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?

*************

[“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.

Food and how we waste it- The Green Noticeboard

Grab a cup of tea, some biscuits to dunk in it and plonk yourself in the comfy chair for 15 minutes.

**********

 I quite often come across links that I find interesting, full of things I should know about and sometimes just down right fascinating. Have a look at this one from Tristram Stuart. Feel free to link any of your own green links in the comments.

Let’s build this community green noticeboard board.

the green noticeboard || cityhippyfarmgirl

Baked Ricotta- Frugal Friday

baked ricotta

This is a ridiculously simple dish, where the possibilities are endless of what to team it up with. Add extra different types of cheese, fresh garden herbs, chilli, bacon pieces, shallots… endless I tell you.

A side salad or some roasted vegetables to go with it and a simple Friday night dinner is done. Five minutes tops, to put it all together.

Baked Ricotta

350g ricotta

3 eggs

75g self raising flour

50g melted butter

1 tsp oregano

salt and pepper to taste.

Beat eggs, mix through everything else except flour, and then fold that through too. Pop it into a greased pie dish (or something similar) and bake at 200C until puffed up and golden, (about 35 minutes.)

three years on

apple shortcake

apple shortcake1

Funny to think this little blog is now three years old. It’s also funny to look back on some of the things I’ve posted about in that three years. Somethings I feel exactly the same about them as I did then, and others, well not so much. I’ve moved on a little, and things have changed round a bit.

I was looking back on my first month of blogging in 2010 and was considering what I had to say back then. I had to chuckle. It was a funny way to start, and while I cringe at some of those first photos I put up, I do like them being there, if even just for my own comedy value.

I also still stand by that very first paragraph I wrote.

“New to the blogging world. I thought I might start one, just to watch my own progression on living as sustainably as possible in an urban environment.  Finding out what works for me and my family and maybe achievable by others also living in a city environment.”

The blog has dipped and weaved a little over that time with topics and content, but living as sustainably as possible for my family and I, is still top priority for me. It’s just as important now as it was then, maybe even more so.

Knowing where my food comes from and what goes into my family’s mouth is just as important.

Being mindful of the choices we make as consumers is also just as important.

Trying to make as many things as possible rather than relying on someone else to do it for me (and is usually a whole lot of fun) is also still really important to me.

Looking back over the last three years, I thought I might revisit one of the first few dishes that I blogged about in my first month. Matthew Evans’ Apple and Blackberry Shortcake. The recipe is here if you are interested in trying it, and I’m hoping my second time picture gives it a bit more credit than the first time I did it. 

DSC_0237 copy

Still thinking on the last three years of blogging- if I hadn’t continued with my blog, I probably wouldn’t…

1/ Have made my sourdough starter

2/ Have continued on the always amazing bread journey that is sourdough

3/ Taken as many photos as I do these days

4/ Have one particular spot to put all my ramblings and musings. Instead there would still be lots of scrappy bits of paper filled with recipes, thoughts, quotes and ideas about the place.

5/ (and best of all…and I know there are still oodles more) I probably wouldn’t have been a part of the wonderful community that blogland can be.

heart

Three years on it was also time for a little shake up on the look of my blog. My theme I had stuck by had long since been retired from the theme options and it seemed there weren’t too may of his clinging on to the blix theme these days. We’ll see how this one works for a bit….

************

Now, I was trying to think of something little I could do celebrate that fact that it’s been three years flitting about in the land of blog. So what to do?

Send you all a piece of the Apple and Blackberry Shortcake?…but it probably wouldn’t arrive in the same condition that I sent it.

Put together an awesome sponsor given hamper full of all things groovy and gifty….damn, it’s not that kind of blog.

Something beautiful and whimsically handmade?…hmmm, most of my stuff is still kind of on the learning end.

Still thinking, I thought about a card. Most people still like getting a letter, a card or a post card, and I thought, well I can do that!

So if you would like a card or postcard sent from me to you (or to your little people-if you have them- as they loooove getting mail too!…well mine do anyway.) I would love to send you one. Where ever you may be….Alaska, Argentina, Italy or Dubbo. Doesn’t matter where. Just drop me a line at cityhippyfarmgirl at gmail dot com, leave me an address and a card will be on it’s way. (say first five-ish?)

So a big thank you from me to you- the readers and commentators, as without you…well this blog just wouldn’t be the same.

in my kitchen this week…

cherries

My kitchen is a bit like a clapped out old Volkswagen at the moment. Stopping and starting in fits and flurries. With days of flour strewn every where, dishes mounting like excitable rabbits, and my mixer getting an excessive work out. This is then strangely followed, by not even a whisper of activity. My cooking mojo seemingly lost. It does this now and then, slowing, sliding to a halt only to kick start again, life being thrown back into the kitchen in the way of a cup full of flour here or a cooking pan there. Then quietly coming to another hiccuping halt again. My kitchen, the kombie.

cedro

I’d been wanting to get some cedro for quite some time. It was there, ready for the taking and somehow I ended up with some orange as well. I was nodding enthusiastically to the heavily accented man selling me the cedro and obviously saying all the right words in order to get some  of the orange as well.  I thought we were just having a delightful conversation, talking about what might go well with it. I felt too impolite to say, oh no thanks mate, actually it was just the cedro I was after.

pashmak

Pashmak…ohhh, I’d been looking for you for a long time. Now what shall I create with you my pretty fluff?

I’m still playing with cardamom buns, they really are delicious. It’s a happy thing playing with them, that’s for sure.

Local cherries, more beetroot, and the sweetest looking little pumpkin/squash/orangey thing. Surely it’s just the kind to harness a few rats up to and take some one to a ball….or a gnome house? All goodies found in my foodconnect box.

tomato

I’m really hoping that I see some of these guys in my kitchen soon. Things are looking the most promising they have in a long time. (Just avert your eyes from the mint.)

A needy starter. This weekend it has been so very hot. My starter was getting bulked up to use, but I just couldn’t face putting the oven on until it cooled down a little. The starter was getting a little impatient.

yum

Dinner can take form in many different ways when Mr Chocolate is out for the evening and the kids have something I don’t particularly feel like eating. Basmati rice, banana, sultanas, linseed and almond meal, sunflower seeds, sesame, pepitas, a splash of milk and honey/tahini drizzled over. I then chucked a handful of blueberries in for good measure.

advent

Last of all, not really in my kitchen but finished this week, (just in time.) My advent calendar. It’s not very “Christmassy” looking but that sits fine with me. I was a little nervous about the colour palate but it all seemed to come together enough at the end. The boys were happy to see it on the 1st, and now they get to count down until Christmas day. (Nothing like it what so ever, but I was inspired by Tania’s advent calendar from last year, which is truly, truly beautiful.)

That’s it for my kombie kitchen this week, what’s happening at your place?

**********

(linking in with the lovely Celia@ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial)

a gathering

Last weekend we had a gathering

an afternoon to come together with shared food, simple decorations, no structured time, one table, lots of rugs and plenty of conversation

“All ukeleles, hulahoops, guitars, fire twirling, bongos, bubbles and barefeet are actively encouraged…”

an open green space giving shade and freedom to

20 adults and 28 children

 

When city living can feel so incredibly rushed, hurried, structured and small. Gatherings like this are like a breath of fresh air.

Recharging the batteries, giving adults time to stop, slow down and talk. Children time to do what they do best…run off and explore, creating their own games.

I absolutely adore afternoons like this…

Thank you friends.

the community garden

Our local council is trialing a new community food foragers garden. I really love the idea of this and hope that it takes off,  just getting bigger and bigger.

Imagine city living where on each high density living block there was a community kitchen garden readily accessible for all the locals. An attached community compost bin, for all those to access that didn’t have backyards. Seasonal food grown within a hop skip and a jump of where you live, with composting scraps being used for the same garden while decreasing all the food scraps being sent to land fill.

It doesn’t seem like a big ask, does it?

It just makes sense. Cutting back on waste having to be collected by council. Making more efficient use of space. Encouraging a community spirit. I’m sure on each block there would be at least a couple of willing people who would love to regularly tend the small edible space. If people are living in a high density living area, green spots are hard to come by and the chance to actually dip your fingers in to some soil and tend a little foliage would be incredibly appealing to a lot of inner city dwellers.

More green spaces in the city are needed. Whether it be roof tops, street corners, reclaimed concrete areas, where ever they may be. However,  first people need to ask for it, and be encouraging when trials are put into place. Be vocal, spread the good word. Whispered words of encouragement is what gets ideas moving. Spoken words and acts of enthusiasm keep them there.

If everyone’s local councils started up just one food foragers garden in their area, it was successful, and people respected the space. Surely this could mean the start of many more to come?

The benefits of a nation wide scheme like this?… Oh can you imagine.

******

Do you have any community gardens or food foraging gardens in your area?

seasonal cooking for June

The seasons have changed and along with it so has what comes out of the kitchen.

I like that. Seasonal menus and changing what goes on our plate according to availability and the weather outside.

Orange and Coconut Cake, an easy one to make up a head of time. Keeps well, using some of the delicious new season oranges about. Try to find some organic oranges, as they shouldn’t be waxed. You don’t particularly want zest of wax in your cake do you?

I was lucky enough to get a lovely load of my dad’s backyard citrus.

Ribollita adapted from this Jamie Oliver recipe. A really easy meal based on vegetables on hand and using up stale bread. Frugal, seasonal, healthy, local produce and tasty. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Will the kids eat it? If you have miracle children they might, mine wouldn’t touch it.

So what else is looking tasty round these parts in June?

mandarins…. eaten by the bucket load at the moment. Easy snack.

radish… finally sliced in salads

pumpkin… thai pumpkin soup with a swirl of coconut cream.

cauliflower… I’m thinking this risotto, with extra chillies please.

kale… raw or cooked green goodness. SUPER food.

leek… base for a hearty soup or sitting in the bottom of a quiche.

mushrooms… cooked up in some olive oil with a side of polenta. Yum!

********

What seasonal cooking are you doing?

puddings and puddles

The sun sets early now, when there is a sun that is.

It’s been cold, wet and grey here lately. The days have the stamp of winter on it.

Looped scarfs. wet puddles to jump in, bare trees and mornings starting with wailing black cockatoos overhead.

This is our winter. Not a winter with snow, and sub zero temperatures but a Sydney winter non the less. A winter that calls for heartier food. Slow cooked soups, polenta dishes and perhaps the odd pudding or two.

Sticky Date Pudding

125g softened butter

80g brown sugar*

2 beaten eggs

1 tsp cinnamon

zest of an orange

300g self raising flour

220g dates (I used medjool dates)

1 tsp bicarbonate soda

125mls boiling water

Take any seeds out of the dates and split the dates in half. Pop them in a bowl, add the bicarb and boiling water, set aside.

Cream butter and brown sugar together. Add beaten eggs, orange zest, and cinnamon mix well. Then add date mixture and fold through the flour.

I baked these in individual size cake pans for approximately 25 minutes at 180C. You can easily bake it as a whole cake, and adjust cooking time to suit.

* you could add more sugar if you like your whole pudding experience to be on the sweeter side. I think there is enough sweetness in the sauce though.

Sauce

300mls cream

110g dark muscavado sugar

100g butter

Bring cream to a simmer, add sugar and butter. Stir continuously until butter has melted, (and don’t let it boil over!)

Now with all that pudding energy…best go find some puddles to jump in.

for the love of italy

You know that bubble of excitement you get some times? It starts at the pit of your stomach, spreading a warmth through out your body, and ending at the very ends of your hair strands. Every fibre of your body has just experienced that warm happy feeling, that if you could capture it in a glass jar, would surely radiate a pulsing soft yellow glow.

A whole bundle of descriptive happy emotions all wrapped up in that one glass jar. You might get that feeling on seeing a loved one, the simple touch of someone who cares, hearing something that truly speaks to you on the radio, giving something to another, or simply feeling a warm afternoon breeze coming down off the mountains.

For every different person there could be a hundred different reasons for generating that wonderful feeling. And the best thing about it? It usually takes you by complete surprise. There you are going about your business, and bam. Every fibre of your body has just been touched by that invisible soft pulsing yellow glow. Leaving your mouth smiling, eyes sparkling and your heart just that bit bigger.

There are several things that can quite often trigger these feelings for me. Without completely leaving my soul out on a canape platter for the whole world to snack on, I’ll mention just the one today.

Italy. Bella Italia.

Now for any long term readers, this isn’t a surprise. I’ve often written of my love of all things Italian. Italy runs through my veins like a good custard slice does. It’s part of who I am. Not because of an extensive family tree, but my branches have definitely self sown themselves in that Italian direction.

Reading this article (here) on Italian street food brought forward a wonderful array of delicious taste bud memories from my different times spent there. Piadinas in darkened bars eaten at late hours. Wedges of thick volcano hot foccacia eaten while strolling up and down the one street as a teenager. Towering gelato eaten on freezing cold days, eaten simply because we could.

And the one that stands out as the most novel of all?

Ending all night club dancing with a crema filled croissant at 4am. Not just any croissant, but one that can only be purchased from the early morning baker who opens a tiny portion of his centuries old wooden door through a darkened cobble stoned alley way to tired dancers on their way home. A crisp and flakey croissant, still warm from the oven with custard like crema that brushes past your lips far too quickly. The secret baker who made this sweet delight and will only open up to the friend, of the friend, of the friend, who knows where on earth that secret wooden door can be found again come the next Saturday night.

********

Watching Two Greedy Italians recently I was inspired to make something similar to their Lemon and Ricotta Tart. I had limes and I had ricotta and if I talked to The Monkeys in an Italian accent while I baked the thing… maybe just maybe I could be transported even for a minute or two, to the land of vespas, pizza and that crema filled 4am goodness.

I was willing to give it a shot anyway.

Lime Ricotta Tart

(the love child of this Lemon and Ricotta Tart and this Lemon Meringue Pie)

one can of condensed milk

half cup lime juice and one grated lime

3 separated eggs

300g fresh ricotta

one sheet of puff pastry

Mix all ingredients together, except egg whites. Whisk egg whites separately, fold into mixture. Grease pie dish, line it with a sheet of puff pastry. Pour mixture in and bake 40minutes at 190C.

Verdict?… Dead easy. Tastes a bit like a light cheesecake, and a bit like a not so sweet lemon meringue pie.