Sunday, June 28, 2009

Wholemeal Apple and Native Raspberry Streusel Cake

By request of the Sensible Vermonter.

125g butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 cups wholemeal self-raising flour
1/2 cup milk
1 Granny Smith apple
a few native raspberries
left-over crumble mixture from the back of the fridge

Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F).
Grease and flour a deep cake pan (20cm/8 in across).
Cream butter, sugar and vanilla.
Beat in eggs one at a time.
Beat in flour alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour.
Beat mixture for one minute (or 30 strokes with a wooden spoon).
Peel, quarter, then core apple. Cut each quarter into 4 thin slices.
Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.
Push slices of apple into cake to create an attractive pattern. Do the same with the raspberries, but lightly and gently.
Sprinkle cake with crumble mixture.
Allow children to lick beaters, spoon and bowl.
Or maybe not.
Bake cake 50 mins, but test for doneness with a skewer.
Stand for 5 minutes before turning out.
Turn it out onto a rack somewhere where you can easily collect the bits of crumble that fall off, either to replace or eat yourself.

While this cake is my own invention, it is derived from the "Basic Plain Cake" recipe in The Commonsense Cookery Book, which has a number of variations, including one topped with apple slices and cinnamon sugar. You could top the cake with any other quick-cooking fruit, such as blueberries.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Native Raspberry

Here are some pictures from my Native Raspberry, probably Rubus probus.

There are a number of native species. They are surprisingly varied in leaf shape, flower colour, fruit colour and thorniness. Mine has few thorns, but some species are quite spiny.

The berries are not as strongly-flavoured as domesticated raspberries, and have a great many minuscule seeds. I have collected a handful of ripe fruit today and made a wholemeal apple and raspberry streusel cake. Any excuse for cake!

The boys liked the raspberries especially and I don't expect to get any more ripe ones intact to the kitchen.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Drive in the Country

We went on a trip yesterday to Luddenham to pick up a friend for Annie, after Penny's death two weeks ago. Penny was six years old, which I understand is a reasonable age for an Isa Brown, and once the weather turned cold she grew old very quickly.

From our place, it's less than an hour to Barter's Hatchery (not to be confused with Bartter's, now part of Steggles -- their chooks come cooked!). Annie's new friend is a lovely Rhode Island Red at point of lay, about 19 weeks old. We have not named her yet.

The Barters man told me that the fashion for chooks means they have had trouble keeping up with demand -- isn't it lovely that people are rediscovering the joy of chook-keeping! Of course, this isn't without its problems. I was told of a disgruntled customer who turned up the day after he'd purchased a dozen day-olds. They'd all died overnight and he wanted his money back. Being the type who won't be told anything (they'd tried!), he'd put the chicks in an area with a concrete floor and no heating.

We bought some strawberries in Wallacia (oh, the fragrance!) and had lunch at a takeaway there. Of course you can't leave a chook in a car for too long, so we had the box on the ground next to us. The chook, distressed by the change in her situation, sounded the alarm frequently -- you can imagine the looks and comments from passers-by, and our responses!

"Yep, we like our lunch really fresh!"

"Doesn't everyone take their chicken out to lunch?"

As we were only 7km away, we decided to take the Silverdale Road to Warragamba Dam. The new visitor's centre is yet to be opened (it was burnt down in 2001) and the dam is still closed while works continue on the original spillways. I'm sorry to say that the new spillway, while certainly necessary, has spoilt the look of the dam, which was previously elegantly symmetrical. The new spillway is to one side and almost as broad as the original dam wall.

We drove back to the motorway on Mulgoa Road, stopping at the Glenmore Nursery for low-grade hay at $8/bale. We don't need high-quality hay for animal bedding. Generally, we use our own dry lawn clippings, but the combination of rain and cold weather makes this an impossibility. I would have loved to have a better look at the nursery, but it really was time to take our new friend home.

Our drive took us across a picturesque part of Sydney, part of our remaining rural belt. You can see market gardens, battery farms, cows, sheep, goats, and horses. This is the world of five-acre blocks. Unfortunately, some of them consist of an ostentatious house and a five-acre lawn -- what a dreadful waste of good garden or farm space! I do wonder what prompts people to buy a large block of land and not do anything with it. I think our well-used fifth of an acre gives us plenty of work, relaxation, beauty and produce.

If you are travelling in the area yourself, these websites may be useful:

Monday, June 15, 2009

Bird-Watching at Homebush Bay

I love the big skies here -- one of the advantages of living on the edge of the Cumberland Plain. Would you guess you're in the geographic centre of a city of four million people?

Serious, stay-in-a-hide-for-days bird-watching is not on the agenda for us, with two young boys. But nonetheless, we can wander to a bike track a few kilometres away and pop into the bird-hide at the Sydney Olympic Park Bird Refuge. The Geek took both these photos from the hide.

Black-Winged Stilts and Pacific Black Ducks (I think -- a common species, anyway) feeding on the mudflats. In the summer, this area is host to migratory species from Siberia and Central Asia. More details here.

The Great Pea Experiment

After several years of failure with peas, as mentioned in my last post, I've decided to try a proper experiment.

I have planted a 2m strip with peas -- and with slightly more thought than usual. Peas don't like well-manured soil, so I've made sure to plant them in an area which has not been used recently by the chooks -- it's probably had about 6-8 weeks lying fallow, and two weeks of rain. Half the drill was sprinkled with lime immediately before planting, and half was not. Normally, I would lime the beds on the surface.

I am wondering if the lime will prevent the peas being eaten by the little creatures I usually find eating them, or if something else is going wrong.