Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Breakfast Crunch

This breakfast crunch topping is delicious. I scatter it over my breakfast pretty much every day and have been known have a little as a snack. The seeds are crunchy, with a mild cinnamon flavour and are only slightly sweetened. It is good with a cold cereals and muesli or warm grains  such as oats / porridge or as shown here buckwheat. I make a big batch once a week and store it in a tightly sealed jar. Add your choice fresh fruit or berries, stewed fruit, nuts and yoghurt.

Buckwheat porridge with yoghurt, prune compote and my breakfast crunch mix. 

The seeds after baking.

Crunchy Breakfast Topping

1 cup sesame seeds
1 cup pumpkin seeds/pepitas
1-2 tablespoons agave syrup or maple syrup or warmed honey
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Place seeds and cinnamon in a bowl. Mix well.

Add 1 tablespoon of the syrup/honey ands stir through, add a little more if necessary but do not make the seeds too sticky or wet. The syrup is used to enable the cinnamon to stick to the seeds.

Place the mixture on a tray lined with baking paper and bake at 180 deg C until the seeds start to go go golden brown, approximately 15 minutes.

Allow to cool on the tray. When cold the mixture can be crumbled and stored in an airtight jar or container.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Develop - A Masterclass with Glenys Mann

 The Masterclass with Glenys was short but very focussed on developing an idea and exploring/interpreting that idea in a variety of ways. I have been a bit slow to report on this and had thoughts of having finished all the projects that were started, but this is not the case. I will continue to work on these ideas which is really what the class was about.

You can read about Glenys here and the focus of the workshop here. The timing of this class with the canvaswork class at the same time was not ideal, however, it probably led to a cross over of ideas.

The beginnings of a stitched postcard. The first exercise was to create a series of postcards. The crossover with my canvas work is evident as I continued to focus on the body.

This is the first postcard. An image from a magazine. I really liked the hands. If I had black paint with me I would have blacked out more of the background, however, as I only had a black text a pen I had to make do.

Hand sketch, the plan was to stitch into the paper.  Stitching holes made with an awl to allow the thread to pull through easily.

Another activity was to take one of the postcards and create a much larger piece. This is approximately fifty cm x fifty cm. I am continuing to explore working in a limited colour palette. This piece is made with a piece of vintage voile over old damask and cream felt for the hands.

Then we were to make a scroll. This concertina book is how I interpreted the scroll. I deliberately kept it small, it fits into a matchbox.

A version of 'a Little Golden Book'. The outside is painted gold and has muslin glued over the paint.

On the inside. Various parts of the body, starting from the head and working down.

Hands and arms feature.

We made some books using Glenys' favourite method.

An old calendar and an assortment of papers

We explored the idea of a palimpsest. I created a box to hold my postcards. Layers of paint and images, peeled back and scratched into.

Another of the activities was Mend. This is made from small pieces of an old damask tablecloth, very worn and in need of mending. I used it as an opportunity to explore a variety of mends and assembled it to represent a fragment of an old much worn and mended garment.

And throughout the class there were discussions, readings and plenty of sharing of work and ideas. 

Wednesday, 17 August 2016


Dips are one of my go to starters when I have people over. Easy to make and simple to plate and serve. I like the ease of people helping themselves whilst I am busy getting the rest of the meal organised. A selection of crackers, bread or vegetable sticks, perhaps a bowl of olives or some Fetta or salami and the first course is organised. The dips that I make most often are hommus, avocado and beetroot. When fresh and in season I also make this broad bean dip and eggplant. I like the dips to be thick and hold their shape on the plate, if you prefer a thinner dip a little more water can be added.


Avocado Dip
2 ripe avocado
1 clove garlic
juice of 1 lemon

To serve
chopped mint or chopped parsley
olive oil / lemon oilive oil
Place avocado flesh, garlic, a generous pinch of salt and lemon juice in a food processor. Blitz until a smooth and creamy puree.
Place dip on serving platter
Pour a little oil over the dip and garnish with chopped mint


1 can chick peas, drained
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon tahini
juice of 1 lemon

To serve
ground cumin
olive oil / lemon olive oil
Placechick peas, garlic, tahini and lemon juice in a food processor. Blitz until a smooth and creamy puree, add a little water to get the consistency right. Taste and adjust flavour with some salt.
Place dip on serving platter.
Pour a little oil over the dip and garnish with ground cumin.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Canvaswork Course

In recent months I have been working on a series of canvaswork embroideries as part of a course in Contemporary Canvas Work an Intermediate Certificate course with the Embroiderer's Guild 

 I had already decided that where possible, I would restrict my thread choices to a monochromatic palette of creams, whites, beiges and grey. For some time I have had more interest in creating texture and visual interest in my work by simply varying the stitches and the weight and type of thread. The body, life drawings and old anatomical drawings have also been of interest so my challenge was to incorporate both the subject matter and the techniques into a 'body of work'

The course involved completing a variety of exercises involving working the traditional canvaswork stitches, examining ways to adapt the style to have a more contempory or experimental feel. There are lots of samples, my plan is to transfer the samples from the folio to the artist journal and create a book of white stitched samplers.

There were two minor projects to complete and a major project. The first minor project was to work a vessel or bag using traditional stitches. I opted to make a slip case for a book. The stitched piece forms a mirror image wrap around cover for the journal and could have also worked as a wall piece.

Each side was worked in a different design.

The second minor project could be a book cover or wall piece. I made a book cover to fit an A5 Artist Journal. The journal was made to fit into the slip case.

For the major project I decided to create an artist folio - The Body Within. The folio was to contain a series of 'stitch' sketches and then a final piece.

Some of the stitch sketches, each is approximately five inches/twelve centimetres square.

The finished piece, approximately A4 size. Adapted from an antique drawing depicting a foetus within a woman's body. The leaves in the mid section of the body referencing a cabbage which opens up to reveal the foetus.


Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Vanilla Slice

Vanilla slices are a much enjoyed treat in our house. The colloquial expression for a vanilla slice is 'snot block'  and seems to be widely understood across Australia. As a family 'snotties' are sampled widely in the various bakeries and pastry shops. Of course there is the commercial, mass produced variety found in canteens and milk bars and then there are the artisanal. One of my discoveries included a thin layer of raspberry jam and a generous dusting of icing sugar instead of icing and is my preferred version. I often make these for dessert and serve them with some fresh berries.

My first adventures into making vanilla slices was pretty much like this blog post As a generalisation I find these to be more like the mass produced variety, custard very firm and often with a thick icing. Almost indestructable and easy to cut and serve.

As time went by I discovered the joys of French pastry cream (creme patissiere) and this is more akin to those gourmet or artisinal offerings. There are are many interpretations of the icing -  plain, passionfruit or simply dusted with icing sugar, however, the essence of the vanilla slice stays the same, a thick layer of good custard sandwiched between two sheets of crispy puff pastry. The custard recipe that I use was adapted from a Michel Roux recipe. His recipe uses only egg yolks but I use whole eggs and substitute cream for some of the milk and vanilla extract instead of a vanilla pod.

Vanilla Slices

2 sheets puff pastry
1 -2 tablespoons raspberry jam, optional
icing sugar to serve

5 Eggs
185 g sugar (3/4 cup)
60 g flour (4 tablespoons)
500ml milk
250 ml cream
2 teaspoons or more vanilla extract

Remove plastic film from pastry sheets and place on a tray to thaw.  Prick all over with a fork and bake in a hot oven (200 deg C) until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and using a clean tea towel gently press the sheets flat.

Line the slice tray with foil or baking paper making sure that it extends over the sides so that you can lift the vanilla slice out.

Trim pastry sheets to fit. Place one sheet in the tray with the top side facing up. Spread a thin layer of jam over the pastry. The second sheet will be placed upside down later.

To Make the Custard

Combine milk, cream and two thirds of the sugar in a saucepan and bring to the boil.

Meanwhile whisk the remaining sugar with the eggs until slightly thickened and light ribbon consistency. Whisk in the flour making sure there are no lumps.

Pour the hot milk over the egg mixture, mix well and return the mixture to the saucepan. Bring the mixture to the boil, stirring continuously with the whisk. Let it bubble for a minute.

To Assemble

Pour custard over the pastry sheet in the slice tray and then top with the the remaining pastry sheet. Press firmly and refrigerate until cold.

Dust with icing sugar or a layer of thick icing.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Beetroot Dip

Dips are great for casual entertaining. I often serve a dip with a basket of crackers or chopped bread and leave guests to help themselves whist I am busy looking after the rest of the meal.  Many vegetables can be pureed to make into a dip, however, beetroot with it's earthy flavour and vibrant colour is one that I come back to often. It can be served plain, but the topping while a little more work, is not difficult and adds to the presentation.

Beetroot Dip

2 -3 medium beetroot
1 tablespoon tahini
1 clove garlic
Pinch of salt
Additional olive oil

To Serve

2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2  -1 teaspoon ground cumin
2-3 tablespoons sour cream
1 spring onion, finely chopped
Chopped parsley


Wash beetroot and place in a saucepan, cover with water and cook until soft. Drain, allow to cool and peel.

Place cooked beetroot, garlic, tahini and salt in a food processor and blitz until mixture forms a smooth purée. Add a little oil if necessary. Taste and add a little more tahini and salt if desired.

Place/spread the beetroot purée on a serving plate.

Drizzle a little olive oil over the purée and then sprinkle the cumin over the surface.

Spoon the sour cream over the middle of the purée, do not stir it into the beetroot.

Top with the chopped parsley and spring onion.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Steamed Salmon with Coriander Oil

This is a really quick dinner, it is easy to cook just one portion or make a a family sized meal. The dish has an Asian influence with the green ginger and garlic marinade. The fish can be steamed or cooked in the microwave. The salmon will cook in five minutes and the coriander oil can be made whilst the the fish is steaming. The oil can also be made in advance and kept in the fridge for up to a week, it is also good with many other dishes. Marinate the salmon if you have time, the flavour will be better. Serve with steamed greens and some rice if desired.

To Make the Coriander Oil
Blend one bunch of coriander, a clove of garlic and three tablespoons of oil or enough oil to make a paste, add more oil to make a spreadable or spoon able sauce. The oil is necessary to prevent the coriander from oxidising or discolouring. 

To Prepare and Cook the Salmon

Finely grate a little green ginger and combine with a clove of crushed garlic. Rub the ginger mixture over the salmon and sprinkle with a few drops is sesame oil.

Place salmon on a plate covered with baking paper.

Steam for approximately five minutes or until fish is cooked, larger or thicker pieces will take longer. If microwaving the fish follow the instructions for cooking fish or cook in one minute intervals.

To Serve

Carefully lift each portion of salmon of the salmon and place on a bed of steamed greens. Spoon a little coriander oil over each portion.