Bear the Beautiful

Family. Friends. Familiarity. Fond memories from recipes passed among us. How often do you recall the person or people who introduced you to that relish or that dessert?

I knew a lady named Bear. Ironically, she was the nicest, gentlest, most refined woman you could ever hope to meet, not a great hairy bear-type lady. Every outfit was coordinated from the jewels to the shoes. I used to think, “I hope I’m that together when I’m 88!”

Bear had a personal relationship with her hairdresser that lasted more than 20 years. This relationship was so strong that in her final months the hairdresser made regular weekly appointments with Bear at home and later in the hospital. She even attended her funeral as a treasured friend. An accomplished musician and a dedicated mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, Bear really was a beautiful person. 

Bear’s daughter is a dear friend of mine. We met at work and now have kids the same age. As most mums do we shared recipes. In my recipe book at home, you know the one with scribbled recipes you’ve seen on a tv cooking show or the page you’ve torn out of the magazine from the doctor’s surgery . . . oh don’t judge, you’ve all done it!

I have this one called Bear’s Hedgehog. It’s easy, failproof, adaptable. #kidsloveit  #mumoftheyear

I’ve shared this recipe below, feel free to add your favourite little extras.  When I stick to the recipe I consider it a ‘tribute’ to a lady that I think fondly of every time I make this for my kids.

Thanks Bear, xx

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Dust off the salad spinner . . . it's Springtime

 Don’t you just love this time of year? Winter is trying to hold on and spring is busting to burst. The slow-cooked roasts, casseroles, soups and stews are slowly phased out for another year, replaced with stir-fries, marinated chicken, pulses, the occasional salad and dare I even suggest ... a BBQ!  OK, be patient. . .

I love measuring the change of season by which pot and serving dish I reach for – the heavy-based pan is pushed aside for the stove-top grill. And I want more colour on the table so out comes the terracotta and my favourite ceramics. As the weather changes I remember that I can cook with herbs other than rosemary, thyme and parsley, and that it doesn’t take 2 hours to prep and serve dinner. It’s exciting to plant a fresh batch of salad herbs and pick up some free produce on the side of the road because your neighbour’s tree is struggling under that massive load of lemony goodness!

At this time of year our family looks forward to a bit more fun with our meals. The kids like to make pea, prosciutto and Parmesan risotto, and dinner served on a skewer is always more fun than something mashed. My daughter taught herself to make pasta for a school project and it was great fun making it red, green and black! The fact that we love to put berries on anything encourages a few extra smiles from breakfast to dinner. 

Dining outside becomes an option again, it’s usually served on a tray somewhere in the garden so we can stand back and admire our hard work. It takes a solid month of weekends to get the garden beds and vegie patch back up to par, ready for the onslaught that is late spring/summer when cooking morphs again into something that happens quickly, freshly and outside in the shade around the BBQ.

So for now, enjoy springtime. Colour in the garden, on the table and on our plates. We’ve survived another Macedon Ranges winter. Don’t get me wrong – I love winter! But I’m dusting off the griddle and the salad spinner because cooking is fun again!

Love Slow Cooking

In our house, winter is a pretty busy time. Weekends are full of sporting events being played or watched and the outdoor BBQ goes into hibernation.  We dig out the large stewpot, stockpot and covered roasting dish that got pushed to the back of the cupboard while it was summer salad season.

Excitement builds during the week when I've found a fantastic cut of meat and start to plan a cosy Saturday night in with family.  The colder weather encourages us to reach for cookbooks with titles like "Warm" and "The Curry Bible" (both equal favourites in our house).

Saturday morning arrives and there's more activity than usual.  The oven is set low, low, low.  The delicious combination of spices, sauces and seasoning get massaged into that awesome cut of meat and then it's placed on a cosy bed of fresh herbs.  Into the oven it goes and we race out the door to stand in the freezing cold with nothing to keep us warm but a tiny cup of coffee in our hand.

As the day goes by, we've crammed in three games of sport in two different locations, an excessive amount of cheering, a trip to the hardware in preparation for Sunday's jobs and caught up with friends for a coffee.  Finally we get home, muddy and wet clothes are dumped in a pile in the laundry and we race to turn on the heater but the best bit of all is the smell!  The delicious mouth-watering smell that gives you a warm cuddle when you walk in.  Cold noses, tired bodies, aching muscles all seem to disappear because we are all now looking forward to sitting down together, laughing about the day and enjoying a wonderful meal that has been slow cooking all day. I  Love Slow Cooking.

 

A story about my Mum

A little over ten years ago Mum 'retired' from Primary Teaching.  She was an awesome teacher - her classrooms were always so bright and colourful.  I can remember going to visit her classroom one day and there was a tree (constructed out of cardboard and crepe paper) growing out of the floor with branches extending to every corner of the room - the kids loved it. I loved it!

When Mum was ready to walk away from teaching I thought this may be the time when she slowed down a little, took up a hobby, went on an extended holiday? After 6 months of doing every possible craft/painting class available, and volunteering for anything and everything she went back to work!  She had been offered an amazing job, she's had that job for the last 10 years and done it with incredible energy, enthusiasm and stamina.  At an age when her friends were enjoying a quieter life - my Mum ramped things up tenfold! 

As a Mum, I want to be a role model for my children.  Teach them right and wrong and encourage them to live a good life.  So now that I am forty-something (no need for the finer details), I'm extremely grateful that I still have an incredible role model.  One day Mum may actually retire - for real!  Until then, she continues to set a beautiful example for me, my siblings and my children.

Love you Mum xxx

A New Year brings new enthusiasm . . .

Welcome to 2016!  2015 was a brilliant year and one that I will never forget.  The support and encouragement from the people of the Macedon Ranges has been outstanding and I feel very fortunate to be here.

So lets get enthusiastic about new projects, new skills and new tools in the kitchen.  This year I will be introducing a new project or topic each month - something that will hopefully give you the encouragement to try something new.  Something you thought may have been too hard or take too much time. 

Our first project for 2016 is "Summer Fruits".  We are very lucky to be surrounded be gorgeous fruits and most of us have a crop or two bursting in our backyard.  If you have ever been to the Kyneton Show or the monthly Farmer's Markets you know we have some local people who make some beautiful jams, preserves, cordials, chutneys and sauces.

If you want to give it a go, here are the tools you need.

Tools:

// Pot or Maslin Pan - a large heavy duty pot with a pouring spout and helper handle to help you lift it.

// Thermometers - reaching the right temperature will ensure your jams and sauces will set.

// Muslin Cloth - for smooth and clear jellies and jams. Muslin Cloth comes in a variety of sizes, it is inexpensive and can be washed and reused.

// Jars or Bottles - make sure they are good quality - you don't want to go through the whole process only to be let down in the end.

// Small jug and/or funnel - to make bottling easier and if the jug has measurements it will allow your jars to be filled consistently.

 

Nicole Carracher is amazing, she has a huge library of jam, chutney and pickle recipes many of which she has entered into the local country shows and won!  I think she's an expert so I asked her to share one of her favourite recipes.

Nicole's Favourite Plum Jam:  Plums are everywhere at the moment, so give this a go:

Ingredients:

// 2 kg of fruit - washed, chopped and pips removed

// 250ml of water

// juice of 3 medium lemons

// 1.5 kg of white sugar

Method:

Add fruit and water to a large pot - you have to add other ingredients to the pot so give yourself plenty of room.  Bring the pot to the boil, and stir regularly to ensure it doesn't stick - approx. 10 mins.

Place washed jars on a tray and into a hot oven to sterilise and place jar lids in a pot of water and bring to boil.

Add sugar and lemon, again stir regularly - it is important to keep stirring often to ensure the jam doesn't stick to the bottom and burn. Cooking time will be approx. 1 hour - this will vary batch to batch, year to year depending on the size of the fruit and how sweet they are.  Use Nic's Tips below to check if it is setting and adjust your cooking time accordingly.

Get hot jars out of the oven, lay out hot lids on paper towel close by, remove your pot from the heat and let them both sit for 5 minutes.

Scoop hot jam out the pot with a small jug and pour into hot jars - Nic's Tip: Wear gloves because jam burn hurts!!!

Fill up the all the jars at once, then fasten lids quickly and tightly and let them sit.  As the jam cools it will create an air tight seal and you should hear a "pop" indicating that the seal is tight - approx. 1 hour later.

Label and enjoy! 

 

Nic's Tips

// Always add a little bit extra lemon - it adds more pectin and brings out the flavour of the fruit.

// Have your jars cleaned and old labels off before you start.  When the jam is boiling away then you can pop them into the oven for sterilisation, and boil the lids in a pot on the stove top.

// Jam is setting when is starts to thicken up, the colour deepens, and the bubbles in the pot appear to 'softer'.  Or you can use a thermometer - jam sets at 104C Degrees.

 

Something else to consider - if you have a tree full of apples, or too many zucchini's check out the Woodend Farmers Market Produce Swap Table.  The idea is that you bring your excess produce to the table and then you can swap for whatever maybe available!

The swap starts at 10am on the first Saturday of each month.

 

Sign up for our monthly newsletter to read about more local tips and recipes.

 

Want shiny stainless steel again . . .

We've had a few queries lately on how to get that beautiful shiny glimmer back to your stainless steel pots and pans, here's my tip:

// Fill your pot with water and place it on the stove top.

// Bring the water to boil, let it boil for about 20 mins, this should loosen the stain from the pan and the water will appear 'dirty'.

// Pour out the water and coat the bottom of the pan with bi-carb soda, scrub the pan with a coarse dish cloth or mesh.

// Rinse the pan well and continue to enjoy your shiny stainless steel pan.

Knife Sharpening Service

Due to popular demand . . . . Mort & Pestle will be starting a Drop-Off Knife Sharpening Service from mid September. 

Here are the details:

//  Drop off one or two of your kitchen knives, wrapped in an old tea towel.

//  Fill in a form and we'll attach an ID tag.

//  Pick up will be each Wednesday after 1pm.

//  Cost will be from $10 to $15, depending on the size of the knife.

Please Note:  Serrated knives cannot be sharpened.

If you have any questions please call Mort & Pestle, or send us an email.

I've recently had all of our knives sharpened - WOW, what a difference!

 

Jodi's Mulled Wine

This is my dear friend Jodi. We met at a Positive Parenting course, trying to figure out how to handle unruly 3-year-olds.  The course was held every Tuesday at 7pm for 6 weeks.  Unbeknown to our husbands, we continued to meet at 7pm on Tuesdays well after the course had finished just for a coffee (with Baileys!) and a chat, it was exactly what we both needed.  Eventually we fessed up to our husbands, but by that stage it was too late - our friendship was permanent!  Jodi has a beautiful sense of style and enjoys making her home a sanctuary of comfort.  Jodi's Mulled Wine recipe is just that - warm winter comfort. Enjoy.

You'll need:

// 750ml bottle of good dry red wine (Jodi recommends a cab merlot)

// 1/4 cup brown sugar

// 1 cup water

// zest of one orange

// juice of half the orange

// 2 cinnamon sticks

// 2 star annise

// 1/2 tsp nutmeg

// 6 cloves

Method:

In a saucepan mix the water, sugar, zest and spices, and bring them to a gentle simmer.

Add the wine and juice, continue to simmer for 30 mins.

Strain through a fine sieve or muslin, return to pan and leave on the heat to serve hot!

Jodi's tip:  to adjust the taste, add more or less sugar or orange juice.

Feature Story on Weekend Notes Blog

Mort & Pestle is thrilled to be featured by Tabitha Page on Weekend Notes - a guide to all the wonderful things to do and see during weekends spent in the Macedon Ranges and surrounds.

A lovely little store tucked away in a corner with plenty of parking spaces and a warm and welcoming feel, Mort & Pestle catches your eye as you walk past ...
— http://www.weekendnotes.com/mort-pestle-the-kitchen-shop-woodend/

You can read Tabitha's complete and lovely review HERE.