In My Kitchen, a Winter Post. July, 2018

On cold winter mornings, routines are simple and meditative. Kindling, or morning wood, is gathered to start the wood stove. Small twigs are arranged like a Lilliputian teepee, while dry leaves and balls of crunched newspaper are tucked into the gaps. The moment of truth- a match is struck and the fire roars. An old whistling kettle waits on top of the stove, hot water for that second cup of tea. If the morning is frosty and old Jack has painted the paddocks white, I often recall my father’s early morning footprints crunched into the grass of our suburban backyard, a memory so old and yet so fresh. Long before breakfast, when we were still tucked up in bed, Dad would take a bucket of left over kitchen scraps, mixed with pollard and hot water, down to the chookhouse at the rear of the yard, always singing the same song, ‘Oh what a beautiful morning.‘ His optimism enabled him to travel through life with grace. Somehow this pastoral Rogers and Hammerstein song, frost and chooks, will always be connected in my mind. As we all tend to begin our day in the kitchen, it is a fitting place to practice optimism. Turn off the news.

Morning wood.

On fortuitous mornings, left over cooked vegetables await on the bench, ready to be mixed with an egg to make an old-fashioned breakfast of Bubble and Squeak, although there’s rarely much squeak (cabbage) in my kitchen. Or perhaps a slow cooked pot of oat porridge, always with a pinch of salt, I hear my ancestors say, soul food that sticks to the ribs for longer. The stock pot goes onto the wood stove, while some Barley or Farro is soaked. Sourdough Bread, having undergone a secondary overnight ferment in the fridge, is ready to bake. And so another winter’s  day begins. While it’s not my favourite season, winter does offer some compensation- soup, wood fires, comfort food, along with the chance to don berets and scarves.

Risotto, red wine, rosemary and taleggio.

There’s often a good winter risotto in my kitchen. I nearly swore off risotto for life after my time in Lombardy last year where I ate risotto every second day- risotto con zucca, risotto milanese, risotto con funghi porcini, and this one below, the star of them all, risotto con vino rosso, rosemarino e taleggio. ( risotto with red wine, rosemary and taleggio). It doesn’t matter how many photos I take of risotto, summer or winter, it always looks totally unappealing, a bit like a dog’s dinner. And yet these photos belie the reality.

Winter is also the time for pasties and it’s always good to have a stash in the freezer for an easy lunch. I used commercial puff pastry for this lot. These were filled with cooked Puy lentils flavoured with sautéed onion, Worcestershire sauce and herbs, then mixed with mashed roasted pumpkin and peas. The plum sauce is from last summer.

Of course there’s always soup in my winter kitchen. Since being too busy is my new normal, I  make soup often- some to take to my mother, some for our hungry renovating builders, some for the visiting kids, and sometimes I get some too. This one, Ginger and Carrot soup, is a cure for head colds and sore throats.  Served with a sprinkle of chilli and yoghurt, it’s a real pick me up.

Another beautiful loaf.

I’ve been experimenting with sourdough recipes lately and have been amazed at how different sourdough starters behave. The bread above was based on a recipe by Maurizio from the Perfect Loaf.  The fermentation is so rapid: the wholemeal levain is a wild beast of a thing. Sourdough bread making is not just about the recipe- each day in the kitchen, the weather, the heating or lack of it, the temperature of the water, the humidity, and the patience of the artisan, create a unique environment and these wild yeasts love to dance to their own rhythm.

Morning marmalade

I’m waiting for this loaf to cool so I can indulge in my other favourite winter breakfast- toast with marmalade. My mother’s grapefruit tree is heavily laden and many, I fear, will go to waste. I made one batch, or 8 jars, of grapefruit marmalade, but how much marmalade can you eat in one year?

There are always lots of books in my kitchen-dining area; with the cold weather, they are beginning to proliferate on small tables. The blue journal on the right now lives permanently near the kitchen bench. New breads that pass the taste and method test get added to this journal. There’s something special about handwriting a recipe. It becomes a part of my personal repertoire, and is ingrained in my memory, standing distinctly apart from the tsunami of recipes that come my way, either from books or the internet. Notes get added with each bake: ingredients are adjusted. I have another handwritten book dedicated to cakes and biscuits. The book on the left, Community, offers some intriguing salads, which will be more useful in Spring and Summer.

Trusty apron

I never thought I would become an apron wearer but then, I never thought I would need to look for my glasses all day, or carry around an oven timer. I bought this colourful apron in Chiang Mai, Thailand  a few years ago: it is short and bohemian, a bit like me really. If I wear it, I’ll have a more organised day.

Once again, I’m linking this post to the monthly series, In My Kitchen, now hosted by Sherry at Sherry’s Pickings.   Thanks Sherry, it’s forced me to look for my writing mojo, which has been in hiding for a while.

Orange, Almond and Marmalade Morning Tea Cakes.

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Spring is just around the corner and the birds are warbling cheerfully in the garden. Another Dexter calf was born early this morning, still without name but many are in the running. What a glorious day, makes me want to talk like Robbie Burns, oh deary laddie oh.

New born male Dexter  in need of a name.
New born male Dexter calf needs a name.  So far the nominations are : Dillon, Dylan, Danny, Dustin, David, Denzel, Darcy, Dermot,  Delicious,  Daire,  Dash, Doogle,  Daithi, ( I think that’s Daisy with a lisp  or pronounced by a drunk ),  Dennis,  Dugan, Declan, Duke, Dude, Duncan, Damian, Doyle,  Darragh,  Diddley Dee per Taters, Darius,  Dailey, Dale, Dinner, Draco,  Dax, Dante,  Doolin,  Declan, Dacow, Dagwod, Derwood, Des, Delbert, Donal, ( after Donal Lunny )  Dalton, Daryl, DOT ( short for Dirty Old Town) and Oh ( short for Danny Boy).

These simple little morning tea cakes are not overly sweet and include a small amount of almond meal helping to keep things moist. They have a sweet/bitter heart, just like mine, provided by a daub of orange marmalade. Best of all, they can be thrown together in minutes.

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Orange, Almond and Marmalade Cakes.

  • 125 g unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup caster sugar
  • 1 large orange, rind zested then juiced
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup SR flour
  • 3/4 cup almond meal
  • orange marmalade

Cream the butter, sugar and orange rind until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. Then add the flour, the almond meal and the juice. Spoon into a greased 12 hole muffin tin, regular sized , and if you prefer, encase them in muffin papers or parchment. Make a small indent into the batter and add a half teaspoon of marmalade to each. Smooth batter over the top.

Bake in a preheated (180 c oven for 15-20 minutes). Cool on a rack. Dust with icing sugar.

Tea for Three
Tea for Three

Help name the Dexter calf. The name must start with D and be male-ish. Irish/Celtic names preferred but not essential. Leave a D name in the comments below. His name will be chosen by Sunday, August 24th.