In My Kitchen, June 2021

Here we go again, lockdown number 4 in Melbourne. From whence it came and who’s to blame? That’s the name of the game, again! I can vividly recall the range of emotions and behaviours that accompanied each previous lockdown. During lockdown number one and two, I settled into a new set of routines that were pragmatic and budget centred. We stocked up on beans, pulses and grains, not toilet paper, and got on with the business of surviving safely. We walked more for exercise, and I cooked more for others- soups, pizzas and bread to send to adult children and grandchildren down the road. They often shopped for me: the care went both ways. It was a time of sharing and there was a sense of generosity and reciprocity in the community. And for many, pride in our State leader, along with a sense of common struggle. We would stay safe, we would stay at home and we would get vaccinated once it became available.

This time around, I’m struggling to conjure up the same emotions. This time I’m fearful and angry. Angry at the lies that are told by the fat rogue at the top, our own Trumpian shouting clown, and annoyed at vaccine hesitancy in members of our community, though things are slowly improving on this score. It goes without saying that if more people were vaccinated ( fully) the virus could not shut down a whole community. This time there’s no financial support for our workers, epecially those in casual employment, though some is offered to businesses by our State. And this time, many children, back at home without their school mates and caring teachers, are more anxious. This virus strain is more virulent. I’m still very focussed on life in my kitchen- that one room, along with my garden, is my sanity saviour in the end.ย 

Every June, my pantry stash of garlic starts sprouting green shoots. In order to extend the supplies to November, when the first harvest of new garlic appears, I’ve resorted to freezing it in handy batches. One of the hacks I found involves peeling and roughly chopping the garlic in a food processor, then popping teaspoons full into mini patty pans, covering with a little olive oil, then freezing them inside a muffin tin. Once frozen, they are removed and placed into zip lock bags and stored in the freezer. Pull out a little round or two and throw into the pan. The only annoying part of this hack is peeling the garlic.

One of the things I never managed to do during lockdowns 1 to 3, was to sort out my lovely collection of serving ware into categories. It was satisfying to put the Asian bits and pieces together so that my Doutsa, as I like to call him, ( kitchen hand in Sichuan) can find them. There are old Vietnamese fish patterned bowls, Chinese oval serving platters, Chinese rice bowls and many delicate little Japanese saucers. All rather out of date but timeless, collected second hand along the way.

The bread making continues. On a Winter’s day, a north facing window is a baker’s best friend. Sunbaking below we have a 500 gr bowl of pizza dough, a large bowl of sourdough wholegrain dough and a starter sharing the ledge with a sleepng Buddha. It does get rather hot, so they are moved once they’ve started to rise.

On occasion I’m left with a spare sourdough loaf, due to a stuff up in pick up or drop off, which is annoying. There are two solutions- make lovely oiled croutons to freeze or remove the crusts, blitz in the food processor, toast in the oven, blitz again, bag and freeze. Waste not, epecially during lockdown. I know I’m going to love these crumbs on top of a vegetable gratin. Much better than a bag of shop bought saw dust.

one loaf of stale sourdough = the best crumbs for the future

The lemon trees are at their best in winter. One of the top priorities is making a batch or two of preserved lemons. I love using the salty peel in tuna cakes, mashed potato and smashed baked potato. Whatever fish you use to make your fish cake, preserved lemon takes them to another level.

Preserved lemons are so useful.
Tuna burger/cake/pattie on a coulis of San Marzano and oregano. ( stash from the freezer) along with a winter salad. We still have tomatoes ripening in the window, and always have tons of garden greens.

Some other dishes that passed through my kitchen recently are pictured below. Some of these will land in my lockdown cookbook that I’m slowly assembling.

Vegie pasties, lightly curried, the vegies bound with a little red lentil dal. The pasta frolla or buttery shortcrust pastry is not my favourite thing to make, but I plan to get over that.
This is one of my favourite pasta dishes, especially when red capsicums/peppers are cheap and plentiful. Sadly I can never grow fat capsicums. The sauce is creamy, based on almond meal. Here it covers Paccheri, a rather large shaped pasta.
I love my Vietnamese clay pot and find it so handy for a speedy dinner. The rice is cooking in the ricemaker, the tofu has been pre-fried. Into the clay pot goes ginger, garlic and spring onions, then some mushroom XO condiment, some sliced mushrooms, greens from the garden, the tofu and the sauces. ( light soy, kecup manis, oyster, water ) and thickened with cornflour just before serving. Extra rice is always cooked for tomorrow’s fried rice.
Yesterday’s plain rice is today’s fried rice. Old school fried rice, includes garden cabbage, supermarket frozen prawn, aromatics.
This is not my cellar. It belongs to Bill Calabria of Calabria Family wines in Griffith. We travelled to Rutherglen and then Griffith for a week, and returned with some tasty and unusual wines. I loved this cellar.

Dear reader, thanks for your support over the last 8 years. I’ve been rather neglectful of my blog and although I have many travel stories to tell and recipes to share, I’m struggling with sitting at the computer for too long. This monthly piece, In My Kitchen, appeases my urge to write, and calms my rather angst ridden brain. Thanks to Sherry at Sherry’s Pickings for continuing to host this blog gathering. It’s the prod I need.

Farewell dear Kim, of A Little Lunch. Your stories of your kitchen life were delightful to read and your comments were always warm and wise. Vale, and deepest condolences to your family from this blogging community across the sea.

46 thoughts on “In My Kitchen, June 2021”

  1. Always nice to read your posts, thanks for inspiring me to get in the kitchen! I’m sorry about the latest lockdown, I fear we are going to follow your path in the US, people just can’t handle isolation. All the best to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Tiffany. For some reason or other, it is always the State of Victoria that cops the lockdowns. we have 5 million in our city of Melbourne. The folk in other states tend to be a bit too complacent as they haven’t really experienced the full brunt of the virus. Our lockdowns are serious and well policed. The streets are empty, masks are compulsory, as are QR code check ins. Some people can still work, though white collar workers manage to do this from home. This time, it’s the Indian variant here caused by an air borne leak in hotel quarantine in another State. I think the USA is now on the mend, and things will improve as your vaccination programme is strong, And you have a sensible leader,

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  2. Love every segment of your post just finished reading. Instagram had already acquainted me with some of your moreish fare and given my own cooking new ideas ! You have no idea how I envy you your Asian crockery , , , had so much but dear ex was also a cook, one with more ‘power’ ! Are the plates on the lower shelf decorated with fish ? Lovely ! And have to adopt your idea for garlic since there sometimes is a surfeit in hand from friends. I can more than understand your feelings re the latest lockdown in Victoria. I will not be popular for saying so but I do feel happenstance has played a part From what one reads one returned traveller after hotel quarantine in SA has caused most of the escalating trouble ? Methinks it is impossible to follow the welfare and behaviour of every man on the street – some of the restaurant and party photos just before lockdown prove that . . . and the politicians and medicos can but swear as they get the blame ! And people come in different shapes and sizes: I cannot have any of the current ‘vaccines’ – in mu case I won’t be in the position to pass anything on . . . but have to manage living in isolation and yet not so . . . fine for the moment for me with my beliefs and medical understanding. Do understand you well tho’ and do hope your beautiful surrounds keep you content . . . best . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so sorry to hear that you are unable to have any vaccines as I do know, roughly, your age and therefore your need of protection. While I do understand that there is a small minority who can’t have the vaccine, those who can, should. Yes, it was spread by a man who acquired it in hotel quarantine. Poor bloke, hardly his fault. Further evidence that after more than a year, hotel quarantine doesn’t work, yet the federal government still hangs in to this ineffective system. My main frustration today with the chief lyer concerns his ‘ it isn’t a race’ comments. It is, in fact, a race. Workers, businesses, and children are the main group held to ransom here.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I wish you and your state good luck with vaccination programs, so that you can stop the repeated lockdowns. Our free and easy behavior in the early days of the pandemic here in the US may be helping to protect us now. Besides vaccination for many, quite a few of the population are immune from having had the disease (whether diagnosed and tabulated or not). So we are blithely going back to normal, and secretly hoping the vaccine-and-mask deniers will obstruct themselves out of the population.

    Experiencing this dystopia in its many forms worldwide is not a learning experience any of us ever hoped to be given.

    As always I love your kitchen and your beautiful fruit and vegetable harvests, which I also like on Instagram.

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Dystopia is the most appropriate word for the situation we repeatedly find ourselves in. During summer and Autumn, we had eliminated Covid in Melbourne, having zero cases of locally transmission for months. A record of sorts. The return of covid is the result from leaks from hotel quarantine, through airborne transmission in the corridors on the same floor. It also corresponds with our winter. There are now around 65 locally acquired cases, and as the new strain is Delta ( Indian variant) we’re back in lockdown. Fortunately in some ways, this has resulted in a huge increase in the vaccination rate since I wrote this blog. Encouraging.
      Thanks for commenting Mae. Yes, my winter harvests are lovely at present, despite frosty mornings. No need to venture out with mask.

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  4. I’m so sorry that you are in lockdown again! It’s so sad to see so many people place more faith in
    Facebook posts and conniving politicians than advice from just about every scientist on the planet. Hang in there!!! Let’s hope the vaccine deniers will finally start coming around. I’ve heard all the excuses, none of them hold up to the science.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Dorothy. I think the vaccine hesitants are now lining up madly… I guess many Australians became a bit complacent over summer as we went for months with zero cases. Good science will win, I’m sure.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We’ve been lucky here in Vermont. Our governor, a Republican, is a most reasonable man in this crazy political climate. From the start, he said this was a health issue and not a political one, and he let the science and our health department take the lead. The result has been pretty much the best numbers in the country, and we are not at nearly 79 percent vaccinated, and continuing to push to get to at least 80% well before our own July 1 deadline. Right now, 95 percent plus of those over 65 are fully vaccinated, and the only really slacker group has been the 19 top 30 year olds, but they are starting to line up as we have made it easier for them to get walk-in vaccines rather than having to schedule an appointment, and the health department going directly to places of work. Also peer pressure, and the desire to stop wearing the masks has helped a bit. In some ways, I think there is some complacency right now because we have been doing so well, but hopefully, the vaccinations will continue. I keep my fingers crossed for all of you that finally the vaccinations will become more abundant and you’ll return to a better place soon!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Home grown lemons are so handy- you’re lucky having a nearby supply. By making preserved lemons, you can get over that gap in supply when lemons are unavailable.

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  5. I really appreciate all the work you put into your images. They are lovely. And love, I am with you on the politics and hesitancy issues.

    Garlic. Yes, it is always a shame when it reaches the shooting stage. I have found a couple of things that work for me. Storing a good supply in the fridge and freezing the balance. For a few years I peeled a mountain and stored it in zippy bags after laying out flat to freeze first to stop sticking together. That works a treat. This year I wondered if I could just freeze bulbs without doing anything else to them. And it worked! No extra work required. Just get a bulb out, snap off a clove, put the rest back in the freezer and good to go.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Christine for your praise of my pics. I’m enjoying seeking out good light in my window. I see home grown produce as worthy subjects for still life. I wish I could paint.
      Thanks for your tips re garlic. I’ll give it a go as I still have a basket full under hessian in a darkish shelf.

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  6. Our thoughts are with you and all Victorians… both heartening and frustrating that Australia’s Covid response is so good and yet so poor. There’s certainly a feeling of here we go again. Sorting cupboard contents is useful and therapeutic, as is home cooking and eating but even too much of good thing sometimes… we all need a change of scenery and pace. I’m pleased you were able to manage some little trips before the return to kitchen and garden focussed lockdown.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ah, so unlike the States where we are all open. Only those who are totally vaccinated can go without masks, but who knows who is and who isn’t… It feels good not having to wear a mask, but I still steer clear of crowds. I hope you fare well in this latest lockdown, Francesca.
    Your kitchen is always the best place on the blog. All your dishes…such a beautiful collection. After reading your posts, I get this tremendous urge to cook…and so I shall. Thanks for the tip about garlic–I had no idea about freezing it!

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    1. Masks are getting annoying to wear for sure. Now that we’re back in masks, it’s back to glasses fog again and constantly readjusting the nose. It’s winter here so this is a new strain, Delta, the Indian variant which is considered to spread at twice the rate. After a free summer, with total elimination for months, it’s disappointing to have this strain arrive via a leak through hotel quarantine..
      I’m happy to hear I inspire you to cook. xx

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  8. Hi, Just wondering if you would share your preserved lemons recipe please. I haven’t had success in the past. I love the ? greaseproof paper under the lid! My lemons are the thin skin variety. Thanks, Coral

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    1. Hi, I tend to follow the advice offered in the recipe here. https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/preserved-lemons-231570
      Only use organic lemons. Store bought lemons have been waxed. Also use sea salt that has no added iodine or other chemicals . One other hint. I used waxed paper between the lids and jar as the salty brine causes the lids to rust over time if in touch with the liquid. Make sure the lemon juice completely covers the lemons. You can add more along the way.

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  9. ooh those pasties look wonderful! yes it was so very sad to hear about Kim. she was a lovely lady, and the world is a little bit sadder for her loss. i freeze whole cloves of garlic, skin on. and when you thaw them out, the skin pretty much falls off. is that prawns hanging from that lamp?? i see that victoria has another week of lockdown. so hard for businesses. i think the fact that here in QLD we live outdoors a lot of the time, maybe means the germs aren’t so close to us! take care and keep well Thanks for being part of IMK.
    cheers
    sherry

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    1. Thanks Sherry. Those things hanging from the lamp are dried chillies. Must simplify my garlic freezing and see how it goes.
      The cause of our latest wave is, as you know, a leakage from hotel quarantine. And as the variant is more contagious, Quarantine is deemed necessary. I’m sure indoors and outdoors makes a difference, but I’m pretty sure that Queenslanders do go indoors to work in offices, factories, cafes, restaurants and shopping centres too.

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  10. Have you been vaccinated yet? We have been in lockdown for 433 days now, and our vaccine rollout has just started. I saw a great garlic peeling hack which I have never tried. Place all the cloves into a metal bowl. Place another one on top so that it forms a large circle (does that make sense?) then shake like mad and the peels come off. Be safe during this new lockdown ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Tandy, I’ve been vaccinated but am waiting on my second jab ( another 3 weeks)
      as most Victorians were offered the Astra Zeneca vaccine, which requires 12 weeks between doses. So at present I only have about 33% immunity. Our vaccine roll ou started in early March, but has been bungled by our Federal government. States have had to take over,.
      I tried that peeling hack some time back, but only the outer skins budged. I’m sure it would work on older supermarket stuff. My organic babies are determined to stay skinned. Good exercise though.
      You too Tandy, stay safe.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Lily hates school. She loves it when there is remote learning due to Covid. She’s a good student though — in Grade 8 with 2 A’s and 3 B’s.
    My ideas on this virus would not be popular but I will say them. I think we are all going to get it even if we have been vaccinated, but we will be asymptomatic. The vaccine will render it harmless.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, let’s hope the vaccine weakens the virus. It’s an optimistic view.
      Most kids who like going to school love the social interaction with their peers as much as anything else.

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  12. I was shocked to hear about Kim, I didn’t know until I saw your IMK post…I don’t know what to say as my heart is still beating wildly. I am so sorry. And sorry as well you are in lock down again, I fear cases will go up until the idiots get vaccinated. I can just feel the flakiness in my mouth of those pasties and your preserved lemons are lovely. I’ll have to remember to add them to my tuna salads and patties, wonderful idea. Lastly, I’m envious of all that beautiful blue pottery. I have a weakness for them as well. Stay well.

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    1. Yes, shocking news re Kim. Since writing this post, the uptake of the vaccine has vastly increased. Thanks to the State taking over the process as the Federal government bungled it completely. Sometimes I wonder why we’re even federated.
      Thanks for your lovely comments Liz. You stay well too. Get out and about while you can as you never know what’s around the corner.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Hi Francesca,
    Your relentless dedication to sharing your life stories, recipes and stunning photos keeps many of us so delighted to be part of your blog. In the tropics in FNQ we feel very removed from our Southern cousins. However through your efforts we are being made very aware of your day to day life thus allowing us to see through your “window”.
    Thank you and Mr. T for keep us well advised.
    Best wishes Peter

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Peter. It is true. Life in the tropics in the countryside versus life in and near Melbourne could not be more different.
      I like taking pics of kitchen things, it’s a creative outlet but even more, I love writing.

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  14. Thanks for writing about the vaccination situation on your blog Francesca. It is also something that I feel very frustrated about, and though I’m in NSW I feel so much the pain of our Victorian neighbours – it feels like another lockdown, another day in the circus! I adore your jar of preserved lemons, never managed to make it work for me since every batch I’ve made has gone mouldy.. but it is winter again and I will try again ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One thing about the lemons..they often look a bit mouldy but aren’t. If they just have white stuff on them, they’re still good to use. I scrape off the flesh, then chop the peel to use. If the mould is a darker colour, then no. If the lemons are well covered, they should be fine. Trying to keep them submerged is the truck. Maybe add a sliced lemon to the jar as a kind of lid above the lemon wedges and juice.
      Yes, the Vic scene is annoying, but it’s nice to hear that you understand our pain. There are some folk in other states who just don’t get it, the randomness of it all, the craziness of hotel quarantine, the complexity of our large multicultural city.

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  15. I know that the repeated lockdowns have to be very frustrating but through what I have seen from you kitchen, you are handling it remarkably well. Love your’s and other comments about the garlic, I’m definitely going to give some of those hints a try. Also about using the preserved lemon in potatoes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Karen yes, lockdowns are a bore but necessary. I was just enjoying a taste of freedom and travelling once again. Getting the full distance out of the garlic crop is important here, as the alternative is not nice, mexican or Argentinian garlic with high food miles and unknown growing practices. I’m assuming all is well now where you live in ?Florida? Thanks for your comment Ksren.

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  16. Hello Francesca! I just love that last photo, and not because of the volume of vino either ๐Ÿ™‚ Wish I had the chance to even โ€˜peelโ€™ a garlic clove I had grown .. Still more in the dirt this year, fingers crossed. Such super food photos .. yum! And preserved lemon in fish cakes. Right, am going to give that a go! Have you tried preserving limes? I have a tree which is prolific .. into the jar with them. So sorry to hear about the lockdown .. hugs

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    1. Hi julie, I’m writing this from my bed as the rain falls steadily on the tin roof. So cosy and a good place to write. Sorry about that rust on your garlic.. keep trying. I should do some limes too, good idea as they are prolific at present. Last year I shoved around one hundred limes in the spare freezer. That worked well and we used them in summer for drinks. Yeah lockdown again, so annoying but necessary. Hope you and the lovely bloke are well. Will that bubble ever stay properly open so we can pop over to say hi. Xx

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  17. What a great tip for excess garlic Francesca and love your collection of tableware too. Yes, these lockdowns are getting tiresome now and we are in one at the moment. I too have found it hard to spend time on the computer. Love the antique cooling rack which those tasty looking veggie pasties are resting on. Keep well ๐Ÿ™‚

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  18. Lockdown again-mannaggia! Things are getting better here, but the weather is getting warmer too, and the same thing happened last summer. Aren’t you industrious though…preserved lemons, and frozen garlic pucks. Love the photos and the blue and white crockery. I will be in line for your lockdown cookbook! Your post has inspired me! I have been in a blog and social media blah lately. Partly because of the blahs but also I’ve been busy as I’ve taken on an extra job doing covid immunization. I now feel like doing an IMK post next month! I’ve also been writing down things people say during their immunizations-maybe I’ll have enough material to write about it-not sure yet. Thanks for the inspo Francesca and hope things get better and you get that second dose soon! Ciao, Cristina

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know that blah feeling when it comes to blogging- I seem to be stuck in a hole that I’m struggling to dig my way out of. I blame the simplicity of Instagram for this. But I still prefer words. Well done Cristina for getting involved in the vaccination programme. I admire your courage and commitment. You, and many others like you, deserve a medal as well as recognition for this work. I’m sure you will gather enough material for a book. Ciao, Francesca

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