Bready Things

Afternoon Tea and Jane Austen

Two hundred years have passed since Jane Austen died on the 18th of July, 1817. I wasn’t sure how I would commemorate the occasion. The one thing I didn’t think I would be doing was attending an afternoon tea hosted by Caroline Jane Knight, Jane Austen’s fifth great niece and the last descendant to be raised in the ancestral family home, Chawton House.

Caroline’s talk was informative and engaging. She spoke of so many things but the one thing that struck me most were her Australia connections. I was stunned to realise that Jane Austen’s fifth great niece actually lives in Melbourne and that her mother was born in Australia. Caroline is a renowned business woman and philanthropist. Her main philanthropic focus is promoting literacy around the world.

After the talk Caroline stayed around to chat with guests and sign copies of her book “Jane & Me.” She even brought a piece of the family dinner service. The bespoke Wedgwood service features a pattern commissioned by Jane Austen’s brother Edward. Jane and Caroline both ate from that service and we got to see it!

And speaking of dinner service, Caroline’s fascinating talk was accompanied by an afternoon tea.
For savouries we were served:
Free range egg, truffle and watercress sandwiches
Yorkshire pudding with roast beef and horseradish cream
Ham hock terrine with piccalilli.
For sweets we were served:
Scones with strawberry jam and cream
Lemon meringue tartlet
Sour cranberry Bakewell tart with citrus sherbet sauce
Strawberry Eton mess
A glass of sparkling wine to begin followed by tea and coffee brought an end to a fabulous afternoon.

The recipe I would like to share in honour of Jane Austen is from one of my favourite cookbooks – “Kafka’s Soup” by Mark Crick. Crick not only creates recipes inspired by famous writers, he writes them in the style of the author. When I read his recipe for “Lamb with Dill Sauce à la Raymond Chandler” I was hooked. His description of the leg of lamb feeling “cold and damp, like a coroner’s handshake” had me running to the bookstore counter with money and book in hand!

I think Jane Austen would love Crick’s literary wit. I also think she’d love the eggs Crick created for her. So without further ado here are Mark Crick’s “Tarragon Eggs à la Jane Austen” with edited selections from his text and tweaks by me.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that eggs, kept for too long, go off” begins the recipe.

As to what herbs to use, Mrs B thought “Parsley might do … Good-looking, with an easy and unaffected manner.” But Lady Cumberland did not agree. “Too much curl to its leaf, and too often seen in great bunches at fishmongers. It would be a most unhappy connection.” Mrs B spies some tarragon which she does not like. “It refuses to grow here, it refuses to grow there, but fancies itself so very great, disappearing every winter I know not where. I quite detest the plant.” Again Lady Cumberland disagrees. “French tarragon is an aristocrat among herbs, and although I think it too good for your eggs, I cannot deny that it would be a fine match for them.” To avoid offending either lady I have chosen a combination of the two herbs. In deference to Lady Cumberland’s dislike of curly parsley I chose flat leaf.

The instructions for beating the 4 eggs include straining them, which I didn’t do, but I did carefully beat them so as not to create a froth which apparently is “so unsightly.”
I added 1 teaspoon of dried tarragon and 1 teaspoon of chopped fresh parsley to the beaten eggs. I then spread 20g of butter around the pan and added a further 20g of butter in small chunks to the mix. I added salt and pepper to taste. Pouring the eggs into the pan I gently cooked them, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan. I removed them from the heat before they were fully cooked, allowing the residual heat to cook them to my liking. A serving of toast and tea completes the dish.

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Mark’s recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of tarragon either fresh or dried. Parsley, either curly or flat leaf, is not used. Obviously Mark has chosen Lady Cumberland over Mrs B – a brave choice indeed!

I can only hope Mrs B and Lady Cumberland approve of my tweaks 🙂

Learning About Lammas

I had always assumed that Lammas, Halloween, Imbolc and Beltane were fixed date celebrations while the Solstices and Equinoxes were moveable dates. It’s a bit like Xmas being a fixed date and Easter being a moveable one. I thought it was the same for our eight witchy holidays – four are fixed and four are moveable. Well, that’s not quite the case.

Realising Lammas was upon me I googled to see what was happening for Aussie Lammas. That is when I got a surprise. Some were celebrating on the traditional date of February 2nd while others were celebrating on February 4th. Why the discrepancy? Lammas is meant to be the mid point between the Summer Solstice and the Autumn Equinox, but if the dates of the Solstices and Equinoxes change, then so too would the midpoint. It makes sense, but does it feel right? I’m not sure. It’s something I will think on. One thing I do know – I won’t be celebrating Halloween on May 5th. When it comes to Halloween I’m a traditionalist – I celebrate on April 30th and October 31st 🙂

Lammas, also known as Lughnasadh, is the first Autumn festival of the year. Lughnasadh is derived from the name of the Celtic God Lugh while Lammas is derived from an Old English term for “loaf mass.” While I am into Gods, I am way more into bread, so to celebrate Loaf Mass Day, or Lammas, I went to one of my favourite places for jaffles – Bad Frankie.

Jaffles are one of my favourites forms of toasted sandwich. Two pieces of bread filled with savoury or sweet ingredients, buttered on the outside and then cooked in a special sandwich maker known by a few names such as pie iron, toastie iron or jaffle iron. The key to a jaffle is that the bread is toasted while the filling is heated and sealed between the slices of bread. It’s the sealing that makes it different to a toasted sandwich.

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Round Jaffle Iron

Rather than give a recipe for a jaffle, I’m going to share some photos of the different jaffles I have enjoyed from Bad Frankie and my other favourite jaffle place, Windmills and Waffles – a great place to break your trip from Melbourne to Adelaide when visiting the pandas 🙂

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Bangers & Mash from Bad Frankie – pork sausage and onion jam sandwiched between one slice of bread and one layer of cheesy mashed potato! And served with gravy!!

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The Chook from Bad Frankie – poached chicken, celery and pine nuts. Served with mayonnaise. My favourite 🙂

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Classic Ham & Cheese from Windmills and Waffles – served with tomato sauce and pickles on the side.

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Lamington from Bad Frankie – sponge cake soaked in chocolate, rolled in coconut and filled with jam. Served with cream.

Feeling inspired?
Let me know what your favourite jaffle fillings and creations are 🙂

A World Of Baking

As I was standing in line at the post office, I happened to see a book for sale called Bake: Beautiful baking recipes from around the world by Paragon Books. The heavy hardback was reasonably priced so I bought it. I couldn’t wait to get home and check out the recipes! The book contains so many bakes that I want to try but I just had to make one of the entries in the USA & Canada section – Spring Onion Cornbread! I was very happy with the result. The bread was moist, delicious and very flavoursome. It was great warm but also good the next day sliced with a bit of butter.

Spring Onion Cornbread

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Ingredients
1 cup fine cornmeal
1 cup plain flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground celery seed
1 teaspoon sea salt
55g (2oz) parmesan cheese, freshly grated
2 eggs, beaten
1 + 2/3 cups milk
55g (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted
3 spring onions, chopped

Instructions
Preheat oven to 190C / 375F.
Line a baking pan with baking paper (approximately 28cm x 20cm).
Sift the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, celery seed and salt into a bowl.
Stir in 40g (1.5oz) of the parmesan cheese.
In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, milk and butter.
Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until combined.
Add the spring onions and mix until combined.
Pour into prepared pan.
Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until firm and golden.
Cut into squares.
Best eaten warm.

Love spring onions? Check out my recipe for Spring Onion Pancakes 🙂
Love cornmeal? Check out my recipes for Hush Puppies, Panda Cam Cuppycakes and Mamaliga 🙂

Old World Libum

It’s the longest night of the year in the Southern Hemisphere.
What better way to celebrate than with this ancient Roman cheese bread, baked on bay leaves and drizzled with warm honey.

Click here for my previous article on the Winter Solstice.

Keep reading for my Old World Libum recipe.

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Ingredients
16 fresh bay leaves
225g ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup plain flour
extra flour for dusting
1/4 cup honey
extra fresh bay leaves for serving (optional)

Method
Preheat oven to 220C / 430F.
Line two baking trays with baking paper.
Arrange the bay leaves into four wreaths on the baking paper.
Place the cheese into a bowl and beat until soft.
Add the egg and mix until combined.
Add the sifted flour a tablespoon at a time until a soft but sticky dough is formed.
With well floured hands, gently shape the dough into four rounds.
Place a round on each wreath.
Bake for 20-30 minutes or until firm and golden brown.
Score a cross shape into the cakes but do not cut all the way through.
Warm the honey and pour evenly over the cakes.
Arrange extra bay leaves into a wreath shape around the cakes before serving if desired.
Best eaten straight away although you can let the cakes soak in the honey for 30 minutes.

Traditionally these cakes would be baked in a covered testo. You can cover each round with an ovenproof dish. They will be more steamed rather than baked and less browned. They are still delicious baked this way.

If you cannot find fresh bay leaves you can use dried ones.

A Very Pious Meal

I’d love to say that I came up with the idea for my recipe Scripture Bread with Selected Verses all on my own, but I didn’t!

A few weeks ago, I posted my recipe for Tapioca Surprise. I had a few comments and a few likes. I try to visit the people who have kindly visited my blog and as part of that process I came across the frugal feeding blog. When I saw the post about Scripture Cake I got so excited! I couldn’t wait to do more research 🙂

What I discovered were variations of a fruitcake that used biblical references for the ingredients. One recipe even used a bible quote for the instructions saying follow Solomon’s advice in Proverbs 23:14 for making good boys, which is “Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.” Okay, so I assume I have to beat all the ingredients together. Very clever 🙂

No-one is sure of the origins of Scripture Cake but it does appear to have been a clever way of showing knowledge of the bible in the form of a fun trivia game! You would be given the recipe and then try and guess what the ingredients were. A King James version of the bible was the standard text. To make sure accidents didn’t happen, a standard version of the recipe was also given, but only after the guessing game ended 🙂

I loved this idea, but didn’t want to do a fruitcake. So I thought instead I would make up a platter of tasty treats that would complement each other and utilise the many foods mentioned in the bible. Not knowing the bible that well, I found an online King James bible and started searching for ingredients. I knew I wanted to make a flatbread, so I typed in “flour” and chose the best verse. I soon discovered that some verses mentioned a few foods in the one verse. Being slightly obsessive, I didn’t want to use those verses, so I had to find an entertaining verse that mentioned only the ingredient I wanted. This limited my choice, but I loved the challenge. I spent quite a few fun hours crafting recipes and searching the bible.

So here is my contribution to the world of scripture recipes:

Scripture Bread with Selected Verses

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Biblical flatbreads served with marinated feta, olive tapenade and fig compote. You’ll need a King James version of the Bible to work out the ingredients – or you can just go to the list of ingredients at the end!

Special Equipment
3 cup size jar with lid

Biblical Ingredients
for the marinated feta
200g cubed feta 1 Samuel 17:18
1-2 sprigs of fresh Deuteronomy 11:10
1/2 teaspoon ground Numbers 11:7
1 teaspoon Matthew 13:31
3 tablespoons white wine Matthew 27:48
1 + 1/2 cup Exodus 27:20

for the olive tapenade
200g pitted kalamata 1 Kings 6:23
4 fillets John 21:10
2 tablespoons Exodus 27:20

for the fig compote
200g dried Nahum 3:12
1 peeled, cored and diced cooking Proverbs 25:11
1 teaspoon of mixed 2 Chronicles 9:9
1 tablespoon flaked or slivered Numbers 17:8
1 tablespoon Psalms 119:103
1 + 1/4 cup white John 2:10

For the scripture bread
2 cups sifted Leviticus 24:5
1 teaspoon sea 2 Kings 2:20
1/4 cup Exodus 27:20
1/3 cup Genesis 24:17

Method
To make the marinated feta:
Place all the ingredients in a glass jar, making sure everything is completely covered in liquid. Secure the lid tightly and refrigerate for 2 days, occasionally giving the jar a good shake.

To make the tapenade:
Process or blend the tapenade ingredients together until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

To make the compote:
Bring all the ingredients to a simmer in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Cook for 30 – 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool before refrigerating until needed.

To make the bread:
Combine all the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. The dough should be slightly sticky.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 5 – 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Divide dough into 4 balls. Roll each ball into the flattest circle you can.

Heat an ungreased frying pan or griddle over medium heat. Fry each circle for 1 minute each side or until light brown.

Culinary notes:
If the oil in the marinated feta solidifies, remove from the refrigerator at least 1/2 an hour before serving to allow the oil to return to a liquid state.

When making the dough for the flatbreads, you may need to add more water or more flour to form a slightly sticky dough.

And for those of you without a bible here is the list of non-biblical ingredients 🙂

for the marinated feta
200g cubed feta cheese
1-2 sprigs of fresh rosemary and oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 + 1/2 cup olive oil

for the olive tapenade
200g pitted kalamata olives
4 anchovy fillets
2 tablespoons olive oil

for the fig compote
200g dried figs
1 cooking apple, peeled, cored and diced
1 teaspoon of mixed spice
1 tablespoon flaked or slivered almonds
1 tablespoon honey
1 + 1/4 cup white wine

For the scripture bread
2 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup water

Remembering Halloween

As the Northern Hemisphere winds its way towards Halloween I cannot help but get caught up in all the excitement. As a Southern Hemisphere Witch I should be getting ready for Beltane, but I can’t. There’s just something about Halloween in October that feels so right for me – especially now that more Australians are celebrating!

flying witch - one of the houses near me has gone all out in decorations

flying witch – one of the houses near me has gone all out in decorations

When I was growing up I was one of the few Aussie kids that really loved Halloween. As a big fan of Bewitched, I looked forward to their Halloween specials. I always wished we celebrated it more here. There were some Aussies who held Halloween Parties but the spirit of the holiday just wasn’t there. You didn’t see streets filled with Trick or Treaters that I would see in the American shows.  And each year I lamented the lack of Halloween paraphernalia available in the stores. In the 80’s, a friend came back from a trip to England and surprised me by bringing back a whole heap of Halloween souvenirs for me! I was so happy 🙂

death by a thousand toothpicks - voodoo doll toothpick holder

death by a thousand toothpicks – voodoo doll toothpick holder

It’s been about 30 years since I received my coveted Halloween haul and happily things have changed. Now, when I walk into a store in October, I See Dead Things! Halloween decorations delight my eyes and Halloween candies make my mouth water. I know there will be Trick or Treaters coming to my door so I’ve stocked up on chocolate treats including an “emergency” pack of mini Turkish Delight Chocolates in case I run out. They’re really for me, as I don’t think many children actually like Turkish Delight, and I love them.

chocolate skeleton in Las Vegas, USA - where they really know how to celebrate Halloween!

chocolate skeleton in Las Vegas, USA – where they really know how to celebrate Halloween!

Some say that the acceptance and participation by Australians in Halloween festivities highlights the commercialisation of the holiday, others argue it symbolises the Americanisation of Australian culture, I just think about bloody time! While, the commercialisation of holidays to sell products is definitely a reason for Halloween gaining popularity, and Australia is also heavily influenced by American culture, it is important to remember that Halloween is not a traditionally American holiday but a Celtic one. Although America has made Halloween what it is today – and I thank them for that 🙂 It is ironic that a country so identified with Christianity has kept one of the most Pagan holidays alive and has spread its popularity throughout the world.

witchy cup and saucer - souvenir from Iceland

witchy cup and saucer – souvenir from Iceland

So when I think of Halloween becoming popular in Australia I don’t think of it as rampant commercialism, nor an Americanisation of our culture, but rather as a subtle re-Paganising of the world. Behind all the costumes and sweets is a memory of what this holiday is all about and who first started it – Pagans and Witches! We have been tortured and vilified throughout the centuries and our rituals and holidays appropriated by others. But Halloween is one holiday that has remained stubbornly Pagan.

So whatever you are doing this Halloween just remember that from the ashes of the fires we witches are returning, one cackle at a time!

witches convention? no just some broomsticks lined up at the panda reserve in Chengdu, China

witches convention? no just some broomsticks lined up at the panda reserve in Bifengxia, China

And now for a Halloween recipe 🙂

trick or treat?

trick or treat?

Coffin Bread

A variation on the aptly named Taiwanese street food filled with cauliflower soup, served with pomegranate molasses and garlic croutons.

Ingredients

for the coffin bread
1 small rectangular loaf of bread (approximately L 15cm, W 10cm, H 10cm)
olive oil

for the garlic croutons
leftover bread pieces from the coffin bread
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup olive oil
pinch of sea salt

for the soup
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons plain flour
3 cups chicken stock
450g cauliflower florets
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
pomegranate molasses for drizzling

Method

Preheat oven to 180C / 350F.
Using a sharp knife, carefully cut a lid off the top of the bread.
Cut out most of the bread inside, creating a basket to hold the filling.
Lightly brush outside and inside the bread and lid with olive oil.
Place bread basket on a baking tray. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden on the inside.
While bread basket is cooking make the croutons by tearing up the leftover pieces of bread and placing in a bowl with the garlic, olive oil and salt. Toss through and place on an oven tray with the bread lid. Bake in the oven with the bread basket until golden.
The lid and croutons may cook quicker than the basket so check and remove when ready.
When bread basket is cooked, place on a serving plate. If the soup isn’t ready yet, switch off the oven but leave the bread in the oven to keep warm.
Make the soup while the bread is baking by melting the butter in a large saucepan.
Add the onion and cook until softened.
Mix in the flour and the chicken stock, stir until combined.
Add the cauliflower and salt.
Simmer for 15 minutes or until the cauliflower is soft and cooked.
Puree the soup then return to the saucepan.
Simmer gently until the bread and croutons are cooked.
Pour the soup into the bread basket.
Drizzle with pomegranate molasses.
Serve the bread lid and croutons on the side.