In My Kitchen, December 2017

I’ve been dithering around in my kitchen since returning from our long trip and am feeling totally uninspired. Where’s the menu and those kitchen fairies who clean up? Returning to an overgrown vegetable patch, and the loss of 13 chooks, courtesy of Mr Fox, has robbed me of fresh ingredients, my backyard larder and the inspiration for most of my meals. When I look back on my December posts from the last four years, I can see energy, seasonal fruits and vegetables, garlic braiding, Italian biscuits, summer fruit cakes and short breads. This year, none of those things have happened¬†-yet.¬†

Making do with what’s available, I made a huge batch of dolmades using leaves from our grape vines. Blanched in boiling water for two minutes then drained, they are ready to rock and roll. Although tedious to stuff 65 little parcels, once made, they become a staple in the fridge for hot summer nights, preserved with oil and lots of lemon juice.

The berry crop is huge this year, especially the boysenberries. They make a sweet addition to home-made yoghurt, something cool and luscious for breakfast. Making the weekly yoghurt is such an easy thing. I’m finding that 1 litre of organic milk creates a firmer and tastier yoghurt than the cheaper milks. Yoghurt is added to tahini and lemon for a quick drizzling sauce for falafel, or as the basis of tzaziki, or whipped through pur√©ed mango for lassis, or served on the side with red lentil dhal and a few stir fried greens.

Another frugal standby is Pasta e Ceci, one of my favourite soups. I ordered it twice while in Italy this year and on both occasions I was disappointed. I put this down to the use of canned chickpeas, which retain a bullet like texture when used whole in these soups, and the lack of depth in the accompanying brodo, which should have hints of rosemary, a touch of chilli and tomato and good olive oil. The old Italo- Australiane, the Italian women migrants who cooked for their families in the 1950s and 60s, brought with them the old contadine ways of  turning cheap ingredients into something deeply satisfying through slow cooking, herbs, and knowledge based on tradition. Modern Italian restaurant cooking has lost much of this old knowledge and has turned to economical shortcuts and speedy cooking. 

I have resumed bread making. Despite our local and wonderful artisan baker in St Andrews, I can turn out two large loaves for $2 and there’s no need to leave home. It’s a way of life now thanks to Celia.

Last week’s loaves. I need a new slashing tools.¬†Everything is blunt.

And in my kitchen are these gorgeous gifts from Alberto’s family in Pavia, Italy. His grandmother edged this tablecloth and napkin set. The work is exquisite. Grazie ad Alberto, Dida, Stefania e Claudio per la vostra meravigliosa ospitalit√† e amicizia durante il nostro soggiorno a Pavia.

Hand crocheted edging by Alberto’s grandmother.

Two litres of Campari jumped off the duty-free shelves on my way back into the land of Oz. I developed a taste for Spritz in Como, but based on Campari, Prosecco and soda, rather than Aperol which is not so pink and a little too sweet. Summertime drinks by the pool? You bring the Prosecco.

Hand over the pick stuff.

Thanks once again Sherry for making In My Kitchen happen so smoothly each month. Go to Sherry’s Pickings for more posts on the kitchen theme: you might even find the C word in some of them.

 

In My Kitchen, December 2014

The last few weeks have been rather hectic in my kitchen. I’m taking it easy in December, especially now that I know my niece will host Christmas Day Lunch. Hooray, I’m off the hook. Now I can safely sneak away to my favourite beach and pretend that the festive season is not happening.

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I am picking around 500 grams of berries every day. Raspberries, boysenberries, youngberries and strawberries are having a wonderful season. It’s time to think about using some in an alcoholic concoction.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe have consumed many berries with small meringue nests which I store away in tins for a week or so. These meringues had the addition of finely zested lemon peel. Limoncello cream filled the cavities, then raspberries. We also had cinnamon meringue with cherry.

Dolmades rolled and laid snugly in a pot.
Dolmades rolled and laid snugly in a pot.

One of the big sultana vines lost a branch when Mt Tranquillo was pruning. ¬†I wasn’t going to waste these lovely fresh vine leaves. ¬†A big batch of dolmades lasted only one week in my kitchen.

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My daughter- in- law has done some ironing for me. It is so nice when all the tablecloths are ready for the season ahead. This is the blue and white stash. Yes, slightly anal, I know.

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I found this old gelataio in an Op shop (thrift shop) in 2009. It was only $15.00 and had just been serviced. It’s little churning wings broke the other day as I was making some berry ice cream. It has served me very well so I might ask Santa for a new one, unless a spare part turns up soon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe beautiful blue plates, a set of 12, seem to be unused and cost $3.00 in total. They were made by Johnson in Australia in the 1950s. Another lucky find in the second hand world of Melbourne. Perfect for a morning tea of mini muffins with white chocolate, amond meal and fresh raspberry.

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Why does everyone always crowd around in the kitchen? Here are a couple of party animals, a reminder to always have fun in the kitchen. Put your finger in the cream, steal a morsel off that platter, help roll out the pizza dough or dance like a crazy spider.

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Thankyou Celia, at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, for a wonderful year of IMK.

¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Season’s Greetings to Celia and to you all.¬†