In My Kitchen, January 2018. Summertime

Boxing day, December 26th, is the most casual and relaxed day of the year: grazing on Christmas leftovers then lolling about on couches or deck chairs under a shady tree, what could be more pleasing? Summer is still benign. The following five days of sloth are Boxing Day extensions before pushy New Year budges in with its commitments, resolutions and calendar reminders. Those fireworks at midnight look and sound like a whole lot of fun to the uninitiated but what they really signify is the end of lazy days. Time to get cracking again folks, says that last fizzer. As it turns out, although I’m technically ‘retired’, January is my busiest month, as the summer vegetable and fruit crops mature and the kitchen turns into a preserving factory. In this small window of opportunity before this onslaught, I’m enjoying pottering about. Sometimes things happen in my kitchen and sometimes they don’t. Can someone kindly pass me a peach and a glass of Prosecco?

While all the peaches came and went, barefoot servants too.

The peach season came and went. There is nothing in the world like the taste of a perfectly ripe peach, plucked from the tree, slightly soft and sun-kissed, whispering I’m ready. Miss Daisy tested the peaches in the days leading up to Christmas, her hand gently pressing the furry blushed spheres, as she reached up high inside the bird netting. She has learnt that when a peach is ready, it will drop into your cupped hand without any tugging. Many were eaten somewhere between the tree and our back door but a few made it into the kitchen. Daisy sat by the pool one day, eating her splendid peach, reminding me that some moments in time are unblemished and glorious. A few peachy shots followed.

Girl with Peach.

Daisy is my cooking muse and I am hers. She has appeared occasionally in my posts over the last four years, mainly because she is almost a kitchen fixture when she visits. We feed off each other. She inspires me with her love of food, perfect sense of smell and curiosity and I inspire her with my creations. She knows the contents of my pantry like the back of her own hand. We make huge messes together which Mr Tranquillo cleans up.

Licking the spoon, licking the bowl, kids in the kitchen, good for your soul.

Chickpeas are making their presence felt in my kitchen since I mastered the use of my pressure cooker. I bought a combination slow/pressure cooker around four years ago but all my attempts at using the pressure cooker function ended in disaster. As it turns out, it had a faulty rubber gasket: I discovered this only when Breville contacted all the owners of this defective product three years after its purchase. It had been sitting in the larder, swanky word for converted laundry space, gathering dust: it couldn’t even be recycled given its dodgy performance and was probably destined for the hard rubbish. Once Breville sent out the new rubber seal, the big black pot has spent more time chugging away on the kitchen bench and all is forgiven. I can now cook a pile of chickpeas, ready to use, within 45 minutes without pre-soaking. Chick peas end up in Middle Eastern Buddha bowls, Indian curries with tamarind and fresh coriander, Italian pasta and ceci soup and of course, hummus.

Cooked in the pressure cooker- from woe to go, 45 minutes.

Just before Christmas, friends gave us a big bag full of perfect mangoes, part of the annual charity mango drive run by the local pre-school. A few left over mangoes went into this mango chutney. It’s tropical, spicy and jammy, but perhaps needs a bit more fresh chilli.

Mango Chutney for Indian days. Grazie Helen e Chris.

Bread making took a festive turn when I made a batch of Celia’s sourdough fruit bread. I used walnuts, sultanas, apricots and dates, and upped the spice a bit. I’m keen to use up the excess dried fruit I bought before Christmas. More of these fruit and nut studded loaves will be made during the early morning hours of January.

Fruit and spice sourdough, randomly slashed! Summer breakfast covered.

Before leaving Pavia in Lombardy last November, Alberto gave me a sack of his own freshly harvested rice, nicely packaged in festive fabric. Grown in the classic rice-growing zone of the Po Valley, the rice was milled in October in Novara, Lombardia. I can’t wait to try it and team it with something from the summer garden.

Il riso d’ Alberto, San Martino Siccomario, Pavia. Ottobre 2017. Grazie Albe`.

When I’m trying to escape the siren song of the kitchen, a fish and chip night is called for. As it’s a 12 kilometer return trip for a take- away, we don’t consider this option often. He drives, I cut up the lemons. On a lucky night, I might even throw a green salad together. Thanks Sherry for hosting the monthly In My Kitchen series. Go to Sherry’s Pickings for an inside view of other world kitchens.

                                                          Buon Anno a Tutti

Flounder and chips, c/o Hurstbridge Fish and Chip shop.  Bring it on.

58 thoughts on “In My Kitchen, January 2018. Summertime”

  1. Good morning and Happy 2018 to you Francesca. Your kitchen and food stories are so lovingly put together and always leave me with a warm feeling. I love peaches and think I could possible eat my weight in them. We have had decent peaches here in Alice this year, though nothing like Francesca grown peaches, I’m sure! I love that Mr Tranquillo cleans up after you and Daisy in the kitchen. My husband always cleans up after dinner–a very nice thing for them to do since we feed them so well! You have me wondering about the rice…how did customs allow you to bring that into Australia? Or do they allow such things that are packaged so nicely? xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I always tell them what food stuffs I have. Rice from Italy that has been processed and packaged is ok. Vanilla beans from Bali are Ok too. Just letting them know what you have is the best approach.
      We are fortunate in having husbands that do their share. Many don’t. I wouldn’t cook at all if he didn’t.
      Last night Daisy showed me her cooking set she received from Santa. Not a child’s set- but the real thing- bowls, spatulas, icing knives, cup and spoon measures. She was so pleased. She eats anything at all, but is really tiny- not sure where the food goes.
      Happy New year Ardys. xx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Happy New Year to you, Francesca. I hope your camera catches many more glorious and unblemished moments in time – the ability to see and appreciate those perfect moments makes for a happy life and, with children, those moments are so important aren’t they. We have an ancient pressure cooker of which i am ever so slightly frightened but i know that if i hold my mouth ‘just so’ when i am sealing the lid all will be well. I do, nevertheless approach the hissing beasty with respect:)


    1. Happy New Year Jan. Holding your breath is the way to go when dealing with such a beast. Even with my fancy electric model, I am often a little wary as I press that steam release button . Not cooking with the eyes is a weird business- no tasting along the way, no checking, no stirring.
      Thanks for you comment regarding my moments with children- I appreciate it immensely .


    1. Mangoes have a small season here and when it happens, we all go troppo, eating mangos straight, or making mango smoothies and icecream. Happy new year when it arrives.


  3. Trust you to be such a busy bee right after ‘Auld Lang Syne’ has resounded! Happy, healthy, satisfying 2018 to you and yours !!! Love peaches and chickpeas . . . actually am a kid and love fireworks also and thought last night’s Sydney display wonderful! Now: peaches – somehow last night I also managed [well, sick in bed a gal has to do something!] to rewatch my favourite Rick Stein on one of his marvellous weekend trips to Thessaloniki – and a peach orchard and the history of peach growing in Europe and heaps of quite unexpected recipes were part of the tale: do some homework on a quiet day!!!


    1. Might have to check that episode out Eha. The busy stuff is dictated by my garden. we sometimes wonder about the rod we created for our own backs. But then, when I wander around the vegie patch, I am lost in another world. All that work is beginning to pay off, now that the space has it’s own micro climate and is behaving like a permaculture garden ( after 8 years). The Sydney fireworks are always amazing and I once caught them from a terrace on the harbour’s edge at darling point. I managed to stay up last night and heard the thundering noise of displays in the distance.
      Sorry to hear that you are crook in bed- hope all is well now . Wishing you a better year than the last.


      1. Those words ‘micro climate’ and ‘permaculture’ bring a green visage on me 🙂 ! Oh Francesca, what could be more satisfying and ‘real’ !!! The ‘peaches’ story would be interesting for you – even Aristotle gets in the act! Uhuh . . . We lived eleven floors up on the Opera House side in Darling Point, but the in-laws had the top floor of end building in Elizabeth Bay Road, E Bay, one peninsula closer and literally ‘dripping’ over the harbour . . . almost ‘frightening; 🙂 !!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. No Jane, nothing beats the perfect peach. Thanks for bread praise too- especially from you Jane, the baking queen. You taught me, years ago, to get up early and bake when cool in summer.


  4. Happy New Year –we have just over an hour to go for ours to start. I hope you continue 2018 with lots of good posts, good food, good travel. The peaches do look fine!

    best… mae at

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Happy New Year! Those peaches are to die for, but they are half a year away for us. It is lovely having an apprentice in the kitchen, someone to share your passion. What a fantastic husband to clean up and to travel 12km to fetch fish and chips. They do look good.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Happy New Year Francesca. I’ve got a bad case if summer silly season flu, killed all desire to do anything except sit on the couch and read. White fleshed peaches are the food of paradise….


    1. I’m sorry to hear that Sandra, summer flus are so bad, yet reading on the couch is rather nice. Do you have netflix? Last night I watched The Danish Girl and think that this might go nicely with couch and flu. Get well soon.


  7. It’s hard to believe 2018 is here quite so soon. It finds me somewhat nostaglic for the limbo period & leftovers between 25 & 31 December. We had an 8.30 am appointment todsy we missed completely. What? The real world and real time is back? Already? I know I should be doing something in my own kitchen, choko pickles and worcestershire sauce won’t make themselves. But soaking up your IMK images and imagery will have to do for now ♡

    Liked by 1 person

  8. our tassie friends have the same dilemma each summer and autumn. having to pick and preserve all their garden produce for the coming winter. how nice to have a youngster in your kitchen. must be such fun. thanks for being here in IMK land this busy time of year. cheers sherry x


  9. I love that little Christmas New Year window too, lots of BBQs, salads and lazy afternoons, though back to work for me today I’m afraid 😦 My nectarines here in Canberra are still ripening, we’ll have our glut in a few weeks.
    I love how the little helpers develop in the kitchen too, my Mr 13 is now the final word on seasoning for dressings and sauces, and made chicken skewers on the BBQ this evening…I love Miss Daisy intent on that peach, and also her one legged dance pose while she scrapes the bowl!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Nothing better than bit of slothing around, epitomises the post Christmas wind-down. God those peaches look heavenly! Gladly hand you a peach and a glass of Prosecco along with a “Cheers”. I really hope my little Charlie continues his love of helping ‘Ree’ in the kitchen to be like your Daisy, so far he is showing all the positives, he turns 2 next week and already knows about feeding my starter and loves cutting up food. Sounds like a very busy time in your kitchen. Your Trifle book will be returned soon, didn’t want to post while you were AWOL! May 2018 be a good year for you all. Cheers, M.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Happy New Year Maree. And cheers too. I know young Charlie will be just like Daisy- I’ve been watching him on FB and he already looks like a serious young foodie. It will be busy here soon. The zuccs are coming in and the self sown cucumbers are everywhere, but the tomatoes are slow due to our late return. Today is an evacuation day- the first ‘extreme’ day of the season: just about to pack a few basics.


  11. So glad your pressure cooker was able to be fixed! I love using mine for all kinds of dried beans, especially chickpeas. Ah, peach season seems so far away as we just suffered a major arctic blast this winter. Happy New Year!


  12. Having taken holidays over January I might have thought it would not take so long to visit your IMK post but at least I got here this month and really love all your fruits and labours of summer – those peaches sound amazing. We have been lazy with our fruit and mostly thrown it into smoothies with a few stewing and freezing moments. It is such a godsend to have such good fruit about – wish I had it in the backyard like you. Your bread and rice bag also are delightful to look at (as are your italian posts that I have been browsing). Hope you are enjoying the long weekend with lots of great produce!

    Liked by 1 person

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