In My Kitchen, April 2018.

Autumn in Melbourne, most would agree, is the best season of the year. Days are warm and still while evenings are crisp. A few small logs burning in the wood stove symbolise a seasonal turning point in the calendar: the first cosy fire is the most evocative of all. Other Autumnal markers are the slow ripening of the quinces, with a few falling each day, the late season heritage apples, the Rome Beauty and Akane varieties now ready, and the fat green olives beginning to blush purple-black. Keeping a productive vegetable patch and orchard may seem demanding to some- an abundant harvest can be a hard task master. This extra time in the kitchen is offset by time spent away from supermarkets. In my kitchen, the garden is featuring more each month and will continue to do so. Out of My Garden and into the Kitchen perhaps?

Last of the sweet Akane apples

If you grow your own chillies, you will probably end up with way too many but really, count this as a blessing. There are little saucers of chillies lying about in my kitchen and on sunny ledges, slowly drying out for the year’s supply. Once ready, they will be whizzed in an electric spice grinder then stored stored for the year in jars. Some dried chilli flakes also go into the making of chilli oil, an essential condiment on a southern Italian table. Soup bowls proliferate in my kitchen. Because I love soup so much, I have preferred bowls for certain soups. Fine purees tend to go into old-fashioned 1940s small bowls, onion soup into rustic terracotta bowls, Italian bean and pasta soups lounge around in shallow but very wide bowls and so on. It’s obsessive I know, and my soup bowl collection is being reviewed as I address the issue of downsizing. A few new irregular shaped bowls recently snuck into my kitchen.

A new soup bowl, with zucchini soup and pesto.

And when it comes to soup, the garden produce usually dictates the recipe. I always start with a soffritto, a very finely chopped selection of onion, celery, herbs and garlic sauted in olive oil, and then the soup is built on this base. It is artistic expression for me- not just a bowl of soup.

Late March garden pickings for soup, with our garlic from December.

The soup that followed the picking.

Zuppa dell’orto con quadretti.

I get nervous if the dried bean and pulse supplies fall too low. Sourced from Bas Foods, most of these are Australian grown and are packed fresh in the warehouse next door. There’s nothing worse than woody old dried beans: no soaking and long cooking will revive them. Another essential soup ingredient is Farro, and it’s great to see the Australian variety on the market made by Mt Zero olives.

Dried beans and pulses

Autumn fruits, and a few stored plums from late summer, make fine fruit crumbles. My favourite mixture is apple, plum, orange, lemon peel, sugar, cloves and marsala. This batch is ready to be topped with crumble.

As we have been running between two kitchens for the last two months, we have discovered some interesting fresh supplies near our campsite on the Mornington Peninsula. These mussels are grown in the bay off Mt Martha where the water is deep and pristine. They are not available commercially in Melbourne as Point Lonsdale black mussels tend to dominate the markets. They can be bought at Safety Beach and also in Dromana. They are really the best mussels I have ever tasted.

Fresh Mt Martha Mussels.

I made a quick smoky chowder last night and a few of these briny molluscs went into the soup. Today’s Pizza lunch demanded a few more- and I still have half a bag left for some Pasta con Cozze tonight. Not bad for $7.50 a kilo.

Pizza Amore. ( cozze, pomodori piccoli, basilico, olive)

For the monthly series, In My Kitchen, organised and collated by Sherry, from Sherry’s Pickings. Strangely enough, this series keeps me on track and up to date with my garden life too.

Apologies to Eha, Debi and others for my earlier draft which suddenly appeared without my knowledge. Gremlins!

Melbourne for kids. A cheap day out on foot.

A day out in Melbourne for kids can be cheap, exciting and exhausting. Not only will they learn a lot, they will sleep well and have stories to tell.  The itinerary we followed involved a lot of legwork as the best way to explore Melbourne is on foot. Now travel has become even cheaper as all trams in the centre of Melbourne are free and the cost of train fares into Melbourne have been reduced. Why would you take a car into the centre?

The images below focus on legs, in response to Ed’s Sunday Stills photographic theme this week.

a young boy stands at his easel, sketching xx enca
Oliver concentrates on capturing the long legs and body of Phar Lap, the famous race horse, his taxidermied body enshrined.
the skeletal remains of a xx fly above
The skeletal legs and wings of a Pterodactyl fly above.
Images of Dinasaur families strolling by  are projected onto the wall. More art for the boys.
Images of dinosaur families stroll by as the boys tackle more art.
Graffiti lanes of Melbouren. An artist prepares to redo a door.
Graffiti lanes of Melbourne. An artist prepares to re- spray a door in Hosier Lane.
The boys are mesmerized by the graffiti art on the walls of Hosier Lane and  Rutledge Lane.
The boys are mesmerized by the graffiti art on the walls of Hosier Lane and Rutledge Lane.
Many tourists enjoy walking around Melbourne and these lanes are now on the itinerary.
Many tourists enjoy walking around Melbourne and these lanes are now on the itinerary.
A quick walk through Federation square for some people watching and then a walk vy the Yarra river.
A quick walk through Federation Square for some  ‘people- watching’ and then a walk along the Yarra river.
The iconic Flinders Street station, a short stroll to the train for a ride home.
The iconic Flinders Street station, a short stroll to the train for a ride home.

Some useful links on Melbourne for tourists.