Tag Archives: cheese

Cooking An Alien Being.

“For I am he who hunted out the source of fire, and stole it, packed it in pith and dried fennel stalk”

Aeschyles: Prometheus Bound.

Last night, I took a leap of faith and cooked an alien. Not anything extra-terrestrial. Rather, I made a dish heroing the weird-looking, fennel bulb. Fennel is a flowering plant species from the carrot family. It is a hardy, perennial herb with yellow flowers and feathery leaves. I was challenged to try cooking fennel after seeing it used in every episode of Masterchef. After all, I’ve never even tasted fennel let alone cooked with it myself. While there are weirder looking fruit and veg, than the humble fennel bulb, even how to cut this thing posed enough of a challenge.

Indeed, the last time I bought fennel bulb it sat in fridge until it was only good for the worm farm. I simply couldn’t get my head around trying to cook it.

“There’s fennel for you, and columbines; there’s rue for you; and here’s some for me; we may call it herb of grace o’Sundays.”

William Shakespeare, ‘Hamlet’ (1564-1616)

So, this time I turned for help to what many know as the Australian cook’s Bible, Stephanie Alexander’s: The Cook’s Companion. The book is organized by ingredient. So, when you’re stumped by that mystery ingredient, Stephanie’s talking in your ear guiding you through the challenge.

To be perfectly honest, before I opened Stephanie up, I had no idea that fennel had an anniseed or licorice flavour. Not a fan of licorice, I wasn’t so sure about cooking this fennel after all, and was seriously concerned about wasting good ingredients. Yet, I guess its popularity on Masterchef encouraged me to have a go. I found a recipe in the cookbook for fennel with a simple cheese sauce and added a few of my own touches.

So here’s my adapted recipe for Pumpkin and Fennel Gratin. It was absolutely scrumptious and I’d describe the anniseed flavour as subtle and refreshing. I had no mad aspirations of giving this dish to the kids. So, I made it for an adult taste with mature cheese. My daughter helped herself,  and said it was “yuck” and tasted of vomit cheese and licorice. On the other hand, my husband and I loved it and I’d be proud to serve it for a dinner party. Well, that’s if we were to host a dinner party…

Well, at least I’ve extended myself!

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Pumpkin and Fennel Gratin

1 Fennel Bulb

1 cup roast butternut pumpkin

left over chicken, beef or lamb optional

Cheese Sauce

40g butter

2 tablespoons Plain Flour

1 ½ cups warm milk

1 cup grated strong cheese. I used Ashgrove Vintage Cheddar.

1 cup breadcrumbs made using stale bread.

2 tablespoons parmesan cheese.

salt and pepper to taste

a scattering of fresh thyme.

Directions

  • Turn the oven onto 200ºC.
  • Line a baking tray with baking paper. Add olive oil, a teaspoon of mustard,  crushed garlic and a sprinkle of salt. Mix.
  • Slice half a butternut pumpkin into cubes. Place on baking tray and bake until golden brown. Add to fennel in baking dish. Use your own discretion on the ratio of both.
  • Grease an ovenproof gratin dish.
  • Blanching Fennel: remove the outer layer of fennel, wash and drain. Boil in a saucepan of salted water for about 2o mins, turning over to ensure it is cooked through. You should be able to push a sharp knife through the fennel bulb.
  • Slice fennel and line the greased baking dish. Add pumpkin and meat if desired.

Cheese Sauce

  • Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Try not to let it brown.
  • Stir in flour over low heat and cook for two minutes with a wooden/large plastic spoon, to prevent the sauce tasting like raw flour. This is called a roux.
  • Gradually stir in milk and bring to the boil.
  • Stirring continuously, add cheese.
  • Spoon cheese sauce over veggies.
  • Cover with breadcrumbs.
  • Sprinkle with extra cheese. I used grated parmesan.
  • Bake until golden brown. The top will develop a scrumptious, cheesy crunch.

I sprinkled roughly a handful of finely chopped left over roast lamb into the mix, which also gave it a rich flavour. Well recommended.

Have you made any dishes with fennel which you’d recommend? 

Bon Appetite!

Rowena

PS Next stop…beetroot. It’s been in the fridge for a week. Do you think using it to make a chocolate cake is cheating?

 

A – Ashgrove Farm, Tasmania.

Quite frankly, you’ve got rocks in your head if you can’t find happiness at Ashgrove Farm.

Indeed, even the cows there, are said to be the “happiest cows on earth”.

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An uber-happy Cow.

Don’t ask me how they’ve worked that out. As far as I knew, cows weren’t that good at filling out market research questionnaires, but what would I know?  I’m from the Mainland. It could well be, that after eating all that supergrass, these Ashgrove cows have developed magic superpowers,  and they’re not just smiling for the cameras anymore.

I wouldn’t know. As I said, I’m from the Mainland.

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My daughter tasting the Cheese.

So, even if you don’t eat cheese, it sounds like you might enjoy the grass and you could even  add it to your salad, if you’re that way inclined.

Now, perhaps you’re a bit sceptical about these happy cows,  and your thoughts might be drifting towards a different kind of grass. However,  if you were living in Tasmania with a year-round supply of lush green grass, you’d agree that it sure beats munching of dry chaff out on the desert fringe.

As you might be aware, we spent three week getting around Tasmania in January, showing the kids “where Daddy comes from”.  The founders of Ashgrove Farm are my Father-in-Law’s cousins, but quite aside from the family connections, Ashgrove Cheese became our home away from home as we continuously restocked our cheese supplies and even loaded up the Esky for coming home. I’ve become passionately addicted to their Lavender Cheese, which is only available on the Mainland via mail order so I had to stock up. My other favourites include the Wasabi Cheese which I was adding to everything except my Weetbix when we arrived home, and a Bacon-flavoured Havarti Cheese.

If I had to differentiate Ashgrove Cheese from other cheeses, I’d say they’re deliciously creamy. When this creaminess is partnered with the Lavender or Wasabi, for example, this creaminess is cut through by these flavours for a very well-rounded and balanced flavour.

I hope my very elementary attempts at food writing there make sense. Despite being a writer and something of a foodie, I find it very difficult to write about food in any detail. I’m much, much better at eating it!.

By the way, Ashgrove Farm’s store doesn’t simply stop at cheese and there’s a wide range of gourmet treats like coconut ice, fudge, salad dressing and…(drum roll)…ice cream to die for! I particularly loved the lemon ice cream which was as white as snow  with a strong lemon flavour cutting nicely through the exceptionally creamy, smooth texture.

Humph…I’m  starting to wonder whether this virtual tour of Ashgrove Farm has been such a good idea. I’m staring longingly at their web site and banging my head against the screen. Let me in! Let me in! Or, I’ll huff and I’ll puff and …I’m now start behaving more responsibly.  Cheese addiction can become life threatening if you don’t keep yourself in check.

So, on that note, let me turn it over to you. Are you doing the April A-Z Challenge? If so, please leave a link to your A post below and I’ll try to head over. I’ve got rather caught up lately and haven’t been blogging as much.

It’s been great to catch up!

Xx Rowena

Today is the first day of the A-Z April Challenge and my theme this year is Tasmania. My husband is a -5th generation Tasmanian and in January this year we spent three weeks travelling round around Tasmania, and this is my theme for the challenge this year.

Tasmanian Cheese Temptation.

“I can resist everything except temptation.”

– Oscar Wilde

There’s an unwritten code at free tastings. It’s understood that “a taste”, does NOT equate to a free feast. Yet, who hasn’t gone back for more? Seconds? Thirds? No one’s watching. Or, are they???!!!

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After all, is that mirror really a mirror? Or,  is it actually a two-way, and they’ve employed the ultimate in nerdy bean counters to count how many pieces you’ve snaffled? That’s right. They could be paying someone to sit in a back room all day, every day, counting how many “tastes” we’ve each had.
I had my doubts. Yet, was I prepared to take a chance?
As you might recall, the family and I are on a three week holiday in Tasmania. Last night, at least as far as the blog is concerned, we drove back “home” from Port Arthur to Devonport. Now, we’re heading off to Ashgrove Cheese, conveniently located on the Bass Highway at Elizabeth Town (this is the road between Devonport and Launceston).

It is an unfortunate truth that the majority of you will never make it to Tasmania and won’t have the opportunity to visit Ashgrove Cheese for themselves. For this reason, I’m only going to touch on the variety of cheeses available and focus more on the universal cheese tasting experience itself. This is something you can hopefully experience closer to home. Ashgrove Cheese is also available in supermarkets on the Australian mainland, although there’s a much greater variety available in Tasmania and through their store and online.

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I’m hoping some of that cow happiness rubs off on me. Bring it on!

Anyway, getting back to the tasting…
With our usual bull-in-a-china shop enthusiasm, we headed for the tasting table. Of course, I should remember which cheeses were out for tasting. However, I was too busy eating and dreaming of cheese, to take in such details. Of course, I remembered the Wild Wasabi Cheese, because we usually have it at home. There was also the Lavender Cheese, which was my favourite, until the kids found the Havarti Cheese with Bacon flavouring. There was also an Ashgrove Smoked Cheddar, Rubicon Red (a red Leicester type of cheese), Mr Bennett’s Blue, Bush Pepper and a Chilli cheese.
This was when I ran into trouble. Make that TROUBLE!!
Obviously, a taste wasn’t enough. I wanted: “MORE!” (remember infamous Oliver Twist!!)
Being powerless to resist temptation, I started to wonder  whether anyone would notice if I just happened to sneak a second piece of Lavender Cheese.
By this point, my taste buds had gone into overdrive and any sense of manners, etiquette or even the sacred Golden Rule,  had gone out the window. All I could hear was that primeval cry straight from the 80’s: “greed is good”. That, and a little wee voice, which could well have been the devil himself, saying: “No one will notice if you take another piece.”

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However, I’m not so sure. Although I’m a foreigner “from the Mainland”, there’s still that persistent fear of getting caught and I’m not sure what they do to people who eat more than their share at tastings.

Do you know if these places have video surveillance? As I mentioned before, I did wonder whether they kept some poor sod out the back who has to count how many pieces of cheese we’ve eaten. Then, anyone who goes back for more is immediately exterminated.

Despite all my moral principles, I could see myself guzzling the entire platter of luscious lavender cheese, when red lights start flashing. Sirens blaring, an announcement now comes over the PA: “Lady, you’ve had 17 pieces of cheese. Please leave the building.”

Or worse still, they might call the cops. Then, I’ll be leaving in handcuffs before being unceremoniously thrown into the paddy wagon…or even in the stocks!
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I was concerned this could be my fate if I kept “tasting” the cheese. You’ll find out more about the reference to “Crackpot” soon.

Yet, as much as I want to keep eating my way through that scrumptious stash of Lavender cheese and move onto the Wasabi with all the stealth of a cunning mouse, I’m restraining myself. There’s still this unwritten code holding me back: “Thou shalt only take one piece.” It might not be one of the Ten Commandments, but going for seconds has got people into a lot of trouble. You just ask some of those poor convicts who’d been transported out to Tasmania when it was still Van Dieman’s Land! Greed isn’t always good after all!

Fortunately, you can buy your own stash of Ashgrove Cheese at the factory and have a serious feast back home. I also bought a few extras as well…coconut ice and caramel fudge, which have nothing to do with cheese and we also had a round of Ashgrove Ice Creams, which is more than worth flying down to Tassie for. They were so yum and when it’s made by “the happiest cows on the planet”, you couldn’t ask for more!

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Nothing like having an ice cream for each hand. Yet, this photo warrants close inspection. My daughter is pretending to be me. She put on my glasses and is “taking photos”. You could say this is a different type of “selfie”!

However, our day of indulgent food tastings didn’t end there.Nor did my battles with temptation!

After leaving Ashgrove Farms, we headed over to Anvers Chocolates at La Trobe. That deserves a write up all of its own. So, stay tuned.

Meanwhile, I’m heading off to convince my cousin that she should re-think her wedding cake. Why have fruit cake, when you could be having a scrumptious Ashgrove Cheese Tower, instead? Besides, cheese is gluten free!!

However, the prospect of a lonely little Cheese Tower, leads me to a whole new level of TROUBLE and I’m now wondering how much time I’d get for stealing a cheese tower? Who knows? I might actually be able to finish writing my book in solitary confinement!

Do you have any cheese confessions to share? I’d love to hear them and I promise I won’t ring the Police!

xx Rowena

Ashgrove Cheese  is located at 6173 Bass Highway, Elizabeth Town, Tasmania 7304.

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I told you they have the happiest cows on earth!

Weekend Coffee Share… 5th February, 2017

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How are you? I hope you’ve had a great week.

Tonight, I’m encouraging  you to join me for a taste of Tasmania. I’m currently savouring Ashgrove Farm’s Lavender Cheese on crackers and sipping on a bottle of Spreyton’s Hard Ginger Beer. Neither of these delicacies are available locally but given the number of locals visiting Tasmania, I can see them being trafficked back. However, if things get desperate, I can get the Lavender cheese posted up. Meanwhile, I’ll just have to feast on their Wasabi cheese. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it.

It’s great to finally catch up with you again.

Last weekend, we returned from 3 weeks’ holiday in Tasmania. While I had no intention of writing away our holiday, I was hoping to upload more to the blog. However, we had woeful Internet access. Indeed, my mobile phone was even out of action most of the time. So, I’m frantically trying to post about our holiday so I can finally make it home on the blog. We’re currently driving back from Port Arthur to Devonport in blog time although we’ve now  been back for a week.

Last Monday, was what I call the start of the real New Year. That’s when the kids go back to school after the long Summer break and when all those resolutions really come home to roost. Of course, we’re supposed to be 200% organized for the new school year with their uniforms all clean and pressed, shoes together all brand spanking new,  and pens, papers, bags, lunches all ready to roll.

You know the drill.

However, it looks like we’ll be winging the return to school. The Spirit of Tasmania pulled into Melbourne at 6.00AM Saturday. This was followed by the long drive back home and we arrived home at about 7.00PM with one day to hope and pray we’d be ready for school.

Fortunately, we passed muster.

Since getting back from Tasmania, I’ve slowly been blogging about the trip. This has involved a lot of background research, especially about the World Heritage Listed Port Arthur Convict Site. Unfortunately, we only had half a day at Port Arthur. Although I’ve been there before, it was nowhere near long enough. The research was very enlightening and it better not be another 20 years before I get back.

Port Arthur…A Family Relic.

Harbour Cruise, Port Arthur.

The Chapel, Port Arthur

The Chaplain’s Voice 1870-1876

Up The Garden Path

Government Cottage

William Smith O’Brien…An Irish Rebel At Port Arthur.

I hope you get a chance to join me on our travels around Tasmania. It really is paradise.

This has been another contribution for the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana over at  Part-Time Monster.

xx Rowena

The Ultimate Lunchbox Cheese, Veg & Bacon Muffin

As if what to cook for dinner isn’t stressful enough, preparing the kids school lunches is the ultimate headache, especially if their school lunches keep coming home untouched and the dog needs to go on a diet.
While there is much discussion about childhood obesity, my kids are lean and my daughter actually is on a weight-gain regime. This means our kids need the full fat, the cheese and can have a bit of bacon without concern. Our problem is that they don’t eat, NOT that they over-indulge.
The other thing I’m now appreciating about our kids is that they’re not simply fussy but discerning. They both have fairly refined palates and can comment about particular tastes and textures, which is pretty impressive for their age. That said, I’ve worked in market research and so they’ve never got away with “yuck” or “nice”. They’ve always had to explain or walk me through why they’ve liked or disliked my cooking.
Lately, we’ve also been watching Masterchef where we’ve all been watching the contestants prepare their meals and then heard the judges reviews. Back on the home front, I have been elevated to Masterchef (or cook) and Geoff and the kids have become the judges. Unfortunately for the dogs, they were cast as “home viewers”, hungrily watching the action and praying for a few crumbs. Sorry!
So after all this Mastercheffing of sorts at home, it is hardly surprising that the humble sandwich isn’t good enough. They want more.
I made these on the run before school this morning as we’d run out of bread, wraps and the kids lunches had started coming home again. Of course, there were no guarantees they were going to eat these but they do love cheese and bacon rolls and I thought they’d probably enjoy this “healthed-up” alternative.

My first observation was that these went quickly and my son, fussy eater numero uno, devoured two straight out of the oven before he went to school. This is a glowing endorsement, as he is even very particular about the chocolate he eats. He did comment about the “garlic flavour” which was the onions so take it easy with the grated onion. A little bit goes a long way.The cheese was still hot and gooey. I had mine a bit later and again noticed the onion flavour but also the beautiful bacon flavour. The top was also pleasantly crunchy.
Yes, we will definitely be making these again and wanted to share our efforts on the blog.
xx Rowena

A look inside our muffins.

A look inside our muffins.



Cheese Veg & Bacon Muffins

Makes 12

Cooking time: 30 minutes
Ingredients
2 cups self raising flour

3 cups vegetables We used: ½ cup grated carrot
½ cup corn kernels
½ cup grated zucchini
a tablespoon grated onion (go light on the grated onion!)
½ cup finely sliced baby spinach leaves

1 1/3 cups grated tasty cheese.
½ cup milk
3 eggs
60g butter, melted
bacon pieces, optional
12 cubes of tasty cheese
fresh thyme, optional
Directions
1. Preheat oven 180°C (160°C fan forced) and grease a 12-hole (1/3 cup) muffin pan with cooking spray. I lined mine with muffin cases.
2. Take eggs out of the fridge. They fluff up better when beaten at room temperature.
3. If you are adding bacon bits, slice bacon into squares and fry in a large frying pan until crunchy. Put aside and cool. I use bacon with a bit of fat so it crunches up.
4. Sift flour into a large mixing bowl and create a well.
5. Grate carrot, zucchini,onion and add to flour.
6. Finely slice baby spinach leaves. Add to flour.
7. Add grated tasty cheese and fresh thyme to flour mix. Blend well.
8. Melt butter in the microwave on high in a mug for around a minute and leave to cool for 5 minutes.
9. In a separate bowl, whisk milk and eggs together and add cooled melted butter.
10. Pour wet ingredients into the veggie flour mix and stir gently with a large spoon until the ingredients are just incorporated. The flour should be mixed in and the mixture should resemble a batter. So, depending on the wetness of your veggie mix, you might need to add an extra splash of milk as I did.
11. Place a tablespoon of mixture in each muffin hole. Each muffin needs to be around the same size to make sure the muffins bake evenly.
12. Push a cube of tasty cheese into each muffin and spread mix back over the top so the cheese is “buried” inside the muffin. The cheese will melt during cooking and flow through the top, while leaving a scrumptious, cheese interior.
13. Sprinkle crunchy bacon bits over the top if desired. You can also stir some through the mix if desired.
14. Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. A skewer inserted into the middle should come out clean.
15. Cool in the tin before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely. That is, if someone doesn’t nab them while they’re hot. Mine vanished very quickly and this time it wasn’t the dog!

This recipe is loosely based on muffin recipes by Julie Goodwin and Curtis Stone infused with a bit of me. Next time, I’m going to try adding some olives and you could easily swap the thyme for fresh basil.

Adventures of A Cheesy

You could be excused for thinking you’re having flashbacks to the 1960s when you see a couple of purple cows grazing beside the road.

Don’t worry. Be happy! You’re not hallucinating. They’re real… albeit plastic… another quirky marketing gimmick. I don’t know why they couldn’t just stick a sign out the front saying Old Wyong Dairy? It’s not rocket science. After all, that is where we are!

Rustic signage at the Old Wyong Dairy

I am a woman on a mission. I’m sure you’ve heard of “foodies”. Well, that must make me a “cheesy” because I’m mad about cheese and that’s why we’re here. I’ve heard about a boutique cheese making operation and I got here as fast as I could.

Must have been a mouse in a past life!

I’m a seasoned cheese tourist. A few years ago, we visited my husband’s homeland, Tasmania. While other tourists were climbing Cradle Mountain, we were driving from coast to coast chasing the mighty cheese. There was the Pyengana Cheese factory in the North-East followed by the Lactos Cheese Factory at Burnie on the North-West Coast and followed by Ashgrove Farm at Elizabeth Town again in the North-West. I was in heaven.

So you could just imagine my excitement when I heard there was a cheese factory locally on the Central Coast. It was still about an hour away but I was busting to get there. I’d also heard they made their own yogurt using jersey milk and that sounded great too.  My husband grew up on jersey milk and raves about the stuff. So on the way home from dropping the kids off at Camp Breakaway, I managed to divert Geoff and we were in heaven.

Now, I always prefer rustic to commercial and the Little Creek Cheese Factory was quaint, intimate, filled with cheese and yogurt and then there was John. I always love somebody who can tell a story and John really draws you in with his down to earth character, his enthusiasm and a good yarn. Just ask him about how he started the business. It’s a great story.

I’m not going to go into a running description of all the cheese and yogurts. Personally, I can’t understand how all those food and wine critics come up with all those weird and wonderful descriptions of things. The cheese looked like cheese. Smelled like cheese. Tasted like cheese. Thank goodness it did. I mean would you really want to buy cheese that smells like a pair of old joggers? Don’t answer that. This cheese fit all the cheese requirements but it also had lots of extra bits and pieces such as garlic, chilli and wasabi. They were all beautiful. I’ll just let you know that we bought a box load of the stuff to take home. That’s a pretty glowing endorsement! I can assure you, we’re not the last of the big spenders. I even bought a couple of wax cheese candles. They had definite character a bit along the lines of the purple cows but I’ve never claimed to be normal!

Cheese Candle

As a bit of a postscript, I should let you know that I fried some of the BBQ Cheese, a cow’s milk Haloumi, tonight and served it on top of lamb shanks, mash and hommous. It really gave my dish a bit of finesse. As we all know, you can’t just dish anything up these days. You have to “plate up”.

Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks with BBQ Cheese, roast tomatoes, mash and hommous

I have also been eating my way through their range of yogurts. First, there was the chocolate yogurt, then the toffee yogurt and I’ve had a day off today to squeeze in a slice of home-made Iced Vovo Cake for dessert.

I’m enjoying a great cappuccino at Cinnamon Beans Cafe

Back to the Old Wyong Dairy… John was happy to mind our cheese stash while we headed next door to Cinnamon Beans for lunch. This was another great “find”. The food was out of this world. Now, I know I shouldn’t be eating chips and it sounds like I am on some kind of high-fat, see-food diet but my husband and I rarely go out on a date so this was pretty special. Anyway, I don’t eat the chips unless they’re good…very good! These were possibly the best chips I’ve ever had and as much as I hate to admit it, I’m already thinking about ways and means of driving up the freeway to get some more. We had a serve of mixed chips with our open steak burger which filled the plate, by the way. The whole thing was excellent value at around $12.00 and just beautiful! This cafe was a real find!

I’ve always liked to share those unexpected experiences… real “finds”. I’d arrived at the cheese tasting with a heavy heart. I’d spent the previous day having tests at Royal North Shore Hospital and we’d just dropped our kids off for respite at Camp Breakaway. Even though I knew they were going to have a fabulous time, I couldn’t help feeling “emotional” leaving them behind.

Our visit to the Old Wyong Dairy really cheered me up and left me feeling completely recharged. It has a really positive energy and comes highly recommended.

Enjoy!

Xx Ro

The Old Wyong Dairy 141-155 Alison Road, Wyong.

Little Creek Cheese Factory  www.littlecreekcheese.com.au