Friday, 15 August 2014

Stanthorpe getaway Part 2-and Felsberg winery Bell Tower Cafe

Our second full day away involved a lot of eating and driving around the countryside, which was very dry but still quite beautiful in that understated Aussie way of muted colours, tall twisted trees and dry grassy paddocks.


I love signs!  And the sunlight gleaming thru the tall grasses was lovely


Before the drive, we had lunch at Felsberg winery up on the ridge.   There are a number of wineries around Stanthorpe but not many do lunch; and as we have been here before, it was a no-brainer.  There is a long gravel drive up to the main building which looks Bavarian-kind of cute if a bit far from home.


beautiful views from the windows

Luckily we got to the restaurant just before a coach came up the drive, so were able to order and eat without having to wait for the huge hoard to be fed.  We sat by the front window with the sun streaming in, and actually getting a bit hot even though it was a cool Winter's day.  The Bell Tower Cafe currently has its Autumn/Winter menu in place.with soup, pizza, pasta and some meaty mains.
Mr Pickings usually eats vegetarian when we are out, but this time it was I who chose the haloumi and roast veggie stack, with chickpeas and home made tomato relish.  This was filling and so delish, so I was very glad I chose the small size.  Especially 'cos we also had those ubiquitous sweet potato chips. (I must have missed the memo as to when they became the staple chips on menus!)  And they were yummy- crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.


entree size $18 M $24


sweet potato chips $7 for a large side


Mr Pickings chose a pizza which came out on a wooden paddle and was substantial.  Actually this was also a vegetarian choice with potato of the normal kind, onion, mozzarella and goat's cheese.  It almost defeated Mr Pickings which is not an easy thing.


tasty and filling potato pizza $20


Sadly we were too full to try the cakes and coffee though judging from the delicious lunch, I feel sure they would have been equally tasty.  And I would love to try some of the other dishes like lamb shanks ($26), and Beef Wellington ($28). You can sample the wines in the tasting room before your meal, and then choose to have a glass of your favourite with your repast.
This is a very pleasant place to spend some time; the food is filling and tasty, the staff are friendly and helpful, and the atmosphere is relaxing.  The chef came out when we had finished to check if all was ok; we were happy to tell her we had had a great lunch.  And on our way out, we came across this flying pig.


very cute!



After lunch, we went driving in the countryside.  It was a gorgeous sunny day with those lovely polarised blue skies you get in a Queensland winter.  The wattle are just coming out so everywhere we went, we drove past bright yellow balls of sunshine cloaking the trees.  Really wonderful!






the fire on the left was a controlled burn, the other was some poor farmer's tractor ablaze


Next day we had to head home, but we took it very slow.  We stopped off for coffee and damper at the Info centre which has a little cafe, then headed north by way of the cheese factory.  The cafe is really popular here, and there were lots of people enjoying that Jersey milk.  We bought more relishes, and a locally crafted wooden spoon.

Mr Pickings looking pensive after scoffing down that damper and jam



lots of people were enjoying the sunshine and Jersey milk here


a country lane full of pinecones

just so you know-no rabbits allowed in Queensland:)


typical country house


We will be taking another short trip to Stanthorpe next month to pick up an artwork I bought at the local Gallery- cant't wait!


Felsberg Winery 'Bell Tower' Cafe on Urbanspoon


Thursday, 14 August 2014

International Scone Week 2014

News to you?  Me too!  That's cos Celia from Fig Jam & Lime Cordial and her cohorts made it up one August when they all serendipitously (great word from Celia) made scones in the same week.   So yes this year I am joining in.
I checked out a few variations of scones in my cookbooks and I found this one- Continental scones from The Lighthouse Cookbook, which is a book of recipes put together by the Friends of Deal Island and Tasman Island Tasmania.  The method is completely different to normal baked scones so I wanted to try it out to see how they turned out- and yes they are pretty fine.  You would not really know any different unless you were told that they are pan-cooked rather than baked.  This recipe is by Sandra Johnson.  I love ring-bound cookbooks- so practical and easy to use.  And there are fab recipes here including ones for crocodile, warthog, and elephant stew!  (mmm they could be joking about the elephant one).


Ingredients:

4 cups self-raising flour
1 scant tsp salt
1 egg
125g peanut oil (or melted butter) this equated to around 150mls of oil
3 tsp sugar
1+1/3 cups milk
2 tbs sweet sherry -optional but I think it gave great flavour

Method:

The book says to follow this punctiliously- (well that's my word for it):

Place 2 cups of the flour into a big mixing bowl then add the salt, egg, oil, sugar, milk and sherry
Beat it into a batter till smooth
Slowly add the other 2 cups of flour beating all the while till you have a smooth, elastic dough
Turn out onto a floured board and pound that sucker with a rolling pin for one minute- phew so therapeutic!
Roll into small balls or cut into squares
Flatten them out and place into your electric frypan which has been floured-no oil, just flour-and heated to 190-200C
Place the lid over them and cook for approx 12 mins on one side or until the top looks dried
Flour the tops then flip over and cook for another 4 mins
They should be slightly risen and golden on top
Enjoy with jam and cream


that dough sure is sticky

beat it baby!  good therapy

yes I burnt my flour due to no thermostat on this ancient frypan

Mr Pickings ate one straight out of the pan-see the empty plate




Mersey Bluff Lighthouse Tasmania (Shutterstock image)



Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Stanthorpe getaway Part 1

Long, long ago, back before the dawn of time,  Mr Pickings and I used to go camping.  This was your regular kind, not glamping- just the tent and the sleeping bag and the billy on the fire.  And we used to go mid-winter when it was absolutely freezing!  One of our favourite places was Girraween National Park down near the QLD/NSW border.  It is a beautiful and relaxing area in which you can chill out and walk and listen to the birds- aah the serenity!  (movie quote in case you are not an Aussie reader).
These days our old(er) bones don't like the hard rocky ground so we tend to stay in cabins or B & B's.  Our most recent trip was a long weekend away at Stanthorpe, on the Queensland side of the border.  It is a great little country town, surrounded by vineyards, and other tourist havens like olive and lavender farms, jamworks, and a fabulous apple farm- Suttons-where they make their own seasonal juices, ciders, and apparently the best apple pie in the State!
We had a great time driving around the countryside, taking in the beautiful sweeping plains and the big blue skies.  And don't forget the wallabies, kookaburras, ducks (and 6 adorable babies) and all the other wildlife. And of course there is lots of great food around.  


glorious mountain views on the road to Stanthorpe


lunch at Warwick's Cherry Tree Cafe-yep that's a lot of chips!


the sunsets were glorious and glowing


We were lucky that it was almost the full moon, so we had the most wonderful sunsets then a beautiful moonrise each night.  As there were controlled burn-offs each day, it meant there was lots of smoke haze in the air, leading to divine nightly shows as the sun glowed through the clouds.

On our first full day, we went off to Hidden Creek Winery to have lunch.  We seemed to be the only tourists around this particular day so we had the cafe to ourselves.  It was lovely sitting in the sun at the front of the cafe, watching the farmer pruning his vines with an air-compressor tool.  No hand jobs for the modern vintner!


pinkly-glowing magnolia tree at the front of the cafe


I had grilled barramundi and vegies, while Mr Pickings had a beef and red wine pie.  As I am being kind to my liver lately, I only had lemon lime and bitters to drink.  Kinda ironic being in a wine growing area, but guess what! I drank no alcohol all weekend.  After lunch, we went to the lavender farm just over the border and spoke to the old lady who runs the place. She was a bit of a ditherer but the nice thing was that she said we had made her day.  We were her only visitors so she was very glad to see us.


who could resist this cute bear?  Not me!


I can never resist buying boutique olive oils so off we hot-footed the next morning to the Mt Stirling Olive farm.  They also sell local fudge, and chilli products so it is heaven for me.  Mr Pickings just holds the basket!  So yes I bought infused oils and olive forks and olives and fudge- you get the idea.


Ok this is just one of the many items I bought!



We headed off to a local winery for lunch which is on the opposite side of the highway to the olive farm so how could we resist such serendipitous proximity?  They are right up on top of a ridge so you get wonderful views from the restaurant, so you can eat and drink and admire.  More about this in Part 2!


Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Book Review

I have sadly been ill over the weekend with a gastric bug, so have not done much except for a bit of blogging and reading. I managed to rip through this one in a day!   So here is my review of this fascinating memoir of being a heroin-addicted junkie/chef.   All a bit Anthony Bourdainesque.

High Season by Jim Hearn
published by Allen & Unwin

Phew. A lot happens in this book or is alluded to at any rate. What a story! Mum of 6 abandons kids and rushes off to Sydney to become a hooker. But in the meantime she makes sure her boy has a job in a kitchen first so 15 year old Jim joins his first kitchen and is on his merry way to "heroin and hospitality". He gives us the highs and lows of life in the hospitality trade and on the heroin trail. It is an easy read and I raced through it in a day or so. I found it quite fascinating but I did get the feel that the Anthony Bourdain type prose came out of a cereal packet i.e. mass produced and formulaic. Don't let this stop you reading this interesting little memoir of a chef's mad moments. Here's hoping his poor wife Alice (who seems positively saintly putting up with Jim) is still on the scene keeping him in check. An added bonus for me was that much of the book is set in Byron Bay only a couple of hours away so I know the town and area well- which added to the thrill of knowing that drug-dealing crazy suicidal chefs are running restaurants not far from my place! And undoubtedly everywhere else.

It is always a bit scary reading books about the food industry as it gives you too much info about how the food you relish in restaurants has more than likely been mistreated, mishandled and made to feel thoroughly unloved. At least this book does not throw too many disgusting and unwanted insights into our culinary adventures around the traps!

Be aware this is not any kind of recipe book, but a memoir of a mad part of this chef's mis-spent youth as a completely over-worked and addicted young chef who came good in the end.





(You can purchase it online here)


Monday, 4 August 2014

Cornbread or corn muffins

Many moons ago, the local (and one and only) gas company had a cooking school.  I attended many of their classes, and learned many things.  One evening it was pouring with rain as only a Brissie sub-tropical storm can do.  So when I got off the bus to head into class, I got completely drenched- especially when the bus took off and sprayed me with many, many, many litres of filthy rainwater from the gutters.  I dripped my way into the classroom, squelched over to my seat and proceeded to drip and steam and stream for the whole 3 hours. At least I ended up with some good recipes to take home including this one which is actually for corn muffins; I just happen to shove it into a loaf tin instead.  It is very simple as all good muffin recipes are, and very delicious and great with soup, which is what we had it with.  (Forgive the hanging preposition.)  I think it is best served luke-warm with lots of butter, though it is equally nice the next day cold.

Ingredients:

1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup plain flour
1 cup cornmeal (polenta)
2 tbs sugar
2.5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dry mustard powder
black pepper
1/4 tsp dried thyme
3 tbs grated parmesan  (you can use the cheap stuff in the green canister if you like)
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil- I used a mix of olive and peanut oil
2 eggs lightly beaten
1 cup frozen corn kernels- put them in a Pyrex jug and pour boiling water over for a few mins. to soften
2 tbs chopped roasted capsicum out of a jar
3 stuffed green olives
a few strips of semi-dried tomatoes
extra parmesan for sprinkling over the top


Method:

Throw the finely chopped onion into a small amount of olive oil and fry gently till soft; allow to cool 
Grab a large bowl, and stir the dry ingredients together- flour, polenta, sugar, baking powder, salt, mustard, pepper, thyme and parmesan
Take a medium bowl for the wet ingredients- stir together the milk, oil, eggs and onion
Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, then add the wet ingredients and stir gently to combine
You need a light hand here; no over-mixing wanted.  The mixture will look crumbly and not quite integrated; this is fine and just how you want it
Stir in the drained corn kernels- gently, remember!
Pour the mixture into a greased and floured loaf tin or muffin tray, and top with the chopped capsicum, olives and tomatoes.  This can be replaced or augmented with 2 rashers of bacon finely chopped if you wish to be carnivorous
Sprinkle over more parmesan, and more pepper if you like
Bake at 200C for about 30 minutes- it may need a few more depending on your oven  (muffins will only take 15-20 mins)
When the top is golden and a skewer comes out clean from the middle, you know it is ready
Leave the loaf to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then take it out and place on a wire rack
It will keep in an airtight container for a couple of days, not that it would last that long in my house


sorry about the photos- it was getting dark!



Mr Pickings was making corn chowder for dinner to go with the cornbread




gas containers in Karlsruhe (photo image by Ikar.us)



Sunday, 3 August 2014

In My Kitchen August 2014

I am once again joining in with Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, sharing what is in my kitchen with other friendly food bloggers.  Join in- it is a lot of fun!


this is an exquisite little olive pot a friend made for me


a serpentine llama I bought in a Peruvian shop
in Warwick (QLD)! at the Jumpers and Jazz festival in July


a gorgeous silver dessert/cake fork that I found
 in a quaint little shop run by a very old man


on the left is the lemon-infused EVOO that
 I recently bottled after letting it infuse for about 5 weeks.
 On the right is sumac that I purchased
down in Kingscliff when having a few days away


a beautiful spatula from Paris that
 my cousin brought back recently for me


can't wait to read this one!


and last but not least, this is my kitchen!
Well a corner of it anyway!
the space filled with books
is meant to be for a microwave
 but I love my books too much so
the microwave went downstairs