Saturday, 16 February 2008

Food - and more food

Had a slow start to the day, but a full afternoon. I found out about a local farm open day last night, so we decided to head and have a look. The family-run farm is called Gleann na Meala - Valley of Honey, and it's located near the village of Hall, just outside Canberra. They grow a lot of salad greens, herbs, potatoes, tomatoes, chillies, zucchini, pak choi and more - all chemical-free. We stomped around the fields and had a good look, and Miss Tizz was able to pick a lettuce to bring home.

She and the X-man also sweet-talked one of the daughters of the family into giving them some tiny potatoes from the packing shed.

The chillies in the photo were very mild - the husband had a few bites before deciding to bring them home to see if he could grow some from seed.

We saw a sign on the road to the farm advertising 'Pick your own hazelnuts', so we headed there next, and spent a fabulous hour stripping hazelnut bushes and chatting with the owners. We came home with 3kg of unhulled nuts.

I've never really liked hazelnuts, but I've only ever had the roasted sort. The fresh ones, however, are magnificent! I'm the same with macadamias - give me bush nuts fresh off the tree and I will spend hours with a hammer breaking the shells to get to the nut, but cooked - no thanks! Not even when you add white chocolate bits and bake them in a biscuit, which is really saying something.
The hazelnuts will keep for several years if we dry them properly - hah! We have been assured it's fine to eat them green, but they will turn brown and hard if you let them dry out in the sun or a warm, well-ventilated spot. Never keep them in a sealed container, as they'll sweat - no Tupperware for these babies!
On the way home we stopped off at the Hall showgrounds and crashed a church picnic a friend had mentioned. Sausage sandwiches taste marvellous after an afternoon in the sun ...

A couple of weeks ago I made up some Big Batch Bikkie dough and froze it in rolls, so today I pulled out a roll and had fresh warm homemade biscuits in about 10 minutes. Wonderful!

Be warned: this recipe makes a HUGE amount. I made one-third of it, and I estimate I will get about 150 biscuits out of it! I make them about the size of a commercial biscuit (an attempt at portion control!), and they come out quite thin and crisp. But just in case you need to feed a tribe, the full recipe is below (and although it looks like a lot of butter and sugar, remember it goes a long way):

Big Batch Bikkies

750g butter
1.5 kg brown sugar
6 eggs
1.5-2 kg self-raising flour
3 tsp vanilla essence

Melt butter and let cool. Mix in the remaining ingredients, starting with 1.5kg of flour, and adding more if the dough is too wet. Unless you have a very large food processer, this is best done by hand. Make balls - 10-20 cent coin size - and place on baking tray, allowing room for spreading. Bake for 10-15 minutes at 180 degrees C on the top rack of your oven. You don't even need to preheat the oven to the full temp before putting the tray in.

The biscuits will be quite soft while hot, but harden quickly as they cool.

I suggest you keep a close eye on them at first, as they can burn very easily. The original recipe called for 15 mins at 225 degrees C, and I had to throw my first batch out, so you may need to adjust the time for your oven. You can freeze the uncooked dough in rolls wrapped in waxed paper and overwrapped with plastic film or in a long container. Then when the need for fresh biscuits hits you, just take out a roll, cut it into disks half to 1cm thick, and bake as normal. Almost quick enough to get them into the oven as unexpected guests walk to the door!

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