It's a narrow valley, as they say here in the Dumaresq, and with that come the benefits of community like being sent flowers via the school bus, kids sleepovers whenever they are needed, joint family veggie patches where one side provides the irrigation setup and the other the back hoe and compost, the postman who happily picks up other things from town like machinery parts, "part of the service dear". The school teacher who on Sunday sometimes serves up hot chips from behind the counter at the Bonshaw store. Then there are the negatives like the fact most people here are either someone's boss or someone's employee and the inevitable tensions that can bubble up from that. And then the not bad or good bits, just the purely interesting ones like the school principal being mother to one sixth of her students and the comprehensive collection of antique hairdressing chairs that take up 50 per cent of the Bonshaw store's floorspace and are not for sale.
It is a glorious place here and I feel very proud about the story I wrote for the Christmas issue of Country Style, just out today with Honey the joey on the cover(!). And thanks to the beautiful photos taken by Kara Rosenlund it looks amazing.
It has been pretty quiet on the kitchen front, but one lovely thing I did make was Barbara Small's Florentine Rice Cakes. I would love to be able to buy these from a bakery, but since Bonshaw specialises more in hamburgers, it is good to have this recipe on hand for a special treat.
Enough filling for 6 x 10cm rice cakes
50g unsalted butter
Grated rind ½ lemon
30g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
100 vialone nano rice
60g caster sugar
Rind l lemon
Process flour with butter until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the lemon rind, sugar and egg yolk and process until the mixture starts to come together. Put on the work surface, knead lightly and form into a disc. Wrap in plastic and chill for 20 minutes. Roll out thinly on a floured surface. Rub non stick 10cm tins lightly with olive oil. Line with pastry. Allow to rest for 10 minutes. Line with pieces of aluminium foil, shiny side down, and weight with beans. Bake in 190CFF oven for 10 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 2 minutes. Cool on a rack before filling.
Parboil rice in boiling salted water for 5 minutes. Drain and put into simmering milk. Cook at a simmer until creamy – about 15 minutes, adding caster sugar nearing end of cooking time.
Allow rice to cool a little then stir in the butter and lemon rind. Whisk 3 egg yolks and add. Whisk 3 egg whites until stiff with a pinch of cream of tartar and 2 tspns sugar. Fold into rice mixture. Fill prebaked pastry cases and bake in 180C oven with bottom heat for about 15 minutes and then lower heat to 170C and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Cool on a rack.