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Mixed berry crumble is Small Man’s new favourite dessert.

If he finds out that I’ve made it, he’ll actually stop eating his dinner to leave room for it. He can eat an entire dish on his own, but out of politeness, will usually limit himself to just two-thirds. I’ve blogged an earlier version of this recipe before, but we’ve now refined it to (our) perfection.

It’s incredibly simple, and uses just a few fridge and freezer ingredients…

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Welch’s frozen fruits are a Costco find and we’ve been delighted with them. They’re reasonably priced, packed in Canada, and the berries and cherries are delicious without being overly sweet. We always keep a couple of packets in the freezer.

The fruit is sweetened with a little of our neighbour June’s apricot jam, and the topping is made from a quarter portion of our tea cake recipe (made without the added fruit, then carefully wrapped in clingfilm and frozen). Any plain pound style cake should work equally well, and it’s worth freezing end bits of stale cake for this.

Yesterday afternoon, I taught Small Man to make his favourite dessert. Here are the basic ingredients…

  • 2 cups of frozen mixed berries (don’t bother defrosting them)
  • ¼ cup of good jam
  • 250g (or whatever you have) of plain butter, pound or tea cake (defrosted, if frozen)
  • 30g unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

It’s completely fine to just eyeball these quantities, as it’s hard to go too far wrong.

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 160C with fan. In a pretty baking dish, mix the berries with the jam (I usually do this with my hands). We added a little peeled and diced apple as well this time.

Step 2: In a mixing bowl, crumble up the defrosted cake and mix in the melted butter and brown sugar. Try not to squish it together too much – the aim is to make a fine crumb…

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Step 3: Evenly scatter the crumb topping over the fruit, then bake for 30-40 minutes (start checking after 20 minutes to make sure it’s not browning too much)

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Step 4: Voila! The crumble is ready when the top is a golden brown and you can see the berry juices starting to bubble up at the sides…

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. . . . .

Now seriously, isn’t this the easiest dessert ever? We like to use homemade cake and jam, but I can’t see any reason why this wouldn’t work with bought ingredients – a good supermarket jam (try to pick one that isn’t too sweet) and a plain madeira or pound cake should be fine. I hope you enjoy this as much as Small Man does – it’s a sure-fire way to brighten up a mid-week dinner!

I went to Southern Cross Supplies in Marrickville today to buy a sack of bread flour.

As I walked past the clearance pallet, I noticed two large bags of Australian sea salt, marked down to $5 each. If you’re ever there, take a peak at the items outside the office door – there are often huge bargains to be had. I’ve picked up everything from foil chocolate cups to torn bags of bread flour, all at heavily discounted prices (cash only).

I use Olsson’s all the time in my cooking and baking, so naturally I came home with one of the bags of salt. It’s a wonder that I didn’t buy both…

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As I was driving home, I tried to figure out how I was going to explain it to Pete. Big Boy brought the bag in for me, and left it next to the stove.

Then my darling husband walked into the kitchen…

Pete: “What the f…?!”

Me: “It was $5!! It was a torn bag..”

Pete: “You shouldn’t have taken it even if it was free. What are we going to do with it?”

Me: “We might need it for trading when the next Bedouin caravan comes through..”

Pete: “Babe, you bought 25 kilos of salt…”

Me: “It’s ok! We’ll be ready for the zombie apocalypse now!”

Pete: “Right…if we’re attacked by zombie snails…”

{Silence}

Me: “Kiss me on the head so that I know you still love me…”

Pete: (sighs) “I still love you, you mad woman…” ♥

. . . . .

I reckon I could have gotten away with buying both bags…but it’s probably too late now.

But you know what? For the last 33 years, my life has been filled with conversations like this every single day. Full of laughter and teasing and deep affection, even at the hardest of times. I feel like the luckiest woman in the world.

And opening the sack to discover that the locally produced “kiln dried flossy salt” was perfect for baking? Well, that was just icing on the cake!

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At the recent Peters of Kensington stocktake sale (shh..we don’t mention it too loudly in front of Pete), I bought two Tala muffin pans to replace some of my rusty old ones.

When they arrived, I was delighted to find them sturdy and heavyweight, with what appears to be an excellent non-stick coating. They’re a bit smaller than my Chicago Metallic pan and were an absolute steal at just $5 each.

I had planned to make filled focaccias that day (my default when I need a quick lunch – our easy tutorial is here) and decided instead to turn the dough into little pocket breads. Each batch of dough was sufficient to fill 12 muffin holes.

. . . . .

Start by making the dough as shown here and allowing it to rise. Grease the muffin pan with melted butter.

Once the dough is fully proofed, preheat the oven to 240C with fan. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gently shape it into a flat rectangle. Roll the dough up to form a long skinny sausage, then cut it into 12 roughly equal slices.

Nestle each slice into a greased cavity (photo below shows a double batch). Cover with a clean cloth and allow to rise for a further 15 minutes of so (longer if your kitchen is a bit cold)…

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Once the rolls have puffed up a bit, brush the tops with any remaining melted butter…

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Pop the muffin pan(s) into the oven, reducing the temperature to 220C with fan. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the tray(s) and bake for a further 10 minutes or until well browned. Allow to cool on a wire rack before scoffing.

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. . . . .

Despite the semi-dried tomatoes burning a bit on the top, these were delicious and great fun to make and eat. They’re also very easy to share – we handed out half to friends and neighbours and the boys made short work of the rest!

In my kitchen…

…are Laguiole cheese knives, bought on sale from Everten Online.

Did you know that Laguiole is a style rather than a brand? The good ones are still made in France and stamped accordingly, like these by Andre Verdier…

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The bee is traditional, but its shaping varies slightly between makers…

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. . . . .

In my kitchen…

…is the bargain of the month: Udder Delights Organic Triple Cream Brie for $3.97 a wheel. These had an early February expiry date and were heavily reduced at Costco (who usually sell them at the already discounted price of $12.99). I bought three wheels, portioned them up and stashed them in the freezer

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. . . . .

In my kitchen…

…is an 80s knitting project: a bacon and egg beret, complete with peas. The truly sad thing is that I can actually remember wearing it out to dinner when I was 19 years old…

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In my kitchen…

…is another ricotta cake. They’re getting better with each attempt…

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. . . . .

In my kitchen…

…is my Christmas fossil, a 400 million year old orthoceras slab. The unusual large specimen on the right has a clearly defined propulsion tube (siphuncle). It’s ludicrous that the retail price on this was $45, less than a good dinner in Sydney costs…

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In my kitchen…

…are chocolate wheels, made using the plastic ma’moul moulds I found at Harkola…

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Some designs were more successful than others…

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. . . . .

In my kitchen…

…was an ang pow lantern, made for Chinese New Year celebrations with my cousins. I wrote a step by step tutorial on these here

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. . . . .

In my kitchen…

…was a quick Römertopf dinner, made with our leftover Christmas ham, assorted fridge and freezer vegetables, moghrabieh, tinned chick peas, Herbie’s chermoula spice mix and water…

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After a couple of hours, I pulled out the bones and added a handful of small pasta, then put it back into the oven for another 20 minutes…

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It was very easy to make, and an ideal way to use up leftover ham…

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. . . . .

Finally, in my kitchen…

…is a new dishwasher.

After the extensive repairs we undertook in 2014, we managed to get another two and a half years from our trusty old workhorse, but we just couldn’t justify fixing it any more. Our old machine was installed on the 15th January 2002, and it lasted fifteen years and one week. I think that’s an amazing run given the heavy duty usage we’ve put it through!

So naturally, we’ve bought another Miele.

Here’s a really big tip for my fellow Aussies…if you’re looking to buy a Miele appliance, check out their Unboxed stores. These outlets are kept pretty quiet, but all the appliances they have on offer come with a full mechanical warranty and sell for about 25% off recommended retail prices. They’re out of their original packaging, and some will have surface marks or scratches, but all will have been fully tested before sale. In January, they had dishwashers starting from just $585!

The retail price on the machine we bought was $1,499 and the Unboxed store had it for $1,050. We went one step further and bought a machine with a blue dot on it (lightly run, usually a demonstration model) and paid just $900. It’s German made, whisper quiet and very water efficient…

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Tell me, what’s happening in your kitchen?

If you’d like to write an In My Kitchen post, please do so by the 10th December and send your link to Liz of Bizzy Lizzy’s Good Things. Thanks for hosting Liz! x

I wrote this before today’s walk and it felt timely to put it up right after yesterday’s post, as they’re related. Together, they’re a pretty complete wrap of where I’m currently at. Please don’t worry, it’s all good. ♥

. . . . .

I’m in my fifties now, and I have to say, it’s a weird time of life.

It’s a bit like going through puberty again – only in reverse, I guess – my body shape is changing (not in a good way), I’m emotional (wept through a Disney movie recently) and my sleep is unsettled.

Somewhat ironically, in August last year, I noticed a significant spike in my anxiety levels. It was ironic because, as those of you who’ve been reading along for a while will know, 2016 was actually the easiest year we’ve had in a long time.

To try to combat the niggliness, I started walking (as mentioned in the previous post). It’s been glorious – I spend an hour outdoors each day, more often than not with Big Boy.

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. . . . .

At the start of this year, I noticed that the walks weren’t quite enough to take the edge off the creeping, hormone-driven anxiety. I decided to add daily meditation to my schedule as well.

Let me begin by saying that I’m pretty content with my life. For years, I’ve worked hard to be mindful – to really enjoy the moment, to be present, and to be grateful for how truly wondrous life is, both in general and in my particular circumstances. To that end, I’ve always viewed meditation as curative rather than preventative medicine. I’ve attempted it on an ad hoc basis during times of stress, and found it emotionally soothing.

Then I watched this TED talk by Headspace co-founder and former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe, and realised that I was going about it the wrong way. Andy sees meditation as daily exercise for the brain – one designed to bring order and strength to it in the same way that physical exercise does for the body…

. . . . .

My Pete has been saying this for years, but I guess I wasn’t ready to take it in any earlier. He’s been meditating daily since he was 17 years old. And he has the most disciplined brain of anyone I know – it has quite literally protected him (and in countless ways, our whole family) through the many trials he’s faced over the years. So I have a lifetime of hard evidence that the process truly works.

I downloaded the Headspace App three weeks ago, and started the daily ten minute meditations…

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. . . . .

I’d love to tell you that I experienced a sudden and immediate sense of Kung Fu Panda inner peace…but I didn’t.

What I did notice though, was that after the first few days, I seemed to get some of my short-term memory back.

I stopped going back to the car to check if it was locked, because I could clearly remember locking it. I remembered that I’d put washing in the machine that needed to be hung up, rather than leaving it there for days. I remembered what I’d walked into the pantry to get instead of staring blankly at the shelves.

It turns out I don’t have OCD after all, but rather that my anxious brain had simply been laying down poor memories. I wasn’t paying enough attention to what I was doing at the time, and it wasn’t because I didn’t want to – I just couldn’t do it. My mind was always racing ahead – planning, imagining scenarios, and often catastrophising. The author Mark Twain once said “I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” It’s so true, isn’t it?

. . . . .

After the second week of daily ten minute sessions, I noticed that I seemed to have more time. Life stopped feeling as rushed. Last Saturday, I started at 6am and was still going at 10pm, having walked for two hours, baked six loaves of sourdough and a batch of brioche rolls, shopped for an hour, washed and dried a week’s worth of laundry, and gone out for dinner with Kevin and Carol. As we ended the evening with a game of 500, it occurred to me that I’d had a rich and fulfilling day, but at no point had it felt hectic. It was as if I had more energy.

My old friend Kevin understood exactly what I was talking about – he practises his own form of meditation by running mindfully for 20km at a time (no headphones, he tells me, because he needs to concentrate on every step).

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. . . . .

I’m now up to day 22 on the Headspace Foundation Series. I’ve paid for an annual subscription (there’s a January promo here if anyone is interested) and have worked up to 20 minutes of daily practice. I still have spikes of anxiety, but they seem to be fewer and easier to manage. I’ll write again about this a bit further down the track and let you know how I’m going.

If you’re interested in trying it out, download the Headspace app and give it a go for ten days. The initial sessions are free and you never have to pay if you don’t want to – you can just keep using those guided meditations. Having said that, I’m finding the paid content very useful!

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