In My Kitchen, March 2020

It’s impossible to write about my kitchen without reference to my productive vegetable garden and orchard- the two are so closely entwined. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, which is now over 6 years old, you may have noticed that my kitchen and cooking posts tend to focus on fresh produce. This is the essence of what food is about for me, the excitement and challenge of cooking radiating from the daily pick. As this season has been bountiful, my urge to work in the garden has strengthened. While others of my age often consider downsizing, I’m considering expanding the garden beds. Vegetable gardening is not only for food: it’s my yoga and gym, my meditation space and fantasy land.

One of the more exciting plant discoveries this year has been the Turkish snake chilli, a prolific bearer, and a kinky pepper to pick ( an old alliteration riddle comes to mind). A long and thin lime green pepper, it has a tendency to curl back on itself, looking a lot like whirling dervish, or a green man in a turban. One in 10 peppers will be hot, making them an interesting substitute for Pimento de Padron, the Russian roulette of peppers, when cooked in the same way.  Unlike the Padron peppers, which are tricky to germinate and slow to mature in my climate, the Turkish snake peppers grow well here and fruit early in the season.

Turkish Snake peppers, scorched and lightly blistered in hot olive oil, served with salt flakes.

The only unusual product I’ve bought recently, and one that is worth sharing, is this delightful stone ground flour from Tuerong farm, which featured recently on Gardening Australia. The farm is located in the Mornington Peninsula hinterland and is dedicated to growing small crops of heritage French and Australian wheat varieties. You can view the episode here.  The flour is available at Tuerong farm, or at Hawke’s farm in Boneo, or online, though it’s not always available. The khorasan makes a beautiful loaf.

I like soup at any time of the year, and each season brings new flavours to the table. When fresh local corn becomes available, I love to make this chowder. We call it ‘cholesterol corn soup’, given its butter, cream and cheese content, perfect for the first seasonal chill. The recipe comes from an old edition of The Vegetarian Epicure, by Anna Thomas, 1972, back in the day when the ‘C ‘word wasn’t such a worry. I’ve never fiddled with the original, so soothing and comforting is this dish.

Corn and cheddar cheese chowder

Another recent chowder occurred when I discovered some big, fat tiger prawns in my freezer- remnants of the festive season. This one was a splurge, requiring a small smoked haddock as well.

Smoky chowder, with smoked haddock, leek, potato and prawn.

This season, I have developed a passion for photography, and tend to photograph the daily pick in the same little spot in my living room, where the light is moody and a little dark. Most of these photos land on my Instagram page, @morgan.francesca each day, and may account for my overall slackness in writing. As I pay a princely sum for this WordPress page, it’s time I got back to writing more frequently, though I can see why many take the easier, often wordless, option of Instagram. Time to return to the word image.

Jonathon apples, the second variety to harvest.
Early pears, not the best keepers.
Breakfast for a queen. Porridge with poached quince.
Let the grape harvest begin.

A monthly link up event, focusing on kitchen happenings, takes place via Sherry’s Pickings. The theme can be interpreted loosely. Through this monthly blogging event, I’ve met some wonderful kindred spirits.

 

One smoked trout and two meals for two.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
A hot smoked trout is a lovely treasure to store in the fridge for summer days. It landed there before Christmas and I am rather pleased it wasn’t required for a Christmas smoked trout pate. Now I can enjoy its pink, smoky flesh slowly over a couple of meals.

This hot day salad is a relative of Salad Nicoise. The ingredients are randomly chosen from the garden such as potato, beans, tomato, cucumber, dill and parsley with hard-boiled eggs and pickled gherkins added.  You can add whatever is on hand. Add half the smoked trout, flaked and de-boned to the salad, making sure that you reserve the head, bones and skin, along with the rest of the trout, for the next use. Dress liberally with a garlic and hot mustard vinaigrette.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
My next day soup, using the remaining trout and its carcass, is Cullen Skink, that famous chowder style soup from the coastal town of Cullen in Scotland. On a cool summer’s day when the rain softly drizzles, a little chowder is quite restorative.

Cullen Skink.

Ingredients, a list not measured!

  • Head, bones and skin of smoked trout
  • flaked flesh from the trout
  • one onion
  • butter
  • milk
  • cream ( optional)
  • bay leaf
  • 2 potatoes
  • pepper
  • dill, parsley.
trout ones and head cooking in milk.
trout bones and head cooking in milk.
  1. Remove the bones, skin and head from the trout. Flake the fish, reserve. In a small pan, add the bones, head and skin, along with milk generously to cover and one bay leaf. Cook gently for five minutes or so, then cool.
  2. Cook the peeled potatoes, cut into chunks, in water until soft. Reserve water. Mash potatoes.
  3. Melt some butter in a heavy based pan and cook the chopped onion gently until golden. Using a mesh strainer, add all the strained milk from step one, to the onions. Press the solids in the strainer, to extract more flavour and add this. Discard solids. Add the mashed potato. Thin a little with potato cooking water.
  4. Add flaked trout, ground black pepper, chopped herbs and cream, tasting as you go, to obtain a good texture. It’s up to you how thin or rich your chowder becomes.
  5. Serve with good bread. An Irish soda bread would be perfect.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Another day, another sourdough.
Another day, another sourdough.

These two meals, using garden produce, costing the trout at $7.30, along with the cost of milk, cream, butter and some pantry bits, came to around $10.00. That is $2.50 per person per meal, for the salad and the soup, a little more than my $1.00 per meal goal.  I have not factored in the cost of power, or the labour involved in growing our own vegetables.