Harry – Cafe Dog!

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“Coffee is a language in itself.” ~ Jackie Chan

 

Good Morning! It’s Harry here. Mum is meditating, so I thought I’d save time and write her blog so that we can go to the cafe faster.

I love cafes. Ever since I was little I’ve been going. Especially first thing in the morning. So now I’m ready extra early. Sometimes when it’s still almost the middle of the night…

If you look carefully at the next picture you’ll see me, in the dark, waiting by the door to go to the car. It’s 3.42am. But the coffee shop opens at six so it pays to be ready!

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Cafes and coffee shops are lovely. My brother Bert doesn’t like them much. He’d much prefer to stay on the veranda and have a sleep, or if it’s really cold he sneaks into the bedroom and jumps up on the bed and gets real small and low down to make himself invisible. He’s a comfort hound.

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But me, I can sleep on the job.

I’ve been a good cafe napper ever since I was a pup!

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It’s a social thing, cafes. All my friends are there. Lots of people to say hello. Lots of dogs to sniff and kiss. I keep busy while Mum is writing. I’m kind of like her writing companion. People can talk to me instead of her, so she gets more done.

I’m here in this next picture, but you can’t see me because I am under the table, sitting on Mum’s foot.

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And best of all, there is bacon. I love bacon. Have you tried it? It’s amazing.

It’s almost as good as zippers or computer power packs. But not as much fun as pulling the stuffing out of pillows.

Hmmm. I’d better not mention that again…

Mum says this is the best type of cafe dog. She’s not very funny sometimes!

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Getting ready for a bumper harvest!

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“Care less for your harvest than for how it is shared and your life will have meaning and your heart will have peace.”
~ Kent Nerburn

The picture at the top of the page is part of a stand of Bunya Pines along one of the fences at our farm. Each year the pines produce giant cones the size of a football or bigger, but the harvest varies from year to year. The last decent harvest we had was four years ago. Last year we had maybe six cones in total over the entire season, and the nuts inside were small and barely worth bothering about. Today I looked up and counted nearly sixty cones, and these were just the ones that I could see. 2013 is going to be a bumper crop. :)

It will still be a few months before they ripen and begin to fall, but already we are putting a management strategy in place. The trees provide a shady place for our cows, who like to use their dense lower limbs as shelter from sun and storms. But once the nuts start to fall they become a dangerous place to be. Being hit by a falling Bunya cone would not be dissimilar to being felled by a cannonball. So we’ll move the cattle to another paddock before the nuts are ready.

Byron bunyas

The Australian Aborigines used to have huge feasts around the Bunya season. Tribes would come from coastal, plains and mountain districts, put aside any differences, and spend time together harvesting and eating the rich nuts. The feasts were a time to build friendships, to trade and to organise marriages, alliances and ceremony.

Bunya nut factory

I think this year I’ll plan a feast of my own for Bunya season. There are so many cones and some of them will be heavy and full of nuts. The nuts can be roasted, boiled, fried or sprouted and they taste like a floury sweet chestnut with a hint of pine-nut. Absolutely delicious. They even make amazing pesto!

There’s a lot of work in harvesting, breaking and dehusking the nuts, and even more work in preparing them for cooking. It seems the perfect time to invite a bunch of bunya-nut-loving friends to come help with the harvest, and to share in the bounty.

And anyway, I love a house full of hungry people. It gives me an excuse to cook!

Bunya Nut Feast

No-Bake Yummy Slice Recipe

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“When all else fails, take a vacation.” 
~ Betty Williams

It’s school holidays here in Queensland, and this it the perfect easy slice to make.  In fact this recipe is so easy that the kids will have a batch of these whipped up faster than you can say “you’ll like this – it has chocolate in it!”

I’d love to have a more inventive name for this slice, but for years it has just been referred to as Nicole’s Yummy Slice.  It’s a delicious combination of apricots, nuts, oats, seeds and a dash of chocolate, and there’s no baking involved at all – just a little heating of a few wet ingredients.  This slice has been a stalwart at my workshops, and it’s a great standby recipe for school holidays, or as a lunchbox treat.  I also like to give it as a gift. It makes an ample batch, which is handy because it seems to get eaten very fast.

Ingredients:

Place the following in a large bowl:  3 cups of rolled oats, 1 cup of unsweetened desiccated coconut, 1/2 cup of sesame seeds, 1 and 1/2 cups (200 grams) of chopped dried apricots, 3/4 cup of pepitas (pumpkin seeds), 1 cup of flaked almonds (100 grams), 1 and 1/4 cups of milk chocolate chips (250 grams)

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Place the following into a saucepan: 200 grams butter cut into cubes, 1/2 cup of soft brown sugar, 1/2 cup of crunchy peanut butter, 1/2 cup of honey

Method:

Use baking paper to line a 20cm by 30cm slab tin ( 8 inch by 12 inch).

Stir the dry ingredients together until well mixed.

Melt the wet ingredients together over medium heat, stirring so that it doesn’t catch on the  bottom and burn. When it is all melted, pour over the dry ingredients and mix well.

Dump into the tin and smooth out well, using the back of a spoon or a clean hand, which has been dipped in water so that the ingredients don’t stick to you!

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Refrigerate until firm, cut into squares and demolish!  Goes well with a glass of milk, a cup of tea or coffee or just on its own.  Enjoy :)

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Lemony Slow-Cooked Lamb Shanks Recipe

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“I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food.” 
~ W.C. Fields

Slow cooked food – there’s nothing better to nurture the body and comfort the spirit, and this tasty dish fits the bill perfectly. Now that there’s a chill in the air here at the farm, a nourishing warm dinner is always welcome. I’ve adapted this recipe from my Grandmother’s so that it is gluten-free. It’s a firm favourite, no matter what time of year.

This meal is good for you! The lamb shanks create a rich bone broth during the long cooking time, and the nutrients are easily absorbed by even the weakest digestive systems.  The sauce will become full of the amino acid glycine, which is great for liver detoxification and regeneration.  It’s also rich in collagen and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) which are important for artery, bone and joint health.  The gelatin produced from the well-cooked bones and cartilage helps heal leaky gut, and also reduces your need for meat and protein.

In Chinese Medicine, bone broths are considered to support the kidneys and kidney meridians, and as such are also useful for healthy teeth, bones and adrenal gland function. So if you are feeling unwell, suffering low energy or have adrenal fatigue this is a super meal for you!

This recipe uses the tang of lemon to compliment the lamb, and a dash of sweet vermouth gives the whole meal a little extra zip. (I use Cinzano Bianco but any sweet vermouth will do.)  At a pinch you could use white wine, but truly – if you can – use the vermouth.  I keep a bottle in the cupboard just for this recipe!

These lamb shanks are quick to throw together but  the secret to the silky, melt-in-your-mouth meat is to cook the whole dish slowly, over a long time-frame.  If you have a slow cooker with a timer, then chuck it all in so it’s ready when you come home from work.  This recipe is versatile enough to cook in a big saucepan on top of the stove, or in a covered casserole dish or roasting tray in your oven.  It also reheats and freezes like a charm!

Ingredients:

6 to 8 frenched or trimmed lamb shanks (this means that the end of the shank bone will have been cut off, exposing the marrow – the meat may have also been pushed away to reveal a clean bone at one end); 6 cloves of garlic, crushed; 1 carrot roughly diced; 1 stick of celery chopped; 1 large onion chopped finely; 3 dried bay leaves; 1 heaped teaspoon tumeric; 2 tablespoons of almond meal; 1 cup of good chicken stock; 1 cup of sweet vermouth; 1 to 2 tablespoons of ghee, olive  or coconut oil; juice and finely grated rind of 2 lemons; 2 tablespoons of quinoa (you could also try red lentils or pearl barley), salt and pepper

Method:

Note:  A few words of wisdom before we begin! Find a saucepan or roasting pan big enough to fit all of your lamb shanks. Of course you can also use your slow cooker – just make sure that you have checked the size of your pot BEFORE you start cooking…

Add a little oil or ghee to the bottom of a heavy-based frypan, season the meat with salt and pepper and fry off your lamb shanks in batches over medium heat so that they are lightly browned. Then arrange your meat in the cooking pot.  Poke the bay leaves in between the shanks.

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Next place your onion, carrot, garlic and celery in the frypan with a little extra oil or ghee if needed and cook until fragrant and beginning to brown slightly.

Stir through your tumeric and then add your quinoa, chicken stock, lemon zest and almond meal.  Mix well and then pour over the lamb.

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Pour your vermouth and lemon juice over the lamb shanks and vegetables – don’t worry about stirring it, it will all mix itself up during the cooking. Ladle some of the liquid over the meat.

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Cover and cook.  Don’t be put off by the long cooking times.  The longer you cook the meat the more tender it will be, and the more goodness will be imparted to the sauce.

Cook on low in a slow cooker for 6 hours.

Cook on low heat in a saucepan on the stove for 4 to 5 hours.  Turn your shanks at least once during this time, and re-baste with sauce.

Cook in a moderate oven (180 degrees celsius/ 350 degrees fahrenheit) for 30 minutes, and then reduce heat to 150 degrees celsius/ 300 degrees fahrenheit) and cook for 3 hours.  Turn your shanks at least once during this time, and re-baste with sauce.

Serve with your favourite seasonal vegetables, and some mash, rice or pasta if it suits you. A good bread to mop up the juices is always welcome too.

When cooked low and slow the marrow and gelatin from the meat help thicken the sauce. Don’t waste any of it!  Whatever is not eaten with dinner can be used as a basis for a pasta sauce, or as a gravy over other meats or vegetables.

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The meat will be so tender you will be able to flake it off the bone with just a fork.

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If you have left-over lamb shanks, you can also flake the meat off the bones, add it to the remaining sauce and then reheat this as another meal, or thin it out to make soup.

Nicole’s Fruit Slice Recipe

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“If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older.” ~ Tom Stoppard

This week’s offering for my ‘Slice Extravaganza’ series – recipes taken from the hallowed  Family Recipe Book - is known simply as ‘Nicole’s Fruit Slice’.  Why? When I was a little girl it was my absolute favourite, and I never tired of it.

It has a moist biscuit base, a luscious tangy fruit filling with a hint of cinnamon and lemon and a sweet glace icing to top it off.

I would race home from primary school with my little brother and sister in tow, find the big old key under one of the potplants beside the laundry, unlock the back door, get everyone out of uniforms and into play clothes and then we would sit and have afternoon tea at the table in the kitchen before we did our homework. One glass of cordial each, or milk if there was plenty, and a piece of slice. (Often, we ate two..)

I am still quite partial to pink icing. Especially on cupcakes.  But that’s a whole other story. As you can see from the picture below, food appreciation and daydreaming has been a big part of my life since I was small! You will also see that I avoided eating crusts, on account of them making your hair go curly.

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Base Ingredients:

1 x cup of plain flour (all purpose flour), 3/4 cup of rolled oats, 1/2 cup of lightly packed soft brown sugar, 1/2 cup (4 oz or 125 grams) butter cut into cubes

*Note – for vegans, use a vegetable butter substitute.  If you’re gluten intolerant, this works fine with a commercial gluten-free flour mix and coconut substituted for the oats. – Don’t pack this too tightly into the tin if using the gluten-free mixture.

Fruit Layer:

1 cup of dried currants, 1/2 cup of sultanas (golden raisins), finely grated zest of one lemon, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of cornflour, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 cup of water

Glace Icing (Frosting):

1 cup of icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar) 1 teaspoon of butter, 1 tablespoon of milk, pink food colouring

METHOD:

Preheat oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit).

Line a 28cm x 18cm (7 inch by 11 inch) slice tin with some baking paper.

Base:

Measure the dry ingredients into a large bowl and then rub in the butter with your fingertips.  The mixture should resemble soft bread crumbs.  Press the mixture firmly into the paper-lined tin, making sure to fill right to the edges.

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Fruit Layer:

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and stir to combine,  Keep stirring over moderate heat until mixture boils and thickens. Remove from heat and spoon evenly over slice base.

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Place your slice into the oven and bake for 35 minutes, until the top is firm.

Glace Icing: (Frosting)

Mix the ingredients together in a bowl and beat until smooth.  Colour a pleasing shade of pink. (Trust me – this is an issue of personal taste.) Place bowl over hot water until the icing is very runny and easy to spread. Pour over warm slice and spread to the edges.

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Allow to cool in tin before removing.  Cut into small squares. DO resist cutting before it cools, as slice takes a few hours to firm up and you’ll be left with a crumbly disaster! **Note – cooling can be hastened by placing in refrigerator…

Store in an airtight tin in a cool place. Goes exceptionally well with a cold glass of lemon cordial, milk or for the grown ups – hot French Earl Grey Tea!

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French Toast with Banana and Bacon Recipe

French toast with banana and bacon

“Oh, I just want what we all want: a comfortable couch, a nice beverage, a weekend of no distractions and a book that will stop time, lift me out of my quotidian existence and alter my thinking forever.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

French Toast is such weekend food! The sort of breakfast where you don’t have to rush, where you can dabble around the kitchen in your pyjamas and then demolish your meal accompanied by chatty family conversation, the weekend papers or a good book.

There are endless variations on French Toast, which is essentially bread dipped in an eggy mixture and then pan fried. It actually works better with slightly stale bread, but at a pinch I have made mountains of it with fresh bread and had no complaints.  Gluten-free bread works just fine too!

Today’s version uses fruit loaf. Feel free to substitute plain or any other favourite bread, but I must say that the flavour combination for today’s recipe works well with any bread that has fruit and a little spice.

This meal takes little skill, so it’s a great recipe for beginners, children and the domestically challenged.

INGREDIENTS:

Bacon for each person, adjusting quantity accordingly.  I have used a smoked local free-range bacon – the smokiness is brilliant with the banana and maple syrup!

Three large eggs, 1/2 a cup of milk (or your favourite milk substitute), a teaspoon of vanilla, and a dessertspoon of sugar or sweetener (eg Natvia).  The sugar is optional.  *Hint – use 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon if your bread has no spice.*  Some people like a sweeter French Toast. I usually leave it out because by the time you add maple syrup it will be sweet enough.  If you elect to make this as a dessert (swap bacon for an ice-cream or whipped cream side!) then go ahead and use the sugar if you want.  This is enough to soak 4 to six large slices of bread. (Four if they are thick, or six if they are thin.) If you’re cooking for more people, then adjust your mixture accordingly.

Bread – two slices of fruit loaf/raisin loaf per person or to appetite. A good quality bread like a sourdough or brioche will give an excellent texture, and if it’s a day old the bread will also hold its shape better when you fry it.

A large banana or two small bananas per person.

1 tablespoon of butter.

Maple syrup to serve.

METHOD:

Heat a heavy bottomed frypan, add a tiny wipe of butter and toss your bacon on to cook.  This is fine to do on the barbeque hot plate too! (A super dish to make when camping.)

Bacon sizzling

While the bacon sizzles away whisk your eggs in a bowl wide enough to accommodate a slice of bread.  Add in the milk and vanilla, and the sugar and cinnamon if you’re using it. If using sugar, whisk until it is dissolved.  Hint: Transfer beaten egg mix to a shallow baking dish big enough to hold multiple slices of bread at once if you are cooking for a crowd.

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Peel and slice your bananas lengthways.

When the bacon is done remove it and place in a covered dish to keep warm.

Soak each piece of bread in your egg mixture, turning to coat each side, and then lower onto the pan. Don’t just dunk it – let the bread soak up your mixture like a sponge!  The bread should be soggy.

If there isn’t much bacon fat, add a little extra butter, wait til it foams and then place your bread in the pan.

Fry the bread over medium heat until browned on the bottom – this will take a few minutes.  Using a slide, gently lift each piece of bread and turn it over. Cook until the bread feels firm and has lost that spongy feeling in the centre. Watch your heat. If it’s too hot the egg mixture will burn before the bread is cooked through.

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French toast cooking

Place the bread on your serving plates add the remaining butter to the pan and quickly fry off your bananas, turning them so that they brown up on each side.

fry off the bananas

Add the bacon and bananas to your French Toast.

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Drizzle with Maple Syrup.  Organise yourself a beverage and a comfy place to sit. Enjoy!

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Chocolate Covered Coconut Slice Recipe

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“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” 
~ Charles M. Schulz

Chocolate and coconut is a heavenly combination, and this particular slice recipe delivers! It is quite light in texture, so it’s not rich and it’s not too sweet – a crisp biscuit base, a fluffy coconut centre and a succulent layer of real chocolate to top it off. This slice is a perfect accompaniment to a floral or fruity tea, or a good coffee.

It can also easily be modified to become gluten-free and diabetic friendly. Vegans – please use your favourite butter and egg substitute – I quite like replacing the egg with a 1/4 cup of applesauce or a 1/2 a banana, both of which compliment the other flavours.

Today’s recipe is another offering from the Family Recipe Book, our treasured ‘passed down’ and hostess-acquired recipes from three generations of women who love to cook.

INGREDIENTS

Biscuit Base: 95 grams of butter (3.35 ounces or 0.85 of a stick of butter), 2 tablespoons of caster sugar (superfine sugar) or equivalent sugar substitute, 3/4 cup plain flour, 1/4 cup self raising flour (self-rising for my USA friends or 1 cup of all purpose flour, 1 and 1/2 x teaspoons baking powder and a pinch of salt, sifted together),  1 tablespoon of cornflour, pinch of salt, 1 teaspoon of vanilla.

*Note: if using gluten-free flour use 1/2 cup of plain and 1/2 cup of self raising flour for a better result.

Coconut Filling: 2 cups of unsweetened desiccated coconut, 1 egg, 3 tablespoons of sugar (increase to 4 if you prefer a sweeter slice) or equivalent sugar substitute, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, 2 tablespoons of self raising flour, 3/4 cup of milk or your favourite milk equivalent.

Chocolate Topping: 200 grams (7 ounces) of your choice of milk or dark chocolate ( I like a combination of both!) broken into pieces, 25 grams (0.9 ounces) copha or vegetable shortening. If you’re diabetic please use a diabetic chocolate or a dark chocolate that is low in sugar. 

choc mix

METHOD

Base:

Preheat oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit).

Line a 28cm x 18cm (7 inch by 11 inch) slice tin with some baking paper.

Cream the butter and sugar together (using electric or hand beaters) until light and smooth. Add in the vanilla and dry ingredients and mix until combined.  Mixture should be a crumbly paste.

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Press firmly into the tin, taking care to push mixture right into the corners. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly golden all over. Remove from oven and rest for ten minutes.

Coconut Filling:

Prepare this while the base is in the oven. Mix all ingredients together and leave sit for five minutes for coconut to swell and absorb any fluid. Spoon over the biscuit base, spreading evenly.  Return to oven and bake another twenty five minutes or until set and lightly browned on top.  Cool in tin.

Chocolate Topping:

Melt broken chocolate and copha in a saucepan together over low heat, stirring frequently until mixture is smooth and lump free. (You could also use your microwave – but we’re a microwave-free household so you’re on your own for instructions here!) Pour over Slice and spread carefully to the edges.  Leave to set in tin, and then cut into small squares.

Store in an airtight container, and refrigerate if you live in a hot climate or like your chocolate layer crisp..

*Warning – this Slice is prone to evaporation and other mysterious disappearances. 

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Variations:

* Evenly space walnut halves in lines before the chocolate sets so that when you cut the slice each square will have a walnut half decorating the centre.

* Add a tablespoon of Malibu (coconut flavoured white rum) to the coconut filling before baking.

* Spread a thin layer of Nutella on the biscuit base before adding the coconut layer. (This is especially good, and also goes well with the Malibu layer for a special treat.)

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