In My Kitchen September 2020

The season has been fruitful, especially with an abundant supply of all kinds of citrus, though this colourful presence is slowly coming to an end, with Blood and Valencia oranges the last varieties to pick. In Spring, the trees will return to flower and leaf production for next year. We have around 14 citrus trees but there’s always room for more. Most were planted around 10 years ago, with productivity hampered  by drought, wind, rabbit infestation and severe frost. They’ve now reached a stage of maturity where they can withstand most conditions.

There are two citrus trees producing oddities. These knobbly, thick skinned fruit grow on thorny wild trees. One wild tree used to be a grafted Kaffir lime tree. After dying in the recent drought, it re-sprouted, reverting back to old root stock below the graft. Although incredibly bitter to taste, the fruits are exotic, brightly coloured and decorative. They remind me of the Renaissance fascination with formal citrus gardens and the collecting of rare and unusual specimens. The paintings by Bartolomeo Bimbi and Giovanna Garzani, reveal this fascination for depicting bumpy, disfigured lemons and other rare agrumi. 

On that subject, The Land Where Lemons Grow, by Helena Attlee, documents the history of the Italian fascination with citrus and is a great read. Thank you Beck, at In Search of the Golden Pudding, for recommending this. In terms of food writing, it’s up there with Delizia! An Epic History of Italians and their Food, by John Dickie and Honey from a Weed, by Patience Gray.

Seville Marmalade Orange Cake

In My Kitchen there’s always cake: the peasants have no fear of starving. I make a cake weekly: in this cool weather, it keeps well under a glass dome sitting on the kitchen dresser. I often halve them and send some away to other cake loving peasants. Most double as pudding: a couple of slices gently warmed in the remaining heat of an oven, served with something wet ( cream, icecream, custard) have kept us sane during winter and the lockdown. I’ve now made two versions of the Seville orange marmalade cake, pictured above. The recipe can be found here. The second version pictured below is a classic Middle Eastern orange and almond cake, glazed in marmalade. I think I prefer the first version. Excess marmalade can be used as a glaze in many ways. Maybe a chocolate cake could turn Jaffa-esque when topped with an orange marmalade glaze? Or a little Seville marmalade stirred through a rice pudding? Served with Halloumi? Liquified then added to a G&T?

Middle eastern Orange cake glazed with Seville orange marmalade

The little pasta dish below looks quite plain, belying the richness and intense lemon/orange flavoured sauce hiding within its folds. The sauce includes fine slivers of peel from an orange and lemon, which are boiled to soften, and the juice, a little onion, a knob of butter, cream and seasoning.

Tagliolini alle Scorzette di Arancia e Limone, recipe included in the book mentioned above.

The egg noodles from Mantovanelle come very close to those made by hand at home. These tagliatelline are my favourite comfort food. Cooked in five minutes, this gives you just enough time to quickly construct a sauce. Once the pasta hits the boiling water, my large non- stick wok is fired up and ready to go. In goes the EV olive oil, a little garlic, followed by fresh things from the garden, small stems of broccoli, young leaves of kale, some herbs, a few tiny unshelled broad beans, a dash of wine, perhaps some smoked salmon chunks, a few dashes of cream, seasoning and finally the cooked noodles. It’s a merry little dance around 2 stove jets. When the long lockdown ends in Melbourne, I look forward to returning to my favourite food shops which are further than 5 kilometres from my home. Since early July, strict travel distance rules have regulated movement in Melbourne. This pasta will be at the top of my shopping list.

I love this egg pasta and cannot wait to be allowed to drive further afield to buy more supplies.
Tagliatellini con salmone affumicato e verdure

The winter garden has kept us in fresh greens and now that spring is here, broad beans are slowly appearing.

Garden pickings for a pasta lunch.

Another day, another pasta. Rigatoni paired with a vegetarian ragù. The sauce included some mushrooms, dried porcini, herbs, left over thick lentil soup, a little miso, and tomato passata.

rigatoni con ragu’ di lenticchie

In these times, I often find myself looking back rather than forward. I cannot think of anything at present to look forward to- no short drives in the country, a family gathering, dinner with friends, travels overseas, visits to the city, a Vietnamese meal, a trip to the library- it’s a life without anticipation. Often, our next meal is the highlight of the day. The arrival of a book in the post, or a food order from Mt Zero Olives, is an added bonus. In this era of hard lockdown, the future has become blurred. Last night, as we were eating dinner, a spaghetti cacio e pepe, the conversation inevitably led to Rome. Where did we eat that last Roman cacio e pepe, where would we stay next time, an apartment in Trastevere again ( too busy) or over in Testaccio ( interesting suburb) or in centro? Through reminiscing, we came to the realisation that we would not be returning to Italy, or indeed Europe, and perhaps not to our favourite haunts in Asia. This is not meant to be a maudlin observation: I am a pragmatist at heart. Looking back over some of my old posts has given me a chance to relive some of those travels: like writing a detailed journal, blogging is a worthwhile pursuit in this sense. Unlike Facebook or Instagram posting, blogging provides a permanent and accessible log into the past. In the same way, participating in the monthly In My Kitchen for the last 7 years has produced another kind of documentation. Over the years my kitchen posts have gravitated towards seasonal food and simple dishes. My previous September posts expose another story: I’m usually away. Thanks Sherry of Sherry’s Pickings for continuing this series: it has been an interesting journey.

20 thoughts on “In My Kitchen September 2020”

  1. Maybe I am unable to face reality, but I haven’t given up the idea of future travel in some way or another. That would be unbearable.

    You are so lucky to have citrus trees! The book looks interesting — I have read a few other books on citrus history which has such wonderful aspects in so many countries.

    be well… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am looking forward to more travel within Australia, each State being so different- some almost like another country. we have our caravan ready and are waiting for the state borders to re-open. Perhaps if a really reliable vaccination came along, I might be prepared to travel OS.

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  2. I love your posts, Francesca. The fact that I retired in February and then Covid shortly thereafter…. Luckily, I enjoy being in the kitchen, so that is where my time has been spent. It annoyed people at work who asked what I would be doing when I retired. Please! I was always on someone else’s schedule for so many years, I could not wait to just BE! Now, I am really thankful I had no hard and fast plans. Wouldn’t I have been the disappointed retiree. We’ll see what happens. We have our elections here in the States in two months. Hopefully, that presents the start of some good news. Take care.

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    1. Thanks Lois, and welcome to the retired class. It is wonderful to just BE and have no agenda. You need a long spell of that before embarking on any serious planning. I remember that liberating feeling.
      I wish all goes well in the US elections later this year, but the social unrest is rather disturbing too. Take care.

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  3. After I first saw mention of Honey from a Weed I started hunting down a copy, I managed to find an affordable copy via eBay and it’s stashed away for my birthday. Now I’ll be on the track of The Land Where Lemons Grow to follow it. My kitchen to-do list includes marmalade and then a corresponding cake, inspired by your creations. We’re wondering and discussing similarly but closer to home about what future travels might hold… will we be able to circumnavigate Australia again as planned, and if we do, how many of our favourite haunts will still be there to visit. Garden planning and steady implementing is keeping me occupied and sane. And out of the kitchen… Despite the to-do list I had to take a break this week… enough is enough. I use Insta as a garden diary of sorts but I’ve now created a proper notebook as well… I must be getting serious.

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    1. Honey from a Weed is a wonderful book- written in the 80s I think, but still lovely. The Land where Lemons grow is more academic but still absorbing. I found the latter through a search through Booko.com.au and found one for $21.
      We also plan to get in the van and do more Australian travel when the borders open. I think a proper garden notebook is a very sensible idea. I use mine, to keep annual track of plantings so I do proper crop rotation. Sometimes pages are devoted to design fantasies, or clippings from old mags…. much more useful than Insta. I was envious of your beach break- sunny skies, the sea- can’t wait.

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  4. I enjoy reading the IMK posts . This is the first year in a long time where I haven’t visit Germany. I don’t know if this is the new reality for us. I hope not. I just read “The Lost Man” , by Jane Harper. A great book about the Australien Outback.

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  5. Your thoughts about looking back because there is little to look forward to rang true with me. Watching the Tour de France makes me long for Europe, but international travel is not possible for me for a few reasons, personal and covid related. Instead I would love to travel in Victoria ~ the Grampians have been on my mind lately. Not for a while though.
    I love your cakes and your pasta looks deliciously simple.
    Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Anne, many of us are thinking more about the beautiful spots in Victoria. I’ve been planning a wimmera desert trip for months. I just feel like seeing more open country, native wildflowers, walking and bird call. I’m keen to get back to the grampians too. And the Murray river. Your travels will produce some wonderful art, I’m sure.

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  6. hi francesca and thanks for joining in. what a year this has been. we have hardly been away anywhere unlike our normal year. we may head off to maryborough (QLD) again soon. love the knobbly fruit. citrus is a fave food. i always have lemons in the fridge for sweet and savoury use. it’s my desert island go-to. I have just ordered that book from the library. for some reason it shows as on order even tho pub. date was 2014! have a good september. cheers Sherry

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    1. I hope you enjoy the book Sherry. I’m back to purchasing books as our libraries are still closed. I’ve also grown tired of ebooks and kindle too.
      A drive to Maryborough,, that sounds good. I have fond memories of that town.

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  7. Hello from a rather sleepy me as I also am so, so, so enjoying Tour de France for the 22nd year. Last few days I have felt myself so fortunate to be near Ile de Re, close to where Susan Hays and her family of the wonderful ‘My French Oasis’ live . . . looking down from the helicopter over the salt flats, oyster farms and fabulous beaches surely has added to ground knowledge garnered over the past decade. Love the photos and descriptions of and from your garden . . . and am in the process of making some of your innovative pasta dishes . . . no time to try bake bread and as non-eater of any form of cake . . .As I have said before . . I live for the current day, overly busy as they all are. Little time for the past except for the occasional memory. Tons of hope for the future . . . again, as I have said on prior occasions – we have been inconvenienced by Covid for less than a year . . . well the Spanish flu lasted three and the Second World War, which I remember ever so clearly, six . . . . life goes on . . . bad days pass and the sun will shine again . . . so one adopts a different time table and changes it back when possible . . . .meanwhile a lovely dinner, a few dozen mails and phone calls and the wonderful Tour . . 🙂 !

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    1. Yes, remember the war, the great depression, the plague…. of course the sun will shine again and life will go on……..perhaps a litte hotter, or differently.
      The past is an inforner, a teacher, a guide and a great source of refined emotion. As the present is the only thing that exists, the past is a reliable interpreter so we don’t get lost, or caught up in too much ephemera.it helps us weed out the nonsense, or find a recalled taste, to recreate a dish, a mood, or to conjour a once seen Renaissance painting and reinterpret it in a present day photo.
      The future is a figment of the imagination, a fantasy based on hope formed by our past experiences.
      Enjoy the Tour Eha.

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  8. I’m so pleased you like the book Francesca!, and Honey from a Weed is actually next on my list! I’ve heard a lot about it but never read.
    I always love hearing about your garden as it sounds so productive, and also because I think you’re a few weeks at least ahead of us in Canberra, so in this respect I can regularly look to the future of what it might produce 🙂
    Given my huge stash in the cupboard, it’s always lovely to see someone else with plans to use up marmalade – apart from using as a glaze, I rather like a bit added to crumbles, and I have a plan for a chocolate tart with a layer between the pastry and filling…

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    1. A few more good ideas for using up the jams, Beck. We should write a book. I’m now thinking of all my stored plum, quince and fig jams with a baking clearance in mind.
      The busy planting season is close. I have raised 7 varieties of tomatoes from seed and they’re now getting secondary leaves in the hot house. I need to clear up some beds….
      I hope you enjoy Honey from a Weed, it’s a book you can read in sections and go back to. Oldy but goody.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Ah Signora I agree, it will be a long time before we see Italy again. We long to go back to Puglia. Next week we were supposed to leave for Japan, our first visit there. I am so glad now that we did so much travel with the Small People, as hard as it was hauling young boys in the early trips and a lot of luggage.

    We have one of those lemon trees too which grow with dangerous spikes. The lemons though are extraordinarily fragrant. The root stock I bought from Yalca, at your recommendation (thanks so much) are now about my height. The mulberry tree is laden, I am waiting for them to ripen, and our first tiny fig is growing. We have to take pleasure in these little things.

    And yes, like you, we will be travelling in our own backyard. It’s probably not a bad thing, I’ve neglected it, preferring globetrotting, always planning to do it “one day”. Well, I guess one day is here. Stammi bene signora.

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  10. Francesca, you did those Renaissance painters proud with your lovely still-life photos — the light and your “props” are fantastic. Food is art and all that. 🙂 One phrase in your post particularly struck me: “It’s a year without anticipation.” Life has become condensed to a degree that the “here and now” has taken precedence like never before. If the most we have to look forward to is a stunning meal prepared with a merry little dance around 2 stove jets, pleases sign me up for your peasant list. 🙂 Your citrusy pasta sounds divine (so does your idea of augmenting a G&T with liquified marmalade) and your orchard and garden appear to have inspired many notable dishes. I agree with you about blogging, too — a pleasant way to revisit the past without getting maudlin or misty-eyed. Sometimes while scrolling back through mine, I can’t believe I cooked all that food! But, I did — you did, too — and our lives have been blessed by it. Wishing you a memorable rest of 2020 safe at home, xo.

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  11. Hopefully there will eventually be a vaccine and we can travel again, we have had to give up New Zealand, Finland and Sweden in 2020. It’s been very sad but I share your reservations. Days do blend into each other right now, I forget whether it is Tuesday or Saturday. But dinner and which wine to drink with it are highlights of the day. I am sorry We are not in lockdown but might as well be. I am not comfortable using public restrooms so it limits the distance we can travel from home. Your pasta dishes look delicious, wonderful photos as usual. How are you going to use those bumpy and tart lemons?

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  12. Wow what gorgeous citrus! Love the idea of the simple pasta with citrus flavours too. I always wanted a lemon tree when I moved into my own place and I bought a little one this year! Looking forward to my own lemons one day:)

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