In My Kitchen, May 2018. One Cup of Nostalgia

I’ve been procrastinating over this month’s In My Kitchen, concerned that my posts are becoming repetitive and barely newsworthy. I buy very few new products or gizmos: my tastes are simple. My pantry is full of staples that complement things from my garden. My freezer stores the fruit bounty from summer. I bake bread and a weekly cake or dessert. My home cooking is the antithesis of restaurant cooking: I no longer aspire to cook that way. It is informed by the simplicity of cucina povera, Italian country cooking of the past, along with that of Roman trattorie and is becoming more frugal as time passes. And as for things, lovely kitchen things, I’m in the process of de-cluttering and reducing, not gathering more.

Today’s salad pick.

But I’m not quite ready to throw in the IMK towel yet. In My Kitchen has been a part of my blog repertoire for more than four years, providing at least one platform of discipline in my untidy life. When I look back at my old posts, I see some recurring themes and plenty of growth. My first IMK, written in December 2013, concerned decor and green kitchen ware. Back then, I had a two-year old to cook with, (not for- Daisy has always participated in the kitchen) and during those earlier years, a tribe of young grandchildren spent hours in my kitchen, licking spoons and making concoctions, cranking fresh pasta, asking for their favourite barley soup or begging for flathead fish. They’ve featured in some of my old posts, especially Daisy, my little cheffa whose sense of taste and smell developed in my kitchen and herb garden. How I miss those years: required school attendance has a lot to answer for!

New sourdough kid in my kitchen.

The fine art of sourdough bread making came along when Celia, of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, sent me my first packet of dehydrated starter in June 2014. Most of you are familiar with Celia’s generous spirit: she is responsible for perhaps thousands of sourdough home bakers around the world today. Now she’s leading the way in campaigning against waste and plastic in a gentle, non proselytising way. Teaching not preaching.

Yesterdays pick. May 6, 2018. Radicchio, rugola, curly endive, green cicoria. Parsley, wild fennel, dill, red basil, borlotti beans ( 4 kilos) Roma tomatoes, late Adelaide tomatoes, yellow pear tomatoes, zucchini. cucumber, snake beans. I love my garden and she loves me.

When I look back on posts featuring my early sourdough loaves, I have to laugh-they looked so odd and yet they tasted OK. These days, with better technique and the understanding of how dough behaves in my kitchen and overnight in my fridge, my loaves look much better and taste really good: it is a passionate pastime that takes commitment. Somewhere along the way, I met Maree, first through this forum on her occasional blog and more recently through her facebook site, Simply Sourdough Trafalgar which includes regular updates of her latest loaves. Maree’s sourdough bread is wonderfully enticing, she is a sourdough artist. Talk about bread porn! Her experimentation with hand- milled grains is inspiring, as is her energy,  running a small bakery and teaching sourdough bread classes. My entry into the sourdough baking community began right here in this very forum, for which I am eternally grateful. These days, I also enjoy passing on this skill to others. I recently spent a week at Peter’s place in Far North Queensland. We spent a few days playing with sourdough, adapting it to his humid climate, and making home-made yoghurt and cheese together. Now he is totally obsessed, baking bread like a banshee and churning out fabulous labneh. His first herby labneh came about from one of his stuffed up yoghurt attempts. It’s the best labneh I’ve ever tasted. Peter, like me, wastes nothing. We are kindred souls in the kitchen. Now he makes all these goodies for his B&B.  How good is that? Thanks Peter and Steve for your amazing hospitality and enthusiasm for life.

Frugal is nice. Cicoria well cooked, with garlic, olive oil, chilli and white polenta. In a Roman trattoria, you might find this green alongside some form of protein. I like bitter leaves straight up, a challenge for some.

And so back to my kitchen this month. What’s happening? Red and pink things are pouring into the kitchen from my garden, begging to be cooked into simple dishes and not wasted. Crunchy and bitter radicchio leaves, my favourite salad ingredient of all time, are picked daily, washed and popped into ziplock bags. ( yes, heavy-duty plastic bags that get washed over and over and seem perfect for maintaining crunchy salad leaves ). Pink scribbled borlotti beans ripened all at once this week, some to cook now, some to store, and some to pop aside for next year’s planting, dark red frilly mizuna leaves, tasting a lot like wasabi, tomatoes galore still in early May, chillis to dry for the year, to crush and make into hot chilli oil, the first new red radishes, and plenty of green things too.

All ripe at once, the borlotti of May
Where’s Daisy when I need her to shell?

For those of you who love Radicchio and have a vegetable garden, may I just mention that once radicchio acclimatises to your environment, you will have it for life. Let the bee attracting blue flowers go to seed after summer. The hard bullet like seeds will fly about and become little radicchio at just the right time. Mine pop up everywhere and some of the best ones grow between cracks in the paths. Look underneath the large green leaves for pups. Elongated Treviso leaves like to hide in the dark, producing delicate white and pink crunchy leaves. Pull out a small cluster and another one will appear in its place. So colourful, bitter and bounteous, they make me want to sing like Michael Hutchence. They only need a grind of salt, a drizzle of new oil and a drop or two of balsamic.

Routines and rituals are precious in my morning kitchen. While the bread bakes, I roughly chop up a pile of vegetables and herbs to add to the bottom rack of the oven. It’s a shame to waste all that stored heat. My stock mix includes carrots, onions, garlic, small tomatoes, dark fleshed mushrooms that need using up, mushroom stems, torn bay leaves, a sage leaf and a branch of thyme. These are all glossed with a little EV olive oil and baked for 20 minutes or so. Once caramelised, they come out of the oven and into a stove top pot, along with a little chopped celery, parsley stalks, and two litres of water. After cooking steadily for 25 minutes or so, the stock is strained off and popped into a jar for later use. This is a super rich stock with a deep colour, the smell permeating the kitchen.

Stock ingredients baked before simmering.

If we don’t have soup for lunch, we’re bound to have pasta. This one, Maccheroni Rigati, is coated with a rich tasting creamy red capsicum pesto. Recipe here. The sauce is also wonderful spooned under a nice wedge of grilled fish.

Maccheroni rigati con pesto di peperoni rossi.

Thanks Sherry, at Sherry’s Pickings, for inviting participation in this series. If you wish to join in, follow the link and add your own kitchen story.


45 thoughts on “In My Kitchen, May 2018. One Cup of Nostalgia”

  1. I love the ethos of cucina povera and cook like that most days. Weekends I reserve for something more fancy, if I feel like it. My sourdough starter is nesting in the fridge. Waiting for me to revive her and bake. Something I need to do more often.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Francesca, it is highly illegal for you to state that your “posts are becoming repetitive and barely newsworthy”. Piffle, they create a magnificent index and cross reference for us of those who wish to create a delicious seasonal dish in a minute. Our freezers and larders are also full thanks to your time and money-saving creations. Although we are in the tropics, we simply adapt your ideas to the types of available fare and get to use our culinary noggins. To live with a non-cook has its blessings as I get to share my experiments with Steve and to have you and Mr T here for a week of bread and dairy workshopping, frivolity food and fun has driven my enthusiasm to a new level – resulting in saving up to 80% on my food bill for the B&B – let alone the guest’s enjoyment of home-made nosh. Keep creating, cooking and keeping the cucina osillante, we love it all.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Peter, you are a gem. I think I might be doing an annual visit and cook together festival up your way if that’s OK. We’ll wedge ourselves in between cyclone season and the dry. xx


  3. I LOVE seeing and hearing about your “cucina povera” creations. Your beautiful literary expression, not to mention the stunning pics to accompany the prose. Funny, Ive been making yoghurt and labneh recently and can’t work out why I wasn’t doing this years ago. Just need to find a way to get the milk not in plastic bottles now. Thanks for the shout out, that pan marino look amazing! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. If you find out a way, let all of us know. I often buy the cheap Coles brand organic non homogenised milk for yoghurt. It comes in a carton, not that it makes it any better but the carton is handy for deep rooted cuttings. A friend once collected them to strike cuttings for a rose garden. We use them for grape vine cuttings. And I find that milk makes a richer yoghurt, I also make my own Paneer with cheap milk and a squeeze of lemon juice, for muttar paneer. You probably do too.

      And thank you Maree for your kind words re my blog, but more importantly, for your bread inspiration. You keep me at it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Your posts are hardly boring Signora, the bounty of your garden is a joy in itself. I always enjoy scrolling through the IMK posts, though I don’t post every month these days as like you I’m not buying too much for the kitchen.

    Mamma Rosa was also annoyed when the boys had to start school, particularly as they have gotten older and sporting and other commitments have increased; she adored having them in the kitchen every week making tagliatelle or pizza.

    We should start a Cucina Povera series – the Coles “feed your family for $10” makes me chuckle. Tonight we had ditali e piselli, a favourite of the small people (though I make a soupier version than Mamma Rosa as that’s how they like it), it probably cost $5 with some left for the Marito to take for lunch tomorrow. The lack of attractiveness in those dishes is totally in contrast to the flavour.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I love that dish and your version sounds perfect as I like a bit of wetness in my pasta/soup dishes- the line in the sand shifts with the cook.
      Yes, we could start our own Cucina Povera series- why not- it;s such a fab idea. Of course we can feed our family for less than $1 a head, and contrast that by a break out now and then with Cucina Borghese for when we’re feeling flush. Or then again, Rosa, tua mumma ed io, could start another blog called empty nest once removed. I like her style. I think we are the same age. I get to be Nonna again in the school holidays, counting down the days. Have a lovely holiday.


    1. I prefer the shorter time span as I believe this attracts more people to do something special. When one month almost bumps into the next, they no longer keep that month’s special flavour. Most of the blog prompts around try to contain the time frame- for a reason. Ten days is more than enough. I hope Sherry re-thinks this.rethinks this.


  5. Your posts about using everything that can be made into food always intrigue me very much, though I have a comparatively conventional kitchen with much more industrial food than you have. Your posts really seem interesting to me, though I don’t go back and compare them to your past writings. They are much more interesting than some of the lists of new products for IMK posts, especially when the posts seem to be thinly disguised advertisements, or when the products aren’t shown in any context of how to use them.

    Like you, I don’t acquire very many new things to write about each month, but recently I’ve been using books as a stepping off place, and trying to link what I read to what I do in the kitchen. I think every kitchen where there’s real cooking has a huge amount of variety. Especially yours!

    best… mae at
    Current IMK post:

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I look forward to seeing what is happening in your kitchen, even if it is something old is new again it may serve as a timely prompt. Often timelapse is at work from your kitchen to mine… finally dried beans are making a regular appearance here. Growing my own borlotti would take it to the next level. Once the G.O.’s vege garden refurb is done there’ll be more useable space. I love hearing what you do. It helps when I’m feeling time poor to remember why we do what we do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope the GO’s knee(s) has recovered and that he is back into action. How exciting- a garden refurb. This is always on out agenda too- redesigning the spaces. Dried beans are the backbone of good frugal cooking and nice to hear that they are appearing in your kitchen too. Sometimes I make an old nana type casserole with roots and sauces and substitute fat borlotti for the beef. Really, no one really knows. I’ll send you some dried seed Dale. I’ve saved them for ages now and i know they are reliable. The seed sold commercially is for dwarf borlotti and I have never had any success with them. I did have your address but not sure where it is digitally tucked away. Just shoot me a quick email with it again. I plant them late summer. ( they seem to like Autumn weather best down here.)


  7. You’re my heroine. 🙂 As for “need using up”, it’s the favourite expression of my father who used to be a broadcaster and he used it just recently – with the explanation that it’s his to-go phrase – when they had the anniversary of the first news in Slovenian language.

    I see that you like bitter tastes. In my household there is a constant battle between amore’s cicoria and my Swiss chard which is accused of being “hospital food”. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah but I love swiss chard equally. It is a favourite, and maybe I love it best of all. Such a prolific grower and can be put it so many things ) especially a nice Greek pie). Hospital food indeed!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. That stock sounds like liquid gold! I’ve never thought of roasting the discarded bits of veggies before turning them into stock. I’d just put them straight in the stockpot. Your method sounds brilliant!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I used to throw everything in the stockpot too. The key ingredient to a rich stock seems to be the mushrooms- just a few, as well as carrots and onions. If you already have the oven going, may as well use the heat. The caramelising does wonders before throwing them in the stockpot. Thanks Jen.


  9. I too eschew the accumulation of stuff for the kitchen, what I have works just fine for me but you can never have too many fresh veg! Frugal housekeeping is a dying art that should be revived for the sake of the planet, you have a lot of wisdom to share. I’m constantly in awe of your bounteous garden.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am really enjoying frugality, but do have splurges too. I think one balances the other 0 well that;s my justification for the $50 bottle of new olive oil that arrived. Hahha, crazy but good.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. A beautifully written post. I only cook for my husband these days, and he has simple demands – lean meat and vegetables. So Blogging is a wonderful excuse for me to cook everything other than lean meat and vegetables! It’s lovely that you’ve inspired and taught grand children in your kitchen.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m not planning to give up blogging. I was thinking more of giving up writing posts for IMK as I only write about seasonal produce on that forum, and not products, and felt it might be getting repetitive. But in the end, who cares. I can;t live without writing- especially having taught writing, in English and History first, and then in Italian, for so many years ( well only 25). I guess it’s just part of my life. Thanks for all your encouragement my dear and only brother, I appreciate it.


  11. hi francesca
    do please keep joining in. it’s lovely to have you in IMK land. i love seeing all the produce, and your loaf is just gorgeous. and what about all the pink and white things? so lovely and fresh and enticing. i really should be getting rid of, not adding to my kitchen. i have enough already!:) i’m so glad you got the olive oil this year. well done:) mm interesting what you say about the new timeframe for IMK. i will consider it more. cheers sherry x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I will Sherry, for sure. I was just having a week of melancholy and feeling a little uninspired. My writing just leads me on sometimes, straight from the heart on the sleeve.
      The arrival of that beautiful oil really perked up my week , with a little taste test the moment it arrived. Che Bella.
      I see that you read that comment somewhere. I think the smaller time frame makes people concentrate on that month: it becomes something to look forward to. And it prevents one series just running into the next. I don;t think people who join in feel restrained by a 10 day time frame. I only tend to read the other IMK offerings within that 10 day period. See how it goes I guess. Your stats will let you know. Best, Francesca.


      1. thanks francesca. yes i will keep an eye on it. i agree that 28 days in a month is a long time for a blog post thingy/linkup. and also it means extra work for me if the time frame is so long. i may reduce it again….sherry

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Nice read. Downsizing and simplifying our kitchen has become a project of sorts. I believe for those of us that regularly use our kitchen accumulate so many memories that it becomes difficult to let go and de-clutter. I tried to throw out an old wooden spoon, but I just couldn’t. It just had too many memories. But as we grow older and simpler, as does our kitchen. At least for me.


  13. Bitter greens with lemon juice, olive oil and salt – absolutely delicious in my book straight up. I recently received a pack of bonus digger seeds which has a mix of chicory/radicchio seeds. When do you plant yours? I’m wondering if it’s worth putting in now or waiting until spring – do you know how they go with frosts? Thanks for any advice. I love a plant that happily self seeds.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Laura, Radicchio loves the cold and needs it to turn the leaves red and hard. Most of mine, ( wild sown) popped up in summer and are now fully grown and getting their red hearts. You can grow Cicoria any time, and spring is a good time. They grow pretty quickly. The radicchio could be seeded now I believe. They like the cold and frost wont hurt them. Digger seeds should have a chart for temperate zones. Mine seem to pop up any old time, but the summer ones stay green.


      1. Thanks Francesca, I think I’ll give some a try and if they don’t survive the frost I’ll try again in the warmer weather. I just love the bitter and crisp radicchio leaves.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Thanks Francesca, I think I’ll give some a try and if they don’t survive the frost I’ll try again in the warmer weather. I just love the bitter and crisp radicchio leaves.

    Liked by 1 person

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