Chestnut & Rosemary Cake

I first saw this slice at the red door cafe in Leura. It was served with sour cream and sugar syrup. I liked it so much (although I don’t think it needed the sugar syrup), that I wanted to try and make it as soon as I got home.

Chestnut & Rosemary Cake from Red Door Cafe, Leura:

Chestnut & Rosemary cake

Luckily, I had stocked up on some chestnut flour from Dijon Foods in castle hill. I think that the last cake I tried to make involving chestnuts was a chestnut chiffon cake… Using tinned chestnut puree.

I mixed the recipes from Australian Gourmet Traveller and Italyum. I later worked out that my copy of Silver Spoon also had this recipe, closer to the Italyum version.

I used 150g each of chestnut flour and plain flour, 3/4 cup of sugar, 50g almonds, and dried cranberries instead of sultanas.

My biggest hint: sift the damn flour. I normally don’t bother with this step, but I then spent a good thirty minutes hunting for the lumps in the batter. It was not worth the ten or so minutes that I saved at the beginning.

Batter up:

Chestnut cake batter

Eventually it turned very smooth, almost like a lotus seed paste, or indeed like chestnut puree. There was a slightly odd smell that I couldn’t place as I was mixing it.

I toasted my whole almonds, and then roughly crushed them with the mortar and pestle. This was to replicate the cake that I had eaten that morning.


Chestnut & Rosemary cake

This was just after 1 hour of baking including 10 minutes towards the end at 200 degrees to brown the top.

The cake was quite light and fluffy, unlike the one from the red door which I think had some almond meal in it and a lot more oil or butter. There was a slight bitter taste from the chestnut flour, but also sweetness and softness in the texture. If I go ahead with making a chiffon cake, the flour would work quite well.

I’ve still got 350g chestnut flour to practice with…

Ragamuffin steamed muffins, Leichhardt

I was in Leichhardt, it was Monday, and Penny Four’s was shut. No chocolate hazelnut log for me. But a few doors down the hill was ‘Ragamuffin’, featuring steamed muffins.

Hmm, like the authentic bagel, which has two cooking processes before you can eat it. Interesting ….

I was hungry, so I chose one sweet and one savoury muffin. $4 each.

Sweet (on the left):

Ragamuffin sweet and savoury

Lemon sorbet. Once again, like a sweet gooey centre of a fancy chocolate, there was a sweet gooey centre of lemon filling, only visible to the naked eye with a slight colour and texture change.


Sun dried tomato and feta muffin

Zucchini, fetta and pumpkin. Quite plain overall, but the inside had a gooey hit of pumpkin. If there had been salt, perhaps it had been steamed out.

Sun dried tomato and feta. Quite plain overall, but the inside had a gooey dollop of minced fetta and muffin batter. The picture doesn’t do it justice:
On a whim, I also picked up a cold pressed juice ($5.5). Apple, celery, lemon, kale and ginger. It was very refreshing and didn’t taste too ‘green’.

On a later date, when I walked in, a couple were enjoying coffee and an intriguing looking muffin. “What are they having?” I whispered. Coffee cream caramel:

Coffee creme caramel muffin

The top had crunchy instant coffee granules, the *cream* (not cream caramel), formed the gooey centre. Sort of like a cookies an cream muffin, but coffee flavoured.

Ragamuffin Steamed Muffins
157 Norton Street, Leichhardt
0700-1500, daily except for Christmas.

Cause and Effect

Can you see what I see?

Cherry fruit set

Was it the application of ice throughout winter as part of operation chill? After all, with the extra month (210 hours, say; for a total of 360 hours over winter) on non-flowering indicating that the cherry tree thought that it was too cold
Was it the presence of a local beehive for the last month? (Happy one month birthday ladies)
Was it both, or was it neither?

I don’t care, I got me some fruit set!

Spiced Carrot & Beetroot cake

I’ve told you before how my favourite cake of the moment is the red velvet cake with beetroot. I didn’t realise how common this combination was until I tried to find a beetroot cake that didn’t use chocolate. Well, my mum doesn’t like the texture – and I have been baking this cake quite a lot recently. Only when I got to pages 3 & 4 of my search results did I find something that wasn’t chocolate.

I chose this recipe from my home harvest.

Typical me, I tried to turn a gluten and dairy free recipe into one that contained both.

I have included only bits of recipe from where I have differed from the original.

I used:
150g grated carrot/150g chopped cooked beetroot
2 eggs (wheat based cakes tend to require less egg to bind them)
100g melted butter
40g brown rice flour – I wanted to get that slight crunchy edge that the rice flour gave my gluten free red velvet cake.
130 g plain flour
6 tablespoons milk

It looked like there was hardly any flour in the bowl, so I was a bit overly generous. Since I was down an egg, I upped the moisture level by two extra tablespoons of milk to compensate.

Combined Wet Mixture:

My efforts were not helped by the fact that the cake was put into an oven that for the first 20 minutes was at a lower temperature than specified.


Carrot, beetroot cake mark 1

Cooked for 20 minutes at 140 deg C, then 40 minutes at 200 deg C.

So I cooled the cake on the rack, removed the baking paper, and stuck it into my cake carrier.

The cake was eaten the next day. Imagine my surprise that when it was sliced open, there were green bits visible.

“Oh! Did you put pistachios in the cake?”

Uh, no.

It turns that sunflower seeds contain chlorophyll, which with the addition of baking powder (tick), turn green. It also turns out that I forgot the vanilla essence. Next time.

So I made it again a few days later. Mark 2:

Carrot, beetroot and coconut cake

This time I remembered the vanilla essence. Instead of sunflower seeds, I actually had walnuts. Instead of 50/50 beetroot and walnut mixture, I used my stick blender’s chopping attachment on the beetroot and carrot, and a 75/25 ratio. I also cooked it at the correct temperature. See how the top has sort of caramelised and gone sticky? My mum preferred mark 1, and my sister preferred mark 2. Can’t please everyone!

Beetroot Salad

Beetroot salad I’ve had before, but until I went to the thermonix demo, I’d never had it raw. I liked it then, but wanted it less minced.

A few weeks after I derived this salad, I ate a similar version at Saveur Restaurant, Roseville.

That one used cabbage and celery and described it as a ‘spring salad’.

In some variations, I have even used a tiny bit of parsnip, dug fresh from the garden.

Equal parts:

Dice finely, then add some fresh herbs. I used spring onions (scallions), coriander, parsley, mint, even perilla. Whatever you have to hand.

Beetroot salad

Mix in some vinegar and olive oil.


Spring has sprung, the plants have riz

Spring in Australia is scheduled to start right on 1 September. Like clockwork. This post covers September/October 2014. It has not been like clockwork.


Spring asparagus (in September), about 20 spears
Strawberries. Yup, I didn’t get rid of the 4 year old strawberry plants. Sorry.
One overcooked radish. I was supposed to harvest in August and I got it in September. The inside went a bit fragmented and soggy. I’ve taken to writing on the plant ID tags the anticipated harvest date.
Parsley, coriander, thyme, oregano, rosemary, nasturtium flowers and rocket.

Snowpeas – you turn your back, and they come from nowhere. They’re like triffids.

Spring snowpeas
Sweet potato – this one I harvested in Winter. It was a 1kg monster. No wonder it’s so cheap in the shops.

Monster sweet potato

Planted & Achieved:
Finally planted my columnar apple nearby to the other columnar apple that I planted last year.
Planted corn and tomato plants. I didn’t have time to grow from seed, so I planted seedlings.

South facing garden bed

What does the garden look like?
Cherry tree:

Cherry Blossoms

The cherry tree did not spring into blossom until much later in September than all the others in the neighbourhood. So there is hope for Operation Chill after all…Hopefully now that I’ve got the bees, I’ll get some cherries this year. I have to tell you though, I’ve only seen one bee hanging around the cherry flowers. There seem to be better pickings further afield.

Banana plant:

Banana and apples

I managed not to kill this one over winter, although I’ve had a red hot go. You can see the newly planted companion columnar apple in front of it. The more I think about it, I think it’s an orange. It smells like my neighbour’s orange blossoms, and it’s just gone mad with the flowers.

Asparagus patch:

Asparagus patch in spring

I found out this year that I was supposed to let the spears go to ferns for the first two years. Also that I was supposed to fertilise in autumn. Ooops.

Anonymous Citrus
Anonymous citrus

Still riddled with citrus leaf miner. Now I have the bees, I can’t spray anything to try and get rid of it. Should’ve done something over winter, except that citrus leaf miner is dormant then and it wouldn’t have worked.

Next season?

Hopefully now that I’ve got the bees, I’ll get better pollination of the fruit and veg. I should also STOP planting tomatoes. Sigh. There’s just so many plants in that family that I like to eat, but crop rotation just no worky for me. I have been planting peas/beans in winter, but it’s probably not enough.

I had meant to plant the frangipani pot plant – I still haven’t. Can’t do it in summer. So I have to wait another year.

So, dear reader, what have you been up to in your garden?

Caution: Bees on Board

I told you about inspecting a friend’s beehive earlier in the year. After that I then decided that I really wanted some bees of my own.

I ordered my hive, and then ‘painted’ the boxes with a 1:10 combination of beeswax and raw linseed oil.

Painting the hive box

It does get really hot in western Sydney, and after investigating natural paint options, I decided to paint the roof with a white “non-stinky” water based paint, to try and deflect the heat out of the hive. It was actually really surprising the number of hardware shop staff who didn’t know what a “low VOC” or “low volatile organic compound” paint was, only when I said the words “non-stinky” did they understand what I meant.

I tried baiting my warre hive by sticking it on the roof of the shed, and using a tissue with a few drops of lemongrass oil as bait. I’ve had bees amongst my rangy basil (going to seed) all winter, so I thought that I was in with a chance.

Here swarmy, swarmy, swarm....

Not a sniff, not a whiff, the local bees just weren’t interested.

Then I got a call via an established beekeeper who is on the Australian Beekeepers Association list to collect swarms. It was a bit too late in the day to collect on the day that I got the call, but we turned up at 8am the next morning. It was due to be a hot day*.

Their royal swarminess:

Spot the swarm

The swarm was about the size of a small rockmelon/cantelope/large grapefruit. It was ideal in terms of collection, about 1.5m off the ground, with fairly level ground underneath.

Peekaboo swarm!

After fetching the bait box out of the car and placing on the ground nearby, the scout bees were over in a flash having a good look around. We cleared the branches around the swarm cluster, and then the actual branch upon which the swarm was perched. One good shake into the hive box to get most of the bees inside, and then cover the frames with the flyscreen, and place the branch in front of the entry for the leftover bees to find their way. It’s a fine balancing act between waiting for the bees to find their way inside and waiting too long such that the day gets warm enough for the bees to go out foraging.

The bees go marching one by one:

The bees go matching in

After the majority of the bees had relocated, you could see some of the more organised ones at the entry way ‘fanning’ their wings. They were fanning out the scent of the swarm, so that any bee who was still stuck on the outside could work out where they had relocated to. I am especially amused by the fact that they used the duct tape as a ‘ramp’ to get up into the box.

I drove home gingerly, carefully, chauffeur driving. There were about five bees who hadn’t made it into the hive box, but had followed the scent into the car. Because the sun was on the back window, they were gently tapping on the window, trying to get out. I wonder if anyone else stuck behind me in traffic noticed?

I’m sooo excited.

Inside the hive:
Inside the hive

I had a quick peek into the hive box after I put the hive box into its new home, and just before I put the permanent roof on. The bees had clustered on the frames under the fly screen, just waiting for me to go away so that they could *get on with it already*.

About four days after I picked up the swarm, they seem to be going strong. I’ve now noticed about 50% of the bees are returning home with their pollen sacs birght yellow and full. The small hive beetle trap underneath of the hive floor is now being filled with discarded bit of wax and sticky clumps of pollen. Even bees have their waste products.


Hive at home

*It was a hot day. The garden thermometer reported a maximum temperature that day of 43 degrees Celsius in the sun.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 73 other followers