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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January 19, 2017

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Summer of my sweet ferment

Fermenting pickling and preserving cabbage sauerkraut

I've been dabbling in fermenting and pickling for a couple of years now, mainly out of a desire to preserve excess vegetables (Milkwood Permaculture was excellent inspiration for fermented beans and curing olives, along with Brenda Fawden's recipe for Warm Cracked Manzanillo Olives in Eat Local). I may have mentioned elsewhere that my autumn green tomato pickle has a following of two! Meanwhile, winter kimchi is an excellent way to keep the kale crop in check. This year the interest in pickling and fermenting dug a little deeper to understand the benefits of fermented foods on gut health.

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November 02, 2016

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Gillian Bell homemade Christmas mince pies

Gillian Bell Cake homemade Christmas mince pies

When I began thinking about sharing a Christmas cooking recipe my Brisbane-based friend Gillian Bell of Gillian Bell Cake came to mind. I thought, "I bet Gillian has some great Christmas recipes." When I approached her to share one of her favourite recipes, her response had me laughing, 'I’d love to contribute to your blog with a recipe, and an interview. I make Christmas cakes, Christmas pudding and mince pies every year (I’m a bit of a traditionalist and a Christmasophile). For my mince pies, I make my own mincemeat and pastry as well, and always bake them on the evening of Christmas Eve after I’ve been to carol service.' I knew Gillian would be perfect.

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October 23, 2016

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Delicious rhubarb, orange and almond cake

Sophie Hansen Local is Lovely Rhubarb, orange and almond cake

Have you added ruby red stems of beetroot to your shopping basket lately? I bought some rhubarb this week and I was determined to overcome my procrastination, which too often leads to rhubarb wilting, growing mould and ending up as chook food. A terrible waste.  I hit my favourite recipe books and Sophie Hansen's Local is Lovely Rhubarb, orange and almond cake had the mouth watering elements of baked rhubarb, orange zest and nutty almond crunch that I love. In Sophie's book she states, "most people only cook around three recipes from every cookbook they buy. If that's true, then please let this cake be one of those three recipes." Well, I have definitely cooked more than three recipes from Sophie's book, and I am so glad that I added this cake to my repertoir. 

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September 26, 2016

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School holiday Lumberjack Slice

Lumberjack slice

Lumberjack slice

Lumberjack slice

 

It may be spring, but we're still cutting firewood and usually keep our wood fire in the house burning until the end of October. The spring days are beautiful, but the mornings and evenings are still too brisk to be fire free. So it is fitting to post this recipe for Lumberjack Slice, a great school holiday filler, full of Granny Smith apples, chopped dates, and shredded coconut. After five months of cutting firewood I am sure Duncan is starting to feel like a lumberjack (see Wood Chopping video here). It is hard work, but there is joy in the physical work and the beautiful country.

I've had this recipe tucked away in my recipe folder for about five years. We first sampled Lumberjack Slice at the mountain home of Michelle and Richard Longman at Hanging Rock, above Nundle. Richard is a former chef, so no surprises that this slice is flavour filled. Michelle kindly typed and printed the recipe out for me, but living 60km from a major supermarket it's taken me this long to be organised enough to have all the ingredients in the larder at once, and time to bake. I'm so glad I did and I won't leave it so long to make it again.

Lumberjack Slice 

What you need: 2 large coarsely chopped Granny Smith apples (I grated mine), 1 cup chopped dates, 1 tsp bicarb soda, 1 cup boiling water, 100ml olive oil or 125g butter, 2 tsp vanilla essence, 1 cup brown sugar, 2 eggs, 1 cup plain flour, 1/2 cup self-raising flour. Topping: 2 tbsp butter, 2 tbsp golden syrup, 1 1/2 cups shredded coconut.

What you do: Grease a 18 x 28cm slice tin. I used a 24cm x 6cm deep square cake tin. Combine apples, dates, soda and boiling water in a bowl. Cover and stand until warm. Combine  oil, vanilla, sugar, eggs and flour. Add apple and date mixture. Mix well. Bake in a slow 180 degrees Celcius over for 45 minutes, making sure the top doesn't overcook. Spread with topping (warm ingredients beforehand). Bake for another 30 minutes until topping (wood shavings) is golden.

September 14, 2016

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An earthy collaboration and new friendship

Tamworth potter Sasha Jury-Radford ceramic tea strainer

Tamworth potter Sasha Jury-Radford sits at a table in her home studio, making the most of the natural light from the window, rolling, pressing, and carving chocolate coloured clay with earth stained hands into ceramic tea strainers. We joke that the upside-down mound shapes resemble tortoise shells, or, right side up, a squadron of planes about to take off. Sasha and I met when she contacted the store to order Robert Gordon organic swatch mugs. I had admired Sasha's work for some time, but this was our first opportunity to talk. When I delivered Sasha's mugs I asked if she was interested in collaborating to make ceramic tea strainers.

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July 21, 2016

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Foraging on the banks of the Peel River

Rosehip syrup poured on Spiced Rosehip and Olive Oil Cake

After spending time in the company of chef Sarah Glover and admiring her talent for using food at hand, whether it is locally cultivated or wild produce, I walk on the banks of the Peel River with new eyes. At Nundle, near Tamworth in northern inland NSW, we've experienced our wettest June on record and I wouldn't be surprised if July follows suit. So walks to Nundle Creek and the Peel River have suddenly become more interesting. We walk to the river to see how high the water is after rain, after a couple of days of rare sunshine, after snow. Along Nundle creek we see two wild rose bushes with ready to harvest rosehips. It is winter, so the rose red seed buds are clear to see without the camouflage of foliage. Further along the creek we see clumps of stinging nettle growing in the creek bed and on the banks of the Peel River. In the shallows, where the crystal clear water rushes over river rocks, there is watercress.

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