Our friends Teree and Rob Burr invite me out to their family property "Tarwarri" to take photographs before the farm is sold in spring. The 1,011-hectare property has been in the Burr family since 1937. It was once part of the colonial Australian Agricultural Company's Goonoo Goonoo Estate of 1,268 km2 that stretched from Nundle to Attunga, near Tamworth. While it is a difficult decision to sell the farm, Robert and Teree are looking forward to seeing Robert's parents Joe and June Burr enjoying a well-earned restful retirement.
After a chat with Joe and June, Teree and I climb into the 4WD ute and follow Robert on a quad bike, working dogs following closely. We're rugged up in woollen jumpers and beanies, prepared for the forecast cold snap. Snow is predicted on the nearby range the next day. Robert knows the property like the back of his hand and takes us high to overlook paddocks of oats, sowing that has paid off producing bright patches of green in an otherwise drought affected landscape. Despite the dry the country is spectacular with rolling hills, high country sheep camps, and fertile river flats. We drive towards a paddock of cattle grazing on the oats. Teree and I laugh at Robert giving instructions "Follow the road" where there is a farm track. The cattle are so curious they put on a show, walking and then running towards the vehicle.
To head towards the main road and back to the house, Robert leads Teree four-wheel-driving for the first time, into a creek bed and curving up the opposite steep bank. "Look at you," I say, proud of her courage and success. As we reach the road I say, "I recognise this gate. I took a photo of it years ago with a storm on the range." Sure enough, a search through my files reveals it was taken in January, 2014.
Back at the house Teree tells me to take some lemons from June's renowned prolific producing lemon tree. I remember a recipe for Walnut and Lemon Syrup Cake and give it a go, naming it Walnut and Tarwarri Lemon Syrup Cake. It involves boiling the lemons until soft for about an hour, before processing the lemons with eggs and syrup to create a batter to add to the walnut meal and bicarbonate of soda. The result is a light, gluten free, nutty textured cake, and a deliciously tangy lemon syrup with subtle undercurrents of cloves, cardamom and cinnamon. At the end of the week I tell Teree about the cake, "I'm going to miss that tree, the lemons are amazing," she says.
Walnut and Tarwarri Lemon Syrup Cake (Country Style, June 2014)
Ingredients: 2 lemons, 2 cups caster sugar, 4 cardomom pods, bruised, 4 cloves, 1 cinnamon stick, 20g butter, melted, extra 1/3 cup caster sugar, 375g walnuts (four cups walnut meal), 1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda, 3 eggs, Greek-style yoghurt or double cream to serve.
Method: Trim stem ends of lemons and discard. Cut lemons into quarters. Place lemons, sugar, cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon and 2 cups of water in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour until lemons are very soft. Use a slotted spoon to transfer lemons to a bowl to cool. Simmer cooking liquid for a further 20 minutes or until syrupy, aiming for about 1 cup of syrup. Cool.
Preheat oven to 160C. Grease a 22 cm springform pan with melted butter. Dust with remaining sugar, shaking out excess. Process walnuts in a food processor until finely ground. Transfer to a bowl and mix in bicarbonate of soda.
Remove seeds from lemons. Process lemons, eggs and 1/3 cup syrup in food processor until a smooth batter forms. Add to walnut mixture and stir until well combined. Pour into greased pan and smooth batter surface. Bake for an hour until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. I baked our cake in a wood fired oven and covered the cake with aluminium foil for the last 15 minutes to prevent overcooking. Cool in pan.
Remove cake from pan and transfer to a serving plate. Pour over remaining syrup. Serve with yoghurt or double cream.
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