Mrs Longbottom and her Apple Sanga’s

lunch time sandwich || cityhippyfarmgirl

It was in a small sun soaked dusty country school, thirty years before, that Mrs Longbottom* had taught. She probably should have retired ten years prior, but she hadn’t though and her young class of country folk kids were paying the price for that.

Instead she was committed to the little darlings, well at least until the end of the school year anyway.

The highlight of her long and tiring day was lunch time. Not because the pint sized ones were off running outside on the red sun baked dirt. Or because their muffled childish shouts were a little more muted when they hid within the pepper tree’s branches.

But because she really enjoyed eating her lunch.

Each day, it would be exactly the same thing, no matter what. Fresh white bread, thinly sliced crispy apple, thickly sliced cheddar cheese and walnut halves.

With an enthusiasm unmatched in the rest of her day, she would eat that sandwich. With walnut crumbs gently retrieved and her last mouthfuls slowly savoured.

Lunch time indeed was the best part of the day.

lunch time || cityhippyfarmgirl

Reinvented Apple and Cheese Sanga

(one to make a teacher look forward to lunch, and *not her real name.)

the best sourdough bread you can find

the best crispiest seasonal apple in all the lands

caramelised onions

and your favourite tasty cheese

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Pumpkin Spiced Cake or when to break the rules

spiced pumpkin cake || cityhippyfarmgirl

I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

I knew there was something…but really couldn’t quite gather enough thought process to find out what. And yet slowly whatever it was, it built up. I couldn’t write. I couldn’t draw. I couldn’t take any pictures and I sure as eggs couldn’t think what on earth it was that was slightly sitting out of alignment.

So I stopped. Stopped trying to put my finger on it and closed the lap top. Said bugger the homework. Put another jacket on us all and headed out. The rules of the afternoon, the time constraints, the blah, blah, blah. Yep, today they didn’t count, as today….there would be no rules.

You know why kids can play so beautifully, for so long, so uninhibited? Because their rules are different, and they don’t care particularly if they break them. If the row of animals isn’t put away before going to bed, life turns out, does continue on. If homework isn’t done on a one off Wednesday, doing double the next day is actually ok because the afternoon before, oh it was rather awesome.

So why was it, that it wasn’t until I had stopped, did I realise it was all the rules that were choking me and leaving me on edge? I have no idea. Really absolutely none. But on the upside I know how good it felt when we broke all the rules that afternoon in late winter and I have every intention of doing it again soon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now this is a quite a moist, dense cake, that for me looked like a cake, but tasted like a pie, it kind of broke all the cake rules right there.

Looks like a cake, but tastes like a pie… this was a fine thing to realise indeed.

 spiced pumpkin cake recipe || cityhippyfarmgirl

Pumpkin Spiced Cake

150g softened butter

150g brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ginger

1 tsp cardamom

zest of a lemon

2 beaten eggs

2 tbls molasses

225g self raising flour

75g wholemeal spelt flour

1 1/2 cups cooked and mashed pumpkin (use less if you don’t like a moist cake)

Cream butter, sugar and spices together, add lemon zest, beaten eggs and molasses. Mix through pumpkin and then fold through flours. Pour mixture into a greased and lined loaf tin and bake for approximately one hour at 180C, (or until a skewer comes out clean.)

Perfectly Pecan

cityhippyfarmgirl

Mmm, yum Anzac Biscuits…

They’re not Anzac Biscuits, I cut in with, probably a little indignantly…take another bite.

He takes another bite… Mmm, Anzac Biscuits!

Sigh. Oh forget it.

These are not Anzac Biscuits, (despite having oats and golden syrup in them) and looking a little (ahem) like them. Ground pecans is the secret ingredient here, combined with wholemeal spelt flour, and giving them a little earthier flavour. Just the thing to throw out to hungry small kids on school holidays, (who also seem to have an ever increasing appetite for…well pretty much everything.)

So if they’re not Anzac Biscuits, what do you call them?

Um…errr, um, (cough cough)… Perfectly Pecan Biscuits?

cityhippyfarmgirl

Perfectly Pecan Biscuits

200g pecans (in processor)

150 whole rolled oats

150g melted butter

100g golden syrup*

1 tsp vanilla

75g wholemeal spelt flour

In a bowl add all the dry ingredients and then also add the combined melted butter and golden syrup. Roll to a ball, and pop onto a tray. Gently flatten biscuits down and bake at 180C for about 20-25 minutes.

* These aren’t overly sweet. If you like your biscuits on the sweeter side add 50-100g of brown sugar.

summer salad- Frugal Friday

This is my standby summer salad at the moment. It’s finding itself teamed up with a whole heap of dishes, as you can make a big batch of it and it’s not going to go soggy when left in the fridge for a few days.

Summer salad

Chopped up raw kale leaves, (don’t worry about the stalks, too chewy)

Steamed and diced carrots

Steamed corn cut off the cob

Sliced capsicum (peppers)

Pecans

If you have any other seasonal goodies hanging around, pop them in too.

Dress with your favourite dressing.

Fruit and Nut Rye

There is something about truly wholesome food that feeds the soul. A simple seasonal dish, fruit and vegetables picked at their best. Honest food that nourishes, heals and restores.

It could be something as simple as revitalising an appetite or tantalising those taste buds. Inspiring to cook better. I was watching a cooking programme the other day and got so excited about the simple ingredients the chef was using. The presentation was beautiful, the colours, the textures and also the fact that it took just a few minutes to prepare.

Food is exciting. It can be wonderfully vibrant. It brings people together. The textures, the smells, the colours all mixed together can do so much. As I quite often write, it doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t have to take half a day to prepare.

Packets don’t have the same effect. Jars are unlikely to as well. Fruit and vegetables with their genetic diversity dumbed down for convenience and then stored for great lengths of time do not have the same qualities and effects of their seasonal local heirloom variety counterparts.

I love sweet things, and don’t have any issue with sweet recipes in moderation. However I do think that in our society sugar is being used as a substitute for taste. Salt is right along side it. A product lacking in flavour, health, anything nourishing what so ever will be added to. What with? Sugar and or salt. It deadens the taste buds, you want more, your satisfaction levels get confused and more gets consumed. Using ingredients that are easily identifiable, and letting their real flavours shine through brings dishes to the table that make a person smile.

Listen closely to a small child with their favourite simple piece of fruit, and more often than not, slow enjoyable eating sounds will be heard. A sun kissed strawberry brings nothing but happy slurps and red stained fingers and mouth. Taste buds heightened and ignited. A lesser strawberry would still be consumed, but leaving no satisfaction, taste buds lying dormant and on finishing it, you’ve already forgotten about it and moved on.

Bread is no different. For this bread I wanted something that nourished every part of me. A couple of slices for breakfast that would leave my taste buds awakened and my body energized.

Fruit and Nut Rye

300g starter

200g strong bakers flour

100g rye flour

50g linseed

100g sultanas

50g chopped pecans

25g unprocessed wheat bran

1 tsp dark malt flour

275mls (approx) water

1 1/2 tsp salt

handful of raw almonds

Mix all ingredients together except the salt. Resting period for about 40 minutes. Add the salt and mix again. Two long proves with a quick knead in between. Shape or pop in an oiled loaf tin, making sure you throw in a handful of whole raw almonds at the bottom of the tin and bake at 240C with plenty of steam. I baked this one for about 40 minutes. Then gently flipped the loaf out of the tin and into the oven again for another 5 or so minutes, bottom side up, to toast the almonds a little more. Cool on a rack, then wrap and leave over night before cutting into.

This post submitted to the wonderful yeastspotting

Time, sourdough and a little Pecan and Prune Bread

Sourdough seems to put a lot of people off by the time factor of it all. Before I started making it last year, I liked the idea of sourdough, but even making the  starter seemed too lengthy, too time consuming, and a whole lot of hassle really. When I finally jumped in and just made the thing, it was a ohh, is that all? So with the starter bubbling away, I jumped in and away I swam with my sourdoughy… err… dough.

So is it time consuming?

Does it take a lot of work?

Does the convenience of sliced shop bread lure me over some times?

Time consuming, I don’t think of it as. (Saying that, I’m not trying to fit in with a paid job that requires my attention away from home for the majority of the day.)

You do have to plan a little. I don’t wake up in the morning and think ohh, today I shall make sourdough and have it on the table by lunch time. It’s usually a 3 day process, but it certainly doesn’t take 3 whole days to make it.

Sourdough is using natural yeast, so it works on its own time. Some times that sourdough is a sprightly young energetic woman with places to go and people to see. Bubbly and so full of spirit.

Some times that dough is a lethargic old man, shuffling along in worn out old slippers and a battered zimmer frame. You get stuck behind him, and you just know you can’t over take, as it would be rude. You just have to slow yourself down some and let the old fella set the pace.

Either way sourdough is boss. You can fiddle and tweak a little by finding a cooler spot to get it to slow down some or finding a sunny warm spot  to fasten things up a little. It all depends on the activity level of the starter, the flour and the room temperature though.

So does it take a lot of work?

No, not really. A starter feed= 1 minute. Wait 8-12 hours, feed again. Wait 8-12 hours, feed again. Wait 8-12 hours, mix up dough with a mixer and dough hooks. A plain dough=5 minutes of getting ingredients together and mixing. Go do something else more exciting for about 40 minutes, then mix again adding the salt. A quick 30 second knead. Leave it on the bench to think about things for a while. Read The Monkeys a story, have a shower, eye off some dark chocolate and then whack it in the fridge over night. In the morning, shape it (5 minutes), pop it on some trays and let it come back to room temperature- 4ish hours, slash. Bake.

1+1+1+5+30 sec+5  

That’s 13 minutes and 30 seconds of hands on time with the dough (a basic, nothing crazy loaf) over several days+ waiting and baking.

Some times I have to wait for the rising dough and sometimes it has to wait for me, we both have to be a bit flexible, which is the wonderful thing about sourdough, it is flexible. You can adapt the whole bread making process to suit you. I’ve mentioned this as one of my methods on making it work, but there are many other ways that other people do it, some that work for me and some that don’t. If it doesn’t fit in with your life style it’s going to become a pain. You don’t want it to become a pain.

So do away with the watch. Judge your bread on how it looks and just fiddle with it until you find out what works for you. Sometimes my loaves aren’t the greatest. Sometimes that extra 3 minutes baking turns into 15 and dark and crusty have a totally new meaning. Sometimes I don’t feel like washing yet another doughy mixing bowl, but… I always enjoy eating it and so do my family.

And that’s the trade off.

So jump in, give it a go, and if it doesn’t work out for you, it might later down the track.

*********

…and does the lure of sliced shop bread ever tempt me?… No chance. 

Pecan and Prune Bread

200g starter

50g oats

8 pitted and chopped large prunes

80mls hot water

large handful of chopped pecans

300g strong bakers flour

200-250mls water

1 tsp salt

Starter at 100% hydration. The 80mls of hot water to soak the oats and prunes beforehand. Mixed together and using a method that suits you.

(Baked at 240C with steam.)

* This post submitted to yeastspotting

Chocolate Caramel Pecan Tart


Now as I might have mentioned before, chocolate is pretty much a staple in this household. The Monkeys quite happily eat squares of 72% cocoa dark bitter chocolate, while I don’t think this is normal taste bud behaviour for little people. I don’t have a problem with it in small quantities, ( I would rather they had a square of that than a packet of smarties.) It’s good stuff! However they will not be trying espresso coffee and red wine any time soon, as with those taste buds they are sure to like it.

Now after my little kitchen crisis. After I had sat on the floor with a teatowel over my head, with thoughts of “this is the end of my cooking FOREVER!” I had a little pause, got back to basics, caught my breath and then made this little baby. It’s a little bit pastry, it’s a little bit caramel, it’s a little bit nutty and it certainly is quite a bit chocolatey.

…and did The Monkeys like it?

Of course they did…Mr Chocolate had to wrestle the last piece from their sticky little paws.

Chocolate Caramel Pecan Tart

pastry

150gms softened butter

1/2 cup icing sugar

1 2/3 cup plain flour

1 tps vanilla

2 tbs water

Add dry ingredients and butter. Either use processor or by hand until resembles bread crumbs. Add vanilla and water. Knead on lightly floured surface, until mixed well. Wrap dough and place in freezer for ten minutes. Roll out to desired shape, (I did individual tarts) and bake blind in greased tart tins. 180C until lightly golden. Allow to cool.

caramel

1 cup condensed milk

1 knob of butter

2 tbs muscavado sugar (or other dark unrefined sugar)

Pop them in a pot and stir over medium heat, until it turns to caramel. Don’t let it get to thick as it will be harder to manage. Add layer of caramel to cooled tart dish.(Option- you could add toasted pecans within the caramel.)

ganache

150mls cream

150gms dark chocolate

Bring the cream to a boil and then turn off heat. Drop broken chocolate into the cream and stir until melted through. While ganache is still runny, pour over caramel tart. Place in fridge and allow to set.

toppping

toasted roughly chopped pecans

*** I obviously used pecans here, but I do think they would taste just as well with any other nuts you may have on hand. Hazelnuts were my first choice, but as the only ones I could find were from Europe and I had pecans grown locally…it had to be pecans.