In My Kitchen. January 2015

Another year ticks over, resolutions have been made, private reflections and observations about the things that are important. After those meditations on the first of January, the year brings on a mad rush of adrenalin as I attack the kitchen like some crazed Befana on a broom, sorting through the pantry, the larder, the fridges and cupboards, trying to restore some order after the Christmas mayhem. Out they go, all the old chutneys and jams, some of them smelling so delicious even though they are three or more years old. The chickens are in for a jammy feast, with old dried foods from the pantry thrown into the mix, hot water stirred through, fire burn and cauldron bubble. When the hurlyburly’s done, I’ll sit down to a chilled white wine and contemplate this summer post. There is no photo of me here -you, my reader, must imagine a wild unkempt hairdo and an unflattering old Bali Dress used for these jobs.

In the remaining clear space on the bench, there are some rather handsome Christmas gifts gracing my kitchen. The first is a heavy-duty blender from my eldest son. Its powerful motor works like a dream. So far we have had mango, ice, banana and orange juice smoothies, brain numbingly cold and healthy, reminding me of the fruity concoctions made in Chiang Rai, Thailand. This now lives in the industrial zone in my kitchen.

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This gorgeous cake tin was a KK gift from my sister-in-law. Jo. It has a perfect seal. I seem to be making more cakes these days. How did she know?

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Loads of zucchini are landing on the shelf and ending up in summer soups. My diet has turned basic and simple this month. You can’t clean like a mad witch and cook too!

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I now make my own yoghurt weekly.  It is another routine, along with the sourdough bread, that has slipped into my life. It is so simple, especially if you have a nice big thermos. Boiled milk, cooled to warm, with a tablespoon or two from your last batch of yoghurt is whisked through, then into the thermos it goes for six or more hours. Too easy. Using this large vintage Japanese thermos, I can now make two litres at a time, enough yoghurt to go with curries, to make tzaziki and other dips, Greek cakes and so on. There is nothing better than a breakfast of home-made yoghurt and a compote of fruit, especially poached cherries.

yoghurt and special Japanese thermos
yoghurt made in my Vintage Japanese thermos

The things you find in the pantry!! I seem to have cornered the market in Indian dhal and bulgar. These, combined with fresh garden produce, will form the basis of my $1.00 meals. I’m on a mission to eat the contents of the pantry and to shop less – one of those New Year reflections about simplicity, waste and healthy eating.

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Having finally mastered the pressure cooker, which has been hiding in a kitchen cupboard for a few months, the lentils, beans and chickpeas are having a work out.

Prior to Christmas, I found a monster 3 kilo bag full of Tagliatelle nests at Psarakos in Thornbury. Once opened, they are now stored in one of my big bread bins. These nidi only take 5 -6 minutes cooking and, with the tomato and basil glut on the horizon, will form the basis of more cheap eats.

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My Mother’s apricot tree goes on and on, with five kilo picked daily. She poaches and stores them in little boxes in the freezer for winter desserts. Not bad at 92 years old, but I think it’s time I made her jam. Jars in the dishwasher, jars on the bench, nothing like making jam on a 40 degrees celsius (104 F) day. When the blackberries are ready and the temperature even higher, this jam making strega will be working at dawn, or possibly leaving home early to live elsewhere.

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Happy New Year to all, and, raise your glasses, a big Salute to Celia, at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, our wonderful host of this monthly series.

63 thoughts on “In My Kitchen. January 2015”

  1. Looks like a lot of healthy and tasty food! I hope you will post some about your cheap eats soon. I love your photography, and kudos for making your own yogurt!

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    1. This includes the free bounty from the garden of course. And I’m not counting the cost of good parmigiano! But then, is the garden bounty free? Much toil and labour goes in there, which isn’t a P.I.T.A but definitely one in the back!

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  2. Lovely post Francesca. Definitely can relate about the pantry overload and needing to sort and cull and actually use what’s hidden! Love the Macbeth reference! Xxx

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  3. Ah, Macbeth, and then I after the culling, I could keep going and become Lady Macbeth, looking for imaginary spots to cleanse… not only were you a great student, but now a great Literature teacher, Rach. xx

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    1. Ahh thanks! Hopefully the kids I teach feel the same way :). Lady Macbeth wouldn’t have to imagine at my place as the need for a deep deep clean is calling….

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    1. That goal includes a lot of lentil and chick pea things, pasta and garden stuff. Thermos envy is something I can relate to, better than the other form of envy- who was that? Freud is just plain worng.

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  4. Love the image of the Befana with balinese dress and wild hair! Better than a photo! Thank you for the tip on making yogurt. Am thinking I may try it. How long do you leave it in the thermos before refrigerating it? I can’t be bothered with another appliance in my kitchen and your simple method appeals to me. Hot down your way today too, take care.

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    1. It is rather hot Ardys. 38c at present and then 41 tomorrow but here in the hills we had 2c as it’s always hotter. the wind is the problem. We are planning to leave either tonight or in the morning, in accordance with our fire plan. We leave about 5 times a year in summer.
      If you make the yoghurt after dinner, it is safe enough to leave it overnight- otherwise around 6 – 8 hours should see a good set. Then into the fridge.
      I have decided to eat more yoghurt as I am low in iron at present and I am wondering if it’s my lack of dairy, other than a wee slosh in a cup of tea.

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  5. Ah, you made me giggle at the thought of you getting ‘stuck in’ and what you would look like. I wish we could grow apricots down here but they are one local crop we can’t get a good result from. It all looks so good. Thanks 🙂

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  6. Those apricots are a bounty! I wish I could grow fruit but I’m satisfied with my vegetable harvests. While not technically free, my garden produce uses other wastage such as kitchen scraps in compost, leftover paper shredding as mulch, grey water leftover from childrens baths and coffee grounds from my daily habit. So while it costs time and effort, it saves in other areas too. Not to mention the satisfaction of growing your own goodies!

    I too would love to hear about your cheap eats. Happy new year to you!

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    1. I should have added a little subtitle to that pic of the thermos- For Jane, thermos fancier! This Japanese version is huge and , you will like this, it had a little set of tiffins ( unused, inside it!!!

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  7. Francesca, I am always resolving to use what I have and shop less but my pantry and freezer never seem to diminish :(. I will be keen to hear of your progress.

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  8. Francesca, I’m on a bit of a clearing-out binge myself (wrote about one of them in my very first In My Kitchen post yesterday). Makes you feel good, doesn’t it? Well, except for your back, of course! How I would love to have an apricot tree, but it doesn’t fit in with Mr. Delightful’s garden plan. Wonderful that your mother is getting on so well.

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  9. Why is it that fruit is in season when it is so hot, I hate that about making jam?! Yet we still suffer and make jam, it’s too delicious not to. Your blender looks great, I could,d stand to get a new one as well. My cupboards and pantry are also going through a cleaning phase, time to make room for new items and eat what we have. Happy New Year!

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  10. That cake tin is beautiful… And I love all your produce 🙂 I would alos be making some apricot and custard Danish with those beautiful ripe fruit! Thanks for sharing! Liz x

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  11. Hi lovely Francesca… not sure why I’m not seeing your posts anymore… sorry to have missed this one…. love love love that you make yoghurt in the thermos! And how about those home grown zucchini… I plucked our first yesterday and gave it to my neighbour with a bunch of basil : )
    Those apricots look yum too, your mum is 92? Wow! Happy new year darling xo

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    1. Maybe they’re going to the reader or the spam folder? Hope not, but it does happen from time to time- I have found myself needing to re-sign up for some here and there. Yes, Mum is 92 and still lives independently, making her won food, cakes, biscuits and so on. I’m drawing the line at her jam making… it’s hot enough frp me, but then I saw a pile of cheap strawberries today and so, although 40c, I am making some jam!!!

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  12. Hi there Francesca, your homemade yogurt looks great, and you make it sound so easy!
    Happy to hear you have mastered the pressure cooker. For some reason those things scare the beeheebies outta me! Must have been the ‘big loud hissing pot’ syndrome from my youth…
    Happy January, cheers Kirsty xx

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  13. Happy New Year Francesca, loving your new blender, do you mind if I ask you what brand it is? Can it make ice cream & sorbets too? Loving the idea of eating everything in the pantry so you know what you do/don’t have, I should do the same I think 🙂 See you next month at IMK

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    1. The blender is a Breville. I am very happy with it, not only because it blends well, but you can remove the blades from the base and clean it properly.
      Good time to clean out the pantry- unless you can find a fairy to do it for you….

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  14. Happy New Year Francesca! I love the thermos idea. I used to make my own yogurt in one of those electric machines, the quantity was never enough. Think I will try it. It is uncomfortable that the jam making season is usually so hot. Apricot jam on freshly toasted bread is delicious in the colder weather though, the memory of summer past.

    Wishing you safety from the fire season.

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  15. I resolved to use up all the chili and spa bol in the freezer before making any more – and not to buy any more pasta or tins of chickpeas that seem to reproduce in the cupboard!! I can’t believe you get 5kg of apricots a day – what a gift. Love your new blender too.

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  16. Nearly missed this post! Even though I’ve said it before in other post comments – a very Happy New Year to you and your family. I wish your cleaning fervour would hit here! I feel more sloth-like, but perhaps it is the weather – though I did have a look through my cupboards for out of date items and identified things that need using ASAP. You are a good influence! I love the fact that you make yoghurt in a thermos – and such a pretty vintage one, too.

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  17. Well done on the New Year clean out Francesca, and lovely garden produce as always – my tomatoes are still tiny I’m afraid. Yay for the new blender too, I’ve been having way more smoothies since I got mine as it’s so easy…
    Good on you for getting stuck into the summer jam making – it’s great to have the finished product, but the making is not nearly as fun as standing over a bubbling pot in Winter 🙂
    Beck

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  18. Just the other day I was thinking I might throw out my big old flask that’s too large for family picnics now the kids are grown … you have inspired me to make yoghurt instead!

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    1. Thanks Jan. I have tried to comment on your blog a couple of times but it won’t post. WordPress not talking to Blogger is suspect? I have experienced this problem with other Blogger sites too. Any advice?

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  19. I love that your kitchen has zones! Oh, how I wish… I love Psarakos – my sister lives in Thornbury, so it’s familiar to me. Not as beautiful as your thermos but still effective, I bought an EasiYo and am now a DIY yoghurt convert 🙂

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      1. I will still keep an eye out for thermos similar to yours but I wanted to get started… I only eat plain full fat yoghurt so I use the container to make my own using Celia’s directions 🙂 Prior, I had been buying very good quality shop yoghurt, Baranbah etc, but omg homemade is SO much better.

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