Daily Life in the Australian Bush

Friday, September 4, 2015

Annabelle Hickson's former life as a journalist for The Australian is a far cry from the simple, though picturesque lifestyle she now enjoys with her husband and three children on their pecan farm in the lovely Dumaresq Valley, about four hours inland from Byron Bay.  Surrounded by cotton farms and vineyards, this hidden paradise on the New South Wales - Queensland border provides inspiration for her blog, The-Dailys, where she invites us into the day to day rhythm of finding beauty in the ordinary.

Annabelle, a Finance and Latin major who used to dream of being an investment banker hasn't always enjoyed life in the wild, Australian bush. When her husband, Ed, a cotton farmer from Moree, who she met while working at the Brisbane bureau, initially lured her into the countryside, she hated it.  But after three kids and "a whole lot of growing up" she has come to cherish the beauty of this life with is minimal choices, vast open skies and daily adventures. Her blog offers a creative outlet for the writing and photography skills she uses to draw us into her life with a captivating turn of phrase and the brilliant light-filled glimpses of her beautiful home and countryside.

Life is never boring for this cook and photographer, whose current house guest is a baby kangaroo they rescued from the side of the road after its mother was killed.  And while her days are filled with raising a young family, tending to their pecan farm and involvement in the local community she has learned to say no to things that aren't life-giving or necessary to make room for other things that are more meaningful.

Annabelle, in a photo by her main man (her only man), Ed, of whom she says, "If anything is my daily it is you."

Pecans roasted with honey, rosemary and sea salt.

Turning an old exchange container into the headquarters of their pecan farm kitchen was such a good decision. And the light is always glorious.

"Honey" follows Annabelle around the house with little hops and stands in between her legs when she is nervous.

Surveying the kitchen from the safety of her "pouch", Honey has adjusted to life in the bush with this noisy, loving family.

Sometimes staying home to bake a masterpiece while the rest are trekking through the hills looks like this: a blood orange cake full of zest, fresh eggs and yogurt (devoured in minutes by returning hikers).

In a Julia and Julia style, Annabelle is cooking her way through Barbara Small's Italian cookbook, Stirring the Senses. First up, this sweet concoction.

And the finished product - a Chocolate Hazelnut Crostata.

Spinach pasta drying in the sun.

Risotto made with leftover beef cheeks.  "If food were fabrics this would be a blanket of soft, heavy linen, crumpled and glorious."

Breakfast in the Paddock, from when a posse of talented women from all over Australia gathered for a Weekend with the Dailys in the Dumaresq Valley, where they "made bagels from scratch, plucked ducks, cooked on a crazy wood stove in the shearers' quarters and drank cardamom infused coffee."

Make room in the fridge, the ducks are laying eggs!

This wood-burning stove provides warmth on chilly winter days. And the atmosphere isn't shabby, either.

"There is nothing better in life than throwing a little hot plate, a firelighter, a box of matches, some good sausages, chutney and bread, a bottle of wine, some water, a couple tea bags and a pot in the back of the buggy and whiling away the afternoon by the fire somewhere beautiful. Just the kids, Ed and the mountains."

Another recipe from Stirring the Senses - Pizza di lusso, enjoyed for Sunday lunch.

"I live in the middle of nowhere married to a farmer. But the big open skies and the kookaburras and the crisp air and the simple world of limited choices I wouldn't swap for the world. Well, maybe Paris. and actually Sydney also looks pretty good, but with young kids this is where I want to be."

"It is important that the photos I take are of the ordinary and daily moments of my life - not too tweaked, not too constructed - but then it is also important to me to present them as beautifully as possible. I want the photos to be authentic and inspirational at the same time...but always the light has to be beautiful."

You may follow the inspiring and light-filled Australian bush life of Annabelle and her family on her blog The-Dailys, or on Instagram @the_dailys.  All photos courtesy of Annabelle Hickson. Used with permission.


Kid tested.

A Clean Hot Chocolate
1 270 ml tin of full cream coconut milk
1 40g bar of orange and date raw chocolate (I used this RAW Chocolate made in the Macedon Ranges in Victoria which I love)
1 tablespoon of honey
A pinch of salt
Melt all the ingredients together in a small saucepan. And add a little water if too rich and pour into tiny mugs. This made three small but very rich hot chocolates.

The makings of Baci Di Dama

Makes about 30 double biscuits
60 ground hazelnuts
60g caster sugar
80g plain flour, sifted
75g soft unsalted butter
pinch salt
50g dark chocolate and a small nut of good butter (about 8g)
oven for 12-15 minutes until toasted and nicely coloured. Cool.

40g ground almonds
Mix the ground almonds and hazelnuts together and put on a baking tray. Bake in a 170C
Cream the butter and sugar. Add the toasted nuts followed by the flour and salt. Turn out onto a floured board and form into 1/5cm thick logs. Chill for 10-15 minutes.
Cut small even pieces of the dough and roll into small balls the size of a small cherry. Put on a buttered baking tray or line it with baking parchment. Bake for about 18 minutes. Cool on a rack.
Melt the chocolate with the butter over hot water and spread on one biscuit. Sandwich with another biscuit. When cool store in an airtight container.
NOTE: In the warm weather it may be necessary to add a little more flour.

1 comment:

  1. We have friends who live in Australia with open invitation extended. Your children are just beautiful and your newest charge is cute too. I enjoyed this feature of you by Naomi. All the best to you on your farm in the middle of no where, raising beautiful children and baby kangaroos and pecans with the Man of your Life.