June 26, 2017

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Flourless orange and almond muffins

Flourless orange and almond muffins Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores White Enamel Pie Dish

With one week left of school before the holidays I wanted to finish the term lunch boxes with a flourish and a gift of oranges became the catalyst to make Flourless orange and almond muffins. When you become known as a preserver, all kinds of excess produce find their way into your kitchen. I was arranging some jars on a bench outside our shop when Nundle local Sue Warden walked past and asked, "Have you been making pickles again?". "No, marmalade," I replied. "Would you like some grapefruit?," Sue offered. "Yes, please." Sure enough the next day Sue delivered a bag of grapefruit and oranges to the shop. I gave her a jar of marmalade in thanks. I'm inspired by a The Sydney Morning Herald Good Living recipe that I've cooked before for a writing retreat co-hosted years ago with our neighbour Nicola Worley. It's also an opportunity to use our oversupply of eggs, the recipe calling for nine eggs, and a gift of vanilla bean paste at a recipe writing workshop with Sophie Hansen and Anneka Manning for My Open Kitchen. As I boil the oranges, Gryff protests, "No not orange muffins. I've had them before and I don't like them." I am already committed and stay on task, hoping I can win him around.

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June 02, 2017

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Morning tea on vintage china and embroidered tablecloths

Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores, White enamel pie dish, Little Kickerbell

We drive past fields of cotton being harvested into large rectangular or cylindrical bales on the Liverpool Plains in north west NSW on our way to an Australia's Biggest Morning Tea, at Little Kickerbell homestead, to raise funds for cancer research. We have been invited by caterer Cathy Armstrong and artist Dr Rowen Matthews, who moved from the Blue Mountains after buying Little Kickerbell and 12-hectares in February. Little Kickerbell reconnects Cathy to the New England North West, having started school at Tamworth, and visited aunts at Gunnedah and Armidale throughout her childhood. Hosting an Australia's Biggest Morning Tea was a great way to meet the neighbours and raise funds for a charity close to Cathy's heart. "Of all the charities this is one I have the greatest attachment to because my mother Robin Armstrong died of breast cancer three years ago," Cathy says. "It's a really lovely thing to do."

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June 02, 2017

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Three warming winter soups

Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores, White enamel pie dish, Minestrone soup

As soon as the temperature drops I start to crave warming winter soups for lunch. This year our youngest son started me soup making. It turned out his bestie was taking soup in a vacuum flask for lunch. As far as playground fads go, this one was alright. So we started digging out the vacuum flasks, and scored a wide mouth food jar from our shop to add to the mix. Gryff requested pumpkin soup, which coincided with butternut pumpkins being ready to harvest. You'll find my go-to recipe from David and Gerda Foster's book, A Year of Slow Food, in an earlier blog post, Pumpkin soup for one.
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May 02, 2017

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Curing and marinating olives

Preserving olives Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores

We are in the middle of two weeks of preserving olives. It's a process we followed last year after I visited Derek and Kirrily Blomfield's 987-hectare property Colorado, at Caroona on the Liverpool Plains of NSW researching a story for Country Style magazine (September 2016). Back then, Derek's father Sandy Blomfield was picking olives, rehydrated by record winter rainfall. We picked a bag and I returned home to work out what to do with them. Preserving them was a great success and kept us in olives for months. This year I visited the Colorado olive grove with our sons during the autumn school holidays to pick olives, ripening from lime green to deep purple and black. As I was leaving home, Duncan gave me instruction to "Pick more this time" so I took a few calico bags to fill with olives. Kirrily generously helped me pick manzanillo olives, while our sons played on a swing under a peppercorn tree. The olive grove, made up of hundreds of trees, also has frantoio (or paragon), and correggiola varieties. Kirrily and I imagined the olive grove as a location for a long lunch at a shared table. The shade of the trees invites lounging.

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April 23, 2017

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Walking with children

Walking with children

We feel the school holidays coming to a close and want to make the most of the days we have left and arrange to explore our friends' new property in the hills behind our house. It is the western fall of the Great Dividing Range and a drive to the top corner of the farm reveals extraordinary views of the Peel Valley below. We drive further down the slope and leave the truck to walk with our sons, 11, and eight. It's steep country and we feel the microclimate change, the temperature dropping as we descend thigh high clumps of grass into a gully with a creek running through it. Along the way we find remnants of sheep fleece and start to ponder the fate of its owner. There is flattened grass ahead and it looks like the sheep has been dragged. As we reach the creek we're distracted by a rustle and movement in the trees. A pig. But we don't see it. Duncan walks quietly and teases the boys and I about being more bush stompers than bush walkers. The pig is long gone.

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April 09, 2017

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Baking homemake bread and hot cross buns

Gourmet Traveller Sour Cherry Hot Cross Buns

Perhaps it is the muscle memory linking me with generations past that evokes such enjoyment at the primitive movement of forming and kneading a dough. It is still a delight to feel the simple ingredients of flour, water, sugar, yeast and salt turn silky smooth under my hands, patiently wait for the dough to rise, punching the air out of the temporary dough pillow, and waiting for the second rise before baking. Then there's the smell wafting through the house as the loaf begins to turn golden and the dough transforms into its cake consistency.

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March 14, 2017

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Two pecks of Granny Smith, Jonathon and wild apples

Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores Lisa Margan's Apple Torte with walnuts and figs

Preserving fruit and vegetables was an undercurrent of my teenage years, when Mum and Dad realised their dream to have a couple of acres past Camden on the outskirts of Sydney. Dad loved to strip a tree of its ripe fruit and deposit bucket loads of peaches, apricots, pears...whatever was in season, on the potential ankle-twisting, uneven, sandstone back steps to the kitchen for Mum to preserve. Her reaction was always mock annoyance at the need to drop everything and deal with it, while being truly grateful for the end product - a wall-to-wall pantry full of preserved fruit, and homemade jam, relishes, chutneys and pickles to eat year-round. As a teenager I had little interest in Mum and Dad's self-sufficiency leanings, although I did go to an agricultural high school and made a cracker apricot jam. Like my friends I was more interested in listening to LPs of The Smiths, The Jam and Bill Bragg, reading Dolly magazine or exercising to video recordings of Aerobics Oz Style or Jane Fonda! It was the 80's. Fast forward 30 years and preserving is second nature to me. You tend to absorb these things by osmosis and now when the season delivers a bumper harvest it's time to roll the sleeves up, string on the apron, and preserve.

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March 12, 2017

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Spoon carving the new knitting

Jack Massey Woodwork wooden spoons

“Mum says I have sawdust in my veins,” says Tamworth man Jack Massey about his chance start making timber furniture and kitchenware. Jack gives a tour of the Massey family home of 18 years, on 100 acres outside Tamworth in northern inland NSW, proudly pointing out dining tables, side tables and marquetry made by master craftsmen Jack’s father Steve, and grandfather, John. A short walk from the house is a corrugated iron shed with a timber dining table in progress, and Jack’s latest work displayed, a range of hand carved spoons and knives in various lengths and timbers; American Walnut, English Oak, Camphor Laurel, Cherry, Blackwood, Red Mahogany, and Myrtle. Jack holds and turns his creations in his hands with great care and affection, each spoon hand carved chip by chip from a block of wood.

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March 11, 2017

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Connecting through the lens

Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores, Nundle

We connected with Katoomba-based photographers Ben and Cerisse Urquhart of Kings and Thiev.es through Instagram when they posted images from an engagement shoot at nearby Hanging Rock. I asked if I could share the images on our Nundle community social media. When I read that Ben and Cerisse were back in the neighbourhood for a family wedding we asked whether they could swing by the shop and take some new photographs to freshen up our website. It turns our Ben grew up at Moonbi, near Tamworth, and is the nephew of our Nundle copper Ken Flemming. Yep, small world. We are blown away by Ben and Cerisse's images. I particularly love that Ben described our shop as an "enamelware nightclub". They completely overdelivered, even shooting a bonus video, and we are grateful. We hope you enjoy this insight into Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores.

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February 23, 2017

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Dog walk figs

Foraging for figs
"Is that a fig tree?," I ask Duncan as we walk our energetic eight-month-old Border Collie Kelpie cross, Walt along Nundle Creek. I make a bee-line for the tree and I am ecstatic when I see it is covered in miniature, virescent green figs...albeit hard as rocks. I wonder if they are going to ripen and make a promise to myself keep watch on this potential bounty.  About a month later, after being swept up by our beachside holiday, children returning to school, swimming carnivals, and Sydney trips buying stock for the shop, I check on the figs. I wrote on Instagram, 'I've been keeping watch on a wild fig tree on our Walt (dog) walking route. Today as we approached the tree my heart soared; dotted on the tree were plump figs, the perfect shade of green and brown. Breaking one open with my fingers and biting into the flesh confirmed they are RIPE. This is what I could carry in my t-shirt. Tomorrow I'm going back with a bucket.'
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