January favourites

nectarine and vanilla tart-2

Hello and welcome to my first ever Favourites List. As threatened in a previous post, this year I’m replacing the usual Friday List with a Favourites list instead, which I hope, will give a bit more scope to share more of what I’m loving in a more flexible way.

It will be monthly, sometimes fortnightly round up of good things to cook, read, listen to, do, share and think about. Not always food related but hopefully a fun read in any case!

at home

Favourite books

Seven Spoons

I was given this book for Christmas and have already, successfully cooked many things from its pages. Author Tara has a gift for bringing flavours together, explaining new techniques and taking enticing photos and it’s honestly one of my favourite books in ages. We made the fried chicken (pictured below) and my children haven’t stopped asking for it since.

The Crayon Books

I know we are late to the party, but these hugely popular children’s books were given to us over Christmas and we’re in love; The Day the Crayons Quit, and The Day the Crayons Came Back are so sweet, fun and engaging for the kids to read.


We are big fans of the book Where Children Sleep by James Mollison so when I saw an excerpt of his latest offering Playground (basically – where children play), I grabbed a copy to give to the kids for Christmas. This truly is such a beautiful, thoughtful and thought-provoking book, with wide, bright and sometimes shockingly clear photos of school playgrounds from places as disparate as West Africa to Nepal and Tokyo. Our only criticism is the lack of Australian playgrounds!


Lunchlady is a new-ish quarterly magazine full of recipes, stories, really beautiful images and all the stuff I love. And how good is it to see independent publications like this, such high quality, hitting the newstands!? I’ve loved dipping into the first issue this month.

Flow book for Paper Lovers

Mum gave me a copy of this book for my birthday a couple of weeks ago and  it has been coveted by Alice ever since. Anyone out there who loves pretty paper and crafty projects, grab a copy.

Sponge sandwich_manildra-11Sponge sandwich_manildra-15Apricots

Favourite Foods

Stone fruit, berries, figs – need I say more? January is generous to us isn’t it. We’ve been busy this month making tarts, jams, salads and cakes all starring the season’s best. Here below are two recipes we’ve particularly loved this past month.

Pay dirt summer salad-2

Pay dirt summer salad with peaches

A couple of weeks ago we ducked down to the south coast to visit Mum and Dad who had rented a house at Mollymook beach. It was just heaven to dive into that cool, pristine salt water, spend long days making sand castles, reading the afternoon away and eating freshly caught fish, something we rarely get to do back in Orange! Driving home, I’d been advised to stop into a new cafe in the gorgeous town of Braidwood and am so glad we did. Pay Dirt Eatery is the kind of place every town should have – there’s one long scrubbed table, a small menu of beautiful, seasonal food, and a generosity and excitement about its local produce that I adored. I ordered a summer salad with local peaches to take away and it’s stayed with me ever since. Honestly – this was the best salad I think I’ve ever had. Tangy, hot with chilli, fresh with mint, full of crunch and tossed with sweet peaches to balance out the flavours. For the next four hours in the car I wondered about the dressing, how to create the whole lot at home and here’s what I came up with.

Thank you Pay Dirt for inspiring this, my favourite new salad. I know it’s not quite as good as yours but it’s still pretty delicious. Serves 2.

1 cup cabbage, thinly shredded
1 handful mint leaves
2 tbsp tarragon leaves
1 cup cucumber, cut into small pieces
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 eschallots, thinly sliced
2 perfectly ripe peaches, thinly sliced
2 tbsp nigella seeds
1/4 cup raw peanuts

For the dressing

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp very finely chopped red chilli (or to taste)

Toss together all salad ingredients. Mix dressing together in a jar, season adjust to taste then dress just before serving. YUMMMMMM.

nectarine and vanilla tart
Nectarine and vanilla tart

A simple fruit tart is one of summer’s great joys and my favourite thing to cook. I love bringing sweet, buttery pastry, fresh fruit and a kiss of vanilla together and the act of making the pastry, rolling it out and filling it with fruit makes me (and the family) very happy. Thank you to Lunchlady magazine for inspiring this recipe via your peach hand pies one on page 99.

420g plain flour
2 tbsp golden caster sugar
225g cubed, cold butter
1/2 cup ice cold butter

For the filling
5 perfectly ripe nectarines
25g plain flour
50g golden caster sugar
Zest and juice of one lime
1 tsp vanilla paste

To finish
1 egg
Golden caster sugar, to sprinkle

For the pastry;
Combine the flour, sugar and a pinch of salt in the bowl of an electric mixer and pulse a few times. Add the cold butter and pulse again until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Now gradually add the iced water and pulse just until the pastry begins to come together.

Turn out onto a work surface and knead into a smooth disc, wrap in plastic and pop in the fridge to chill out for an hour.

For the fruit; halve, and slice the nectarines fairly thinly then toss with remaining ingredients and set aside.

When ready to assemble; roll out your pastry on a lightly floured board until it’s about 3mm thick. Grab a pie dish (mine is an enamel one, about 23cm in diameter and about 3cm deep) and line with the pastry, then trim edges and roll extra pastry back up into a ball. If it’s still nice and cold, then re-roll again to cut the lattice pieces. If it’s too warm, just wrap with plastic and return it and the lined pie tin to the fridge for a bit.

Spoon the fruit mixture into the pie dish. Now, to make the lattice top, cut 10 strips of pastry and lay five of these across the filled pie dish. Turn the pie dish around and grab a sixth piece of pastry, and thread these in and over the pastry strips already put down. Repeat with remaining pastry. This sounds a bit tricky but honestly it’s fun and not hard once you get the general idea – and for this I think it’s best to see it done, here’s a good video to watch.

Return filled and topped pie dish to the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes or up to three hours. When we have friends over, I usually make it up to this point and then pop in the oven just as we are starting our mains so it’s fresh from the oven come dessert time.

So to cook; preheat oven to 200C and brush the pastry with your lightly beaten egg. Sprinkle generously with the golden caster sugar and bake for 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the fruit beneath bubbling.

nectarine and vanilla tart-3

We celebrated Australia Day a few days early and made the below sponge to take to a barbecue yesterday. It’s an absolute winner and the recipe can be found over at the Mill House Kitchen.

Sponge sandwich_manildra-9

Almond, apricot and fig bars, below. These were a winner for afternoon tea last week. I used the apple slice recipe from my book (pg 128) and swapped the orange zest for lemon and cinnamon for vanilla then glazed them with apricot jam. This is a great recipe for using up extra egg whites, which you may well have in the fridge should a pavlova be on the cards for Australia Day!

fig and apricot slice-2

Favourite blogs

These are a few of my favourites this month,  new and old. x

My Blue and White Kitchen

Not without salt

What should I eat for breakfast today

Always with butter

Bea’s Cookbook (A new discovery – Bea’s styling and photography is so beautiful and I want to cook all of her recipes)

Always a welcome dose of country life and beautiful baking – The Shady Baker is a long term favourite.

The First Mess


Favourite podcasts

I’ve been listening to lots of podcasts recently; in the car, in the kitchen, while walking etc and have particularly loved the below ones. If you have any goodies to share, please leave a comment below! Also, Stitcher is a great way to stream podcasts and find new ones too – it’s definitely my favourite way to listen in.

Ted radio hour

Interviews and snippets from TED talks around the world. I especially loved this episode on courage.


Wowsers, series two is so good, I’m on tenterhooks for episode 6, anyone else?

Radio Cherry Bombe

Conversations with awesome women in food. I’ve been loving every episode.

Here’s the Thing

I do love this for host Alec Baldwin’s ridiculously good voice, but wowsers he also gets some good guests on this show. I especially loved the Sarah Jessica Parker and Jerry Seinfield episodes.

Chat 10 Looks 3

Having a big fat girl crush on both Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales, I really do love their chatty, informal podcasts where they talk about the interviews they’ve done that week (loved hearing about Leigh’s chat with Harrison Ford and Annabel’s with Stephen Fry), books they’re loving, foods they’re making and anything else getting those bright minds turning.

Burnt Toast

From Food 52, this podcast covers everything from what makes a killer cook book to how to cook a wedding feast for 120.

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Favourite things

My new punch bowl

I found this beauty in a second-hand shop just before Christmas and have been making punches since like nobody’s business. Mostly they’ve been a variation of the theme below:

Summer punch
1 part golden rum
4 parts prosecco
1 part freshly squeezed orange juice
1 cup raspberries (or thinly sliced peaches or other stone fruit)
4 parts mineral water
Mix to combine! And add more or less of any ingredient to taste!

Parkes Elvis Festival (below)

We visited this iconic country festival for the first time a couple of weeks ago and will definitely be back – the whole town was on fire, buskers on every corner and super family friendly things to do at any time. So fun.

The Lyttleton Stores (pictured below)

Newly opened by sisters Jacinta and Adelina, this beautiful organic food store and gallery is such an asset to the Blue Mountains town of Lawson. Pop in for seasonal produce, freshly made cakes, preserving workshops, hand made ceramics and a taste of the area’s best in artisan produce and goods.


Dates for the Diary

We have two places left for our Winter workshop with Luisa Brimble and Molly Yeh, so if keen please jump over here for a look!

I can’t wait to hit Glen Innes in a couple of weeks for the town’s annual show and Gourmet Fiesta. I’ll be hosting cooking demonstrations there on the 12th and 13th February.

The program for our annual food festival is now out and full of fantastic events. Click here to download the full program. For our part, we are hosting two really special pop up lunches out in the paddocks and have invited chef Daniel Backhouse to come along and cook for us. Bookings are now open for the Saturday 9.

We are also hosting a special dusk farm tour and farm kitchen dinner on February 27 and bookings are now open.

Sponge sandwich_manildra-13IMG_6268IMG_6309Littleton stores-2






  1. says

    What a gorgeous collection of inspiration of all sorts! Love Seven Spoons as well – received it as a Christmas gift as well – and would love to get my hands on a copy of Lunch Lady in the US 🙂 Can’t wait to load a few of your recommended podcasts! Thank you for the lovely, super-informative post!

  2. says

    Thank you so much Sophie!What an honour!!!Ps.What would I give for a slice of this nectarine and vanilla tart and a glass of your punch…..truly can’t wait for summer! xx Hugs from freezing England 🙂

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