Some people feel guilty about things they have or haven’t done in life – the big stuff.
Me, I feel racked when I realise the last of the peaches fell to ground, there were figs I missed spotting or the birds beat me to a particularly succulent bunch of grapes.
My confession – I adore filling jars, and everything that goes with preserved food – safe from decay, wildlife or neglect. Squirreling.
This weeks race against the sin that is waste (Aunty Isabel lived through the war and “Waste is Sin” was one of her favourite sayings) has had me drying figs, jellying crabapples, jamming plums, relishing tomatoes and roasting peaches.
My Grandmother (and Aunty Isabel) would have been horrified at the use of such perfect fruit as these peaches in crostata, pies were a place for less than perfect fruit.
I roast fruit in a single layer sprinkled with sugar and dotted with butter, cooking in a moderately hot oven until just bursting.
The restaurant menu also saw hour old kipflers simply dressed with olive oil, fresh mint, basil and parsley, a little seeded red chilli and salt. Yum with fresh curd cheese and black olive tapenade.
A salad of rocket, endive and sorrel had tiny barely ripe port grapes scattered through – the effect like balls of vejuice bursting in the mouth.
A rainbow of colours in the heritage tomatoes not only looks pretty but presents a spectrum of flavour, every variety having different levels of sweetness and acidity.
Spinach went into a savoury crostata with three types of cheese and eggs collected that day.
Seasonal cooking begs for restraint. Kind of ironic when nothing else is showing any.
Make a syrup by boiling 1 litre of water (or wine) with 1 kg of sugar.
Pop the whole figs (stalk intact) in this syrup and simmer very gently for about an hour.
Remove from the syrup and lay figs, allowing a little space, on trays. Place in the sun to dry for three days or until dried to your liking.
Keep the syrup and reuse for this purpose or reduce and pour over ice-cream.
The New Year media is so predictable, those lists – so irritating, so irresistible.
Advice has been coming thick and fast as an RSL club steak sauce about which restaurants got it right, which trends are on trend (when is a trend not trending then?) and which would you certainly not want to be caught dead in or simply need to die for?
The Daily Telegraph today included a deep fried mars bar in its top 100 dishes list.
John Lethlean (The Australian) wrote a fabulous and some will think scurrilous piece about restaurants who had tried too hard, those who didn’t try hard enough and those, according to Lethlean, who had tried just right.
The lure of the bitchy review is so great, and the writing in this case so witty it really is hard not to be sucked into what someone else ate, drank and spat out the end of a pen:
“Faded glory never looked so faded”
“A hodgepodge of tragically hip elements thrown on a plate with little cohesive narrative”
“Not bad for a shopping centre”
“Another tragic example of hipsters legitamising their career choices by forming little clubs that exclude the people for whom the restaurant exist”
My New Year resolution? Don’t buy into any of it. Not the hype, not the wanna be, not the next best thing or the last cool thing. Just to keep growing and cooking and putting it out to share with people who hopefully haven’t read what someone else has told them they should think about us.
But God, John, it was funny.
This month at The Zin House
Friday night tapas continues
Saturday 24 (Australia Day Long Weekend) Live Music & Supper$65 – Indigo Bells 1969 Tour
We will keep making yummy pies like the recipe here
Apricot or Peach Crostata (with acknowledgment to Lesley Russell)
1½ cups plain flour
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 tspn grated lemon zest
¼ cup water
3 tablespoons ground hazelnuts (or almonds)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
About 1kg of apricots or peaches (or virtually any fruit, any stones removed)
Place the flour, sugar, butter and zest into the bowl of the food processor and process until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs. Add the water and pulse a few times until the mixture comes together and forms a dough.
Turn the dough out and knead lightly until smooth. Wrap the pastry in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm.
Combine all the ingredients except the fruit.
Cut the fruit into halves or quarters, depending on their size.
Roll out the dough into a circle approximately 28cm in diameter. Place it onto a baking tray which has been lined with baking paper.
Scatter the filling over the pastry leaving a border of 5 cm or so around the outside.
Place the fruit on top of the filling, packing it close together.
Draw the pastry border up and around the nectarines, pleating it where necessary to form an edge.
Dot the fruit with butter and scatter it with a little caster sugar and bake @ 200C for 30 – 40 minutes. The pastry should be well browned and the fruit softened with luscious juices running.
Serve the crostata warm with thick cream, ice cream or both. Serves 8.
This week animals have been ruling the roost at The Zin House.
Milli and Vanilli, our orphaned twin lambs, have been taking farm to table to ridiculous new levels by crash tackling diners at the restaurant door and trying to push their way inside.
Albert, the adolescent peacock, thinks he’s a chicken except that at night he roosts on top of the Chook Palace and by day he makes commando like raids on winemaker Morgan’s car.
A very fat Blue Tongue lizard has also taken up residence with the hens and Albert, necessitating some very judicious and prompt egg collection techniques.
Dont even start me on the donkeys, I just came home to Cahill,Tulip and Yasser hanging out under the clothesline. If only they could fold and iron.
The weather has been horrific; air con is going in the restaurant and a watering system for the garden. Around us the unirrigated vines are hanging in, just. Last nights rain will have saved many of them from dropping their crop. Fig trees and geraniums prove themselves to be the cockroaches of the plant world.
The kitchen has been hitting about 50 and we have to find pockets of cool late or early to churn the ice-cream and roll the puff-pastry. I promise Lindl I won’t charge her gym rates for the weight she’s losing in our sauna.
Sorry if that bursts the ‘Life’s so wonderful in the country!’ bubble. We are however very much looking forward to introducing Friday Night Tapas – a bit of a breeze, icy cold craft beer, outside tables, Tinja sunsets and my favourite kind of food. This ice-cream with seasonal fruit and biscotti will make it on the first nights menu and we promise to keep Milli & Vanilli off the barbecue. Albert however we have less control over and Morgan may yet try to compost him and bury his bones with the cow horns.
Kim’s Ice-cream Neapolitan Cake
One batch of vanilla or honey ice-cream base (see previous blog or use your favourite recipe)
Raspberry sauce (puree fresh raspberries with enough icing sugar to sweeten)
1 packet sponge or Savoiardi finger biscuits (about 400 grams)
Make the ice-cream base and cool.
Make a syrup with one cup of very strong espresso coffee, three quarters of a cup of icing or castor sugar and two heaped tablespoons of dutch cocoa. Pour this over the sponge biscuits and toss to coat evenly. Leave to soak up any extra liquid.
Divide the ice-cream base into two. Churn one half with a tablespoon of raspberry sauce for every cup of custard. Churn the other half as is.
Line a pudding or mixing bowl with baking paper or cling wrap. Cover the base and sides with the soaked biscuits.
Add a layer of plain ice-cream over the biscuits, top with raspberry and then plain. Finish with a topping of the biscuits.
Cover and freeze.
Serve with whatever fresh fruit is in season – at the moment we are using mulberries and cherries.