The Disney Baby Shower

The second of the baby showers here last weekend, this time for daughter-in-law Emma.

Great reason for fun, food and friends to share in the happiness.

Other than the wind, it was a perfect day. As usual Herman the bread oven, driven by Robert, performed outstandingly with cooking innumerable pizzas for everyone.

I am not exaggerating though when I say that the wind literally blew toppings off some of those pizzas – a potato, garlic and rosemary pizza was especially victimised. It lost its potato slices to a particularly nasty gust and went flying across the grass.

Lots of food to share inside as well – Emma’s favourite Lemon Meringue Pie in abundance, and a marvellous cake decorated by daughter Stephanie, along with some pretty special Mickey Mouse kiss biscuits.






For me there was extra special enjoyment in the cooking of the party food to those with gluten intolerance, dairy intolerance or diabetes. For instance – 3 types of rum balls – one batch normal, one for pregnant ladies (no rum) and one batch gluten free (hate to think of anyone having to miss out because of dietary restrictions).

Two types of fruit flan – one almost nil sugar, one gluten free and almost nil sugar. Little pavs (no cream) for the dairy-freers, gluten free sausage rolls and so on. One of Mickey’s cake ears was gluten free.

All this special baking was the best of kitchen fun.

Anyway, enough about the food.

Disney, of course, was the theme of the party, and Robert brought some older of the characters to life in paintings to decorate the scene (they too almost became casualties of the wind).


pic7All turned out well however, a wonderful day, so now just to await the happy event of the arrival of the new little grand baby. If you look closely at the photo of the two daughters-in-law, you will see that we are especially fortunate to have two new grandbabies on the way. How great is that?



Kitchen Capers

Lots of activity here in the kitchens.

Last Saturday Stephanie’s pasta making class was a hive of activity. All manner of pastas were made, from savoury with accompanying sauces, my personal favourite of gnocchi in a blue cheese sauce, and for dessert delicious little choc-orange and walnut crescents, deep fried no less, and then dusted with a little icing sugar, served with Chantilly cream. Decadent and delicious!

And that’s not to mention the lasagnes, cannelloni bakes and pesto pasta. There were ravioli too, filled with a tasty ricotta and chorizo mixture.


I don’t know about anyone else who came along for the class, but I didn’t need anything else to eat until late in the afternoon next day.

It came to my attention yesterday that some of the staple preserves of my pantry were worse than low, non-existent. Simply can’t manage without the homemade sweet chilli sauce and tomato sauce.

You know how it goes, once you start….. so now there’s a mixed berry cordial on the making, seville orange cordial at the steeping stage and I’m trialling a recipe for gooseberry jelly. I think it will be great for glazing little tarts, or simply served on scones or toast.

I found the recipe for the jelly in an old, old cookbook that some-one so kindly sent me.

With the luxury of Seville oranges, I decided to make some marmalade. I sneaked just a little (well, half a cup) of Robert’s best whisky to give a little extra something and indeed it tastes very good. However, I couldn’t be bothered taking out the pips from the the oranges and tying them in a muslin bag as should be done of course. Now there are a significant number of pips in each jar. Oh dear.

Maybe I can just refer to that as its “mark of authenticity”. That’s what my Nan used to say about her greengage jam.


It occurred to me also that I’ve been cooking almost exclusively in or on Carmichael, the wood fired slow combustion stove in the cooking school, or else Herman, the outdoor bread oven that Robert built.

There is simply nothing like this way of cooking. For baking in these stoves I bought a new pot too, my new and absolute favourite kitchen piece. It’s a cast iron pot – 3.5 litres or maybe 4. It came with leather gloves to protect from the heat, handles (I took those off) a lid remover and a carry bag.


I have to say it is exceptional. I have now cooked two pieces of pork in it (in Herman’s oven). No need to remove the lid to obtain amazing crackling, the fat renders out perfectly.

The pork is even more delicious cold, that crackling losing none of its crunch.

And so now with the aroma of gooseberries filling the house, I’ll look around for something else to cook.

Certainly is the Valley of Abundance!

Pasta class vacancies this Saturday, October 8th

For anyone who might be tempted to take up two spaces that have become available in the Pasta class this Saturday, here is what will be prepared:

A variety of egg pastas
Vegetable infused pasta – e.g. spinach, beetroot
Fresh gnocchi
Penne (using pasta press)
Lasagne sheets

These will be mixed and matched to sauces, fresh-made on the day, including:

Basil pesto
Spinach and feta (cannelloni bake)
Blue cheese
Zucchini, burnt butter and sage

Not to be overlooked are the delicious, deep fried sweet ravioli (filled with chocolate, orange and ricotta).

No-one (hopefully) can say they ever go away from here hungry.

The cost for the 4 hour class (9am till 1pm) is $160 per person.

Let us know if you would like to join us for a fun and food filled morning.  (Phone or email as pr contact details on this website).

The Indomitable Tom

There’s a little bit of an issue for young Jacob here – he gets (significant) sniffles around cats. However, despite this, he loves to sit in the fabric bean bag that old ex-feral Tom cat calls his own.

This week we were given a vinyl bean bag that I anticipated the cats would not like at all and so would be cat-fur-free. If by some remote chance a few strands of fur found their way onto it in passing, it could easily be wiped clean.

I put it out today on the lounge room in readiness for Jacob’s visit. Before he even arrived, Tom had claimed this as his property as well. Jacob was never able to sit in it at all.

Tom is very pleased with the new acquisition as you can see – had a ‘bath’, snuggled in and fixed us with a stare that dared us to try to remove him (not likely!).


Jacob had to content himself with an arm chair and an antihistamine, which bothered him not one jot.

No prizes for guessing who rules the household here….

A new book in April – Ultimate Slow Cooker

Here’s the first peek at my new book, due out April 17’.

Very happy with this cover image – many thanks to my publisher ABC Books/HarperCollins Publishers, photographer Chris Crerar and food stylist Charlotte Bell.

Pasta class vacancies

We’ve had two spaces become available in the Pasta Making class this Saturday, 8th October. Send me a PM or email if you would like to take up those places.


Hop Yeast Bread

I’ve had the request for the recipe for the hop yeast bread, so here we go – the recipe was given to me by Mavis Beattie of the Derwent Valley. She has also generously shared the recipe with the local garden club, who printed it their newsletter some time ago.

I do still have three lovely sourdough plants resting in the fridge that a friend gave me a little while ago. They are amazing too, each with their own inherent flavours. I am careful not to neglect them as I have been known to do with my own in the past – these three are really special. It would be a tragedy not to look after them.

Bread is such a wonderful, homey thing to make and bake, the varieties almost endless. When it’s in the oven baking it has to be one of the most cheering aromas in the world.
Mavis Beattie’s Bread Recipe with Homemade Hop Yeast

Hop Yeast starter

1 organic potato – unpeeled (scrubbed), 1 tablespoon hops and water to cover well. Boil until cooked. Cool.

Mix 1 tablespoon flour and 1 tablespoon sugar to a smooth paste using a little of the cooled liquid. Tip this mixture into a saucepan containing the cooled hop/potato mixture. Mash everything and pour into the bottle in which you have put 4 organic sultanas. Set in a warm place to work.

I use a 1.25 litre plastic lemonade or tonic water screw top bottle. It takes the pressure better than a glass bottle.

Hop and potato yeast – to feed plant (after about 4 days)

Boil a medium potato in about 3 cups water until tender. Place a small handful of hops in a mixing bowl. Pour over the boiling potato water. Allow to cool. Hops should have sunk to the bottom.

When cool, add liquid only to 1 tablespoon flour and 1 tablespoon sugar. Mix together and top up the starter. Fill the bottle to no more than ¾. Screw the lid down firmly.

Mixture is ready to bake when you undo the bottle and the ‘starter’ rushes out.

To make Hop-Potato Yeast Bread (basic recipe)

Put 1 cup flour in a mixing bowl. Pour in about 1 – 1 ½ cups of bubbling starter. Mix, then leave overnight in a warm place (I sit mine in a cupboard on top of the hot water cylinder).

Next morning – add about 1 pint water (warm) alternately with extra 4 to 5 cups flour to make a soft dough.

If not using bread-mix flour, add a small handful of salt. Mix to a soft-firm dough, leave to rise.

Knock back and put in bread tins. When risen, cook 30 to 40 minutes (20 minutes on High 200 degrees C, and 10 to 20 minutes on 180 degrees C.

Oil can be added, any kind of flour can be used.

Hop/Potato Yeast plant

A lovely sight to get up to on this fine spring morning. Nellie, the hop/potato yeast plant, is bubbling away nicely and certainly ready for her task of rising the bread today.

This recipe was given to me by a lady in our local community, passed down through generations.  It can be made from scratch just a few days beforehand.  I prefer it to sourdough, much more obliging (as I tend to neglect the latter).

The potato yeast just sits quietly in the jar between baking days, and is very easily reactivated when you want to use it again.

Happy to provide the recipe should anyone want it – just let me know.


Day Trippers

We assumed the role of day-trippers yesterday, taking a leisurely drive to our former home region of Eaglehawk Neck.

Beautiful day, idyllic conditions, incredible scenery, simply stunning.

Lufra Cove, a mere 5 minutes walk from our old house was, as anticipated, incredibly beautiful as ever, the waves gently breaking over the rocks of the bay.


resized_20160917_110651resized_20160917_110210Daffodils and bluebells grow wild around the grassy banks at this time of year, even tiny blue orchids if you know where to look.


The little bridge that crosses the creek is still standing, the water flowing lazily as always. It’s a sight to behold after a good downpour though – then it runs raging into the sea.resized_20160917_111523We walked down Pirates Bay Drive from our previous house to the Tessellated Pavement, noting along the way that even our secret blackberry patch by the roadside remains unchanged.


We went on to follow the road around the peninsula, ‘doing the loop’ through Nubeena, visiting the local market and catching up with friends, and then round past Port Arthur.

A brief stop for a lunch of freshly cooked local fish at Dunalley, a visit to see a darling little grandson at Primrose Sands and finally the return to our home in the Valley completed a fabulous, nostalgic and relaxing day.

Salmon, Leek and Corn Tart

I’ve also had requests for the salmon tart I made to take in to the ABC yesterday.

I kind of made it up as I went along, as is my custom, but have now pieced it together again and put it down on ‘paper’.

The pastry is made extra tasty by the inclusion of a little creamed corn.

I threw out the packet of wood smoked salmon, so don’t know the actual weight sorry.  I bought it at Woolworths – it’s with the other packets of smoked salmon.  There were 3 slices to the packet (each about 1cm thick) – hot wood smoked, and then vacuum sealed on a blue tray.  Can’t even remember the brand.  Given these clues I hope you can find it.

Anyway, here is the recipe, along with a photo of when it first came from the oven.

Salmon, Leek and Corn Quiche

Serves 6 to 8

For the pastry:

200g plain flour

¼ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

100g butter, diced

1 egg, lightly whisked

¼ cup creamed corn

1/3 cup water

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and butter. Process until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Transfer to a bowl.

Whisk together the egg, corn ad water and mix into the other mixture until a soft dough is formed, adding a little extra water if necessary. Wrap the dough in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Grease a slice or rectangular flan tin 18cm x 28cm (approximately).

Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to 6mm thick and then lift into the tray (you will have to much, there will be quite a bt of onverhang). Press into the corners and base and trim off excess.

Any leftover pastry can be wrapped in cling film and be used next day, or freeze for up to 3 months).

For the Filling

 50g butter

2 leeks, white part only, finely sliced

1 small red capsicum, diced

3 slices wood smoked salmon, pulled into 6mm flakes

60g cold smoked salmon slices, diced

Remainder of 400g tin creamed corn (see pastry ingredients)

5 eggs, lightly whisked

¾ cup cream

½ cup grated tasty cheese

3 teaspoons sweet chilli sauce

2 teaspoons lemon juice, optional

2 spring onions, sliced

Melt the butter over medium heat then add the leeks and cook over medium low heat until almost softened, then add the capsicum and cook for 45 minutes more. Cool.

Mix in the salmon. And then spoon evenly over the pastry base. Sprinkle the cheese over.

Whisk together the eggs, cream, corn and sweet chilli sauce and add salt and white pepper to taste.

Pour carefully over the salmon mixture. Sprinkle with the topping.

For the topping

 1 cup cornflakes

125g grated tasty cheese

¼ cup parmesan

1 teaspoon curry powder

¼ teaspoon stock powder (vegetable or chicken)

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

To Bake

Have oven pre-heated to 190 degrees C (fan forced) and bake the tart for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 160 degrees and cook for a further 20 to 30 minutes or until the filling is set and the topping is golden brown and crunchy.

This was very well received, as was the strawberries and cream slice I took along.


Instead of the usual filling I make with cream cheese, lemons and condensed milk, I simply combined 300g of yoghurt cheese (that had been hanging for 24 hours) and 300g of the lemon curd I’d made the day before.  In my opinion it is much nicer, less sweet and more tangy, less cloying than the other version.

And isn’t it great to be able to buy fresh and decent quality strawberries again?