In My Kitchen, April 2018.

Autumn in Melbourne, most would agree, is the best season of the year. Days are warm and still while evenings are crisp. A few small logs burning in the wood stove symbolise a seasonal turning point in the calendar: the first cosy fire is the most evocative of all. Other Autumnal markers are the slow ripening of the quinces, with a few falling each day, the late season heritage apples, the Rome Beauty and Akane varieties now ready, and the fat green olives beginning to blush purple-black. Keeping a productive vegetable patch and orchard may seem demanding to some- an abundant harvest can be a hard task master. This extra time in the kitchen is offset by time spent away from supermarkets. In my kitchen, the garden is featuring more each month and will continue to do so. Out of My Garden and into the Kitchen perhaps?

Last of the sweet Akane apples

If you grow your own chillies, you will probably end up with way too many but really, count this as a blessing. There are little saucers of chillies lying about in my kitchen and on sunny ledges, slowly drying out for the year’s supply. Once ready, they will be whizzed in an electric spice grinder then stored stored for the year in jars. Some dried chilli flakes also go into the making of chilli oil, an essential condiment on a southern Italian table. Soup bowls proliferate in my kitchen. Because I love soup so much, I have preferred bowls for certain soups. Fine purees tend to go into old-fashioned 1940s small bowls, onion soup into rustic terracotta bowls, Italian bean and pasta soups lounge around in shallow but very wide bowls and so on. It’s obsessive I know, and my soup bowl collection is being reviewed as I address the issue of downsizing. A few new irregular shaped bowls recently snuck into my kitchen.

A new soup bowl, with zucchini soup and pesto.

And when it comes to soup, the garden produce usually dictates the recipe. I always start with a soffritto, a very finely chopped selection of onion, celery, herbs and garlic sauted in olive oil, and then the soup is built on this base. It is artistic expression for me- not just a bowl of soup.

Late March garden pickings for soup, with our garlic from December.

The soup that followed the picking.

Zuppa dell’orto con quadretti.

I get nervous if the dried bean and pulse supplies fall too low. Sourced from Bas Foods, most of these are Australian grown and are packed fresh in the warehouse next door. There’s nothing worse than woody old dried beans: no soaking and long cooking will revive them. Another essential soup ingredient is Farro, and it’s great to see the Australian variety on the market made by Mt Zero olives.

Dried beans and pulses

Autumn fruits, and a few stored plums from late summer, make fine fruit crumbles. My favourite mixture is apple, plum, orange, lemon peel, sugar, cloves and marsala. This batch is ready to be topped with crumble.

As we have been running between two kitchens for the last two months, we have discovered some interesting fresh supplies near our campsite on the Mornington Peninsula. These mussels are grown in the bay off Mt Martha where the water is deep and pristine. They are not available commercially in Melbourne as Point Lonsdale black mussels tend to dominate the markets. They can be bought at Safety Beach and also in Dromana. They are really the best mussels I have ever tasted.

Fresh Mt Martha Mussels.

I made a quick smoky chowder last night and a few of these briny molluscs went into the soup. Today’s Pizza lunch demanded a few more- and I still have half a bag left for some Pasta con Cozze tonight. Not bad for $7.50 a kilo.

Pizza Amore. ( cozze, pomodori piccoli, basilico, olive)

For the monthly series, In My Kitchen, organised and collated by Sherry, from Sherry’s Pickings. Strangely enough, this series keeps me on track and up to date with my garden life too.

Apologies to Eha, Debi and others for my earlier draft which suddenly appeared without my knowledge. Gremlins!

38 thoughts on “In My Kitchen, April 2018.”

  1. Hate to tell you I did not even notice the gremlins and just welcomed your ‘on time’ post which admittedly was more ‘In my Garden’ than ‘In my Kitchen’ 🙂 ! Lovely . . . makes me jealous after a year of hardly any gardening , And now you have made me more envious: and I can’t find my genie anywhere to go get me some of those fantastic blue Mt Martha mussels also – at $A7.50 a kilo ! Oh the chowder must have rated full marks but my eyes are on your pizza amore, so aptly named and so enviably luscious . . . . hmm, my tortellini for supper seem rather boring . . . . hope you enjoyed your Easter . . .

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  2. Autumn for me is also my favourite season of the year – not too hot and not too cold with hardly any wind – just a pleasant breeze. Wish it was here all year. Anyway, with Autumn come some very interesting fruits and vegetables like Francesca mentioned above and ways of cooking them. Pumpkins are ripening everywhere at the moment no less in our garden. We have about 8 humungous 3kg each butternut pumpkins growing down the back lying there like great logs. I decided to try and not waste them by using one to make a lovely pumpkin soup yesterday. Just one made about 4 litres of soup, frozen and ready to enjoy. The main ingredients were pumpkin, yoghurt, onion, garlic & parsley. I gave one to mum and have about 6 left. Maybe a roast tomorrow night using a lot of pumpkin?

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  3. Lovely to see your rewards Francesca. I’m extremely disillusioned this season with the veggie patch. Thanks for reminding me that I’d better sort out some wood and prepare my little wood oven ready for use! Those mussels look crackerjack!

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    1. Our garden has behaved differently this year, not better or worse- just another seasonal variation. The summer goodies are still pumping but the first frost will wipe out the basil. Our late beans are doing very well and some late seeded January tomatoes are now ripening. Yes, wood sourcing time again.
      Those Mt Martha mussels are super.

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  4. I read the first posting of this and thought it seemed a little strange… though still lovely photos. Love your idea about soups in certain styles of bowls. I’m that way with cups/mugs and drinking certain things from them, a couple are even reserved for soups! Such a delicious looking kitchen Francesca, as always.

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    1. That first post was definitely a bad draft, and I had it on hold for a while, but thought I should edit it and get it out, given that some had seen that bad copy. I’m getting quite addicted to photographing produce.

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  5. Your apples look divine. As a fellow soup lover, I got lost looking into your lovely bowl of veggie soup. And, mussels on pizza. You’ve shown me yet another dish I haven’t tried. Here, it’s been a winter of root veggies, so a look into your garden brings dreams of our coming spring and summer.

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    1. Root vegetables- bring them on: I’m looking forward. I enjoy photographing the fresh fruit and veg more than cooked food these days. Still life qualities, finding the right light an capturing the season in a pic- it’s a nice challenge. Thanks Ron.

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  6. Many soup bowls for many types of soup — what a fabulous idea! Having so many fresh vegetables and other ingredients obviously gives you a great set of choices, too. I love soup myself though it’s not as popular with all the family.

    On a long plane trip yesterday they served a thai coconut soup that was really delicious, and it will be my next research project. They served it in a little rectangular bowl that fit on the tiny airplane tray — nothing to help with what type of bowl should _really_ be used.

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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    1. I love Thai coconut soups. There are so many
      to choose from, from the Tom yam Gai to others with pumpkin. Bowl shape is very important. My mother has an old fashioned set of soup bowls and I find them so frustrating when I cook there- they are suitable for breakfast cereal but not much else. To tell you the truth Mae, I have 8 sets last count.

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  7. Loving our visit to Melbourne’s cool dry air, just wish I had a decent kitchen and half your fabulous produce. I’m with you on bowl shapes, I have (too) many sets, and I use each shape for a particular style of soup.

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  8. Makes sense to use different bowls for different soups… come to think of it there are several permutations around my kitchen shelves, now I know why! Although, none so lovely as your new ceramic bowls… the sort I have coveted for a while but in the interests of spaced have abstained from purchasing.
    As always, your beautiful photography and commentary inspire me… this is the way to eat & live ♡

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    1. Thanks Dale. Those apples are inspiring me. I’m now pleased we planted all those odd varieties as it has strung out the season over so many months and there are still two apples under nets to mature. The work is finally paying off. I can’t do posts on things from the shops- am becoming anti consumerist and like you, have deliberately chosen a different and more frugal path when it comes to eating.

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  9. hi francesca
    lovely to have you here in IMK land. what gorgeous produce you have. it is such a wonderful time of year with new apples etc out in force. Autumn is very welcome here in brisbane when the autumn weather finally comes and we can cool down a bit. Love your soup bowls. glad to know other people have preferences with eating utensils. i like to drink soup from only one particular mug for instance. yes i am fussy.:) have a great month. cheers S x

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  10. I love your description of the turning season and the photos of your produce. I recently picked out an apple from our farmers’ market purely because it still had some leaves attached to its little umbilical cord, it was very beautiful. I agree with your feeling for different bowls for different soups – i like bowls that make you want to cup them in your hands, it all adds to the joy of home cooked food.

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  11. Beautiful produce Francesca! I love that plum and apple combination too, though plum and fig is also fabulous, and thank you for the link to Mt Zero olives and their wonderful range of grains and pulses – I’ll definitely give those a try!
    My quince harvest consists of two precious little fruit salvaged just ahead of the possum hordes, but I’m hoping for maybe even 5 next year as my tree grows 🙂

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    1. The quince does come good after a few years. This year is our best year and now we are getting a few large baskets full. Our main problem is with birds as the tree is too large to net, though some of those little isolation bags from Mitre 10 are handy.

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  12. Fabulous post full of gorgeous photos and food …. yum! I too love autumn. And I’m still preserving, I’m going to pickle beetroot today 😃 Oh that crumble sounds so good. I have guests coming for dinner tonight .. hmm 😃 How much Marsala 😉Hugs

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  13. My mouth was watering at the soup descriptions and the mussels. Soup is one of my favorite meals. I understand the soup bowl collection and it was difficult to downsize my own. I absolutely agree that you need wide shallow bowls for soups with beans or pasta but my husband prefers smaller deep ones. I envy you your harvest, lovely!

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  14. I couldn’t agree more on matching food with dishes… and your bowl of zucchini and pesto soup could grace the front pages of any food magazine. Also love the beautiful red color on the Akane apples… how wonderful to have.

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  15. “The first cozy fire is the most evocative of all.” Goodness, Francesca, how you made me miss our ol’ wood stove! (Although I’m sure TMOFW doesn’t miss chopping/splitting wood!:) Certain aromas evoke a change of seasons. For me today (in the Northern hemisphere), it was stepping onto our deck this morning and inhaling that “damp fresh” smell of Spring!

    I realize we’re half-a-hemisphere apart and you’re describing “your world” (one of the reasons I love IMK!), but your descriptive writing has already made me anticipate Autumn a few seasons away. (My favorite Season!) It’s inevitable and I thank you for that in advance — and, for your soup ideas, “fruit crisps” ( just made an apple crisp last week during a recent cold spell) and for your unabashed love of mussels. Someday I hope to try them. (Gasp… I haven’t YET!) xo

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