Friday, March 27, 2015

Things are much calmer now

We have really settled in beautifully. Lulah has assumed her position on top of her dad.

Banana has assumed his position on the most expensive piece of furniture we own, obviously!

And I have finally had some time in the kitchen. Friends of ours have just moved up from Auckland and something that makes this even more lovely is that they have a sweet chestnut tree in the garden. ( The one Lloyd and I planted at the farm didn't have time to give us even a single chestnut - so I hope the new owners like them!) I plundered their garden and within about 5 minutes had filled a carrier bag. I shared it with Simon and Ali and pretty much ate all my share at one sitting!
Sweet Chestnuts remind me of my childhood. Dad used to get them, boil them then roast them on a shovel over our coal fire. When they were done we tipped them onto newspaper on the floor, opened them ( burning our fingers!), sprinkled them with salt and scarfed them down. 

I couldn't quite replicate this, I just did them on the stove top in a pan! But they tasted almost as good. 

I've also attempted macarons again. I had lost the knack completely.  They still tasted lovely, but either cracked a bit, had no feet, were hollow, or all three!  I reckoned new house, new oven, give it a go again. First lot were fine; No cracks, but no feet. However they were blooming tasty. I made apple shells and filled them with blue cheese buttercream - do not knock this until you've tried it! And yeah, they had glitter on them.

Second batch I tried something completely new. I've always made them with the french recipe. This time I tried them by making an Italian meringue. Supposedly this is a more stable way of doing it. Meh! About half of them had feet and half of them were cracked. However there is one big difference - they are a much more fluffy texture inside - not hollow at all. Less sweet and very delicious. I'm definitely trying this way again, oven temp lower and let them dry out for a lot longer before putting in the oven. I'll keep you posted!

These were chocolate shells and strawberry buttercream filling. They were also lovely.

I've also been gardening! bahahahaa! It's a somewhat smaller scale here. I took white hydrangea cuttings and gardenia cuttings before we left the farm. I have plans to rip out some ugly ground cover stuff and put gardenias and some hibiscus down the side of the front garden. 

Finally,  woke up to this today. Whats not to love?

Friday, March 20, 2015

A new header, for a new start

Long time readers please bear with me while I work out what I'm going to do!
I don't want to start a whole new blog as I love this one, it's got history in the many, many pages I've written over the years. Ten years to be precise! So, I'm keeping the web address as it is. It just won't be about Our Wee Farm any more as the Wee Farm is no longer ours.

We settled today. Oddly it was quite bittersweet. I thought that once the money was in the bank I'd feel happy, relief that it had all gone smoothly, which of course, I do! But it just feels ...odd! Good, but odd. I had a major meltdown on Wednesday night when I drove down the lovely driveway for the last time. I reversed back, shone the headlights right onto Darroch Cottage and just howled.

But, on to new things.
There will still be baking.
There will still be a wee bit of gardening.
There will still be veggies (once I get my raised bed made)
There will be a lot of outside building work once that starts.

I hope you stick around to enjoy it with us.

As one of my friends just said "What a blast that was."  Wasn't it just.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Goodbye Our Wee Farm, hello Spindrift

Officially we don't leave the farm until next Friday, but over the last few weeks we have moved everything out. It was absolutely exhausting. We have done about 15 tip trips, donated a van load of stuff to charity, sold furniture and given some away. Moving from a farm with the equivalent of three houses to one smallish house is no mean feat. And we did it all ourselves. No moving company, no moving truck, just us and our wee trailer!

We have just moved into the new house and are simply loving it. Waking up to the view every morning, being close to all our friends - its amazing.  We still have to go back to the farm every couple of days to weed, mow and make sure everything is safe, but because the move has been so drawn out I haven't felt the sadness I thought I would. Perhaps we're simply too exhausted to feel much right now!

We worked very hard on the new house for a few weeks. We painted, ripped carpets out, laid a new floor, redid the kitchen and lots of other bits and bobs. It was all very good fun.

So prepare yourselves for lots of photos!!

Here's our new view - gorgeous.

This was the first day of work. The carpets were all lifted, then the underlay, then about a million staples were removed from the floor.

The kitchen floor had cork tiles which had been glued down with the strongest substance known to man. It took hours of hard work to get them completely off.

Once that was done it was cleaned and swept in readiness for the new bamboo flooring being laid.

While that was going on inside, a fence was being put around part of the garden outside. We've moved to an area where there are a lot of kiwis and we need to keep them safe from the dogs. So, fence it is! 

Here it is all finished. Nice wee gate leading down through the native bush to the reserve at the water. 

Kitchen being hauled out. The design was good, so we kept it, but got it all resprayed. We also extended the island part, put in a new sink etc and new worktops.

By this stage it was all looking rather chaotic! But very surprisingly none of it was stressful at all.

We'd taken off all the skirting boards so that we could lay the new floor properly. I had to paint 120m worth of new skirting. It took a long time! We also repainted the whole inside of the house and new flooring in the bathroom.

The bamboo flooring had been held up, but finally arrived a couple of days late. This guy was a total star. This stuff weighed 1.5 tonnes!

We laid the whole floor over 2 days. We had a bit of hassle with the edging trim. When it arrived in NZ MAF found some weevils in the packaging, so the whole shipment had to be destroyed. Which was somewhat of a nightmare for us! But the company were able to send us up enough wee bits so that we could insert them where we needed so at least we had the right measurements to work from.  Lloyd and Ali look like they're praying to the floor gods for inspiration!

The bamboo flooring looking like it's almost finished.

The kitchen arrived back all beautifully painted. A new glass splash back was put in. New cooker and dishwasher. And this amazing new light!

 No idea why Lulah is tired - it's not like she helped or anything!

We look at this most evenings.

 So now we are in, and the inside is finished. We are waiting for the plans for the outside work to be approved by council. Once that's done that work will start. It's a biggie, but we're not doing this ourselves!!

We LOVE it more that we thought we could in such a short time. I think we've never been so bone tired in our lives. ( this might have something to do with the fact that we're sleeping on a mattress on the floor!)

More later!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Lloyd's mum and dad are here.

We have been enjoying the most amazing weather since they arrived, which somehow always makes things even more lovely.

Been doing a lot of exploring, wandering around and eating!

Lloyd, Alan and Penny up at Mangonui. A big favourite.

At Marsden Estate and Winery

 The view down Kerikeri inlet, Lloyd and Penny were off to do a 10km hike up to Rainbow Falls. Alan and I did not :)

A stunning trip out to the Hokianga - one of my favourite places in the world. The Copthorne did us proud, as usual.

There's been a bit of Whisky tasting...

And even I have had a drink!

Tomorrow we take possession of our new house! There is a lot to do over the next few weeks, lift all the carpets, paint the whole house, lay a new floor and re-do the whole kitchen. It's going to be a very, very busy time!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Well hello!

Big news Our Wee Farm has sold. So much for the "It'll probably take a year".   It sold  last month - in 6 weeks to be precise! We were, or perhaps I should say, I, was very surprised, and initially not at all ready!
But I've had time to get used to the idea now and am getting very excited.  The good thing is that we have bits and bobs to do to the new place so Lloyd and I have been making lists and organising painters, kitchen people, flooring and all sorts, and really can't wait now that it's all happening.

It will be the end of an era for us, but I reckon my back will be thankful for the lack of mowing to be done at the new house.

The people who have bought it are lovely. If we could have chosen the perfect people we would have chosen them. Also they didn't want to move in until towards the end of March which is perfect. We've got to spend a last Christmas and summer here. 

The timing is also perfect for us to get some of the big inside work done on the new house before we properly move in, which should make things a lot easier. 

That's all for now! But I will definitely keep this place going, and make an attempt to get back into the swing of it all. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Gigantic birthday cakes...

I think this is the longest break I've ever taken from writing. There's no excuse and no reason, it's just sort of happened!
We are super busy right now. Our Wee Farm is up for sale. It went on the market 2 weeks ago. So far we've only had one viewing. It's just a waiting game - a waiting game where I feel that everything has to be immaculate all the time!

We had a long holiday in Rarotonga in September. It was absolutely wonderful, despite being incredibly sick for a few days near the beginning.

Here's a few holiday pics...

We spent hours in the water.

Hours on the beach...

and on the last day got a tattoo...

Last week it was Lloyd's birthday. We were invited over to NandS for a wee party with a few other friends. I made a birthday cake. Lloyd's only stipulation was could it please be an orange cake. So I ended up making the biggest orange cake in existence.

Here it is! It's always a bit nerve racking when you make a big cake like this, because you don't really get to taste it before!

I made TWO Sicilian Orange cakes ( so double these ingredients)

250 g lightly salted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
250 g caster sugar
4 medium eggs
1 1/2 tsp finely grated orange zest
250 g self raising flour (i used plain flour and add 1 tsp of baking powder) 
85 ml freshly squeezed orange juice

Preheat the oven to 170C. Grease and line a 22-cm clip-sided round cake with non-stick baking paper.

Using the kitchen aid, cream the butter and sugar together for 4-5 minutes until very pale. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating very well between each one, if necessary adding a spoonful of flour with the last egg to prevent the mixture from curdling. Beat in the orange zest. Add the flour all at once and mix in well, then slowly mix in the orange juice.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer, inserted into the centre of the cake, comes out clean. If it starts to brown too quickly, cover loosely with a sheet of lightly buttered foil.

Leave the cake, in its tin, to cool on a wire rack, then carefully remove the sides and base of the tin and peel off the paper. Put it onto a serving plate.

I used a lot more orange zest - than the recipe cos we wanted it really orangy.  I mixed up a batch of buttercream ( adding in a little orange oil) then I put some marmalade and a bit of buttercream in the middle of the 2 cakes to form the sandwich. Then I covered the whole ( huge) cake in a thin layer of buttercream to seal it and keep it from getting crumbs in the main buttercream topping. I let this chill for a wee while then set to work covering the cake in buttercream roses. I only got half of one layer done when I ran out of buttercream. I ended up having to make 3 batches. There was almost a kilo of buttercream on the cake!!!

After that I decorated it with hand made fondant flowers.  Not totally manly, but very spring like!

I have to say, it was the most lovely, moist cake ever, so this is a recipe I will definitely use again.

A birthday snap - and see how huge the cake is!

We were also lucky enough to be invited to the World of Wearable Art down in Wellington, buy Lloyd's work. It was mind blowingly good and we loved every second of it. 

This is a fraction of what we've been up to!

Oh and if anyone wants a nosey, here's the link to the advert for the wee farm...

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!