Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Following on from our sourdough blueberry cake (previous post), I thought I’d try using leftover starter in place of buttermilk. I had to add a teaspoon of lime juice to raise the acidity level, but the finished cake was deliciously tender and flavoursome.

  • 200g self raising flour
  • 150g almond meal
  • 200g caster (superfine) sugar
  • 175g unsalted butter, softened
  • 150ml liquid sourdough starter*
  • 1 tsp lime juice (if needed)
  • 3 large free-range eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon (optional)
  • mulberry jam (any jam or curd should work)

*I didn’t fuss too much about the starter – I used mine straight out of the fridge and just eyeballed the quantity in a cup measure. Taste it first to see if you need the extra lime juice.

1. Cream together butter, sugar and zest, then mix in eggs and vanilla. Beat well, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

2. Stir together the flour and almond meal in a separate bowl.

3. Mix in half of the flour mixture, then the starter and lime juice, then the rest of the flour, mixing well after each addition.

4. Spoon half the batter into a well-oiled bundt pan, spoon on a layer of jam, then top with remaining batter. Bake in a preheated fan forced 160C oven for 40 – 45mins, rotating the cake halfway through if needed.

5. Allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn onto wire rack to cool completely.  Dust with icing sugar before serving.

I tried this cake again in my 20cm square tin with removable base (which was sooo much easier to wash than the bundt pan). It needed a few minutes longer in the oven, but produced a gentle, easy eating cake that the boys are finding irresistible. And as Pete and I are becoming more lactose intolerant in our old age, we’re very happy to find a way to revisit all the yoghurt and buttermilk cakes that we’ve had to avoid in recent years.

So the next time you have leftover sourdough starter and some jam, bake a cake!

It’s a dull and overcast day in Sydney, so I thought I’d brighten it up by showing you my gorgeous new cottons from Bendigo Woollen Mills. Look at how pretty they are!

Given that I can make ten dishcloths from each 200g ball, I probably didn’t need to order five, but I found the colours irresistible. Bendigo Mills import their raw cotton from Asia (you know me, I rang to ask!) but they process it all in Victoria. Their wool, on the other hand, is locally grown in central NSW.

The cotton is a joy to work with – the yarn is smooth and doesn’t snag, and the finished cloth wears and launders like iron (we’re still using the ones Rose sent us five years ago). At $12 per 200g ball (that’s equivalent to four regular balls), I think they’re great value.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I’m revisiting crochet and enjoying it immensely, although I’m only attempting a very basic double stitch (which for some strange reason, we call treble stitch in Australia). I’ve lost all my knowledge of crochet terminology, so here are lay instructions for my super simple dishcloth:

  1. Using 8ply cotton and a 4.00mm hook, make a slip loop and then chain 35 stitches.
  2. Work one row single crochet (called double crochet here – it’s all very confusing!)
  3. Work 18 rows double crochet (you’re meant to start each row with three chain stitches, but Maude taught me to do a squiggly stitch at the beginning to get a neater edge – google “chainless starting double crochet”)
  4. Work one row single crochet, then pull the cotton through the loop. Using a large tapestry needle, weave the ends into the finished cloth and trim them off.

If you’d prefer to knit, you might like this pattern – I don’t like to purl, so it’s knit stitches only.

And if it all sounds too hard, you could just sew some dishcloths. I found an old piece of cotton waffle weave fabric in my stash – I think it was for bedspreads, but we’d used it as an outdoor table cloth at the kids’ birthday parties. I simply cut it into squares and overlocked (serged) the edges. They work a treat…

We need a lot of dishcloths to replace the paper towels in our kitchen, so I’ve upped production. They all sit in a drawstring bag next to the stove…

Are you a knitter or crocheter? My fingers and wrists get quite sore if I do too much (old woman sigh…), so my output is limited to dishcloths. They’re hugely satisfying to make nonetheless!

Do you have time for a cuppa? I’d love to catch you up on what’s been happening over the past couple of weeks. I should warn you though – this is a loooong post!

. . . . .

Firstly, an update on our attempts to try and reduce our household waste. It’s been four weeks now, and we’ve filled our first bokashi bin. It will sit on the back deck under cover for a further three weeks, during which time the contents should ferment into a compostable form.

I’ll let you know how it goes, but we’ve been really pleased so far – it does smell a bit, but not nearly as much as I thought it would, especially given the fish heads I put in there a fortnight ago. And the smell is more of a fermenting odour rather than a rotting one. I think the bins that we bought – Maze 12L Indoor Composters – are particularly good as they have a rubber seal which keeps them reasonably airtight. Some of the others (including the larger Maze one) just have a loose flap on top.

Using these for a month has led to a huge reduction in the amount of waste we have to throw out each week…

. . . . .

We’ve made a concerted effort to reduce our use of paper towels as much as possible. The family are loving the cloth napkins – I’m not sure they’ll ever go back to paper! I’ve found that we needed a lot more than I thought we would – we’ve currently got two dozen on rotation, which means I only need to wash once every five days or so.

I’m also making more cotton dishcloths – not wiping up spills with paper towels means we need more of these as well. I’m trying a crocheted version this time, but it’s been twenty years since I last picked up a hook, so there’s a bit of relearning to do. By the way, if you’re making these, Bendigo Mills has the most gorgeous seasonal colours on sale at the moment (link is here). The 200g balls are $12 and equivalent to four regular balls in weight. I get about ten dishcloths from each one.

. . . . .

The mesh bags are working a treat! I know it’s not essential to colour match the veg to the bags, but it did make for a lovely photo…

Last night, I plugged in my headphones, listened to a James Herriot audiobook, and whipped up a stack of these for family and friends…

. . . . .

We’ve repaired our laundry basket for the umpteenth time. Every six months of so, we talk about replacing it, but we can never figure out what to do with the old one…

. . . . .

I’ve picked up a big batch of socks from Richard the podiatrist – unfortunately the sockless scanning technology didn’t work out, so he still has oodles to get rid of. If you’re new to our blog, you can read the whole story here and here. I’ve washed and sterilised them all, and will donate half to charity this winter.

The remaining half I’m turning into a sock blanket and oil bottle drip savers…

I cut the top band off the socks I’m using for the  blanket, but they were too good to waste, so I zigzagged the raw edges and we now use them in place of rubber bands…

. . . . .

Our lovely neighbour Ellen gave us a couple of rolls of Who Gives A Crap toilet paper to try. I’m sure they’re a great organisation, and the paper is fine, but after much discussion, Pete and I have decided that we need to buy Australian made.  Pete has concerns about the environmental cost of shipping toilet paper from China, whereas I feel that we have so little manufacturing left in Australia that we need to support locally made wherever possible. Obviously this is a personal choice, and I have a lot of friends buying from Who Gives A Crap who are extremely happy with their service and product…

For what it’s worth, I’ve done a bit of research, and our big producers – Kleenex, Sorbent and Quilton – all source their fibre from FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) accredited forests. They all manufacture here. Quilton is fully Australian owned; Kimberly-Clark (makers of Kleenex) now have the Greenpeace seal of approval and donate to the World Wildlife Fund (this article by the Guardian is particularly interesting).

All of the above come in plastic wrap, but if you buy in bulk, there’s only one piece of plastic packaging to REDcycle every six weeks (as opposed to individually wrapped rolls or two-packs).

. . . . .

Our rubbish going into the red bin each week is now down to just half a kitchen bin bag. We’ve found these plastic-free Maze bin liners made from starch. They’re expensive, but we only use one a week now, so that’s not a problem…

. . . . .

Small Man was immediately on board with our waste reduction attempts, but Big Boy has taken a little longer to get his head around it all. So I was very chuffed this week when he packed himself a pita pocket for lunch, wrapped it in a beeswax wrap and then a furoshiki. Success!

And on the topic of the beeswax wraps, they’ve been the bee’s knees (ugh..sorry). We haven’t used a single piece of clingfilm or a new plastic bag in over a month (we have used recycled bags though). If you haven’t made any of these, I’d encourage you to have a go. And for what it’s worth, we tried adding a little jojoba oil to them, but I really can’t notice a difference, so I’d suggest you save the dollars and just use the wax sheets. Our tutorial on making them is here.

. . . . .

Moving on to other things…

Dianmari left me a comment last post about substituting leftover sourdough starter for yoghurt in cakes. It worked! I tried it in the blueberry coffee cake – our starter Priscilla is never particularly acidic, but the cake was delicious nonetheless. Pete thought it tasted a bit like berry pancakes. Worth experimenting with if you have leftover starter! The tip was originally in this post by Chocolate and Zucchini…

. . . . .

Our neighbour Mark allowed us to raid his fig tree this year, and Pete turned the surplus crop into amazing fig and nectarine jam…

. . . . .

We visited Carriageworks a couple of weeks ago to view  the Katharine Grosse installation. It was magnificent, but we were all troubled by the massive amount of fabric used – 8,000 metres of super heavy duty canvas. And given that the work was spray painted after the fabric was hung, it would be impossible to rehang it anywhere else. One of the volunteers told us that the fabric was all going to be unpicked and then shipped (!) back to Germany to the artist. I hope she turns it into something else…

. . . . .

A cooking class update on lovely Stephen, who nearly set fire to his kitchen baking his first solo loaf of sourdough. His second loaf was rustic but serviceable.

His third loaf was unbelievably good – it looked like the product of a fancy artisan bakery.  He told me he’d “done some reading” and that because he was adding rye to the mix, he’d had to judge the water quantity “by feel”. Watch this space, folks. I’ll let you know when he opens his microbakery…

. . . . .

I placed my first online order with Harris Farm and was delighted with how my goods arrived. Apart from the carrots and onions (which I’d ordered in bags – obviously I still have a lot to learn) and the half a celery, the remaining veg were all loose in the cardboard box. They’d clearly made an effort to carry through their plastic-free stance to home delivery.

A tip – if you subscribe to the Harris Farm newsletter (at the bottom of this webpage), they’ll email you a barcode that will give you 5% off all vegetable purchases in store. And the first time I used my code, they emailed me a $20 introductory voucher for their online service…

. . . . .

I finally tried Emilie’s sourdough pita breads, and they’re fabulous! It’s from her book Artisan Sourdough Made Simple – have you picked up your copy yet?

. . . . .

Last Sunday, I baked three burnished loaves of sourdough…

…and traded them with Tom of Living Fossil Gallery for a $15 discount on this 400 million year old orthoceras plate. If you ever want to get into fossil collecting, orthocerases are a great place to start. They’re very affordable, and highly underrated in my opinion…

. . . . .

Finally, let me end this long-winded ramble with a couple of photos from yesterday morning’s walk. The sky was filled with the most amazing cotton wool clouds…

. . . . .

If you’ve made it all the way to the end, thanks for reading! It’s been lovely having a cup of tea with you! ♥

“We’re on a mission to cut our household waste”, I told my old friend Jeanette over coffee last week.

She grinned and said, “I noticed!”

I had to laugh. I forget how often my enthusiasms bubble over onto my blog. So I thought I’d give you a full update on where we’re at right now, in January, and then provide progress reports as the year goes on.

Interestingly, up until the beginning of this year, I actually thought we were doing quite a good job. We were separating our recyclables, feeding our vegetable trimmings to the chooks and worms, and I always shopped with a furoshiki and a KeepCup in my bag. About ten years ago, our local council had replaced the red wheelie bins on our street with half-sized ones, and we’d managed that transition without too much difficulty. Having said that, our bin was still full at the end of every week.

This year, inspired by a growing awareness of just how serious the environmental problems associated with plastic and excess waste are, we resolved to do better. Here are some of the changes we’ve made.

. . . . .

Furoshiki, beeswax wraps, mesh bags

I’ve already written separate blogposts on these topics, so I won’t rehash them here, but suffice to say that we’re trying to avoid bringing plastic bags home wherever possible. This has actually been an easy change to make – both the furoshiki and the mesh bags are small and lightweight, and add very little bulk to my handbag…

The beeswax wraps have proven to be very successful. I’ve had to dedicate a couple just to smelly cheeses, as the aroma impregnates the cloth, but that doesn’t seem to impact their efficacy. We’ve been particularly surprised by how well sourdough loaves keep in a beeswax wrap – the crust turns very hard, but the crumb stays tender for days.

I clean these by wiping them down with a wet, clean dishcloth and hanging them up to dry. If they’re a bit grotty, I wash them under cool running water with a little dishwashing liquid. So far, so good…

Small Man, bless him, asked me for a beeswax wrap for his lunch the other day. He was very pleased not to have to throw out a paper bag after eating…

Here are the links to my earlier posts:

. . . . .

Knitted Dishcloths

Lovely Rose sent me a batch of these five years ago, and I’ve used them ever since. I eventually learnt to knit my own out of Australian cotton. They’re absolutely brilliant – mine go into the washing machine with towels and tea towels (and now napkins) and after years of daily service, I’m yet to have one wear out.

We use them in place of paper towels wherever possible, and they’re great for scrubbing the stove, wiping down benches and cleaning up spills…

kdc2

I wrote about them in 2015 (link is here), and posted my favourite knitting pattern here. And if you’re a beginner knitter, let me reassure you that a simple garter stitch square will work just as well!

. . . . .

Cloth Napkins

As I mentioned in the previous post, I’ve recently sewn cloth napkins from coarse-weave Japanese cotton tea towels (tenegui). I’ve had to make a lot – in order to work around our laundry cycle, we need at least a couple of dozen on rotation. It does make us realise how many paper napkins we must have gone through each week! The print on the cotton is fading very quickly, but the fabric seems to be holding up well and I still haven’t had to iron anything. It’s quite peaceful to sit and fold napkins for a few minutes in the morning…

. . . . .

Recycling Soft Plastic

My clever neighbour Maude told us about REDcycle, a recycling service for soft plastic. They have drop off bins outside most Coles and Woolworths supermarkets. We now separate all our clingfilm, plastic bags, onion net bags and general soft plastic waste, and drop it off once a week (or Maude takes it for us, because she seriously is the best neighbour ever). You can read more about REDcycle here.

Having said all that, we’re still trying to cut back as much single-use plastic as we can through other means. Recycling requires a huge energy input, so the goal is always REDUCE-REUSE-RECYCLE, in that order.

. . . . .

Bokashi Bin

So…whereas I was concerned about how much plastic we were discarding, Pete was fretting over all the food scraps we were throwing away.

We’re not talking about edibles so much (between us and the chooks, we’re pretty good at getting through most of what we buy and cook), but all the leavings which couldn’t go into the worm farm, such as bones, cooked stock veg, citrus and alliums. Pete did some research and found the Bokashi system – a method for breaking down all kitchen food waste (raw and cooked), so that it was in a form that could be composted and then either fed to the worms or buried.

It’s too hard to explain in full here, but I’d encourage you to Google “bokashi” and read up about it if you’re interested. We’re only a couple of weeks into the process, so I can’t really tell you how well it works yet, but I’ll keep you posted. What I can tell you is that I made Pete take it outside and leave it on the back deck, because it does produce a noticeable aroma…

. . . . .

1 Million Women

Discovering 1 Million Women has been a great source of inspiration to work harder at reducing our green footprint. It’s definitely worth following their blog and social media feeds (here are direct links to their Twitter and Instagram accounts). I initially came across them while looking online for a method of making beeswax wraps. Recently, they challenged readers to mind map out their green plan. Here’s what I came up with…

. . . . .

KeepCup

I bought my little piccolo KeepCup in August last year and since then, it’s been everywhere with me (even San Francisco). I’ve had to replace the lid after twisting the stopper off in a weird way (my error), but otherwise it’s been perfect. According to 1 Million Women, most takeaway coffee cups are lined with plastic and therefore can’t be recycled, so reusable really is the way to go (and they reckon that if we all switched, 500 billion cups would be saved from landfill every year)…

My KeepCup lives in my handbag as much as possible, not just for coffee, but also for the odd occasion when I need a drink of water. Because it’s so little and lightweight, it takes up very little room. And if I ever forget, I try to sit down for a decaf rather than getting takeaway.

As an aside, it was encouraging to see this sign on the Single Origin Roasters stall at Carriagework Markets today…

. . . . .

So…that’s where we’re at right now. And even though we’re only one month into 2018, it seems to be making a difference already! When Small Man was taking the bins out this week, he rushed back in very excitedly and said, “Mum! The bin was empty! I’ve never seen it empty before on a Thursday night!” Sure enough, the only thing to go in was one small kitchen bin bag, and even that wasn’t full…

I’ll keep you all posted on how we go throughout the year, particularly regarding the Bokashi bin (Pete is quietly optimistic). And I’d love to hear your green plans or any eco-friendly tips you might have! ♥

A few of the marvellous things which have made us smile over the past few weeks!

. . . . .

Pete and I had our 29th wedding anniversary recently. As always, we celebrated with our darling friends Nicholas and Mary, who were married on the same day of the same year. We’ve spent the last 22 anniversaries together and this year we spoiled ourselves with lunch at Cirrus Dining in Barangaroo

After a fabulous meal, Mary and I wandered over to the Rocks Markets while the boys enjoyed a cool drink at the MCA Colour Bar…

At the markets, I bought this glass jellyfish from Argyle Glass. It’s marvellous. Especially as it was handmade by Marc in Sydney and it only cost $25. I picked up the colour-change light stand for an extra $10…

Best of all, it glows in the dark!

Argyle Glass are at the Rocks Markets every weekend – here’s a photo I took of Marc at work in 2015 (from this post)…

. . . . .

As you know, I think fossils are properly marvellous, and as a collector, I was very chuffed to pick up some gorgeous pieces at great prices from my mate Tom at Living Fossil Gallery today. He also has a stall at the Rocks Markets, as well as a gallery in Mosman.

This cleoniceras ammonite is quite a common fossil, but the carving is very unusual – it’s a fish on one side…

…and a dragon on the other. It’s my first ever carved piece, and I love that it still retains some of its mother-of-pearl lustre…

On the other hand, this specimen is quite rare and collectible. As I now have quite a few, I try to only buy ammonites which are different, and I’d never seen one like this before…

. . . . .

Until the 18th February, Word: MCA Collection and the Jon Campbell exhibitions are on at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Focusing on art pieces associated with text and language, they’re both marvellous. The Campbell one is colourful, bright and very Australian…

Word includes these great public health posters from the late 70s and 80s…

…and these artworks by Toni Robertson…

My favourite piece was this wall-sized painted canvas by Richard Bell – unfortunately a small photo doesn’t really do it justice…

. . . . .

Our quest to live greener in 2018 has started quite well.

In an attempt to reduce our paper usage, I decided to make cloth napkins. We actually tried this 20 years ago, but the cotton damask we used at the time wrinkled badly after washing, and I wasn’t keen to spend hours ironing. This time I used coarse weave cotton tenegui (tea towels) that I’d bought from Daiso to make furoshiki

I simply cut each one in half and hemmed the unfinished edge. These wash well, wrinkle very little, and dry in a flash, which makes them ideal for napkins. And being able to use a cloth with a monkey’s arse or mating pandas on it? That’s marvellous

. . . . .

The morning walks continue – by the water on weekdays, and often in the city on weekends. We’re fortunate to have Shepard Fairey street art on public display in Sydney at the moment – from this mammoth multi-storied mural on George Street…

…to these posters in Spice Alley…

. . . . .

Big Boy and I are always entranced by the light shows on our morning walks. In winter, the sun reflects off the water onto the pedestrian overpass, but in summer, the patterns appear under the motorway bridge. Glorious, joyous, marvellous…here’s what it looked like at the start of our walk one morning last week…

. . . . .

…and again as we headed towards home an hour later…

. . . . .

Finally, anything that makes us laugh is marvellous, right? Well, discovering this sign language symbol made me roar with laughter, so naturally I had to share!

. . . . .

Wishing you all a fun week ahead, filled with marvellous things! ♥

%d bloggers like this: