In My Kitchen, December 2018

The monthly series, In My Kitchen, has become my record of seasonality. As November’s green crops and broad beans slowly disappear from the garden, making way for December’s zucchini and early tomatoes, so our meals begin to reflect the change in season and the kitchen sings with new excess. The annual garlic crop has been harvested and is hanging out to dry for a month, though a few young specimens have made their way into the kitchen. Organic Australian garlic tastes superb: it takes six months to mature in the garden: it is then gently cleaned, tied and hung for a few weeks to harden, then stripped of its outer casing. Some get plaited but most are stored in a dark spot for the season. This year’s harvest, over 300 bulbs, has been a labour of love, enough to keep the vampires away.

Christmas baking odours permeate my kitchen as dried fruits soak in brandy for a day or a week, followed by the slow baking of fruit cakes, evoking memories of an another time. It’s ironic to be dedicated to the Christmas traditions of the Northern hemisphere when our hot summer season brings such luscious and bountiful fresh fruits to the table. Our loganberries are in full flush, picking a kilo a day is enough at a time. The peaches are about to ripen while the netting of apples, nectarines and pears has come early this year. Meanwhile, the markets are full of mangoes, apricots and cherries. Lighter summer festive desserts based on summer fruits include Pavlova topped with mangoes and tropical fruit, alcohol laced trifles layered with berries and fresh peaches, or berry purée drizzled on anything at all, like yoghurt for breakfast, or vanilla ice cream for supper.

I’ve been expanding my sourdough recipe files lately, churning out new breads each week. Celia’s light rye was a favourite, followed by a heavier and darker rye from Breadtopia. I’ve worked on two fruit breads, a fig and fennel sourdough based on a recipe by Maurizio at the Perfect Loaf, and the other, a more economical raisin and fennel loaf. In between, I make my everyday sourdough loaves, using 20% wholemeal, also based on a recipe by Celia. I love the way my loaves take on individual characteristics when baking. Perfectly imperfect but always so tasty. One day, when my bread making routine didn’t coincide with our needs, I made a yeasted olive and rosemary loaf, based on a recipe by Maggie Beer, a quick 3 hour bread, unlike my slow 24 hour fermented breads. It’s a good standby.

Churning out the loaves. Some with happy smiles and crispy ears, others with a snarl.
Looking a lot like Tam O’Shanters, the most delicious bread ever, the fig and fennel festive sourdough

This lovely bunch of roses arrived to dress my kitchen table a few weeks ago, courtesy of my dear friend Diane, a rose aficionado and dedicated gardener. Pierre de Ronsard is a joy to behold. Your immediate inclination is to sniff a rose, but Pierre De Ronsard is not known for its sweet perfume. Its romance lies in the shape and delicate colour. Each bloom is said to hold 400 petals. I am determined to grow this lovely climber next year. It is named after Pierre de Ronsard, a poet in the court of Mary Queen of Scots and a keen gardener. I love fresh flowers throughout the house: there’s always something to pick and enjoy, even though it may not be as dramatic or gorgeous as Di’s roses. A singular stem of a leek in flower, a bunch of flowering chives or mauve blossomed sage, herbs and weeds also look lovely.

Pierre de Ronsard

Thanks once again to Sherry for hosting this series. You can read her funny Christmas post at Sherry’s Pickings, read other bloggers entries, or join in yourself.

And finally, I must mention a food related link this month- a thought-provoking article from The Angry Chef.

https://angry-chef.com/blog/the-modern-chef-s-guide-to-being-angry

And a few links to my December IMK posts from past years. Same same but different?

https://almostitalian.blog/2017/12/06/in-my-kitchen-december-2017/

https://almostitalian.blog/2016/12/02/in-my-indian-kitchen-december-2016/

https://almostitalian.blog/2015/12/01/in-my-kitchen-december-2015/

39 thoughts on “In My Kitchen, December 2018”

  1. How beautiful are your fruit bowls, your loaves of bread, and your glorious roses! How I would love to have one of those apricots for our dark and damp midwinter days. Have a great holiday month and enjoy all your baking!

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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    1. Thanks Mae, the busy month has arrived, well the next three months really as the orchard flushes come our way. Nothing to do with Chritsmas and more to do with the season. Have a cosy winter.

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  2. My very favorite posts of yours, Francesca–your kitchen posts. Wonderful, as always. Those roses…..absolutely beautiful. Your loaves of bread–nothing in our ‘best’ bakery even comes close. Let me know what time to arrive for dinner…. 😀

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  3. Always enjoy your IMK posts Francesca, delicious loaves and fruit from your garden. The garlic pic literally pops off the page an the roses are absolutaely divine!
    I read the “Angry Chef” piece. It’s rare to find such articulate and clearly thought through commentary, thanks for sharing that one

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    1. Yes, articulate and amusing. The angry chef blog is worth following, always a good read. The garlic has been fabulous this year and probably deserves and indulgent post of its own.

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  4. Fran – I am not being ‘fair’ to you if and when I say that you have made my day and my week with your ‘Angry Chef’ link – have read once, shall read again before the day ends. Have subscribed ! Don’t agree with some but so appreciate someone bringing matters to the fore in such a dominant way . . . hope everyone reads . . . ! Three hundred bulbs of garlic – I am impressed and more than a little mad at myself and envious at what you have managed . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so glad you enjoyed reading the Angry Chef. He has a book out now, but still blogs an occasional ripper. I would love my bourgeois friends to read this too- it puts all that food judgmental stuff in perspective.
      Yes, the summer harvesting is upon us again. Garlic, netting, mulching, compost making… it’s a mixed blessing really. I wonder if I am blogging about it to compensate for my exhaustion. He is 71 and I am 68. I remind him that this wonderful back breaking addiction to organic food can’t go on much longer.

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  5. Fran – I am older than you and I simply don’t think about it ! Much to the sometime disbelief and laughter of ‘downtown’ friends ! SO ? Oh, I wonder how many readers come on side with your use of ‘bourgeois’ . . . 🙂 ? I was born to elderly parents who did not have a bl. . . y clue how a child should be brought up : so much to my later delight, I had ‘lessons’ I cannot fault now, as to those by the time I was four . . . yes, I was lucky and I knew the meaning then . . . .

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    1. It’s not the country lifestyle, it’s the relentless food production that my body reacts to. We will see. I like to use the word bourgeois rather than middle class or privileged. Perhaps the word is a throwback to my university days, spent agitating against the capitalist diet. Don’t get me wrong- I am one of those too.

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  6. There seems to be some synergies in our kitchens this month (though I could only wish for a kilo of *any* berries per day). I have revived a starter from Celia after not baking for nearly 12 months and made my first loaf and 8 bread rolls on Friday evening. Though full from dinner already, we couldn’t resist splitting one of the warm rolls to enjoy with butter. Glad to be back in the routine. I have also enjoyed my first mango of the season, with some vanilla icecream. Our first slices of Christmas cake yesterday as well, albeit a Lion’s Club one. December certainly seems to agree with your kitchen Francesca – I hope you have a long, lazy summer!

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    1. Good to here that you are getting back into bread making. With Celia’s bubbly starter, you cant go wrong. I rejoined your blog as I wasn’t receiving updates. Read a few backlogs and loved them.

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  7. hi francesca
    thanks for joining in IMk and the mention. I just read the angry chef’s article wow! i love it. i have read his book previously. it’s so good to see someone who is savvy enough to just say how things are. love all your breads – so pretty too. and how wonderful to have the produce and the berries etc. have a great xmas. cheers sherry x

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  8. After immersing myself in your IMK and seasonal offerings, awed and inspired as always, I waded my way through the Angry Chef’s post… food for thought, I’ll give it that. Some yeahs, some naaahs… and a little bit, I thought, ironic. However, I did enjoy reading her opinions, and get the point made about privilege.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that privilege, especially when it comes to food, is the main point. I also think that good writing is meant to be provocative. In this sense, the angry chef works for me. He does his research at least , as a scientist before a chef, and is funny and as you say, ironic. Thanks as always, Dale, for reading my stuff. I was about to quit blogging but suddenly have a new lease of life. xx

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  9. That’s a lot of garlic! I’m very fond of cooking with and eating homegrown garlic. To me, it has a more intense flavor. While reading your post, I had a bit of an epiphany. I always thought it might be difficult to celebrate Christmas in the summer as you guys do, but never thought of the advantage of having all your peak season crops available for celebrating Christmas. Silly me, I’d love to have summer at Christmas now.

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    1. It is rather a lot of garlic and sometimes I have to give myself a bit of a talking to. But then, I do use a lot, and the adult kids don’t mind helping themselves. They too are gardeners, though not quite on the same scale.
      I would love to experience a European Christmas one day. We do keep up some of those old traditions, and I will attempt another Christmas pudding to serve with Brandy cream, and hope that the temperature on the day doesn’t soar to 40c. The best option for a hot Christmas is cold seafood, cold chicken and turkey breast for the carnivores, a few sweets with fruit and a dip in the pool.

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  10. A whole gamut of emotions have flitted by just reading this post. It has made me happy (it’s those pretty loganberries), envious (ditto), hungry (the fruit cake and all that wonderful bread), sad (because I live on the other side of the world where it is cold and wet rather than warm spring on the verge of becoming summer), stunned (by those roses) and intrigued (by that fig and fennel bread + the angry chef whom I’ve not heard of). And, then there is that rather gorgeous garlic. Even the colour of it is stunning. Great IMK post.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Your sourdough loaves look amazing – and all your summer produce. Our apricot tree is almost there, the weird weather here in Canberra has slowed it up a bit. Hopefully in the next week or so they’ll be ripe enough to pick. I don’t think I’ve ever seen more beautiful roses!

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  12. Francesca, I loved your garlic photo and can only imagine how wonderful it must taste added to dishes, roasted, or infused into oil. Bonus points for keeping vampires away. 🙂 Also loved your “bread and roses” (reminded me of the poem by James Oppenheim entitled the same), as well as your link to the Angry Chef… lots to think about, thank you. I frequently encounter “learned helplessness” at the Mission where I volunteer — second, third, and fourth generations relying on others to feed them, often with little or no knowledge on how to turn “free food” into nutritious meals — along with a lingering sense of “entitlement.” It’s a sad situation, but we do the best we can. Knowledge is power and your post was most empowering. Happy Holidays to you ‘n’ yours, xo!

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