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.
We have a number of Mulberry trees on the farm but the season has been really dry and the BEST mulberries are growing in our bookkeeper Julie’s garden. She has been very kindly providing for our needs.
The addition of this lovely fruit to a tarte tatin adds just the right amount of tart-ness and colour. Add our house ice-cream – Honey
and it is just about as perfect as an old-fashioned dessert can be.
Don’t let anyone bluff you into thinking that this classic French dish is difficult because it simply is not. If you like pastry work make your own, if you don’t, just buy it (and the same goes for the ice-cream). There’s a brand called Careme – comes from the Barossa and is almost as good as that Lindl makes at The Zin House (but not quite).
We’ve been making a caramel, coating the bottom of small non-stick pans with this, adding a few layers of thinly sliced apples (core, and skin intact), a smattering of berries and topping with a thick lid of our house made puff pastry. Then it’s baked at about 200 degrees until the pastry is nicely brown and you can tell the bottom is getting gooey because there’s a bit of ooze up the side of the pan.
Don’t be scared about flipping it, that’s the fun bit.
The other great thing about this dessert is that even as the sixth course on our menu, it never comes back. Somehow there’s always just that little bit of extra room. It also passes the most testing test of all – we always bake enough for everyone on staff to eat at the end of service with a big dollop of Dubbo cream.
‘A citrus theme!” exclaimed a recent guest. No, not a conscious theme, simply a reflection of the season. Not following a trend or a current ‘in’ recipe, just using what is at hand. And true, I’m using lemons, limes, oranges and mandarins abundantly. Lemons roughly chopped and added with herbs and garlic when slow cooking lamb; oranges in a daube of beef; with olive oil, salt and pepper the only dressing on salad; zest in trout pate with just picked wedge on the side for an additional extra zip; lime delicious pudding; mandarin jaffa ice-cream; lemon and honey ice-cream… The fruit stays on the trees for months – so only need picking as required until the fruit starts to drop. Then I’ll preserve them – quartered, layered in glass jars with cinnamon sticks, peppercorns and oodles of salt then topped up with juice and sealed. It feels like a little sacrifice, but the blossoms are the headiest of cut flowers. The sixty blood oranges on the hill are now entering their second winter – the first without frost protection. We chose this site because David’s father, Keith, claimed it to be permanently frost free. Theoretically these young trees just need some good cold to set the ‘blood’ colour before first harvest. Another 60 lemons and limes behind the chook palace got an unprogrammed hard prune when the donkeys broke in recently, but have forgiven my lack of vigilance (and perhaps proved that despite DL’s insults, donkeys poo does contain some nutrient) by flourishing as a result. Next month I’ll start on marmalade with the grapefruit, not the delicate hand cut style but the chop it in a processor and throw it in a pot with sugar type. Citrus aren’t delicate and don’t expect us to be. The recipe below is a classic standby and takes literally a few minutes if you have the chef’s secret weapon* on hand.
Simple lemon tart
6 sharp lemons 600mls cream 8 large eggs 2 cups sugar few drops vanilla extractpre baked flaky tart shell/s
Use the zest of half the lemons and the juice of all of them. Whisk with the remaining ingredients and pour into the shells. Bake at 180 degrees until set. I say sharp because the lovely Meyer lemons are too sweet to make a really good tart. They are good for drinks, cordial, dressings etc but here you want a nice old fashioned lemon like Eureka or Lisbon. Taste the mixture before pouring into the shells and adjust the balance of lemon and sugar to your own taste. * Ruth at Pasteles Bakehouse, Google it and you may never bake again, but chefs very rarely admit to it so don’t let on I let you in on it.
Everyone from Roald Dahl to the The Clash have borrowed from the old nursery rhyme that citrus season always reminds me of. Just in case it’s got you singing in your head too, here are the original words. Gay go up and gay go down, To ring the bells of London town. Oranges and lemons, Say the bells of St. Clements. Bull’s eyes and targets, Say the bells of St. Margret’s. Brickbats and tiles, Say the bells of St. Giles’. Halfpence and farthings, Say the bells of St. Martin’s. Pancakes and fritters, Say the bells of St. Peter’s. Two sticks and an apple, Say the bells of Whitechapel. Pokers and tongs, Say the bells of St. John’s. Kettles and pans, Say the bells of St. Ann’s. Old Father Baldpate, Say the slow bells of Aldgate. You owe me ten shillings, Say the bells of St. Helen’s.