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I had made it a modest ambition to make peach chutney this year.  It’s our favourite preserve, and I haven’t made it for quite a few years now.  I had visions of buying a large bag of the last of summer’s fragrant peaches from a farmers market, but a quick dash to the fruit shop in my lunch hour had to suffice.  We’d left it a bit late – the mandarins were already appearing in the shop – so some not-so-succulent-looking clingstones were purchased.

Jars were rustled up and Sunday afternoon saw some chopping, measuring, simmering and stirring until nine jars could be filled with hot, spiced, amber-hued chutney.

Peach and Date Chutney

  • 6 peaches
  • 125 g dates, stoned and chopped
  • 125 g raisins
  • 2 onions, chopped finely
  • 375 g brown sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 2 tbsp grated or finely chopped fresh ginger
  • contents of 6 cardamom pods
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 300 ml tarragon vinegar

Plunge the peaches into boiling water, remove skins and stones and slice.  (I found the skins weren’t easily removed from clingstones, but they weren’t thick so I left them on).

Put all ingredients into a large saucepan.  Heat gently until sugar is dissolved.  Bring to boil then simmer for 1-2 hours, stirring from time to time, until mixture is thick.

Put into hot, sterilised jars, cover and store for at least a month before serving.  (I sterilise the jars by washing them in hot soapy water, rinsing and placing upside down in a 100 degree (celsius) oven for a while).

I made double this recipe, which yielded about 3-4 litres of chutney, filling 9 decent-sized jars.  This chutney is especially good with grilled or fried chicken.

[Recipe from Jill Norman’s Jams & Preserves, Doubleday, 1989.]

A quickly made, soft, lacy triangle made on impulse.  A lovely blogging friend was getting married, and was having a stressful time generally, so I really wanted to send her a small gift in celebration and support.  I’m not the first to remark on how funny, or rather wonderful, it is to feel that you are friends with people you have never met, but who you feel you know as friends through their on-line presence.  I feel that I share so many interests with Josephine, and that I have a sense of her personality through her eloquent writing.  I love than I am often surprised at, always interested in and often have cause to think further on what she writes about on her blog.  She comes across as highly intelligent, imaginative, warm and approachable, with an open inquiring mind and a touch of magic about her.  And charmingly off-beat, which I love and admire.  And she loves handcrafts …

I quickly decided on a shawlette/triangular scarf pattern that I’d been interested in trying, 198 yards of Heaven.  The yarn is Bendigo Woollen Mills Luxury 10ply in Lake.  This was such a quick and enjoyable knit!  The 10ply yarn and interesting yet intuitive lace pattern meant it grew quickly.  I think I may be addicted to knitting lace shawls …  My only downfall was that I used a version of the pattern that I printed out some time ago, and the pattern has since been updated.  In the older version the border doesn’t match up as well with the body.

I loved the way this looked straight off the needles, with its rumply garter stitch border, but blocking was required to make it large enough to wear.  The pattern instructs to block aggressively …

The result was surprisingly light and lacy despite the heavier weight wool, and a nice size for wrapping around the neck under a coat.  The large-scale of the lace pattern gives it a modern look, but it has a vintage style to it too. 

Modern, yet respecting tradition.  Practical, yet romantic.  A bit like Josephine!

 

I’ve made some mention already of the beautiful new book Sunday’s Kitchen.  A wonderful combination of social history and recipe book, it documents food and lifestyle at Heide, the home of influential art patrons John and Sunday Reed.  Sunday was a talented, intuitive cook interested in european styles of cookery before they were widely popular in Australia, and made an art of growing and preparing food and keeping house, along with fostering and feeding some of the greatest Australian modernist artists.

I was lucky enough to take part in the test kitchen for the book, and through good timing, MY cake appears in the book on the desserts chapter heading and on the back cover!!  The recipe is Von’s Heide Fruit Cake, by Evonne Harris, wife of poet and John Reed’s publishing partner Max Harris.  Von  made this cake to bring on the train from Adelaide to visit Heide.  I used Evonne’s actual recipe, which has since been somewhat standardised in the book.  It was fun to interpret and recreate.  It is an unusual light fruit cake with ground almonds and cherries, and is topped with marzipan (which I have never made before).  Von’s final instruction (which doesn’t make it into the book) was “Paint an artwork on the top”, with her daughters note that Von always drew a face.

Well, in the interests of historical accuracy, I had to comply – and what better than a face from an iconic Heide-associated artist?

Lovely Mr. Foxy-Woxy

Born Melbourne, 1959

(After Gethsemane by Joy Hester)  2009

brush and blue food colouring on marzipan

22 cm. diam.

(since devoured by the artist, cake-maker and staff of Heide Museum of Modern Art)

Well, Mr Foxy said he was better at drawing than I (which is probably true), and that he should do it.  It did look fabulous, and was a great hit with the staff at Heide.  The cake itself was also enjoyed, with many who don’t normally like fruit cake saying that they liked it.  The painted top is not included in the book, but I love that you can just see an intriguing touch of blue in the photographs.

I made another one, just like the other one (and like Sue’s!)

Again, the pattern is the Whirligig Shrug by Stefanie Japel, knit in Bendigo Woollen Mills Harmony in Mimosa.  This time I knit the one year old size, and due to my generous gauge it fits Mlle. Camille with room to grow.  The designer comments that this type of garment is difficult for a toddler to take off by themselves, which is a plus I think!  Such an economic knit, as it takes only about 100g of yarn, yet looks a bit special.  Another must be made for her sister, of course.

Most of my Easter list was checked off (though I didn’t have time to look for Easter daisies  in my last-minute dash to the supermarket on Good Friday, but I did find fruitless hot cross buns of dubious quality).  I was pleasantly surprised how enthusiastic Rex was about embracing all things easter-y.  He loved participating in decorating the table with flowers from the garden and arranging and re-arranging the family of bunnies.  He loved the idea of decorating the eggs, but wasn’t too keen on getting his hands messy with the paper mache paste.  He even showed interest in and slight comprehension of the Easter story.  And he was of course so excited to take part in an easter egg hunt on Sunday morning, and generous in sharing the experience with his sisters.  (I did find snap-shut plastic egg-shaped containers at the supermarket that did allow me to do the nocturnal egg hiding after all.  Sleep is a luxury around here at the best of times.)

All preceded by wholesome frolicking in grandpa’s garden, where it was nice to see that lemon-picking was almost as exciting as chocolate.

This easter I am:

  • trying to celebrate the traditions, and making new ones as a family
  • alone in eating hot cross buns on Good Friday (no one else is keen on them)
  • going to buy a bunch of Easter daisys
  • making Pashka for lunch at my parents’ on Saturday.  (I always try to make this at Easter time.)
  • thinking about decorating eggs with collaged tissue paper with Rex – inspired by these
  • making omelette with the blown eggs
  • having Colomba Pasquale for breakfast
  • hiding chocolate eggs in the garden early on Sunday (do you think it would be OK if I did it the night before?  No?)
  • loving the sweet Easter cards (see below – though I can’t get a good photo for some reason) my mum made and sent to the children.  She draws these on the computer using Paint – no fancy graphics programs for her!
  •  Wishing you a very happy and safe easter.

 

Pashka

  • 1/2 cup sultanas
  • 3 tbsp brandy
  • 125g butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup ricotta
  • 125g cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp vanilla essence
  • 100g chopped dark chocolate
  • 60g chopped toasted almonds
  • 1/4 cup currants
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried apricots

Beforehand, soak sultanas in brandy for several hours.  Cream butter and sugar, add sour cream, ricotta and cream cheese, lemon juice and rind.  Beat until well combined.  Stir in vanilla, chocolate, almonds and dried fruits.

Spoon mixture into a muslin-lined clean flowerpot about 18cm diam. (I use a shaped plastic flowerpot that I keep for this purpose).  (It’s important that your mould has holes in the bottom.)  Place on a plate, cover and refrigerate over night.

To serve, unmould on to a plate and decorate with fruit, flowers or easter novelties.

 

This is very very good – I love the tartness of the apricots and the hard bitterness of the chocolate with the sweet, soft cheese base.  Due to the uncooked brandy, it’s not really suitable for children, but you could substitute this with orange juice if your children like fruited desserts.  (Recipe from Gabriel Gate’s Television Recipes, 1992, now out of print.)

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