Monday, April 30, 2012

Monday's Menu {Kinfolk inspired lunch}

We spent nearly the entire weekend at the hut, which in our opinion is just about the perfect weekend. We did slip out early Sunday morning to a local beach for a quick dog walk and to pick up some last minute items for our lunch.

Instead of Easter chocolate this year (because we get enough of that anyway) Rob got a nice bottle of Lemon Olive Oil and I got my first copy of the magazine Kinfolk. It is beautiful. Really it is a book, not a magazine, with lovely thick paper, gorgeous photos and essays. No advertisements, not even recipes, just well thought out words.
I can't describe it any more eloquently than their manifesto:

Kinfolk is a growing community of artists with a shared interest in small gatherings. We recognize that there is something about a table shared by friends, not just a wedding or once-a-year holiday extravaganza, that anchors our relationships and energizes us. We have come together to create Kinfolk as our collaborative way of advocating the natural approach to entertaining that we love. Every element of Kinfolk—the features, photography, and general aesthetics—are consistent with the way we feel entertaining should be: simple, uncomplicated, and less contrived. Kinfolk is the marriage of our appreciation for art and design and our love for spending time with family and friends.

Inspired by this lovely magazine, and by reading Stephanie Alexander's biography recently as well, we invited six of our friends over for Sunday lunch. Rob and I discussed the menu over the following three days, and changed it a few times but ended up with:

Oysters with Champagne
French onion soup with parmesan croutons
Roast rib of beef with potato gratin, stuffed tomatoes and a green salad.
Quince and pear Tarte Tatin

I admit that Rob did the cooking this time, whilst I cleaned the hut (no mean feat with two wet puppies coming in and out all morning), and set the table.
We got it all together just in time for our friends arrival. After a garden inspection we retreated indoors to enjoy our Autumnal menu and each others company until dark!

Pink Chrysanthemums for some colour, the table setting, discussing gardens I think, I smiled at the collection of Blundstones and Birkenstocks discarded in the breezeway.
Our menu for the rest of the week was a little less indulgent, but just as tasty. Pasta carbonara, vegetable soup, steak with broccoli and mushrooms, I made a large Spanakopita, and Rob made a nostalgic mince dish from his childhood. With the Anzac day holiday, we did some biscuit baking and on Saturday I was treated to marmalade and pecan muffins in bed.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Garden at sunrise

With ANZAC day in the middle of our week, we feel like we've had two Friday nights and two Sundays. Delicious indeed.

The veggie patch is coming along, with cabbage, rocket and carrot seedlings popping up in the beds. Fingers crossed they get going before it gets too cold. Rob planted all the golden shallots we kept from last year, if we do as well as we did last year (each bulb became a set of 6) he may let me eat some of them!


We spent a happy afternoon planting bulbs that we have been dragging around in pots from house to house. The Zantedeschia bulbs are quite freaky looking, big potato sized things with fat roots coming out around the crown of it. I hope they'll be happier in the ground finally. The final pots of pink and white lilies also went in to their beds too.

We're looking forward to a quiet weekend at the hut, we're having a few friends over for lunch on Sunday, so Rob and I are busy discussing menu options. I think we've settled on gougères to nibble on whilst the tea smoked ocean trout cooks followed by a Tarte Tatin, Rob's favourite dessert.

Happy weekend to you.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Crazy dogs at the beach part two

I did only select a few photos for yesterday's post, mainly ones with the ocean in them. But I left out some absolute crackers, so I decided to post my other favourites today for completeness.
Sorry to those of you who aren't dog lovers, I'll be back tomorrow with a gardening post.
The expressions on Nigella and Genghis' faces are priceless. Don't worry  Nigella looks scary but she really isn't, she is more like a giant teddy bear to cuddle. For you information: Nigella has only managed to grab Genghis' tail the once. I think it shocked them both!


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Snap it {water}

Water to me is the beach.
We don't get there as often as we should. Particularly as Nigella and Claudia love it.

But in picking some images for this weeks Snap it, I went straight back to the 2008 folder. Long before we even thought of a second German Shepherd. We always head up to north-east Tasmania to visit a friend at Christmas, and he has a dog called Genghis. Nigella and Genghis have always been great mates. We always take them to the long dog beach nearby and they go nuts running in and out of the water, chasing each other, or other dogs, chasing sticks. It never fails to make us smile.

These are a classic series of their antics, and this only touches the surface in terms of the number of photos we have of them together.


Playing along here.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monday's Menu {roasted pumpkin soup}

We had a very quiet hut weekend, just the way we like it. We slept in, walked the dogs around the block, Rob made another 3 vegetable garden beds. I baked some lemon cupcakes to take to my mother's Tupperware party, and got away without having to host a party!  We baked Nigella's Schnecken on Sunday for a late brunch. They were seriously sweet, sticky and nutty. Perfect with a cup of tea, but we couldn't eat again until dinner.

Our menu was pretty simple this week a lot of comfort food.
Monday: Chicken and roast vegetable risotto. (Using up the leftovers from the roast chicken dinner the day before)
Tuesday and Wednesday; We had chicken and vegetable soup both nights, (our roast chicken was economical indeed feeding us for 4 dinners and a lunch).
Thursday: Vegetable and chorizo frittata.
Friday: Spaghetti and meatballs (recipe for the meatballs here).
Saturday: I'd been out to an afternoon tea, so wasn't very hungry, so we had baked potatoes.
Sunday: Roasted pumpkin and sweet potato soup - a few of my Instagram followers requested the recipe, so scroll down below if you'd like to read it.


Roasted Pumpkin and Sweet potato soup with potato and speck garnish.

I hesitate to call this a recipe. But it was very tasty. Amounts are approximate and fed just the two of us.

1 sweet potato
1 decent sized wedge of pumpkin
4 potatoes (we used Dutch creams)
Olive oil

1 onion
200g speck (or bacon)
vegetable stock (we cheated and used Marigold Swiss Vegetable bouillon powder and boiling water)

Peel and slice the sweet potato and pumpkin into even chunks.
Scrub the potatoes clean. Place the pumpkin and sweet potato on a tray, drizzle with a little oil, place the potatoes on a tray to bake (without oil).
Bake in a 200degC oven until soft.
(We did this the day before, and so popped them in the fridge once they had cooled. But you could just keep going).
Sweat the chopped onion in some more oil in a medium saucepan over a low heat, once softened add the pumpkin and sweet potato, and top up with vegetable stock. Bring to the boil then reduce heat to a simmer for 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning, and adjust if necessary.
Meanwhile heat a little oil in a fry pan and fry the chopped up speck or bacon til cooked and crispy, add the cubed baked potato (with skin on) and fry until nicely browned.
Use a stick blender to blend the soup, ours was still a bit chunky, but if you'd prefer a smooth soup blitz to your heart's desire!
Pour into bowls, top with the potato and speck and some chopped parsley and pepper.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Garden planning {bulbs and roses}

I am so ready for this weekend. This week has been all over the place for me. Work is busy, and I had a few days that were tough to get through. I try not to let work stress me out too much, but this week it did. But by the end of the week I've found some perspective, so it will be ok.

During the week to keep my spirits up, I indulged in some online retail therapy.
My flower garden looks fantastic, but apart from my lilies it's rather empty. So firstly I ordered 250 tulips, 300 anemones and 240 ranunculus bulbs from Tesselaar.


All of these images are from the Tesselaar website.

Next were my roses. Now Rob and I don't see eye to eye on roses. He loathes them with a passion. I however, would love to be able to pick roses for the hut and for friends and family. This partly led to the separation of the two gardens, so that Rob would not have to go near the roses! They are in the u shaped bed that surround the quadrant beds, so even I won't catch myself on a thorn whilst gardening around them. For the last 5 years I have sent away for the Treloar catalogue, which is in colour and mulled over the roses writing lists of my favourites. But eventually I narrowed it down to 40. Ten each of red, pink, yellow and white. They are all hybrid teas, which I know not everybody appreciates, but at the moment that's what I'd like. We certainly have room later to expand!


All of these images are from the Treloar website.
Last Saturday we had another load of soil delivered and Rob finished his vegetable beds. Although not the best time for planting we couldn't resist, so we planted some self-seeded Speckles lettuce and coriander. On Sunday we visited the Tas Farmgate market and picked up some chinese celery, dill and broccoli seedlings from Paulette at Provenance Growers. We also sowed carrot, parsnip, silverbeet, spinach, broad bean, rocket and savoy cabbage seed.

Watering in the speckles lettuce.
Lastly I just thought I'd share a little diagram I drew of our dream harvest year. I've joined in Chantelle's  April Photo-a-day challenge. Today's photo was something I drew. Believe me I don't draw very often. But this was fun. Not so sure about the likelihood of growing tangelos and mandarins in Tasmania, but the rest should be doable.

Happy weekend, I hope to drop by your blogs over the next few days, sorry I've been a bit slack at commenting this week. Well it must be almost beer o'clock! Yippee.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Snap it {sweet}

I have eaten far too many of these in the lead up to Easter.
They're so addictive, and sweet.
Might have to have a break from chocolate for awhile though now.



Playing along here.

Monday, April 16, 2012

One Year and Monday's Menu {Flatbread Pizza}

So first up, today is a special day at the hut.
A year ago today we invited our closest friends and family down to the hut for Rob's birthday party.
It was meant to be a house-warming too, but the build of the hut hadn't quite gone as fast as we'd thought.
But that didn't matter, we ate all our favourite foods, drank sparkling wine and enjoyed the sun.
In between main course and dessert, we had organised a little surprise.
Just a little ceremony.
I can still hear the gasp.
Happy 1st Anniversary Rob, it was a perfect day and our first year has been a memorable one.
(If you'd like to read the full story of our surprise wedding last year click here).


Back to our menu.
Monday: Beef and red wine stew.
Tuesday: Gres de Champenois with fresh figs and salad.
Wednesday: A tomato based pasta sauce with eggplant, zucchini, olives and fetta.
Thursday: Pork sausages and mash with home-made tomato sauce
Friday: Pesto and potato pizza (see the recipe below).
Saturday: Margaret Fulton's tarragon roast chicken with roast vegetables.
Sunday: Yum cha and Me Wah. Steamed dumplings and roast duck and many other delicious morsels.

Rob used this bread dough below for the pizza base.

Annabel Langbein's Crusty Flat Bread

This is a wonderfully supple focaccia dough that makes enough for two large loaves. You can freeze half the dough to cook later. We used leftover mashed potato, but if you don't have any in the fridge, boil potatoes until tender, mash them and allow them to cool before adding to the recipe. The wetter the dough is, the lighter the finished result will be, so don't be tempted to keep adding flour.

Prep time: 20 minutes + 3 hours rising, or 12 hours in the fridge.
Cooking time: 25 minutes.
Makes two large loaves.
Crusty flat bread dough
1 ½ cups warm (not hot) water
1 ½ tsp dry yeast granules
1 packed cup cooked and mashed potato
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 ½ cups high-grade or baker's flour, plus extra for kneading
2 tsp salt

1-2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp fresh rosemary leaves
½ tsp sea salt

Place warm water in a large mixing bowl (a breadmaker or electric mixer with a dough blade is ideal, if you have one). Sprinkle yeast over the water and allow to stand for 2 minutes. Mix in the mashed potato and the cup olive oil. Stir in the flour and salt and mix until the dough just starts to come away from the sides of the bowl.
Turn the dough on to a lightly floured board and, using lightly oiled hands, knead about 30 times (or for 3-4 minutes on the dough cycle of a breadmaker). Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with muslin or a teatowel and leave to rise in a warm place for 3-4 hours, or until it has doubled in bulk. You can also leave it in the fridge, covered, to rise slowly overnight.
When you're ready to cook your bread, place a baking stone on the centre shelf of the oven and preheat oven to 220degC. Turn the risen dough on to a lightly floured board, divide in half and shape each half into a ball. Roughly flatten one ball on to a tray lined with baking paper, pressing the dough out to an oval shape about 25 x 20cm. Use your fingertips to press dimples into the top of the loaf, then drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with rosemary and sea salt. Slide the baking paper with the dough on it off the tray and on to the preheated baking stone. Bake for about 25 minutes until golden.
When cooked, the bread will sound hollow when you tap it. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking stone for a few minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool. Repeat with the other ball of dough. If you want to save the second ball of dough to use later, place it in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean cloth and place in the fridge for up to 48 hours. It also freezes well. Thaw before pressing out and baking.
This recipe is from Annabel Langbein Free Range Cook.

So once it had been kneaded, Rob rolled it out very thinly. He made a pesto and smeared that across the pizza (you could use a bought pesto, but we still have basil so are enjoying it while we still can).
He carefully sliced raw potato very thinly and spread them across the pizza, then sprinkled rosemary sprigs on top. He cooked it until the base was golden and crisp (how we like our pizzas).

Next morning he added some currants to the remaining dough and made cute little currant buns which were light on the inside but nice and crispy on the outside.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Veggie patch

With the absence of flowers in our garden at the moment, I think I'll make Friday a regular day for posting about progress in our garden.
Despite the often inclement weather over Easter, Rob persevered and put together most of the garden beds in his veggie patch. Our poor neglected grape vines that have been plonked in the ground for the time being need to be moved out to the slope in front of the orchard, so that the last 3 beds can be put in place.

On Tuesday we had a delivery of top soil and another of pine bark mulch. You'd think by now we'd be able to calculate the volume of soil/gravel etc we'd need but we realised that we'll need another truckload of soil to finish off the beds. Although our soil is pretty good already, it is clay based, so this nice sandy topsoil will improve the drainage in the raised beds. We put down weed mat between the beds and covered it with the pine bark for the paths.

Rob also finished the last two quadrant beds in my flower garden, and levelled off the soil. I spent a happy afternoon weeding around the box hedge plants. I got about half way through, so will finish that off on the weekend.

Finally we planted three new trees. A pepper tree (Schinus molle), a tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) and a liquidambar (Liquidambar styraciflua).

Photobucket We hope to finish off the beds this weekend, and plant out some seedlings for (fingers crossed) a winter crop.

Happy weekend.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Psst there's a birthday at the hut

We like birthdays here at the hut. We celebrate the day, the week, the month.
Today is Rob's birthday. So far he's opened gifts and cards this morning, he walked the dogs around the block in the early morning, and for lunch we picked up some take-away sushi and headed to our favourite park in Battery Point to sit in the Autumn sunshine.
Rob's choice for dinner at home tonight and we've got a table booked for yum cha on Sunday.
April is a special month at the hut. More on that on Monday.


Cheers to being another year wiser.
Rob models a classic 1970's safari suit saved from the op shop pile after my father cleaned out his wardrobe. Only worn on very special occasions!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Snap it {favourite}

My favourite kitchen gadget.
Not particularly useful, but tied to some favourite memories.
Of my grandmother making her five grandchildren milkshakes in this.
It never seemed to matter if she ran out of milk, and it was a bottomless cup.
I can remember watching as the milk frothed up with bubbles, and sitting outside with a glass in the sun.

Over the weekend, I noticed a few bananas past their prime, giving me an excuse to bring out the Breville Dairy Bar. Banana smoothie, ahh.




Playing along over here.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Monday Menu

So I think you know we love good food, but on holidays we always visit Rob's family, and they take food to another level. We stocked up on supplies before heading away, Italian sparkling wine, a kilo of French cheese, some buffalo mozzarella, four loaves of bread. So we feasted on fresh tomatoes, basil and mozzarella on bread, a leek tart, and baba ganoush out on the deck at Rob's sisters house. Then headed inside for roast beef, duck ballotine, poached salmon, potatoes, stuffed peppers and mushrooms, onion gratin and salad.
After a short interval, beautiful slow roasted quinces, halva ice-cream, chocolate tarts and harvest cake appeared.
The next day we were sent on our way with a box of figs from Rob's parents. Pink and luscious, they make April a favourite time of year.
What else have we eaten over the week? BBQ'd ocean trout served with silverbeet. Pasta puttanesca. A simple paella. Pasta with fresh tomatoes, basil and lemon oil. Figs stuffed with Fetta and pine nuts and wrapped in prosciutto. Rib-eye steak with baked potatoes and mini zucchinis.
A delicious week.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

The alphabet of me

This has been kicking around a few blogs so I thought I'd have a go at it.

Trying out our wardrobe with Claudia and Nigella 

A // Age: 33
B // Bed size: Queen. No room for me when there are two German Shepherds and Rob!
C // Chore that you hate: Ironing. Boring. So we go around a lot in creased clothes. I'll always remember my grandmother's advice "move around a lot and no one will notice!"
D // Dogs: Nigella (6.5yrs) and Claudia (1.5yrs). If you're a regular reader of my blog you will know just how spoilt they are.
E // Essential start to your day: Putting my contact lenses in. I don't feel awake until I do.
F // Favourite colour: Red. Ahem, quilt covers, clothes, window seats, napkins, dining chairs, lounge chairs, plates. Guilty as charged.
G // Gold or Silver: silver.
H // Height: 181cm, with the stretch marks to prove it. I grew so fast (14cm one year) that I still have the scars on my hips!
I // Instruments you play: piano, a long time ago. Romantically I have this dream of the third hut, with my grandmother's piano, and Rob sitting while I play Bach. I can dream.
J // Job title: Project Officer. Which doesn't really describe what I do, I manage the communication activities for a national marine observing system.
K // Kids: Rob's daughter, 16.5yrs.
L // Live: at the hut, in the channel region of southern Tasmania.
M // Mother’s name: Maria. My grandmother was Maria too , I think my Dad wanted to call me Maria too, but my Mum didn't want a 3rd Maria, so added a 'n' to make Marian. Hazel is my middle name and is my other grandmother's name.

Rob and I in our silly hats and gowns.

N // Nicknames: Maz (siblings) or Bunny (Rob).
O // Overnight hospital stays: Once to have all 4 wisdom teeth removed.
P // Pet peeve: I asked Rob what he thought this was, his reply "self-absorbed people". I know there's an element of narcissism in us all, but some people go beyond that, and it drives me crazy.
Q // Quote from a film: Well a TV show, the term "captain subtext" referred to in the UK comedy Coupling. Rob and I often use it, when we know that although we have or someone else has said one thing, really we/they meant something very different indeed!
R // Right or left handed: Right.
S // Siblings: I'm the eldest of 5. I have 2 sisters and 2 brothers.
T // Time you wake up: I wake up around 6.30, when I get up is a whole other matter...
U // Underwear: I'll let you in on a secret, Jockey comfort classics in bamboo. Soft, stripey and comfy.
V // Vegetable you hate: Brussel sprouts, i used to swallow them whole as a child!
W // What makes you run late: checking blogs or Instagram.
X // X-Rays you’ve had: hips, knee.
Y // Yummy food that you make: Again, if you read this blog I think you'll know we make a lot of food, and most of it I think is pretty tasty (just don't ask me to make scones, big failure), but the recipe that I get asked for most, and use the most, is Nigella's Chocolate Guinness cake with cream cheese frosting.
Z // Zoo animal: I have to admit that the last time I went to a zoo I found it a little depressing. The larger animals looked sad, or seemed to be acting a little crazy. That said, my favourite animal were the otters. They are such characters.
I like seeing animals out in nature, like this cutie on the East Coast of Tasmania. 

Well you might know a bit more about me now. Happy Easter. I'll be dropping by here over the holiday.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Snap it {green}

Nigella a few years ago now.
She is a beautiful dog (both in looks and temperament).
We were on our way to a beach holiday and visited Hollybank forest reserve. Nigella happily posed on top of this stone BBQ.


Playing along over at Faith Hope and a whole lotta love.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Monday's Menu: one word - cheese

This weekend was all about cheese.
I can't believe I ate cheese with bread or crackers for dinner three nights in a row. Well actually, maybe I can. Rob was on a field trip all weekend, so we thought we'd head to Bottega Rotolo and pick some cheeses for an easy dinner. We chose three (with Tina's expert guidance) a Shropshire Blue (that bright orange cheese), a Rondin de Brebis (sheep's cheese) and soft Saporini (cow, sheep and goat's cheese), with a bottle of Jansz and a loaf of Pigeon Hole bread it was the perfect way to finish off the working week. Rob headed off on his field trip early on Saturday morning, and I headed into town to shop for food. I had to pick up some little pork chipolata sausages from the Wursthaus and they were cutting a large wheel of Pyengana cheddar. I had the best of intentions, it was going to be saved for a treat to share at Easter. I had organised a lunch for my Mother's birthday on Sunday, and decided to do roasted chicken wings two ways. Rob was catering for the uni students with the same recipes on his field trip. Nigella's one pan sage and onion chicken and sausage, and Ross Dobson's lemon thyme chicken wings. They went down a treat yesterday, with some roast potatoes and salad. My sister had made a pavlova which was delicious and I made a lemon and coconut birthday cake (see the recipe below).
Anyway, I was so tired on Saturday after cutting up a zillion chicken wings and baking the cake I decided just to eat the left over cheese for dinner. Claudia accompanied me on the window seat, she loves cheese almost as much as us. Last night Rob returned home, and as I'd had the big birthday lunch, I wasn't feeling particularly hungry, Rob felt like a snack. I said "Well I bought a piece of..." resulting in us munching on cheddar with two dogs sitting very neatly beside us drooling!
Culinary highlights other than cheese, include sausages with home made relish, scrambled eggs and silverbeet, chicken and mushrooms casserole on pasta, and meatball soup.


Annabel Langbein's Lemon coconut cake. 

The cake is from Annabel Langbein's book Free Range in the City. Easy, delicious and feeds my massive family!

3 cups sugar
4 eggs
finely grated zest and juice of 4 lemons
2 cups neutral oil (I used rice bran)
1 3/4 cups plain unsweetened yoghurt
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
4 cups self raising flour
a pinch of salt

Coconut Icing
75 gm butter, softened not melted
250g cream cheese
1/2tsp coconut essence
4 cups icing sugar
1/2 cup desiccated coconut

Preheat the oven to 160C. Grease a 28-30cm springform tin and line with baking paper.
Place sugar, eggs, lemon zest and juice, oil and yoghurt into a food processor or mixer and whizz to combine.
Add coconut, flour and salt and pulse until just combined (don't overmix). It will be lumpy but that's fine! Transfer to the tin and bake about 1 1/2 hrs, until cooked (check with a skewer into the middle or until it's springy). Cool in the tin.
To make the icing put all the ingredients into the food processor and whizz or beat until smooth. It may need to go into the fridge for a little bit to firm up before you use it. Spread the icing over the top and sides of the cake.
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