In My Kitchen, January 2016, the No Cooking Edition.

My Kitchen and I are not on speaking terms at the moment. This morning I mentioned in passing to Mr Tranquillo that perhaps I should start cooking again soon, and, true to form, he replied, “why bother?” The post-Christmas lethargy has set in and I notice that many of my friends have also turned into sloths, talking fondly about their bed or books, sea breezes drifting through open windows, or bird song at dawn.

Breakfast. Home grown tomatoes and basil, torn bocconcini, olive oil, salt.
Breakfast Caprese. Home grown tomatoes and basil, torn bocconcini, olive oil, salt.

The weather in Melbourne has been hideously hot, requiring simple meals, left overs or take aways. Fish and chips around the pool, a pasta dressed with zucchini, basil and left over smoked salmon, an omelette and a glass of wine, a peach and a cuddureddi biscuit for breakfast, a cup of tea and chocolate in bed with more books. Life in the slow lane.

Bed, books and Chocolate
Bed, books and chocolate

The first important improvement to our kitchen is a self-closing fly screen door, installed three days before Christmas. Not only does it keep insects out, but I love the old-fashioned sound of a flywire door closing.  A soft wooden clunk. It’s a summery sound, inviting one outside and into the evening air of the verandah, or back inside, away from the hot north wind.

A softly banging flywire door.
A softly banging flywire door, installed by my son Jack, a very practical man, assisted by Mr T.

My garlic crop has finally been cleaned and stored: it hung about on the kitchen verandah for 6 weeks and begged to be safely housed in a darker, cooler space with circulating air. I didn’t plait this year’s lot – but bundled and tied them with string, such is my aversion to anything requiring thought or energy. We harvested over 200 bulbs so no Vampire visitors for us. Early garlic is delicious rubbed on grilled bread with EV olive oil, or whole bulbs baked in olive oil in the oven, then squeezed out of their papery skins, sprinkled with smoked sea salt, and popped into the mouth. The taste of organically grown Australian garlic is superb.

garlic 2015
garlic 2015
garlic 2015
garlic cleaning and sorting, 2015
Loose bulbs to use now.
Loose bulbs to use now.

This beautiful swarovski crystal bookmark made by Celia dangled from a vase on the mantlepiece on Christmas day. Now it hangs from the armoire key where I keep my  precious things, spirits that we never drink, and other collectables. The armoire is my Black Swan. I found it in an op shop in Coburg shortly after the bushfire of 2009, when I was on the hunt for new furniture. There it stood, at half price, looking for a new home. Another customer egged me on, a Frenchman who wanted me to buy it because he didn’t have room in his house but could vouch for its authenticity. Then followed the saga of moving it, storing it and moving it again. Made of solid oak, with wire fronted windows ( to deter theft by the maids?), the armoire weighs a tonne, is beautiful crafted, with finely engineered brass springs on the doors, little screws to remove the glass panels, and hand carved panels. Bespoke you might say. My kids hate it.

Celia's Crystal drop on Armoire door
Celia’s Crystal drop on Armoire door
In My Armadio
Armoire, Armadio, crystal cabinet, grog cupboard.

Whenever I see these long, hot Turkish peppers for sale in Brunswick, I always buy them. I will cook them soon, I’m getting there. I leave them whole and braise them with middle eastern flavours and serve them with couscous or a bulgar pilaf and yoghurt.

Turkish Hot Peppers, grown in Mildura,bought in Brunswick.
Turkish Hot Peppers, grown in Mildura, bought in Brunswick.

In the build up to Christmas, we unearthed a few tables and chairs from the shed to seat thirty guests. This lovely oval oak table didn’t return: we found room for it and hope it can stay.  Now we have a table for two with a view.

A table for two
A table for two, with a view.

Happy New Year friends, I hope you are also enjoying a lazy spell and that 2016, when it begins in earnest, will be joyous and productive.

This year, Maureen from The Orgasmic Chef has taken over the post of host for In My Kitchen. It’s a monthly international event where like-minded folk share their kitchen stories. I’m afraid my post deviated a little from the kitchen this month.

Francesca xx

54 thoughts on “In My Kitchen, January 2016, the No Cooking Edition.”

  1. Hi Francesca, we have been sloths too, just pooped. We are heading for Williamstown Beach today for a kids swim. Nice and close and the water quality in the bay is good. Terry watered all mum’s garden yesterday in the heat but it needed doing and she needed some medication. I have cooked 2kgs of apricots already – made 2 pies yesterday and stewed the rest ready for storing, also made a huge fried rice yesterday for everyone. Purchased an Indonesian cooking book the day before from Keilor. The satay sauce is mentioned, like the ingredients! Such a find!

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  2. Definitely slothful here too! You are so right about homegrown garlic. We didn’t get as many bulbs as you, but what we have is fine. And you were so right about the armoire ~ it looks perfect.

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  3. So much to love about this post Francesca. First of all, you have made me long for a wooden screen door. Oh the memories… Also you have lessened my lethargy guilt considerably. Someone has made a terrible mistake and sent your weather to Alice. It has been rainy and windy and cool here for days. Still I am lethargic. Your new table for two with a view looks wonderful too. And that armoire is a treasure! I have not even thought about an IMK post yet, such has been the all consuming finish of the photo project, interspersed with lethargy. 🙂 I’ll think about it tomorrow. xx

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  4. So many good things Francesca! Your garlic is amazing…it looks so healthy. I have been cooking bread like a maniac but not much else. We have been eating left over smoked salmon with pasta too…delicious! Your armoire is gorgeous, that is a serious piece of furniture! x

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    1. They think it’s too Italian- looking, a bit Franco Cozzo- esque. You may not be familiar with our Italian iconic furniture salesman here in Melbourne so I include a link.

      I just tell them to get back to Ikea land!!

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        1. He is a legend. When Alberto was out here from Pavia last year, we popped into his shop and there he was, down the back, ancient but still on the job. He asked Alberto ( who is 26) why he was hanging around with this old Signora ( me) and not out looking for nice Melbourne girls. That’s Franco! Now Alberto is a fan, though I’m not sure that he gets the irony of the ads or the furniture. I promise my armadio is not quite Cozzo-esque but then tell that to my kids!

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  5. I like your Armoire and the table for two would be perfect for us. Your garlic fills me with envy and your kitchen is like mine. I keep saying, “Do I need to cook again?” After the holidays I always seem to need a break. Happy New Year!

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  6. Francesca, I have your disease, I haven’t cooked much at all since mid December (other when we had guests). I too are building up to it. Enjoy those lazy days.

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  7. Love this post. This commonly-felt, almost communal malaise is really of the enjoyable variety, and seems well-earned after a full year. Happy reading and snoozing. Beautiful garlic. And 30 people? No wonder you’re knackered!!! Happy new year ❤️

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    1. Thanks Rach- I may have stolen a line from you by the way, feeling that you are enjoying your slow state as much as I am, and needing it too. Yes, 30 people. But never again. Mr T and I have decided to celebrate only with the immediate family on a day of their choosing, and see the extended family in normal contexts throughout the year, or not.

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  8. Franco Cozzo, now he’s a blast from the past! I hear the Vietnamese are keen on his baroque style.. The sound of a wooden screen door slamming takes me back to childhood, the screech of cicadas and hot summer days.

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    1. Yes, its an aussie kind of sound isn’t it. Franco is still there in Brunswicky and larger than life in a way. I have noticed some of that furniture in Vietnam ( years ago) and will check it all out again this year as we are heading there in July for a month. Ah, taste is in the eye of the beholder.

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  9. Oh my what a beautiful post. I too used to love the sound of the fly wire closing .. Your comment brought back childhood memories tucked away. We don’t have vampires here either .. I’m loving my garlic hanging by the backdoor. Big smiles your way

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    1. Ah yes, you know Franco Cozzo- a Melbourne girl. My armoire is surely very Francais.
      So sad that you can’t get good garlic there in Shanghai. I’ll grow some for you when you return.

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  10. Sloth, I love that word. My dear departed dad and I played scrabble frequently and sloth stuck in my head after I discovered “ai” was a legitimate word for 3 toed sloth. I’ve gone a step further down from sloth I think, would that be bogan? Slowly scrambling back…. Your garlic looks great, thanks for the tip about not plaiting. I love the armoire, did you restore it or was it that lovely natural timber when you got it? Screen door slamming, that and cicadas and crickets are a must have sound in an Australian summer 🙂

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    1. I think Bogan can involve activity – so we’ll have to find a better word for slower than sloth. On the theme of bogans though, we are very partial to the word ‘boganesque’, as in, ‘do I look boganesque’ in these two dollar crocs? . It’s mother/daughter talk mostly. Gentrified hippy bogan is another- long before that annoying TV show appeared.
      The scramble back is a hard one- but you have a lot on your up and coming plate I see. We will head of to Vietnam for July. August- then somewhere near there, plans are still fluid.
      Cricket- and the tennis in late January too. Aussie sounds of summer.

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  11. I know the feeling about not wanting to cook in the heat. I had all sorts of things planned for our Christmas lunch that involved ovens and smokers, but opted for quick pan dishes instead. So hot!!! Your garlic harvest looks great. Nothing like a big stash of it to add to EVERYTHING! Happy New Year.

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  12. We were very lucky with the weather at Christmas and even today. A startling 26c here with rain softly falling. I know that the hot humid days can be only just around the corner. I know how harsh the Melbourne summer can be. Full of hot breath, stifling your every move. We have out own new screens and what a joy it was to prepare the meal on Christmas day without a fly in sight! They are actually more to protect us from mossies at dusk but I’ll take a little fly prevention action as a bonus. I hope the weather abates soon.

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  13. I certainly do understand your no cook edition this time around, Francesca. Summertime holidays can be taxing but Christmas? That’s another beast entirely. I’d declare my kitchen off limits, to be entered for liquid refreshment only.
    Wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful New Year, Francesca.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahha, I like that idea John- a kitchen to be entered only for liquid refreshments. Yes, and Christmas was a beast. I’m thinking of banning that beast in future and going for the eve before or 12 days after.

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  14. Happy New Year to you & your family Francesca. Garlic seems to be the flavour of the month & yours looks amazing – my brother-in-law better pull his out of the veggie patch when he gets back from Sydney – may I ask if you wash them first then hang them to dry? New to garlic this year 🙂 Your wooden kitchen door reminds me of my great-grandmothers home – how you writing about it brought back that memory 🙂 I think 2015 was such a rushed year fro everyone that most food bloggers I know are taking a break the whole of January – be kind to yourself, the creative juices will start flowing when you’re ready 🙂 Lovely #IMK post xx

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    1. Thanks Miss Food Fairy. I am enjoying blogging over January- so long as I don’t cook too much. I’m digging up old memories and reading a lot too.
      There are a few different theories about washing garlic. It won’t hurt to wash them if they are dried well and get lots of air. Also, if all the dirt is caked on, I like to wash them and give them a gentle brush. If they come up cleanly, I don’t bother. I hate dealing with dirty garlic in the kitchen: nothing worse than peeling cloves with hardened dirt getting onto your chopping board. Also, after pulling ( and gently cleaning) the garlic, it needs to hang for quite a few weeks to harden it off. A shady verandah, out of direct sun, is good.
      I hope your brother’s garlic will be OK when he gets back. Mine came up early this year- it was in flower at the end of November, requiring very early harvesting. Might have to do a post on growing garlic.

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  15. Your languid prose captures the heat brilliantly. It’s quite cool here now – for Dubai – but I empathise completely about not wanting to be in my kitchen during the heat of our summer. An omelette and a glass of wine indeed. Happy new year.

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  16. I am so jealous of all the Aussie garlic I’ve been seeing. I am now motivated to grow my own, in the meantime I will continue settling for store bought California garlic. I can understand the need for no cooking as we have hot and humid summers. Right now though it’s all about hot comforting soups and warm meals as winter has finally settled in! Love the armoire and the story that goes with it. Maybe someday I’ll be able to torture my children with something as well!

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    1. I long for those comforting soups, though not the cold that comes with it.
      Garlic is fairly easy to grow if you have a little patch. Good friable soil, a cold patch in the winter months and water in those months when the soil begins to warm in Spring. Plant some little cloves in mid Autumn- I think your climate is similar to that of Melbourne.
      I hear that California has also been suffering from a bad drought. Hope the rain came.

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  17. Bed, books and chocolate sounds perfect Francesca. It is hard to be in the kitchen when the weather is so hot. We should all slow down a little. Your garlic looks wonderful as does Celia’s crystal bookmark 🙂

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  18. I too have been trying to feed us without too much cooking, and making what I do cook turn into leftovers & freezer stash. The heat finally made me try a watermelon, mint & fetta salad which was a winner. I love the glimpse into your abode – the armoire is gorgeous, the oak table, bed and view through the screen door look very inviting 🙂

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  19. Francesca, you can deviate from IMK “protocol” anytime you want. Please do! What an edifying glimpse of your life and “lazy day” kitchen (and surrounding areas) cooking — or not! Enjoy every moment.

    I can practically HEAR the sound of your new screen closing (loved your description of the “clunk”!) and I’m vicariously tasting your leftover smoked salmon salad (is there such a thing as leftover smoked salmon, lol?!) I’m also feeling blessed that you & I share the same beautiful Swarovski crystal angel (courtesy of Celia, xo) though mine isn’t displayed quite so grandly on a jaw-dropping armoire. 🙂 Happy New Year, my friend.

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  20. I feel a bit of tiredness after every Christmas…even if I have tried to remove all the “extras”…by the time New Year’s rolls around I would rather take a good book and crawl into bed…but I do try to make a bit of an effort as the children are expecting that there would be at least a bit of excitement! Our weather is just the opposite from your…cold winds blowing from Siberia causing frosty conditions! But the sun is out, so perhaps the level of energy will start to pick up, little by little!

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  21. i love your post francesca. and that armoire is wonderful! reminds me of one we saw in a B&B in tassie; the owners were desperate to sell it for just a wee $17000.00!! yes it is lovely to just take it easy over summer. it is hot and sweaty up here at the moment. am hoping for some rain. Happy 2016!

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