lock ’em in.

One afternoon when a run for provisions was needed I found myself in a chemist running through the symptoms with a sympathetic ear. A range of suggestions was given, including what I can only describe as a lengthy upsell. Which was all met with a no, I’ll just take the initial product please.

In a last ditch attempt, the sympathetic ear/ upseller went in to a long monologue about how probiotics are really important, encouraging good bacteria in our gut, and in turn ensuring a balanced immune system. I nodded, agreeing. Yes we have a lot of fermented food in our home for that very reason, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, sourdough etc etc. Intially she looked at me blankly, then followed that up with a raised eyebrow that said, sure continue on with your fluffy hippy woo woo stuff lady. When you are ready for the proper stuff come back to the chemist.

(She might be waiting awhile.)

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Must have gut lovin’ goodness list in times like this?

Sourdough– make your own, or buy someone else’s. The basis of every easy meal at the moment.

Sauerkraut– make a big batch and always have it at the back of the fridge. This stuff goes with everything.

Kimchi- this is being eaten twice a day, every day and I credit my not being invited to round two of the ‘viral beast’ because of it’s garlicky, chilli infused fermented goodness. Possibly a placebo effect, but hey, it remains a damn tasty one.

Kombucha– every day goodness, yes please.

Fire Cider– knocked back with an enthusiasm unmatched since shooters in the late 90’s.

Beetroot Kvass– It’s certainly beety, and also up there with one of the easiest to try your hand at if you are new to fermenting.

Ginger Beer-  This stuff will put hairs on your chest.

Lemony Goodness

Tarty lemon cordial.

Soft eating lemon and olive oil cupcakes.

Lemon zest over mexican rice.

Marmalade with chunks of lemon in it to slap onto still warm sourdough.

Lemon in a green ginger wine hot toddy.

Possibilities are pretty much endless for the humble lemon. On a week where our family’s health has taken a smashing, it’s all about the lemons.

I hear there are healing properties in Lemon and Olive Oil Cupcakes…surely.

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What’s your go to lemony goodness?

Contemplating Cumquat Marmalade

Making a large batch of cumquat marmalade is a perfect time for deep contemplation. Not so much of the fruit themselves, but using the opportunity to completely dissolve into the task of cutting the flesh open, separating the pips, and cooking it up.

It’s a long labour of love if you have cumquats like mine, with small balls of juicy tart fruit that are filled with those pectin producing seeds. You need them out, but you also need them to set your marmalade. Cut, separate, simmer, stir stir stir, test, and bottle. While there’s not a lot of room for nodding off here, you do still need to pay attention, there’s also room for having a good think.

And so the wonderful dissolving process begins.

With hands busy, the task of making marmalade that tastes like sunshine in a jar begins, and with that, like many creative and repetitive tasks- the mind is set free.

To wonder at will, delving deep into ideas that often few other tasks in any given day allow. You need these kind of activities now and then. Busy hands creating something, but also time to slow it all on down, contemplate the intricacies of life, ponder on the importance of speaking up, our moral values as a society (or maybe just how good that sunshiney marmalade is going to taste with a few squares of dark chocolate tonight.)

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This cumquat tree was originally planted as a Tree of Life.

The marmalade was loosely based around this recipe.

loving…words, jungles and cake

Loving…listening to inspiring words at the Newcastle Writer’s Festival this weekend. Mind bendingly good. So good.

Loving…watching my kids rolling on the ground and laughing until tears squeezed out their eyes and breath would only come in gasps. What on earth was so funny? Truth be told, not a lot, but when you combine an impromptu short story you are telling with a few bum jokes, well you’ve pretty much made it to Parent of The Week.

Loving… creating a special occasion lazy version of a Black Forest Cake. No, actually not a lazy version…lets strike that one and rename it. Economical, lets fly with that one, (and yes it did look a bit 80’s style.)

Loving… the sun finally coming out for longer than an hour or two. While it did highlight the fact that a jungle of tarragon has replaced the backyard, it also brought all the bees out to play, and that dear people, is a beautiful thing.

How about you? What are you up to this weekend? What are you loving at the moment?

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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]

I hacked the recipe, but if you want the original Black Forest Cake, try here.

Lessons in Pumpkins- 10 top tips on growing and storing

Pumpkin growing lessons arrived thick a fast, starting from the multitude of pumpkin seedlings that shot out from anywhere I plonked compost. To the cutting into that first perfectly formed all rounded pumpkin body. Everything in between was all part of the ‘Pumpkin Education’.

Lesson #1 Pumpkins are EVERYWHERE

These little ladies popped up well and truly everywhere. Anywhere I put compost. There was pumpkin seedlings ready to go. Far too many for the various garden beds so I was selective and only kept the most robust looking ones to continue growing. They are heavy feeders, so keep them going in a good amount of that compost, they’ll love you for it.

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Lesson #2 Pumpkins need SPACE

While their root system isn’t particularly extensive their runners are. They will keep reaching out, and will gently root where ever they’re running along the ground. That’s all good. Just let them do their thing.

 

Lesson #3 Male or Female FLOWERS?

It’s pretty easy to tell a male and female flower. One clearly has a small pumpkin forming beneath the flower, the other is just an elongated flower. The flowers are open for 4-6 hours generally early in the morning. With our garden beds there was ratio of 1:10 girl, boy flowers.

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Lesson #4 Female flowers are DROPPING OFF

For a variety of reasons this can happen. Too hot, not getting pollinated, not enough water? I despaired watching every single one of the small baby female pumpkins drop off. What to do? I couldn’t control the weather, I did the best that I could with keeping water up to them, and having a multitude of bees obviously circulating the garden they should have been doing the job of pollinating. But where they?

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Lesson #5 How to HAND POLLINATE

Oddly, it looks like they weren’t being pollinated. As since I started hand pollinating, I had 100% success rate with pumpkins continuing to grow past flowering stage. How to hand pollinate is easy. Take a stick, gently scrape the stamen of the male flower and rub the pollen against the female. (Or simply pluck off a male flower.)

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Lesson #6 Watch them GROW

With consecutive days being ridiculously hot over the December and January, I’m sure if I squinted a little, I could see them grow. As I didn’t know what variety I was growing initially, due to having come out of the compost, we had to hazard a guess. They looked like Kent (otherwise known as Jap) pumpkins though, which meant that approximately 100 days needed to pass until harvest time.

Lesson #7 Time to HARVEST

The pumpkin vine will start to visibly die off. The stalk around the pumpkin will harden, the colour of the pumpkin skin might change a little and if you tap the pumpkin it will sound more hollow than solid.

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Lesson #8 How to CURE and STORE

Make sure there is at about 5-10cm or so of stalk, when you cut it from the rest of the plant. You now need to cure it, which means leaving it out in a well ventaliated spot, where the skin will harden and be a natural protective layer. Gently rotating the pumpkin round a bit every few days for thorough air flow. I did pick one a little early in my eagerness to

Lesson #9 Favourite Pumpkin RECIPES

Surely the pumpkin recipe possibilities is pretty much endless? (Say that quickly 10 times!) The old favourites Pumpkin and Fetta Sausage Rolls are still, well favourites. Pumpkin dhal an easy frugal dinner, pumpkin scones and winter staple, pumpkin soup. All recipes that are simply far too hot to even contemplate at the moment (still hot, damn hot.) But the good thing is the store beautifully.

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Lesson #10 How to SAVE and STORE SEEDS

Scoop out the seeds, rinse out the gloopy bits and let them air dry really well over a couple of weeks. How you dry and store them is really important, as you don’t want any mould on them. More info on all the how’s on storing, is in a post I wrote over at Milkwood last year.

 

 

 

Loving…revolution, sunflowers and birthdays

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Loving…Sunflowers

Seeing these beauties pop up in places I’d forgotten I’d planted makes the heart happy in ways that other flowers simply don’t. While I have a soft spot for marigolds, zinnias, lavendar, nasturtium, cosmos and calendula… Sunflowers have a little extra something about them. (They also have smaller unpredictable life span, as I never quite know when a cockatoo is going to make off with one of the heads. Cheeky buggers.)

Loving…birthdays

Planning small celebrations for the smallest who is no longer so very small. She’s been birthed and has grown a whole handful of years within these blog pages. Getting to celebrate her life makes this mama’s heart sing.

Loving… Revolution

I had initially posted this on instagram in a moment of heat fuelled utter frustration which was then redirected into energy….I still stand by these words and I loved reading people’s responses to it.

Plant a tree, build a garden, seek more knowledge, share your knowledge, find your tribe where people there think you are wonderful, explore other communities, know your farmers, stop and think, dare to dream, don’t sit quietly in the corner because you were told to, stand up for things that are important, stand beside the person who dares to say, no we don’t want this. Stand beside the person who says YES we do want this. Spend a few extra minutes, hours, days, weeks, months in your life to make a difference. Of course it helps. It does it always does.

Care about things. Everyone has a voice, make it heard where it matters. Whether it be through the written word, through art, creativity, through actions, poetry, an added body in a finding momentum crowd. To be quiet or noisy can be equally effective. Ripples or waves, go good people go. We can all be game changers.

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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?

Seasonal Eats: Mango Salsa

mango salsa || cityhippyfarmgirl

It being the height of summer here in Australia at the moment, it’s hard to imagine any day that doesn’t involve hot, or at least a variation of hot. Sure I know it will eventually, it usually does but for the moment it’s all about the heat and how to get through it all without melting into a puddle.

Swimming helps, and oooh yes indeedy it does help. Swimming is divine. Feeling the silken flow of water over your body is one of the greatest things in life. I can wax lyrical on that topic from now until eternity…however it’s not about the water today.

So how else do we cope with the regularly accompanying heat of an Australian summer? Well, I’ll start by doing as little cooking as possible. Sure I still bake sourdough. It’s a baking standard round here. But if I can stretch out the days in between putting the oven on in an already hotter than hot kitchen I will.

Filling bellies is the thing though. If I don’t want to use the oven, and am trying to steer clear of any stove top cooking as well, well that leaves a little less food options when cooking from scratch.

Mango salsa, is thankfully something that doesn’t involve either the oven or stove top. Sure you probably don’t want it accompanying every meal time…but you could certainly give it a crack!

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Mango Salsa

2 mangoes, peeled, seed taken out and flesh chopped evenly

1 small spanish or brown onion, finely diced

1 small chilli, deseeded if super fiery hot, and finely diced

1 squeeze of lime

1 grated small radish

a generous handful of roughly chopped mint

pinch of salt and black pepper

Add all ingredients together and serve with chickpea pancakes if you don’t mind using the stove top, or a bowl of corn chips, and a cold drink with as many ice cubes stuffed in as possible.

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What’s your favourite way to stay cool over summer?