The patter of tiny hooves

Sadly, I lost my Dutch mother many years ago, but not before she had passed on a few kitchen secrets, some tastes which would be considered bizarre by many (salted liquorice? Eeuw…) and an addiction to various cakes and biscuits. Of these, there are two that absolutely stand out.

The first I doubt I’ll ever be able to replicate, since I’m compelled by my personal biology to be a member of the Gluten Free school of cooking. The name of this gooey delight is Stroopwafels. They are ultra thin, slightly crumbly, lightly spiced, buttery, round micro waffles sandwiching a thin filling of honey/butter/caramel. Best eaten by placing them flat on the top of your coffee mug to allow the heat and steam to slightly melt the filling and warm the waffle. To say they produce moans of pleasure when eaten is not an exaggeration.

The second goes by the unlikely name of Bokkepootjes, which means Goat’s Feet, or Goat’s Hooves. A delicate ladyfinger style biscuit made from almond meal and meringue is sprinkled with flaked almonds before baking, sandwiched together with melted dark chocolate, and then the end is dipped in dark chocolate too, which forms the eponymous ‘hoof’.  I am not to be trusted around these confections. Fortunately most commercial ones are not gluten free…

I was having a nostalgic online conversation with Kirsten of the Pink Rose Bakery ( who is also a great fan of Dutch food. She has produced a sensational recipe for Speculaas*, the traditional Dutch Christmas biscuit, crisp and light, and filled with spices. I suspect she may be working on a recipe for Bokkepootjes too, but I couldn’t wait any longer. A wave of nostalgia sent me to the kitchen and this is the result.

Screen shot 2014-05-31 at 3.23.18 PMOn the left, Bokkepootjes. Not beautiful, certainly not expert, but Lord are they delicious.  I thought I’d try them as little rounds also, half dipped in dark choccy.  On the right  you see the result, which I’m going to call Halfjes. No prizes for guessing this means Halves… I suspect it’ll be a while before I make them again, because it’s fiddly, but now I know I can.

And the recipe?

8 large egg whites
1.75 cups vanilla caster sugar
5.25 cups sifted almond meal
Small pkge flaked almonds
200g good quality dark chocolate

Beat the egg whites till foamy, gradually add the sugar and beat till stiff. Gently fold in the almond meal. Spoon into a large piping bag with a large star nozzle (mine was too small and the bickies are a bit puny). Pipe onto a cookie sheet lined with non-stick baking paper, forming 8cm/3″ ladyfinger shapes. If you want the Halfjes too, use the same nozzle and just pipe a squashed round shape. Sprinkle with flaked almonds. Leave on the bench to dry for a couple of hours. Heat the oven to 160C and bake the biscuits for 15-20 minutes until lightly golden. Do not brown or the flavour will be altered. Cool completely. Break up the dark chocolate and melt it on medium in the microwave in 30 second increments until it’s just melted. Pair the biscuits up, dip the flat base of one side in melted chocolate and quickly sandwich with the other side. Do this for all of them and put in the fridge for 20 minutes to harden the chocolate. Heat the rest of the melted chocolate again, and then dip the ends of the biscuits in the chocolate to form the ‘hooves’. Harden in the fridge, and then put into an airtight container and keep cool. If you’re making the Halfjes (much easier), just dip half the bicky in the chocolate.

The little darlings are crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, wonderfully almondy and distinctly chocolatey. Now, where’s my cup of tea….

*WordPress still isn’t allowing me to insert links, so just click  here for the recipe:


Amistad, Chapter 1


Amistad: fabrics and very sketchy sketch.

My conscience is clear, and so is my work table.

It must be time for Amistad!

For those of you who don’t know the story, I had a small stack of very pretty Moda Chez Moi Mimi co-ordinating fabrics in three colourways (pink/teal/green) which I bought at last year’s Brisbane Quilt Show. It sat in my cupboard waiting for me to get round to it. Then a friend gave me some more fabrics in the same range for my birthday. There was nearly enough for a quilt. Between us, it was decided that the quilt would be a joint effort, just as the fabric purchase had been. She’d buy a couple more in the third colourway (lilac), and contribute a 9-patch block or two. I’d do the rest. It would be called Amistad, or Friendship, because that’s what it celebrates.

I’ve pressed all the fabrics, and have sorted them into two piles: large and small scale prints. The large ones will be cut into 12.5″ squares to maximise the impact of the prints. The smaller ones will be cut into 4.5″ strips for piecing together  and making the 9-patch blocks. There’ll be 13 x big squares and 12 x 9-patch blocks in total, and the finished quilt will be 5 blocks across by 5 down, 60″ square. So long as my dear friend Mrs R comes through with her 9 patch contribution fairly soon, this quilt should go together really quickly. (No pressure, my lovely!)

Screen shot 2014-05-31 at 12.40.38 PMThe fabric quantity is still looking a tiny bit skinny, so I’ve hauled two fabrics out of the stash which blend, even if they’re not from the same range. They could be used as fillers if necessary. If there are any nice scraps left, I shall make Mrs R something pretty with them, to remind her of the quilt. Son of Amistad, perhaps…? It’s not quite a bee, there are only two of us, but I think we should both end up with a souvenir of the enterprise.

I shall start cutting and sewing soon. Watch this space.

Broken Bottles #13: Finished, finally

Screen shot 2014-05-30 at 4.31.33 PMIt’s done.  OK, I still have to sew on a label, but the quilt’s finished.

Screen shot 2014-05-30 at 4.32.32 PMThe quilting is just spacey enough that it’s still soft and drapes well. The broken glass starburst isn’t too overpowering on the front, and adds a bit of interest and texture on the back. I had just enough of everything, and a nice bit of the green shot backing cotton left to do something else with. There isn’t a single jelly roll strip left over, and the two spare blocks which I made into a heat pad are doing service on my desk as a pad under the camera.  I like a tidy result…. Oh, and it’s a Friday Finish!

Screen shot 2014-05-30 at 4.31.55 PMTime to go and defluff the sewing machine and put a new needle in. Amistad’s the next quilt in line, woo hoo!

Broken Bottles #12: Quilted, quite

Screen shot 2014-05-29 at 6.49.13 PM Screen shot 2014-05-29 at 6.49.26 PM Screen shot 2014-05-29 at 6.49.37 PMIt’s done. The quilting is finished.

A little unpicking, a little re-sewing, but nothing too drastic. It’s finished, trimmed out, de-threaded, and the binding is made, ready to sew on tomorrow. By the end of the day, it should be done, labelled, finished. I must go and dig out a label transfer and a bit of white fabric…. Weather permitting, once it’s done I can hang it on the clothesline as usual to get a better photo. My hands are still a bit sore from all the heavy work of the past few days, but luckily sewing doesn’t seem to make it worse.

Screen shot 2014-05-29 at 6.50.00 PMAlso today, I treated myself to three new dressmaking patterns. Rather good value, actually, since they were half price, and three of the two were for multiple garments. So for $27 I have patterns for a tunic and medium pants, a wrap dress, a wrap top, wide leg pants, narrow leg pants, a coat, a jacket, a vest, and a simple dress / pinafore / jumper in two lengths.

First up will probably be the wrap dress, since I don’t have a really pretty dress to go out in, all my pretty outfits are separates. And for the dress, I’m going with a fabulous slinky matte jersey splashy print in teal and aqua on a white background which I have hoarded for a few years but never done anything with due to lack of overlocker. It’s loud, but this IS the tropics, after all… And then I shall make something from my cream and chocolate floral silhouette print, and then, and then….

Screen shot 2014-05-29 at 6.50.24 PMScreen shot 2014-05-29 at 6.50.35 PMIt’s good to be back at the sewing machine. The baby vegies are fine on their own, I have projects lined up, and time to play.

It’s not my birthday, so….

Screen shot 2014-05-28 at 5.03.20 PM…How did I end up scoring an overlocker?

My lovely sister-in-law had the Janome overlocker her grandmother used. It’s not, as you might think from that statement, an antique, but a perfectly good Janome differential feed 4 thread overlocker. The darling sister-in-law in question has handed it on to live with me and get some use, with the proviso that I help out with the odd seam here and there. Noooooo problemo!

And this unexpected manna from heaven has coincided with an email from my LQS, telling me there’s a half price sale on all Simplicity patterns. I feel a spot of dressmaking coming on. Now I can go mad with knit fabrics! Now my seam edges will be pristine! Now my hems will be less bulky! Can you tell I’m a bit excited?

Husband slumps out of room, shaking head despondently… He knows it means I’ll be disappearing into my sewing room with even greater frequency. I’d feel sorry for him if I wasn’t already feeling so gleeful!

A touch of green…

Screen shot 2014-05-27 at 6.13.28 PM

Bed 1: tomatoes, capsicums, strawberries

Screen shot 2014-05-27 at 6.13.45 PM

Bed 2: lettuce, rocket, bok choi, Chinese cabbage

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Bed 3: sugar snap peas, two kinds of beans, beetroot, zucchini and sweet potato (the latter two not visible)

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Worm Hilton: in the penthouse, the wormies and their latest meal, first floor: the worm tea department, and at basement level, extra guest accommodation for when the penthouse gets too full!

My vegetable garden is in at last.

The seedlings are still recovering from the shock of being transplanted, of going from dry, hot, cramped conditions to damp, coolness and space to spread.

In Bed 1, we have the fruiting heavy feeders: three kinds of tomato, two kinds of capsicums, a rhubarb crown and 6 strawberries.

In Bed 2, we have the light feeders: mixed lettuce, chinese cabbage, bok choi, rocket and spinach

In Bed 3, we have the nitrogen fixers and a couple of wild cards: sugar snap peas, butter beans and green beans, a sweet potato, some beetroot and 2 zucchini.

I concede that I may have gone a little mad with the tomatoes, but why else do I have a pressure canner, if not to bottle vast quantities of tomato sauce? And speaking of the pressure canner, with it I could also bottle the beetroot, beans, strawberries and capsicums, if I wasn’t already sure they’ll get eaten pretty quickly! Only 2 zucchini plants means that we won’t get inundated with giant marrow sized zucchini, and I can pick the flowers and the baby veg as I go. The sweet potato is a just because.  I won’t get much of a crop in terms of tubers, but you can eat the young leaves like spinach too. And I can’t do without a decent rhubarb crown. It’s one of my favourites, and the combination of rhubarb with strawberry in a nice shortcrust pastry pie is divine. And of course rhubarb and custard, rhubarb fool, rhubarb jam, rhubarb crumble…

The worm farm is going to see a lot more action than before. They’ll get wilted leaves, spent plants, the trimmings from our vegies, etc. In return, we’ll be getting quantities of black gold, aka worm tea, full of yummy stuff that the little vegies will enjoy, and in due course, fine crumbly worm castings to add to the soil. Worm Hilton will be humming!

And now, I will sit back and apart from a little watering, a little sprinkling of diluted worm tea and some encouraging words, it’s up to them.

Chain Gang, day 2

Screen shot 2014-05-26 at 3.23.12 PM The heavy lifting’s all done. There are three pods out there waiting for seedlings. I’m SO excited I can hardly breathe. Vegetables at last!

First stop was the animal feed store for lucerne (alfalfa) hay, small bales. Seven of those, two for each pod and one spare for stuffing into the gaps. Next was the planting medium: 2/3 garden soil to 1/3 organic compost, 80 litres of mix per pod (approximately 5 gallons), well blended.

Screen shot 2014-05-26 at 3.23.26 PMScreen shot 2014-05-26 at 3.23.58 PMScreen shot 2014-05-26 at 3.24.10 PMYesterday, we put 4 barrowloads of rocks into the bottom of each pod to give good drainage, about 20cm deep (8″). On top of that went two bales of lucerne, the gaps round them well stuffed with extra hay. That lot was well watered until water came out of the tap at the bottom of the pod, so I knew it was well soaked. On top of that went the planting medium, well mixed and with the lumps bashed out. It’s been raked smooth, ready for planting. On top of that, I top dressed with liquid feed consisting of Seasol (seaweed, etc) and a big slug of worm tea, topped up with 10 litres of water (approx. 20 pints). That got shared out between the three pods, a little extra nutrition to give the vegies a good start.

Screen shot 2014-05-26 at 3.24.56 PMNow we’re ready to go. Tomorrow I shall go and select my seedlings and plant them. The pods don’t yet have their frames and netting completed, but the plants can be getting established until it’s done and the mozzie netting and shade cloth go up. I’m really pleased with how it’s looking out there. The little fruit trees are enjoying the milder weather and putting on lots of growth, instead of hanging on for grim death. The avocado was looking very poorly for a little while, but is coming back strongly, so long as I check it daily for caterpillars, which seem to find the new leaves irresistible.

Screen shot 2014-05-26 at 3.24.34 PMI’m very happy now with how things are coming together. It’s starting to be a pleasant place to work, instead of a slightly grim, weed infested dead zone. There are pleasantly scented wood chips under foot, I don’t have to bend over to tend my plants, I’ve taken measures to prevent everything from drowning in the Wet, and now I have hopes of actually being able to pick something soon, instead of delivering it all up to the grasshoppers, aphids, caterpillars, fruit bats and possums. I’ll keep you informed, and yes, there will be brag photos when I have everything planted, and probably more once I get the netting and frames up properly!

And now it’s time for a big cold drink, a shower and an attempt to dig out the large quantities of soil which have lodged under my fingernails. I could probably grow cabbages under there…