Tarts For The Soul

The weather this winter has been gorgeous! It’s getting close to the end of August, so not long until Spring. Our prayers have been answered and we’ve had enough rain for the countryside to look beautiful and green. We’ve been harvesting custard apples on our farm since April, and the oranges and lemons this year have been like little amazeballs. Super tasty. We have plenty of eggs from our hens too, so it’s a logical choice to experiment with everything, because more is more.

Oranges and lemons, custard apples and blueberries are in season. My blueberry bushes died in the drought last summer, but there are plenty in the shops right now. So, with the confidence that an abundance of fruit and eggs gave me I was able to try out a few different experiments.

Butter, almond meal and Medjool dates for the tart shells. Perfect. I had everything I needed. I had been thinking about this for a couple of weeks, and was a little bit nervous about this upcoming culinary experiment because I had spoken about the idea before any action on my part. So the pressure was on. What came out of the experiment, was a tart that gently beckons with it’s scent, then invites a taste with it’s sunny golden goodness, caresses the mouth at first bite, and then bursts into flavour.

Fresh and juicy seasonal fruits are a great way to celebrate the coming Spring.

Recipe

Tarts for The Soul

Make the lemon butter and tart shells first, then the filling.

Lemon Butter: juice of two lemons and zest of one, 200g sugar, 50g butter, 2 eggs whisked well. Gently heat all the ingredients in a saucepan, and stir until it thickens. It should take about ten minutes or a smidgen longer. A double boiler would be great, but I don’t have one and a normal small saucepan worked out just fine.

Tart shells: 2 cups of almond meal, 6 Medjool dates, 50g of melted butter. Place almond meal and dates in the food processor and mix through. Add melted butter. Press the mixture into mini tart trays, and bake for 10-12 minutes at 160 degrees Celsius. Set aside to cool. These can be made a day or two ahead of time and stored in an airtight container.

Filling: 1 cup of firm custard apple, cut into segments and seeds taken out, juice of two oranges, 3 eggs well beaten, zest of one lemon, 50g butter, 1/4 cup of lemon butter (see recipe below if you don’t have any). Place orange juice, lemon zest, beaten eggs and butter into a saucepan and stir on low heat until mixture thickens. Add segments of custard apple and fold through. Add filling to tart shells when it has cooled. Note: the filling does not need added sugar.

Just before serving, add the filling to the tart shells, place a couple of teaspoons of lemon butter on top of the filling and top with blueberries. Sprinkle some edible flowers on top and dust with icing sugar. This step isn’t necessary, just pretty.

Serves 8-10

Out of Lockdown

Hindsight is twenty-twenty they say. 2020 – also an interesting year with the pandemic still raging. What will you say in hindsight? With many of us coming out of lockdown and able to see friends and family for the first time in months, picnics are the big thing. We can maintain our social distancing rules and yet connect with each other again. It makes sense that picnic food is high on the list of priorities, with individual servings of things that don’t need refrigeration.

So, I have created something that is perfect for a picnic in the park! It’s healthy, delicious, easy to make and take. Let’s call it Custard Apple Berry Jar, because you make it into a jar. Mine here is gluten free and dairy free.

Custard Apple Berry Jar

To make this, you will need:

  • 1 large or two smaller custard apples
  • 1 punnet of strawberries
  • Dried cranberries
  • 2 teaspoons of beetroot powder (to make it pink)
  • 2 teaspoons of rosewater
  • 15 grams of gelatin, dissolved in 1/4 of a cup of hot water
  • Gingernut biscuits (gluten free, dairy free)
  • Thick coconut yoghurt (gluten free, dairy free)
  • A few blueberries, pistachios and edible flowers for garnishing

Method:

Place gingernuts in the bottom of each clean jar. Add a sprinkle dried berries. Next, place de-seeded custard apples, strawberries, gelatin, rosewater, and beetroot powder in a blender, food processor or bowl and blend together. Pour gently over the gingernuts and dried berries. Fill jars to 3/4 full. Chill for about half an hour, so it sets. Add a couple of dollops of yoghurt, and sprinkle with pistachios, edible flowers and blueberries. Put the lid on and it’s good to go. Serves 8

Enjoy yourself at the park.

Mental Health Days

With what I hoped was a sage nod and a wise look, I announced that I was having a mental health day. I think I was the only one there at the time, so if I didn’t look too sage and wise, it doesn’t matter.

What did I do on this particular mental health day? I pottered around the house, played with watercolour on paper without actually painting anything, and then in the afternoon, I made a Custard Apple pudding. Invented it, really.

When it came out of the oven, I decided that there was no point waiting to have it for dessert, so I had it for afternoon tea just as that beautiful golden light of the setting sun appeared in the garden. It was delicious, and reminded me of Bread and Butter Pudding – except healthy! What more could anyone ask for.

Custard Apple Pudding, served hot for afternoon tea.
Serve it on one of your favourite plates, because you deserve it.
The golden light doesn’t last very long at this time of year. It’s important to make the most of it and go out there – be golden with the rest of the landscape.

To make the pudding, simply mix one large custard apple (take the seeds out first), four eggs, a drop of vanilla and a good shake of both nutmeg and cinnamon. Pour into a buttered dish with 3 or 4 dried figs and dried fruit of your choice. (I used sultanas, raisins and cranberries soaked in sherry.) Make a bain-marie by placing the dish in a baking tray that has water in it. This will keep the pudding nice and moist. Bake in a moderate oven for about 40 minutes. Serve hot with whipped cream.

You’re welcome!

Comfort Cooking For The Soul

It’s May, and just turned cold in our beautiful little part of the world. Well, cold for us anyway. We’ve been harvesting custard apples and sending them off to market. One of the benefits of being a custard apple farmer is that you get to eat them. This afternoon I made Custard Apple and Rhubarb Crumble. Talk about delicious!

When I was making it, I looked outside the kitchen window just as the sun was setting. The light was magnificent. There’s something just so wonderful about being in the landscape when it’s golden like that….. you get to be golden too. So, I dashed out of the warmth and took a few snaps so I can remember this beautiful afternoon, all the while being golden.

It was such a lovely experience, that I think comfort food is in fact, art for the soul! 

I love living here in our beautiful little wooden house.
Custard Apple & Rhubarb Crumble

Recipe

Ingredients: A bunch of rhubarb and one large custard apple for the base. Half a cup of dried cranberries for the middle. Half a cup of sugar, half a cup of flour (I used gluten-free), half a cup of walnuts, half a cup of coconut flakes, 75-ish grams of butter, a good shake or two of cinnamon.

Method: Remove the leaves and strings from the rhubarb, and discard. Chop the stems into lengths of about 2-3 cm. Place in a saucepan with about half a cup of water, and bring to the boil. Simmer for a couple of minutes and leave to cool. While the rhubarb cools, remove the custard apple seeds and discard them. Drain the rhubarb, and the custard apple pulp. (If you mix the rhubarb juice with the custard apple juice, it makes a delicious pink drink.) Mix the rhubarb and custard apple together and place in a medium to large buttered baking dish. Sprinkle the cranberries onto this mixture.

For the crumble: Place flour, sugar and cinnamon in a bowl with the softened butter. Rub the butter through until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the walnuts and coconut flakes. Sprinkle evenly over the custard apple, rhubarb and berry base. Bake in a moderate oven for 45 minutes.

Serve with whipped cream, icecream or coconut cream.

The Brooklyn Library Sketchbook Project

It’s January 2020, and time for a new set of resolutions. So, I resolve to DO the things I’ve been saying I would do. One of those things was to stop being afraid of my website. If I pretend I’m talking to myself here, instead of to an audience, I might be able to do it.

So, my most recent art project is a sketchbook for the Brooklyn Library Sketchbook Project. The book is supposed to be in Brooklyn in about a week. Brooklyn is about a million miles from here, as the crow flies. Given that it’s the Sunday of a long weekend, and if I send it by airmail I estimate it will be there about a week or two late.

My sketchbook is about some of the birds at home, so I named it Home Birds. There are about 150 different species of native birds, plus farm birds, and pets. So, which ones to choose, you ask? The prettiest? The ugliest? Biggest vs smallest? Funniest or friendliest? In the end, the decision evolved organically. If I sat down to draw and a bird was outside my window, I drew it. If birds were making a noisy racket outside, they made it into the pages. And my peacock….. my beautiful friend who came to stay, he made it too.

Queen of Unfinished Projects

Many years ago, I went to Japan where I taught English at a summer camp. I asked the students to translate a Japanese folk story into English which I edited and illustrated. I planned to give each of them a copy of “our book”. Luckily, I hadn’t told them, because I am the Queen of Unfinished Projects, and I lost touch with them before I finished. Actually, I still haven’t printed these phantom books. But that is another story for another day.

I used ukiyo-e images from the past as reference material for my illustrations. Those great old masters of Japanese art included Hokusai, Hiroshige, Kunisada, Sharuku, Utamaro and several others. In fact, as long as they’d been dead for over a hundred years, they were Artist Of Interest to me. Anyhow, I had this Unfinished Project in my studio, and every so often it appeared just to remind me it was still there. It was a shame to have this great project and not publish it, and I thought about how to finish it. Thought about it a lot. Then one day, when I was in the shower, where I get most of my best ideas, I felt inspired to start a new project! I would combine these images with a new story, and that new story was yet another combination! I know that at this stage it sounds like Procrastination, a discipline in which I have an Advanced Diploma. But I’m getting off the track, so back to the story which amused me greatly. I’m often amused by my own thoughts and I wonder if other people also go there in their own heads.

Hmmm…..Probably not. But on the other hand, maybe.

Yes, back to the story. Here it is. Two Japanese families from the Edo Period (1603- 1868) come to contemporary Australia for a holiday where they try camping in a caravan. They are the Hokusai Family and the Hiroshige Family. The two women are sisters. Mrs Hokusai has a baby, and Mrs Hiroshige is a marine biology student on an exchange program for one semester. They find contemporary Australia quite different to what they are accustomed to. The story is set in the Northern Rivers of New South Wales. They camp at Clarke’s Beach in Byron Bay, visit Ballina where they make a trip to see The Big Prawn, take the rainbow bus to visit Nimbin while Mrs Hiroshige is involved in student life at the Lismore campus of Southern Cross University. They try new food and experience life in a way they weren’t quite expecting.

I think I have drawn eight illustrations in this gentle adventure, and there are more on the drawing board. Some of them made their way into an art exhibition, and as I finish each one, I upload it to Redbubble so that other people can enjoy the Hokusai Family Holiday. (I don’t know why I called it that when the reason they are here is for Mrs Hiroshige’s exchange student studies!)

Will I ever finish this project? That is the million dollar question, isn’t it. More to the point, can I remain the Queen of Unfinished Projects if I actually DO finish?

https://www.redbubble.com/people/artforthesoul/works/21262985-mr-hokusai-and-mr-hiroshige?c=506182-the-everyday

https://www.redbubble.com/people/artforthesoul/works/21242100-mrs-hokusai-tries-an-australian-delicacy?c=506182-the-everyday&ref=work_carousel_work_collection_2

https://www.redbubble.com/people/artforthesoul/works/21040137-the-hokusai-family-holiday-day-5?c=506182-the-everyday&ref=work_carousel_work_collection_2

https://www.redbubble.com/people/artforthesoul/works/21016939-the-hokusai-family-has-an-early-night?c=506182-the-everyday&ref=work_carousel_work_collection_2

https://www.redbubble.com/people/artforthesoul/works/21325738-mrs-hokusai-and-the-dandelion-wish?c=506182-the-everyday&ref=work_carousel_work_collection_2

https://www.redbubble.com/people/artforthesoul/works/21396467-mrs-hiroshige-marine-biologist?c=506182-the-everyday&ref=work_carousel_work_collection_2

https://www.redbubble.com/people/artforthesoul/works/25194334-mrs-hiroshige-diving-at-julian-rocks?ref=work_more_artist_works

https://www.redbubble.com/people/artforthesoul/works/25722790-mrs-hokusai-burns-the-toast?ref=work_more_artist_works