In My Kitchen, February 2017

Strangely enough, February is the busiest month of the year in my kitchen. It’s also the hottest month in Melbourne, although this year we have been spared ( touch wood) those soaring temperatures of over 40ºC. The kitchen frenzy comes with the flushing of major annual crops such as zucchini, tomato, cucumber, chilli and now plums. It’s a bumper year for plums. I have another 5 kilo waiting for me in the fridge. Our annual beach camp is interspersed with busy times back at home preserving and freezing crops for the cooler months, as well as watering the garden and clearing away the fire hazardous leaves and fallen branches. The Sagra delle Prugne is around the corner.

Vietnamese tomato and dill soup with fish.
Vietnamese tomato and dill soup with fish.

Meanwhile, we eat simply and cheaply. When not eating zucchini fritters or Moulin Rouge Tomato Soup, I turn to Vietnam for inspiration. Cá nấu cà chua, fish, tomato and dill soup, is perfect for a hot day. I found this recipe last year while in Saigon and now that summer has arrived, I am delighted to make it with my own produce. The fish market at Preston provided the economical red snapper for this dish. Light and sustaining, it tastes like a wet version of cha ca la vong.

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Chopsticks and Vietnamese fish, tomato and dill soup. Summer time in Melbourne.

While at the market, I purchased a big pile of local Southern Squid for $5 a kilo. Yes, there’s an hour’s work gutting and preparing these for the freezer but my little ones love fried squid after a swim in the pool. The best day to buy squid is on the day the market opens for the week. In the case of our nearest fish market, that’s Wednesday morning. Squid needs to be super fresh to compete with is pricey relative, the calamari. How can you tell squid from calamari? Australian southern squid, the most sustainable seafood in Australia, has an arrow shaped tail, whereas the calamari has side wings.

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Hello Southern Squid. Five fresh squid for $7. Now to prepare them for the freezer. More summer jobs.
Arrow head on a Southern squid. I usually discard this bit. Not so the wings of a calamari.
Arrow head on a Southern Squid. I usually discard this bit. Not so the wings of a calamari.

At the same fish monger, I bought some fresh river shrimp from the Clarence river in NSW. These are tiny and eaten whole. They make an excellent beer snack with a little lime aoili. A tempura batter, made with iced water, baking powder and cornflour, protects them as they fry. A pre-prepared salt of interest is also a good accompaniment. I used Herbes De Provence with salt, a batch I made before Christmas. I love special salts and am about to make a celery seed salt and one from our chilli flush. These salts make cheating easy.

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Shrimp tempura with lime aioli and a provincial salt.

To mop up the big soups and fried things, one needs a large cloth napkin. These lovely cotton towels, seconds, turned up in a linen shop in Brunswick for $2 a set. I bought them all. They soften and improve with washing.

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Japanese tea towels turned into napkins

Last week I celebrated the summer zucchini plague on Almost Italian. This zucchini slice is handy and well known. I added almond meal to the mix for a lighter version. It comes with grated carrot, zucchini, chopped capsicum and herbs.

Succhini slice, enhanced with extras.
Zucchini slice, enhanced with extras.

This hungry lad has finally learnt to make a good tuna pasta in my kitchen. It is an easy dish for a 12 year old to learn. Practice makes perfect Noah.

Kids in the kitchen
Kids in the kitchen

And what would be an IMK post without my little Cheffa, Daisy, who always drags her stool to the bench to help with anything I am making.

hungry days by the pool.
hungry days by the pool.

Good food does come at a price around here, not so much in monetary terms but certainly in labour. Thank you kindly Liz, at Good Things, for your gracious hosting of this monthly link up.

In My Indian Kitchen. December 2016

Curries, dhals, chutneys and spices are often present in my kitchen. Inspired by a new cookbook, Spice Kitchen, by Ragini Dey, I’ve been making a few onion Bhajees and curries of late. I borrowed this book from the library two months ago, and as I found it difficult to return, I realised I needed my own copy. Libraries can be dangerous like that. Unlike many of my other Indian cookbooks, this one doesn’t list too many ingredients. It also has that Indian- Australian modern touch.

Spice Kitchen
Spice Kitchen by Rajini Dey. Published 2013, Hardie Grant Books.

Every time Mr Tranquillo opened the spice drawer, millions of little packets of seeds and spices threatened to tumble out, assaulting his senses on the way. He called it the Dark Arts drawer, so I was forced to sort it out. Below is my orderly spice drawer: now all the spices are fresh and some even have labels. The freshest spices in Melbourne come from BAS Foods, Brunswick, where they pack spices weekly in their warehouse next door.

Dark arts drawer.
The Dark Arts drawer.

An old Tibetan Bell with Dorje lives near the kitchen. I was so devoted to my first Dorje bell, bought in India in 1978-9, that I called my youngest son Jack Dorje, a name that really suits him.

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Tibetan Bell reminds me of India and my son Jack

I found some good quality green prawns yesterday so the Bhajee recipe was given another trial, this time with prawns. I added some cumin seeds and chopped spring onion to the batter. I’ve always had a stand-by pakora batter recipe but this version is sensational. The key is the addition of white vinegar to the batter mix. (recipe below). Served with a mango chutney for dipping and a crisp wine, we watched the sunset highlighting the ridges along the horizon, our own Von Guerard view, a reminder that life is good.

Prawn pakora or Bhaji.
Prawn pakora/ bhaji.

Two days ago I made the Rajma Curry from my new book. Such a simple version and so easy to whip up. Have you noticed that curry tastes better when left for a day or two? The Rajma ( red bean) curry turned into this morning’s baked beans and poached egg breakfast. A breakfast fit for an Indian Queen, especially with a cup of Chai.

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Rajma ( red bean) curry with poached egg and yoghurt.

This year I am attempting a Christmas free December, but I couldn’t resist this little Indian ornament from Ishka. I love the half price sales at Ishka. Going there allows me to openly embrace my inner hippy. Although that’s not too difficult.

Ishka bells, Ishka bells....
Ishka bells, Ishka bells….blah blah all the way. Oh no, those songs are back.

And now for Spice Kitchen‘s recipe for Onion Bhajees. ( photo for these are on the header at the top of this post ). Pop on an evening Raga or a famous Bollywood playback singer to get into the mood. Eat them with the setting sun.

Ingredients

  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 55 gr besan ( chick pea ) flour
  • pinch of chilli powder
  • pinch of turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • vegetable or canola oil for deep-frying.

Mix together the onion, besan, chilli powder, turmeric, vinegar and salt in a bowl.

Add 1/4- 1/2 cup of water to the mixture gradually, and mix together until the besan coast the onion. There should be just enough besan mixture to hold the onion slices together. The amount of water required to achieve this consistency will depend on the type of besan you use as some besan flours retain more liquid that others.

Heat the oil in a wok to 180c. Deep fry a few Bhajees at a time for about 6-8 minutes or until crisp and golden brown. Drain on kitchen towels and serve hot.

My Notes.

I prefer to mix the batter first then add the onion rings to the batter. Mix the batter to a custard like consistency for onion Bhajees or thicker for pakora coating. The batter must be thick enough to hold the onion rings to it.

I don’t use a kitchen thermometer. I test the oil by immersing a chop stick and if the oil bubbles around the stick, it’s ready.

Make the batter a little thicker to coat prawns. I doubled the amount of batter for 14 large tiger prawns.

I add other things to Indian frying batters, such as cumin seeds or nigella seeds, just for fun and flavour.

My onion bhajees cooked much faster than the time suggested in the original recipe above. They really don’t take more than a minute or two. Many are eaten by kitchen hoverers and never make it to the plate.

prawn pakora
prawn pakora with mango chutney.

Thanks Liz, once again, for hosting this amazing series. While IMK may seem to have a life of its own, it flounders without someone organised like Liz, from Good Things at the helm. By opening the link, you can discover other kitchens from around the globe. Why not write one yourself?

In My Kitchen, Primavera, November 2016

Spring is finally sending her beautiful vegetables from the garden to my kitchen. The first and most evocative of these is the artichoke. Carciofi, artichokes, are fiddly to prepare, requiring removal of most of their outer leaves while simultaneously bathing their cut bodies in acidulated water before they bruise and darken. It really is worth the effort.

Arty Artichoke
Arty Artichoke

I love carciofi gently braised with garlic, lots of good oil, a little water, a grind of salt, and handful of torn herbs, eaten straight out of the pot with some crusty bread. I love them creamed in a Spaghetti ai Carciofi, bringing back memories of tiny trattorie in Rome. I love them thinly sliced on a pizza. Mr T does not share my passion: there is something quite odd about that man, which was the subject of my very first post back in October, 2013.

bellissimi carciofi
bellissimi carciofi

So many of my artichokes now get the ART for Artichoke treatment because he won’t eat them and I can’t eat them all. This arty thing began in the 1990s when Daniella, the sister of a good friend, Sandro Donati, had a photographic exhibition featuring artichokes, beautiful black and white studies which included portraits of her mother: moody, melancholic, and molto Italiano. In that same year, I came across a book, with a forward by Lorenza de’ Medici, with stunning reproductions of works by Giovanna Garzani, ( 1600-1670), an artist who painted delicate still lives featuring fruit and vegetables. These two memories have influenced how I see vegetables. Why stick flowers in a vase when the garden is singing with other more spectacular stems? When I arrange and photograph artichokes, I am really lusting for their creamy bitterness in my mouth.

Chinese Dish with Artichokes, a Rose and Strwberrie. bypainting by Giovanna Garzon 1600- 1670.
Chinese Dish with Artichokes, a Rose and Strawberries. painting by Giovanna Garzani. Photographed from my treasured copy of  Florentines. A Tuscan Feast, Giovanna Garzani 1600-1670 with forward by Lorenza de’Medici.

Other herbal candidates entering my kitchen are given the art treatment too. Broad beans in flower, over grown stems of celery, sage bushes flowering purple, stalks of dark rosemary: ‘There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember.’ There are small tussie mussies of fragrant mixed herbs, bowls of lemons, fronds of wild fennel. Primavera nella mia cucina.

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Broad beans arranged in the style of Garzani
A dish of Broadbeans,
A dish of Broadbeans, Gabriella Garzani, 1600- 1670

Sadly, I lost three hens to the foxes recently so we’re down to a dozen eggs a day. I sell a few here and there but always keep a basket of eggs in the kitchen, prompting a simple breakfast or a cake for someone. There is no need to refrigerate your eggs unless you plan to keep them for more than two weeks. I don’t clean the shells, if dirty, until I’m ready to use them. Cleaning eggs removes the natural protective layer, the cuticle or bloom from the shell, which preserves their freshness.

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Eggs from my spoilt chooks.

This month I have enjoyed researching the breads and sweets of Italy baked for the Day of the Dead, I Morti, on November 1/2. In Australia, Halloween was not celebrated until very recent times. Over the last 10 years, it has slipped into our language, led by commercial interests of course. The whole thing,  in Australia at least, seems culturally artificial to me. I am now teaching my little ones about Celtic and Italian customs to counter the purple wigs and lolly bags entering their homes. They listen with wide-eyed wonder. Young Oliver leans in close and whispers ‘slipping through the crack of time’, though he turned up his nose at my Fave dei Morti.

Pan dei Morti
Pan co’ Santi, made for the visitors from the other world.
fave dei morti
Fave dei morti

With all the bread I make, the little stove top griller pan with the heavy ridged lid, gets a constant workout. Stale sourdough comes to life when simply grilled and rubbed with garlic and dressed with new olive oil.

Bruschetta on teh grill
Bruschetta on the grill

Australian Cobram Extra Virgin Olive oil is reliably good, winning prizes around the globe. Last May’s (2016) olive harvest and press has just hit the shelves. Look for harvest dates on your containers of oil. This information is more reliable than use- by-dates. The closer you are to the harvest date, the better the oil. Store large tins of oil in the dark. Decant the oil into clean pouring jars. When visiting an olive oil producer in Margaret River back in 2006, I was informed that adding lovely fresh oil to the oil that has been left in a pouring jar, even if only a few drops remain, tainted the fresh oil with already oxidised oil. Makes sense really.

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Zuppa Frantoiana.  A dense white bean soup which relies on the first pressing of the new season’s olive oil and is layered with oil and grilled bread in a deep tureen before serving.

Melbourne’s cold Spring has seen the return of the hearty soup to my kitchen. This thick meal in a bowl, Zuppa Frantoiana, is a soup which celebrates the first pressing of the season’s olive oil. The soup is layered with oil and grilled bread in a tureen before serving.

A lovely terracotta soup tureen, found unused in Savers for $4. No lid.
A lovely terracotta soup tureen, found unused in Savers for $4. No lid. Happy Strega.

Speaking of Sandro, (see somewhere above), I’m including a little clip of one of his joyous Friulian songs. La Banda di Sandro blended traditional jazz with Italian folk sung in the Friulian dialect. Hey, just for fun, and just because I wish he and Judy were back in my kitchen; I know they would eat all the carciofi and then ask for more.

Thanks to Liz, at Good Things, the In My Kitchen series continues.  Do check out some of the other kitchens on her site this month. Saluti a Tutti.

In My Kitchen, October 2016

In My Kitchen I have lemons galore, swollen and juicy from the abundant Spring rains. This means more lemon cakes, lemon delicious pudding and perhaps some lemon cordial for the hot days ahead. Those balmy days are still a way off, days of Gin and Lemonade under a shady verandah, an appealing phantom. Spring is slow in arriving: it has been wet and cold to date as La Niña has made her presence felt throughout this State: our trickle of a creek is now a raging torrent.

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Limoni

Mum’s old lemon tree provides bags full for all those who ask. Her adult children and grandchildren are the main beneficiaries as well as her gardener and her Turkish neighbours who use lemons in so many exciting ways. The enticing aroma of charcoal barbecued meats doused in lemon juice wafts over her fence in summer. Visitors to the tree are asked to fetch the higher lemons and ones at the rear of the tree, leaving the easy ones for Mum ( who is 93) to gather. The tree is protected by fences and shrubbery, the soil is kept bare to the drip line and it is well watered in summer. Sometimes it needs a prune, giving it new lease of life for a few years but on the whole, the tree thrives on neglect.

lGreen depression glass emon reemer and juice
Green Depression glass lemon juicer or reamer and jug

These lovely green Depression glass items live in a special cabinet and came out for the lemon shoot. They are only visiting my kitchen.

almond mealA
Almond meal from Bas Foods, Brunswick

Lemons go so well in cakes with almond meal. I keep one kilo packets of almond meal in the freezer as it is far more economical to buy it in large quantities; I get nervous when it runs low. Most of my cake recipes are almond based and I have just made another version of a lemon and almond meal cake which is deeply lemony. Recipe coming soon.

Honey pot by Old T..
Honey pot by Old Tupton Ware

This cute Art Deco hand painted honey pot turned up in a nearby op shop for $2. Made by Old Tupton Ware, it will be filled with thick dark honey from my friends’ hive.  Or maybe it should stay safely on the dresser!

A big supply of alibaba gloves.
A big supply of alibaba gloves.

The garden weeds are ‘long, lovely and lush’, so easy to pull given this wet season. I invested in these rubber gloves, as I seem to be rushing from garden to kitchen and returning with fingernails full of compost. Twelve pairs of tough garden gloves for twelve dollars from Alibaba online, these will sit by the back kitchen door.

small kookaburra bell
small kookaburra bell

I have always been partial to kookaburra antiques. This little brass bell turned up in a country op shop on one of our travels around Victoria. Ding, ding. Garçon, the drinks.

I also have a penchant for old serving spoons, especially it they are nicely engraved and a little beaten up. Do I find them or do they find me?

Lick the beaters, and the knife and bowl too.
Lick the beaters, and the knife and bowl too.

The school holidays usually bring a few spoon lickers to to my kitchen. Daisy is happy with bowls, knives and scrapers too. She is the best kitchen hand I’ve ever had.

I am thrilled to know that Liz from Good Things is now hosting the monthly series In My Kitchen. By following this link, you can visit other world kitchens for October, or if you feel inspired, write a post yourself.

 

In My Kitchen, August 2016

This month, In My Kitchen takes place in a Vietnamese kitchen in Hôi An. As I mentioned in a previous post, I had arranged to do a private cooking class which took place in the back rooms of Minh Hiên Vegetarian Restaurant in Hôi An. What an amazing experience. Here is an excerpt from a future, still evolving post, highlighting some of the gems found in a Vietnamese kitchen.

Great little grater. I want one. Better than the Thai version.
Great little grater. I want one. Better than the Thai version.
Staff member using the great grater.
Staff member using the great grater.

Cooking classes not only introduce the participant to local recipes and new ingredients, but more importantly, they reinforce good technique, economy and the importance of mise en place. Vietnamese cuisine looks fast and easy to cook, but the flavour comes from careful and exacting preparation and the making of rich stocks beforehand.

The importance of Mise en place.
The importance of mise en place in Vietnamese cooking.

The tools and gadgets used on that day were perfect for each task. Long chopsticks are used for cooking, frying and stirring eggs. Turning over tofu slices with long chopsticks stops them from breaking, once you get used to handling slippery tofu in hot oil that is. Scissors are used to cut the green ends of spring onions: this part of the onion is never wasted and is also never cooked. The green part is usually cut into 2 cm pieces while the white onion end is always cooked, and is usually cut vertically.

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Mr T learns better technique.
Draining fried food without paper towels.
Draining fried food without paper towels.

Using a strainer over a bowl or saucepan is an economical and efficient way to drain fried food, and makes more sense than using paper towels. The strainer placed near the stove before any frying takes place. Above, some Banh Xeò ( crispy rice pancakes) drain before wrapping and eating. The street version of Banh Xeò includes prawn and pork in the filling. This vegetarian version substitutes hand torn oyster mushroom and thinly sliced cooked carrot. These colours resemble the colour and shapes used in the original version. The fun comes in the eating. Cut the Banh Xeò, using scissors, into two, lay it in rice paper, add lettuce, long strips of cucumber and mint, roll and dip in a special sauce made from fermented soya beans. Recipe will be coming soon.

A couple of nice blokes playing in a kitchen is a joy to behold. Here Nhien and Mr T are discussing technique. More on this amazing cooking school in a future post.

Nhien and Mr T discuss technique in a Vietnamese Kictehn
Nhien and Mr T discuss technique in a Vietnamese Kitchen.

Minh Hien Vegetarian Restaurant

50 Trần Cao Vân, tp. Hội An, Vietnam

Winter Tricks In My Kitchen, July 2016

Winter time and the living is – expensive. Electricity prices have increased at nearly four times the rate of inflation over the last 5 years and will probably continue to do so. One solution to the soaring power bills stemming from heating, lighting and the immoderate use of the oven, is to run away to a warmer place, preferably somewhere in Asia, where the living is cheaper and the climate is tropical. Another is to stay cocooned in a doona all day, watching  addictive Icelandic Noir drama series that makes the Australian winter look tropical. Then, like many others, you could traipse around a heated shopping centre all day, drinking coffee and playing with your smart phone. Or you could make a conscious effort to adopt some energy saving routines, at least when it comes to routines in the kitchen. This post is a reminder to myself about energy use.

Foccaccia con Zucca e Cipolle

  • After baking, use the residual heat of the oven to make other basic things for the week.
  • Boiling water is a huge energy waster. Fill up a Chinese thermos with green tea.
  • Always cook too many beans. Finding a stash of pre-cooked cannellini and borlotti beans or chick peas in a zip lock bag in the freezer is like finding a golden nugget. Soup making  becomes a breeze. Two of my winter favourite  bean based soups can be found here and here.
  • Add barley to root vegetable soups. What is it about Barley Soup that warms us up, both physically and emotionally?
  • If you have just split open a large pumpkin and are baking chunks for a recipe, double the quantity and store the leftovers in a covered bowl in the fridge. Stuff the pieces, along with fetta and herbs, into filo pastry triangles, add them to a risotto, use them with cooked lentils in a pastie, or toss them through barley to make a winter salad with spinach and nuts. Or head to Ottolenghi land and make this or this.

    filo pastry with baked pumpkin, goats cheese, herbs, honey drizzle.
    Filo pastry with baked pumpkin, goat’s fetta, herbs, honey drizzle.
  • Always double the pizza dough, whatever quantity you decide to make. Most weeks I make a 500g batch of yeasted pizza dough using this recipe. If the hungry hordes don’t visit, I stretch and shape half the risen dough to make one 35 cm pizza, more than enough for two hungry people, then stash the other half in a zip lock bag in the freezer. Then it’s simply a matter of defrosting the dough, bringing it back to room temperature, and shaping it into a slice baking tin, allowing for another short rise, before dimpling the top with oil, salt and herbs or other leftovers.
Left over dough becomes tomorrow’s foccaccia.

Pumpkin, Red Onion and Sage Foccaccia

  • risen dough, made from 250 gr baker’s white flour
  • EV olive oil
  • one red onion finely sliced
  • 1 cup pre- roasted diced pumpkin
  • sage leaves
  • coarsely ground sea salt

Preheat oven 200 c FF. Oil a small slab tin ( 26 cm X 17 cm) and stretch the dough to roughly fit. Leave for 30 minutes or more, covered with a tea towel. Push the dough into the corners of the tin and using your fingers, make small indentations in the dough to carry the oil and salt. Brush on a generous amount of olive oil, letting it pool a little in the indentations. Spread on the finely cut onions, then the pumpkin, then some sage leaves, then plenty of coarsely ground salt. Bake for around 15 minutes, check on the colour of top and bottom, and cook a further 5 minutes if needed.

This month, Maureen is taking a break from hosting In My Kitchen, but the series still goes on. Below you can find an informal link up to some other IMK posts for this month:

Celia        https://figjamandlimecordial.com/2016/07/01/in-my-kitchen-july-2016/

Amanda http://www.lambsearsandhoney.com/2016/07/in-my-kitchen-july-2016/

Sandra https://pleasepasstherecipe.com/2016/07/01/june-in-my-kitchen/

Fiona http://www.tiffinbitesized.com.au/2016/07/01/in-my-kitchen-july-2016/

Josephine https://napolirestaurantalert.wordpress.com/2016/07/01/in-my-kitchen-july-2016/

Liz    http://www.bizzylizzysgoodthings.com/blog

http://www.bitesizedthoughts.com/2016/07/in-my-kitchen-july-2016.html

Debi https://americanfoodieabroad.wordpress.com/

Johanna http://gggiraffe.blogspot.com.au/2016/07/in-my-kitchen-july-2016.html

Shaheen  http://allotment2kitchen.blogspot.com.au/2016/07/red-lentil-pasta-and-edible-crystals-in.html

Mae http://maefood.blogspot.com.au/2016/07/things-that-give-me-joy-in-my-kitchen.html

Lisa http://www.withafork.com/2016/07/whats-in-my-kitchen-july-2016.html

In My Kitchen. June 2016

Winter is a tough and demanding task master, dishing out all sorts of cruelty to the unsuspecting: nasty viruses, frost and zero temperatures, months spent wood gathering, chopping and storing. Forget about all those scarves and nostalgic notions- it’s just mean and nasty.  But on occasion, along comes that other Winter, like a quiet and tender Scottish grandmother, offering peace and more repose, scope to explore indoor interests, an excuse to indulge in deeply nourishing foods, and a break from all the mad socialising, swilling and swimming of silly Summer. Cruel and kind. Strong but gentle. In the centre of Winter is my kitchen. Let’s take a look.

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There’s a Dobro in my Kitchen!

Mr T keeps a guitar in each room, just in case he finds the inclination to play. He has a few too many,  but he assures me, they all have special sounds and different attributes. Sing me a country song on this still day.

New old books from Savers, source of all my hard copy fantasy.
A swag of new second-hand books from Savers, source of all my hard copy food fantasy. I am really enjoying Plenty, Digressions on Food, Gay Bilson, 2004

It is so quiet outside, only sun has come to visit. As it drops low in the northern sky, it warms our front rooms and I curl up like a cat on a couch with a book, the kindle e-reader or a magazine, a wood fire to keep me company. Time for a cup of tea and a slice of that quince cake. 

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Love this New Zealand magazine, Dish. It isn’t so dominated by advertising. Wishing it wasn’t so expensive!

The pumpkins were harvested last week to make more room for more broad beans and garlic in the garden. They sit on the verandah in the cold, an arm’s throw away from the kitchen. They are a long-lasting source of winter comfort food.

Zucca
Zucca

My zucca  repertoire includes:

  • baking small pieces to throw into a pumpkin risotto, or combining them with caramelised onion and pasta,
  • making pumpkin soup with plenty of fresh ginger,
  • baked and tossed in a salad with spinach and pine nuts,
  • baked in thin slices, with Tamari sauce and sesame seeds
  • I am building up to making some pumpkin and ricotta stuffed ravioli. Time to crank the pasta maker and use up the eggs. And also look forward to some pumpkin gnocchi with burnt butter sage leaves.
Pumpkin and Cavolo Nero Risotto
Pumpkin and Cavolo Nero Risotto

Lentils also star in winter. I often make a lentil version of a shepherd’s pie, spiked with mushrooms, herbs, tomato paste and the key old-fashioned ingredient, Worcestershire sauce, covered in buttery potato and kumara mash. Red lentils go into soups, especially my version of Turkish Bride soup, a meal in itself, as well as dhal,  dhal with curried silverbeet, or homemade paneer, or chopped hard-boiled eggs and curry leaves in ghee. Cheap as chips and so satisfying.

Lentil ans anything
Lentil as anything
Lentil and mushroom sherperd's pie, kumara mash. tomato kausundi
Lentil and mushroom shepherd’s pie, kumara mash. tomato kausundi

The garden is in transition, but still provides the odd little surprise for the kitchen: the chilli are hanging on, one last zucchini, a handful of limes and a gorgeous radicchio growing in a path. I love the way radicchio hardens up in winter, providing that bitter contrast to rich winter foods.

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Picked this morning on the first day of winter is this pile of green tomatoes that happily grew in April and May. The seasons are so strange now. Looks like it’s time to make chutney – again.

June 1, 2016. Green tomato crop.
June 1, 2016. Green tomato crop.

A trip to Basfoods is my idea of heaven. A Melbourne institution for super fresh nuts, spices, dried fruits, pulses, dried beans, bulk flour or anything Turkish. Below we have a bag of Manildra Bakers flour for bread making (12.5 kilo for $14.99). Bags of linseed/flax, an Omega 3 wonder food, to add to bread and porridge, or smoothies in summer (500 g for $3.99), plus almond meal, rye flour, almond flakes, and more. All essential winter ingredients.

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Goods from Basfoods, Brunswick

Thanks Maureen for the link up this month. Maureen is the host of In My Kitchen. http://www.orgasmicchef.com/ Any one can contribute to this series or pop in there, via the link, for a look around world kitchens.

In My Kitchen, May 2016

In My Kitchen there is lunch. Unless I am out and about, I prefer to eat well at lunch time, followed by something light for dinner. This month’s post looks at some of my lunches over the last few weeks. Simple food, good bread, made from the best ingredients- what more could I ever want?

Cos Lettuce, anchovy and garlic, hard boiled eggs.
Cos Lettuce, anchovy and garlic dressing, hard-boiled eggs, sourdough bread

The garden and chooks provide most of my ingredients, though as the season turns, the garden pickings are becoming slim.

Pasta and peas
Pasta and peas

Whenever a pasta dish calls for pancetta, speck or lard, I use anchovies as my pescatarian substitute which provides the salty flavour base.

A foccaccia or a pizza?
A foccaccia or pizza?

There are still a few cherry tomatoes hiding in the garden along with wild rocket. They land on a simple foccaccia, along with potatoes and garlic.

eggplant bake
eggplant bake

My de-constructed eggplant parmigiana is a quick lunch. The new season’s eggplants don’t need salting or de-gorging.  Stir fry them quickly in ample olive oil, toss them in left over tomato passata, add basil and lots of cheese, maybe some cooked ditalini pasta to bulk it out, then into the oven it goes for 10 minutes.

An omeltte and a glass of wine
An omelette and a glass of wine

I once owned an Elizabeth David book entitled, An Omelette and a Glass of Wine. Memories of this book inspire our once a week lunch special- with scattered parmesan cheese and herbs through the rolled omelette. Add salad, bread and a glass of wine!

Leek risotto
Leek risotto

We now have self-sown leeks everywhere and can rely on them in any season. My favourite way to use them is in a risotto, using home-made veggie stock. They are also great cooked with potatoes then mashed with butter. A vichyssoise without the liquid.

Inspired by Celia, I now make little rolls to eat or freeze. Take one portion of risen sourdough, spread out, add toppings- here we have olives, rosemary, a little oil- roll up, then slice into 12 scrolls, and let rise again and bake.

seasonal chilli
seasonal chilli

Our chilli always arrives late in the season and keeps producing well until late winter. Most will be dried. Chilli recipes are most welcome.

Thanks Maureen at The Orgasmic Chef for hosting In My Kitchen. Press that link to see what’s happening in other kitchens around the globe.

A Tale of Two Kitchens, IMK April 2016

This is a tale of three kitchens plus two BBQs in a camping ground by the sea, but as I only have photos of two kitchens, and the title has a more Dickensian ring to it, two kitchens it will be.

A Rpyal corner in Maxine's camp kitchen
A royal corner in Maxine’s camp kitchen. I’m told that the queen falls over when they go to bed, leaning as she does, on their canvas wall.

Each year we set up a huge family camp over four sites which directly face Port Phillip Bay in Victoria. Our camping season begins on Australia Day in January and ends some time in late April. Most of the workers in our group travel to the beach camp each weekend but their presence has been continual and strong this year, with Easter and the school holidays falling so early. The kitchens and BBQs pump out food all day, any time and on demand, but often the evening meals are late when we become distracted by the brilliant sunsets and each other’s company.  OK, and also the sunset drinks.

Drinks as the sun goes down
Drinks as the sun goes down

Each season, our kitchens take on rather odd themes, based on the junk we find around the local charity shops or discarded items sitting by the side of the road.

Found sitting next to the rubbish station. A perfectly funtional Sunbeam Pizza Bake and Grill in working order.
Found sitting next to the rubbish station. A perfectly functional Sunbeam Pizza Bake and Grill in working order.

My beach kitchen has always tended towards a mid-century Chinese look, but this year we have added a few touches of ‘ Greek fishing village’, along with some vintage Australiana, sourced from the fabulous Rotary Warehouse where an outlay of $2 goes a long way.

My Greek Fishing village kitchen seems to get a lot of attention from passers by.
My Greek Fishing village kitchen seems to get a lot of attention from passers by.

My son Jack found a Sunbeam Pizza Bake and Grill oven sitting next to the rubbish bin, and I know what can be baked in these ‘Toy Ovens’, thanks to Maree at Around the Mulberry Tree. When our old friend Denis came to dinner recently, we used the oven to bake potatoes and eggplant parmigiana and some Spanish styled garlic prawns in terracotta pots. I am yet to see how it handles a real home-made pizza.

My Chinese Corner with Camping Buddha
My Chinese Corner with Camping Buddha

Then various members of my family began to score freebies every week. We became the Steptoes by the Bay. Jack found and restored a discarded BBQ, followed by a clean three-man canvas tent in very good order. I found a cast iron table and matching chairs sitting on a nature strip. It’s amazing what can be shoved into the back of my tiny hatchback car. Then my daughter Rachael found a brand new stainless steel kettle. Andrew found a large square of rubber matting in good nick- the list goes on and on. People who camp by the beach for a weekend or a week often throw away new things at the end of their stay. Consumerism gone mad or no storage at home?

Antique Jaffle irons with Bits and pieces from China
Antique Australian Jaffle irons with bits and pieces from China

Maxine, my daughter in law, set up her kitchen this year in my old canvas camper trailer. Maxine should really be a stylist: she can turn the most humble of finds into marvellous decor.

In Maxine's Kitchen
In Maxine’s camping kitchen

Her area took on a nautical theme including a coffee corner complete with two old captain’s chairs, along with found odds and ends, while my son Andrew set up an array of LED strip lighting which he bought from Alibaba on-line, his favourite shop, along with an LED chandelier called Sputnik. Andrew has become the Mr MacGyver by the sea- he fiddles with our 12 volt lighting, often powered by old computer parts, and devises gadgets to make our camping life easier.

Coffee corner in Maxine's camp/glamp.
Coffee corner in Maxine’s camp/glamp.
Must have camping item- an LED Sputnik
Must have camping kitchen item- an LED Sputnik chandelier.

Food is usually simple. Jaffles filled with cheese, tomato, egg, onion, avocado or anything else are popular. Sometimes we fill them with left over bolognese sauce and call them pies. A Jaffle is an old-fashioned toastie, the name stemming from the brand name stamped on these old circular irons. Jaffles taste far better than toasties, as they acquire a golden hue on the outside as they slowly cook over a naked flame, along with a crispy seal and slightly charred edge, providing the bonus of tasty free radicals.

Daisy loves Jaffles
Daisy loves Jaffles

Another choice breakfast offering is Shakshuka, a one pan delight. The tomatoes and eggs come weekly from my home in St Andrews.

As shakshouka style breakfast
As shakshuka style breakfast

Thanks Maureen, of Orgasmic Chef, for hosting the In My Kitchen platform. I can’t seem to ever let this series go.

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.