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April 23, 2015

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Best tomato sauce ever

Making homemade tomato sauce

We wake to a beautifully cool and drizzly autumn morning, golden acer leaves cluster on the garden bench and wicker armchair. The first frost is on my mind and I am keen to make the most of our vegetables still on the plant or vine in the vegetable garden. Today I have tomatoes in my sights. Inspired by Lunch Lady Kate Berry's Lunch Lady versus The World challenges where she puts home cooking up against a commercial mass produced product, I want to make real tomato sauce from scratch for my boys.

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February 10, 2015

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She'll be apples

Local_Lovely_Apple_Slice

I feared the heat of summer so much that I tore a Michael Leunig cartoon from the newspaper, expressing my dread with a prayer for "no mental cruelty". Well that cartoon has been flapping away on our fridge for two-and-a-half months and it has been the most pleasant summer I can remember. We've had "nights of soft rain", "days of sweet sunshine and weather perfect for lolling about", "Ideal days for harvest, for swimming, walking, snoozing, reading" and "conversing over lovely meals" just as the prayer requested. The unexpected rainfall and gentle heat nurtured an abundance of apples; wild apples along the roadside near our front gate and non-varietal apples growing beside our garage on a wild tree that Duncan transplanted more than ten years ago. After my walk I'd pick a roadside apple and test its flavour. Every day as I stepped out of my car I'd check the size and colour of the apples, watching them blush from the sun and drip dry after a shower as the summer progressed. Eventually after so much waiting it was time to pick.

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November 28, 2014

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Rekindling an old love

Local is Lovely Photography and Styling Pracshop Kimbri studio

Local is Lovely Photography and Styling Pracshop vintage caravan

Local is Lovely Photography Pracshop Kimbri garden artichokes

Local is Lovely Photography and Styling Pracshop cheese

Local is Lovely Photography and Styling Pracshop Turkish delight

Local is Lovely Photography and Styling Pracshop tarts

Local is Lovely Photography Pracshop Amelia, The Flower Era

Local is Lovely Photography and Styling Pracshop escarpment

Local is Lovely Photography and Styling Pracshop iced tea

Local is Lovely Photography and Styling Pracshop Silverbeet

Local is Lovely Photography and Styling Pracshop vegetables

This year I set myself a goal of improving my photography. Through journalism I am privileged to work with some of the best photographers in the country. Among my favourite Australian photographers are the lovely John Fryz, Sam McAdam, Sharyn Cairns, Mark Roper, Nick Watt, and Michael Wee. So I have been lazy when it comes to learning how to use our camera, even though I’ve had a lot of training in photography over the years at high school, university and on the job. Year 11 Photography with Mr Wakeling at Hurlstone Agricultural High School was more about hanging out with friends and gaining a foot in the door of a news room. First year university photography was terribly try-hard artistic. As a cadet journalist at The Highlands Post, Bowral, NSW, I had to take nearly all my own photographs with varying degrees of success. We were rostered to develop and print the film early Monday mornings so the photograph prints could be sent by the midday train to Goulburn for the newspaper to be layed out and printed (we are talking 1988-1989). After a Southern Highlands winter of Mondays in the freezing dark room it was a relief to move onto The Land newspaper and Country Style magazine where photography is the realm of professional photographers, not journalists.

Since then I have dabbled in photography, with a particular interest in recording our children growing up. Now I photograph goods for our store and our life at Nundle, but I’ve been aware there is something missing from the shots. I asked local photographer and teacher Digby Brown of Ufocus, Tamworth what it might be and we lined up some post production training in Lightroom software and I bought an entry level Digital SLR camera (Nikon D5300). That started ramping up the quality. Then I took up an online photography course, The Photo School, by photographers Peta Mazey and Kate Berry. This introduced concepts of composition, pattern, pretty light, shadow and the manual setting on the camera. Thanks ladies.

The third game changer was the first of Sophie Hansen’s Local is Lovely workshops, this one on photography and food styling, with Luisa Brimble and Stephanie Stamatis (Stephanie Somebody). I’ve been a fan of all three women for some time, so it was a wonderful opportunity to finally meet and learn from them. The workshop was so much more than I anticipated. Held on Sophie’s parents’ farm Kimbri, at Rydal, it is a creative and rural utopia. Big country landscapes, rustic farm buildings, romantic garden, delicious home cooked meals and warm hospitality. Even though I live in the country, this Central West landscape was refreshingly different and invigorating.

Stephanie and Luisa taught our inspired group how to introduce an element of drama to our photographs through our choice of props, background, photograph composition, context, and the important human element. A surprising part of the workshop was meeting so many women with similar interests and being encouraged by their creativity, enthusiasm and motivation. Memories of the workshop keep surfacing, bringing a smile to my face; Sophie and Willa’s cooking and graceful natures, Amelia’s The Flower Era thoughtful floristry, our excursion to Fabrice’s First Farm Organic’s market garden in the Kanimbla Valley, which included introducing Hong Kong resident Beverly to circle work and a wild kangaroo, sleeping in Clarice the vintage plywood caravan, early morning breakfast in the paddock against a backdrop of mist, and art lessons with Annie Herron. Luisa’s and Stephanie’s (styling below) words are with me when I am shooting. My pics are still hit and miss, but I hope I am hitting more than I am missing these days. I don’t want to be a professional photographer. I do love the mindfulness and appreciation that comes with carrying a camera and recording moments of beauty every day.

(Many of Sophie’s scrumptious recipes cooked throughout the two days are from her book and blog Local is Lovely are here and here.) I’ve enjoyed reading other’s records of the workshop including The Dailys, and Kulinary Adventures of Kath.

August 19, 2014

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Rainy day afternoon tea

Lesley Russell’s ‘big’ scones (from Sophie Hansen’s book, Local is Lovely)

A rainy afternoon calls for something warm and buttery for afternoon tea. I'd been wanting to try a recipe for Lesley Russell's 'big' scones out of Sophie Hansen's Local is Lovely book and this was the perfect day for it. I love the rustic round that you shape to make the scones, and the crunchy texture of the dusting of castor sugar. I added about a cup of chopped dates (because I had them handy in the cupboard) and used wholewheat baker's flour. The big scones were delicious, warm out of the oven, sliced in half and topped with melted butter and fig jam. I'm sure you'll come up with your own wonderful combinations. If I'd had some double cream in the fridge, a dollop on the jam would have been heavenly. That's an idea for next time.

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August 09, 2014

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Meet the candlestick maker

Quandialla Candle Company Sarah Ryan

Sarah Ryan of Quandialla Candle Company has the best business card. In a quaint, old world fashion it states “Sarah Ryan, Candlestick Maker”, and on the reverse side, “Superior Soy Candles From the Middle of Nowhere”. We started stocking Quandialla Candle Co. candles in April, attracted by the traditional packaging, inspired by the art nouveau design of a 1940s yeast tin Sarah found, and graphic design of the labels, created by her friend Dan Phelan of Safety Pin Design, Newcastle. Sarah makes candles out of her kitchen pantry in the family's 1920s homestead in central west NSW where she lives with husband Trevor, and children Rueben, 8, Monty, 6, and Clemmie, 2 on Richmond Merinos stud. Inspiration came when Sarah was pregnant with Clemmie and she recognised a gap in market for alternative candle packaging.

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June 23, 2014

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Pop into Nundle tea cosy

Michelle Kludas Pop Into Nundle Tea Cosy

We collaborated with artist Michelle Kludas, from Murrurundi in the Upper Hunter of New South Wales, to design a tea cosy for the 1.5 litre Falcon enamel tea pots that we sell at Odgers and McClelland Exchange StoresI met Michelle about four years ago and I am a big fan of everything she does, from crochet to painting, and her work as Manager at Michael Reid Gallery. Michelle learnt to crochet when she was just five-years-old, a simple chain stitch taught by her grandmother, and even took a crochet hook and wool to school to crochet at recess.

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May 19, 2014

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Nundle heirloom recipes

Sydney Living Museums colonial gastronomer Jacqui Newling

Heirloom recipes quinces

Heirloom recipes baked rice pudding

Heirloom recipes handwriting

Heirloom recipes ginger biscuits

Poorman’s Cakes, Waddies Saddlebags, and Dunkers are the wonderful names of heirloom recipes that surfaced for a visit by Jacqui Newling, colonial gastronomer with Sydney Living Museums. Jacqui (photo credit James Horan © Historic Houses Trust 2012) visited as part of the Nundle Go For Gold Chinese Easter Festival program, the biggest annual event in our small town, Nundle, in northern inland NSW.

Months before the festival, Jacqui asked me to begin conversations about food memories and favourite recipes with the Nundle community with a view to cooking several heirloom recipes, offering tastings at the festival, and printing them in a handout titled, Lost Delights: Heirloom Recipes & Old Country Favourites.

A meeting for another event, the Nundle Country Picnic, was a good place to start with several committee members being part of the Nundle Branch of the Country Women’s Association (CWA).

Margaret Schofield’s face brightened as she recalled memories of eating eel. While probably not a politically correct term these days, ‘eel bashing’ was quite a past time, groups of families and friends gathering to catch eels in creeks and rivers on the eastern fall of the range rising above Nundle.

Margaret described her method for cooking eel, dipped in flour and fried, and promised a recipe for Dunkers, a recipe for a firm biscuit “good for dunking in tea” made by her grandmother and mother. Coincidentally, Margaret’s son Nathan also talked about Dunkers when I asked him about recipes he remembered from his childhood as we sat beside the Nundle Public Pool watching our sons play together.

True to her word Margaret delivered a recipe for Dunkers beautifully transcribed on a ruled recipe card with the heading “Poorman’s Cakes – Grandma”.

One morning I was driving into town to collect the mail and there were three gentlemen standing together talking on the post office corner who I knew would have food memories to contribute: publican Robert Schofield, former baker Reg Manvell, and lifelong resident Harvey Warden.

Robert marvelled at how 50-years-ago the general store sold only a dozen or so baking staples, while today’s catering suppliers offered hundreds of ingredients.

Reg laughed as he described his mother cooking “with a bit of this and a pinch of that”. Recipes were simple, using ingredients at hand, and few were written down. Indeed many of the heirloom recipes collected featured simple, easy to store ingredients: sago, flour, butter, sugar, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, mixed spice, vanilla essence, bicarb soda, eggs and golden syrup.

Harvey offered to ask his mother Mona Warden if she had any recipes to offer.  Mona, who at 97-years-old lives in her own home in Nundle, put together an impressive collection.

There were stapled pages of handwritten recipes for Date Pudding, Dunkers, Raspberry Short Tartlets, Ginger Biscuits (“Makes heaps, very tasty”), and Waddies Saddlebags. Mona’s grandson Simon particularly recommended the Ginger Biscuits. Harvey’s wife Joy Warden contributed a recipe for Coronation Tart.

Our shop, Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores provided good opportunities for soliciting recipes. A conversation with Kerry Swain inspired memories of Kerry’s mother-in-law Nan Swain’s recipe for Sago Custard. “My kids tell me I can’t make it as good as Nan does.”

After talking with Judy Wiggan about the food memories evoked by enamel pie dishes she brought back her handwritten recipe for Baked Rice Pudding, her mother’s copy of ‘Australian Home Cookery’, and a bag of quinces.

Eel came up again when I spoke with Judy and Harvey, who suggested I ask Maree Boland for her recipe for eel patties and she told me of friendly rivalry between her and the late Mickey Sipple for the best eel patties.

I am working my way through the Nundle Heirloom Recipes. They remain as popular with the current generation of Nundle children. This afternoon I made Waddies Saddlebags and, even with the suspiciously healthy addition of dates, our sons declared, “Mum these are delicious”.

See the link for Lost Delights: Heirloom Recipes and Old Country Favourites from Nundle Go For Gold Chinese Easter Festival 2014 and additional Nundle heirloom recipes below.

MONA WARDEN’S GINGER BISCUITS

Ingredients: 1 cup margarine, 2 cups brown sugar, 1 cup golden syrup, 5 cups plain flour, 2 tsp bicarb soda, 2 dessert spoons ginger, ¼ cup boiling water, vanilla essence.

Method: Cream margarine and sugar, add golden syrup and mix well. Add the soda dissolved in hot water, then flour and ginger to make a firm dough (add more flour if needed). Moderate oven. Makes heaps. Very tasty.

MONA WARDEN’S DATE PUDDING

Ingredients: 1 cup boiling water, 1 tbs butter, ½ cup sugar, 1 tsp bicarb soda, 1 cup dates, 1 large cup flour with pinch salt, pinch spice, ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon, essence lemon.

Method: Mix butter, sugar, soda with boiling water then add dates, then flour with spices etc. Steam for three hours. A very rich, brown pudding. It can be mixed the night before if necessary.

MONA WARDEN’S RASPBERRY SHORT TARTLETS

Ingredients: 113g butter, ½ cup sugar, 2 cups SR flour, 1 egg, 1 dessert spoon milk.

Method: Cream butter and sugar, add egg and milk, then flour, mixing to a dough. Turn onto a floured board, roll out fairly thin and cut into rounds with biscuit cutter. Line greased patty tins with the pastry. Put a little raspberry jam in each.

Mix 85g sugar, 85g coconut and 1 well-beaten egg together. Put a teaspoon on each tart. Bake until light brown, 10-15 minutes in a moderate oven.

POORMAN’S CAKES – GRANDMA (Submitted by Margaret Schofield)

Ingredients: 2 cups flour, ½ teaspoon baking soda, ½ teaspoon Cream of Tartar, ½ teaspoon of ginger, ½ teaspoon of ground nutmeg, 113g butter, ½ cup sugar, 1 dessert spoon golden syrup, 2 well-beaten eggs, a little milk.

Method: Into a sieve put 2 cups flour, ½ teaspoon baking soda, ½ teaspoon Cream of Tartar, ½ teaspoon of ginger and ½ teaspoon of ground nutmeg. Sift all ingredients into a basin, rub in about ¼ lb of butter or like, ½ cup sugar, 1 dessert spoon golden syrup, 2 well beaten eggs and a little milk if too stiff. Roll out and cut with a cutter. Bake in moderate oven until golden.

MAREE BOLAND’S EEL PATTIES

Similar to fish cakes, skin the eel, boil it in water and vinegar until the meat falls away from the bone, mashing it with boiled potato and seasoning, shaping into patties, rolling them in breadcrumbs and frying them.

December 20, 2013

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Eating greens

If you ever walk into your vegetable garden and feel overwhelmed by the quantity of leafy greens at your fingertips then this recipe for Greens and Ricotta Torte is for you. I saved it from a Winter 2005 issue of Organic Gardener and the pages have the tell-tale signs of a much used recipe; butter stains, residues of flour, and paper crimped from dried, spilt moisture. It is a delicious way to use a large quantity and mixture of leafy greens. The original recipe calls for predominantly spinach, but I take pleasure in walking among the rows and breaking off stems of whatever is abundant in our garden, usually silverbeet, broccoli, kale and sometimes even spinach.

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October 10, 2013

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Christmas pudding made with love

Boys stirring threepences into the Christmas Pudding batter.

I know it’s a little early, but Mum takes advantage of our visit during the school holidays to make our family’s Christmas pudding. I love Mum’s Christmas pudding, made using Mrs Dibble's Christmas Pudding recipe (Mrs Dibble is the mother of ABC presenter James Dibble, who read the first ABC television news bulletin in 1956 and worked for the ABC for 27 years. James Dibble died from cancer in 2010). The pudding, usually made six weeks before Christmas, matures in its basin and is reheated on Christmas day, served with cream or custard. The pudding is beautifully moist, fragrant with alcohol and raisins, and pure pleasure on the palate.

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