In My Kitchen, a Winter Post. July, 2018

On cold winter mornings, routines are simple and meditative. Kindling, or morning wood, is gathered to start the wood stove. Small twigs are arranged like a Lilliputian teepee, while dry leaves and balls of crunched newspaper are tucked into the gaps. The moment of truth- a match is struck and the fire roars. An old whistling kettle waits on top of the stove, hot water for that second cup of tea. If the morning is frosty and old Jack has painted the paddocks white, I often recall my father’s early morning footprints crunched into the grass of our suburban backyard, a memory so old and yet so fresh. Long before breakfast, when we were still tucked up in bed, Dad would take a bucket of left over kitchen scraps, mixed with pollard and hot water, down to the chookhouse at the rear of the yard, always singing the same song, ‘Oh what a beautiful morning.‘ His optimism enabled him to travel through life with grace. Somehow this pastoral Rogers and Hammerstein song, frost and chooks, will always be connected in my mind. As we all tend to begin our day in the kitchen, it is a fitting place to practice optimism. Turn off the news.

Morning wood.

On fortuitous mornings, left over cooked vegetables await on the bench, ready to be mixed with an egg to make an old-fashioned breakfast of Bubble and Squeak, although there’s rarely much squeak (cabbage) in my kitchen. Or perhaps a slow cooked pot of oat porridge, always with a pinch of salt, I hear my ancestors say, soul food that sticks to the ribs for longer. The stock pot goes onto the wood stove, while some Barley or Farro is soaked. Sourdough Bread, having undergone a secondary overnight ferment in the fridge, is ready to bake. And so another winter’s  day begins. While it’s not my favourite season, winter does offer some compensation- soup, wood fires, comfort food, along with the chance to don berets and scarves.

Risotto, red wine, rosemary and taleggio.

There’s often a good winter risotto in my kitchen. I nearly swore off risotto for life after my time in Lombardy last year where I ate risotto every second day- risotto con zucca, risotto milanese, risotto con funghi porcini, and this one below, the star of them all, risotto con vino rosso, rosemarino e taleggio. ( risotto with red wine, rosemary and taleggio). It doesn’t matter how many photos I take of risotto, summer or winter, it always looks totally unappealing, a bit like a dog’s dinner. And yet these photos belie the reality.

Winter is also the time for pasties and it’s always good to have a stash in the freezer for an easy lunch. I used commercial puff pastry for this lot. These were filled with cooked Puy lentils flavoured with sautéed onion, Worcestershire sauce and herbs, then mixed with mashed roasted pumpkin and peas. The plum sauce is from last summer.

Of course there’s always soup in my winter kitchen. Since being too busy is my new normal, I  make soup often- some to take to my mother, some for our hungry renovating builders, some for the visiting kids, and sometimes I get some too. This one, Ginger and Carrot soup, is a cure for head colds and sore throats.  Served with a sprinkle of chilli and yoghurt, it’s a real pick me up.

Another beautiful loaf.

I’ve been experimenting with sourdough recipes lately and have been amazed at how different sourdough starters behave. The bread above was based on a recipe by Maurizio from the Perfect Loaf.  The fermentation is so rapid: the wholemeal levain is a wild beast of a thing. Sourdough bread making is not just about the recipe- each day in the kitchen, the weather, the heating or lack of it, the temperature of the water, the humidity, and the patience of the artisan, create a unique environment and these wild yeasts love to dance to their own rhythm.

Morning marmalade

I’m waiting for this loaf to cool so I can indulge in my other favourite winter breakfast- toast with marmalade. My mother’s grapefruit tree is heavily laden and many, I fear, will go to waste. I made one batch, or 8 jars, of grapefruit marmalade, but how much marmalade can you eat in one year?

There are always lots of books in my kitchen-dining area; with the cold weather, they are beginning to proliferate on small tables. The blue journal on the right now lives permanently near the kitchen bench. New breads that pass the taste and method test get added to this journal. There’s something special about handwriting a recipe. It becomes a part of my personal repertoire, and is ingrained in my memory, standing distinctly apart from the tsunami of recipes that come my way, either from books or the internet. Notes get added with each bake: ingredients are adjusted. I have another handwritten book dedicated to cakes and biscuits. The book on the left, Community, offers some intriguing salads, which will be more useful in Spring and Summer.

Trusty apron

I never thought I would become an apron wearer but then, I never thought I would need to look for my glasses all day, or carry around an oven timer. I bought this colourful apron in Chiang Mai, Thailand  a few years ago: it is short and bohemian, a bit like me really. If I wear it, I’ll have a more organised day.

Once again, I’m linking this post to the monthly series, In My Kitchen, now hosted by Sherry at Sherry’s Pickings.   Thanks Sherry, it’s forced me to look for my writing mojo, which has been in hiding for a while.

31 thoughts on “In My Kitchen, a Winter Post. July, 2018”

  1. I receive Maurizio’s emails, also. I have no sourdough starter but am fascinated with the science and detail that go into his beautiful loaves! This is such a cozy read even though we are in the dead heat of summer over here. Stay warm, Francesca! Your meals sound wonderful.

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    1. It is too cold, and I’m not a fan Lois. I could send you some dehydrated starter if you want to try some of Maurizio’s loaves. he also has a recipe on his blog for making a starter, though I have never made my own as I received mine from Celia more than four years ago.
      I’m about to escape this cold and escape to Bali for a few weeks.

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  2. Isn’t it a wonderful experience the ambience in a winter kitchen surrounded with enough work to do, books, cooking experiments to undertake, favourite things and garden fare and hopefully not having to rush off elsewhere? My sourdough varieties is (or is that “are?) constantly evolving and evoking taste memories of the old farm days which are being shared with a select few of my mates in the hood! Tropical citrus is in abundance and were jamming it up. Avocados are being eaten every day, large buttery varieties mashed on 10-grain/seed sourdough are a hit with the B&B guests and friends alike. So Francesca, your blog is in sympathy with our kitchen at the mo and we’re loving it.

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    1. How nice for your guests Peter. Nothing like avos for breakfast and ‘jamming it up’ in all the senses of that phrase! I think I need to come back to your place.

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  3. Oh what a wonderful winter post! And with the thermometer here rising to a record 26C yesterday I almost need reminding! . . . . The cold gales have begun naturally as well they should . . Living on my own there sadly is no fire made or place to make it and breakfast uniformly belongs to Scandinavia in its simplicity . . . no bread made at home, nought resembling ‘soulfood’ around- one cannot reach for everything in life but it is wonderful to read about it. Oh, marmalade . . . sometimes, but have to say ‘thank you’ to Saskia Beer for my rather expensive but tasty jars . . . oh, love your Thai apron . . . might send my genie over some dark night to ‘borrow’ it . . . .

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    1. If I get back yo Chiang Mai, Eha, I’ll grab you one from the ladies at the back of the Warorot market.
      Amazing the warmth you are having up there- 26c in winter, is this normal for your hills? July and August will hit properly soon and so I must jump on a plane and nick off to Bali.

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      1. I’ll remind you of that, Francesca 🙂 ! Winter temperatures on the Southern Highlands: of course not – I believe it was an alltime record for about three days! Have not exactly put my heatbank off ! And hate the roof almost flying off already today! Hmm – was ‘jealous’ about all the wondrous things happening in your kitchen . . . and now the lady talks of Bali . . . . may the volcano keep dormant for the in-and-out . . .

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  4. I don’t think I would be a fan of Victorian winters either, but even though our Centre winter is a cold one this year, it is always sunny and I think that saves us. I wondered if it wasn’t about time for you to head to Bali! Lovely post, enjoy your time away. x

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    1. I remember spending one year camping in the centre and the morning temperatures were -4 degrees c. The walls of the camper trailer had turned into solid ice and we slept fully clothed, with hats on. The days eventually opened up to lovely sunshine- for a while.
      These days, my bones tell me more about the weather than the weather forecast. Time to leave.

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      1. Oh shivers! Literally! I finally succumbed to the joys of an electric blanket this winter. Our house is quite cold so after 20 years I thought it was overdue. I guess I could have rugged up and put on my beanie but it is awfully nice to crawl into a warm bed. I hear you on the bones talking!

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  5. thanks for joining in francesca. Bali ? i’m not much of a beach fan so what are the attractions apart from the warmth? Living in brisbane we don’t really have to worry much about the cold. Risotto just never looks good does it? no matter how great it tastes. yep definitely gotta add salt to porridge. sacrilege without it:=) have a great holiday. cheers sherry

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    1. I don’t spend much time at the beach in Bali. Some of the things I do there- eat local food, rather cheaply, talk to locals and find out more about Balinese life, walk about 7 kms a day to walk off the food, read, get massages and foot pedicures, swim in the pool and sleep. Repeat the above over and over then come home. I need to get away not just from Melbourne’s cold, but from the amount of work I seem to have here.

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  6. It is anything but winter here, but your post made me feel all warm and cozy. I love risotto, but you are right, it does always photograph like the dog’s breakfast. Have a wonderful relaxing time in Bali. Buon viaggio, Cristina

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  7. That first photograph is very beautiful. The risotto con vino rosso is one of my favourites. And, you are right, some foods are not photogenic. However, unlike you, I love winter for all the reasons you mention above – cool snap in the air, comfort foods, wood burning in the stove or fireplace, and endless soup and bread baking. But, then I like the other seasons as well. Hell would be living in a place that did not have seasonality. Enjoy your break in Bali – sounds wonderful and relaxing. We will soon be escaping the intense heat here in Greece for the mountains in the north.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s true- where would we be without that seasonality. As much as I love the tropics, the lack of cold breaks would be annoying. Contrasting seasons means lots of different foods and, to tell you the truth, I love food.

      That first header photo is taken from the house looking over the front paddocks.
      Thanks Debi.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Your winter life sounds very idyllic, but as we are in the midst of a heat wave, your winter seems very distant. Summer is more attractive to me than winter, despite all your evocation of appealing soup, cozy fireplaces, and vivid memories of crunchy frost. All beautifully written, but I’d rather read than experience it.

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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  9. Your description of old Jack’s handiwork takes me back to my country childhood, and makes me appreciate my coastal location where winters are bearable by a woodfire heated home even with occasional chilly blips. I have a similar quandary with citrus and marmalade, can only deal with and eat so much, hate seeing it go to waste but there is only so much time and energy to make and give it away. I try to encourage others to venture into the picking, jar prep and making rather than just the eating… or at least return clean jars for refills. You made me laugh with your observation about apron, glasses and timer. My glasses have long been a permanent fixture on my face but I am often now in an apron and/or with a timer in my pocket. Enjoy your hiatus in Bali. I’ll be thinking of you… I have fruitcake and passionfruit curd stashed from recent adhoc efforts but we are about to embark on prep proper for hosting our inaugural Christmas in July for stepson #1 and grandkids.

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    1. I envy your frost free environment Dale. Sometimes we cop more than our share and this year seems to be one of them. The citrus hate it but recover. Yes, clean and label less jam jars are always welcome here as I can only process all the excess if I don’t have to scrabble around for jars or spend time cleaning them. Jars that arrive for me to re-use but which have been hot washed, complete with their labels, in the dishwasher go straight into my recycling bin. Those dishwasher cooked labels are impossible to remove and as you say, there’s only so much time and energy one can spend on these things, especially when the jam and marmalade is mostly made to give away. Maramalade is one thing I do enjoy making though- slice up the fruit, cover with water, leave on the bench for a day, add sugar, boil till ready, then put in jars. Might make another lot with three citrus types. Passionfruit curd, now that’s just pornographic food ecstasy. YUM. Good luck with your Christmas in July- a sensible time for a feast.

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  10. Oh I love this cold weather post Francesca. I could eat all of this beautiful, wholesome food. I couldn’t agree more regarding sourdough. It is so much more than just a recipe. You have reminded me that I have a jar of my mum’s marmalade on the bench that needs to be enjoyed. Surely you didn’t lose your writing mojo? Your posts are always so comforting!

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    1. Thanks dear Jane, that is encouraging and I really need it at the moment. I have been rather busy lately and was worried that my words weren’t coming.
      With regard to spare marmalade, I am thinking of a marmalade pudding with Drambuie custard….. xx

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  11. I love your morning routine–especially the advice to turn off the news. So much sourdough this month on IMK. I have got to get back into it. Just finished Sourdough by Robin Sloan and loved it. It’s definitely a quirky read.

    Liked by 1 person

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