In My Kitchen, Simply Red, February 2016

My Kitchen has turned intensely red this month as the tomatoes and plums continue to march through the kitchen, looking for someone to love them. Two varieties of plums peaked today- both red fleshed Japanese varieties, Satsuma and Formosa. Some will be stashed in the freezer for winter clafoutis and crostata.

Japanese plums
Japanese plums

The tomatoes slowed down a little last week, thanks to the abundant rainfall and cooler weather. Signs of more flushing on the way. We have had one round of passata making and another is due today.

Sorting tomatoes
Sorting tomatoes

Half a jar of passata, reduced with fish stock, along with saffron and smoked pimenton, went into this fish and mussel soup.

Summer fish soup.
Summer fish soup.

The rest was poured over grilled eggplant layered with parmigiano cheese in a Melanzane Parmigiana, an old stand by.

Eggplant parmigiana
Eggplant parmigiana

Others are eaten as is, with their colourful friends, in my favourite little salad bowl from Mission Beach market.

Simple salad
Simple salad

The miniature tomatoes are frozen whole on a metal tray; once they turn into little hard bullets, they are stored in the freezer in zip lock bags for winter.

A lovely Christmas gift from my sister, this griddle pan has grill lines on the heavy lid which sits neatly inside the pan :once both the pan and lid are heated, panini, bread for bruschetta or anything else can be grilled on both sides simultaneously. Can’t wait to use it.

The garden pick today included the first eggplant and red chillies. The zucchini and cucumber continue to impress, the basil is slow this season, and the ducks have discovered some treasure at low levels while the occasional Houdini rabbit comes in for a soft leaf raid. We have an abundant garden as well as plenty of pests!

Today's pick

Thanks Maureen for hosting the In My Kitchen series. Please take a look at other inspiring kitchens through Maureen’s link.

In My Baking Kitchen, October 2015

A duck full of sugar
A duck full of sugar

School holidays bring a flurry of baking as the young folk flock to the kitchen for pancakes, chocolate chip biscuits and cake making. This, along with my renewed passion for sourdough bread making, makes the kitchen the centre for flour, sticky bowls and general mayhem.

I asked him not to pose!
I asked him not to pose!

This batch of buttery biscuits was devoured in less than two hours. The kids pick out the biggest ones to eat first then claim to know exactly which biscuits they personally made. At times ‘there’s a fraction too much friction”, there are monsters in my kitchen.

Concentrating on shapes.
Concentrating on shapes.

I invested in some bread making paraphernalia. This whisk is designed to stir wet dough at the initial mixing stage. Impressed by the man on the Breadtopia site, I ordered one and then added a few other items to make the postage from USA worthwhile! Included was a silicon mat which I hope will encourage better pastry making. I used the whisk this evening and soon dumped it for my hands! Maybe more practice is required before I whisk like the man from Breadtopia.

Bread dough whsk
Bread dough whisk

Other bread making gear was purchased in my favourite shop of all time, Costante Imports in Preston, Victoria. Costante is a shrine to self-sufficiency. The shop has expanded over the years and the place is always abuzz. They sell equipment for wine making, small frantoi for pressing olives, sausage making gear, pizza ovens, cheese and bread making equipment, copper pots and brass rustic hanging lights. The surrounding conversation is Italian as young chefs gather to buy authentic pots and pans, and suburban grandmothers come for corks and bottle tops. It is a land of temptation and a source of inspiration. http://www.costanteimports.com.au/

bannetons for bread rising.
Bannetons for bread proving from Costante.

My flour collection has taken up residence in the laundry, which is slowly morphing into a larder. The flours include one huge supply of white bakers flour, this one in a 12.5 kilogram bag for $12.00 and milled in Yackandandah, Victoria. I also keep a softer white flour for pastry, biscuit and cake making as well as a self raising flour. Then there’s a Tipo ’00’ from Italy.( It is sometimes impossible to find the ‘best by’ or packed on date on Italian produce, which is a concern for bread making where fresh flour is important). Then comes the finely stone ground semolina, Atta, Australian wholemeal and spelt, rye, and buckwheat! This is ridiculous I know, but it will get used.

My new starter, Sorella, is bouncy and reliable: thanks Celia for the emergency back up. I make two types of bread when not experimenting: a plain white and a 75% white with 25% spelt. Both are equally popular.

Sour dough white, Celia's recipe.
Sour dough white, Celia’s recipe.

I preheat the oven to 250c, add metal trays at that point, then dust a pizza paddle with fine semolina, turn the proved bread onto the paddle, slash ‘with panache’, then slide it off onto the hot tray. I give the bread and oven a quick spritz with water then quickly close the door and reduce the temperature to 220c. Performing this action with two loaves at once is proving tricky while trying to maintain oven heat, like a clumsy kitchen ballet performed by a strega. The ‘spring’ on my latest loaves is much better, the texture much lighter, but retaining the sour dough taste, so the performance is worth it.

Soudough with spelt
Sourdough loaves with spelt

Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial hosts this monthly kitchen event. Check out some of the other posts. Celia is also responsible for spreading the love of bread making throughout her global community, which always feels local and close.

In My Kitchen, Winter. June 2015

On the first day of every month Celia, from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, hosts a blogging event, In My Kitchen. This is a remarkable event for many reasons.  In My Kitchen has provided a platform for many like-minded folk to connect. Through Celia, I have acquired my first sourdough starter, as have so many others, and learnt more about frugality, common sense and urban connectivity.  I have also found some very dear friends. Are they virtual friends? I think not. Thanks Celia.

Winter view from front window.
Winter view from front window.

As I consider this month’s winter post, the rain continues to alternately pour or drizzle and all I can think of are Cornish Pasties. My theme for this month is not yet self-evident, especially as the kitchen is in a shambles, the light is too low and a little photo shoot may involve searching for props and lights. Rather than start the clean up, I ponder a suitable pastry for said pasties through the posts of Sandra, the best cook in Melbourne and Debi of Sheffield, Britain, who is passionate about pastry, when she’s not researching antiquity or intriguing books.These little deviations into the land of procrastination are far much more pleasurable than reading the online bad news

But back to my kitchen. The disarray in the kitchen usually results from too many ambitious projects occurring simultaneously. Yesterday I made some wonderful dark rich stock as I was yearning for a bowl of Soupe L’oignon.  As I don’t eat meat, a suitable vegetable stock required the pre- roasting of vegetables, mushrooms and some other tricks. It worked well.

Fish is cheap and plentiful in the fresh markets at present. King George Whiting is a sustainable species. Here they are baked whole in Cartoccio, small parcels using baking paper, with fennel, lemon peel, tomato, garlic, fresh oregano, and olive oil.  After 15 to 20 minutes in a moderate oven, they are ready. No waste, no frying. This year the quince tree started out with masses of baby fruit. Despite netting a few branches, the birds removed most of them, knocking them off the branches, then pecking their hard skins and discarding them. These two survived.

My only two quince.
My only two quince.

As quinces are now abundant in the market and are extremely cheap, my two decorative quince joined some other less attractive specimens in a slow poach. I then stored the pieces under their ruby sweet poaching liquid in a covered box in the fridge. They make guest appearances in different sweets over the winter months and the poaching liquid becomes a glaze or a sauce for many other desserts.

poached quinces
poached quince

For example, this little baked thing, a cross between a Far Breton Pruneax and a Clafoutis is a moody dark dessert to eat in front of the fire while watching Top of the LakeRecipe coming!

Far Breton with Quince
Far Breton with Quince

In my kitchen are a few constant reminders of the cooking tasks ahead. Mr Tranquillo will eat all the oranges and mandarins before I think of a way to use them. The lemons from my mother’s tree will be transformed into lemon curd, lemon delicious pudding and some cordial. Each time I visit, I return with another large bag.

Citrus Season in Melbourne
Citrus Season in Melbourne

The pumpkins from the garden are loitering on the verandah table, a source of winter comfort food ranging from soups to Risotto alla Zucca. And what’s a winter kitchen without a few crazy kids? It was so lovely to return home from Indonesia and have a monster family dinner. How did we turn into 14? Here are two of them!

Kids in the Kitchen
Kids in the Kitchen

In My Kitchen. January 2015

Another year ticks over, resolutions have been made, private reflections and observations about the things that are important. After those meditations on the first of January, the year brings on a mad rush of adrenalin as I attack the kitchen like some crazed Befana on a broom, sorting through the pantry, the larder, the fridges and cupboards, trying to restore some order after the Christmas mayhem. Out they go, all the old chutneys and jams, some of them smelling so delicious even though they are three or more years old. The chickens are in for a jammy feast, with old dried foods from the pantry thrown into the mix, hot water stirred through, fire burn and cauldron bubble. When the hurlyburly’s done, I’ll sit down to a chilled white wine and contemplate this summer post. There is no photo of me here -you, my reader, must imagine a wild unkempt hairdo and an unflattering old Bali Dress used for these jobs.

In the remaining clear space on the bench, there are some rather handsome Christmas gifts gracing my kitchen. The first is a heavy-duty blender from my eldest son. Its powerful motor works like a dream. So far we have had mango, ice, banana and orange juice smoothies, brain numbingly cold and healthy, reminding me of the fruity concoctions made in Chiang Rai, Thailand. This now lives in the industrial zone in my kitchen.

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This gorgeous cake tin was a KK gift from my sister-in-law. Jo. It has a perfect seal. I seem to be making more cakes these days. How did she know?

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Loads of zucchini are landing on the shelf and ending up in summer soups. My diet has turned basic and simple this month. You can’t clean like a mad witch and cook too!

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I now make my own yoghurt weekly.  It is another routine, along with the sourdough bread, that has slipped into my life. It is so simple, especially if you have a nice big thermos. Boiled milk, cooled to warm, with a tablespoon or two from your last batch of yoghurt is whisked through, then into the thermos it goes for six or more hours. Too easy. Using this large vintage Japanese thermos, I can now make two litres at a time, enough yoghurt to go with curries, to make tzaziki and other dips, Greek cakes and so on. There is nothing better than a breakfast of home-made yoghurt and a compote of fruit, especially poached cherries.

yoghurt and special Japanese thermos
yoghurt made in my Vintage Japanese thermos

The things you find in the pantry!! I seem to have cornered the market in Indian dhal and bulgar. These, combined with fresh garden produce, will form the basis of my $1.00 meals. I’m on a mission to eat the contents of the pantry and to shop less – one of those New Year reflections about simplicity, waste and healthy eating.

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Having finally mastered the pressure cooker, which has been hiding in a kitchen cupboard for a few months, the lentils, beans and chickpeas are having a work out.

Prior to Christmas, I found a monster 3 kilo bag full of Tagliatelle nests at Psarakos in Thornbury. Once opened, they are now stored in one of my big bread bins. These nidi only take 5 -6 minutes cooking and, with the tomato and basil glut on the horizon, will form the basis of more cheap eats.

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My Mother’s apricot tree goes on and on, with five kilo picked daily. She poaches and stores them in little boxes in the freezer for winter desserts. Not bad at 92 years old, but I think it’s time I made her jam. Jars in the dishwasher, jars on the bench, nothing like making jam on a 40 degrees celsius (104 F) day. When the blackberries are ready and the temperature even higher, this jam making strega will be working at dawn, or possibly leaving home early to live elsewhere.

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Happy New Year to all, and, raise your glasses, a big Salute to Celia, at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, our wonderful host of this monthly series.

In My Kitchen, July 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn my kitchen is an Australian colonial kauri pine dresser and in the top drawer is my collection of antique cutlery.

This drawer full of treasure threatens to disgorge its heavy contents whenever I yank it open.  Despite the disorder, this drawer makes me feel simultaneously happy and nostalgic. I think of my grandmothers, old fashioned soups, puddings and Sunday family gatherings. My modern cutlery, by contrast, is simply functional, quotidian and dishwasherable. It evokes little!

Although still on the road in Asia, I couldn’t miss the chance for a simple little post on Celia’s monthly round of IMK. See Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for more world kitchens, cookbook recomendations and gadgets.

 

 

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