In My Kitchen, May 2017

A cavalcade of cakes marched through my kitchen recently. Three of the children had their birthdays within days of each other. This called for three distinct cakes, each created with the child in mind. The test, when they arrived for the belated birthday party, was to see if each child would recognise their own cake. Fortunately, each one did. Noah immediately announced that the bundt cake with Malteasers on top was his. I guess it looked a bit more blokey than the other two. Charlotte avowed that the chocolate double- decker cake with raspberry M&Ms was hers, and Daisy sat right in front of the carrot cake dressed with buttercream icing and edible butterflies. Plain cakes hid underneath all the trimming as none of the kids enjoy rich cakes. The festive toppings provided cheap drama, with a few selected sweets and a packet of Dr Oetker’s edible paper butterflies, which taste just like communion hosts, prompting me to stick out my tongue to receive my magic butterfly, a gesture totally lost on the happily gathered.

A scramble for candles. Start singing happy birthday before I sing ” The roof is on fire”.

Before dinner, each child lined up to have their height marked on the kitchen wall. This narrow wooden panel was commenced eight years ago. I would like to remove or cover the dated pine boards in my kitchen but it would necessitate the removal and relocation of this historic family document. Knowing me, nothing will happen. I’m grateful to have a big kitchen. First of all, the shoes come off, then the old wooden ruler is removed from a kitchen drawer. Serious concentration follows as the assembled witnesses cajole the child to stop cheating. Adults enjoy this activity too. Jake sets the benchmark at 195.58 cm, knocking off Adam at around 190.5 cm until Nick snuck onto the wall recently at around 193.04 cm. Daughters threaten to pass their mothers, cousins compete too often with their incremental markings, grandparents are teased about shrinking. No one can get anywhere near the fridge or kitchen while this important ritual is taking place.

The lower and busier end of the height measuring panel.

One of the birthday cakes was made in this heavy metal Bundt ring tin made by Kaiser. I fancy old heavy cookware designed to last forever. This one turned up in a second-hand store for $2.99. Love at first sight.

Vintage Kaiser Bundt Tin

The great outdoors continues to provide an array of produce for my kitchen. Olives are having a very good year in Victoria this year. My own trees have finally come good after five or so years. When I drive around the suburbs of Melbourne, I often see olive trees laden with olives and hope that someone will pick and preserve them.

One of our olive trees, planted by Alberto. Still young but doing well.
One kilo of black olives ready to brine. There are still a few kilo of green olives remaining. To pick or not to pick….green olives, that is the question.

A walk down the long driveway to the old pine trees revealed a small flush of Saffron Milk Caps, commonly called pine tree mushrooms, which will inspire tonight’s forager’s feast. Now to take a walk to the back of our property to find more hidden treasure. They are often found submerged in a mulch of pine straw: their saffron coloured heads push through as they grow larger. Tread carefully in mushroom season.

Saffron Milk Caps.
A well camouflaged saffron milk cap or pine mushroom.

While picking the mushrooms, my inquisitive friends, the Dexters, had a few words to say. Auntie Derry is my favourite. A little bit bossy, too Irish and short, just like me. I don’t want my pets to end up in somebody else’s kitchen, but sadly some might. To be truthful, we are overstocked.

Auntie Derry and the boys.

The Basil Genovese hangs on, but will keel over with the first frost. An old-fashioned pesto, made with a mortar and pestle, dressed a few dishes this week. It tastes so vibrant.

Pesto. Simply made, no fake additions.
Linguine with prawn, pesto and late season cherry tomatoes.

When it comes to food, my IMK posts tend to focus on garden produce. My vegetable garden inspires my cooking, its produce is central to the kitchen. As the years go by, I find that I am buying less and less, thanks to consistent composting, manure from my Dexters and the establishment of a unique micro climate in my veggie patch. At last I am home again. It has taken a while.

French radish. See my last post here for roasted radishes and greens.

This month, Sherry from Sherry’s Pickings is taking over the hosting of this monthly series. Good luck Sherry. This is a great little series, with very few ‘rules’ as such. Basically you write a kitchen focused post each month and link it to the host’s page. It is a very pleasant writing and photographic exercise and I recommend it to all bloggers old and new. For me, it’s a way of journaling life in my kitchen.


55 thoughts on “In My Kitchen, May 2017”

  1. A lovely post, as always, Francesca. How blessed you are to have the little ones, and what beautiful cakes you baked for them. Love the cattle, so pretty (and tasty, sigh). My basil is also battling on, despite the frosts. Happy cooking.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. thanks for joining in francesca. i just love the bundt tin. i too adore old fashioned sturdy cookware. love your cakes too. how fab to grow your own basil and other produce. we did for a while but the wildlife here took over:) yes pesto should only have the best ingredients in it. you have some seriously tall people in your family:)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Francesca, lovely writing. 3 very tall men in your family – nearly 2m each!?!?!? Nice idea with those 3 birthday cakes and of course Happy (belated) Birthdays to the younger ones 😉😉😉 in your family but a very very special one to YOU, their Mom, I am sending you an imaginary bunch of flowers. Carina

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Communion wafter butterflies – now that’s a thought! Happy Birthday to your lucky three. Please write about your olive brining experiences as I have tried and failed miserably. I need to study up on this before olive season is here again. I, too, try to eat out of the garden – or failing that from local produce in the laiki. Spring here and the greens and roots are giving way to the warmer weather vegetables. It is wonderful eating seasonally.


    1. Yes, this season has been so good- more rain than usual. I’ll let you know how the olives went. Just picked the remaining green ones as the birds were beginning to knock them off.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Gorgeous bundt tin, love old-fashioned cake tins too… and what a bargin. How lovely to have all the birthdays together and I am sure the children love that you make them an individual cake. I love seeing cows in fields too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Those cakes and the family ritual! How beautiful. I have only recently discovered those edible butterflies, adorable aren’t they? Those mushrooms are incredible, they just sum up everything about autumn. My basil is also holding firm, until the first frost of course. That linguine looks like a perfect dinner. Your kitchen is warm and vibrant in so many ways Francesca.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. it’s wonderful that you’re able to sum up your grandkids individuality in cake decorations and that the height measuring on the doorjamb tradition continues. I admire the connection you have with your food production, the idealist in me wishes for a similar life, the realist knows I’d last 5 minutes. I’ll stick to herbs i pots on my balcony


  8. Fantastic looking radishes. My garden needs some TLC after our travel – maybe they’ll be an inclusion. That was a lot of cake in one sitting but I’m sure no one was complaining. Great to be rading and commenting on your stories again.


  9. That’s such a lovely photo of your grandchildren in front of their birthday celebration-conflagration! How lovely to have your family-tribe all vying for their place on the measuring board. It’s so good to have that sense of belonging – and beautiful cakes, Francesca.


    1. Conflagration- that’s the word. Those old candles were threatening to undo my handiwork. Yes, the board is a cluttered texta mess, but we like it.


  10. I’m in love with Auntie Derry and I wouldn’t want my pets to end up in someone’s kitchen either but that’s farm life, isn’t it. I couldn’t do it.

    Those cakes are gorgeous!!


  11. Lovely cakes and so wonderful that each had and knew their own. I have made a mental note of the edible butteflies. And your inedible dexters. I would love them, not eat them, but despite my sharing neighbour not feasible here. Because of you I have a patch of radishes. I wasn’t much of a fan but homegrown are delicious.


    1. I’m glad to hear you have taken up radishes Dale. They are so rewarding. Almost instant gratification- a bit like the Instagram of the Veggie world. I wish I had neighbours who could share my Dexters. One weekend they escaped into the long grass of the neighbours. Stuart had to do some very swift and charming chatting to a very hostile woman next door who was asking for ‘compensation’ for the two days they spent in there. One boy, Dougie, has learnt kangaroo jumping techniques.


  12. Morning my lovely friend, how nice to sit here on a Saturday and catch up with your kitchen. I don’t think that measuring post can ever go, and what tall young men you’ve made! 🙂 Great job on the cakes, grandma, but I would have let that old bundt tin go – I have enough trouble getting cakes out of the ones which are already teflon coated! 🙂 Brave (and knowledgeable) you, I’m too chicken to pick mushrooms… xxx


  13. Sadly Celia, there are no genes of mine in those tall blokes. Those tall chaps are all ring ins. I like to adopt a few. The tallest one is my granddaughter’s boyfriend, Adam is a surrogate son, and Nick is the brother of my Daughter in Law. Anyone can go on my wall. I am down the other end, madly competing with my grandchildren to keep my prized position at 5 ft 2.
    I was so happy when that cake came out of the Kaiser cleanly. Lots and lots of butter and a dusting of flour. Now I’m on a lemon drizzle cake mission- to send them out to loved ones, just so I can use the tin.
    I don’t know many mushrooms, only saffron milk caps which are easy to recognise.( though back in my hippy days I think I might have recognised a few more.)
    Thanks for visiting my mad kitchen Celia. xx


  14. Francesca, your entire post was a celebration… not just birthdays, but the joy of LIFE! You’re in your “happy place” and it shows. 🙂 The linguine looks spectacular and I’m certain it tasted as good as it looks, sauced with your homemade pesto. I’d never heard of pine tree mushrooms — thanks for enlightening me. Your cows are COOL!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Francesca, I’ve always loved cows (maybe because I grew up on a dairy farm, lol!) and I don’t think you’re insane at all. I “talk” to the neighbor’s herd every time I drive by them. 🙂 They’re so cute, I can’t help it!


  15. What fantastic cakes for each child. Clearly you captured each one since they were able to recognize which cake was their’s . It’s always a sad day when the frost comes and kills off my basil too. Pesto made with a mortar and pestle is the best, I love the texture.


  16. Every time I walk past an olive tree either in someone’s front yard or on the nature strip, I think about grabbing some or even going to ask the householders if they mind if I take some. I never do, but one day I might surprise myself. But your olives look amazing – one day when we have our own place, I may just have to plant a few olive trees. Love the Dexters, they look beautiful. Oh and your mushrooms – absolutely perfection in my books! Love all your produce Francesca xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, I feel the same way about olives. I’m thinking of making a strip of messages to leave in their front letter boxes which read: @ I love your olive tree and was wondering if you need a hand picking them. I would love to preserve them. Phone xxxx if you don’t have any use for your lovely crop. F. ” Do you think that would work?


  17. what a lovely post – your family birthday celebrations sound like fun. We have olive trees on our nature strip and I have seen the neighbours picking them. I would not know what to do with olives so your olives look lovely. Your produce always looks so lovely that it is nice to hear you are feeling settled among it


    1. Thanks Johanna, I have seen olives around Brunswick and Coburg in street plantings. You immerse the olives under salty water, and cover well, then change the water every day adding new water and salt. You do this for around three weeks or so. Then they are washed, put in more brine in a jar and covered with a good measure of olive oil, then sealed. They taste different to the commercially prepared olives.


Now over to you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.