In My Kitchen. June 2014

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I am attempting to clean up my Kitchen Chaos so that semi- resident family members and friends may find a user friendly kitchen while I am away.  Unfortunately, this does not extend to the pantry, which is far too small and has a secret life of its own.  I am attempting to use up all perishables, but the following items are always present in my kitchen:

  • good olive oil. I only use Australian extra virgin cold pressed oil, and for everyday use, I buy Cobram. It wins many prizes internationally, it isn’t doctored with crap – (imported Italian products are generally guilty of this and often have imprecise labelling).  Cobram oil is fruity, young and delicious. The date of harvest is mentioned on the bottle or large can. It is what it claims to be. I buy this in 3 litre containers and decant it  as needed.
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  • good parmesan cheese. Unlike my approach to olive oil, I only buy imported Parmigiano. Grana Padano or Reggiano Parmigiano is an essential pantry/fridge item and one that my offspring/grand offspring expect to find. I usually find a good ‘stagionato’ parmesan at the Mediterranean Wholesalers in Brunswick.
  • Pasta varieties. Here again I feel compelled to buy the imported product as I love De Cecco pasta and keep lots of pasta shapes on hand.

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  • Cans of tuna ( check labels for ethical fishing methods), cans of tomatoes, large cans of anchovies, cans of ceci, borlotti beans and so on for whipping up some minestrone.
  • bread making flour and yeast. All my kids make Pizza. Renato, who will also visit, doesn’t use any of these products, earning himself the title of “Plastic Luigi”.
  • Plenty of home grown garlic.

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With these basic supplies,and abundant herbs, lettuces and veggies from the garden,  plus the eggs that my girls lay, my family can make lots of good things. All they need to bring along is a hunk of cheese or some good bread. But hands off my good wine!!

You can find other inspiring kitchens at Celia’s ‘Fig Jam and Lime Cordial’ this month.

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In My Kitchen. May 2014

“But at my back I always hear,

Time’s winged chariot hurrying near”

and before you know it, it’s time for another In My Kitchen post. The wonderfully generous Celia kindly hosts this every month. Click here to have a look at other kitchens on Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.

The chooks are back on the lay. Young chef Daisy likes to collect the eggs, but is a little worried that she doesn’t know how to write the numbers on them!

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JA and Bren collected these quaint quinces from their tree in Bacchus Marsh.  Cotogna in Italian, Coing in French-  quince is an ancient fruit that has regained favour in Australia. Will I make Membrillo paste or a heavenly Stephanie Alexander tart?

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The chillis in the garden are finally turning red. On one side I have a few dried ones, ready to make Celia’s chilli oil which you can find here.

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My favourite bread book, The Italian Baker,  by Carol Field, is never far from the kitchen bench. We now use the recipe from this ‘bible’ to make Pizza and Ciabatta. We have pizzas once a week, and Mr Tranquillo enjoys whipping up a batch of dough.

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Some found objects from second-hand stores are often floating around the kitchen. I couldn’t resist this silver plated bowl for $7.99.

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In My Kitchen, April 2014

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Asian themes are the inspiration for ‘In My Kitchen’ this month. It forms part of the monthly round-up of inspiring kitchens from around the world, hosted by Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.

Indonesia is our nearest Northern Neighbour and is only a short flight away from Australia. Last January, we found this Uleg in a little market in Cipanas, West Java.  Barnadi and I obtained one each: not the easiest hand luggage to cart back. It resides permanently on my bench and has had a serious workout in my kitchen since then, and has turned a little yellow from the fresh tumeric root I have been using.  The Uleg below.

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It has some other friends, the big Thai mortar and pestle, good for pesto and curry pastes, and the little one, great for smashing together a few garlic cloves and ginger for curries, or a herbal butters. I rarely use my food processor these days. Mortar and Pestles are therapeutic and fast.

ImageChopsticks in a teapot. My young visitors like to learn to use them. And on occasion I do a good impersonation of Mr Miyagi from Karate Kid ( the original one of course!) and pretend to catch flies!!ImageThis season, dragon fruit have been appearing in the markets. I fell in love with dragon fruit smoothies in Indonesia and have attempted to replicate them.  Along with the magenta coloured dragon fruit, I mix in shaved ice, banana, and any other fruits that need whizzing up.

ImageThese yellow eggplants are an Asian variety. I purchased the seedlings from Vittorio, thinking that they were the long purple variety. I am not sure that I like these ones much, but they are very decorative.ImageIn a corner of one kitchen cupboard reside an assortment of Asian Crockery. All purchased from Savers  ( one huge recycling store) very cheaply. I should mention that most things in my home come from Savers!

ImageSome calligraphy done by my friend Brian; I am not sure what it says but it brings good luck to my kitchen.ImageAnd last but not least is a jar of Jimmy’s Sate sauce, purchased recently after Celia wrote about this last year. I am about to try her recipe which you can find here.Image

In My ( camping ) Kitchen. March 2014

During March I spend time in two kitchens: three days a week at home in my large and over supplied kitchen, the other four days in my camping kitchen by the sea. To be truthful, I prefer my camping kitchen, although perhaps the novelty would wear off after a while. I find my little two burner stove quite sufficient for our catering purposes. We back this up with an electric rice cooker, one gas-fired kettle BBQ ( for paella, pizza and basic BBQs ) and have now added a three tray Bain- Marie food warmer, essential for big curry nights or Sunday breakfasts. We cater for up to 16 family members some weekends. Image

This large Paella pan feeds a big group. We fire up an old gas kettle BBQ and use the lid to keep things going. My son cooks the chicken and chorizo separately, keeping the vego seafood people happy.

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My camping kitchen lives in a tiny corner of a canvas camper trailer. The fly wired sides are always open, allowing sea breezes through. I collect these beautiful metal dishes: they live in the trailer and surprise me every time I go camping. ImageImage

The sea is a 20 metre stroll from my kitchen. Black swans cruise by in the morning, looking like mini Loch Ness Monsters.  Cruise ships lit up like Christmas trees arrive by night, followed by cargo ships from China and one dark looking vessel we call “the ship of death”. The shipping lane of Port Philip Bay is often busy.ImageImage

Last week some cheap leatherjackets ( fish) arrived in the supermarket. Rubbed with a masala mixture in the Keralan way, they were then fried as a side dish to an Aloo Gobi curry. In the nearby countryside, the market gardens near Boneo Road have small outlets for daily supplies- freshly grown basil and wombok, Nicola potatoes, cauliflower, beetroot and corn, carrots and herbs.  They go into Mie Goreng, curries, and pasta dishes.

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In my kitchen are party animals, a hungry girl after an apple, and warbling magpies singing for their supper. Despite the volume of cooking, it is a peaceful and joyous time of the year.ImageImage

Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial kindly hosts the monthly “In My Kitchen” . Follow the link to read about other wonderful kitchen stories.

In My Kitchen – February 7, 2014, an Anniversary Story.

In My Kitchen, I dream, plan, write, contemplate and meditate as well as chop, weigh, cook, time, taste and decorate. Friends and family come and go, drink wine, tea or coffee, laugh and gossip. Little ones open the pantry door to inspect the contents. Older ones with longer legs climb up on chairs to lift the lids of secret tins at higher levels. One of our many computers resides in the kitchen; it is a source of vital information during the summer months. We constantly monitor the weather, temperature, humidity and wind speed as well as checking the CFA site ( Country Fire authority).  We listen to ABC radio, our national broadcaster and independent icon, which relays up to date reports of fire and emergency warnings. We are vigilant and at times very uneasy. We self evacuate often. It hasn’t rained for weeks. The land is bleached and too dry. Beauty comes at a price.

As February 7 approaches, the 5th anniversary of the Black Saturday bushfire in Victoria, my mind wanders back to my beautiful pre- fire kitchen and the things that were there and the life we enjoyed in it. To be truthful, I think about my old kitchen quite often: it doesn’t need an anniversary to take me back. I can see the long jarrah wood benches, the green and cream Mexican tiles, the moon rising in the East window, the overloaded antique Australian pine dresser, the kookaburra paintings on the walls. I admire the apple green Fowler ware bowls on the shelves and the Italian plates collected from trips to Italy. There is a marble island bench for pastry and breads and a walk in pantry. In the centre of this large room stands a huge antique farmhouse table of kauri pine with black wood turned legs, antique kangaroo chairs, spindle backed chairs still retaining their original paint, and a quaint kangaroo high chair painted red. There is music and dancing, Nanna’s disco, laughter, cooking and food. This beautiful kitchen, as well as the house itself, was destroyed by the bushfire in 2009.

As the anniversary draws near, I reflect on two important perceptions:

  • the overwhelming generosity of Australian people during times of national disaster, and in this case, the Black Saturday bushfire of 2009, and
  • The ephemeral nature of material objects and the importance of non attachment.

I look around my current kitchen and am reminded of the generosity of the Australian people who donated goods, some new, some second-hand, money, and labour to those who lost everything in that massive fire storm.  In the first year following the fire, a year of temporary accommodation in converted sheds and house minding, we would visit Bushfire Relief and Support centres, to acquire the basics to begin life again. At first our needs were simple- underwear, second-hand clothing, towels and sheets, toiletries.  With each week, new needs arose- tools, spades, wheelbarrows, buckets to assist in the clean up of our blocks.  Then came the non perishable food items such as canned foods and pasta, the pots and pans, cutlery, crockery and so on. Some of these support centres were small and very personal. One centre in particular, the Hurstbridge support centre, run by the energetic Helen Legg and her team of tireless volunteers, became a special club- a place to chat with others, to share a laugh, a coffee, a weekly breakfast. If anything fabulous was donated to that centre, Helen held a raffle. Sometimes odd donations would arrive, for example a crate load of incontinence pads. Helen and co liked to  parade around wearing these napkins as hats.

Another bushfire relief centre was the size of a warehouse. It was a big day out going to Clayton, as it took three hours to view the massive aisles of donations. Most of the items, except food and toilet rolls, (!) were second-hand. It was a treasure trove. In terms of the kitchen, I found a classic old Kenwood mixer, some wonderful little entrée plates once used in first class on Qantas flights, and numerous pots and pans. There were second-hand towels, still with plenty of life left in them, sheets, and toys.  Lost amongst the boxes, I found a little gift wrapped parcel, containing a hand towel, some soap and some pegs. Attached was a neat hand written note. “I hope this will come in handy. Best wishes”. This was typical of all those who donated. It was given so freely and anonymously. Big and small, all was appreciated. I received a wonderful  white platter from a friend of the mother of my son-in-law. I use it all the time. A friend of my niece passed on a colourful purple bowl, made by Leon Saper of St Andrews market, now deceased, knowing that I would have owned some ( she was right).  My niece sent a new copy of The Cooks Companion, by Stephanie Alexander, but made sure it was the original orange one! it is  inscribed, ” Zia, Spring will come again. Louise”. Family members were exceedingly generous with money and donations. The Red Cross, the Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul, the Country Women’s Association, The RSCPA – on and on it goes.  People who remark on our Resilience may not know that we owe this to the Australian people.

The second perception, the ephemeral nature of objects and non attachment, was dramatically reinforced during that life changing event. Let’s visit my Kitchen of five years ago.  To be precise, this visit occurs from February 11th as we were prevented from returning to our destroyed homes for some days as the police and army searched for the dead- although some photographers made it their business to jump the control lines and to this day I still feel ambivalent about this.  Some photographers saw beauty in the charred remains of the bush.  We only saw terror. A small digression!

We enter the smashed and gnarled house: nothing appears to have survived. We discover a small terracotta plaque hanging on the crumbling wall above the wine cellar.  It is Balinese and depicts a scene from the Ramayana. I attempt to lift it from the wall. It disintegrates into invisible dust. It doesn’t crack, crumble or break- it simply vanishes. It survived on that wall for three or so days until a human hand touched it.

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My cook books had a dedicated bookcase – they are transformed into a snow white blanket. The ashen pages can still be discerned.  The following day, a strong wind removes any evidence of their existence.

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Green depression glass is welded and re -sculpted by fire. Antique Chinese Buddhas lose their heads and ears. A dishwasher sags, there are still items left inside.  The Ilve stove, still young, is a burnt out shell. Plates are smashed and cutlery blackened.  A sink lands on the ground. Pottery enjoys its time in the new kiln, but smashes under the weight of falling walls.

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The photos of My Old Kitchen below are aired today – I haven’t looked at them for a long time. Value what you have but don’t be attached to objects. We have a lend of them for a while, then they vanish as we all must.

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I would like to thank all the Australians who donate during times of disaster. This fundamental goodwill and generosity makes me proud to be Australian. And lastly, thanks to Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, the amazing host of this monthly expose of In My Kitchen. Please visit her site to see other inspiring February kitchens.

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In My Kitchen. January 2014

Happy New Year. It’s time to reflect, to plan and to clear out the old and unwanted from our kitchens and our minds!  I remember reading an interview with Germaine Greer years ago, where she described her favourite New Year’s Eve activity. She laundered and pressed all her fine white Italian linen. I have also begun this task. Image

Grazie Mille, many thanks, to Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting the monthly In My Kitchen. It’s a chance to have a peep into the many kitchens around the world and get inspiration from the small detail of  every day life.

In My Kitchen are the last of the peaches from our tree. Nothing compares with the taste of a warm, fully ripe peach freshly plucked.Image

These two little woven containers prove so handy in summer. I purchased them in Bali this year. They prove invaluable in summer for carting the cutlery outdoors.

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I cannot resist buying Panforte each Christmas, and I usually receive a couple as gifts also. They bring back memories of Siena, and Monteriggione nearby, where I was a student many years ago.

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These little terracotta bowls were purchased at the Mediterranean Wholesalers in Brunswick. They sit on my bench, still unused, reminding me of tapas and summer plan for ‘al fresco’ dining.Image

This little pink grater comes from Chiang Mai in Thailand, purchased for 20 Bhat- less than $1.00.  So handy for summer salads.Image

And finally the Zucchini Plague has begun. My favourite zucchini recipes are re-appearing, some are being rehashed and updated and will appear in the next few posts.Image

In My Kitchen

Some people think I am really anal when it comes to my passion for green accessories in the kitchen. And I’m not even a Virgo. This month, it’s all very green in the vegetable garden (next month the reds will arrive). Rather than display these crops, I thought I might dust off some of my green kitchen babies as part of an IMK post ( my first).

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I was walking down Sydney Road, Brunswick yesterday and found these lovely green colanders for a song. The large one- $3.00, the baby – $1.50. It was hard to resist all the other mad colours but I stuck with the green ones.

Bargain Depot Supermarket Clearance and Party Supplies – 775 Sydney Rd, Brunswick VIC 3056

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I  love that bargain shop so much! I always grab a few more little milk jars ( $1.00) to add to my collection. Good for herbs, flavoured oils, the odd flower, table place settings, irresistable.

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This roll of string was bought at great expense from ebay. It lives on my kitchen shelf with its green friends and is largely used for tying up gifts wrapped in brown paper or newspaper, tying up tussy mussies or hanging oregano to dry.

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I love my colllection of retro Hong Kong thermoses. The little green army came down from a high kitchen shelf today for a dust. I have used one for yoghurt making, but on the whole, they are decor items.  I am searching for one which has the TWO GOATS gold label, then my collection will be complete.Image

Above are two green marble bowls purchased last year in Yangon, Burma. Great for special salts.Image

I can’t live without a jar of Furikake. I have to resist eating it out of the jar. Nice sprinkled on poached eggs or fresh poached salmon salad, or steamed rice.

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Finally we have my beautiful Fowler bowls in apple green, a retro Propert anodised sifter and a selection of green jugs.

These little green things enjoyed their moment in the limelight for an In My Kitchen post.

In My Kitchen is hosted by Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. http://figjamandlimecordial.com. What a lovely idea. Thanks Celia.

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