Category Archives: Tutorial

Charlie’s Rainbow Sorbet Cake



Each year, I ask the kids what birthday cake they’d like, they look up cake’s in the Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake recipe books, or we google ‘best cakes ever’, or they just think of ideas and let me know.    Charlie’s birthday is in the middle of January – Summer! – and she wanted  ‘rainbow sorbet cake’!  We had a look around google images but she could not find what she wanted.  So she drew it, coloured it in, thought of the fruits that we could have in each layer, and gave it to me…. and we managed to pull it off last weekend for her birthday celebrations.  The best part about this bright, colourful ‘cake’, was that it was all natural fruits giving it the flavour and colour!!!

Recipe for ‘Charlie’s Rainbow Sorbet Cake’

You need to think about the ‘cake’ a week in advance (unless you have an endless supply of cake tins!.. and loads of ice in the freezer).  It’s also handy to have a Thermomix 😉 or a really good food processor that can handle crushing a lot of ice.

Basic Sorbet Recipe

Pour 50g raw sugar into your Thermomix/food processor.

Mill the sugar on Speed 9 for 10 seconds.

Add 350g fresh or frozen fruit (peeled kiwi fruit, peeled oranges, blueberries, strawberries, banana, raspberries etc) and 1 egg white to the sugar. I added a banana to the fresh fruit for most of the sorbet layers as it makes a creamier, softer, ‘icecream’ type texture.

Mix on Speed 5 for 15 seconds.

Add 800g – 1kg of ice (4 to 6 trays of ice) to the bowl.

Mix for 1 min 30 seconds.   If the ice cubes start to get pushed to the top of the Thermomix bowl, then take the measuring cup out, and push the ice down with the spatula.  You can leave the spatula in the lid for the rest of the mixing time if you want.

Make a ‘batch’ of sorbet, and after feeding the kids a serve each, pour/plonk/scrape it out into a lined cake tin.   Flatten the sorbet into the tin using a spatula.    I used a ‘ring baking tin’ so that the layers would be thicker, so it would defrost evenly, and so that it was easier to slice up and serve everyone.  I lined the tin with baking paper on the bottom of the pan only.

Cover the baking tin with GLADwrap and put in the freezer for 3 hours, or until you make the next layer the following day.

Take frozen sorbet out of the freezer, dip a knife in hot water and run the knife around the edge of the tin to help ease the sorbet from the tin.  Turn the tin upside down and the ‘sorbet layer’ will pop out like a cake, onto your plate.  Leave the baking paper on the sorbet layer, as this prevents the layers mixing when defrosting, and it makes it easier to slice and serve.  Cover this layer with GLADwrap, and return it to the freezer.   Remember to refill your ice trays for the next layer of sorbet.

The following day, make another ‘batch’ of sorbet, and repeat the above process.

You can store each layer separately in the freezer, and put together on the day…. or you can clear out some freezer space and put the layers together prior to the day.



Above: making a batch of sorbet… this one is blackberry sorbet….


 Above: the ring baking tin I used for each sorbet layer.

Below: the blueberry sorbet layer resting on top of the kiwi fruit layer.





By the time we brought the cake out to the table (on a hot Summer’s day!), popped some candles on top, took some photos and sang ‘Happy Birthday’, it was beautifully defrosted enough to slice and serve.  If it wasn’t such a hot day, you would take it out of the freezer at least 15mins before eating, so that it is soft enough to serve.

Here are some photos of Charlie’s birthday party ….






Hills Homestead - Birthday Cakes

signed - hayley @ hills homestead


Easy Sourdough Bread


 1 Sourdough Bread

Now that you’ve made your sourdough starter, have you tried making bread yet?

A lot of people have been making these sourdough crackers every week, and loving them.  They taste cheesy (but have no cheese in them), and most of the gluten has been broken down through the proofing time, and they have some lovely olive oil and sea salt crystals sprinkled over them.

I’ve been making our bread ever since we were married and received a ‘Country Loaf’ breadmaker for our wedding.  However, I’d only make it for when we had visitors or special occasions.   It was using the bags of bread mix (which I have since realised contain a whole lot of additives that I didn’t necessarily want/need in my bread – non-iodised salt, malt flour, mineral salt (E170, soy flour, emulsifier (E472), vegetable gum (E412), inactive dry yeast, ascorbic acid (Vit C), enzyme, Thiamine…. etc See here.).  Now we’ve been making our own bread for 2 years, and usually it’s the basic white bread (Thermomix recipe containing just Bakers Flour, warm water, yeast, salt, oil).  Since having the Thermomix we haven’t had to have store bought bread and I like knowing exactly what is going into my bread.  This has been the biggest saving for us as a family of 6.   With a large extended family and birthday parties and lunches/dinners with friends, we have been able to make our own bread rolls (white/wholemeal/seed loaf), bread loaves, scrolls for kids lunches (‘cheesymite’ scrolls, ham and cheese scrolls,  tomato and cheese scrolls, cinnamon scrolls, jam scrolls), danishes!, gluten free bread, fruit loaves, … and also loads of things like scones… for the cost of Bakers Flour (bought in 10kg bags) and a bit of yeast/salt/oil… Now, back to sourdough – sorry!

I have now started experimenting more with sourdough to decrease my gluten intake and increase the nutritious value of the bread I eat.  These HEALTH benefits are the reason why I’m starting to change my baking routines.

This sourdough loaf is slightly more time intensive than our usual white loaf (that takes 1 1/2 mins kneading time in the Thermomix, and 30 mins rising time, and 25mins baking time).   This sourdough loaf takes 5-10 minutes to ‘knead’, then it has to be left to rise or ‘proof’ for at least 8 hours (longer than this is preferable, as the gluten breaks down even more over time).  THEN it takes about an hour to bake.

This is how my sourdough ‘creations’ looked a year ago…

MY FIRST SOURDOUGH ‘CREATIONS’ – basic recipe – 1 cup sourdough starter, 1 cup water, 2 tsp sea salt, 3 cups flour (spelt, rye, wholemeal, any flour)


The sourdough loaves left to proof for 24 – 48 hours.


Sourdough loaf in the oven.


Fresh out of the oven, kind of like little bricks 🙂 but delicious.  Chewy crusts and a tasty, dense, healthy loaf.  I would cut (saw!) it into slices and pop into the freezer to use a bit every day.


However, only 2 people out of our family would eat this loaf.  So here’s the recipe for a different sourdough bread that my whole family (nearly!) eats.

After a bit of experimenting, my sourdough loaves now look like this (see below).


 I was amazed that all the kids loved it – even Charlie!  Now don’t expect a light, fluffy loaf like your usual bread.   It is a denser loaf, with a thick, hard crust.

001 Real Food Routines 2 - Tutorials

    Easy Sourdough Bread

  PREPARATION – 10 MINS (then left overnight to ‘proof’ or rise)

  1. Put the following ingredients into a large bowl

–         330g sourdough starter

–         15g (or 3 tsp) sea salt

–         420g warm water

–         40g extra virgin olive oil

–         150g rye flour

–         600g Bakers Flour


2.Using a rolling pin, hold it like a ‘dagger’ in your bowl, and move it vigorously back (towards you) and forth (away from you) to mix and ‘knead’ the sourdough bread mixture.   It is like ‘goo’ and you cannot knead it on the bench.  It will take about 5 minutes.  Keep going until you see the ‘gluten fibers’ coming together and it gets thicker – it really tones the arms!!             (Alternatively, you can pop all of the above ingredients in your Thermomix, mix on Speed 6 for 10 seconds, then Knead for 3 minutes).

  1. Plop it onto a lined baking tray and with floury hands, shape it into a ‘log’.
  2. Cover it with a clean towel, and leave it overnight (or all day) to rise.


1.  Preheat oven to very hot – 200 o C

2.  Cut slits into the top of your dough with a knife (to allow for more rising in the oven).

3.   Put in the oven for about an hour.  Test if it’s ready by tapping it and it should sound hollow.  Wait about 15 mins before slicing.

4.  Enjoy with butter and jam or melted cheese!

Print recipe  Blog Recipe – Easy Sourdough Bread      or         Blog Recipe – Easy Sourdough Bread – without header

Now, a few pictures of the sourdough ‘kneading’ process ….19-DSC_0819    11-2013-05-03_4880PortVicNetball 2013-05-03_4886PortVicNetball   2013-05-03_4895PortVicNetball  01-1 Kneading Sourdough

Enjoy !

signed - hayley @ hills homestead

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Starting your Sourdough Starter – Where to Start!

Do you like sourdough?  Have you heard of the amazing health benefits of eating sourdough?

Did you know that you can make your own FREE yeast at home for your OWN sourdough starter?  and with just TWO ingredients – flour and water … and TIME !.

 Starting a Sourdough Starter in pictures

Why sourdough?

  • Sourdough is a fermented food.   Yes, that’s why it sits on my bench (and not in my fridge!)
  • Fermented foods are good for you.
  • Fermented foods contain beneficial bacteria.  We need bacteria in our diets in a world that is now too sterile, where everything is pasteurised, and antibiotics are overused.  (Don’t get the wrong idea here – I work in a hospital – I know there is a need to wash our hands, pasteurise some foods, and the use of antibiotics can be life-saving – however, we are going OVERBOARD with all of the above).
  • In traditional societies, food was fermented to preserve it (as they did not have fridges, freezers, preserving jars! and chemical preservatives like we do now).   Think about wine, soy sauce, fermented fish sauce, kefir, yoghurt, crème fraiche (sour cream)…..  This article here is a great read about traditional foods and fermentation.
  • Eating fermented foods/drinks is a great (or the best) way to introduce PROBIOTICS into our diets (see my post on Kefir for more information on probiotics)
  • ‘Fermenting’ the flour (any flour) decreases the lectins, gluten, and phytates in the grain/flour making it easier for us to digest.   In a sense, the sourdough preparation ‘pre-digests’ the starches for us 🙂  So even if your are gluten-sensitive or have celiac disease, you may be able to eat sourdough because the gluten has been broken down (AND the taste, texture, and quality of the bread is so much better than bread made with gluten free flours).  Sources: here and here and here.  And I know I’m getting off track a bit, but this article from states that,
      "... sourdough isn't just good for making better bread. Recent studies show 
      that sourdough fermentation can also speed gut healing in people with celiac disease 
      at the start of a gluten-free diet."
  • Improved digestion means that more vitamins and minerals (zinc, iron, magnesium, copper, phosphorus) are absorbed (ie because fermentation breaks down the mineral-binding phytates).  More information here.
  • Eating sourdough bread does not raise your blood sugar level as much or as rapidly as white bread ie it lowers your insulin response/improves glucose tolerance (source: here)

Do you agree it is a good bread to eat?    One of the blogs I read, Kitchen Stewardship, has collated a LOT of information and research that has been done on sourdough.  Katie, the writer, is convinced that sourdough is THE most nutritious way to prepare grains.  See all of her research here.

Sourdough starter is the traditional way of making bread. It’s how everyone used to make bread before they had commercial baker’s yeast.

Most bread these days is made with baker’s yeast.  I make bread/scrolls/buns with white Baker’s flour and commercial yeast nearly every second day to feed family and friends.  However, I’m starting to perfect the sourdough loaf, and my children at the whole loaf yesterday :), so I am going to try more sourdough recipes over the next few months because of the above many advantages to eating naturally fermented bread.

Now, to creating your own starter…..

Rye sourdough starter

  This is mine.  I have had many starters over the years.   I started my rye starter in January 2013.

Recipe for ‘Starting your own Sourdough Starter’

Feeding my sourdough starter




Grab a clean jar.

Put 1/4 cup flour (any flour) into the jar, and add about 3 Tbsp water to it.  Mix with a wooden spoon.

Cover with a loose fitting lid, or some cheesecloth.  Leave on your kitchen bench.

(12 hours later)

Add another 1/2 cup flour and 1/3 cup filtered water to your jar.  Mix.

(12 hours later)

Add another 1/2 cup flour and 1/3 cup filtered water to your jar.  Mix.

(12 hours later)


Do this for about a week, and your very own ‘sourdough starter’ should be collecting the ‘wild yeasts’ from the air, and making it’s own natural yeast, and bubbling like the picture below…..

Thriving sourdough starter!

You then use this starter to make sourdough recipes… pancakes, breads, sourdough crackers, pizza bases etc.

Notes about the tools and ingredients you use…..

1.   You can use any kind of flour, as long as it is a grain-based flour.  I use rye flour.  You can use rice flour, spelt flour, wholemeal flour, barley flour, bread flour.. you get the idea.

2.  Feed your sourdough starter with filtered water if possible.

3.  You can purchase established sourdough starters if needed (they are sold fresh or dried and powdered) – this will give your sourdough starter a boost and ensure you have bubbles!  I’d recommend first finding a friend who has a thriving sourdough starter and take 1/2 a cup of the starter, and begin feeding it yourself.

4. Your sourdough starter will grow – because you are ‘feeding’ it flour and water every day!

When you get a jar full of bubbly starter, USE some of it for a recipe (Google it to find a recipe that suits you), or put some of it in another jar.

5.  If you plan to only use your sourdough starter once a week, store it in your fridge.  Before you want to use it for baking, take it out of the fridge and feed it flour and water 12 hours before you use it.

6.  If you see a  brown liquid floating on top of your starter, simply pour it off.  It’s called ‘hooch’ and it is harmless, but it just means that you’ve probably fed your starter too much water in relation to flour, or you’ve left it a few days inbetween feeds (this happens to me all the time!)


Thriving sourdough starter!

Thriving sourdough starter  +    oil / water / more flour / sea salt

=>     leave to ‘proof’ overnight          => bake in the morning


Sourdough bread - you can make it in your Thermomix!


=     beautiful,soft, fluffy sourdough loaf of bread.


Next time I write, I’ll post my latest adapted sourdough bread recipe that I’ve been making.signed - hayley @ hills homestead


ADDIT –  Something I’ve been reading about….

What about STARTing a community garden… or a FOOD FOREST !  A guy in New Zealand has written a manual about how to start one and is getting funding to use public land for a community ‘free for all’ FOOD FOREST!!  Here is the link to the manual for ‘How to create a community Food Forest on public land’. 

What is a Food Forest?                           See here for a handout – Principles of food forests

 “Food forests have a very long tradition in many areas of the word. For example in the oases of the Middle East, Africa, Nepal, India, Vietnam. ….. It is definitely not a new type of food production.   A food forest is a young forest made completely from plants that a chosen (by) people.  Every forest, except the one in the hot humid tropics, are composed out of 7 layers of plants.
The keys to a well-functioning food forest are:
– a thick layer of ground cover plants that are:
   – not grass. Grass is useless in a food forest, it impede all other layers.
   – dense enough to suppress germination and growth of weed seeds.
   – as much additional uses as possible. Something like fixing nitrogen, edible, bee attracting, etc.
   – can take light pedestrian traffic.
– enough nitrogen fixing perennials/bushes/trees to feed your other plants.
– enough nutrient pumping plants like Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) that pumps up nutrients from  deep soil layers and makes them available to other plants.
– a high diversity of plants to get a balanced relationship of pests and predators.
– enough space between the trees for a productive bush, herb and ground cover layer.
– enough maintenance in the first 20 years. (Rapidly declining maintenance every year)
 If you carefully comply with all key elements you ending up with a carefree food forest that produce very high amounts of food and other useful products in 7 layers instead of just one.”  Source:  here.
Another source Edible Forest Gardens“,  states that “We can consciously apply the principles of ecology to the design of home scale gardens that mimic forest ecosystem structure and function, but grow food, fuel, fiber, fodder, fertilizer, “farmaceuticals,” and fun.”
How cool are ‘edible forest gardens’ ?!!!
signed - hayley @ hills homestead

Homemade Vanilla Extract – Why didn’t I do this YEARS ago???

Vanilla Extract 001 collage 2

Do you use vanilla?  In baking?  In smoothies?  I use it all the time.  We add it to our smoothies in the morning.  I add it to cakes/biscuts/slices.  I add it to homemade bliss balls or honey granola!

I previously used vanilla essence – it was cheaper.

ie Queen flavouring – natural vanilla essence = $3.98 / 50 mL

Queen imitation flavouring – vanilla essence = $1.50 / 100mL (or $0.75 / 50mL !!!)  Yes, cheap.

Ancor food flavouring – vanilla essence = $2.00 / 250mL (or $0.40 / 50 mL  !!!)  Even cheaper!

Then I had a look at the ingredients – Water, cane sugar, vanilla flavours, caramel colour (150(d)).   I was starting to try and avoid additives in food so that my children can really taste the true flavours and see the true colours of real food, and also see what actually went into their food.   So I began to purchase Vanilla Extract.

Now this has been expensive the last few years.  I’ve been buying 50mL Vanilla Extract for $12!  The cheapest I’ve found online is $9 for 100mL which is A LOT cheaper, but has water added, and it’s not organic.   Vanilla is something with such a strong flavour and such a long shelf life, and something I use daily so I choose organic.

So I looked at the ingredients list on the vanilla extract I was buying:

1. Water

2. Alcohol

3. Vanilla pod and extracts of vanilla pods.

And then made ….

Homemade Vanilla Extract


 1. Gather the ingredients – 5 Vanilla Beans + a bottle of Vodka.



I used ‘local’ organic vanilla beans from Beach Organics in Middleton, South Australia.


See address below – you can order any of their products online – they also have coconut palm sugar, cacao butter, herbs & spices, sea salt, local honey…



I used a bottle of vodka that I just added to my home delivered grocery order.  It cost my $38 for a 700mL bottle.





2. Get out 5 vanilla beans, and with a sharp knife, slit each of them open lengthwise

See picture below.



3. Pop the split vanilla beans into the bottle of vodka.

And you’re done!  It’s that easy!


Put the bottle of homemade vanilla extract in your dark pantry next to something you see everyday (like your butter, or spices, or salt and pepper) so that you remember to give it a gently shake every day (for about a week), then just give it a gentle shake whenever you see it or remember too, to disburse the vanilla extract through the vodka.  Leave it for a couple of months ( or 6 or 7 months!! depending on how concentrated you want the extract to be) before putting into smaller bottles.

I pour the homemade vanilla extract into my bought vanilla extract 50mL bottles (I kept them all… for some reason!), and I pop an extra vanilla bean into it, for “continuing maturity” (that’s what it says on the back of my bottle of purchased Equagold Pure Vanilla Extract).  This vanilla bean can stay in the little bottle indefinitely, you just keep topping the bottle up with your homemade vanilla extract.

I stick a “Hayley’s Homemade – Vanilla Extract” sticker on the bottles and give them away for presents and keep a couple topped up in my pantry for every day use.

Now this recipe cost me …

1.   I bought Skyy Vodka, a 700mL bottle for $38 from Foodland (I don’t know whether that’s expensive or cheap.. I don’t buy Vodka all that often.. actually at all!!!)  = $2.70 / 50mL

2. Beach Organics – organic vanilla beans, a bag of 10 for $20. = $2 per organic vanilla bean

(… at local supermarkets they are usually around $4 / 5g  = usually only 1 vanilla bean … you can find them cheaper at large fruit and vege stores and markets …)

So for each 50mL bottle of vanilla extract, I’m paying less than $4.70 (compared to $12)  … it’s less than this because there is definitely not a whole $2 vanilla bean / 50mL of extract, AND I’ve been topping up with a bit of water to make it go further.

I hope that you are able to try this in your own kitchen.  Imagine never having to buy vanilla extract or flavouring again because you make your own.  TOO easy.  SO much cheaper the buying Vanilla Extract.  Also, it’s a much healthier option vs Vanilla Essence or Flavouring.

ADDIT !!!  A reader just sent a comment in (see below) about another supplier of organic vanilla beans – Sunshine Vanilla – who sell organic vanilla beans in bulk – you can get them for under a $1 each (if you buy 60 of them for $50) … you can make it NOW for EVERYONE for Christmas this year!!!!  Thanks Tanya!

signed - hayley @ hills homestead










Hayley’s ‘Daily Kefir Routine’

There has been a lot of interest in the kefir grains, and some people have even accessed kefir from their local shop or have picked up some kefir grains from me!!

Now you know how good it is for you (see here for health benefits of kefir), here is how to ‘take care’ of the kefir grains … and they will last forever!!!

The daily routine takes less than 5 minutes (this includes walking to the fridge to get the milk and walking back, and getting out a jug or bowl for the kefir!)

My Daily Kefir Routine

This post is linked to Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday blog carnival – I check this site out a lot for real food ideas!!