This weekend...and a recipe for venison stroganoff


This weekend I'd like to...
1. Make a Golden Syrup Cake
2. Get ready for the Local Harvest Challenge
3. Decorate cool easter eggs
4. Celebrate National Pear Month with vanilla mousse and spiced poached pears (by the way this blog is really beautiful and worth a little browse)
5. Cook chestnuts! I have three kilos here so any ideas would be very welcome
6. Order my copy of Kinfolk Vol 3
7. Go for a walk with Alice and Chutney
8. Go mushroom picking (or purchasing) and make venison stroganoff (recipe below)

Venison Stroganoff with oven-baked chips

Yes it's old school and slightly challenged on the looks front; but to me, a good stroganoff is pretty close to 'the' perfect comfort food. Just the thing you might cook for a couple of friends to eat on the couch on a cool Autumn night.

The recipe below uses one of our beautiful venison tenderloins and a handful or two of saffron milk cap mushrooms. Of course if you can't source venison (though Sydney and Orange readers can always find us at these markets!), a nice beef fillet would also be great. The mushrooms we picked from my parents' in-law's amazing garden but could also be substituted with any good mushroom you can find.

400g venison tenderloin
50g butter
1 onion, finely sliced
200g saffron milk cap mushrooms (or button mushrooms)
2 tbsp olive oil
200ml sour cream
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp parsley
400g King Edward potatoes (this variety makes awesome chips but if you can’t source any then any commonly available variety will be good too)

To make the chips, preheat the oven to 200C and line a tray with baking paper. Peel the potatoes and cut into thick chips. Place in one layer on the tray, drizzle lightly with olive oil and roast for 25-30 minutes or until crunchy and golden brown.

For the strog; cut the fillet into slices about 1cm thick, then cut each slice across the grain into strips 1cm wide. Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan, add the paprika and onion and cook gently until the onions are soft but not brown. About 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook gently again for a few minutes, stirring well. Transfer this mixture to a plate and keep warm. Add a little of the olive oil and fry the venison in batches for a minute or two. Remove the meat and keep warm. Place the mushroom mixture back in the warm saucepan, stir through the sour cream and then add the meat and cook for just one more minute. Serve immediately with the potato chips.

Quince charming


We are three weeks away from hosting our first lunch at the Mandagery Creek Farm Kitchen* and the space is looking fantastic. We are painting the walls today and have just picked up our big communal table and chairs. My clever mother-in-law has done a fantastic job resurrecting the garden and if we can keep the rabbits away, it will be looking beautiful by April. One of the trees surrounding the shed is a lovely little quince, which usually produces buckets of fruit. Not this year. This year we picked four. In an effort to eek the very most out of this dismal harvest, I poached them in a basic sugar syrup then made a cake with some of the poached fruit, put the rest on our porridge this morning and made jellies out of the poaching liquid.

* Ps...We have two places left for the lunch on April 15 and thereafter are hosting lunches on the fourth Saturday of each month, please come to one - they are going to be great fun! Please email me for more information.

Poached quinces
This recipe comes straight from Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Companion.
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3 cups hot water
1 tsp vanilla paste
1 cinnamon stick
4 quinces, washed

Peel and core the quinces then cut into wedges. Combine remaining ingredients in a large saucepan and heat over medium, stirring. Once the sugar has dissolved, simmer for 3-4 minutes before slipping in the fruit. Cut a piece of baking paper to fit just inside the pan and press it down on the surface of the syrup, cover and poach on a low heat for 3 hours.  

Quince and sour cream cake
This is a fantastic basic cake recipe, substitute the quince with any fruit you like or just keep it nice and plain.
125g soft butter
1 cup caster sugar
zest of one orange
3 eggs
juice of one orange
1 1/4 cups wholemeal self-raising flour
100g sour cream
3/4 cup poached quince wedges, finely sliced  

Preheat oven to 180C and butter a 20cm cake tin. Cream butter, sugar and orange zest together until pale and creamy. Add eggs, one by one, beating well between each addition. Fold through the orange juice, flour and cream then spoon batter into the prepared cake tin. Arrange sliced poached quince on the top of the cake and bake for 35 minutes or until the top is golden and the cake’s sides are beginning to pull away from the tin. Cool on a wire rack and then serve with a dollop of the sweet yogurt (recipe below). 

Quince jelly
2 sheets titanium strength gelatin
400ml quince poaching liquid

Soak the gelatin sheets in a shallow dish of cold water for five minutes or until nice and soft. Meanwhile bring half of the quince liquid to the boil in a small saucepan. Remove the gelatin sheets from the cold water, squeeze excess water out and place gelatin in the boiling poaching liquid. Whisk until the gelatine dissolves completely. Then add this mixture to the remaining poaching liquid and stir well. Pour this into one large mould or a mixture of pretty little glasses and place in the fridge for a few hours to set. Serve with a dollop of sweet yogurt (recipe below).

Sweet yogurt
This is a great alternative to cream or ice cream, the basic idea is to use one part condensed milk to three parts natural yogurt and then to flavour if you like with some orange juice, vanilla bean or other flavouring. After a few hours in the fridge it sets into a lovely thick custard and is just delicious with pretty much anything.

1/3 cup condensed milk
1 cup natural (Greek) yogurt
1 tbsp orange juice

Mix everything together and then leave in the fridge for at least two hours.

This weekend...


This weekend I'd like to...
1. Head to Bendy St Emporium in nearby Canowindra and stock up on preserving jars to save the last of this season;
2. Celebrate the beginning of chestnut season and practice my French with these muffins
3. Spread Lynwood's Rhubarb and Raspberry jam on hot cross buns
4. Get inspired by Oustanding In the Field for our first ever Mandagery Creek Venison Farm Lunch (which is now booked out but we have spaces for the next one on May 26 (email me for more info)
5. Organise my pantry with Love Mae's gorgeous stickers
6. Bring the Mandagery Creek Venison spirit through to my baking with these cute cake toppers.
7. Get excited about Orange F.O.O.D Week starting in three weeks!
8. Freshen up my food with Bill Granger's fantastic new book, Bill's Every Day Asian.
9. Make hot cross buns and style them like Megan Morton (her brand new website is beautiful)

All white on the night - today's JustB post


This is my family's absolute favourite dinner. Recipe over here at JustB.

Confectionately yours


I have a terrible weakness for Nutella. So it was a happy coincidence when I moved right next door to the village in Northern Italy where this super spread was born. During the years I worked for the Slow Food movement in Piedmont, I drove past the Ferrero factory almost daily, winding down my windows to inhale the almost cloying sweet smell that carpeted the valley whenever the factory was roasting nuts. You’d think I’d get sick of the smell, taste and sight of the stuff. Sadly no. Such proximity only served to elevate my weakness to an often unchecked addiction. 

Since moving back to Australia I went cold turkey on Nutella, not allowing it anywhere near our house. But a recent trip to our local hazelnut orchard and purchase of a kilo of their beautiful, aromatic nuts wavered my resolve. I figured that if I made Nutella myself, using the best possible ingredients, it couldn’t be all bad. And it wasn’t. It was fantastic! Plus I reason that as far as treats for the kids (and us) go, home-made nutella on nice bread isn’t a total nutritional disaster. The remaining nuts went into a batch of hazelnut shortbread and have to say, the 'Nutella' was pretty fantastic across that too. But maybe that’s my sweet tooth failing to censor the hazelnut overload here. 

The aforementioned orchard belongs to the Baldwin family of Fourjay Farms. Basil and Jean Baldwin (above) have about 500 trees in their orchard and just over the hill their daughter and son-in-law have another 4500 (give or take). They are right in the middle of harvest at the moment so the kids and I visited last weekend. Freshly harvested nuts need to be dried on big wooden racks for a few weeks before being shelled so Jean kindly gave us a stash of roasted nuts from last season.  Fourjay Farms Hazelnuts are available at the Orange Farmers Market, by appointment from their farm directly and also at some of Orange’s best food stores.   

The ‘Nutella’ recipe below is loosely based on one given by David Lebovitz in his blog and I highly recommend giving it a go. Try it on nice warm bread, smeared across a banana, spread on warm pancakes or just straight from the spoon. And  if you really like somebody, make a jar for them and they’ll know it. 


Home-made Nutella
2 cups hazelnuts
1 3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup powdered milk
pinch of salt
200g dark chocolate, chopped
100g milk chocolate, chopped 

Preheat the oven to 180C. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and toast for about 15 minutes or until the hazelnuts are browned. Meanwhile, warm the milk and milk powder in a saucepan until just at boiling point, remove from heat and set aside. Melt the chocolates together in the microwave or a double-boiler. Once the nuts are ready, tip them into a tea towel and rub vigorously to remove most of the skins then into a blender or food processor they go. Blitz until you have a fine meal. Add the chocolate and blitz again until well combined. Then add the warm milk and process until smooth. Transfer into jars and keep in the fridge for up to one week. Makes about 2 cups.

Hazelnut Shortbread

1 cup raw hazlenuts
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
3 tablespoons rice flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
225gm butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180C and place a rack in the center of the oven. Lightly butter a tart tin with a removable base. Place on a baking sheet and roast for about 10 minutes, or until brown and fragrant. Remove, place in a clean tea towel and rub to remove the skins. Tip these into a food processor and blitz until the nuts are a fine meal. Add half of the brown sugar and blitz again. In a separate bowl mix the flour, rice flour and salt. Cream the butter and remaining sugar together until pale and creamy. Add the vanilla and then the flour mixture. Finally fold through the nut and sugar mixture. Press this into the prepared tart tin making sure the ‘dough’ isn’t more than about 2cm thick and bake for 24 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool completely, cut into about 16 wedges and serve with a cup of tea.

This weekend I'd like to...


This weekend I'd like to..
  1. Get into the Easter spirit by reading the new Sweet Paul Magazine
  2. Make almond butter and jam cookies c
  3. Continue the Easter theme and dye eggs pretty (natural) colours
  4. Pretend I’m going to spend a night in this Swedish mirror treehouse
  5. Order these enamel tumblers
  6. Dress my table with this beautiful linen from new Australian e-shop Dunlin
  7. Play with my new favourite photography app; Paper Camera
  8. Be adventurous in my sustainability

JustB post - (late) summer sauce


I just posted this recipe over at JustB. Please pop over and have a look. Thanks! 

Let's do it. Let's fall in love


This weekend has been rather romantic on our farm - in an animal sense. We are smack bang in the middle of the rut, which means our stags are calling up and down the valley in their unnerving gutteral way, inviting the ladies to come and be ‘privately romantic’ with them in a quiet corner of the paddock. Likewise with our ducks, though their courting techniques seem rather more clumsy. Yes, feathers were flying.

Even the snakes are at it. We interrupted two copperheads in 'the act' yesterday, if snakes don’t make you feel too ill have a look at the picture here.

Tim spent most of today on the tractor so I took the kids into town to meet a friend at Orange’s beautiful Cook Park. There was a brass band celebration (btw I LOVE brass bands) and Alice shone her affections on little Edward, her friend from pre-school, making him dance with her in front of the rotunda. Sweet.

Anyhoo. I thought I’d get into the spirit of things by courting Tim via his stomach. Specifically slow-roasted lamb. This recipe is dead easy, actually Alice did lots of the prep,and it's seriously delicious. Also, it's great for entertaining as all the work (and it’s hardly that) is done well in advance and delivers fail-safe results every time. If making this for a big group, serve with a big crunchy autumn salad and some home-made garlic bread.

Signing off. With love. Sophie

Slow-roasted lamb

1 boneless lamb leg, about 1.2kg
1/4 cup currants
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbsp parsley and rosemary. finely chopped
1 tbsp finely grated orange rind
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 cup white wine

Pre-heat the oven to 140C. Soak the currants in a little bowl of warm water to soften them up a bit and then cook the onion and garlic in a saucepan with plenty of olive oil until nice and translucent. Let the onion and garlic cool off then mix remaining ingredients together, including the currants but drained of the water. Season the stuffing to taste. Lay the lamb flat on a work surface and spread the stuffing across it. Then roll up and tie together with kitchen string. Place the lamb in a casserole dish with a lid and then pour over the white wine and sprinkle with sea salt. Cover with a lid or a tight layer of foil and place in the oven for four hours. Check every now and then and baste with the pan juices. If it’s looking at all dry then add a little more wine.

When cooked, remove from the pan and let rest under a tent of foil. Place the casserole dish on the stove-top and turn the heat to high. Add a little more wine and splash of water and stir well until you have a nice rich sauce. To serve, flake the lamb onto a warm platter and pour over the sauce.

This weekend I'd like to...


Figure out what language this is (Estonian?)and then make the Kringel...

Order the Field Guide to Victorian produce

Pass on beef straws

Try porridge clafoutis and nine other make-ahead breakfasts

Pretend I live here. Just for a second.

Make my house smell like
lemon, rosemary and vanilla. All day.

healthy chocolate macaroons

Make plans to one day go to all of these events

Make cupcakes because I don't have access to Sprinkles' 24-hour Cupcake ATM machine

A walnut loaf with apple and rosemary butter


After a great morning at the Nashdale Fruit Company's orchard yesterday I have been making walnut loaf for apple and rosemary butter. The recipes are over here at my Wednesday home JustB.

Fallen trees and pear tarts


It stopped raining for all of 10 minutes this weekend and we are officially sick with cabin fever.
Just over seven inches came down, falling through the wind in horizontal sheets and leaving fallen trees and boggy roads all over the place. A visit from our great friend Sam made the weekend and we took her to pick the last of the blackberries as soon as the rain (briefly) stopped. We picked a few, ate them on the spot and then walked the swollen creek for a while. A freshly fallen tree provided the perfect spot to practice a few moves in Baby and Johnny style (Dirty Dancing?) and we came home to slow-roasted lamb (recipe on it’s way) and this beautiful pear and almond tart (recipe below).

Pear and almond tart
This is a good recipe for when you have a day at home and are able to potter about and return to it every now and then. Not that it’s tricky, there are just a few (easy) steps fairly well spaced out. The result is gorgeous - absolutely worth the effort. And as it seems to improve with a few hours age, this a great one for when you have friends over as it looks pretty, tastes beautiful and is all done and dusted (with icing sugar if you like) well in advance.

For the poached pears

3 pears, peeled, cored and halved
1/2 cup sugar
4 cups water
1 lemon

Heat the sugar, water and lemon together and let simmer for a few minutes. Add the pears and cook on low for about 20 minutes.

For the pastry

This pastry recipe is quite short (ie loads of butter) so it does need lots of resting time in the fridge between handling or it might get fussy and sticky and you might start swearing. Or maybe that’s just me.

150g butter (preferable frozen)
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 egg

Place the flour and icing sugar in the bowl of a food processor and blitz for a moment. add the butter and blitz just until you have a coarse sand-like texture. Don’t wait for it to form a ball or it might be over-processed. Tip the mixture out onto a work surface and bring it together with the palm of your hand to form a lovely yellow disc of dough. Wrap this in plastic and pop in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Roll it out between two pieces of baking paper until about 5mm thick and then gently drape into your tart tin (about a 22c, diameter seems to work perfectly with this quantity of dough), trim the edges by rolling over them with your rolling pin and return to the fridge for another half an hour or so.

For the frangipane filling

6 tbsp butter, softened
1/2 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup almond meal
1 tbsp plain flour
1tsp cornflour
1 egg
1 vanilla bean

Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the almond meal, flour, cornflour and the egg and mix until soft and smooth. Stir through the seeds from your vanilla bean and set aside.

Blind bake the tart shell for 10 minutes. Then slice the pear halves horizontally and arrange in a star-shaped pattern on the tart shell. Spoon in the frangipane mix and smooth it out around each pear. Then bake for 15-20 minutes. This is just delicious warm but after a couple of hours the flavours seem to have mingled a little more. So good.

Weekend cooking and reading


This weekend I'd like to...

See the rain stop and the sun shine so our neighbours can harvest their orchards and vineyards.

Make apple butter

Make ten kinds of lamingtons (not really, but one batch would be nice)

Armchair travel with Wayfare e-magazine

Continue my lavender obsession with this chocolate pie

Have a poetic moment in the rain with Raymond Carver

Read tales from a fashion kitchen

Pretend I’m cosmopolitan and read the NY Times’ Diners’ journal

Get better at food photography

ponder the merits of cooking mackerel with citrus and

Make Dorie Greenspan’s honey and wheat cookies for next week’s lunchboxes

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