In My Kitchen, March 2015

In my kitchen are some wonderful gifts from my next door neighbour, Anna.  Anna’s bay tree is huge and enjoys a good trim if you can reach its soaring branches. Bunches of bay leaves look lovely in the kitchen but are also good for deterring moths in the pantry. A clean out is overdue and these bay leaves will be taped to the walls and under the shelves.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnna, who is Greek and 85 years old, still makes the best spanakopita and loukoumades, Greek doughnuts dipped in honey. Sadly there are no pictures as these get devoured as soon as they arrive. She also bought in a bottle of Ouzo and Sparkling wine, and a full-sized hand-woven rug that she made when she was a young woman in Greece. Beautiful gifts in return for a bit of shrub removal. Anna brings in biscuits most weeks, just because she has made them!  She has two kitchens: the pretty show kitchen that looks like it has never been used and the real kitchen out the back in the laundry, where all the serious cooking occurs. Popping in for a coffee at Anna’s place is not to be taken lightly. She serves wedges of chilled Kasseri or Kefalograviera cheese, warmed tiropitakia, honey biscuits or almond crescents dusted with icing sugar, cut and chilled wedges of fruit, chocolates, ouzo and really bad Nescafe coffee which the Greeks of Melbourne seem to favour. Although she doesn’t speak much English and I have failed to learn Greek, we get by very well and speak the same language- that of friendship and love. One day I’ll get in her back kitchen when she is cooking.

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In my kitchen are the first Clapps Favourite pears. They are an early season variety and the fruit ripens very quickly once picked. The fruit is large and tasty and don’t last long as kitchen art.

clapps favourite pear
clapps favourite pear

In my kitchen there is a fresh supply of lentils, chick peas, bulgar wheat and other dried goods from Bas Foods in Brunswick, one of my favourite shops. These go well in curries and soups and are my main source of protein and iron.

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At least once a week we eat a simple curry based on these goods which are complemented with things from the garden.

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In my kitchen there are still loads of tomatoes. I have made passsata, tomato and chilli jam, gazpacho soup and am now about to borrow a dehydrator to deal with the many baskets of little yellow pear tomatoes, Romas and the funny black blushed ones.

waiting in the kitchen. Dehydrate, kassundi or passata?
Waiting in the kitchen. Dehydrate, kassundi or passata?
Tomato chilli jam
Tomato chilli jam
Gazpacho - using up the cucumber and tomato glut.
Gazpacho – using up the cucumber and tomato glut.

I purchased these bulk tagliatelle egg pasta at Gervasi supermarket in Brunswick. Three kilo of nidi, or nests cost $10.00. They are stored in a large plastic bread bin from the bakery. These are great for 10 minute meals of pasta and garden goodness with oil and anchovy, herbs and Parmigiano. If you want to experience a real Italian vibe, the deli and butcher counters at Gervasi will transport you back to Italy in a flash. More autentico than the Mediterraneo Wholesalers.

bulk tagliatelle
bulk tagliatelle

Speaking of Italy, which I often do, I am enjoying Dominique Rizzo’s My Taste of Sicily very much. Although I have owned it for a couple of years, it has decided to take up residence in my kitchen this month. I love the vibrancy of Sicilian food: food of the sun, it works well in the Australian climate.

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Siciliani love chilli and so do I. Excess chilli dry out on the bench and will be crushed then turned into chilli oil.

chilli drying, waitig to be crushed or turned into chlli oil.
chilli drying, waiting to be crushed or turned into chlli oil.

Finally my secret ingredient for making tasty frangipane cakes. Two tablespoons for the cake and a nip for me. One also for Celia, at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial who hosts this monthly round up of world kitchens. Follow the link and enjoy them all.

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51 thoughts on “In My Kitchen, March 2015”

  1. Hi Francesca. Love all your tomatoes. I have a great book called ‘The Heart of Sicily’ by Anna Tasca Lanza. It is on the bench at the moment too. It has a recipe for tomato paste that I might try if the tomato situation gets too out of hand. Have you heard of it? BTW. Your neighbour sounds lovely.

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  2. Your post speaks of our wonderful multicultural society. One of the gastronomic highlights of my life was in Darwin, living across the road from a Greek family with whom we made friends. She was generous with her cooking tips, but recipes were hard to come by as she just did it ‘by feel’. Your kitchen looks delicious and homely, as always.

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  3. I have a bay tree at Taylors Arm. You’ve remined me I must cut some for the kitchen, pruning it to it doesn’t get too big. The neighbourliness you detail is lovely, much give and take so the lines or who and what is given and taken are wonderfully blurred… to give and give 🙂
    Your IMK pics are colourful and full of life but I really love the pears in the blue bowl. I have a wonky bue pottery that is my favourite, and I love pears any way.

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  4. I would love to know someone like Anna, oh what she could teach me! Snap for the tomatoes and I am looking forward to some heartier winter meals of legumes. Think Brunswick might be on my list of shopping check outs! Thanks.

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  5. I’m a great fan of Amaretto and use it whenever possible. The Greek Nescafe thing always amazes me. I shot an advertising campaign for Nescafe, many years ago, for a Japanese ad agency and part of the shoot was in Athens. Before this I had no idea how big Nescafe was with the Greeks….I still don’t understand that as I can’t bear the taste of it:)

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    1. It is so strange, isn’t it. All the nearby stores sell thick Greek coffee and little heating vessels but I think the Greeks have turned their back on this style of coffee, leaving it to the local Turkish population to enjoy.

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  6. It’s always interesting to visit your kitchen Francesca, I must remember your secret ingredient for frangipane. I usually use brandy but amaretto is far more logical. So many delicious preserves to make with tomatoes, i hope I’m home in time to make tomato and ginger jam

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  7. i love that blue bowl with the pears too. and such marvellous things in your kitchen this month:) gorgeous little tomatoes. how wonderful to have such a lovely neighbour giving you such lovely gifts. sadly our neighbourhood which was an italian stronghold for many years is losing them all to old age. there used to be an italian bakery, and deli etc but no more.

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  8. I love everything about this post Francesca, so vibrant and delicious! But, mostly I am fascinated by your neighbour, Anna. Instant neighbour envy! I would love to pop into her place for a Greek treat. I hope you get to report on her back kitchen one day 🙂

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    1. I will indeed Jane. When she makes Gigantes- that big lima bean casserole, I must be there. But also to see how she does her filo pies- she layers them- so that the filling seems to go between each layer of filo. She and her Greek friends spend forever baking for the events at the nearby Greek Orthodox Church and I am lucky enough to get the overflow. She bakes nearly as much as you do!

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  9. When I was in primary school, my best friend was Greek and her mother was an amazing cook. She was just like Anna, incredibly skilled in the kitchen (and garden) and generous to a fault. Lucky us to have friends like that. Lovely IMK post.

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  10. Your neighbour sounds delightful – and well preserved too if she’s still turning out all that food at her age! I can’t believe that pasta is so cheap – bargain. Gazpacho is a firm favourite here too in the summer – especially when I’m out of inspiration or energy.

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  11. Oh, so Mediterranean! I envy you your lovely Greek neighbour (and all those loukoumades). Looks like you have a handle on that tomato glut. I am still working my way through all my old beans and lentils. I’ve had to be very stern with myself about NOT buying any more until they are used up.

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    1. You would get on very well with Anna for sure, given your Greek experience. I have to get into her back kitchen with my camera and document some of her treasured cooking. She, and the other Greek women nearby, cook for the local orthodox church events. There are mostly only women left now. They form a very strong little community in the suburb of Brunswick, close to the city, where I live a few days a week.

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  12. What a wonderful neighbour! Wonder if you can learn some of her recipes, by watching? Would be such a joy I think. Love those tiny yellow pear tomatoes, they’re so good aren’t they?

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  13. I always enjoy your posts, Francesca, and this one was lovely – most especially because … … I lay awake last night fretting because we have 10 people coming for dinner on Saturday – I like to cook, but I’m not a confident cook and desserts are not my strong point. I woke up this morning and stumbled to my iPad – et voila! Dessert is served – thank you, thank you!

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  14. Serious neighbour envy here too. Also mighty jealous of your tomato harvest and I’m throwing in my vote for making pasata with them as its so versatile (and delicious).

    I love the pulses collection and your curry looks yummy.

    Thanks for sharing!

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    1. I’m not sure that drying out the mini tomatoes was worth the effort. The red cherry varieties taste better dried than the yellows. I think Anna should be cloned. She is a treasure.

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  15. I love all the tomatoes! Yellow pears are one on my favorites, though I haven’t tried dehydrating them. Something to think about for this summer’s garden. Your neighbor sounds like a true gem, wish I had somebody like that nearby.

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    1. The little pear tomatoes are prolific. I dehydrated a load and then jarred them in oil. Not sure if I will continue that practice in future as they weren’t that wonderful.

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  16. Francesca, I was savoring your every word. (Photos, too!) I even read your first paragraph aloud to my hubby, who kindly tolerates my food enthusiasm with a smile. He ‘knows.’ It sounds like your neighbor, Anna, does, too — sometimes no translation is needed. Wonderful post!
    P.S. Thanks for the pantry tip on bay leaves — I didn’t know that!

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  17. anna sounds like a great neighbour – we have a small potted bay plant and so I was surprised to hear your neighbour has a huge bay tree! Your pulses and tomato glut look like they yield wonderful meals. Interesting to hear your views on gervasi – I have been there a few times and it always seems authentic – I think it might be the grocery where I found a scottish liqueur many years ago that we loved.

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    1. If you put your bay in the ground, it too will become a lovely big tree. Yes, Gervasi is the real deal- just like all the shops around here used to be before they all turned into breakfast cafes.

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  18. I did not know that about bay leaves and pantry moths Thanks… I have a tree out the front and delight in picking its leave when ever I need it for a recipe! Everyone seems to have a lot so tomato action going on this month 🙂 In Queensland our finish bit earlier as it is so hot… I have also just finished picking all the red chillies of my bushes and then went out the other day to find a another lot of beautiful long green chillies, so more to come form me with chillies I think! Thanks for sharing your beautiful kitchen this month! Liz xx

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  19. Hi Francesca – I read this the other day and didn’t have time to comment but just had to come back and chime in with everyone else – I wish I had an Anna as a neighbour too! Love that she has two kitchens – the working kitchen might be referred to as the scullery – where all the mess takes place and gets relegated to? I think that you should offer to help out when she and her friends are cooking for church so that you can see it all in action! Your blue bowl is just beautiful and I, like Sandra, must remember your tip about Amaretto, which I love. I recently read an article about bay leaves and pantry moths and as spring and summer are on their approach, I shall be taping bay leaves everywhere! Enjoy the tomatoes, whatever you end up doing with them. I have a recipe for a confit on my blog which you might like. Thanks for a wonderful look round your kitchen.

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    1. Thanks again, Selma. Anna is such a lovely lady. I will try to get into her scullery with a pen in hand and maybe take in my laptop so I can get a few quick translations from Greek, as the language can be a big barrier at times, although I can learn by just watching. I am sure she will find the request odd at first. She also makes the best version of Gigantes ( a great bean dish) and I now that it is Lent, I am keen to see her vegetarian dishes.
      I must check your archives for the tomato confit for the last batch of tomatoes.tomatoes.

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  20. I love your neighbour’s idea of afternoon tea Francesca, how wonderful! Those little tomatoes look wonderful too, and I think I have a bottle of Amaretto somewhere, so will have to try adding some to frangipane.

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