In My Kitchen, February 2015

Melbourne is experiencing a very cool summer so far. Not that I mind. Usually in February, I sit in the kitchen staring at the computer, monitoring the temperature, the wind and the fire ratings on the CFA site. This year we are blessed with unseasonable cool weather which is perfect for preserving fruits and garden produce AND I don’t feel so anxious.

In my kitchen are too many strawberries: the cool weather, along with proper netting, means a new flush every few days. We have made strawberry jam and coulis, frozen strawberries and strawberry brandy, tucked away for the cooler months.

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And of course there too many tomatoes. This season, the large tasty varieties are a little slow, so these mini tomatoes fill the gap. I am picking a few kilo of mixed heirloom tomatoes each day- they go on pizza, bruschetta, in soups and sauces or straight into the freezer.

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The zucchini continue to provide amusement when their large zeppelin shapes hide under leaves. The big fellas go to the chooks.  The polite ones make zucchini soup, Greek zucchini fritters, grilled zucchini topping for pizza,  zucchini ripieni con ricotta, zucchini pakhoras, zucchini pasta, and all manner of things, along with their fiori, flowers. I also make a swag of Stephanie Alexander’s zucchini pickles to give away. The pickle is lovely with a ploughman’s lunch.

Preparing the pickle in brine.
Preparing the pickle in brine.
Zucchini pickle alla Stephanie Alexander.
Zucchini pickle alla Stephanie Alexander.

In My kitchen are Lombardi. This month, my adopted nephew, Alberto from Pavia, hangs around in my kitchen after working in the kitchen garden. Alberto cultivates Arborio rice near Pavia, in Italia but has become interested in Australia over the last two years. It’s good to have him back. Renato, in the Babbo Natale hat, is from Milano. Renato, an IT specialist, became a top fencer in his many months here. At last our cows are well contained.

My kitchen garden provides much of the food that is prepared in my kitchen and I would like to thank them both for assisting us with their labour and for their graceful and courteous company.

Along with the kitchen thankyous comes a big one to our generous host, Celia, from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial whose infectious energy is inspirational.

43 thoughts on “In My Kitchen, February 2015”

  1. Ciao Alberto e Renato! I’m glad you are having a coolish summer, but it is still warm enough to ripen the veggies. We keep an eye on Adelaide weather because our daughter is there and it has been coolish there too. Those fresh strawberries really did it for me, though. I dare not show the photo to my husband, I hate to see a grown man cry!! Thanks for the lovely post, you always have an interesting kitchen!

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  2. A true IMK post of the summer season, colourful and abundant… I laughed when I read “a few kilo of mixed heirloom tomatoes each day”… such everyday decadence, they and strawberries cost an arm & leg at the farmers markets. I’m sure your assistants have been very well fed in return for their efforts 🙂

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  3. To my blister, Francesca, you are making me jealous with those tomatoes and strawberries. I threw out a couple of rotten ones yesterday and now have none left! I’m going shopping today to fill up our tomato basket in the kitchen and to buy mum some Roma tomatoes as she is out of them too. More $$$$$!!!!!!! needed.

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  4. It’s been cool in Sydney too. No days over 40C or even in the high 30’s which is very unusual and this is supposed to be the hottest month of the year! I love the look of your zucchini pickles and your tomatoes are gorgeous – so many varieties. And how handy to have someone build fences! xx

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    1. I do feed my gorgeous young men, and they get to stay in a nice little separate studio. It is an interesting cultural experience. They once were Wwoofers, but now these two young men are very much family members. I get to speak Italian on occasion, more so with Alberto as Renato is ‘Almost Australian’ now and is working full time in Sydney.

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      1. Just getting back to the tomatoes Francesca, when we lived in Mt Isa in the 1970’s we had so many tomatoes all ripening at the same time (like hundreds of them) we used to sell them to the Mt Isa Hotel. They needed all they could get so it was a win win situation.

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  5. Hi there Francesca! Loving your tomato harvest… mine haven’t been so good this year! But the strawberries have been flourishing… And how nice for you to have family visiting xo

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  6. I don’t think there can ever be too many strawberries or tomatoes! Sauces, and freezing would be my answer! Your pickles look delicious!

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  7. Hi Francesca, My tomatoes are late this year – too much fertiliser has produced beautiful bushes but they have forgotten to fruit… soon, soon. Love the strawberries. I should grow some next year. When do you plant them? There is no way I am growing zucchinis. I would go mad trying to find uses for them all. Love your young helpers.

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  8. A very aptly Italian looking summer crop from the garden. Are you back in the country? I thought you were in N Melbourne? In any case, I’m sure it’s good for the soul to have a couple of strapping lads to do your fencing:)

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  9. I would so dearly love to have too many strawberries and too many tomatoes! How glorious! I can’t imagine picking a whole KILO of heirloom toms each day! We are up to our neck in snake beans and figs – how I wish we could share our harvests! Lovely handsome young men in your kitchen – what nice company they must be for you… xxx

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    1. I’ll trade figs and snake beans for tomatoes and strawberries over the virtual backyard fence. Oh yes, the young men are rather nice to have around and they work hard too. My son in law likes to tease me about this.

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  10. Francesca, I can’t thank you enough for your earlier encouragement about “what to expect” post-fire. Your empathy was incredible and inspiring, xo. (Thanks for your subsequent help, too!) My next kitchen is coming along, slowly, but surely. Believe it or not, I was just about to make pickles! (Loved the quote you shared about them being a ploughman’s lunch… so true!) Adorable sous chefs you have, too!

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  11. Thanks Kim. I hope things are beginning to improve for you and your family and that you can see some light at the end of the tunnel. I hope you get the stove of your dreams too. Yes, my sous chefs are rather adorable and practical too.

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    1. Lots of tomatoes self seed each year from fallen tomatoes. It often depends on the type- and whether they ferment at the right time the following late spring/summer. You can always save the seeds of your favourite ones and sow the seed of these.

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