The Autumn weather has been delicious – a balmy 25 most days with cool mornings and evenings and perfect sleeping weather! As the builders are about to start on the renovation I am relishing my last few mornings when I can sleep in past 7 am!! The fire season is now open too so we are enjoying a few bonfires in the back garden with plenty of fuel as we burn all the clippings from the pruning of our trees and roses ahead of winter. The trees are all turning orange and red and my walks with Bailey are a little brisker as the temperature falls.
Such a pretty time of year….
As lots of you know, I love cooking. As my family knows, I tend to nurture people with food. If someone is under the weather, a bit poorly, or celebrating a birthday, promotion or just about anything I will respond with food of some sort or another. As an English lass my repertoire of comfort foods knows no end. A home made pie with golden flaky pastry, a roast dinner with rich dark gravy and an alarmingly nostalgic array of yummy puddings – treacle sponge pudding, baked rice pudding, sticky date pudding, apple pie or lemon tart. Any of these and I am a happy camper. A warming home made soup full of veggies or beans and lentils with some local sourdough bread from the bakery and spread with lashings of local butter is the perfect winter lunch or supper perched on our laps in front of the fire.
I also absolutely love cakes. Biscuits, ice cream, chocolate and sweets can stay lurking in my pantry uneaten for months but a good cake is destined to be eaten in my house. Just the smell of them baking in the oven fills the house with love and when I know people are coming to stay I try to have something for them to have with a cuppa on arrival. I have a vast library of cook books which I devour like novels, nothing makes me happier on a windy cold afternoon than flicking through my books and picking a recipe to whip up for afternoon tea. Now I am in the country this seems more appropriate than ever however we are trying not to feed our sweet tooth too much and are now mindful of how much sugar passes our lips, so all in all a cake is an increasingly rare thing of beauty.
My Mum who is a great cook used to make a fantastic coffee and walnut cake which to this day is right up there in my top 3. She also made a great Victoria Sandwich. This is a sponge traditionally filled with jam and fresh cream and topped off with a dusting of icing sugar. It is not however one of those airy fairy sponges that we see in Aussie cake shops, it has a fair bit of butter in it which helps it keep for longer and it is truly delicious. In my goal of becoming a true country cook I thought it was time to drag out the Red Baron and whip one up. (If I ever want to be a true country cook I better be able to master a sponge of some sort -and don’t get me started on scones….). I have only used my new toy about 3 times and so far I am not convinced it works any better than my trusty old hand held whisk. This time was no different. My sponge ended up looking rather curdled and overcooked which was a great disappointment. It still tasted nice but no cigar for this little country cook. I must Google which attachment I am supposed to use with the kitchenaid mixer as I presumed it was the whisk but maybe it’s not? Maybe I also should have used smaller tins. This is a challenge I will continue to take on until I have a Victoria Sandwich as good as Mum used to make! In the meantime there are hundreds of other cakes just waiting to be made in my kitchen in The Meadow…….
The real deal compared to my rather pathetic effort….
The veggie patch is back in action with the garlic and onions being planted last weekend. It is rewarding to replant our own beautiful garlic from last year, it was a great batch so hopefully the genes are strong and will yield another gorgeous crop. The marigolds are puddles of orange and yellow sunshine in the patch, making it a happy place to hang out in. Our little seedlings of broccoli, cabbage, caulis and brussels have been attacked by some sort of caterpillar – I suspect the cabbage moth – and I am forever out there checking the underside of the leaves for the offenders. The chooks fight over them when I throw them into the pen – I doubt if they even touch the sides of their throats they eat them so fast!
Cam and I have been trying to offset the gains of the past 6 months of eating and drinking with all our weekend visitors by employing the 5:2 approach to eating. As we are both hopeless at giving up the good life and don’t want to give up complete food groups (not to mention alcohol) we thought we would give this a go. Our friends swear by it for keeping a lid on weight gain and if you are good-ish for the rest of the week you can easily lose more weight. So for 2 days a week we fast. This is not as I expected, you can in fact have about 500 calories, which is enough to keep the wolf from the door and although you do feel hungry is that really such a bad thing? The moment we feel peckish on a normal day we invariably eat so the body never really goes without for any length of time and it is for this very reason that this eating plan works. It tricks your body’s metabolism into using fat stores but never gets really used to the reduced calories as the next day you eat normally again!The afternoons are long on a fast day but if you keep busy it helps and the prospect of being able to eat normally the next day keeps you strong. Pancakes for brekky or pie for lunch are all possible the next day to reward you for your abstinence. Plus the bod is already beginning to look a bit better in the jeans – win win!!!
Miss Bailey attended training for round 2 and was actually quite accepting of the dreaded halti. My little bum bag full of doggy treats was definitely more closely watched this week, she can put 2 and 2 together quicker than most – in a way it made things harder. She has always learned new things with praise as her reward and now I’m not sure if it’s the food doing the talking or if she has genuinely learnt something new. Now we’ve been told to encourage her using a tugging toy as a reward for good behaviour and as something WE bring to her rather than the other way around. She has always loved playing with them by herself as well as with us so I’m not sure how I feel about withholding it from her now. Guess they have to train the owners as well as the dogs in this class…..
One of the bonus’s of the class is it’s location. Held in the Nowra Showground above the beautiful Shoalhaven River it is quite beautiful to behold as the sun goes down. The dogs are already getting used to each other and seem to know they’re not allowed to play until the end of the class. At the moment the border collies rule due to their dominance in numbers and have formed a little clique of their own. Luckily one of them, Dougal, lives in our lane and Bailey has been granted visitor access to their elite club…….
In what has been an exhausting week of decision making re the renovations and disciplining the hound, trying to keep the garden alive throughout 60km winds and starving myself in the name of vanity this little gem seems highly appropriate! !