In My Kitchen, April 2021

This month’s In My Kitchen post takes the form of a small, April journal, interspersed with photos of ingredients and dishes that entered or exited my kitchen recently.

Tagliatelle with mushrooms- swiss browns, porcini and fresh shitake. Autumn bowl.

At the Beach, Easter ’21

I’m lying on a comfy bed inside my caravan on Good Friday afternoon. The day is hot and still, though the cooling sea air finds its way through the windows and ceiling extractor, making a little lie down even more enticing. The small space is darkened by blockout curtains: it’s womblike, cocooning, soothing. Someone is tuning a guitar in the distance, followed by a sampling of acoustic bluegrass notes. Wattle birds make scratchy chatter in the nearby banksia trees. It’s not quite #vanlife because it’s a caravan and I’m probably disqualified anyway. I think it must be the small space that is so appealing about a van, reminiscent of the cubby houses I used to build in my childhood, with planks of old timber, worn blankets smelling of shed and dusty hessian bags.

It’s olive time at home, and although we have netted, the cockatoos find their way in.

There’s not much to do except walk, read, write or plan the next meal. Fortunately, some good things, like hot cross buns, were made at home and brought to the beach camp to share with others. This year’s hot cross buns were a big hit with me, and I’m a very fussy customer. Over the years I’ve attempted quite a few different recipes and I may have finally found one to suit my discerning palate. The two recipes I used this year were similar with regard to ingredients but differed in technique. I’ve learnt quite a few things along the way, and am happy to say that the 32 buns were all eaten, with praise offered by my appointed samplers, Daisy and Helen. Sourdough buns last much longer than yeasted buns. Cinnamon affects the rising action of sourdough so should be added later, or at least after an initial autolyse. Butter is better added in chunks rather than melted, and is also best added at the end of the mix. In hindsight I preferred using a stand mixer for the dough over the hand built version, given the wetness of the mix and the delay in adding the butter. An overnight proofing in the fridge makes the dough much easier to shape. Allow 24 hours once you begin your mixing and monitor ambient temperature: around 23c-24c is ideal. I’ve finally invested in a thermometer/hygrometer, an important tool in the bread making process. I may make some Not Cross Buns to practise my technique throughout the year.

Mark 1. Fruit soaked in vanilla, lots of cubed butter added at end. Machine mixed, 10 hour ferment, long second proof due to colder kitchen. Not sure about the vanilla soak.
Mark 2. No vanilla, no mixed peel,. Hand mixed. 20 hour ferment. Quince glaze was too sticky.

If you’re not into sourdough, yeasted hot cross buns are fast and easy to make, assuming you have a hungry horde to feed, as they don’t keep very well. Why bother making your own buns? The answer partly lies in the image below, taken from a Coles packet of HC buns. Bakers Delight and Brumby’s buns are also loaded with numbers too, with 27- 32 listed ingredients. Small independent bakeries are more likely to make buns without a bunch of numbers: they are more expensive but then, they’re meant to be an annual treat. Real butter goes on top of a good bun, not a mixture of oil, dairy and numbers, known as spreadable butter.

Coles Hot Cross Bun Info

Help indeed.

The best shared meals at the beach are fairly well planned. We either decide on a particular cuisine or theme. Indian nights are good value, with family members bringing their favourite curry, which drives nearby campers mad with desire as the onions and spices slowly cook. Pizzas done in the Baby Q Weber work well but are very slow, giving new meaning to the notion of slow food. I usually bring 8 balls of 48 hour fermented dough from home for our beach pizza night, but supermarket pizza bases work well enough when desperate. My favourite flour for pizza, buns and bread is Wholegrain Milling’s organic stoneground baker’s flour which I buy wholesale in 25 kilo bags.

A 25 kilo bag of organic premium white bakers flour via Terra Madre wholesalers has finally arrived. These big food safe bins will hold 20 kilos and come with a good airlock lid. The remaining five kilos are decanted into an everyday container with handle.

April 11. Thoughts from the couch on a wet Sunday.

I’ve been reflecting on the idea of the anti-cook, and whether I might become one. You know those days when a bowl full of numbers in the form of a packet of Indomie, a popular Indonesian instant noodle brand, is all you can imagine. Adding a chopped spring onion is going too far down the road of kitchen mess. Or a cup of instant miso soup for an overdose of salt, the zen answer to bonox. There’s no shortage of good food here: I have a garden full of it. But putting it all together requires a herculean effort as well as a desire to eat well. No one told me that one of the side affects of the Covid Jab is loss of appetite and a disinterest in wine. This is outrageous! Why didn’t they tell me on the carefully printed side effects sheet? Along with kitchen apathy comes a keen desire to spend more time in a horizontal position watching streamed TV series. An Easter Lindt chocolate or two and a heat pack are my new daytime friends. If you’re over 50, join the club and suffer a few days of sloth and achy joints, or perhaps smoke one, but don’t become vaccine reticent. That packet of Indomie has 17 mysterious additives which are more likely to cause more blood clotting than the Astra Zeneca Jab. An anti- cook I may become, but I’ll never be an anti- vaxxer. I’m part of the herd, and hopefully part of the solution.

Mid Autumn pickings.
Those quinces are still waiting for me to get off the couch.

Thanks once again Sherry for hosting the IMK series. At present I like writing more than cooking and so my contribution may seem a little curlballish, or googly to use an old cricket term, but that’s life. Go to Sherry’s Pickings for more inspiring world kitchens.

28 thoughts on “In My Kitchen, April 2021”

  1. Despite the effort you’re having to put forth post-vax, your hot-cross buns, mushroom pasta, fruits and vegetables, not to mention your descriptions have made me hungry, as usual, and I just finished eating a meal that I prepared with my usual herculean effort you are now experiencing. My Pfizer jab did not curb my appetite in the least, but it has left a fog in my brain and a lethargy for almost a month now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The vaccine roll out in Australia is in shambles. My 98 year old mother hasn’t received her Pfizer yet, while the Astra Zeneca has become available for over 70s, but is receiving bad press. It’s not recommended for under 50 year olds due to thrombosis statistics. As a consequence, many in the older category have become vaccine phobic, despite the very small odds of >4 in 1 million. Interesting to hear about your lethargy post jab Karen. I wonder if this is common?

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      1. The US rollout also wobbled at first. It seemed to take a long time for my 91-year-old father to get his Pfizer, but then it fell into place and he got both shots. My case is not common at all from what I can tell. I didn’t expect much more than a pain in the arm from the first shot, but woke up the next day with a helmet of fog on my head, joint pain and nausea. After a brief loss of consciousness, my stomach was fine several hours later, but the strange head feeling has persisted, although it seems to be improving. Rounding a month is a long time. I can’t find anything similar on the internet and I can’t see myself getting the second shot with my body still reacting to the first.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That sounds truly awful Karen. I wish you all the best in finding an answer to this. It’s worth documenting as Pfizer so far seems the preferred vaccine. A month is too long for sure.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Appealing journal both visually and to the appetite. The G.O. tells me if I lost interest in food and wine, he might just take a solo holiday… and I think I would have to cocoon vanlife-like until I became myself again. Doing battle with the mould has interrupted our routine while we deep clean but I’ve managing to make just enough kitchen time. The garden will wait, and the jab might for a while as well. No anti-vaxxers here but some trepidation. The G.O.’s body all too often reacts badly to foreign substances, and in my younger years blood clotting related severe headache side effects of the contraceptive pill made my life a misery, but was only diagnosed during perimenopause… for decades my GPs never joined the dots.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Being in the younger age group, the shambolic rollout might have improved by the time you can access a vaccine and the Pfizer may well become more widely available to you. But who knows, since our federal government knows nothing on this score.
      Most people I know have two days of post jab flu like symptoms to the Astra Zeneca jab. Mr T, who is partial to a touch of man flu and taking to his bed, had no reactions at all. My couch ravee was meant to be a bit tongue in cheek. A few days feeling lethargic is nothing in the bigger picture. Fortunately when you go to the local doctor, your personal history will be documented in a pre – assessment.
      That mould must be massive after all the rain and flooding. What a job to get on top of it. Nothing worse than mould getting into your lungs…. best wishes.

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  3. i really appreciate you joining in with IMK francesca! so the jab makes you lethargic? we are in the mid zone of ages so we’re not up for a jab yet:) Even tho hubby has a chronic illness so i would have thought he would have been first in line but anyway… Hope you had a fab easter; looks like it. and your buns look delicious. take care and see you next month.
    sherry

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The main effects I noticed included chills, followed by fever, headache and aching bones. I can happily report it’s now passing, 48 hours later. My mother who is 98, and in an elderly residential place hasn’t received hers yet. The roll out us a shambles. Have you booked your husband in at your local medical clinic?

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  4. Your harvest of fruit and vegetables looks lovely: too bad it cries out for hard work in preserving the bounty for winter. I haven’t heard of the long-term side effects of the vaccine, only the one or two days of effects after the second dose and maybe a sore arm. We are in Michigan, a state with a terrible resurgence of covid cases, so very glad we have had both doses. I wish you well getting over your reaction.

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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    1. It is interesting and valuable to hear and learn from the American experience. I’m so sorry to read about the situation in Michigan. Despite a reasonable uptake of the vaccine programme by many, it hasn’t been enough or social distancing and mask wearing has been relaxed too soon. Writing from a place where our federal government has completely stuffed up the roll out, and ordering of supplies, Australians as a whole will be lucky if they receive the vaccine by 2022. I’m locked in for my second dose, but many younger folk have become fearful given the bad press around the Oxford Astra Zeneca vaccine.
      Thankyou kindly for commenting.

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  5. After getting booted off a few Covid vaccine websites before I even completed their applications, I signed on with the state. That was the way to do it! I have had both shots of the Moderna, so feel somewhat ‘protected.’ Here in Florida, the spring break crowd are putting our numbers through the roof. I guess they just feel immune to Covid….which is turning out not to be the case.
    Baking your own sounds so much better, especially after reading the list of ingredients? Crossing paste? Thank you, but no. Your Autumn Bowl will be a spring dinner this week, complete with crisp salad and a nice white wine. Cheers. Francesca. Always a thrill to be in the kitchen with you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your interesting comment Lois. The experience in Florida needs to be broadcast more widely. ‘Somewhat protected’ is a good way of putting it, especially as new mutations appear. Does the spring crowd mostly consist of young people? Do young Americans believe themselves immune? Is there a divide between Republicans and Democrats regarding the uptake of the vaccine?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I loved the image of you in the caravan, in a little hiddy hole. I like all those small dark and cozy places as they remind me of my childhood as well. I had the Moderna vaccine, a day of chills and a couple of days of fatigue but no loss of appetite…only the loss of desire to cook. The freedom is worth a few days of discomfort. The beach sounds like fun and having friends and family to share the buns with even more fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good to hear that you didn’t react badly to the vaccine Liz. In hindsight, now that I’m feeling better, a few days on the couch did me good- sometimes it’s nice to let go. And I learnt how to blog on my phone, a first for me. We are pulling our cubby house van out today. The weather has finally turned the corner.

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        1. Any good recipe for pasta and prawns should work well. If I want more Italian inspiration, I check out Giallo Zafferino website, using the ingredient in the search engine. If I want Australian cheffy inspiration, I as always turn to Neil Perry.
          Now I’m lusting for some scampi too.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. It was a very strange Easter in the wet tropics. The weird weather delivered intermittent buckets of warm rain followed by humidity, sticky humidity and unbearable humidity. It was far too hot to cook so fresh produce platters it was.
    The hunt was was washed away or eaten by bandicoots or white-tailed rats or lack of remembering where we put them.
    Still, it was fun enjoyable lazy.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh wonderful post my friend … how nice for you to have spent Easter at the beach! Love love those hot cross buns! I really wish I lived a whole lot closer … Those garden pickings look fabulous! Happy autumn lovely 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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