Autumn never really had a chance this year. Summer lingered and even when we thought it couldn't last, it lingered some more. But the inevitable drop in temperature arrived this week and the frosty chill in the air certainly delivered an abrupt end, to the romance we'd had with warm breezes and sumptuous sunshine. It seems winter is here.
Occasionally I entertain thoughts of living a more rural life, where things move a little slower and there is a tangible connection with the land and the seasons. We'd find acreage somewhere in the beautiful countryside, a meandering unsealed road would lead to a gorgeous weatherboard cottage, with a red tin roof and verandahs all around. I'd open a B&B, perhaps run a cooking school and of course I'd sell baked goods, preserves and pickles, fresh eggs, cut flowers and home grown vegetables from a little roadside stall at the front gate. But then I remember and content myself with how much we love the coastal life, the long walks on the beach and late afternoon swims in the saltwater just a short stroll from where we live. We do already have a tin roof, a wood fire, hens for fresh eggs and a vegetable patch to grow some of our own food. Perhaps we don't need to relocate to live a more rural existence, maybe it is possible to live a little slower and simpler just where we are.
My basil plant has finally accepted the season has changed, it is has been madly producing flowers and seed pods, which the bees are now raiding. The lettuce seedlings planted a few weeks ago are thriving with the cooler weather and the morning dew. The soil, still warm has been prepared to plant potatoes soon. My neighbour Isobel gave me a jar of her golden, deliciously fragrant, honey harvested from her backyard beehive last weekend - I've been busy spreading it thickly on toasted sourdough ever since.
Earlier in the week I found a new place by the side of the road to collect a basket of pine cones, there they were littered on the ground under some towering pine trees. They are such wonderful fire starters for the open fire. On my way home I stopped to grab some darling hydrangeas for $5 a bunch and juicy lemons for fifty cents each from the market garden stall just up the hill from our place - it is always a treat to see what they have for sale. Yesterday our firewood for the winter months arrived, the truck backed up, dumped a tonne of wood on the driveway and left. I spent the rest of afternoon labouring to move and stack the wood outside the back door. My elderly neighbour Fred wandered over to observe the activity and offered me a pair of gloves to ward of any splinters - I was grateful. Although I was weary at the end of moving all those logs I was thankful I didn't have to chop the trees down myself.
I've been baking these Double Chocolate and Quinoa Muffins from my new cookbook Our Delicious Adventure - Recipes and Stories of Food and Travel. It has been two batches a week lately as the whole family thinks they are good. As evening closes in, here I sit on the lounge warmed by a crackling fire, with the aroma of freshly baked muffins wafting from the kitchen. I'm thinking to myself, living in our little cottage on a small plot of land, in a cul-de-sac by the sea is the life and community I really do enjoy.
Recipe included below x j
These wholesome gluten-free muffins will deliver you double the chocolate taste, with the nourishment of quinoa flour, almond meal and natural yoghurt to sustain you. I like to make mine large, giving you six decent sized muffins, but they will work just as well smaller, giving you a dozen from this recipe.
makes 6 large or 12 medium
what you need
¾ cup (115g) rapadura sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 cup (100g) almond meal
1 cup (120g) quinoa flour
2 tbsp cocoa
1 tsp gluten-free baking powder
½ cup (125ml) natural yoghurt
100g dark chocolate pieces
what you do
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan forced) and lightly grease 6 large (160ml) or 12 medium (80ml) muffin tins.
2. Using electric beaters, beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add the eggs and vanilla bean paste and beat to combine. Add the remaining ingredients except the chocolate pieces and mix well.
3. Spoon the mixture evenly into prepared muffin tins. For larger muffins use a ½ cup measure per muffin, for smaller muffins a ¼ cup per muffin. Evenly disperse the dark choc pieces between all muffins, poking them into the top of the batter.
4. Bake large muffins for 30 minutes, or medium muffins for 20 minutes or until skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the muffin. Lift out onto a wire rack to cool.
Note: It is doable and worthwhile to make your own almond meal. Process ¾ cup (100g) whole raw almonds to produce the required 1 cup of almond meal. Left over almond meal is best stored in the refrigerator in airtight glass jar.
Storage: To freeze muffins wrap in non-stick baking paper, then place into an airtight snap lock bag with the excess air expelled.
Our Delicious Adventure - Recipes and Stories of Food and Travel will be released September 1st 2016
For the early birds among you: pre-order now and have it posted to you end of August 2016.
Pre-order available here
Stay tuned for upcoming events for both the launch and Australia wide promotion of my new cookbook.