Dawn breakfast picnics are always my favourite part of every Local is Lovely Pracshop. We in the kitchen rise well before the birds and the sun to prepare a big breakfast tray (in this case baked apples with oat crumble), pile bowls into baskets and fill the Thermos with boiling water for coffee. And just before dawn the rest of our group gathers in the warm kitchen, wiping away sleep, wondering if this really is a good idea or not and rugged up for the freezing cold.
Then we each take a chair, basket or tray and trudge out into the paddock to light a fire and share breakfast in the chill air. And it’s always great. Previous editions of workshop breakfast picnics have included my honey granola, baked porridge and beans with fried eggs. All of them tasty but so much better for the al fresco setting.
Last weekend we kept it simple, easy and delicious with a big tray of halved apples topped with a buttery oat crumble. To be honest it was really just apple crumble masquerading as breakfast but lets not quibble. Big thanks to Mum and Pip for getting and keeping the fire going and everyone else for making the morning such fun.
Baked verjus apples with oat crumble
This was just gorgeous served with natural yogurt and a drizzle of honey. Serves 6-8.
150g unsalted butter, cold and cubed
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla paste
1 cup wholemeal plain or spelt flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup rolled oats
8 cooking apples, halved (you can peel and core them if you like but I was lazy and didn’t bother. And it didn’t matter a bit).
1 1/2 cup verjus (or a not too sweet apple juice if that’s easier)
60g butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup extra brown sugar
Preheat oven to 180C. For the crumble; combine the butter, cinnamon, vanilla, flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse for a few seconds. Tip into a big bowl and add the oats, stir to combine.
Arrange the apples so they cover the base of a large, deep roasting tin. Pour over the verjus and dot the top of each apple with a small nob of butter and sprinkle with the sugar. Cover the tray with a tight layer of foil and roast for one hour. Remove foil, top with the crumble and bake for another 30 minutes or until golden and crunchy. Serve warm with honey and yogurt.
After such an early start we eventually made it back into the studio for a great morning session with Luisa Brimble on food photography, editing and weaving photos together to create beautiful stories. I put together a few little scenes to photograph and we had fun playing around with light, composition and camera settings.
One of the last scenes we photographed before lunch was the making of chai tea. We shared little cups with gluten free madeleines (recipe via the wonderful blog London Bakes) and thick slices of liquorice bread (recipe below)
I first saw such a thing as liquorice bread in a fairly recent issue of Gourmet Traveller magazine and was intrigued by the idea. Particularly as my lovely Mum Annie is such a liquorice fan and given that we were invading her house and studio for two days, I thought a nice cake would be a nice gesture…
In any case, I’ve tried this concept a few times with fairly underwhelming success until deciding to apply the liquorice principle to my good old pound cake recipe and the results were just what I’d hoped for; a buttery, sturdy cake studded and aromatic with pureed liquorice.
200g liquorice pieces
250 grams unsalted butter (softened)
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
grated zest and juice of one orange
1 1/2 cups (225g) self raising flour
1/2 cup (75g) plain flour
Place the liquorice pieces in a small saucepan with 1/2 cup water and put on medium/low heat. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the liquorice has softened quite a lot (you may need to add a little more water as you go). Transfer to a food processor or blender and blitz until you have a smooth puree.
For the cake; start by greasing and lining a loaf tin and preheating the oven to 180C. Then cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy then add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Fold in the zest, juice and flours and finally the liquorice puree.
Spoon batter into your prepared cake tin then bake for 35/45 minutes or until the cake is firm to touch and just pulling away from the sides of the tin. Let cool for a few minutes in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Chai tea with vanilla syrup
This recipe, (like so many!), is a work in progress but beautiful nonetheless. I first published it on the blog back in May and have since tweaked the spices a little so will put it down again here. Makes about 4 cups tea.
6 cinnamon sticks
3 tbsp cardamom pods
1 tbsp whole cloves
1 tbsp black peppercorns
3 star anise pods
6cm piece ginger
8 cups water
3 tbsp good quality black leaf tea (we used Ceylon Broken Orange Pekoe Tea from The Exchange Stores)
Mix spices together then toast in a dry frying pan until fragrant, tossing them about as you go so nothing sticks and burns. Place in a large saucepan with the ginger and water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced by half. Then remove from heat, add tea and steep for a few minutes. Strain then discard the tea and spices and decant into a jug or jars to keep in the fridge.
To serve, heat one part chai base liquid with one part milk until steaming and serve with vanilla syrup, to taste.
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out pod reserved
To make the vanilla syrup, combine sugar, water and vanilla seeds and pod in a saucepan and heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Store in the fridge in a glass jar. Makes about 1 cup.
The lovely lady seen pouring and holding trays and tea throughout this post was one of our session leaders; writer and retailer Megan Trousdale. Megan has had a long career in feature and creative writing and came along to lead us through an afternoon session in both and she was just so wonderful. I learnt loads from her and I know everyone else did too so thank you so much Megan! This clever clogs, and her husband Duncan also run a store from their home town of Nundle in the NSW New England region called The Exchange Stores and they sell the most wonderful collection of homewares, including enamelware which I’ve collected rather a lot of over the years. The gorgeous little cups, tea pot and white and blue bowls above are all from Megan and Duncan’s store and available online.
Megan just posted a great story about the workshop on her blog which I love and visit often. Thanks Megan!
So here endeth my Winter Pracshop wrap up. It was such a special two days and I can’t thank all of our teachers and participants enough for coming along and bringing so much ‘to the table’. We are currently working on workshop dates for next year and will hopefully be announcing these here shortly. Thanks, Sophiex