I find it's amazing how quickly time passes when you're living a life. I know that sounds philosophical but I haven't even had time to do that in the last few months. I went back to work after a break over Christmas and had to hit the ground running. Eight weeks in, and I'm only now feeling like I have time to take a deep breath.
Because it's been so busy, I don't even have any more of Holly's recipes to share with you. All I have is a drawing I've begun of Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann, 2021 Elder Australian of the Year. There's a lot to admire in her work and her approach to people.
The drawing isn't finished yet - like a lot of things in my life right now, it's a work in progress. It's very relaxing to sit and shade the character of her face. Without knowing her, without being part of the demographic of her main focus, I find this amazing woman still brings peace to my life.
The cheesecake slice I made for Christmas at the Bowerbird was so popular I made it for new year's as well.
The recipe isn't my own. It's one I adapted from Taste.com.au. The Milky Bar cheesecake is so decadant, it's no wonder they recommend tiny bite-sized pieces.
I didn't make the bite-sized pieces as the recipe recommended. I made it a cheesecake slice in two square slice tins. Then I made a cherry jelly and put it on top. I cut the slice into 2.5cm squares to serve. It's delicious.
I think Edie had more pieces than anyone else at our new year celebration. She really loves the sweets I make.
Read our story in Tangled up in Blue.
Christmas at the Satin Bowerbird Inn is a fairly relaxed affair. We do a big lunch with a multitude of aperitifs followed by roasted meats and salads, then a range of desserts. This year, I made a different glaze for the ham. I still used my usual chilli-plum glaze as a base, but I added some honey, and a combination of dijon and wholegrain mustards to cut the sweetness. It worked well.
Most of the other things I cooked: roast beef, roast pork with crackling, roast pumpkin and spinach salad with caramelised walnuts, can all be found on recipe sites. Two of the desserts were unique to me.
I took a Milky Bar Cheesecake recipe and, instead of making it in the ice-cube trays as recommended, I made it in a small square slice pan then added a cherry jelly (tinned cherries, caster sugar, gelatine) on top. A few crushed pistachios sprinkled over it before serving and it's our very own Christmas cheesecake, cut into squares. So creamy and delicious.
The other recipe I adapted was my last-minute chocolate truffles:
1 can condensed milk
1-1/2 packets Cadbury melts (I used a mix of dark and milk chocolate melts. I didn't measure the 1/2 packet - it was left over from a previous recipe so I simply emptied the packet into the saucepan)
a nob of butter (I didn't weigh it but it was probably around 50g)
1 packet Arnotts Scotch Finger biscuits finely crushed.
Put the first three ingredients into a saucepan (no need for a double boiler - we want it to crystalise a little) over medium-low heat until it's all melted and smooth. Add the biscuits. I would normally shape them into balls at this point but I didn't have time this year so I sprinkled the base of a square slice pan with sifted cocoa, added the mixture, sprinkled the top with sifted cocoa then chilled for an hour. I use baking paper in all my pans and make sure I overlap the edges so I can lift the slice out onto a board for easy cutting.
Meanwhile, my sisters and I are still trying to work out how we're supposed to be making everything work between us. It's not all smooth sailing, that's for sure. Read our stories in Tangled up in Blue, available now.
It's nearly Christmas. This year is so very different from every other year in the last fourteen years that I'm not sure what's happening. One thing that will happen is that's I'll be cooking Christmas lunch for my family and all the guests who are staying through the holiday.
One of the things I'll be making is one of Katherine's favourite meals. She's my eldest sister, but doesn't always make it clear exactly what she wants. I remember this from before everything fell apart.
It's a roast chicken basted with thyme butter. The stuffing is lemon macadamia. Here's the recipe:
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (I used day-old nine grain bread)
lemon zest (I do a whole lemon, two if the lemons are small)
roughly chopped macadamias
1/4 cup grated parmesan
salt and pepper
Mix all ingredients. Add more breadcrumbs if you need to. The mixture should form balls when pressed into shape.
The stuffing releases subtle flavours through the chicken.
I put the thyme butter under the skin as well as on top of it. I'm not shy about using lots of it either. I add chicken stock to the baking pan so the chicken doesn't dry out while baking. The picture isn't one of my best results - I was distracted by Katherine and her... well, you'll find out when you read Katherine's story, Out of the Blue, in Tangled up in Blue.
I know most places that provide breakfast for guests buy their bread and put in out ready for the guests to toast. I don't do things that way at the Satin Bowerbird Inn. I make all my own breads and rolls every day--right up until two years ago when Morgan gave me a bread maker for my birthday. Now, I use the bread maker exclusively for the loaves of bread I make and only make bread rolls and specialty breads by hand.
I usually make my own bread mix as well. Mrs Olsen keeps a fantastic range of organic seeds and nuts in her shop. There are times, though, that I simply don't have time to make my own mix.
I haven't told anyone this before, and I don't want it getting out, so you can't tell anyone, but sometime--only sometimes--I buy a bread mix. It saves me a lot of time.
No one has noticed yet (except Mrs Olsen, but she won't tell anyone).
Read my story, The Satin Bowerbird, in Tangled up in Blue.
My sister Edie is a piece of work. She likes my Hummingbird cake though, so she can't be all bad.
Like most of my cooking, I don't follow the traditional recipe. I begin with the recipe but change it up to suit me. I've done the same thing with the Hummingbird cake. I like the tartness of apples and spice of ginger in it. This is my Hummingbird cake. The original recipe was Nanny's (she copied it from some magazine). She used it a lot in the '80s and '90s. The cake went out of vogue a bit after that but I think it's coming back, just not in its original form.
This is my take on the Hummingbird cake.
Read more about Edie and my Hummingbird cake in Danielle Birch's Little Bird - in Tangled up in Blue. My story is told in The Satin Bowerbird. Available now.
My mind is stuck on a loop. All I can think is that there wasn't enough time.
Time to pour another cup of tea for Nanny.
Time to sit in my favourite chair with the William Morris sunflower tapestry seat and talk about the herbs growing in the garden.
Time to tell Nanny how I've changed and am still changing.
The ground beneath my feet feels like clay. or sand. or thick, sticky mud. I struggle to take a step. Any step. I can't breathe. I know I'm breathing because I'm still here, in a world of confusion and grief, but my throat hurts. My eyes hurt. My heart hurts.
I didn't expect her to die. I stare at my vintage caravan nestled amongst the trees at the bottom of the garden and try to find something, anything that will hold me together.
Behind me, in the house, people are talking.
They're not people I know: they're my sisters.
Everything is too much. I'm feeling too much. Holding in too much. I can't... I can't...
"I've got you." It's Morgan. I'm safe with Morgan. I let myself go with her.
Read my story, The Satin Bowerbird, in Tangled up in Blue.
Welcome to the culinary world of Holly Sinclair. I'm not a qualified chef but I've done a few courses in between running the Satin Bowerbird Inn with my grandmother and her best friend Mrs Kitchener, and getting married to totally the wrong people.
When I was sixteen and came to live with Nanny, she suggested I write down any recipes I use. I started writing very neatly in small A5 books, then in large spiral bound books. Now I write on any scrap of paper that comes to hand and shove it in a binder box I keep in the hutch in the kitchen. It's not at all organised, which sometimes drives Mrs Kitchener to distraction. She's one of those lovely tidy, everything-in-its-place kind of people. I'm like that with my ingredients and utensils, everything in my kitchen actually, but not much else.
Today I made lamingtons. I've made lamingtons before, they're not unique at all, but I've always used the traditional recipes with cocoa and hot water in them. Today, I went to the pantry only to find out I'd run out of cocoa. I had the cake there, already cut for lamingtons. What was I to do?
Make up a new recipe of course!
This is my Decadent Lamington recipe:
225g dark chocolate melts
200g butter (the real stuff, not margarine)
200ml coconut cream (or ordinary pouring cream)
200g icing sugar (icing mixture is fine)
Put chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler. I put boiling water in the bottom pot and didn't need to turn on the stove at all. Stir occasionally until butter and chocolate are melted and mixed. Add icing sugar and coconut cream. Add more or less coconut cream until you have the desired consistency for lamingtons.
The photo shows the lamingtons waiting for the coconut to be put on. I used the last in an orange coconut cake I gave my best friend, Morgan, to take to school and share with the other staff. I'll duck down to the shops and grab some now. Mrs Owens always has plenty in stock.
NOTE: I use a madeira cake instead of a sponge cake for my lamingtons. I find the madeira holds up better when transporting and gives the lamingtons a lovely buttery taste that you don't get with a sponge.
Don't forget: If you want to know my story, look for Tangled up in Blue. My story is told in the last book, The Satin Bowerbird by E E Montgomery.
I cooked chicken tenderloins for dinner last night. I don't like handling meat of any kind but chicken is particularly slippery and slimy to me. I wash my hands multiple times just to get through the prep time. As I laid the tenderloins in the pan, it struck me they looked like mutated slugs.
Yep, I was going hungry if I continued down that slippery path.
Instead, I stopped thinking, cooked and ate, then went on line to find something more pleasant to think about than mutant slugs sliming everything.
I found this website: https://www.boredpanda.com/snail-macro-photography-vyacheslav-mishchenko/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=organic
That led me to this Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/snails.space/
And his shop site: http://vmishchenko.com/store/index.html
Mishchenko is a Ukrainian photography who takes amazing pictures of small things. His visual stories of snails are amazing. They look like such interesting and interested little creatures. I particularly like the one with the dew-laden umbrella.
I'm just sorry I can't share some of the photos because of copyright. They're well worth the visit to the sights, though.
My writing plan for 2020 worked really well until about mid-March when Covid-19 became the only topic of conversation with everyone I know. That's when I discovered - or rediscovered - that I don't work very well at home.
Instead of being able to go out and sit in a library or a cafe and work uninterrupted for several hours, I'm at home with all the things I've been avoiding for the last several months. I'm still avoiding all those things. It's just that being at home puts those things in the front of my head. I can't avoid looking at my desk which has several piles of papers and books more than a foot deep. I can't avoid noticing the storages boxes of painting equipment I've left open on my office floor because I might need them for the next project.
Just the thought of having to sort through every single piece of paper is enough to do my head in.
It means I've run away into my head, but not in a productive way. I'm reading. Mostly I'm reading romance, and most of that is MM romance. I've also just begun a biography on a Deputy US Marshall from the 1890s. A fascinating life and a very tough man.
All this means my writing projects are going nowhere quickly.
Morrison & Mackenzie (1930s historical romance): I've created a scene map to check the structure as it isn't working the way it should. That's it. All I need to do is put all the scenes up on my plotting wall and work out where the dips are so I can plan what needs to go there but it hasn't happened yet.
Tangled up in Blue anthology: This is moving forward slowly, mainly because the other authors are relying on me. One of the authors has just completed a continuity check and now we all have lists of things to fix. I'll get that done over the next week. We've also been talking about the cover and working out what we want.
The murder mystery: haven't looked at it. Instead I've been working (intermittently) on another fantasy story, one I started years ago but put aside because it wasn't working. When I picked it up again it was obvious why it wasn't working. I had too many POV characters and I was switching between adult POV and child POV. I've decided to write it as a YA fantasy and remove the adult POV completely. Already it's working better and I've identified missing scenes at the beginning that are needed for the child's POV but were irrelevant from the adult's.
Now Easter is over and my back is beginning to settle, I'm hoping to do more work on these projects. For right now, sending a couple of emails and doing this blog has used up my sitting time for the morning.
E E Montgomery
About writing, life, and random thoughts.
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