In My Kitchen: December 2015

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Christmas is at my place this year and there’s no getting out of it, after successfully hand-balling the event to my niece last year. The good thing about rotating the venue is that you get to go insane only once in every four or five years. In the off years, it’s easy street, making a plate or two to take along to someone else’s Christmas nightmare, although there might be a long drive involved and a discussion about who will be the DD ( Designated Driver) for the day. The pre-Christmas heeby-jeebies involve gutting fridges to create more space, re-arranging furniture to house enough tables for 30 guests, counting cutlery, glasses, plates, chairs, and lots of cleaning. Then there’s calling in the window man, procrastinating by writing blogs, and having the occasional terse conversation with the relaxed one, Mr T.

Ironing the linen, counting the plates.
Ironing the linen, counting the plates.

Inside or outside, that is the question. For those readers living in the Northern Hemisphere, your weather is predictably cold. Here in Melbourne, we can enjoy four seasons in one day. There could be a tropical storm, starting with humid weather, followed by 150 mm of torrential rain, or a heat wave of over 40ºc (104ºF), accompanied by wind gusts of over 60 kmh. It could also be freezing cold, with horizontal winds carrying ice straight from Antarctica. That’s Melbourne for you. We will be inside!

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I have trialled a few recipes along the way and stashed finger foods in the freezer. These vegetarian sausage rolls will come out on Christmas Eve if they haven’t been eaten beforehand.

Vegetarian sausage rolls
Vegetarian sausage rolls

Stashing slabs of pre-cooked pizza makes things easy for those summer nights when I can’t be bothered cooking. My new approach to sourdough bread- making is to make one kilo of dough, using 500 g for a loaf of bread, and the remaining 500 g for a tray of Roman style pizza to freeze. I pull some out of the freezer, let it defrost on the bench, dress it with whatever’s on hand and pop into a hot oven for 5-10 minutes or until the topping is cooked.

I purchased this huge baking tray for bake ahead pizze. It sells as a Baklava tray, and comes from Bas foods in Brunswick. This will be the perfect size for a monster Pissaladiere.

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I learnt sourdough breadmaking when Celia sent me some of her starter 18 months ago. She has an excellent and very simple on-line tutorial to follow. Are you ready to give it a go? I have prepared some packets of dried sourdough starter to send out to anyone who would like some. My current sourdough starter, Sorella, is a clone of Celia’s Priscilla, and a very reliable starter she is too. The dried starter wakes up very easily and comes with a list of instructions. If you would like a packet, leave a comment below and I will send you some. You can stash this starter in your fridge until you have a quiet moment.

Sorella, the Sourdough Starter
Sorella, the Sourdough Starter

I plan to make more of these Cuddureddi Siciliani biscuits one week before Christmas. They keep really well for a few weeks and the last batch I made seemed to get better with age. A small cellophane pack of them would make a great gift too. Recipe here.

Cudureddi Siciliani
Cuddureddi Siciliani

I will serve them on this lovely plate given to me by Barnadi a few years ago, which only comes out for birthdays and Christmas. It reminds me of some antique Dutch willow pattern plates I bought in Solo, Java many years ago. Barnadi must have known as this one is the same colour.

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And finally, a big round of applause to Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, who has hosted this monthly event for the last five years. Celia is passing the baton to Maureen http://www.orgasmicchef.com/ who will do an excellent job, I am sure. But don’t worry, Celia will still be around. Thank you Celia for your support, friendship, inspiration, mentoring and generosity as host of this incredible community. I joined IMK exactly two years ago and have enjoyed every single month- writing, choosing stuff, and reading the posts of other like-minded souls. I have learnt to make sourdough bread, found out about gadgets, enamel ware, baking paraphernalia and sources of ingredients. I have also learnt more about blogging, connecting, reciprocating, waking up early, and mindfulness too.  Thank you my friend.

 

 

 

51 thoughts on “In My Kitchen: December 2015”

    1. That tray is a monster- just fits nicely into a 90cm oven space. Haven’t trialled it yet- but will do a post. Bas food specialises in Turkish stuff so any Greek/Turkish store in Sydney should have them.
      Mt T take over? I don’t think so but I have a daughter who is very able.

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  1. Ohh we’ll be hosting a combined family Christmas at my parents for the second year in a row, it’s the only place with enough room (and the possibility of a swim in the pool doesn’t hurt!).

    I’d really appreciate it if I could receive some of your starter – I just don’t seem to be good at getting one going from scratch!

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  2. Really lovely post Francesca. Wishing you well with your preparations for the big day. If only it was 15 or 20 degrees cooler in Alice I would enjoy it a lot more. If Christmas were left to the men, it wouldn’t happen, or it would be a few beers and some snags from the barbie served on paper plates. 🙂

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  3. At least you still have your sense of humour. That and wine will get you through!
    We have a similar weather dilemma… eat inside without flies or outside with the fan on and just a few. We’ve had our numbers drop by 3 so inside might be manageable.
    Celia gave me some Priscilla a couple of years ago and it’s sadly untried in the cupboard. I didn’t know about keeping it in the fridge. I’m going to try resurrecting it. If not, I’ll be in touch.
    P.S. Our first semi-retirement trip is to Melbourne at the end of Feb 🙂

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    1. Great, we’ll catch up then. Celia did a post on some starter she kept in the fridge for two years- and it came back to life beautifully. I am sure, given that it is dried, that it will work well enough. But then, you have rather a lot on your plate at present. When you move and settle down, you know where to get some- just yell out.
      Oh and the flies- I think we get more inside as the kids forget to shut the doors.

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  4. Your intro Francesca is so funny. I laughed my head off it’s so true! Nobody wants their turn to arrive so why do we make it so hard? Is it the tradition or are we mad? In another 2 years time it could be 40 around the tisch. Oh well, we’ll just soldier on……Hi Ho Hi Ho Hi Ho.

    OMG it’s just so funny 🙂

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  5. Hi Francesca ……I’ve been following you for about a year now. I have an Italian daughter in law in London ….. Only met her once and hoping to get over there again next year. Such a long way unfortunately. I’d love some of your dried sour dough starter with instructions. Something I should get back into doing. Happy Christmas ! Di

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    1. Happy Christmas Diane, Oh lucky if you can get to stay with your ason and daughter in law soon. Maybe when they come over, you can impress them with some sourdough bread. Simply email your address to my email – morgana3761@gmail.com and I will send some soon. Happy Christmas to you too. Francesca

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  6. Hi Francesca, I too would really love to give sourdough making a go, so if you could spare a little packet of Sorella/Priscilla for me, I would be thrilled.
    Thanks so much.
    Maree

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  7. I love hosting Christmas but with family scattered far and wide it’s usually only small family gathering late in the day. I just accepted Celia’s offer of sourdough starter. Great idea, bake a loaf, bake a pizza base, I’ll remember that for the future. Hoping the fine Brissy spelt will succeed

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  8. That pile of linen, divine. Yes, you are now in the lead up. Like a captain marching into battle. I wish you God Speed and a bottle of something good to drink, easily on hand. It is not my turn to host this year, for that I am truly grateful. I would love some sourdough starter but only if you have enough to go around. Although I confess to being a tad nervous and worried about killing it!

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  9. Hi Francesca. Have tried and enjoyed a couple of your recipes. I would love to give bread baking a go.If you have sufficient starter I would be very grateful. Thank you.

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  10. I, too, have some starter from Celia and it’s going strong. Love that you’ve named her Sorella; mine is Bart. Rotating hosting duties for the holiday is such a great idea — until your turn rolls around. You’re wise to get things done as far in advance as you can.

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  11. The only way to get out of Christmas is to move continents and hemispheres – it’s worked for me for the last 8 years!!! You make me laugh though because I know you’re not a Christmas Grinch and you are going to love having your family and grandkids around you on Christmas Day. You’ve totally got it all under control already I bet 🙂

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  12. Oh 30 guests will indeed keep you busy and stressed. It is just the five of us and that is just how I want it! My parents will be here for about 24 hours leaving after Christmas Eve lunch. That tray looks huge and so useful! Good luck, happy eating and drinking.

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  13. I so want my turn to arrive and it never will. I have a rented house and not enough room and I am the only one that would truly enjoy it so each year i have to lug a million things to one person or another’s house. get up early anyway and do lots of things and then put up with all the other choices each of them decides to add. so you see there are people who want to host Christmas. I wish though that I was as organised as you. i never seem to finish work or blogging and i run out of time. Have a really lovely time at Christmas and enjoy your breadmaking. Celia really is a thoughtful and community minded person

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    1. I waited many years before I could have a Christmas in my own place. It was always at my mother’s place until she became a bit too old to manage it. But I imagined a lunch with just my children and their partners. This has never happened and probably bever will. The big event includes my mother ( 93) 3 siblings, their partners, their children their grandchildren and my lot too. We usually only see many of them at Christmas and so I guess this is impirtant. I can have my discreet little immediate family things any old time.
      yes, some of the other dishes and choices can be quite odd. I guess it adds to the craziness of the event.
      Celia is a national, or should I say, international, treasure.
      You also have a wonderful Christmas and I hope your turn comes around soon.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Sounds like Christmas is in good hands this year! You are very organised indeed. That plate is a lovely little treasure. Merry festivities to you and yours, and looking forward to more kitchen sharing in the new year x

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  15. Honestly, I wonder sometimes what happens to my comments. The seems to drift off into the ether… The gist was that I love that huge baking tray and am mad keen on your biscuit recipe, which I’ve already bookmarked to use up some of my glut of marmalade. cheers!

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  16. Francesca I am just loving your pizza made with sourdough starter. I will giving this a go next time I make some bread, just not as big 🙂 Good luck with your Christmas prep and enjoy the day when it comes around. Have a wonderful Chrissy & New Year #IMK x

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