Monday, December 28, 2009

Bread baking

Baking bread is something I haven't done for a while, I used to do it lots as I couldn't buy the bread I liked, but the introduction of Artisan bread in Australia over the last few years has made me drop the habit. This morning however we had run out of bread and as today is a public holiday, getting decent fresh bread is not really possible, I decided to dust of my bread making skills and make us some.

I used a simple wholemeal recipe from Delia's How to Cook, Book One, Quick and easy wholemeal loaf, p. 82. If you've never made bread I recommend this recipe as it is easy and delicious.

Quick and easy wholemeal loaf
Makes 1 large or two small loaves
1 lb 4 oz (570g) 100% organically produced wholewheat flour, plus a little extra for the top of the bread (I used bread flour which has more gluten and provides a better structure)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon soft light brown sugar
2 teaspoons dried yeast
about 14 floz (400 ml) hand-hot water

You will also need a 2lb (900 g) loaf tin or two q lb (450 g) loaf tins, well buttered.

Begin by warming the flour slightly in the oven for about 10 mins, turn oven off for now.

Next, tip the warm flour into a large mixing bowl and sprinkle the salt, sugar, yeast into it and mix together.

Make a well in the centre of your mixed flour and add the water. Mix this in with a wooden spoon until it forms a dough; the exact amount of water you need depends on the flour. Finish off by mixing with your hands until you have a smooth dough that leaves the bowl clean - there should be no bits of flour or dough remaining on the sides of the bowl and unlike pastry, its better to have too much water than too little. (NB: I use my Kenword dough mixing hook for this but hand mixing is just as good and more authentic).

Transfer your dough to a flat surface (your clean kitchen table is fine) stretch the dough into an oblong, then fold one edge into the centre and the other over that. Now fit the dough into the tin, pressing it firmly all round the edges, so that the top will be slightly rounded. Next, sprinkle the surface with a generous dusting of flour, then cover with a damp, clean tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 30 - 40 minutes or at room temperature for about an hour. If your making two loaves, divide the dough in half before following the steps above and folding it into two tins.

Meanwhile, pre-eat the oven to 200oC. When the dough is risen to the top of your tin/s, bake the bread for 40 minutes for the 2 lb or 30 mins for the two 1 lb loaves. When the bread is cooked, turn it out of its tin/s, turn it out on a cloth to protect your hands - it will sound hollow when wrapped underneath with your knuckles. Then return the bread, out of its tin/s, upside-down to the oven for a further5 - 10 minutes to crisp the base and sides.

Cool the bread on a wire rack, and never put it away or freeze it until its absolutely cold!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Summer Solstice - the end of a busy year

This year we celebrated Summer Solstice, or Litha, before the 21st December, last Saturday in fact, with our friends, a lovely BBQ under the oak tree, until it rained! That's the Blue Mountains and Climate Change for you LOL. I must admit that the rain pleases me, living so close to the Blue Mountains World Heritage National Park, hot summers make me twitchy about bush fire.

Summer Solstice signals the end of the year in Australia, school has finished, so has uni, nervous students are awaiting the results of their end of year exams on the beach while their parents madly scrabble to organise Christmas or Chanukah (Hanukkah). We all go to end of year parties, catch up with people we haven't seen all year because our lives are stupidly busy; and say good bye to another year with the hope that the next one will be different than the last.

Everyone is gearing up for some sort of summer break, though much less than in the past as Australians work far more than they should, its depressing that so many let the summer slide by without paying it any attention.

I'm looking forward to our two week holiday as this has been a huge year for us. We sold our house, bought a new one, packed, moved, both of us studied part-time and our work places were incredibly busy and not that fun to be in. I became a registered Civil Marriage Celebrant and got a business coach, Terri Cook of SuccessZone, to help me get the business up and running.

We hope to spend our summer holiday in the garden destroying the jasmine that the former owners let take over the garden. We have cleared at least half, but as our garden is big, there's still loads to do. We hope to create a small pond and build our own small stone henge from rocks taken from our former garden. Not sure if we'll achieve all of this as I also hope to get back into the studio to continue my Saloon Girl outfit. Really need three months, not two weeks!

I wish everyone a fabulous end of year festivity, whatever you may be celebrating, I hope the new year brings the joy, success, prosperity and happiness that you are looking for.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Something old, new, borrowed and blue - A marriage registry cover

I'm working with a business coach for the next year to help establish Blue Mountains Celebrations, I'm using Terri Cook (@TerriCook on Twitter) of SuccessZone and she is brilliant, I am learning lots and gaining confidence as I go. Terri sets me many tasks each week, all based around getting me into the Blue Mountains Celebrations business mode. Some of them are extremely practical but others are creative projects.

Terri set me the task to create something for my business using the creative skills I use for quilting and costuming. I thought about an item of clothing, but it didn't excite me and then at a GTG yum cha with my celebrant group Janette mentioned that she'd like a Marriage Registry cover, both to protect it and to make it special. My heart said, 'that's it' and I went on to create it.

For those of you who don't know, the Marriage Register is where your marriage details are entered and kept for posterity, once full, its returned to Birth Deaths and Marriages and kept for ever. If you have ever done family history searches, you may have used one in your search. The Register will out live me and all my couples, so it needs to be protected and kept clean and safe.

I went to my fabric stash and had a hunt for suitable fabrics, I have lots of fabric, laces, ribbons, braids, left over from my mother's wedding and ball gown couturier business, amongst them I found some perfect fabric and trims. As I'm a quilter, I decided to use these skills to make the cover. As this is my first cover I chose a traditional theme 'Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue'. I also made a book mark/place holder from a lovely blue woven braid and tassels.

It was a great project and gave me much pleasure. I know a business plan is more practical, but making this cover made my heart sing and let me see how my creativity could be used to enhance the business.

The positive thing from this is that Janette has commissioned me to make one, which is a bonus, and I will investigate interest and maybe there is a handmade product for Etsy so 'watch this space'!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Tipsy Christmas cake

I missed Stir-Up Sunday this year but I did get my Christmas cake made before December. I use my mother's recipe and I have blogged about it on Edna's Recipe's, the blog I have set up for my mum's recipes.

I love this recipe, I stray from it occasionally but always return, as it is such a delicious and no fuss recipe. Try it, you will enjoy it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Saloon Girl outfit

With the renaissance gown completed, well almost, certainly my part is done, M is finishing off the trimming and embroidery, I'm now moving onto the Victorian era and am making up Laughing Moon's Saloon Girl outfit as a precursor to making a bustle gown. I'm making it for an event next year, but also to get a feel of the fitted style of the time in an easy manner.

Women entertainers, Hurdy Girls, Soiled Doves and other Ladies of the Evening were mostly making their way in the oldest profession open to women with no money, prostitution. With my outfit I am aiming for entertainer, actress and professional beauty (read courtesan). To quote Shooting Star History

"These women could move amongst the "proper women" in town. They would dress everyday or on the street, much as a well-to-do lady "back east" would dress. On stage however, they had some rather "racy" costumes for the time. These were often featured on "tobacco cards" found in cigarettes in the 1880-early 1900's."

So I'm making a 'racy' costume for the stage and will attempt not to lower my moral stance as I do so.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Italian renaiisance gown update - hemming metres of fabric

The project is coming to an end, on Sunday, in the 41oC heat, we sat and hemmed the under gown, the over gown and the lining, over 15 metres of hemming. It was a lovely day, doing a task that women have done for over a thousand years, hand stitching a gown to wear, dreaming of completion, looking forward to a new gown and the pleasure of wearing it.

Earlier posts on the creation of this gown at underpinnings, bodice, sleeves and under gown, cartridge pleats.

Here a few pictures we took on the day:

There will be one more post on the gown, with photos of its presentation at the event it has been created for.....

Monday, November 23, 2009

Cartridge pleats for the Italian Renaisance gown

We are on the final leg of making this gown, we are onto the outer skirt, creating the cartridge pleats and attaching it to the bodice. For those of you who have arrived via google you can find the rest of the posts on the gown creation at underpinnings, bodice, sleeves and under gown.

I hadn't made cartridge pleats before, my gowns so far have been much earlier in the period and only box pleats were required, so I went hunting for a good tutorials and found a number of them, but two stand out, Elizabethan Costume and Reconstructing History . I found them really easy to do, in fact, its the way I was taught to gather by my mum, two rows of gathering, three if you want a really good finish. The difference with cartridge pleats is that the gathering stitches are much wider, the width of my thumb.

To stitch the skirt to the bodice I used a waxed linen thread that I found amongst my mother's old sewing notions, it's brand name is Barbour's, the packet says they have been making linen thread since 1784. I went and googled it and you can still buy it today, pretty amazing, that's 225 years of linen thread making for hand stitching.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Italian renaissance gown: the sleeves and under gown

The next installment in M's renaissance gown has been the creation of the sleeves and the under gown/skirt over winter. Both of us have been extremely busy and so its taken us a while to find time to work on our project.

For the creation of the underpinnings and bodice just use the links.

The sleeves were based on a set of mine that I had drafted and constructed last year for a gown of my own, you can see the 'how to' in Sleeves for the Gown. These sleeves are still a work in progress, more beading and embroidery will be added by M who is a first class embroiderer.

The under gown has been created from a lovely piece of silk gold damask, the top skirt will be split to expose this lovely fabric. We didn't have enough to make the whole skirt so we used a lovely yellow linen found in a second hand shop, it had just the right hand for the tiny pleating at the back and the heavy damask took the box pleating well. We had enough damask to put around the back so if the top skirt lifts, the gold will show, not the yellow linen. The gown has side plackets and fabric ties for fastening. The skirt has a lovely structure over the farthingale. You can see these details in the following images.

Onto the cartridge pleats post --->

Friday, October 30, 2009

Beltane NOT halloween

Tomorrow is the 31st October and many Australians are preparing for Halloween, preparing to dress ghoulishly and to go 'trick or treating' but in Australia the great wheel of the seasons has turned to spring, the start of summer and the season of heat, light and fire and Saturday is Beltane - the festival of fire - summer, fertility and renewal, not that of autumn and endings.

The loss of understanding of seasonal festivities to commercialism is sad and depressing. If we lose our understanding of the seasons and the great turning of the wheel of the year, we lose our sense of the natural world in which we live.

So tomorrow, we will be celebrating Beltane, with fire, candles and champagne cocktails and a house warming - we will celebrate the god and goddess's great marriage, welcoming new growth, fertility, love and light into our house and our lives.

Why not do the same?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

National Ride to Work Day

'I rode my bike, I'm free today', to misquote Old Man Luedecke.

Today is National Ride to Work Day, a day to celebrate sustainability and getting to work under your own steam by bike. I ride my bike a lot, particularly for any distance under 5 kilometres because that's the distance we most drive in our cars and its also the distance easiest to cycle in the same amount of time, well almost.

I don't work on Wednesday, well not at my day job, Wednesday is for study, my celebrant business, Blue Mountains Celebrations, and breaking up the commuting week into Sydney. So I caught the train up to Katoomba, met a twitter friend for brunch, did some food shopping and cycled home, through sleet, rain, fierce winds and finally sunshine. It was a terrific ride, I was well protected by my rain gear and it was blissful riding in the elements as opposed to out of them in a car.

You know your alive when the wind whips your face and you breath comes hard as you climb a hill. Cycling is as close to heaven as it gets for me, yes, I curse the hills at times and the weather, but to get someplace with your legs and bike wheels, its a perfect human/machine interface.

So, get on your bike, discover the joys of riding someplace under your own steam, when you get there you can feast on cake and hot chocolate because you've earned it.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Moving house

Spring has sprung and the weather is windy and changeable and full of the scent of wild flowers and all the garden flowers coming into bud and I have been absent from Blue Mountain Bliss while we moved house.

We have moved further 'up the hill' to a small two bedroom cottage, we wanted to reduce our household footprint and we have done just that, however, deciding what to bring, what to sell and what to give away, has taken a considerable amount of decision making. Then packing everything up that remained, packing, packing, packing until we were heartily sick of it all! Finally the moving day and the excitement of unpacking everything and putting everything in its new place in the new space.

Thankfully we had two weeks of leave to do it all and it has meant that apart from our books, which need a wall bookcase made for them (we have over 100 book boxes), everything is unpacked (well mostly) and we are nicely settled in our new home.

The new house is a 1950's fibro cottage, it was originally built as a company holiday home, which is probably why it feels so joyful and happy. The cottage has a lovely sun room that is perfect for cold winter days, a good sized lounge room with a slow combustion fire, an original 1950's kitchen that we love, two reasonably sized bedrooms and a bathroom. The laundry is outside, functional, with old fashioned cement tubs, great for dyeing fabric, plus there is a small 'bloke's shed' and outbuildings for the bikes. Even better, we have retained our studio space as there is a large two room studio at the back of the block for all our arts and crafts and for the occasional guest to come for a visit. Perfect!

The cats settled in immediately, helped by the fact that we were here everyday in the first two weeks I think. We are extremely happy, we are much closer to our friends and the mid-mountains suits us much better.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Italian renaissance gown update - The bodice

Onto the gown construction, you can see the underpinnings in the earlier blog post.

We were inspired by La Signora Onorata Katerin da Brescia's post on making a similar outfit, however, we morphed into a later period as we went along, more 1560's, something like Laurie Tavan's gown on the Realm of Venus. As this outfit isn't for the SCA or other re-creation event, rather its for a history demonstration and English lesson, so we're happy to create a generic gown of the time, using the painting and others as a style guideline.

We chose a lovely dark green cotton velvet for the outer gown with a lighter cotton for lining. M is an embroiderer and is working on all the trims for the gown and underpinnings. Haven't any photos of these decorative articles as yet.

We used the Corset generator to create the bodice.

Fitting of the toile:

The bodice was made up of three layers, outer fashion fabric, lining and denim to reinforce the bodice. I also boned the bodice using cable ties, we were aiming for smooth, flat front of the late Renaissance period.

Front of the completed bodice

Back of bodice, note the back V point, this is typical of Venetian gowns of the period

Close up of spiral back side lacing, we used the Zen of spiral lacing tutorial to get it right, we also used this for the corset.

Draping of fabric to get an idea of the skirt, the pins look like a jeweled girdle

Onto the sleeves and undergown ---->

Italian renaissance gown update - Underpinnings

Over the winter M and I have been creating her Italian renaissance gown, I posted the start of the project in May under 16th century corset and cheese toasties but haven't done an update since then. We made all the underpinnings first, camica, corset and farthingale:

We used Festive Attyre's Italian camica pattern (the corset M has on in the piccie is mine).

We used the Elizabethan Costume corset generator and rope for boning technique as suggested on the site, it gives a softer line than cable ties.

We made the farthingale using the Renaissance Tailor instructions and interpretation of Juan Alcega's Tailors Pattern Book

Haven't got a picture of the bum roll but you can get the sense of it under the farthingale in this photo:

Onto the making of the Bodice .....>

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hot and spicy Mexican Bean Mix for nachos

Mexican tex mex nachos are a staple in our house and the 'wife' makes a fabulous one, so she is starring in today's blog post. You can contact her @cyclewitch on Twitter. We had the one pictured with Beez Neez honey beer - perfick! (to quote Sid Larkin from The darling buds of May) which we often do in this house.

J-L’s hot and spicy Mexican Bean Mix for nachos


For the chilli beans:
  • one onion - finely chopped
  • fresh coriander root, minced or finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 1 fresh birdseye chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ‘Italian herbs’ (or a mix of parsley, sage and tarragon)
  • 1 teaspoon of ground coriander powder
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of vinegar
  • 1-2 tablespoons good quality oil (Preferably olive oil)
  • Two tins (400gms) chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tin (40 gms) red kidney beans or pinto beans (or around 1 and ½ cups of soaked, pre-cooked kidney beans) – drain and rinse tinned beans before use
  • 1 tin of re-fried bean mix (‘Amy’s’ make a lovely organic one which I use)
  • Tobasco sauce to tastes
  • 1 to 2 cups of grated cheddar cheese


  • 1 to 2 ripe avocadoes
  • 2 medium fresh tomatoes
  • ½ red onion – finely chopped
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic
  • White wine vinegar
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  • Pinch of salt and pick of pepper
  • Handful of fresh coriander leaves – finely chopped
Sour cream or light sour cream


Bean Mix:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or deep dish frypan, then add chilli flakes, dry herbs, coriander powder and pepper. Fry these dry ingredients for a couple of minutes to get the aromatics going, then add onions, fresh coriander root and fresh chilli and vinegar. Add the salt at this time as well to keep the onions ‘clear’.

Keep frying the mix on medium heat until onions are soft but still clear, not browned, then add refried beans and rinsed beans.

If you like the ‘whole bean’ look, keep the beans whole and mix refried beans into mix first. If you like a smoother, less lumpy mix, crush the whole beans a bit on your hand as you add them.

Mix the beans in and let them heat and fry just a little, then add the tomatoes and mix thoroughly. Taste and decide wether you want more chilli and if so, use tobasco sauce to augment. Adjust the heat up or down to maintain the mix at a simmer until it is the thickness you prefer.

This mix will serve at least 4 people.

Tomato and onion Salsa:
Mix onions, and coriander in a serving bowl and add a tablespoon of white wine vinegar. Let the onion mix pickle for a few minutes while you make the guacamole and chop the tomatoes. Add the tomatoes and mix them in just before serving.

Mix avocado and crushed garlic and salt and pepper with a fork to form a rough paste, then mix in lemon juice. You can keep mixing and crushing with the fork until you have a nice, smooth paste if you prefer. Note that this method only works if your avocado is nice and soft and ripe.

To Serve:
Put a tablespoon or two of the mix in individual shallow bowls (eg: pasta bowls) to just coat the surface, and cover with corn chips (please – not the flavoured ones!). Top with grated cheese and grill until cheese is just turning brown and crispy.

Cover the middle of the cheese coated corn chips with hot bean mix ready to top with Salsas and sour cream.

The same principals can be used for tachos, fajita’s, and enchiladas, or you can serve the bean mix with melted cheese and sour cream as a pre-dinner or cocktail accompanied dip.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Hip Pocket Sustainability

We have spent the last eight years tweeking our 40 year old suburban house from an non-sustainable one, to a house that helps to save both the planet and our hip pocket through economic and environmental sustainability measures.

We have decided to move on however, as this house has too big a foot print for two people and so we have bought a much smaller cottage further up the mountain.

We wanted to tell potential buyers what we had done to the house and I thought I'd share these tips on Blue Mountain Bliss so others may be inspired to do the same. We are looking forward to doing it all again (and more) at out new (old) cottage.

Hip pocket sustainability
  • Solar Power generation system of 1Kilowatt per hour – enough to power the whole house and all modern appliances during the day and sometimes put power back into the grid, so you only pay for power for part of the night.
  • Solar Powered Hot Water System, with Gas booster – hot water on tap all the time, heated by the sun, and boosted by efficient natural gas for those rainy days or a relaxing spa bath after work.
  • 10,000 Litre Rainwater Tanks – Sparkling fresh rain water, filtered three times before the tank to prevent contaminants like leaves etc. Linked to the mains so you never run out of water, but only pay for it when the tanks run dry. Flushes the loos, washes your clothes, and wets the dishes all for free, and good enough to drink through the chemical-free-filtered kitchen tap. Powered by a small pump to ensure the rainwater gets upstairs with no hassles.
  • Full insulation in ceiling and underfloor – makes sure the heat you generate in winter stays inside to keep you warm in winter and in summer stops heat from entering from outside.
  • Whirly gig in roof – spins to extract hot air from your roof space if summer heat does start to creep in.
  • Silicone strengthened external bagging – the bagging itself tends to protect brickwork but the improvement of adding silicone to the mix ensures it repels heat from the outside and stops heat from leaching though the bricks from inside in winter. When we had this done a couple of years ago, the summer temperature inside the house dropped by about 3-4 degrees.
  • Natural Gas upstairs and down and gas cooking in the kitchen – Using natural gas has been reported to be more economical, more fuel efficient, and less costly to the environment than electricity, so if there’s been too little sun to make excess power with the solar panels, and you don’t have time to build up the slow combustion fire, you can heat the house cheaply with natural gas.
All these measures mean that living in our house costs considerably less than living in a conventional 3 bedroom house of this size. We have outlaid the cost of fitting these systems. The purchaser will get all the benefits of them.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Black pepper cookies

Another lot of baking to lure potential buyers to make an offer on our house, these spice biscuits certainly provided the right enticing scent for the open house.

These cookies and I go back a long way, back to my student days when I was experimenting with so many different choices and lifestyle ideas, especially vegetarianism, politics and feminism, not necessarily in that order.

I bought The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook in a second hand bookshop, as you do when your a student (and still do) and to quote its introduction Here is a cookery book full of imaginative ideas for well-balanced meals without meat!

It was a great book for a young cook, with easy and different bread recipes such as wholemeal bread, stollen, soda bread, muffins, crumpets to name but a few and flipping through the pages I can be reminded of a former 'me' who made comments like 'scrummy', 'good for a dinner party', 'nice supper dish' (who was that young woman I wonder?) and on top of Black Pepper Cookies 'superb' which indeed they are. To quote the book again This is an American recipe and these excitingly spiced chocolate cookies, with their sophisticated flavour and just a hint of pepper are ideal to serve for afternoon tea or after-dinner coffee

I think they are like Dutch Speculaa cookies, perhaps they were adapted from them by an newly arrived Dutch immigrant to the USA, replacing pepper for ginger and adding chocolate?

Preparation and cooking time: 1 hour
Makes about 36 cookies ( I made about 42 this time)
Preheat oven to fairly hot 190oC.
Lightly grease your baking sheet/s with butter and set aside.

3/4 cup butter
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sugar (I've always used raw sugar)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cocoa

In your mixing bowl, cream butter with the pepper, cinnamon, cloves and vanilla together with wooden spoon until the mixture is soft. Beat in the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Sift the flour and cocoa into the bowl and blend the dry ingredients thoroughly with the butter and sugar mixture until a firm dough is formed. The mixture really needs a bit of effort as there's not much liquid, best to use your hands at this point to get the dough mixed.

Roll spoonfuls of the dough into balls about 1" in diameter. Place the balls onto your baking sheet, leaving about 1 1/2" between them, though these biscuits don't spread that much. With the heel of your hand, or a fork to give a nice decoration, gently flatten the dough balls to about 1/4" thick.

Place baking sheet in the centre of the oven and bake for 12 minutes.

Remove from baking sheet, cool on a wire rack.

Try not to eat them all at once, but trust me, that's a hard call!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Porridge for winter

Its cold, I seem to be cycling through one winter bug to the next one, hence my silence of late and lack of blog entries since Winter Magic, but the thing that keeps me going on the cold, dark mornings is sitting down to a large steaming bowl of hot and creamy porridge.

Porridge is such a lovely breakfast cereal for winter, in summer I make my own toasted muesli, but in winter its porridge. I make it the way my mum taught me and she learnt from my Scottish grandparents, so its traditional but still surprisingly quick and easy even on a work weekday morning. The family trick is to soak your rolled oats overnight in the pot with water, this softens the oats so they cook quickly and go delightfully creamy and smooth.

Porridge is best with organic old style oats, don't waste time on packet mixes or 'quick oats', get real oats or as @tomatom says on his Tomato blog 'I buy the cheapest home brand rolled oats. And I cook them slowly, which is the key.' here our methods differ as mine is relatively quick, however his method is a good one, so check it out.

Porridge like my Scottish grandmother made
1 cup rolled oats (I use organic and she probably did too in pre WWII Oz)
2 cups water
Salt - a good pinch

Put the oats, salt and water into your pot, a good heavy bottomed one is best. Leave overnight to soak on the stove. In the morning, put a slow flame underneath it, stir occasionally, the porridge is ready when its thick, creamy and making slow plopping sounds, this takes about 15 minutes and then you have two large bowls of creamy, smooth porridge to serve up and eat.

My family's traditional way of serving porridge is a lovely way to eat it, put a large dob of real butter in the bottom of your bowl, pour your cooked porridge over this, sprinkle on brown sugar and then pour in some cream, eat and enjoy!

I vary the above method at times by adding dried fruit to soak overnight, but if I do this, I don't add sugar or butter when I serve it, but add yogurt instead and maybe some milk. I also add add some nuts and seeds at times, but mostly its butter, brown sugar and cream. Perfect!

Then there's savory porridge but that's a post for another time.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Winter Magic 2009

This weekend is Winter Magic in the Blue Mountains and we joined in as always and enjoyed celebrating winter solstice with the mountains community and visitors from Sydney and elsewhere. The festival is always magically and this year was no different, great bands, great events, the parade was fantastic and so many of us were dressed up and sharing in the spirit of the day.

The 'wife' and I were inspired by the Victorian Farm that has been running on BBC Knowledge and we went as Scottish middle class farmers, sadly I took no photos, but many others did of us, but no-one we know so nothing for the blog but I took some great shots of the day.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Edna's peanut cookies

Our Queen's birthday long weekend was busy and delightful, its so nice to have a long weekend to spend more time with friends and in the studio and although we were out and about quite a lot, I also got to spend time in the kitchen and to do some baking. Also, as we have our house on the market, I thought the smell of baked biscuits might be a good touch to push a prospective buyer towards a sale, it what all the 'how to sell your house' stuff says at least.

I decided to use my mum's peanut cookie recipe Edna's Recipes. Raw, unsalted peanuts are an essential ingredient in these biscuits and give them their unique taste. I don't know where she got the recipe from, it feels like an American recipe, its certainly pre-WWII. The smell of those biscuits cooking transported me right back to my childhood and the pleasure of stealing the raw mixture from the bowl and being in the kitchen with mum while she cooked.

I won't rewrite the recipe here as you can get it on Edna's Recipes blog, but I'll go through the method with some photos.

The mixture in the bowl after all the ingredients are mixed together

Roll the pastry into balls that are golf ball size and then flatten them, the mixture doesn't spread that much, so flatten them well.

The smell of baking biscuits did indeed float through the house and did indeed tempt a buyer, so fingers crossed, they may have done their tick, thanks mum!