Monthly Archives: November 2012

A Christmas Salad

It’s salad weather here friends!  We are sweltering here in Melbourne today, the hot weather has kicked in.  I love eating all sorts of salads in Summer.  On Christmas day in Australia alot of people combine turkey and ham with salads instead of having the traditional Christmas dinner as it’s often quite hot.

My family are from Belfast, Northern Ireland, my Grandmother was a cook and used to do the traditional Christmas meal for us all (around 30 odd family members) even if it was 30 degrees.  Cooking in a small kitchen I don’t know how she did it!  My favourite was her Plum Duff (Plum Pudding) and I remember  as a child asking my Dad to get the recipe from her.  Of course it was one of those recipes where she added a bit of this and that by instinct, nothing written down.

There was always a big cheer when each family arrived at her place for Christmas Day and tables were put out in the backyard along with as many chairs as we could find.  A big sheet was placed over the hills hoist (clothes line) to provide some shade.  For our first course a big pot of soup was placed on the table, after which turkey, ham, roast potatoes, veggies and gravy were consumed.  My dad would always have a photo taken with the big turkey leg in his hand ready to take a bite!  Everyone would shreik with laughter.  There was always alot of happy times and I used to love catching up with my Aunts, Uncles and cousins.

My husband’s family do a lovely Christmas lunch with ham and turkey and salads which I think is perfect for our Australian Christmas.  Following is a moreish salad I’m making for Christmas day (our turn to host this year) with kipfler (fingerling) potatoes, pumpkin, fetta and the Christmas touch..deep red jewels of pomegranate seeds scattered over the top after being banged out with a wooden spoon.

I saw this salad on my blogger friend Alison’s blog Green With Renvy.  Alison made it as part of her post Thanksgiving cleanse.  The dressing has a wonderful flavour.  I changed a few things from the original recipe as there were ingredients I didn’t have..substituted apple cider vinegar for champagne vinegar.


Adapted from The Year In Food


500 grams kipfler (fingerling) potatoes, 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
, 1/4 pumpkin, 
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
, 1 teaspoon Dijon or wholegrain mustard
, 1 teaspoon honey
, 10 packed cups Rocket (Arugula), 
seeds from one pomegranate, 
1 cup crumbled Feta, Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

Slice potatoes lengthwise in halves or quarters depending on size. Arrange in an, an ovenproof dish and drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon of salt over the potatoes. Toss to coat. Roast until tender and browned.

While the potatoes roast, prepare the squash. Slice in half lengthwise, and remove seeds and membrane. Slice into thin half moons, Arrange in another ovenproof dish, drizzle with one tablespoon olive oil and another 1/4 teaspoon salt and toss to coat.

Remove potatoes from the oven and add the pumpkin. Roast until tender and just beginning to brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

For dressing in a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, honey, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/3 cup olive oil.

In a large salad bowl, combine the rocket, (arugula) pumpkin and potatoes. Drizzle with about half the vinaigrette. Toss to combine.

Add half of the pomegranate seeds and half of the fetta. Gently toss. Add more vinaigrette if needed. (I did not use all of it.)

Top with the remaining fetta and pomegranate seeds. Serve.

Christmas At The Studio

Hello All,
Are you getting excited about Christmas?  It’s not far away now and I can’t believe my youngest daughter only has a couple of weeks left of school for the year!  I’m starting to feel very festive now the Christmas editions of my favourite magazines have come out, I’m seeing those big legs of ham in the shops and central London decorated in stunning christmas lights on Tina’s blog colourliving.
Christmas markets have begun and last Friday I went to one in Merricks North on the Mornington Peninsula called Christmas At The Studio with my cousin Carol.  The Studio was built by Glassblower Leisa Wharington, 25 years ago and she shares the space with Jeweller Flick Pope and Painter Julie Niekamp.  Their work was for sale in the Studio whilst a number of makers and designers offered their wares outside amongst the bushland setting.  There was also wonderful food and coffee and Carol and I left feeling very inspired.
The Studio

The Bush Market

Carol bought one of these stunning birdcages and bought me this rustic bouquet of bush gumnuts for use as a prop in one of my food styling shoots.

Treehouse Textiles

Treehouse Textiles across the road and were having an open day to showcase their textile workshops.  After the market we called in there to say hello.  The workshops are set in beautiful bushland which is tranquil and relaxed overlooking a secluded lake.  Lunch and treats at the workshop come from Nicole at Maude St Catering packed in a gorgeous wooden box.  It’s a wonderful touch Carol loved when she did one of their workshops and made a quilt.

Do you have any good Christmas markets where you live?  I’d love to hear about them.

Catherine x

Tea Time

Hi Everyone,
I couldn’t blog last week as a family member took ill and had to be admitted to hospital.  I spent all my time there making sure they were okay.  Thankfully they are out now and everything is fine.
With all this going on, I found sitting down with a cup of tea in between visits to the hospital and looking after family and home very calming.  I love tea.  My husband’s fascinated with tea.  In his twenties travelling around Europe he visited some tea houses, upon chatting with the owner asked if he could see how they made the different blends.  Consequently he was taken out the back and shown the process.
With this love of tea in mind, I was very excited to be sent a box of Nature’s Cuppa Organic Tea sometime ago to sample.  Nature’s Cuppa teas are organic, fairtrade and GM free.  It’s just natural tea packaged at the source.  They source their tea from their own carbon neutral tea plantations, the teabags are made with unbleached paper and are biodegradable.  Grown in Sri Lanka at high altitude their teas are naturally low in caffeine.  Friends have enjoyed choosing their preferred variety when presented with the box whilst visiting and my husband and I have been happy trying a different variety every night.
Apart from drinking tea I started thinking about what recipes I could make with tea and found this Spiced Chai Tea Cake from Donna Hay that uses Spiced Chai teabags in the recipe.
Whilst the cake was cooking it filled the house with the fragrance of cinnamon, cardamon and cloves (from the spiced chai teabag) smelt like Christmas here.  The cake has a tender crumb and is dotted with sultanas, perfect with a cup of tea.

Spiced Chai Tea Cake

1/2 cup (125ml) boiling water
4 chai spice tea bags
1 cup (160g) sultanas
185g butter, softened
1 1/4 cups (220g) brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 1/2 (225g) self raising flour, sifted
2 tsps mixed spice, sifted
1/4 cup (60ml) milk
sifted icing sugar to serve

Set oven to 160C.  Place teabags in a bowl and pour over water, steep for five minutes. Remove the teabags, add sultanas and let sit for ten minutes.

Place butter, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until pale (about five minutes).

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the flour, mixed spice and milk and beat until just combined.

Add the sultanas and tea and beat until just combined.

Pour into a greased 20 x 30cm tin lined with non stick baking paper or your tin of choice and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer.  Cool in tin for five minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Sprinkle with sifted icing and serve.

I’m often asked where I get certain products from that people see on my blog or on my Farmhouse Home facebook page.  For this reason I’ve decided to start a ‘Product Love‘ page so I can post information on where to buy things I love that you may also be interested in.

Disclosure:  I was sent a kit of Nature’s Cuppa tea by Undertow Media. This in no way affected my opinion, all opinions are my own.

Catherine x

Eat.Drink.Blog 3…It’s A Wrap

Hi Everyone,

Last weekend as most of you already know I attended Australia’s third Eat.Drink.Blog Conference in Adelaide.  The weekend was one of learning, eating, inspiration and meeting new food blogging friends.

It was a phenomenal weekend.  The organising committee did an incredible job organising the event and the Sponsors really turned it on for us.  After flying in and registering at the Adelaide Central Market, a tour of the Market was the first port of call.  I was in heaven as we walked from food stall to food stall.  The stall owners were beautiful people who showed such passion for their products.  They generously lined up tastings for us as well as cooked lunch for us the next day.  Pictured below are some highlights from the smallgoods, cheese, yoghurt and fresh fruit stalls.

I noticed this cafe, which looked like a cool place to have lunch or a coffee.

The cafe was near Marino Meats which was one of my favourite stores.  It’s a three generational family run business started by Antonio Marino in 1976.  Antonio began his butchering career in the late 1950′s in Abruzzo, Italy.  Their goal is to produce specialty meats from traditional recipes that Antonio brought from Italy so many years ago.

On Sunday morning Red Door Bakery supplied breakfast.  The presentation had serious wow factor and so did the food.  Scrambled Egg and Smoked Salmon Rolls, Leek & Gruyere Tarts, Sausage Rolls, Frittatas, BLT (Bacon, Lettuce & Tomato) with avocado puree and custard and fruit danishes.  I found it hard to fit it all in after the extravagant mexican meal The Hilton Adelaide put on for us on Saturday night showcasing South Australian produce. (Which I can attest that fitting in food is never unusually an issue for me, I am a  BIG eater!!)

The Conference Program began in earnest on Sunday with the Keynote Speaker being Dianne Jacobs the Author of  “Will Write For Food”.  I attended Dianne’s food writing workshop on Saturday afternoon and was surprised by what I wrote in a couple of short time frames set by Dianne.

After Dianne, there were discussions on building community, photographic & web design talks and the one I was waiting for food styling by Fiona of Fiona Roberts Food.  Fiona presented to us then divided us into two groups and let us have a go at styling a lemon tart she’d made.  Interesting to see how each group styled the same lemon tart.

Lunch cooked for us by the Central Market Stallholders was followed by talks on SEO, Legals, Ethics & working with PR’s, local and seasonal food and finally opportunities from blogging.  A sweet explosion of afternoon tea..cake pops and cupcakes by The Cupcake Table.

I’ll leave you with this recipe from Vegas Poultry.  Everyone commented on how nice this chicken was.  I don’t know quantities but mix about a tablespoon of the fish sauce, soy sauce, palm sugar and sweet chilli sauce, add lemongrass, maybe a can of coconut cream and some chopped coriander in a bowl.  Marinate chicken for as long as you can.  Wrap chicken in a pan dan leaf (available at asian grocers).  If you can’t get pan dan leaf leave it out and cook in a pan or on your barbecue.

By the way all the photos in this post were taken with my iphone 5.
Catherine x

Comfort Food

Tonight I made some homestyle dishes for dinner that everybody loves.  The kind of food that feels like a big hug when the weather is not so good.  We’ve had two days of 30 degree weather but tonight it’s 11 degrees as I type and raining.  Time to revisit some of those cold weather dishes I didn’t get a chance to feature on the blog during Autumn/Winter.
The first is a beef casserole I cooked at 160 degrees for three hours, so the meat was very tender.  I served it with potatoes cut into small chunks and roasted in the oven.  For dessert I served this Apple Crumble with Salted Caramel Sauce.  I felt terrible cooking this kind of food when my youngest daughter is away at her school’s Bush Skills camp living on camp food!  The program involves bushwalking, canoeing and sleeping in the bush at night in a tent..I’m sure they (children & teachers) will be glad to come home to the comfort of their own beds tomorrow night.

The stew is Jools Favourite Beef Stew by Jamie Oliver and the Apple Crumble recipe is from three different sources.  Filling Jamie Oliver, Crumble Mixture Curtis Stone and Salted Caramel Sauce, Nigella Lawson for, my latest find in the online magazine world which I love & can’t wait to explore further.  Wishing you all a wonderful weekend wherever you are in the world.  Don’t forget to cook something nice and comforting for yourself.

Apple Crumble

Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

3-4 cooking apples, peeled, cored and quartered
50g sugar, to sweeten
1 tablespoon water

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Peel and core the apples, quarter and cut into chunks.

Put the apples into a pan with the sugar and water. Cook over a low heat for 5 minutes and place in a small ovenproof dish.

Crumble Mixture
3/4 cup plain flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup rolled oats (not instant) (optional)
125 grams cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup flaked almonds

Mix the flour, sugar and oats in a bowl together.  Using fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture until moist clumps form.  Mix in the almonds.  Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the apple mixture.

Place in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes or until topping is golden brown.

Serve warm with salted caramel sauce and cream or ice cream.

Salted Caramel Sauce
75g best quality unsalted butter
50 g soft light brown sugar
50 g caster Sugar
50g golden syrup
125ml double cream
half to one-and-a-half teaspoons sea salt

Melt butter, sugars, syrup and butter in a small heavy based pan and let simmer for 3 minutes, swirling every now and then.
Add cream and half a teaspoon of sea salt (not table salt!) and swirl again, give a stir with a wooden spoon and taste – go cautiously so that you don’t burn your tongue – to see if you want more salt before letting it cook for another minute on the stove, then pour into a jug for serving.
NB:  I used 1 1/2 tsp maldon sea salt in the caramel sauce

Catherine x