Monday, 24 November 2014

Walking the Wet Lands at Banrock Station**

Banrock Station is a big wine producer situated at Kingston - on -the - Murray, 3 hrs drive north east of Adelaide. It's property is bounded on one side by the River Murray and sweeps up on a low escarpment to the east. Possibly resulting from the erosion of the river in the distant past.

The eastern side of the river banks form a natural wetland area which in the past was flooded every year. The river weirs have reduced flooding and this has affected this natural environment.

*Since 1994, Banrock Station have been restoring this environment by removing domestic livestock, reducing natural wetting and drying cycles, removing feral animals and planting thousands of native plants.

The area houses a vast vineyard, cafe/wine tasting area, wetland centre and walking trails. The trails take you right through the area, with side hikes to bird hides and water holes. You can walk on the Boardwalk 4.5 kilometres or the Wetland Circuit walk of 8 kilometres.

We wanted to do the 8km walk so we could see the whole of the wetland area. We saw one brown snake on the boardwalk which did not seem to want to move out of our way, but after a bit of gentle persuasion with a big stick, moved into the water and swam off.

Along the route we spotted a few kangaroos, one which had a joey. The joey did not spend much time out of the mother's pouch after we walked towards them.

Overall it was a nice walk. Not a lot to see and it was getting quite hot by the time we got back to the Cafe. We walked 10 kms in total, saw 1 snake, lots of snake and lizard tracks and 6 kangaroos. There were a few black swan, cormorants and ducks but overall a bit disappointing. Maybe if we had walked in winter we would have seen more wild life.
Here are some photos I took along the walk.


We spent one night in Barmera and took a few photos from a lovely side of Lake Bonney, recommended by Jack Miller, a long time resident, photographer and tour guide.





* Taken from Banrock Station Pamphlet.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Whose Idea Was This Anyway?**

I am not sure I am even qualified to be writing this. I am starting out - it's taken me 65 years to get here and I have no idea if I can do this.

It started with a mad rush to the head when I went walking to get a bit fitter and to find out how bad the arthritis was in my knees. I also have a back problem - lower discs pretty stuffed and I was spending a lot of time in physiotherapy  and feeling immensely fed up.

I was researching walking for fitness and I came upon this lovely website from the UK, written by a guy called George. (That was my dad's name. so I knew it would be good) It was filled with information about walking and everything you could possibly want to know about how to walk, where to walk, what to wear and what to carry.

So I emailed George and struck up a conversation about walking and I got quite enthusiastic. But the furthest I had ever walked in one go was about 3 - 4 kms and that seemed pretty exhausting .

Visiting Europe and UK in June/July, I found myself doing a lot of walking.  There were quite a few short hikes around Cumbria, Hadrian's Wall and of course a lot of mileage in and around London. There is so much to see and do and walking is the best way to see and do it.
Aira Force, Hadrian's Wall, Cows at Greater Strickland, Wass Water,
 Stone Circles, Castlerigg, Keswick, Cumbria
When I got back from UK, I overheard someone in my Pilates class talking about planning a long distance walk in the England and very quickly the seed was sown.

Initially I started to walk two or three times a week only 1 -2 kms just to get a little fitter. I added  Pilates classes twice a week, that really helped my back and I began to extend my walking distance. In August I clocked up 85 kilometres. The longest stretch being 8 kilometres and a lie down for a day after.

So here I am! It is October 2014 and I am planning to take a long distance walk in UK around September 2015 - There I have said it and it is out there. There is no changing my mind or not doing it!!!  All I need to do now is to get fitter and stronger while still protecting my back and knees and save some money.

This blog is a record of what I am doing to get fit enough to walk and highlights of the walk. I might post on a monthly basis or just when I feel I have achieved something worthwhile.  If there are any other crazy people of my age that get the idea that they would like to walk too,  this may be the motivational tool they need. You can all learn by mistakes too!

Please send me any hints and tips to keep me moving, nice things to make and eat on the trail and any other words of wisdom. A bit of encouragement will help too. Leave me a comment.




Sunday, 16 November 2014

Grapefruit Syrup Cake - Must Eat!

While visiting Poland earlier this year, I was very surprised to see how often grapefruit and especially ruby grapefruit figured on the breakfast menu. They did not appear at lunch or dinner and I could not detect the flavour in anything else that I tasted. They were big, sweet, juicy and very colourful. In fact they were probably the best grapefruits I had ever eaten.  I do think we have under-rated  grapefruit compared to other citrus and I am endeavouring to research how grapefruit can be used in different ways.



So how long have grapefruits been grown and from where did they originate?
I am very happy that you ask these questions, because I have the answers.

Grapefruits are a cross between a pummelo (or pumelo) and an orange and like all other citrus fruits is a member of the Hesperidum family. (a large modified berry with a thick peel) As they grow, young grapefruits hang in clusters on trees. The clusters resemble clusters of grapes and it is thought that this is why they were so named. Grapefruits were first grown in Barbados and it is thanks to a Captain Shaddock a 17th century ship commander that brought the seeds of the pummelo from the East Indies to the West Indies.* And from there they spread across Europe and to the rest of the world.

* http://www.vegparadise.com   

In Australia ruby grapefruits are sometimes used in salads combining well with kale, cucumber, spinach or avocado, but it has fallen out of favour since the 1970's when a grapefruit with a cherry on top and lots of sugar was the given entree to any successful dinner party. I wonder why?

I hope you enjoy this recipe because it is going to be my last cake post for a while - sad, boo hoo!  Time to switch to a super healthy, summer menu. I am endeavouring to go back to low carbohydrate, high vegetarian protein for a while. (Just watched a 'Catalyst' programme) and they have a new thinking that the old thinking was pretty good! Less carbs more fat and protein. Yes it is very confusing for us all.


Don't worry, there will be some treats in here too. If you are in the northern hemisphere, then don't be afraid because I am giving you a heads up for next summer. If you are hankering after something a little more robust, then leave me a comment and I will see what I can do.

I must admit that this cake turned out much better than I had hoped for and I will certainly be trying to use more grapefruit in cooking.

















Ruby Grapefruit Syrup Cake

Ingredients

Cake

2 cups plain flour
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
2 tbls grapefruit zest
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup  oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
Syrup
1 cup grapefruit juice
2/3 cup caster sugar
Glaze
3/4 cup icing’ sugar
2 tbls grapefruit juice

Preheat oven to Fan forced 170/350 F. Coat 9×5-inch (22cm x 12cm) loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. In a bowl rub the sugar and zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and fragrant. 

Using a whisk or electric beaters, add the eggs to the sugar mixture and beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes, or until the mixture is thick and the whisk leaves a trail. 

With the mixer/beaters running, add the milk, then the oil and finally the vanilla, then with the beater on low, add the dry ingredients, until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake for 30 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for another 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, make the syrup: Combine the grapefruit juice and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then continue to simmer for 1 minute. Cool.
When you remove the cake from the oven, transfer to a wire rack (still in the loaf pan). Immediately use a skewer to poke deep holes into the cake (about 3/4-inch/2 cms apart). Brush the cake with the syrup, pausing as necessary to allow it to soak in. Keep brushing the cake until you’ve used all of the syrup.



Let the cake cool for 10 minutes after you’ve brushed it with the syrup, then turn out onto the cooling rack. Allow to cool to room temperature.

To make the glaze: In a medium bowl, stir icing sugar and grapefruit juice together until the glaze is smooth – it should be thick but with a pourable consistency. Drizzle over the cake allowing the glaze to drip down the sides. Allow glaze to set before serving. 

Monday, 10 November 2014

Pear and Chocolate Tart

Some enormous pears appeared in my Aussie Farmer's fruit box last week and I could think of nothing better than to make this delicious tart.

Pears are so versatile. Often used in savoury as well as sweet dishes, available all year round and very nutritious.  Pears are very high in fibre and half of the pear's total dietary fibre as well as its antioxidant and anti inflammatory phytonutrients are found in the skin, so it's best not to peel them. Because they contain less acid than apples, dentists seem to prefer you to eat these because they do less damage to your teeth.

You can find pear varieties in many colours from green through to red, gold and brown and each variety has its own properties and qualities.

Pears are another member of the rose family and lets face it aren't roses good for just about any occasion!

It was very coincidental that I had just bought a book called 'Australian Pears', which contains delicious recipes from some of Australia's finest chefs.

I decided to try  Guy Grossi's Chocolate and Pear Tart because I really wanted a show stopper and I felt the need to compliment my beautiful pears. However, I did change the recipe ever so slightly and I would now possibly cut down on some of the cocoa in the pastry just a little, to better fit with my palette. 


This is how I interpreted the recipe and the changes I made. It was delicious! I will certainly be trying more pear recipes from this book and I have my eye on an Upside Down Pear Pudding. I will let you know how it goes.


 Guy Grossi's Chocolate and Pear Tart

Pastry

100g butter
200g flour
60g cocoa (I would use 40g next time)
2 eggs (I actually only used 1 very large egg)

Place flour and butter into a bowl and rub in to resemble breadcrumbs. Sift in the cocoa powder and add sugar.
Lightly beat egg and add enough to bind the dry ingredients together. Turn onto bench and knead very slightly. Cover and chill for 20 minutes.

Filling

4 pears (I used Packham's)
200g dark chocolate 70%
100g butter
4 eggs separated (I used 3 large)
200g caster sugar (I changed it to 150g)
2 tablespoons of marmalade (This was omitted from the original recipe)

Take a deep flan ring 28cm and grease it. Roll out the pastry to 5mm thickness and line the flan ring by pressing into the flutes. If it starts to break a little, don't worry, just press it together and ease it into the ring. Brush the pastry with marmalade. I used a slightly bitter orange marmalade. Once cooked the marmalade tasted as though I had added a liqueur.

Cut the pears into quarters and remove the cores. (I had to peel mine this time, but you can leave the skin on if you prefer) Arrange on the base of the flan.



Pre-heat oven to 180º.

Melt chocolate and butter together over a low heat. Set aside to cool slightly. Beat egg yolks and sugar until pale and fluffy. Fold in cooled chocolate mixture. Whisk egg whites until stiff and fold into the mixture. Pour this over the pears and bake for approximately 40 minutes until nice and crispy.








Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Green Tea Biscuits

Are you a green tea drinker?  For a very long time I turned my nose up at any mention of green tea. Then I became hooked. Trying every variety I could find in the supermarket and specialised tea shops. One of my favourites is a Japanese Lime Tea. Full of flavour, slightly smokey and very smooth to drink.



Recently there has been a move to incorporate a particular green tea into a greater range of culinary recipes.  Matcha - is the finest Japanese Green Tea Powder there is according to the web sites I have read. So I was delighted to find some available at Kim Wang Asian Grocery, 62-63, Grote Street, Adelaide. I am sure you will find this in any Asian Grocery store near you.

Matcha is made from tea plants which have been grown in the shade to allow a  slower growth and an increase in chlorophyll. Hence the amazing green colour. Although green tea is still widely drunk in Japan today, there has definitely been an increase in the use of this in cooking. I am not sure if this is a new phenomenon or a resurgence of something long past.

Since the early 2000's Matcha has appeared in coffee latte mixtures , milkshakes, cakes and ice cream and its popularity is due in part, to it's high anti-oxidant properties.

Today,  I am sharing with you a biscuit recipe using Matcha Green Tea Powder. I am making these as part of another photo shoot and wanted to use something that was bright green. I am unsure if the recipe will work with any other green tea powder, so you are on your own if you wish to experiment. But take my word for it, Matcha green is almost fluorescent and you may need your sun glasses to make them.

A reminder also that the powder sticks to everything and you may be surprised to find it in places you did not think possible.


 Biscuits with Matcha Green Tea Powder


Ingredients

240 g plain flour
15g Matcha Green tea Powder
150g butter softened
130g icing sugar
1/2tsp salt
2 egg yolks
100g unsalted pistatchio nuts


Weigh out the Green Tea Powder.


Sift the flour and the tea powder into a large clean bowl.
Cream butter and sugar together, adding the egg yolks one at a time and beating between each one.


Add flour into the mixture in two or three batches. Add nuts, mixing well to a stiff dough. 


Turn onto a board or bench top, roll up into two long sausage shapes, cover with cling film and place in the fridge for 2 hours to rest the dough and to make it a little firmer.


After 2 hours, take from the fridge, discard the plastic wrap. Cut into rounds about 2 centimetres thick. Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper.

Preheat your fan forced oven to 150º/300F and bake for 15 - 20 minutes until slightly brown.
Slide each one carefully onto a cake rack until cool. Store in an air tight container for a few days.
This recipe made 33 biscuits.