Today was my birthday. I turned thirty one! And so enjoyed celebrating with a quiet day at home with my little people; the autumn sun shone brightly and there were plenty of moments to sit and knit and sip milky tea. I made an upside down pear and ginger cake and one of my favourite dishes - moussaka - using beef from the farm for dinner. Alex surprised me with a playlist of my favourite tunes from the last decade and a brand new axe! It is a really very lovely Swedish crafted axe and will make chopping the wood so much more enjoyable...
On Sunday we took a walk in the forest, we started out with no great objective or plan except to enjoy each other's company and the arch of tall trees swaying overhead, the crunch of leaves underfoot, the cool, earthy air all around us. Forests are magical places, and we are blessed to be able to explore the one the farm that touches the edge of the river -it is full of old oaks, elms, hawthorn, pine, holly, monkey puzzle, ash, willow, gum...
Alex brought his hatchet and soon found an elm sapling to begin shaping into a long bow, I brought my camera to capture living beauty all around us: lichen, red holly berries, leaves turning golden, soft green moss, boys at play.
We spent most of our time building a cubby - or "camp" as they liked to call it - under a low-lying oak branch that made a kind of roof over one spot. I rolled logs to make a entrance, and found rocks to form a fire-place while the boys looked for slaters and tiny spiders and bugs in the leaf meal. It felt good to put my strength into something, it reminded me of the years we spent building wigwams out of fallen eucalyptus branches in the paddock beside our old house. To be able to tidy up and fashion something creative at the same time.
Let's go again tomorrow we said...
Quince is my favourite fruit, and to my utter delight we recently stumbled across an old fruiting quince on the farm! It is the epitome of autumn for me, I love the rich fragrance of the fruit and the way it changes from pale yellow to deep red when cooking. People often ask me what to cook with quinces aside from the obvious quince paste and stewed fruit. I actually love to eat it in savoury dishes such as Moroccan-style chicken tagine or simply quartered and popped in around a shoulder of lamb set to slow roast. It lends itself so well to meat, but then there is this recipe too: quince tarte tatin (upside down tart). It is not a super-sweet tart which I love, and the flavour of honey on the quinces and nuts in the pastry is especially delicious! And gluten free of course...
You will need:
4 medium sized quinces, peeled, cored and sliced about 2cm thick
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons honey
For the pastry:
3/4 cup almond or hazelnut meal
1 cup plain GF flour (I use 50:50 rice and arrowroot flours)
1/4 cup sugar
100g cold butter
1 small egg
Combine flours, sugar, butter and egg in a food processor and blend until smooth and they form a ball of dough. If it’s too dry you can add a teaspoon of water / if it’s too wet add a tablespoon of flour and continue until you achieve the right consistency. Roll dough out onto a floured surface or a piece of baking paper and roll out into the shape of the pie dish or tin you will use. My dish is about 22cm wide. Set aside.
In a frying pan melt honey and butter together until small bubbles begin to form. Lower the heat and gently sauté quince slices, turning them with a wooden spoon for about 10 minutes or until they begin to soften.
Place a circle of banking paper in your pie dish or tin: arrange quince slices on top and pour any remaining honey butter juices on top. Next gently ease your piece of pastry over the top tucking the edges down over the quince. Bake in a moderate oven 160’c for 45mins to 1hr - the pastry will look golden brown and the quince will begin to blush red around the sides.
Invert the tart on a big plate or wooden board and enjoy warm or cool with cream, greek yoghurt, cheese or by itself...
ABOUT the author
Emily Clare Sims is a farmer and mama to three young boys. Each day she looks for ways to notice beauty, contemplate her faith and savour the seasons...