18 Mar 2009


I couldn't get to the computer to write yesterday.
I intended to post late yesterday afternoon but locked myself out of the house and spent rather a pleasant hour in the garage with most of the contents of my still-being-redecorated-bedroom going through old clothes, and sewing baskets and a large pile of Country Living magazines from the past 15 or so years, and in the garden hanging out the washing and doing a bit of weeding.

When Stephen and the children finally arrived home it was time to start thinking about cooking tea.
There were some sausages left over from the weekend and a large bowlful of not very attractive but still ripe and home grown tomatoes, and also some leftover mashed potato from Monday.
First I went out to the shed to get some onions that I sliced thinly and slowly sweated to softness in a splash of olive oil then I added the chopped up tomatoes, some sea salt, freshly ground pepper,a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar and a couple of teaspoons of brown sugar.
I let this slowly cook down in the cast iron frypan and then put it to one side.
Next I fried the sausages and while they were cooking made the mashed potato into patties with some grated parmesan, some flour and an egg from Biddy the hen plus some garlic chives and flatleaf parsley from the garden and some pepper.
I sauted blobs of the mixture in a little peanut oil to give a crisp finish.

While I was cooking Kate was at the kitchen table doing her homework.
She suddenly jumped up because she had seen a large bird go past the window, it was flying around the top of the blackwood tree, a sulphur crested cockatoo.
She went back to her work and so did I and we could hear this cracking sound and then a plop, over and over again.
I looked out the window again and could see Maggie in the old Tamarisk tree under the walnut tree, trying to stalk something.
Kate and I went out to investigate and there were two cockatoos methodically working their way through a tree full of walnuts.
A third one was on the almond tree.
Both of these trees belong to our next door neighbours but gracefully hang over the fence and help to blur the boundaries of the garden.

We've never had birds eating the nuts before.
We have never had so many cockatoos and galahs around.
I think it must be the drought making food scarce in the bushland so they have moved into town.
Beautiful birds.


walnuts in the tree
walnuts in the tree

We ate dinner outside, daylight savings persists so the evenings are still light.

After dinner I went down the garden to our own walnut tree and found lots of nuts on the ground.
The rain of the past few days must have finished ripening them.

There were none last week and now they are dropping everywhere.

Fresh walnuts are delicious, nothing like the dry, sometimes bitter ones they sell for cooking.

Last year was a poor year for the walnuts but as long as the cockatoos leave us some we will have a good harvest.




In other birdy news, when I was sitting at my work table yesterday making some dolls I looked out the window at the soft elegant shrub ( name long forgotten) that grows there and is usually alive with fat buzzy bumblebees.
Not so many with the colder weather but instead, just for me, a jenny wren was there darting in and out looking for bugs and singing the sweetest tune.
Such a pretty voice, such a special treat.

So to end the ornithological news, a recipe for Simple Chocolate Cake as requested, which , if your family manages to leave a few crumbs, will be very much appreciated by the local bird life.

This recipe or variations of it, I'm sure, is found in every school or club fundraiser cookbook throughout Australia.
Certainly all those printed in the 1970s have a version of it.

You will need:

125g ( 4oz) melted butter

1 cup self raising flour

1 cup sugar, any sort but I usually use caster sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

2 tablespoons of cocoa.

Put everything in together and mix.

The original recipe calls for 3 minutes mixing with an electric mixer but I usually mix by hand. Using a mixmaster will give a lighter result but for many years I did not have an electric mixer so all my cake making was done by hand and the tradition, with this cake, continues.
Mixing by hand also makes this the perfect first cake making experience for a young cook.

So I mix it until it looks nice, you know, smooth and all the same colour.

Cook it for about 50 minutes in a moderate oven.

It is delicious warm with a blob of ice cream or cream.

It is great just dusted with icing sugar

It works well with chocolate icing ( frosting).

It is great for school lunches

It is good for chocolate lamingtons if you wait a day before you use it.

You can dress it up or keep it simple.

Sometimes it has a lovely crustiness around the edges that becomes nice and chewy when the cake finishes cooling in the cake tin in the pantry .

If you don't overdo the mixing and use brown sugar instead of white it can be deliciously fudgy.

If is is a hopeless failure in the looks department, serve it warm with a chocolate sauce for dessert and I guarantee there won't bea crumb left for the birds.



8 Responses to “ ”

  1. I really enjoy visiting your blog everyday Jenny. We eat so many walnuts (5 to 7 pounds monthly) that I envy your tree!

  2. I love your blog Jenny, thankyou.

    cheers Kate

  3. Yes, thats the best choclate cake recipe, in fact the only one I use. The cockatoos are busy with the walnuts here too.

  4. Thank you for that wonderful cake recipe. My almost 10 year old loves to bake and has never done a cake from scratch yet. I will let her try this one!

    I really like all the variations you can do with this cake!

  5. I have the exact same cake recipe and use it often. I also omit the cocoa and add orange or lemon zest instead. Last time I used orange zest, I juiced the orange and used that in place of the milk (I used milk to make up the liquid quantity required). They have been beautiful.

    I prefer black cockatoos. They're quieter than the white variety, who take great delight in screeching their way up the valley and making a horrendous noise in the trees behind our house. The black cockies have a much more gentle version of a screech.

  6. I like the way you describe your cooking!

  7. Hi Jenny, this recipe is very similiar to our family favourite that I have baked for decades but I also add about a tablespoon of coffee for a chocolate-mocha cake. Delicious, and you're right ... it never lasts! Kathy


Thanks so much for taking the time to chat. I don't always have time to reply but I do read every message you leave.