Tuesday, August 05, 2014


Lloyd and I like brioche. Well, actually, it would be fair to say, I love it. I've never once seen it to buy up here so that means we never have it. In Glasgow we used to have it with home made chicken liver pate.

A couple of days ago we were watching Dean Brettschneider's baking programme and he made some Pain aux raisin. I reckoned I should turn my hand to giving brioche a go. So I used Paul Hollywood's recipe cos he is the bread god as far as I'm concerned. 

It's not difficult - just follow the steps.

- 500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
- 7g salt
- 50g caster sugar
- 10g instant yeast
- 140ml warm full-fat milk
- 5 medium eggs
- 250g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing

1. Put the flour into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the salt and sugar to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other. Add the milk and eggs and mix on a slow speed for 2 minutes, then on a medium speed for a further 6 – 8 minutes, until you have a soft, glossy, elastic dough. Add the softened butter and continue to mix for a further 4 – 5 minutes, scraping down the bowl periodically to ensure that the butter is thoroughly incorporated. The dough will be very soft.
2. Tip the dough into a plastic bowl, ( I only had a china one) cover and chill overnight or for at least 7 hours, until it is firmed up and you are able to shape it.
3. Grease a 25cm round deep cake tin.
4. Take your brioche dough from the fridge. Tip it onto a lightly floured surface and fold it on itself a few times to knock out the air. Divide it into 9 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a smooth ball by placing it into a cage formed by your hand and the table and moving your hand around in a circular motion, rotating the ball rapidly. Put the 8 balls of dough around the outside of the tin and the final one in the middle.
5. Cover with the clean plastic bag and leave to prove for 2 – 3 hours, or until the dough has risen to just above the rim of the tin.
6. Heat your oven to 190°C.
7. When your brioche is proved, bake for 20 – 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Bear in mind that the sugar and butter in the dough will make it take on colour before it is actually fully baked. Remove the brioche from the tin and cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.  *I found that the top of mine was going to go too brown for my taste, but the loaf wasn't properly cooked, so I put some tinfoil over the top to stop it from browning too much*
My biggest problem was where to prove the loaf. It's the middle of winter here, we don't have central heating and today the house is freezing After about 2 hours nothing much had happened. Then I had a brainwave - prove the bread in the greenhouse! Man, that worked a treat. 

While it was baking the house smelled amazing. 


So tonight we are having home made chicken liver pate, on brioche for perhaps the first time since we moved to New Zealand.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I have got some MAJOR news.

Lloyd and I have bought a new house!

It's still in this area, but it's over by the sea. It's got a very small actual garden, but has some lovely native bush with a bush walk right down to the water, with amazing views over the Bay.

We have plans for it - well, it wouldn't be us if we didn't!
It's a totally different style to Darroch Cottage. It's more modern and open plan with a lot of glass. It's not huge, though, so we will extend it a bit. New flooring, kitchen changes, bathroom cosmetics! bigger deck, fence the garden so that the dogs are safe and secure ( not that they are ever out without us anyway!). I'll probably put in a greenhouse - still want to grow our veggies! 

However, Our Wee Farm isn't even on the market yet, we're just not quite ready, so the actual move to the coast is quite a bit away. 

It's hard to explain why we want to move. I suppose it's a whole lot of different things. We want to travel more, or at least not have the ties, so that it's easier to get away when we want to. At the moment it's a huge feat of organisation to even go away for a long weekend! I know that in the not too distant future I'll tire of the vast amount of work keeping a farm and a huge garden under control and looking like I want it to look, in the sub tropics, where there is no rest season!  I want to leave loving this place. 

We've arrived here almost 10 years ago knowing nothing about having a garden, let alone running a small farm and we managed to create a beautiful place, but soon it'll be time for a change. We want to be near the water. 
We want to be closer to our friends. We spend a lot of time with each other so it will be lovely to be within walking distance rather than over an hour round trip in the car. Lloyd only has a couple of years left on his contract, and even though he'll most likely stay, he has ideas of what he'd like to do and this may involve a bit of travelling around the country. I'm all for this, but it's impossible if we live on a farm!

I know when the time comes for the move, and the day I drive down the drive for the last time my heart will break a little. And I know that I will never want to even drive past this lovely place and it not be ours.
I will miss our wonderful neighbours.

But for now, and perhaps the next year (or more!) this is still our wee piece of paradise and we will love it as we have done for the last ten years. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Scrummy Chocolate Cupcakes with Ganache

I've made these a few times now and they really are delicious if you like chocolate. I'm not a huge fan, but Lloyd likes it.
I have to say, though, I think these are pretty nice.

This recipe  makes 24. I half it and make 12. Also recipe states 3/4 fill cases. I only half fill them as they really expand.

65 g unsweetened cocoa powder
190 g flour
 300 g sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
180 ml warm water
 180 ml buttermilk  (If you don't have buttermilk, get the amount you need in ordinary milk and add lemon juice. Leave for about 10 minutes)
3 Tbls sunflower oil (I used olive oil)
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 175C. Line 2 cupcake tins with liners and set aside. 

Sift together cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla, and mix until smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to ensure batter is well mixed.

Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full. Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 20 minutes, rotating pan once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.

Makes about 2 dozen. 

Simple Chocolate Ganache
170 g Good quality chocolate, shaved or chopped into small pieces
160 ml cream
1 tsp corn syrup ( I used golden syrup)

Place the chocolate in a medium bowl and set aside.

Heat the cream and corn syrup on the stove until simmering, then pour over the chocolate. Let stand 5 minutes and stir gently to combine. 


Spoon warm ganache over cooled cupcakes and top with a sprinkling of chopped pistachios and royal icing roses, if desired. And yes, I made the roses!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

major storms, flooding and general mayhem!

We have just come out the other side of 4 days of complete chaos as regards the weather. Northland does get wet and we have a lot of flooding, but usually the severest of weather is over in a day, so it's not a long term thing. But this time we had around 4 days of the worst weather we have ever had in the 10 years we've lived here. In the two main days of rain almost half a metre fell - yep - over our wee area we had 450mm of rain. This is off the scale! The was paired with hurricane force gusts of wind. Lloyd seriously thought all the windows in our wee cottage were going to blow in at one point.

This is what we've just been through. If you can see the outline of NZ's north island we are in the reddest bit with the lines almost touching!

Now that it's over and we have wandered around it's amazing how little damage we've suffered. There are a few trees down and absolutely everything is waterlogged. The driveway down to The Acorn is trashed, there's mud everywhere, and we had no power for all of 6 hours, but it's tiny in comparison to what others are going through. Some were without power for 3 days, lots have been evacuated from their homes because of flooding. Roads have literally disappeared because of landslips. State Highway 1, pretty much our only way south had large areas of it underwater. It will be ages until it's repaired.

The weather is an amazing thing.

During the storm - this was how we roll during a power cut! If the electricity does go off we have no water either as it's all done by a pump.

Lloyd cooking dinner with a headtorch on! Over our wood range.

Our ponytail palm lost his head!

Trees down all over the place!

 I took these yesterday, once the rain had stopped,  on our drive from home into Kerikeri. It was early morning and the mist was just burning off, it turned into a beautiful day. ( there is a difference between iphone pics and good camera pics!!)

All the reflections are in flood water. There are farms underneath.

We had to drive through this to get into town, but we had the trusty old jeep.

We saw the farmer inspecting this, and he waved and smiled - still smiling!

Now, I didn't take the following photos and it's proving impossible for me to find who did to credit them, but here are some photos of what it looks like. It should also be pointed out that these roads aren't back roads - this is State Highway 1! Our main road to basically anywhere!

The emergency services, electricity linesmen/women, ordinary folk...pretty much everyone has been amazing. Let the clean up begin!

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Garden Share Collective - July

I can take an ok photograph, but I most certainly cannot do a video!
I wanted to do a quick film of the garden cos there's really nothing happening just now, but it was raining, and I don't really know how to work the video part of my camera.
The result is this.
Possibly the worst video in the world.

Hope it gives you a laugh, if nothing else!

please look at the much better Garden Shares for this month! All the links!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Lemon Curd then Lemon Roulade

Lloyd and I were down in Auckland this weekend. Him to do some paragliding with Simon and then meeting me so that we could all go and see Jane Goodall speak.  What in inspiration she is.

Lloyd had gone down a few days earlier than me, I aminal sat, then took the bus down on Monday. He'd had a wee bit of time to kill before my bus arrived, so he got his car cleaned and also bought me a surprise. I have been lusting after these for about a year...

Yes, a huge glass mixing bowl and a beater that will scrape down the sides of the bowl. He is the best husband.

I thought I'd use them for the first time today. I'm going to make a Lemon Roulade. Last time I made one of these I was in a rush and bought some lemon curd for the filling. What a mistake that was. I bought a very good, expensive brand, but it just tasted so fake and wrong. Today I won't make that mistake, so I started off by making lemon curd. Then I realised that I've never posted the recipe I use. So I'm going to rectify that now.

Lemon Curd
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup finely grated, loosely packed lemon zest (from about 5 to 6 medium lemons)
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 3 to 4 lemons)
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine salt
  • 85g unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces, at room temperature


Fill a medium saucepan with 1 to 2 inches of water and bring it to a simmer over high heat; reduce the heat to low and keep the water at a bare simmer.

Place all of the ingredients except the butter in a large heatproof bowl and whisk to combine. Set the bowl over, but not touching, the simmering water and whisk constantly until the yolks thicken and the mixture forms ribbons when the whisk is lifted from the bowl, about 20 minutes. This happens a lot faster for some people so just let it cook for the time that works for you

Remove the bowl from the simmering water; whisk in the butter one piece at a time, waiting until each piece is completely melted and incorporated before adding another.  

Set a fine-mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Strain the curd, pressing on the solids and scraping the extra curd clinging to the underside of the strainer into the bowl; discard the solids left in the strainer.

Then put into a sterilised jar and bung in the fridge. 
The result is a very lemony, very smooth lemon curd.


Lemon Roulade
1 teaspoon cornflour
1    "          vanilla extract
1    "          white wine vinegar
4 egg whites
150g caster sugar
75g ground almonds
40g flaked almonds

For the filling
300g of lemon curd ( that you've just made, of course!) 
175ml cream

Preheat the oven to 150c fan, 170c non fan. Line a 24cmx34cm (or thereabouts) baking tray with baking paper.

Whisk egg whites until they form stiff peaks
Gradually add the sugar and whisk well between each addition
Then gently fold in the cornflour and add the white wine vinegar and vanilla extract.  Fold in the ground almonds then gently spread the meringue onto the lined tray and sprinkle with flaked almonds.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. It should be pale golden and slightly springy to touch. Remove from oven and let cool.

Slightly more silky now that the sugar has been added

Adding the ground almonds

Folding them in, gently

Smoothed out meringue topped with almonds

Whip the cream.

Then remove the meringue from  the baking tray. To do this place a clean tea towel on the work surface then tip the meringue out - almond side down, and peel away the baking paper.

Spread the lemon curd, then cream onto the meringue, then roll it towards you to form a roll.

The baked meringue

Home made lemon curd spread all over it. 

Next - the cream!

All rolled up - this is simple if you remember to use a tea towel and roll it up towards you. 


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Garden Share Collective ~ June

It's almost June already? How on earth did that happen?

So, there's not a whole lot going on in my garden just now.
Here's what there is...

The broad beans are growing incredibly fast. They've only been in for 6 weeks. Can't wait to get some beans - yummy.

My sweetpeas are coming along nicely. I'm hoping for some beautiful flowers this spring.

The lavender is flowering and is attracting lovely bees to the veggie garden. I just planted it in there this summer. I really like having flowers in the veggie garden.

And the bumper avocado crop. I am SO excited about this. Even more exciting is that there is a new market starting up in the town near us. We're hoping that we can sell a mixture of things - like Lloyds Chilli Sauce (he booked a day in a commercial kitchen last week and made about 12 litres), his book, and perhaps some avocados.

The globe artichokes are on to their 4th crop! each time we hack them down to ground level they zoom right up again and produce more! Amazing.

I don't think I've posted about our lemongrass before? well, it got a bit dried out and meh last year, so I hacked it right back to ground level  ( i seem to have been doing a lot of ground level hacking!) and cleared out the dead and dry bits. Gave it a bit of a feed with alpaca poop and voilá, lovely lemongrass again. We use it a lot in the kitchen. Often just using it as a skewer for chicken - the flavour is amazing.

Greenhouse tomatoes still producing well. One of the sub arctic plenty plants from last year is still producing. I gave it a good prune and lots of feeding. I've never had a tomato go on for so long.

Citrus season is in full swing. Which means lots of baking of lovely lemony things!

Olives - another thing I've never mentioned before! We had a wee cottage put on the farm a good few years ago, now. We use it for friends and family when they come to stay, but it's also rented out as a holiday let. We planted the garden from scratch at the time. Not having a lot of money, we pretty much bought trees that were on special! Some turned out beautifully and some not so well. Not that they were horrible or anything but one was a silk oak, that grew to over 30m in about 4 years. It sadly, had to come down as it was simply in the wrong place.  Having volcanic soil here,  everything just grows so fast. We did, however, plant a olive tree. It is laden. The branches are bending with the weight of the fruit, but unfortunately we have no idea what kind of olives they are. We're guessing they're for pressing as they are small. Can anyone help with the identification??

and finally...lovely autumn Acers.

So, that's it from me this month. 
Please go and have a look at all the other amazing gardens in the Garden Share Collective. This is the brain child of Lizzie from Strayed from the Table