Beetroot Chilli Relish

Busy-ish morning. Out in the cooking school early experimenting with a recipe for beetroot and chilli relish/sauce. I plan to serve it with smoked salmon, perhaps even mix a little into Labna or cream cheese.

It’s not a bad environment to work in I have to say. The outlook on the garden is pretty nice with the trees and raspberry canes all coming into full leaf and bud.

IMG_2740Now I know that this photo of the grated beetroot is not the best, but it looked so wonderful glistening in the early morning sun that I just had to try to capture it.

IMG_2736Labna was on the go too, as well as an experimental Seville Orange Cordial.
The cordial syrup turned out very well indeed – I suspected it might be a bit tart, but it is really delicious, and in my opinion far more versatile than the marmalade.

IMG_2737IMG_2738IMG_2742And then to mowing, and now to cleaning, that sad necessity that I loathe so much. Why can’t I just cook all day, every day?

Incidentally, if the beetroot relish is well received, I will post the recipe on Monday.

What manner of orange is this?

Fancy that – Seville Oranges, grown in one of the local backyard gardens.

What to do with them? Marmalade is the obvious choice, but I’m going to make cordial syrup and see how that goes. I think it would be nice, not only as a drink, but as a flavouring for ice cream and cheesecakes.

The Rising of the Yeasts

This is the way we rise our yeast, rise our yeast, rise our yeast. This is the way we rise our yeast on a cold and frosty morning!

Bit chilly here today with a crisp frost on the grass, and here I am wanting two different yeasts to start to work. The sun-warmed stone front steps should do the trick.


This Sunday I’ll be giving a presentation at the Botanical Gardens’ Spring Festival. I want to take along some old fashioned, colonial style breads for which these yeasts will form the rising agents.

The recipes for these yeasts come from long-time Derwent Valley resident Mavis Beattie. They’ve been in her family for generations. One is based on hops and potatoes, the other also on potatoes but with citric acid.

I’ve not tried the citric acid version before, but if it’s even half as successful as the hop recipe, it will work really well. The flavour of the bread made from the hop yeast is exceptional.

Come along and have a taste of the bread and the various treats I’ll be serving with them. The presentation is from 1pm till 2 on Sunday.


Nothing dull about school holidays. Stephanie brought young Charly and Jacob and their friend Hayley around today to make taffy. My goodness the cooking school was smelling delightful.

The hook on the wall that looks like some Mediaeval implement of torture, is actually a taffy hook. It’s sensational to see the lumps of toffee pulled into ropes and twisted this way and that.

As for the flavour? Well, I leave you to imagine. Suffice it to say that there were the following flavours – coffee, salt water taffy, blueberry, jaffa, fairy floss, bubble gum, peppermint and raspberry.

Of course lots of energy is expended in the pulling and shaping of those hot balls of taffy, so pizzas were on the go for lunch.

Everyone has gone home now with their toffees all neatly packaged, but the walls obviously remember the fun. The aroma hangs in the air even now and shows no sign of diminishing any time soon.


The lemon tree that nearly wasn’t

Seems we have a lemon loving lady possum here. Our lemon tree, despite every possible effort, has suffered badly from her nightly grazing. We’ve hung bags of blood and bone in the tree, even special flashing lights as recommended deterrents. Neither worked – in fact we went out one night to find her playing with the lights like a cat with a toy.

She’s a pretty little thing, and not at all frightened of us – seems a shame not to like her, or worse, trap and transfer her to another location.  I’m told that this is not a kind thing to do at all.

And so …. Robert is in the process of building a cage over the tree or else it will be gone forever. I hope it appreciates our ministrations – it’s going to have to produce a lot of lemons to make up for the more than $200 spent on its cage.


Limona, as I’ve come to call this mischievous possum, must know what’s in the wind and, desperate for the taste of lemons I suppose, helped herself to a container of them that I’d accidentally left sitting at the cooking school door.
Hopefully, she will will move on elsewhere of her own accord now that her lemon treats will be out of reach.

Spring in the Valley of Love

Wonderful place this Derwent Valley.  Despite the bitter cold winter, or maybe even because of it, the property here looks amazing, so lush and green.  Here are some photos taken from the verandah this morning.


My New Best (bread baking) Friend

Speaking of bread baking things – meet my new best (bread baking) friend. I bought this dehydrator from Teros in Hobart a week or so ago. I admit it was love at first sight – a dehydrator that would be easy to clean with really good capacity, and metal shelves instead of less than durable plastic. I know it will be used almost constantly over summer.

However, it has other uses as I found this week. Just before the bread baking class, my trusty microwave/convection oven in the house died an irreparable death. I have always used it to rise doughs before the class so we can have some ready to shape and bake soon after the class begins.

I’d noticed that my newly acquired dehydrator had a setting for rising bread. Why not? There certainly was a bit of a chill in the air at 6am on Saturday, and the sweet yeast dough would undoubtedly appreciate the extra warmth.

Well, I have to tell you, it was absolutely amazing! Worked better than the microwave convection set to 40 degrees – the way I usually speed up the rising.

This dehydrator also has a setting for yoghurt, so I’ll be trying that for sure.
I’m afraid the photos don’t do it justice, especially the one with the door half raised, but you will get the drift.

I don’t normally recommend any particular product, but what a versatile and efficient machine this is! It was quite inexpensive as well, especially compared to other dehydrators.

As I said, my new best baking friend.


Herman the German Bread and Fruit Bread

During the Making and Baking Yeast Goods class here last Saturday, it came to light that the Herman the German plant is doing the rounds again. While the cake is lovely, there is only so much of it you can eat. Yet it seems such a waste to throw out a perfectly good natural ferment. I developed a recipe for making bread with it instead.

So, by special request, here is the recipe again. I really like the ferment used this way – the fruit bread is especially good too.

(For details about Herman the German – how to make a plant and how to feed and treat it see

Herman the German Plain White Bread

This bread is quite sweet, though not so much as a regular sweet dough. It’s a bit like a brioche. Its texture is really good.
1 portion of Herman the German (that is the 10th day one quarter portion)
3 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1½ cups water

Mix all together very well in a large bowl and then cover with a teatowel and leave to rise until about doubled (this will take several hours).

Grease a loaf tin 13cm x 21cm approximately.

Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured surface, sprinkle with flour and knead for a couple of minutes, then cut the dough into two equal pieces.

Shape each into a ball and then place side by side in the tin.

Cover with a tea towel and allow to rise almost to the top of the tin, then bake for 40 minutes at 200 degrees C.

Variation – you could make this dough into buns instead of a loaf of bread. I think they’d be very nice baked with a little stewed apple or fresh berries inside. It would also be a good dough for making cream buns.

Herman the German Fruit Bread

For this recipe I added extra yeast. You could just use the Herman plant, but it will take a very long time to rise.

4 cups plain flour
3 teaspoons dried yeast
2 teaspoons sugar, optional
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup raisins
1 cup sultanas
½ cup chopped dried apricots
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons mixed spice
1 portion of Herman the German (that is the 10th day one quarter portion)
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 cups warm water, approximately

Mix the dry ingredients together and then add the Herman portion, along with the oil and water to make a soft dough. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave until doubled in size (about 1 ½ hours).

Grease a loaf tin 13cm x 21cm (approximately) or two baking sheets (see below for reason).

Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured surface, sprinkle with flour and knead for a couple of minutes, then cut the dough into two equal pieces. Shape each into a ball and then place side by side in the tin.

Cover with a tea towel and allow to rise almost to the top of the tin, then bake at 200 degrees C for 40 minutes.


I bought some asparagus from a larger commercial fruit and vegetable market recently – big disappointment, tough and tasteless. No wonder it was on special.

This morning we picked several stalks fresh from the garden, the first of what we hope will be a bumper crop. What a difference! It was truly one of the best dishes I have ever eaten – sweet and tender, served with just a little melted butter and a sprinkling of salt. Oh my goodness, it was so delicious!

Poppy’s bad day

Look who’s had a haircut … I’m afraid it was a necessary evil. Puppy Poppy could barely see out of her fur-covered eyes and would go running through the house, full pelt, and bang into all sorts of things.  She hurt, or at least shocked, herself quite badly once or twice.

What started out to be a simple puppy trim turned into quite the drama. She was so distressed at the mere sight of clippers and scissors that she had to be anaesthetised. So, instead of the planned mini haircut, we decided to go for the whole trim while she was under. I leave you to imagine the bill for that little exercise (it wasn’t good…).

Poor little thing looks only half the dog she was and is still getting over the stress. She looks pretty relaxed now though, asleep in a warm lounge room on her soft day bed.

IMG_2735Pity it will have to be done again in a few weeks or months time.