This year has been the sunniest and nicest weather since we moved down under almost 4 years ago. I'd been hearing about bushfires on the news but again they weren't nearby so they didn't feel tangible to me. That was until last week when the air looked gray, brown and smoggy. It was a very hot day with lots of hot blustery wind. I'd closed the windows in the house to keep the heat out. When I went upstairs, I smelled smoke. I ran to all the bedrooms, thinking there might be a fire somewhere in the house. No fire, thank goodness. I then entered my bathroom, which was the only room with the windows open. There was the smoky smell and ashes in the bathroom sink. The ashes in the sink really threw me for a loop and the reality of bushfires then hit home. It turns out the fires were over 1+ hour away but the winds were so strong that they were blowing smoke and soot across Sydney. Outside, the air was thick with smoke and some ash flurries floated by. The sky looked very scary and ominous, like something out of a doomsday movie.
|eerie view out my window|
|Smoke haze over Sydney, www.abc.net.au|
To better alert the country to fire dangers, a standardised Fire Danger Rating was adopted by all Australian states in 2009. During the fire season the Bureau of Meteorology provides fire weather forecasts and makes predictions based on temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and dryness of vegetation. From this, fire agencies determine the appropriate Fire Danger Rating. They are a feature of weather forecasts are broadcast via newspapers, radio, TV, internet and on roads.
|Prime Minister, Tony Abbott www.dailytelegraph.com.au|
Berry Crumble Muffins
2.5 cups of Self-Raising Flour
1 cup Brown Sugar, packed
7 tablespoons/100grams Butter, melted
1 cup Buttermilk (*see notes*)
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract/Essence
1 heaping cup of Frozen or Fresh Berries (*see notes*)
3 tablespoons Butter
4 tablespoons Flour
3 tablespoons Sugar
2 tablespoons Oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1) Preheat oven to 190C/375F. Melt butter in microwave and let cool slightly.
2) In medium bowl, mix together dry ingredients: flour and sugar. Use a fork to break up any clumps in brown sugar.
3) In another bowl, mix eggs, buttermilk and vanilla extract/essence together.
4) Once liquid is mixed through, add melted butter and stir through.
5) Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix through with a spatula, scraping any flour bits on the side and bottom of bowl.
6) Add berries and gently stir through, just blending. Batter will be very thick, which is ok. Don't not overmix as overmixing results in denser, tougher muffins.
7) Grease 12-hole muffin pan or use paper liners. Use ice cream scooper or spoon and fill each cup 3/4 of the way full.
8) Once tray is full, make crumble topping. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and knead together with your hands into a crumb mixture.
9) Sprinkle crumb mixture on top of muffin batter and put tray into oven.
10) Cook for 20-22 minutes.
~ Frozen berries work well as they don't "run" and discolour the batter like fresh ones do. They are also available all year round There is no need to thaw frozen berries before using for this recipe. Simply add frozen berries directly to the muffin batter.
~ Be sure to mix by hand for better texture and height to your muffin.
~ If you don't have buttermilk on hand, you can add 1 tsp of vinegar OR lemon juice to 1 cup of milk and let it sit out for at least 30 minutes before using. You can also use plain yogurt as a substitution for buttermilk.