apricot and almond muesli

20 Feb 2017

I'm a creature of habit so most mornings  for my breakfast I have muesli topped with fruit and yoghurt and a drizzle of honey. When I go shopping for my favourite muesli, which is apricot and almond, frustratingly it's often sold out. I've tried other combinations but that's the one I like.

The last time my muesli was unavailable (last week to be exact) I looked at the back of the bag of muesli I had in the cupboard and realised I had most of the ingredients in the pantry so I decided to recreate the muesli at home.

I took out my calculator and reverse engineered the muesli and this is what I came up with.

If you're wondering about the rice flour, it's to keep all the dried fruits separate and it seems to stop the apricot pieces from softening the oats.

If you'd like to try making your own muesli at home, here's the recipe for you. Feel free to use whatever dried fruit you prefer and 
I'd love to hear your favourite combinations. 

Apricot and almond muesli - makes approximately 750 grams

125g dried fruit (55 g sultanas, 45 g chopped dried apricot, 25 g currants)
½ tsp rice flour
480g rolled oats
90g bran straws
30g natural almonds
18g sunflower seeds
17g coconut flakes

In a large bowl combine the dried fruits with the rice flour. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and mix to combine. Store in an airtight container. 

See you all again soon. 

Bye for now,


chocolate salted caramel brownies

13 Feb 2017

Valentines' Day kind of snuck on me this year. I often make brownies for Valentine's Day but what could I do to make them different this year? Whilst looking through my copy of 'The Cook and Baker' I spied a recipe for chocolate salted caramel brownies. The search was over. 

I pinched their idea but used my own chocolate brownie and caramel recipes. This recipe only uses half the caramel but that means leftover salted caramel for the cook and that can't be a bad thing now, can it?

In honour of Valentine's Day I pulled out my heart shaped cookie cutter to make a heart shaped template then sprinkled the brownies with cocoa powder.

Here's the recipe for you. For all my recipes, I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C.

Makes 16 pieces inspired by this recipe from The Cook and Baker by Cherie Bevan and Tass Tauroa

Salted Caramel
1 x 395 g (14 oz) tin condensed milk
30 g (1 oz) butter
45 g (1½ oz) golden syrup
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon sea salt flakes

½ cup plain flour
1½ tbs cocoa
125 g unsalted butter, chopped
185 g dark chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup caster sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch salt

Cocoa powder 

For the salted caramel
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Line a 10 x 20 cm (4 x 8 inch) loaf tin with baking paper.

Empty the condensed milk into a large microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 6 - 8 minutes, stirring every minute until the mixture starts to thicken. Add the butter, golden syrup and vanilla extract and stir well until smooth. Pour the caramel into the lined tray and sprinkle with the sea salt. Bake for 15–20 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool in the tin, then when cold cut into small squares. You'll only need half the caramel for this recipe

For the brownie

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Lightly grease and line the base and sides of a 20 x 20 cm (8 x 8 inch) tin with baking paper. Sift the plain flour and cocoa into a small bowl then set to one side.

Melt the butter and chocolate either in a double boiler or in 30 second bursts on high in a microwaveable bowl. Stir until melted and smooth, then set aside to cool a little. Add the sugar, eggs and vanilla then fold in the sifted flour and salt and beat well until smooth. Pour into the prepared tin. Dot evenly with pieces of caramel and bake for 25–30 minutes until just set. Allow to cool completely. When cold cut into 16 pieces using a sharp knife.

If desired decorate with sifted cocoa powder using a heart shaped cookie cutter. 

Happy Valentine's Day.

See you all again next week.

Bye for now,



8 Feb 2017

Have you ever been to Hartley

It's a little village south of the Blue Mountains on the way to Lithgow, where time has stood still. 

My brother, Farmer Andrew, introduced me to Hartley many years ago and this was my first visit since then. 

I arrived early on a grey day and had the place to myself for about 20 minutes before a few others arrived. I walked from the car past the Hartley Court House.

The St Bernards Presbytery.

St Bernards' Church, overlooked by this splendid tree.

When you sit under the tree, you have a birds eye view of the court house.

Just behind the local cafe was a walk to the Big Tor and a sculpture walk.

You pass by this gently decaying building.

The Big Tor.

I found myself in an apple orchard.

I would have stayed longer except my camera battery ran out.

What kind of photographer goes away for a few days without their charger and a spare battery? 
Well me apparently. Slightly crestfallen I drove home to Sydney where I found my spare battery still plugged into the charger.

I guess it means I'll have to return again soon because I wasn't finished with Hartley.

See you all again soon,


rhubarb jam shortbreads

6 Feb 2017

Last weekend, the biscuit tin was almost empty and I was looking for something quick and easy to make. I looked through my copy of 'The Cook and Baker' and saw a photo of some berry jam shortbreads, which they'd baked in mini muffin tins.

The shortbreads looked really cute. The recipe was very similar to one
I already use so I stole their idea; baked the cookies in mini muffin tins and filled the indents with some rhubarb and apple conserve I had in the fridge. Of course you can use any jam you like and you can choose the nut meal as well. I used hazelnut meal but the shortbreads work just as well with almond meal.

These are pretty simple to make and in fact I made these in the food processor in less than 5 minutes. Here's the recipe for you.

For all my recipes, I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. My oven is a conventional oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C.

Rhubarb Jam Shortbreads - makes 16
125 gm softened butter 
50 gm (1/3 cup) pure icing sugar, sieved, plus extra to serve 
½ tsp vanilla extract 
110 gm (¾ cup) plain flour, plus extra for dusting 
45 gm cornflour 
1/4 cup hazelnut meal
Rhubarb or berry jam

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a 12 hole mini muffin tin. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla in an electric mixer until light and fluffy (4-5 minutes). Stir in flours, then hazelnut meal and a pinch of salt. Roll into walnut-sized balls between floured palms, then place in the mini muffin tins. Flatten the top of the cookies with your thumb and bake for 10 minutes. Press the handle of a wooden spoon into the centre of each biscuit to form an indent and bake until golden, another 10-15 minutes. Cool on tray for 10 minutes before unmoulding. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Just before serving, dust with icing sugar and spoon jam into each indent.

Easy to make and very tasty and now my biscuit tin is full.

See you all again soon.

Bye for now,


the blue mountains

1 Feb 2017

Just before I returned to work, I took a mini break in the Blue Mountains. I stayed at Silvermere, a lovely old fashioned bed and breakfast in Wentworth Falls. The weather was a bit cool and grey, perfect weather for walking.

The guesthouse has beautiful gardens so as soon as I arrived I went for a roam in the garden as I knew bad weather was approaching.

Some of the nooks and crannies in the garden.

The garden has some cool climate plants I just don't see in Sydney.

I also found some spots of colour.

and of course my favourite hydrangeas.

Succulents were a feature of the front garden beds.

and of course the magnificent grandiflora magnolia.

The next day I woke to find the garden and the mountains covered in fog. It cleared a little later in the day so I headed over to Wentworth Falls to do the Overcliff walk.

A view along the walk.

The unique Australian bush.

Putting the blue into the Blue Mountains.

A view of Wentworth Falls, a very popular tourist destination.

After lunch in Leura, I drove over to the Sublime Point Lookout, a place I'd not visited before where I found these gorgeous banksias.

The view from Sublime Point and with those threatening clouds I returned home for the day.

See you all again soon for the last stop on my mini break to the Blue Mountains.

Bye for now,


plum drizzle cake

30 Jan 2017

As soon as plums appeared at my fruit shop a week or two back I knew it was time to make the annual plum cake. How much do I love plum cake? Well lots and lots judging by the number of plum cake recipes in the archives. But how could I make the cake a little different this year? I decided to use hazelnut meal in the batter, instead of the usual almond or walnut meal and iced it as well, something I've not done before.

This is my go to butter cake recipe and you can top it with just about any type of fruit or berry or combination of the two. To make the cake extra moist I placed a layer of sliced plums in the centre of the cake mixture. 

In a stroke of genius I decided to ice the cake and used some of the left over plum juices to make the icing. The icing tinted by the plum juice was such a gentle pretty pink colour. If you decide not to ice the cake then dredge the top of the cake with an extra tablespoon of caster sugar as new season plums can be quite tart.

Here's the recipe for you. For all my recipes, I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C. This recipe makes a 17 cm cake. If you'd like to make a 23cm/9 inch cake, just double all the ingredients and bake for the same amount of time.

Plum Drizzle Cake - makes a 17 cm cake
5 small plums
1 tablespoon caster sugar
125 grams (4 oz) unsalted butter
100 grams (½ cup) caster sugar
1½ tsp finely grated lemon rind
1 egg
¾ cup self raising flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼ cup almond, walnut or hazelnut meal
60 – 90 mls (¼ - ⅓ cup) milk

60 g pure icing sugar, sieved
1 tsp softened butter
1-2 tbl reserved plum juice

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F conventional oven. Grease and flour a 18 cm spring-form tin and line the base with baking paper.

Cut the plums in half and remove the pits. Slice each plum into quarters, put into a small bowl and sprinkle over the tablespoon of caster sugar. Set aside.

To make the cake, cream the butter, sugar and lemon rind in a bowl until light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix until combined well. Sift the flour and the baking powder together then mix through the nut meal. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk to make a soft batter. You may not need to use all the milk. Spoon half the batter into the greased and lined tin. Layer a few of the plum slices over the top of the batter. Gently spoon the remaining batter over the fruit. Arrange the remaining plum slices over the top of the cake. If you're not going to ice the cake then sprinkle an additional 1 tbs of caster sugar over the plum slices.

Bake the cake for 1 hour or until the cake tests cooked when a skewer is inserted into it. Some of the plums may sink to the bottom of the tin while cooking. This is completely normal so don't worry. Cool the cake in the tin for about 15 minutes before turning out to cool on a wire rack.

To make the icing combine the icing sugar and butter in a small bowl until the butter is incorporated. Add sufficient of the reserved plum liquid to make a thin icing. Drizzle over the top of the cake and allow to set before serving.

A slice of very moist plum cake. Perfect.

See you all again soon,

Bye for now,


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