In My Kitchen, March 2016

Although today marks the start of Autumn, Melbourne is experiencing a late heatwave with temperatures hovering around 33º to 35º ( 91-96 F) for the week ahead, with little chance of rain. The garden, although dry, continues to pump out vegetables at an unseemly rate which sees me trekking off to the supermarkets for pickling vinegar and sugar, as well as opportunity shops for more clean jars. It’s pickling season, a task that always seems to coincide with hot days. Each week I make two batches of bread and butter cucumber pickles. These are popular with all members of the extended family and friends: most are given away.

P
Bread and Butter Pickled cucumber, an old-fashioned favourite

This is today’s cucumber pick, explaining the surge in pickle production.

Cucumbers galore
Cucumbers galore

After a three-day weekend at the beach, we often return to some rude surprises in the garden. This fella ( yes, I know it’s really a sheila) will not become an ingredient in my kitchen! The seed will be dried out for next year. It weighs 4.76 kilo.

Zeppelin Zucchini
Zeppelin Zucchini Alert

After we settled in our new home, we began planting an orchard. Wendy, a local food farmer, was running permaculture courses in grafting at the time. Most of our heritage apples were supplied by this group at a nominal cost of $1 per pot. We planted around 15 different heritage apple varieties. The cuttings for the grafts were collected from old farms and apple specialists around Victoria and taste nothing like the commercial varieties which are marketed today. Now, 5 years later, the apples are beginning to bear well. The ripening of each variety is staggered throughout the season. Mr Tranquillo, the fruit bat, eats most of them before they get a chance to feature in any cooked dish.

first apples
Early apples variety, Rome Beauty.

The chooks never let us down, with enough eggs for us as well as the troupes at the beach, where most are eaten on the weekend.

chh
Morning egg gathering

Last month I met some special visitors from the bloglandia: first, the lovely Julie from Frog Pond Farm visited from New Zealand. A week later, EllaDee, from the Nambucca region of New South Wales, visited for morning tea, accompanied by her husband Wayne. They are travelling around Victoria in her ‘Nanavan”. On meeting for the first time, we continued the conversation we have been having for a year or more: time passed quickly and pleasantly. EllaDee brought tasty gifts from Macksville: macadamia nuts from Nambucca Macnuts and honey and wine from Gruber’s winery. I am working on a special dish using these treasures.

Northern gifts
Tasty gifts from Mackville, New South Wales

As the welcome swallows move out from their ‘bespoke’ little nests, their discards often fall to the ground intact and find their way into my home.

A mudbrick home within a mudbrick home

These old tin numbers were found at a ‘trash and treasure’ market down by the Bay and snuck onto my overcrowded kitchen dresser. The other numbers in the set, 9, 6 and 0, were acquired by my daughter in law, Maxine. With these numbers, we can send each other photo scores out of ten, despite the limited range. The area around Rosebud (‘Guns and Rosebud’) specialises in weekend markets. Some sell craft, local vegetables and locally produced foods, others just sell trash.

letters
” He threw back his cloak and he cried with pleasure, One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”

In My Kitchen is a monthly event. I quite enjoy the rhythm it gives to my writing life, with now 26 posts on this theme. I like to look back over the first post of past months and am reminded of similarities and differences in past seasons, as my activity in the kitchen is often defined by seasonal produce. Thanks to Maureen of The Orgasmic Chef, who now hosts this monthly international gathering. Maureen has taken up the reins from Celia, enabling this wonderful meeting of kitchenalia to continue.

42 thoughts on “In My Kitchen, March 2016”

  1. Here in the Northern hemisphere we’re just starting to think about planting seeds under lights so that we’ll have some plants to put in the ground this spring. We’re expecting a big snow storm tomorrow.

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  2. I have “nature table” with gnarly seed pods, rocks and scraps of bark, birds nests are feats of aethetic construction and highly prized. Even without a bountious garden, I’m busy pickling. Like a squirrel storing nuts for winter it’s a lifetime habit I can’t break

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    1. Nature tables are wonderful things- I keep one too, and am very partial to colourful feathers. A friend who runs a junk boutique in Daylesford, tells me that nature is in with the young trendoids. I never thought it went out.
      Glad to hear that you are still squirreling. Maybe with different produce? Frozen mango puree?

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    1. I think it might be the biggest one I have seen forever too and I have been growing them since the ’70s. Just plain rude. I guess some people might call it a marrow- I call it chook food.

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  3. Hello Francesca, a tasty and entertaining roundup as usual. I love those numbers and I can never walk past a fallen nest, they are like works of art aren’t they? I can only imagine your apple orchard, it sounds wonderful. Thanks for the tour!

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    1. It looks like lots of folk have the same fondness for a fallen birds nest. They are indeed works of art. The numbers were a super find. But Jane, did you miss that old red Hong Kong thermos in the first photo? That one was taken with you in mind.

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  4. Ha I love the number scoring system. My bambini have adopted it verbally on what I cook them – they have seen too many cooking shows! They also have a “leaderboard” for certain dishes (like pasta e piselli), pitting off me, the Marito, Mamma Rosa, and Nonno F.

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  5. Your pickles look delicious! Also, the giant zucchini is entertaining. I’ve never gardened, but some gardeners always seem to think they should get a prize for the hugest one, and they deliver them triumphantly, hoping I’ll find a way to cook them. Using them for seed sounds like a great idea (but I’ll still be polite).

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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  6. Seeing your bread and butter pickles reminds me I opened my last jar this week. After making them myself once, I’ve never wanted store bought pickles again. Too easy to make and too delicious to miss out on. I normally like small zucchini to stir fry quickly but the big ones are great to stuff.

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  7. Francesca, the cucumbers keep coming. My vegie patch is getting a little out of hand. I am going to have to do quite a bit of weeding this week. I was once given a zucchini that big and I used it to make a batch of pickle which we are still using. It is a much better idea to use it as seed.

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    1. Fortunately our weeds are under control due to thick mulch. They will be back in Spring though! My 2/12 meter long kitchen table is covered with stuff I need to pickle or deal with. Life’s a factory!

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  8. It is hot in Melbourne this week and I was surprised to see it will continue next week. Lucy you having apples in your yard – I was just thinking how lovely to get some autumn apples soon. And all looks lovely in the kitchen. I agree with you about the In My Kitchen posts – I like them as little sign posts on my blogs and a chance to make notes about dishes I have made but don’t want to blog. I just looked back at an old IMK and enjoyed seeing how the seasons are changing.

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  9. My salivary glands ached just a tad seeing those bread and butter pickles! They were a specialty of my Mum. Gad, what a giant zucchini, too. What great foresight to plant the fruit trees. I must take a photo of our poor lemon tree, nearly denuded of leaves from grasshoppers. I doubt there will be enough photosynthesis to ripen the small lemons. Your kitchen always seems such a warm and creative place, Francesca. A small Dale-bird confirmed that to me 🙂

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  10. Yep – that’s one giant zucchini. I laughed that you call Mr T the Fruit Bat. That’s what my mum calls my brother. I could also happily go days without veggies but must have some fruit every day. I rate this post ’51’.

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  11. Spring is in the air here so I am planning my garden. Perhaps I’ll have as much as you and be up to my elbows pickling in the insane heat and humidity that we have here. Love the bird nest, we have some in the top of our porch. While pretty, I do t care for the droppings I find too!

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  12. Those pickles! I dearly love pickles, but I confess I have never made my own, probably because my zucchini are just not up to scratch. Love that monster zeppelin of yours!!
    That bird nest and the tin numbers are such treasures

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  13. I love this Francesca, you have a beautiful rhythm to your writing and I adore the idea of harvesting, labelling and creating canned goods with your own produce! I live in an apartment so having a life like this is a dream (something I aspire to one day). I feel lucky that I can at least grow a few herbs (though they get absolutely toasted by the West Australian summers) and share in the fruit from my mum’s little garden. As for the ‘trash’? I like the numbers too! What a great find xx

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  14. A belated comment but it’s cold and windy here, a good day to have the fire lit and indoor pursuits (for me anyway*) so I’m catching up email filing… getting distracted. I feel like I’ve just had a mini visit back with you 🙂
    *The G.O. is outdoors, pumping water from a supplementary tank into the main… we’ve had no rain to speak of.

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