I’ve been having fun making cheeses recently, so thought I’d make some halloumi a few days ago. I didn’t have enough pasteurised milk on hand so made up the difference with UHT milk. I’d always wondered if that would work.

Not a good move, don’t try this. However, second attempt worked brilliantly. It tastes amazing – much better than the commercial variety. The yield from 4 litres of milk is about 550g. I’ll make ricotta from the whey today, and from that some little savoury spinach tarts for morning tea in the cooking class (Bottling) tomorrow.

Might even do a cheese-making class in the school soon as there are several that can be made within a few hours time-space. Watch for that in the new class schedule that I will be preparing later this week.

The photos are of the stage of boiling the halloumi curd. The next step was to salt it down, wait for it to cool and then fry in a little butter and olive oil. It disappeared in a flash – grandson Jacob liked it very much indeed.

Idyllic Valley

How pretty is this valley! Just arrived home a few minutes ago to see a summer mist creeping up the hillsides. Raced inside for the camera – the photos don’t really do it justice, so beautiful. However they are good enough to share to show what we enjoy here in this lush and fertile Derwent Valley.

And so as the sun is setting (just look at that sky!) there’s another full day ahead of fun things to do.  Tomorrow is set aside for bottling a neighbour’s cherries.  In the (almost) words of Dr Seuss – every day from here to there, happy things are everywhere….

Making and Baking Yeast goods

Some of the activity in the Making and Baking Yeast Goods class today. By the time we finished baking, it reminded me of the Disney Wizard’s apprentice cartoon – only this wasn’t soapsuds, it was bread on every available bit of bench space and spilling out of every oven.

There was Monkey Bun (of course!), barley breads, fruit buns, cream buns, jaffa buns, focaccia, Turkish breads, pizza, piggies in a blanket (sausage baked in bread dough), pull part savoury breads, slow ferment wholemeal bread and more. Lots of fun in the making and baking, lots of fun also in the eating, though I don’t think I will ever need to eat again.

Great expectations

Many thanks to everyone for their concern for our Della. You will be pleased to know that the post-op report from the vet was good. Today for the first time since the attack she toddled up to the cooking school door while a class was in progress (she is ever-hopeful that it’s sausage making day).  Her great expectation was rewarded as I cooked a sausage especially for her.

We are very thankful still to have her. It was a huge operation and we didn’t know if she’d even survive anaesthetic. Big thanks to Lindisfarne Vet for their excellent care of her. Despite all she’s been through she is still happy to visit them, which is a testament to how kindly she was treated.

While I am in favour of adopting rescue animals generally, after our experience this week I’d urge people to be extremely careful of how they choose and from where. Be sure the animal has been thoroughly behaviourally tested.

Recipe swap

Don’t you just love recipe swap? Leonie (holding the rhubarb in yesterday’s photo) gave me her gran’s recipe for scones. I tried it out this boring when friends came to visit. I thought my scone recipe was good, but this one is better – by far! Yum.

Our friend Kaye was one of those who came to visit, and she told me her mum Tilly’s hint for cooking rhubarb – cook it with a banana, truly – about half a banana to a couple of stalks of rhubarb. Helps to sweeten the mixture. It’s one of those hints that’s pure gold.

Bottling and Preserving!

The produce this year is stunning, both in the garden and in the surrounding Derwent Valley in general. The shelves and benches in the cooking school are loaded down with preserves and all the storage cupboards in the house are groaning with their overload of filled jars.

I’ll stock up the roadside stall with a wide range of them tomorrow. There will be rhubarb and raspberry jam, plain raspberry jam, sweet chilli sauce, tomato chilli pickle, berry cordial syrups, piccalilli, apricot chutney, apricot jam, Worcestershire sauce, redcurrant jelly and lots more.

Much happier times here now with Della on the improve at last. There’s been two classes in the school over the last couple of days – one for bottling fruits, the other for making all sorts of preserves – chutneys, pickles, cordials, jams, jellies, chilli sauce and others besides. Many of the ladies came for both classes – they were great fun to have here!

Hope their luggage didn’t weigh too heavy on the way home…

Bushland Garden

With all the recent happenings here, I neglected to write about a lovely day we spent recently travelling a short way up the east coast.

Situated between Buckland and Orford is a beautiful bushland garden, open to the public.  It’s certainly is worth a visit. I think children would love exploring here. All credit to the people who created it – there are amazing sculptures, waterfalls, and short bush walks. Seating is provided in amongst the bushland and there are barbecue and picnic facilities. Entry is free.


Monkey Bun

Apologies to the person who wrote and asked me to post three recipes.  Somehow the message is lost, but I do remember Monkey Bun.  (The lady might like to message me again so I can post the rest for her).

This recipe is most delicious, I think, made with mulberries, but any of our wonderful summer berries will do nicely.

Any Berry Monkey Bun

You will need an 8 to 10 cup capacity Gugelhopf tin – even a plain ring tin will do.

Makes 1 large bun

500g plain flour

5 teaspoons dried yeast

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

Grated rind 1 lemon, optional

60g butter, melted

¾ cup warm milk

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup berries, fresh or frozen (blueberries, mulberries, blackberries etc), approximately

For the toffee

250g butter

200g brown sugar

1 tablespoon golden syrup

Mix the flour, yeast, salt, sugar and lemon rind in a bowl.  Make a well in the centre and pour in the butter, milk and eggs.  Mix well with a metal spoon until well combined.  You can mix with a dough hook in an electric mixer if preferred.  Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place to rise until doubled (about 1 hour).

Grease the tin well.

Place the toffee ingredients in a small saucepan and heat over low heat until melted, stirring.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth (about 2 minutes).  Break off walnut sized balls (about 80g each) and roll into balls.  Press out flat and place a berry or two or more in the middle.  Dampen one edge, then seal the package, bringing dry edge to wet edge to ensure a good seal.

Roll quickly in the toffee mixture and drop into the tin.  On the base, place them so that they are almost touching, then layer the buns progressively up in the tin.   Pour any leftover toffee mixture over the top.   Cover with a tea towel and allow to rise almost to top of tin (about 1cm from top actually).  Keep an eye on it so that it doesn’t stick to the tea towel.

Meanwhile heat oven to 200°C.   When dough is ready, bake for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 160°C and bake for 25 minutes more.  Leave to stand in tin for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a large plate (carefully).

Bad and downright Ugly

The next episode is so bad and ugly in nature that I can hardly bear to write about it. Our poor old beagle Della was attacked unmercifully by another dog.

I have never seen anything so vicious in my life – manic, unprovoked rage by the offending animal. With a vet bill of thousands, which is a mere nothing compared to her suffering, she is now home and recuperating. It will be slow as she is an old dog. I would post a photo of her injuries, but it would be too horrific to look at. Due to the operation to clean the wounds, she has a 6 inch or longer stitched cut on her side and black bruising the size of a football, more like two footballs. There are many puncture wounds besides.

I try to encourage her inside where I think she would be more comfortable, but she prefers the security of her bed on the verandah, poor darling. At least she will eat, so we can administer antibiotics and pain relief in little morsels of mince.

She is such a darling gentle dog. For those who have visited here, you will remember her warm welcome and happy ‘smile’.  She certainly did not deserve this.

The worst of this situation (aside from Della’s suffering)?  The attacking dog was a rescue animal that we purchased from a very reputable animal refuge after much consideration and consultation.  We were repeatedly assured that the dog was good with all other animals, children; the perfect dog in fact.

Gradually however, we became aware that she had an unfathomable streak that started to become worrying.  She had a scrap with Della once before, but after consultation with a dog ‘expert’, a professional, we were assured that such tiffs were entirely normal.

How I wish I had shown better sense, as this final attack would not then have occurred.  The guilt I feel is immense.  Della is the one who has paid the price for my monumental lack of good judgement.

More about good …. just love my cats

With all this inclement weather, the cats have taken to the indoors, each in their respective favourite places; Tom in his bean bag …

Rosie snuggled up on a bed ….

and Truffles in her basket.

Good life for some …..