Almond Bread

Time moves on.

Lives change.

It is inevitable.

In the blink of an eye Christmas is with us again.

Christmas time seems to bring with it more memory clouds that most other months of the year. Im not sure whether its because I realise another year has past me by or whether it’s a time when family traditions are bought back to life.

countryhorizons_mumsheightwallcombinedwithwreath

Our Christmas tree still has marks of my children growing, ornaments lovingly made at preschool and school still adorn the tree. Their childhood stockings are laid beside the tree, now in readiness for their home comings soon.

 

A visit to my childhood home is filled with many memories and now a touch of emptiness. The same Christmas door wreath welcomes all visitors, family and friends. The heights of the grandchildren and their pets, marked along the door jam remind us of the years, evoking glimpses of the past and stories starting with “remember when…”.

 

We are guaranteed these remain the same. It is with some comfort that I know this.

And Mum’s Almond Bread.

It heralds Christmas.

countryhorizons_almondbreadsliced

I have never attempted to bake it, and I haven’t for this article. I am not sure I can fold the love of a grandmother’s hug into the loaf as much as my mum can.

But I can share the recipe with you.

There are a few steps and you need to plan ahead to allow the loaf to cool for a few days.

countryhorizons_almondbreadloaf2
The loaf, allow 2 days for it to cool

But it is so worth it!

It also makes a great gift, wrapped and sealed with a Christmas bow.

 

ALMOND BREAD

3 egg whites                      1 cup plain flour

½ cup castor sugar          125 grams whole unblanched almonds

and then….

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form.

Then gradually add sugar, beat until dissolved.

Fold in sifted flour, then almonds. (I think this is where the grandmother love is added too!)

Spoon into greased 20cm x 10cm loaf tin

Bake in moderate oven 30-40 minutes

Cool. Wrap in foil & set aside for 2 days.

Using a very sharp knife cut into wafer thin slices

Place slices on oven trays and bake in a slow oven for 45 minutes, or until lightly toasted and crisp.

Store in an air tight container.

TIP: My mum adds extra almonds, as she likes the slices packed full. The recipe may work with pistachios too?

countryhorizons_almondbreadchristmaspackage

You are welcome 😊

And happy christmas

 

Half time oranges and Tee Vee Snacks

The crisp dark night took me back. The scent of the frost settling on the orange tree picked me up and gently eased me back into the old lounge with its well-used green chairs, open fire and stripe shag pile carpet.countryhorizons_oranges1

State of Origin football night was a family affair, complete with oranges at half time. After a hearty meal of meat and three veg the first of the children would get a seat on the lounge, the last spreading on the floor in front of the fire. Mum with her knitting and dad commanding the TV to watch the weather and then settle for the football. No remote control to flick through the stations – but we only had two channels to choose from so it wasn’t such a chore.

Out the front of the house was a prolific orange tree, the envy of many visitors and travellers. Every year we waited with patience for the first frost as the fruit always seemed to be sweeter once the bite of Jack Frost heralded in the winter air. We enjoyed fruit on tap for months.

At half time in the footy we were sent out in the bitter dark cold to grab a few oranges off the tree for our dessert. Mum would sit with a towel in her lap and lovingly peel the oranges to share as we settled in for the finish of the game. She had a knack of keeping the peel in one long length that snaked to her lap as she unwrapped nature’s vitamin C offering.

countryhorizons_peeledorange

 

No wifi, no checking social media status, no idea what our friends or other family were doing at that very moment. We didn’t care. We were engrossed in capturing the sweet juice as it slipped down our chins, savouring the sweet flavours that tingled our buds in the warmth of our family home and writing memories for later.

 

That warm family lounge sparks another jolt in the memory banks and one I still recall every time I see Tee Vee Snacks in the shopping aisle. To this day they are a special treat, almost a forbidden sweetness. My dad had a routine many years ago of buying the afternoon newspaper and a box of Tee Vee Snacks on his way home of an evening. For those who don’t know they are a plain crunchy biscuit, about bite size that has been dipped in dark chocolate. Just enough chocolate to satisfy the taste buds and allow you to think you haven’t been too naughty!CHN_0209_tvsnacks3

My dad would wait until we went off to bed before settling in to enjoy the quiet of the evening while reading his paper and savouring the Tee Vee Snack biscuits…except for the last few. I never knew whether he left them on purpose or he had his fill but there was always a few left. Left for my brothers and I to sneak in and find the next morning. We felt so secretive, whispering as we cautiously investigated the discarded box hiding amongst the well read pages of yesterdays news left beneath his chair.

Oh how naughty they tasted, eating the forbidden sweet biscuits while mum stirred the porridge over the wood stove in the kitchen. They were too special to crunch, you HAD to leave in your mouth until you sucked the dark chocolate away from the biscuit, making the  illicit discovery last for as long as possible. All while keeping watch to make sure we weren’t caught, though I’m sure they knew what we were doing!

Like all children I thought I knew it all. I appreciated the magical tastes of forbidden biscuit and chocolate and the sweetness of a freshly picked orange, peeled with love and enjoyed in family warmth. What more could there be?

It was then I was introduced to the ultimate sweet flavour sensation found in a packet. I am sure most have enjoyed a freckle at some time – those little round disc of heavenly chocolate sprinkled with 100 and 1000’s.

CHN_0246_rspfreckles

Have you ever tried combining them with a raspberry sweet?

Or sampled a raspberry – freckle sandwich?

It is superb. The crunch of the little coloured round pearls of pure sugar, the creaminess of the chocolate combined with the squishy flavour of the raspberry.

Gee Whillikers! A naughty explosion of heaven that dances on your tastebuds. Just try stopping at one.

You are welcome 🙂

Hard Timers

I don’t know what made me think of them or even remember what I was doing at the time. Was it when I spotted the rusted cake tin for sale in the antique shop as I was whiling away the hours waiting for mums operation to be over? The tin with the faded white flowers, dented from wear, stained from working men sweat and dust interspersed with the rusty red of time.

 

If I could see the fingerprints embedded in its crust who would I see? The shearer grabbing the last of home baking as he pulled the next burr filled, fly blown whether from the pen? The farmers wife filling the tin to feed the drovers as they made a camp on their way through their land. They will keep searching for small morsels of feed for their hungry mob? Or would I see the generous neighbour delivering baked goods to the man bereft with grief at the passing of his lifetime companion and she deciding to quietly leave the tin…she had others, she didn’t need this one anyway.

 

It may have been the smell of the cold winter winds that whipped around the geraniums along the footpath as I made my way to wait for mums return. No matter where I pick up the woody smell of geraniums I am whisked back to my grandmother’s small garden where geraniums seemed to be the only plant to prosper. Geraniums and a prolific crop of tomatoes at the back door each summer.

 

What it was, wherever it was, whenever it was I found I had a desire for Johnnie Cakes. Another recipe from my childhood memory vault. Another recipe that I have recently realised may not be what the rest of the world knows as Johnnie Cakes, so I had better call these Tunn’s Johnnie Cakes.

A google search tells me Johnny Cakes are American cornmeal flatbread. I did not know this.

My mum tells me she had never heard of these until she met her future mother-in-law – Tunn. They maybe from a CWA recipe book as Tunn was a very active Country Woman for many years. Or she may have just made up the recipe from what she had in the cupboard at the time. Yes, its another of those recipes that can be made from staples in your pantry, though these days many would not have half a pound of butter at the ready. Unless you have a milking cow at the back door!

 

Others refer to these flat-scone-like-damper-buns with fruit as Hard Timers. I do know they do get a little hard after a few days, but there is nothing like dunking them in a good strong black cup of tea (made with the billy if you can!) to soften them for a treat.

It makes lots. Mum usually halves the recipe, though her notes to the side say to keep the 2 eggs, even if you halve the recipe.

 

So let me share with you Tunn’s Johnnie Cakes. For authenticity I suggest you cook in a wood stove and make sure you wear an apron as you prepare, as my grandmother would have done.

Here goes…

Ingredients:

½ lb (225 gms) butter

1 cup sugar

4 cups self raising flour

2 eggs beaten with 1 cup milk

1 cup of chopped dates or sultanas

 

Method:

Add sugar to sifted flour. Beat eggs and milk and add to melted butter.

Add butter mix to flour and sugar.

Rollout onto a floured board and cuts as for scones

Bake in hot oven. (~180 fan forced)

There was no time on the recipe. Thank heavens for a window in the oven door. Try cooking for about 20 mins.

Serve hot with butter if you can but they do keep.

countryhorizons_hardtimers_2 - Copy

  

You are welcome

Golden Syrup Dumplings

I recently had the joy of all three of my girls home to visit. Before they arrive I tend to ask if there is anything in particular they would like to eat?  I know the standard answer is “Gran’s jam drops” – that’s a given. My mum has them baked and ready in plenty of time for their arrival. If they arrive on different days then there is another fresh batch on the doorstep.

Food does indeed bring back childhood memories. For our birthdays we chose the dinner for that evening. I used to ask for a roast chicken and chocolate cake. That was before my mum mastered her sponge cake! I promise I will share this recipe soon – I just need mum to give me some notice to be ready with the camera and capture some of the steps as my mum tends to get up and cook in the wee tiny hours of the morning light.

My middle daughter has a huge sweet tooth. Dinner was never complete until dessert was served. Sometimes it wasn’t much but we HAD to have dessert every evening. My grandfather Clem was the same. I remember my dad saying he would have been happy with dessert for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Yet the same man never liked to mix his courses. He disliked fruit with his main saying “I will save that fruit for dessert, no need to eat with my meat” Oh how he would struggle with current food trends!

My girl’s habits have changed a little as they moved away however when they are home the desire for some home cooked desserts is hard to fight and they do succumb. The evening my mum came for dinner was a great example. No one was expecting or needing dessert – we had been foraging on chocolate eggs throughout the day. Until Gran showed up, as usual never empty handed.

“I whipped up some dumplings for dessert, thought we should have a treat now the weather has turned cool”CountryHorizons_GSD_therecipe

Oh My Goodness! My own childhood memories of sitting around the family table with the wood stove warming the kitchen as the winter winds rattled the glass louvres behind us came to mind.

Golden Syrup Dumplings.  Passed down from grandmothers recipe book.

Note the use of words such as “good cup” and “large” tablespoon. In other words don’t scrimp and measurements are approximate.

Are your taste buds watering?

They should be.

It is a cheap easy dessert, with staples from your pantry. The sauce can be made ahead of time.

My mum makes the dumplings and then as you sit down to eat she pops the dumplings in the boiling sauce. By the time the meal is eaten the dumplings are ready.

Golden Syrup Dumplings

The Dumplings

Rub 1 tablespoon butter into a good cup Self Raising Flour (I think ‘good’ means heaped)

Mix to a dough with 1 egg, beaten with a little milk (1/4 to ½ cup)

Roll into balls, approximately a bit smaller than a tennis ball.

The Syrup

(I have doubled here to make sure there is plenty of liquid and moist dumplings)

Mix 2 cups water, 1 tablespoons sugar and 2 large tablespoon golden syrup in a saucepan over heat.

Bring to boil.

Drop in the dumplings, cover and boil for 20 minutes.

Serve hot, best with ice cream and/or cream.

——-You are welcome!

 

 

Salt on your apple, milk in your soup?

CH_rawingredients+soup

I always like to have a few bananas on hand. They are such a great little package to feed a sweet tooth moment or satisfy the hunger until dinner is cooked. The recent heatwave of summer has seen the fruit quickly turn brown and not quite attractive to eat on its own. I know there are multitudes of recipes for old bananas from banana bread, muffins or smoothies and yes they can be frozen for another day.

In a moment of reminiscing with my mum (which happens quite a bit these days) my memory was taken back to cold winter evenings growing up, to Sunday nights where tomato soup and bananas fritters were a standard fare of our household.

In winter our routines and meals were the same most weekends. Living out of town meant that we headed off to Saturday sports for the whole day. My brothers to football or soccer while I played and umpired netball and my mum manned the netball ‘tent’ or helped in the canteen. We left home by 9 and arrived back as the sun was revealing its final wintry glow in the late afternoon. As we raced to complete the farm jobs before dark a pot of stew always seem to miraculously appear on the stove – that was our Saturdays.

Sundays, like many Australian families was a bake (roast) meal in the middle of the day, with something lighter for the evening as mum ironed the pile of clothes and we all prepared for the week ahead. In our house soup and fritters was a common menu. Banana fritters.CH_fritters

I used to think we consumed our food like everyone else. It wasn’t until I left home that I realised some family traditions seemed a little weird to others.

Probably one of the first to be revealed was salt on my cut apples. Doesn’t everyone do this? I was reminded that this might not be the norm just recently in our tea room at work. I absent mindedly quartered an apple, grab the salt pot and sprinkled over my plate. One of my co-workers stopped the conversation mid-sentence and ask…”Did you just put salt on that?!?!” “Um, yes?” to which there a small pause and a dumbfounded silence.

Growing up we always had a tin or two of tomato soup in the cupboard. Just one of those staples in an out-of-town pantry at a time when supermarkets were not open 7 days a week. While my father loved his bowl of Bonox I could never quite come at the bitter yet salty brown beef extract and we tended to cook up a pot of tomato soup for the rest of us.

And then you always added a dash milk to your soup before you ate it, no matter the flavour of soup…Don’t you?

Apparently not. That is another one of those weird family traditions that I thought was standard fare. The reason? I think to cool it down? Or maybe as my mother’s family struggled to make ends meet after her father died adding fresh free milk from the farm cow added nutrition to satisfy the hunger of a growing family?

As our family settled in front of the fire, all bathed and hair washed to watch Sunday Night Football we shared banana fritters. They are like a pikelet with mashed banana stirred in, though I recently found out the original recipe from my mother’s family was with chopped apple. Dad didn’t like apple so the next generation of tradition knows them only as banana fritters.

Banana fritters topped with a sprinkle of sugar and lemon juice.CH_cookingfritters

What? I hear you ask. This is another family fare that I assumed everyone enjoyed, only to learn many years later that this is a family secret.

Over dinner a few nights ago as I was probing my mum for the recipe I asked where did the sugar and lemon idea come from?

The sprinkle of sugar is my mother’s family tradition – that is how they used to enjoy the apple fritters as children.

The lemon juice was an addition from my father. His family used to have lemon CH_geraniumeverything. My grandmother’s garden could produce two things – geraniums and lemon trees. Even now the nutty, dusty scent of a geranium will take me back to running barefoot on the small bit of lawn of Bellevue with a multitude of cousins, the sound of laughter and family percolating through the air.

There was always lemons overflowing the fruit bowl on the kitchen table and scattered under the trees that lined the driveway – small, withered and tart enough to make any modern sour lolly taste sweet.

So now I impart a family recipe to you.

If you are wondering what to cook on a cold Sunday evening how about you throw a pot of tomato soup on the stove and whip up a batch of banana fritters? I will forgive you if cannot do the dash of milk in the soup, but the sugar and lemon juice on the fritter is a must try.

Banana Fritters

Combine a cup of self-raising  flour, a tablespoon of sugar, 1 egg and about 2/3 cup of milk in a bowl. Whisk together. You may need to add a little bit more milk to make it ‘sloppy’

Add 2-3 sliced bananas and stir through

Pour small amounts mixture into a heated pan. Cook until bubbles appear, then flip.

Serve warm with a sprinkle of sugar and lemon juice.

 

You are welcome

CH_rawingredients

Farmers Friends

ch_baked

A message popped up to our family group from Daughter 1 “Hey, does anyone have the recipe for farmers friends?” While my mum tried to work through why she would want the recipe in New Zealand I took a photo from the flour stained well-worn pages of my recipe book and whisked it to her.

And prompted me to share with you.

I have found out today that the actual name of the recipe is Farmers Favourites. Either way this is one of those handy recipes to have in the library. You can have a batch coming out of the oven for unexpected guests or for a morning tea that slipped your mind in about 30 minutes.

ch_sheepyardsAs I baked a batch today my mind was taken back to watching my grandfather Clem’s nicotine stained fingers with salient twisted knuckles reaching into the dented cake tin to grab a freshly baked Favourite to dip into his black tea. The smoke from the hand rolled cigarette clasped in his forefingers swirling with the dust of the sheep yards as he takes a break under the pine trees of the sheepyards.

I can almost see him as he has a joke with his sons who have come over to help with the crutching, the grandchildren’s eyes peeping over the sides of the ute, hoping there will be some left for them.

With the last biscuit laid out on the baking tray I recall a time when my three girls would EPSON MFP imagebe vying for the beaters and bowl. The unbaked dough was always a treat with cooking, particularly with their grandmother. Today there was no-one to lick the bowl as they have all moved away, though I did treat myself to the wooden spoon.

This recipe was found in the Emerald Hill Country Women’s Association cookbook quite a few years ago. They don’t sound like much but we know when the temperature soars into the 40s, particularly around harvest time these will still be fresh in the lunch bag. The recipe even said “great for harvest” – and the CWA know what they are talking about when it comes to cooking for the people on the land.

ch_mumsrescipeMy mum had hand written it in her recipe book, I copied to my own a few decades ago.

When my girls were younger I used to sprinkle with hundreds and thousands to dress them up a little. Somewhere along the family folklore these have become Famers Friends. Either way I hope you will enjoy.

 

Farmers Friends

4 ounces or 120 grams margarine             ¾ cup castor sugar

1 egg                                                                    1 ½ cups Self raising flour

vanilla

Beat margarine and sugar, add egg and vanilla and beat a little longer. Stir in flour.

Put dessertspoons of mixture on a greased baking tray, sprinkle each biscuit with sugar.

Bake in moderate over for 20 minutes, turning from front to back after 10 minutes.

 

That is it! Enjoy with a cup of tea.

You are welcome.

Easy Cake

 

ingredientsMy daughter’s best friend celebrated her birthday this weekend. She is a mother of two, a two year old and a gorgeous little six month old.

I can only imagine the chaos in every day. I know each day would be rolling into the next, the same routine, the same battles at dinner, bath and bed. Read More