Sunday, 25 April 2010

Lemon butter fairy cakes and Lest we forget.

Butter making. It is easier to drain the buttermilk off when it is fine lumps. I use a gnocchi paddle which is similar to a butter hand I think. One day I will make gnocchi with it.
Making lemon butter.
 These three love eating pickles and polished off this jar of gherkins between them.
Lemon butter and cream filled fairy cakes.
ANZAC day cake made by my sister Mandy. Before cutting the cake we had a big vintage war song sing-a-long. DH lost his uncle and great uncle in the second and first world wars, both named Edwin. 

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Osso bucco

I'm feeling a little virtuous. I have Osso Bucco ready to go in the crock pot for tonight's dinner. Pretty good for a Saturday.
It's making me hungry just looking at it.

Today's list of things to do. (for accountability)I'm pretty happy with what I got done. :)
Make butter (Ben and Sarah baked cookies and used it all up, lucky I got cheap cream yesterday). Done
Bake a few loaves of bread with a tiger crust.  Done
Make some lemon butter.Done
Declutter some more and move more furniture around.Done
Make some homemade hair wax. (to get DS off my back). Monday's to do.
Grate some of my homemade soap and dissolve it to use in the kitchen.Done
Move a pile of weeds, Monday's to do.
Do some laundry Amost Done
Fill the chicken feed hopper. Done
Anything else is a bonus.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Sunrise.. when the rosy light of morning softly beams across the sky.

This is what greeted me this morning on the way back from my early morning Seminary drop off. Beautiful!

Note the encroaching high density housing in the right hand corner. So far all my direct neighbours are  single dwellings on a 900square metre block. I'm sure it won't last.
My Sis is known to climb onto her roof for photo opportunities like this. Next time I'm getting the ladder :)

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Less stuff

I feel like I'm swimming against the tide in my small efforts to simplify my life. I have a few more bags ready to go to the Op shop today.

Here is a clip I found inspiring and entertaining. If you haven't yet watched the story of stuff, I also highly recommend it.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Can you pick the freerange eggs?

I made two batches of scrambled eggs (with pepper) this morning. They are almost unrecognisable as the same food. I had camera troubles and when I finally came to take the pic, someone had helped themselves to some eggs. You can see which they chose.
So, did you guess which were freerange eggs? If you guessed the ones on the left, you were right. If you guessed the eggs on the right, you were also right. The eggs on the left were supermarket "freerange" eggs, which by the looks the hens got some fresh air and windy pudding in a barren dirt yard. If your hens are freeranged  where the grass is sprouting lush and green like in my backyard, you get eggs such an intense gold it is hard to believe the colour is natural.
So, do you want "freerange" eggs or freerange eggs?
Some purists say that a backyard doesn't constitute free range, neither does a barn opened an hour a day or dirt yards resembling a barren moonscape. It certainly does make a difference though, even if you dont' have a few acres for true freerange hens.
I have had caged hens eggs that are more yellow than those on the left and sometimes the yolks are more orange/yellow than my hens, but when you cook them like this, there is a depth and intensity to the colour that can't be manufactured. I think the layer mix must have beta carotene or something added to make the caged eggs more appealing and healthy looking.
I just wish my chooks would all start laying so I don't have to buy an inferior product ;)

Friday, 16 April 2010

Daily Bread - feeding the ravening hordes

We are nearly at the end of the holidays and having 11 kids in the house including 7 boys 14yo and over, it is a challenge to bake enough bread. These first loaves were yesterdays bread. The loaves were rolled in semolina and baked in the big oven with a pan of boiling water in the bottom. The crust was the best I have ever made.
Today's bread was done in two batches. First  I made Kefir milk white dough rolls, crosscut. I love using kefir in the dough. It makes a lovely soft, light and tender crumb.

Next I made organic wholemeal and rye dough  again using all kefir and a little added gluten. Very tasty.

I need to get more rye flour as I want to try the rye crackers in my new Peter Reinhart book, "Artisan Breads Every Day". It is a fabulous book, I have learned so much already just flicking through. I will have to rave on about it some more once I have made some of the recipes.

I do like to do a slow rise overnight but at the moment it is the last thing on my mind in the evening. My favourite warm resting place is behind the curtain by the window overlooking the deck. A quick rise guaranteed. When you have restless and ravenous teenage boys pacing the floor, it needs to happen fast.
While the oven is on, I also baked the egg shells I keep to grind up and feed back to the chickens for the calcium and minerals. Note the Araucana shells in the middle. Unlike the brown eggs, the colour goes all the way through the shell to the inside.
It seems it is all about baking around here. Maybe I should call this blog Bake-a-Rooney instead. Though that sounds a little macabre lol.
There's not much sewing happening (though I need to do some) but I did manage to cook up some soap a few weeks ago using Rhonda's recipe on her Down to Earth blog. It went fabulously well, or so I thought. after it was poured and covered, I peeked under to see it gelling beautifully. An hour or so later I peeked again and to my dismay it was developing lye crystals on the surface. The problem was I had used an old balance scale which was obviously no where near accurate enough. So Iscraped it all back into the crockpot and let it remelt, added more oils and a little more water and eventually repoured. It was nowhere near as smooth as the first pour. I have saved the bits and pieces from scraping the bowl and such and have used those bits from time to time and was really pleased with the rich lather it produces (and not red raw burning skin lol). Yesterday when I turned the soap I grated up one of the small end offcuts and dissolved it in hot water. I was really pleased with the bubbles in the sink when I tried some as detergent. I think it is better than the liquid castile I paid for. I then used more of the liquid to wash my hair - I was getting brave.

Oooh! just had an earth tremor! The kids are calling it an earthquake and were wondering whether they should stand in a doorway! lol. (It was tiny really).

Here is the liquid soap and the bubbles when they were half gone.
And lastly, why you shouldn't buy cheap knives or use them to machete frozen chicken carcasses:

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Cooking adventures! Bread and pasta

 Yesterdays lunch, organic wholemeal, rye and sorghum knot rolls. Light and tasty, a nice chewy crust and perfect with tasty cheese and butter.

Some of us were lucky to scrape out the dish of leftover lemon butter from Asher's Lemon Monkey Bread cake. The lemon butter was made with fresh laid eggs and cultured butter. I need to make MORE!

For tea we had homemade pasta extruded from my Marcato Regina pasta machine. I used a modified pasta recipe from Mangia Bene Pasta I say modified because I couldn't just leave well enough alone and follow instructions. I wanted to try a regular flour and water paste pasta, but used just one egg. I cleverly omitted the olive oil. I tried making the spaghetti but it was sticking together like crazy. The beauty of this is if it goes wrong, just smoosh it all up and try again.

 After adding the oil I tried the rigatoni? largest tube disc and had great success. I also found with these larger shapes that using a light back and forth motion to trim the pasta as it comes out works much better as a quick slice tends to stick the tube ends together.

Looks like real pasta! By the time I had done this it was getting late so they could have done with a bit more drying to hold their shape. I managed to squish them when I bunched the cloth up to put them in the boiling water. The flavour was good but I prefer egg noodles. Texture wise, they were a bit like gnocchi as the walls were quite thick and some were a just little stodgy though not heavy. At least they were filling.
No-one complained (a compliment in itself) and there wasn't a noodle left in a single bowl so I call that a big success ;)

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Chicky-babe no3 lays first egg! and an even newer coop thanks to Asher and his brothers.

Nearly every day for 3 weeks we get an egg from Bossy-britches the ISA Brown pullet and Pigeon the lavender Araucana but today, we received 3 eggs! at last another of our 9 pullets is laying. I am putting it down to the new roomier coop and lush green sprouts popping up after the wonderful rain we were blessed with last week.
Here are Bossy-britches and Pigeon.

Here are today's eggs. the third long, narrow, paler lightly speckled egg belongs to the new layer, another ISA-brown which has hitherto been un-named but after her performance this morning will henceforth be known as Bird-brain lol. She was unavailable for pics and an interview as she was busy eating bugs under the deck :)

 It was quite hilarious to watch her anxiously clucking and ber-cucking and searching for a suitable place to lay. First the egg boxes, where she created quite a kerfuffle clucking and carrying on like she had already laid an egg. Meanwhile Pigeon was carrying on because Bird-brain was in her "spot". Then she came down and chased me inside and tried to squeeze onto a shelf. Got chucked outside, then raced to another door to get inside, paced up and down and jumped onto the stacked outside chairs on the deck and settled for half a minute, followed me around the yard, even tried to jump onto my shoulder like I had all the answers, then finally back to the egg boxes and all went quiet. Half an hour later (seemed like forever cos I was waiting lol) a long skinny egg! I hope the other pullets will follow suit very soon.
I don't know if her eggs will be massive in the future because I think for a first egg this is a pretty good effort. If they stay as long but get fatter such as the other two have done she will be quite an amazing layer. The Aracauna's eggs are naturally smaller and it is a shame that the photo doesn't do justice to the colour of the egg which is actually a pale bluey-green.

It wasn't that long ago we received our new coop bought online. It took all of about a day to realise after we rushed out and bought the 4 ISA browns, that owning chickens is very addictive and the coop wouldn't be big enough.
I was in a bit of a quandry after having paid good money for a small coop and there was no way that I could justify buying a bigger one. My son Asher volunteered to build me a new larger coop if I came up with a design. We turned the large old Hills swing frame into the frame, used some timber left over from the deck and various projects, bought  4 lengths of timber and 5 sheets of colourbond from the local salvage yard, bamboo stakes lying around and 1 roll of wire from the hardware store. A drawer from an old divan bed dumped in an abandoned carpark became the egg nesting box.
DH's final contribution was to place the KFC lid on the apex over the door. We could call it the Kennel For Chickens but I think you would be familiar with his thinly veiled threat ;)

I hope it isn't too draughty for them but at least it is well ventilated and sheltered from a lot of winter rain and wind. The door faces North and the open side faces East. I might have to put a roof over the egg boxes to stop some of them roosting on the edges and divider and see how it goes so far as sealing the gaps on the southern end. I am very pleased with the finished product. Not exactly a work of art or highest quality craftsmanship but it has a certain rustic charm and fulfills it's purpose admirably. Asher and the boys (that were conscripted to help lol) did a great job getting it happening and putting it together :)

Monday, 12 April 2010


Making, baking, all the time! That's what it seems like and it all tastes good. I can't believe Easter is just a week ago it seems like ages ago. In our family we like to call it YEaster. Good Friday  brought us Hot Cross Buns. My kids begged me for weeks beforehand to make some but I refused to do so until the traditional day. Hot cross buns had been in the shops since Christmas but for me, I will only eat them on Good Friday and then only the buns I have made myself  (or my Mums or sisters, my sister also made chocolate ginger Hot cross Buns and a Danish marzipan wreath which was delicioso!). I'll eat a spicy fruit bun any time of year, but for me buns with crosses are significant and are eaten to remember the day Jesus Christ was crucified. Dove rolls became a tradition for me many years ago. I make these Easter Saturday.

I had lost the original recipe so had to improvise and now use a Sweet bread dough recipe from a Margaret Fulton recipe book, with the addition of finely grated lemon zest that I remembered from the original recipe. One thing to remember is that because of the extra butter and egg in the dough, it will be slower to rise so be patient, but the rolls should be light and moist and fragrant.

Sweet bread Dough (I usually double the recipe for a crowd)
From this basic dough you can make a lovely variety of sweet festive breads - add fruits, spices and icings as you wish.
4 cups flour
large pinch of salt
3/4-1 cup milk
125g (4oz) butter
30g (1oz) fresh yeast (I just use dried yeast)
1/2 cup caster sugar (I put regular sugar in the blender a few bursts)
2 eggs, beaten
finely grated zest of 2 lemons

Sift the flour with the salt into a large bowl. Heat 3/4 cup milk to lukewarm, then add the butter and allow to melt. add the milk and butter mixture to the yeast, stirring until dissolved. Mix in the sugar (and zest) and eggs.
Make a well in the flour, pour in the milk and yest mixture and mix until smooth and elastic, adding more milk if necessary to make a soft dough. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning it over in the bowl so that it is lightly greased all over. Cover with a damp cloth and leave to rise in a warm place for 45 to 50 minutes or until doubled in bulk. Knock down the dough, pull sides to centre, turn it over then cover and allow to rise again for 30 minutes or until doubled in bulk. Knock down the dough, pull sides to centre, turn it over, then cover and allow to rise again for 30 minutes before shaping and proving.
Makes 1 loaf, 6-8 large or 12 medium buns.

To make the doves, take a piece of dough and roll between the hands to make a sausage about 9" long and tie it in a knot. make sure there is enough poking up at the top for a head and a longer piece hanging out the bottom to make the tail. With the palm of your hand, squish the tail into a flat circular shape and use a knife to cut the tail feathers which can be fanned out if you wish. Pinch the head to make a beak. Push 2 cloves into the head for eyes. They need to pushed in firmly as they will come out as the dough rises. They can be popped in further after rising and before baking. Make an egg wash and use a pastry brush and glaze each dove and cover in almond flakes one at a time, so the glaze doesn't dry out which stops the almonds from sticking. The kids love to help squish the tails, poke in the eyes and stick the feathers on.
Remove the cloves before eating. They give a lovely aroma to the head dough.

On Sunday I made Olie Bollen.
Who needs chocolate?

Today my sister sent me a link to The Knead for Bread. I can highly recommend it for recipes and inspiration. It is my sons birthday today and the Lemon Monkey Bread looked like it would make a delicious birthday cake for my son who doesn't like cream cake. Everything went well until it came time to turn it out. I think there was a bit much lemon cheesecake between the layers and not all of it came out as one. It was a bit of a mess, but it still looked yummy. I just piled each little lemon roll back on top. The lemon butter sauce poured over was still a bit hot and runny too but this is the first birthday cake in a long time that was finished within half an hour of blowing out the candles. There was a lot of groaning and holding of full bellies after the party tea, but it was just too hard to resist.