In My Kitchen, October 2022

I find it hard to tear myself away from the garden at this time of the year. I’m enchanted and energised by its wondrous growth as a response to the increasing light and warmth. The work is also demanding and my body hurts so much I have begun to tape up my shouder and wrist. Yes, I am my own task master: the garden is a joyous and productive space but I also hold a large whip. Gardening and Self Flagellation! My food garden is at that annual crossroad where the productive winter crops are becoming vertical towers of small leaf and flower. Most of these need pulling up, robbing the happy bees of their bright floral pleasure. We’re eating more greens this week as we prepare new garden beds for summer crops. The sight of big bundles of leeks, silverbeet, spring onions, endive lettuce and kale entering the kitchen can seem overwhelming, but most greens match very nicely with light cheeses, such as ricotta or fetta, or a generous sprinkling of parmesan cheese. The Italian pies of Spring, always associated with Easter in the northern hemisphere, are very appealing, such as Erbazzone, or Torta Pasqualina, requiring only a simple pastry crust made with flour and olive oil. I also use greens in Egyptian Eggah and Italian frittate, or substitute mixed greens for spinach in Palak Paneer, a favourite Indian dish. Greens and potato go well in hand pasties. Or in my favourite soup with with white cannellini beans, anchovy and rosemary, an old favourite recipe from Marcella Hazan.

The chooks are back on the lay and about time too. This year we lost fourteen hens to a fox attack, the first time since moving to our house in late 2009. We were left with five hens and two roosters. The hens went on strike due to shock and the cold weather. I was forced to buy eggs and didn’t enjoy them at all, despite the ethical promises on the packets. We returned from our recent South Australian trip to find some new arrivals -Andrew, Android and Andrea under the bantam Orpington. I’m hoping for girls. Getting rid of roosters is a cruel but necessary business.

The three Andrews are now one week old. Hoping for girls.

I was very pleased to discover that this lone fennel plant has become a perennial in the vegetable garden. The central stem, now quite thick and woody, continually produces little pups at the base. Small delicate ones in winter, large bulbous finocchi now in Spring. They are lovely shaved into salads, especially with the last of this season’s oranges, or cooked gratinata in a bechamel sauce. It’s such a shame that Mr Tranquillo doesn’t enjoy fennel as much as I do, but I’m working on him.

The most rustic and simple displays are often the best. As I pulled up most of the calendula, it was an excuse for a little floral arrangement in this old green kitchen jug.

The sourdough bread story continues in my kitchen but also in other kitchens when I’m away. I travel with an old cast iron Dutch oven, a small jar of levain, some bags of pre-weighed mixed flour, a razor blade and some oven parchment. I made three loaves during my last trip around South Australia, so didn’t need to resort to indigestible bread. While I don’t eat a lot of bread, I do like some each day, especially with soup or alongside a sauced meal where the bread becomes a scarpetta, a little shoe to scoop up the lovely juices. There are a few annoying trends in Australian restaurants where the bread is offered prior to the meal, or it’s not offered at all, or it’s costly and slathered in other stuff, or it’s inedible. Since when did one eat bread as an entree, spoiling everything that follows, robbing appetite, and then requiring a further purchase of more bread to make that little scarpetta for a lovely sauce? And yet we all do it: the bread arrives first and we pounce on it, dunking it in olive oil, or celtic salt or savoury butter. These days, I try to keep a little crust aside, surreptitiously disguised behind a napkin, hiding it from my ravenous companions, to accompany my meal. Companion, company, companionship- these lovely warm words derive from the Latin with bread. I still expect bread to be served with a meal, paid for or otherwise. Many of my home baked loaves travel to others, sometimes as hand luggage on domestic routes interstate. I export free loaves to those who desire them as a matter of companionship. It doesn’t make sense for me to only bake one loaf at a time. Their happiness comes back to me in bucket loads. Some of my very special sourdough mentors have taught me this.

On the road, the Semaphore loaves

A few fishy meals arrived in my kitchen over the last few weeks. Mouclade is one of the best ways to use small sweet black mussels. The dish is famous around Brittany in France, where the mussels are tiny and cheap. The creamy sauce is made with a hint of curry powder. The French recipes use creme fraiche, a product that is affordable and common place in French supermarkets, but not so in Melbourne. I thicken regular pouring cream with a little cornflour to obtain a similar consistency. Of course one needs lots of good bread to slurp up the juices. No little scarpette for this dish.

Mouclade, mussels in a lightly curried cream sauce.

The other fishy dish that I enjoyed immensely from my kitchen was a pescatarian version of Spaghetti Carbonara. In a suburban district of Adelaide, known for the plethora of wonderful looking Vietnamese restaurants, I found the most exciting fish market, The Fish Factory, at Grand Junction Road, Athol Park. I purchased some smoked squid tentacles, which were rather moreish as a snack: they were lucky to make it back to my kitchen. The smoked legs have a similar mouth feel and flavour to guanciale. Along with our own eggs, parsley, and a good hunk of Reggiano Parmigiano, I felt that this was a fine replica of that most famous spaghetti dish, carbonara.

Spaghetti with smoked squid tentacles, in the style of carbonara.

I hope this post signifies my return to blogging as it seems like such a waste to pay for a Premium package with WordPress if I’m not using it. I enjoy writing these little In My Kitchen summaries as it forces me to marry some of my photos to a few rambling thoughts on gardening and cooking, two passions of mine. Thanks Sherry, once again, for hosting this monthly series, Sherry’s Pickings.

Header photo features a lovely vegetable Tian I made in the Semaphore Kitchen, after finding an alluring French earthernware gratin dish tucked away in the cupboard. It begged me to use it.

30 thoughts on “In My Kitchen, October 2022”

  1. Glad to hear all is well Francesca, and lovely to hear about your garden, I only have leeks and the tail end of some Chinese greens at the moment, but am hoping for good things from my garlic – if the cockies stop eating the tops! I also love that you take all the makings of bread with you, sounds like a wonderful contribution to family and friends, as well as making sure no inferior bread is consumed 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh those chicks are devine. We aren’t allowed roosters in suburbia. Did I tell you Signora that I got some “Italian” chickens, a breed called Ancona? They run faster than Hussein Bolt and are hard to catch, but good layers with the whitest eggs.

    My marito is also not a fennel fan (sigh) and I also need to work on mussels. Your fennel looks incredibly healthy. And your bread…amazing….. Hope you are well Signora.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Signorina. Nice to hear from you. I have had anconas in the past. They are slightly mauve looking. I keep describing mr Tranquillo’s hair as Ancina like, slightly tinged with silver mauve but not yet the silver fox. Hoping you are well. I guess you boys are teenagers now

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Nice to see you back to blogging. I don’t look at Instagram much but when I do, I enjoy your photos. But when you write about the pictures it’s much more fun to read.

    best… mae at


    1. Thanks Mae, part of tge problem has been my ancient computer. I don’t enjoy writing on the phone so much, too many errors along the way tryingvto shuffle things around. Yes, instagram is too easy and probably is more accessible, but it encourages laziness in writing. Thanks for reading Mae.


  4. It is so good to see you here this morning, Francesca. I have missed sitting in the kitchen with you, scrupulously taking notes on all the delicious things you set on the table.
    Your hen is gorgeous–and the babies…! Here in my town in Florida, the City Council allows people to raise chickens, but I only lived next door to one house that did so. Just hearing the chicks made me smile, but I had no idea roosters would attack them. I never heard that sound–thankfully.
    I do hope this is your return to WP. You have one cozy little corner here and I love it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Lois, thankyou for reading my rambling post. And for pointing out a huge error. That was meant to read a FOX attack. Goodness me, I must have had roosters on my mind when writing. I’ve now corrected it. The roosters are gentle creatures really though they fight each other if there are too many. I live in the country so we are allowed to keep roosters. They aren’t permitted in Melbourne urban areas but hens are, similar to the rules of Florida I imagine.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I really enjoyed your post and was sorry to hear about about the fox getting so many of your chickens. Good luck with the new chicks. Your garden sounds amazing but of course it takes a lot of work too. I used to belong to a CSA and would come home with huge amounts of greens which I loved but never quite new how to eat so many so fast. Your breads and all your photos look amazing.


  6. I loved this blog post! Thank you for sharing. I live very close to Grand Junction Road where you found the smoked squid and I feel so lucky to live near all these wonderful Vietnamese restaurants and Asian supermarkets.

    Kind regards

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Eleanor. It’s such an interesting area. I noticed another big fish shop back over the bridge with a Greek name, and will try that one next time I come to Adelaide.


  7. I always enjoy your posts Francesca. I still bake bread weekly from starter you gave me some years back and last week I made your delicious orange, ricotta and almond cake ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I so much enjoy your posts, Francesca and I’m glad you’ve got renewed enthusiasm for it. I was really glad to know it was ‘only’ a fox that attacked your poor chooks – rooster attack sounded awful – I had visions of a bloody band of brothers!


    1. The brothers are pretty annoying,though gorgeous. We have one too many and one has to go. I’ve found a source of some new Bantam girls- Belgian D’uccles, picking two up tomorrow. Excited.
      I’m not sure yet whether I have renewed my enthusiasm for blogging or it’s just a passing fad. I have so many half finished stories, but seem to be distracted most of the time. I do, however, really enjoy reading your comments, both here and on Instagram.


  9. It’s nice to see your wonderful photos and read your thoughts in longform… your IMK posts are among my favourites, and reinforcement of your Insta inspo… I think I’ve seen smoked squid tentacles at a nearby seafood coop. I like the idea of adding them to carbonara style spaghetti.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re lucky if you can get hold of smoked squid. I’ve never seen it in my usual haunts in Melbourne. I enjoy the art of writing, instagram is exactly what it says. Brief and not necessarily well considered. I write in books, notepads, bits of paper, and in my dreams. Need to get the stuff out of my mind. I think I need a new computer as my dinosaur is slow and off-putting.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am making up for lost time-it’s my second time this year! I had a family wedding in June (my last blog post) and I attended a conference in Torino last week, so now I’m here again for a few weeks! Ciao, Cristina


  10. your produce looks wonderful francesca. Love that green jug too. we’ve had a lot of fox attacks in our neighbourhood lately; so weird – we never used to have them here in brisbane. lots of people losing their chooks. Your breads look marvellous tho i am not much of a bread eater. how dedicated to carry all the bread making gear with you :=) Hubby doesn’t eat seafood so i am left with eating it at restaurants. Nice to see you back blogging! Thanks much for joining IMK this month. cheers Sherry

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Finocchi are indigenous to where I live and I need to plant some, and get stuck into my garden. Crème fraîche is quite cheap here, but easy enough to make with cream and buttermilk. Your bread looks amazing, and when I find my joy again in the kitchen I will get back to baking loaves 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Great post Francesca! Oh those greens look amazing …we’re still munching on brassicas and of course sharing the leaves with the chooks. Gosh, sorry to hear about your chickens .. thankfully we don’t have foxes here. Hoping those chicks are girls! Ah fennel, yummy stuff. I didn’t plant it last year, but it’s on the list for my summer garden …


  13. I’m so inspired by your travel baking, I took my sourdough away once to Hungary and Romania where I almost killed it by feeding it with hot black coffee instead of water! The mugs looked the same in my defence. I totally agree with you that sharing baking with others is such a great way to spread joy 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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