Yummy recipes for you to try and the penultimate document of our studies finished!

Hi All
Anyone who has been following this blog for a while will know that when we initially moved to Serendipity farm, it was to a house with no oven. My father had always said “when you get this place you can put in your own oven” and he had used a little electric stove/oven that he picked up at a second hand mart somewhere. We used a covered gas bbq and a little bbq made out of a keg that our friend (who shall remain anonymous…) gave us to use. We had no idea how we were going to make this setup work, but we had no money and so that was how it was going to be! We made a full Christmas dinner on the bbq and the ensuing duck fat potatoes were the most incredibly tasty potatoes that I have ever had. We got quite proficient with using the two bbq’s. The covered bbq was excellent for cooking bread, pies, cakes anything that needed an ‘oven’ and the little keg bbq was the hottest heat source and so we could boil water and steam vegetables. We used this system until April this year when we bought ourselves a wood stove and again, we were not sure whether or not we would be able to master it, as reading online gave us the impression that they were very hard to use. Our Thermalux Grand Cuisine (not being paid, just love it :o) is just like using a regular oven. I don’t know what they have done, but having the firebox in the middle of the ovens gives the most even temperature dispersal and we have 2 main ovens and 2 warming ovens (although the warming oven under the hottest oven is often a lot ‘warmer’ that you might think). We bake amazing fresh bread now and Steve is a dab hand with a sponge cake that is lighter and fluffier than anything that we have ever had from a shop. Even my daughters (who are VERY hard judges when it comes to cooked goods, mainly because they are amazing cooks…) said that when they next want sponge for a tiramisu, that they will ask for Steve’s sponge. Making him amazingly happy I must add. My sponge cakes are like flat sponges that you buy from the shop to wash dishes with and have a taste reminiscent of a patented breakfast cereal. My scones used to be just about as bad but I have learned to make good scones now. I will leave the sponge cakes to Steve…

Last night I was given a challenge by Steve to look up (and find) “The best potato and cheese pie (with pastry)” so having been given the challenge, I had to rise to the occasion. I don’t do anything by halves so I found 3 choices for him and he chose one that looked ‘interesting’. I have just made it and even used the pastry that went with the recipe. I am a shortcrust snob and will only use the shortcrust pastry recipe that comes from the enormous dark green Macquarie cookbook that I managed to pick up from a garage sale after giving my precious chocolate cake stained copy that I bought way back before either of them was born. The girls insisted that I leave it with them as it was ‘their heritage’ and fair enough. They have eaten more than a few meals prepared from that book and it’s sort of a rite of passage to be passed a precious cookbook I think. My mum bought me the C.W.A. cookbook for my 21st and it’s one of my most precious cookbooks. I left that with the girls as well because again…it was their heritage. I can always ask them for any recipe that I need out of it and I know that it’s in good hands. As mentioned, both of them are exemplary cooks that can make all sorts of amazing things that taste fantastic. I am not just saying that because I want them to look after the dogs on Tuesday either (even though I do :o), it’s the truth. I decided to give the pastry from the recipe a try. I am glad that I did because even though it had half the butter that my regular recipe had, it had added parmesan cheese. It turned out really well, it was easy to make and didn’t shrink at all when blind baked. I will give you the recipe. I found it online so again, anyone who owns this recipe, please know that I am not claiming it as my own, I am just celebrating its most deliciousness. Give it a go, you just might like it. Steve says that the pastry is scrumptious and used it on his special quiche. We also made quiches for the dogs using the little tart tin that I bought from the op shop and it worked fantastically. People don’t realise that old dark coloured bakeware is precious and when they inherit it, they should be very pleased rather than toss it out to the op shop!

Cheese and Onion Pie
This stunning vegetarian pie is perfect for a picnic or lunchbox and looks just as at home at the centre of the dinner table.
For the pastry
• 450g/1lb plain flour, plus extra for dusting
• 2 tsp baking powder
• ½ tsp salt
• 120g/4½oz unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
• 1 free-range egg yolk
• 50g/2oz parmesan cheese, grated
• 120ml/4fl oz water
• 1 free-range egg, beaten, for glazing
For the filling
• 1 medium potato, peeled and cut into cubes
• 2 onions, finely sliced
• 1 tbsp plain flour
• 50ml/2oz whole milk
• 50ml/2oz double cream
• 150g/5½oz mature cheddar cheese, grated
• ½ tsp English mustard
• ½ tsp cayenne pepper
• salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preparation method
1. For the pastry, pulse the flour, baking powder, salt, butter and egg yolk in a food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the grated parmesan and stir until well combined.
2. Gradually add the water, a tablespoon at a time, mixing continuously until the mixture just comes together as a dough. (You may not need to use all of the water.) Roll the dough into a ball, then wrap it in cling film and chill in the fridge for an hour.
3. Meanwhile, for the filling, bring a saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add the potato pieces to the pan and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until tender, then drain well and set aside.
4. Bring a separate large saucepan of water to the boil, add the sliced onions and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until softened. Drain well and return the cooked onions to the saucepan.
5. Sprinkle the onions with the flour and stir well to coat. Add the milk and cream and heat the mixture over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring continuously, until the liquid is smooth and has thickened slightly. Add the cooked potato pieces, grated cheese, mustard and cayenne pepper and stir well. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper, stir well, then set the filling mixture aside.
6. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Grease a deep 20cm/8in pie tin with butter. Add a small amount of flour, turn the tin to coat the base and sides of the tin, and then shake out any excess.
7. When the pastry has chilled, roll out two thirds of it onto a clean, floured work surface, until it is almost twice as wide as the diameter of the pie tin. Using the rolling pin, lift the pastry and lay it over the pie tin to line the base and sides. Gently press the pastry into the corners of the tin, trimming off any excess, then prick the base of the pastry case several times with a fork.

Both Steve and the dogs loved the pastry and the quiche. Steve enjoyed the pie with veggies for his tea last night so I would say that this recipe was up there with ‘the best’ and that I have at least met the challenge if not completed it. This pie was very reminiscent of my Grandmother’s cheese and onion pie.  The pastry wasn’t quite as cheesy, but it still had a satisfactory cheesy taste and it got Earl to do a “Hi 5” which is something that he has steadfastly refused to do up until this point so even if I go back to my favourite recipe, this new one might come out in the form of dog treats to see if we can’t get Earl to roll.

My family have a long tradition with food. My grandmother on my mother’s side was a very good cook as is my mother. My sister, my brother and I all love to cook and experiment with interesting and new recipes. My children are all interested in cooking and so is Steve. My mum shares recipes from newspapers and magazines in Western Australia that she thinks that I might like. Most of the time she is right and in saying this, the latest one that she sent to me needs to be shared. Western Australia is an amazing state. It’s got tropical heat (and accompanying fruit), desert conditions, hot Mediterranean conditions and colder areas. Not much snow, but some of the inland areas of the lower South West are very cold in winter. It’s also got a race of Australians that are quite different to the rest of Australia. I went into a petrol station in the U.K. to pay for fuel once and the man serving behind the counter was an Aussie. He said “you’re from Western Australia aren’t you?” I was quite surprised but he went on to say that he had travelled around Australia a lot and you can tell people from Queensland, Tasmania and from Western Australia because of their isolation. Interesting to hear. In saying that, we tend to be a group of people that are quite carefree and relatively happy. W.A. has most of Australia’s wealth tied up in various mines and as such, has a good bargaining position which allows a degree of security that most other states (especially Tasmania) don’t have when it comes to bargaining with the government. I guess that bleeds into the cosmopolitan feeling whenever you go Perth (the capital city for all you people from Sydney, Melbourne etc. who don’t realise that there ARE other capital cities other than your own…). Its got amazing markets, cafes and a really great feel to it. Hot in summer, amazing white beaches, clean and green and amazing beer. What more could you want? Because W.A. is so isolated it feels like another country and what starts in W.A. tends to stay there (apart from us…) and this is true for the recipes. This recipe may never have made it over the Tasman if my sister and mum hadn’t been quite so enamoured of it, so it must be good people! Have a go and see if you don’t agree. They both had it in a café and pronounced it ‘Scrumptious’!

Drunken Prune and Chocolate Tart
Serves 8 – 12 people
Chocolate pastry:
150g cold cubed butter
130g caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 vanilla pod, seeds only
120g cocoa powder
250g plain flour
250g pitted prunes
100ml Muscat or other sweet wine
180g unsalted butter
170g good quality dark chocolate
300g caster sugar sifted
3 eggs
180g plain flour
200g roughly chopped walnuts
To begin with, soak the prunes in the Muscat for 24 hours. To make the pastry, in a food processer, blend the butter, sugar, salt and vanilla until combined. Add the cocoa and process, using the pulse setting for about 1 minute. Add the flour and pulse until it is combined and pastry starts to come together. Tip the pastry out onto cling film and shape into a flat circle. Wrap and pop into the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours. Preheat the oven to 170C and line the base of a 24cm round tart tin with baking paper and grease the sides with light oil spray. After removing pastry from the fridge and unwrapping, put the pastry between two sheets of baking paper and roll it to a thickness of 3mm thin. Carefully turn pastry out into prepared tin, lining the base and sides, then return to the fridge to rest for 15 mins.
Remove from the fridge and put on a baking tray. Put a piece of baking paper over the pastry and fill with baking beads or rice and blind bake pastry for 10 mins. Remove paper and beads and bake for a further 10 mins. Remove from oven. For the filling: in a small saucepan melt butter and chocolate together, then allow to cool a little. In a clean bowl, whisk together sugar and eggs with electric beaters until mix starts to lighten a little, about 3 minutes. Pour butter/chocolate mix into egg mix and using a spatula, fold in together. Add the flour, walnuts (or pecans or macadamias) and well soaked prunes and fold in until combined. Pour the mix into the pastry case and put back into the oven and bake for 1 hour or until the top is firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little before serving with lashings of double cream

Its official…I LOVE baking.  Because of the lack of any form of reliable oven we have learned the value of a good stove, but since we discovered the joys of using a wood oven we have been spoiled to anything else. We decided to bake bread today and have been working on our questions for our Diploma unit in between producing 8 loaves of bread.  Here’s the first batch. If I am honest, making bread is a very messy business and here is the evidence…

Lovely isn’t it? And now look at how much mess we generate making it!…

Steve is going to have a go at shaping some French sticks from our next batch and we have a tiger glaze to apply to these baguettes to give them a crackled effect. The rest of the batch is going to another 2 large loaves. There is something amazing about making your own bread. It gives you a sense of satisfaction far greater than the actual results of the bread and its fantastic cut in large slabs and eaten as toast and marmalade the next morning (that’s Steve’s exact words :o). To anyone wanting to attempt bread making but who is a bit scared, give it a go. I remember making bread bricks that were virtually inedible. We buy our flour from the Tasmanian flour Mill right in the middle of Launceston and get consistently good results every time. The dogs are laying in the kitchen waiting for whatever it is that smells so good. The good thing about our oven is that apart from allowing us to cook the best bread around, it’s not hot. We can shut the doors on the stove and it is only very slightly warmer than the ambient room temperature. We love everything about this stove and are so happy that we took a gamble and went out on a limb to pay the not inconsiderable amount for its purchase. While we are cooking, we are heating our water. Steve is going to build a warming unit above the stove so that we can proof our bread above it using the heat that rises up. It’s a great idea and we have the mesh to do it, we just need to pick up the wood for the surrounds. He is going to build it this weekend and I will show you when it’s made. Steve is very handy around the house. He has a great ability to turn his hand to just about anything and here on Serendipity farm, that is a priceless commodity. I am pretty good at figuring things out and together we are dangerous!
I have just been out hunting slaters to feed the baby chickens after learning that they apparently love them. This information seems to be accurate as they were fighting over them. I don’t know if this is because they love them or because they are bored senseless with their enclosure, but either way, the slaters bought it big time today. The ducklings have been on their boatpond all day and after having a close look at all the chicks, Pingu is most probably our only representative of Barred Plymouth Rock chicken so it’s very lucky that we managed to save him from certain death. He now prefers to sit on your finger when he is picked up and has a very feisty personality. There is something positively liberating about finishing off what has been a very hard unit of our diploma. We have had many people tell us that it’s difficult and that most people don’t manage to complete it. We are both very stubborn and have a need to do the best that we possibly can. I sometimes feel sorry for sensei Nick because it must be difficult to deal with my perfectionist histrionics, but that feeling doesn’t last for long when I am given another difficult task to complete. Sometimes it’s only sheer stubborn refusal to give in that has gotten us through this course, but we have learned so much and our knowledge base is now much broader than when we started this course so it’s all been worth it. It would be so very difficult to undertake this course without prior computer knowledge and Steve and I are both grateful to the powers that be for not allowing us to launch straight into certificate 2 and having to do a business course first that gave us the background information to skip certificate 4 in Horticulture and then cope with the financial units in our Diploma. Sometimes what initially looks like a problem is actually a blessing in disguise.

We have our tiger glaze proofing ready to spread onto some of our next bread loaves, we have Steve’s 4 baguettes proofing on a tray, 3 more loaves with various shaping techniques applied to them proving and it’s just about time to start sorting out all of the animals that rely on us here on Serendipity farm. I hope that you have all had a fantastic day and that you enjoy whatever it is that you are having for your main meal tonight. Remember, what you put into you, ends up ‘being’ you so make sure it’s worth it! See you tomorrow and sweet dreams to every one of you.


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. mum.
    Nov 07, 2011 @ 17:54:11

    See, persistance pays of when you concentrate on your studies ! The same with when you first started with not very much at all, but look what you have done with it already! This is something that will last Pen & Steve, & get better as you go. The bread looks better than what you buy, I love it ! The cheese & potato pie looks just great, I shall have to have a go I think.Don’t forget, the cheese is added fat to the pastry, but tasty with it. I can taste it just looking at it.Sometimes, the simplist recipes are the best, aren’t they? The ducks will soon be heading to their boat by themselves. Have they had a rumage around the garden yet ? I have been chopping dead stalks from the banana passionfruit & adding to the compost, as they will rot down.Soon it will be No more teachers, no more sums & you can heave a sigh of relief.Now, where’s that tea pot for a cuppa.


  2. Kym
    Nov 07, 2011 @ 20:52:43

    Well I must say I’m very jealous of your yummy looking bread and pie. Delish I’m sure. I never learnt to cook as Mum was a bit fanatical in the kitchen and didn’t like me to dirty it, and I probably showed no interest anyway as she was a wonderful cook. I have had to learn from books etc. The best thing I ever invested in were those little cards from Women’s Weekly. They came in the post every month. Must have been two years worth but they have paid for themselves over and over. I don’t think I have ever had one that hasn’t worked. On a different note, what should I do for my citrus trees? I have given them a big feed as per my Yates gardening book, circa 1982, but not much is happening. We had a bit of a flush and now not much, no flowers either. Any suggestions would be great. I have one lemon, one orange and one lime tree. xx


  3. athursdayschild has a long way to go and much to be thankful for.
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 06:29:02

    Do you sell your baked goods? Taramisu was always my favorite dessert, but then we gave up eggs. I know I could try a vegan version, but then I’m a lazy cook. For most baked goods I usually substitute applesauce.


    • narf77
      Apr 12, 2013 @ 16:50:48

      I don’t sell anything. We like to give things away. I think that giving things out to the world is something that we all need to do. I think that passing things on, giving things away and sharing is vitally important because that’s what really keeps everything moving and shaking :).


      • athursdayschild has a long way to go and much to be thankful for.
        Apr 12, 2013 @ 20:46:36

        I truly believe in that. I actually wished we lived in a world without money.

      • narf77
        Apr 13, 2013 @ 04:03:26

        Then we would HAVE to take responsibility for what we owned, we would have to consider all angles, we would have to learn to get along with each other and we would truly count the cost of what we consume and own and the world would be a MUCH better place for it :). The small town that I used to live in (Denmark Western Australia) now has a parallel monetary system called denlets. You earn them by “working” for other people i.e. babysitting, baking, building a shed, helping them work in the garden and they are actually exchangeable in shops for goods! Its a great system and enough people are taking part in it now that it works 🙂

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