In My Kitchen, May 2018. One Cup of Nostalgia

I’ve been procrastinating over this month’s In My Kitchen, concerned that my posts are becoming repetitive and barely newsworthy. I buy very few new¬†products or gizmos: my tastes are simple. My pantry is full of staples that complement things from my garden. My freezer stores the fruit bounty from summer. I bake bread and a weekly cake or dessert. My home cooking is the antithesis of restaurant cooking: I no longer aspire to cook that way. It is informed by the simplicity of cucina povera, Italian country cooking of the past, along with that of¬†Roman trattorie and is becoming more frugal as time passes. And as for things, lovely kitchen things, I’m in the process of de-cluttering and reducing, not gathering more.

Today’s salad pick.

But I’m not quite ready to throw in the IMK towel yet. In My Kitchen has been a part of my blog repertoire for more than four years, providing at least one platform of discipline in my untidy life. When I look back at my old posts, I see some recurring themes and plenty of growth. My first IMK, written in December 2013, concerned decor and green kitchen ware. Back then, I had a two-year old to cook with, (not for- Daisy has always participated in the kitchen) and during those earlier years, a tribe of young grandchildren spent hours in my kitchen, licking spoons and making concoctions, cranking fresh pasta, asking for their favourite barley soup or begging for flathead fish. They’ve featured in some of my old posts, especially Daisy, my little cheffa whose sense of taste and smell developed in my kitchen and herb garden. How I miss those years: required school attendance has a lot to answer for!

New sourdough kid in my kitchen.

The fine art of sourdough bread making came along when Celia, of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, sent me my first packet of dehydrated starter in June 2014. Most of you are familiar with Celia’s generous spirit: she is responsible for perhaps thousands of sourdough home bakers around the world today. Now she’s leading the way in campaigning against waste and plastic in a gentle, non proselytising way. Teaching not preaching.

Yesterdays pick. May 6, 2018. Radicchio, rugola, curly endive, green cicoria. Parsley, wild fennel, dill, red basil, borlotti beans ( 4 kilos) Roma tomatoes, late Adelaide tomatoes, yellow pear tomatoes, zucchini. cucumber, snake beans. I love my garden and she loves me.

When I look back on posts featuring my early sourdough loaves, I have to laugh-they looked so odd and yet they tasted OK. These days, with better technique and the understanding of how dough behaves in my kitchen and overnight in my fridge, my loaves look much better and taste really good: it is a passionate pastime that takes commitment. Somewhere along the way, I met Maree, first through this forum on her occasional blog and more recently through her facebook site, Simply Sourdough Trafalgar¬†which includes regular updates of her latest loaves. Maree’s sourdough bread is wonderfully enticing, she is a sourdough artist. Talk about bread porn! Her experimentation with hand- milled grains is inspiring, as is her energy,¬† running a small bakery and teaching sourdough bread classes. My entry into the sourdough baking community began right here in this very forum, for which I am eternally grateful. These days, I also enjoy passing on this skill to others. I recently spent a week at Peter’s place in Far North Queensland. We spent a few days playing with sourdough, adapting it to his humid climate, and making home-made yoghurt and cheese together. Now he is totally obsessed, baking bread like a banshee and churning out fabulous labneh. His first herby labneh came about from one of his stuffed up yoghurt attempts. It’s the best labneh I’ve ever tasted. Peter, like me, wastes nothing. We are kindred souls in the kitchen. Now he makes all these goodies for his B&B.¬†¬†How good is that? Thanks Peter and Steve for your amazing hospitality and enthusiasm for life.

Frugal is nice. Cicoria well cooked, with garlic, olive oil, chilli and white polenta. In a Roman trattoria, you might find this green alongside some form of protein. I like bitter leaves straight up, a challenge for some.

And so back to my kitchen this month. What’s happening? Red and pink things are pouring into the kitchen from my garden, begging to be cooked into simple dishes and not wasted. Crunchy and bitter radicchio leaves, my favourite salad ingredient of all time, are picked daily, washed and popped into ziplock bags. ( yes, heavy-duty plastic bags that get washed over and over and seem perfect for maintaining crunchy salad leaves ). Pink scribbled borlotti beans ripened all at once this week, some to cook now, some to store, and some to pop aside for next year’s planting, dark red frilly mizuna leaves, tasting a lot like wasabi, tomatoes galore still in early May, chillis to dry for the year, to crush and make into hot chilli oil, the first new red radishes, and plenty of green things too.

All ripe at once, the borlotti of May
Where’s Daisy when I need her to shell?

For those of you who love Radicchio and have a vegetable garden, may I just mention that once radicchio acclimatises to your environment, you will have it for life. Let the bee attracting blue flowers go to seed after summer. The hard bullet like seeds will fly about and become little radicchio at just the right time. Mine pop up everywhere and some of the best ones grow between cracks in the paths. Look underneath the large green leaves for pups. Elongated Treviso leaves like to hide in the dark, producing delicate white and pink crunchy leaves. Pull out a small cluster and another one will appear in its place. So colourful, bitter and bounteous, they make me want to sing like Michael Hutchence. They only need a grind of salt, a drizzle of new oil and a drop or two of balsamic.

Routines and rituals are precious in my morning kitchen. While the bread bakes, I roughly chop up a pile of vegetables and herbs to add to the bottom rack of the oven. It’s a shame to waste all that stored heat.¬†My stock mix includes carrots, onions, garlic, small tomatoes, dark fleshed mushrooms that need using up, mushroom stems, torn bay leaves, a sage leaf and a branch of thyme. These are all glossed with a little EV olive oil and baked for 20 minutes or so. Once caramelised, they come out of the oven and into a stove top pot, along with a little chopped celery, parsley stalks, and two litres of water. After cooking steadily for 25 minutes or so, the stock is strained off and popped into a jar for later use. This is a super rich stock with a deep colour, the smell permeating the kitchen.

Stock ingredients baked before simmering.

If we don’t have soup for lunch, we’re bound to have pasta. This one, Maccheroni Rigati, is coated with a rich tasting creamy red capsicum pesto. Recipe here. The sauce is also wonderful spooned under a nice wedge of grilled fish.

Maccheroni rigati con pesto di peperoni rossi.

Thanks Sherry, at Sherry’s Pickings, for inviting participation in this series. If you wish to join in, follow the link and add your own kitchen story.

 

Home Again Recipes. Pumpkin and Haloumi Salad and Nasi Goreng Ikan

After six weeks of travelling, it takes a while to adjust to the rhythm of cooking your own meals, let alone all those other tedious tasks, such as bed making and house cleaning. Where are those fairies who come and clean up? Home cooking routines return more quickly; after all, we do need to eat at least twice a day. After purchasing one packet of inedible bread, the sourdough starter was revived and our breads are back on the table, using a variation of this recipe. I dehydrated my sourdough starter (Celia’s method can be found here) back in July, but then discovered that one very kind sir kept my fridge dwelling starter, Sorella, alive, replenishing her each week while¬†visiting to feed my other animals.

Sourdough loaves, one for now, one for the freezer
Sourdough loaves, one for now, one for the freezer.

Home made food tastes glorious, modest yet satisfying and comforting, filling that yearning for more olive oil and cheese that is missing in most Asian diets. And then there’s the wine- beautiful Australian and New Zealand wines at an affordable price. The Spring garden is neglected, with only leeks, celery and herbs ready for picking, while our hens keep pumping out eggs, now far too many for our own needs. It is with these modest supplies and a well stocked pantry of basics ( lentils, rice, pasta, dried beans, olive oil, cheese) that we can eat well for very little.

A garden full of leeks.
A garden full of leeks.

My budget dishes this week included a Flamiche, a leek based quiche, enabling me to make a dent in the leek and egg bounty. ¬†A leek and potato Vichyssoise for the export market (my mother), a lentil shepherd’s pie with Kumara mash, (my $1 per person comfort food), a salad of baked pumpkin with haloumi, the pumpkins left over from last Autumn’s harvest screaming to be used. Haloumi can be picked up in 1 kilo jars at Bas foods for around $10, another pantry/fridge essential for a quick salad. A purchase of 400 grs of Dory fish fillets was stretched over three meals: 200 gr went into a Vietnamese caramel claypot, (still trying to perfect this method of cooking), 100 gr accompanied some fresh¬†mussels in a Pasta Marinara, and the last 100gr added more flavour to a Balinese nasi goreng ikan.

Haloumi and Pumpkin Salad

  • a generous chunk of Kent pumpkin, cut into 5 cm cubes
  • haloumi cheese
  • olive oil
  • salad leaves
  • 1 small cucumber
  • EV olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  1. Toss the pumpkin cubes in a little olive oil, season, then bake for around 20 minutes, stirring or turning over once during cooking.  I often bake extra to stash in the fridge for a pumpkin risotto or a pumpkin and caramelised onion pasta or topping for a foccaccia. Cool the pumpkin.
  2. Cut the Haloumi into strips and fry in olive oil until golden on both sides.
  3. Refresh chosen salad leaves and dry.  Cut the cucumber into long thin edges. Toss the leaves and cucumber in a bowl with salt flakes, a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
  4. Plate the leaves, cover with baked pumpkin cubes, and haloumi strips. Add ground pepper and another drizzle of oil.

    Haloumi and baked pumpkin salad
    Haloumi and baked pumpkin salad

Nasi Goreng Ikan ( Fried rice with fish, Indonesian style)

I became quite fond of this simple dish and ordered it often in a little Balinese Warung by the sea. My version includes some sliced fresh turmeric, as I believe all the healthy hype surrounding this little tuber, despite my general cynicism regarding supposed ‘superfoods’. The Balinese always colour their seafood nasi with red, simply using tomato ketchup from a bottle. I used some bottled tomato passata. The choice is yours- use what’s on hand.

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Nasi Goreng Ikan Recipe- serves 2-3.

Ingredients

  • left over steamed white rice, cooled. (one cup of uncooked rice will make a large nasi goreng for two or three)
  • a little neutral flavoured oil, not olive oil
  • one fish fillet (100g or so) of boneless fish, for example Dory, chopped into small 2 cm chunks.
  • 2 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • 2 small purple shallots, chopped.
  • a small finger of fresh turmeric, scrubbed, finely sliced or grated
  • a small knob of ginger, finely chopped or grated
  • 2 small kaffir lime leaves, centre vein removed, shredded
  • 1/2 red capsicum, finely sliced or 1/2 cup grated carrot
  • 1 small birds eye chilli, finely sliced (optional)
  • ¬†some greens, for example, 1 cup of finely shredded cabbage or wombok
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-2 Tbs tomato passata or tomato ketchup
  • 1 Tbs ¬†ketchap manis
  • lime wedges to serve
  1. Heat the wok on a strong, high gas flame, add  two or so dessertspoons of oil. When the oil is hot, add the aromatics- garlic, ginger, shallot, turmeric, chilli, and kaffir leaves. Stir and toss for 30 seconds.
  2. Add the fish, toss about until opaque, then add the capsicum and cabbage.
  3. Add the rice, breaking up large clumps with your hands, then stir fry the rice through the vegetables, tossing well as you go and colouring all the rice.
  4. Add the sauces, toss further, then season with pepper.
  5. Serve with lime wedges.
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A simple lunch. Nasi Goreng with fish

A nasi goreng has a wetter, denser consistency than its Chinese cousins.

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Nasi Goreng Ikan

Thanks Peter, from Tropical Bliss B & B, for the delivery of fresh turmeric from your northern paradise.

Happy Chinese New Year and a Cucumber Salad

Happy Chinese New Year to all in this year of the Goat!¬†In Chinese astrology, goats are described as peace-loving, kind and popular. They can be helpful and trusting but also ‘clinging’ and resistant to change. Were you¬†born in the following years 1931, 43, 55, 67, 79, 91, 2003, 2015? If so, it’s your year!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACelebrating Chinese New Year here in Australia, means planning a few little dishes from that wonderful country. A refreshing salad for a hot day, Cucumber salad Yunnan Style makes use of the current cucumber and chilli glut. My addition of tuna is not traditional but transforms the salad into a light lunch. Leave out the tuna if using the salad as a side dish.

cucumbers galore
cucumbers galore

I am using my apple cucumbers as these have appeared in plague proportions. They are too seedy for most dishes, but with seeds removed, work well in this quick and easy salad.

Cucumber Salad Yunnan Style.

  • 2 medium cucumbers, peeled and seeded.
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of castor sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1-2 hot chilli, seeded and sliced finely
  • 1 can of tuna in oil, drained and flaked
  • ¬†A little Sichuan pepper oil or sesame oil to dress
  • chopped coriander leaves
  1. Peel and seed the cucumbers, cut the cucumbers vertically then diagonally into 3 cm chunks place in a bowl. Toss with the vinegar, sugar and salt and marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes or longer.
  2. When ready to serve, add chilli slices, flaked tuna and coriander leaves.
  3. Dress with a drizzle of Sichuan pepper oil or Sesame oil.

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Additions and subtractions.

  • Add more chilli if you grow the milder variety.
  • If using small Lebanese cucumbers, use more and leave half the skin on in strips.
  • add toasted sesame seeds.
  • For a Japanese twist, add cut up thin strips of nori seaweed and dress with¬†toasted sesame and sesame oil.
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One smoked trout and two meals for two.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Garden Gado Gado

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On numerous visits to the Indonesian archipelago over the years, my taste buds and I have searched for the perfect Gado Gado. This classic Indonesian salad is constructed from various cooked vegetables and salad ingredients, then covered with peanut sauce. My research has led to one conclusion: they are all different.  The term Gado Gado means mix- mix in Bahasa Indonesian and the dish is usually made with a mix of vegetables (such as potatoes, green beans, bean sprouts, spinach, lettuce, and cabbage), with tofu, tempeh and hard-boiled eggs, then topped with peanut sauce dressing, and tapioca krupuk on the side. The versions I have tried in Indonesia often include vegetable greens and no egg, some have wetter peanut sauces and some dry and dark sauces, resembling the Javanese pecel sauce. The salad components seem to be vanishing from the modern Indonesian Gado Gado, but were definitely a component throughout the 80s.

Building the salad. Gado Gado undressed.
Building the salad. Gado Gado undressed.

My garden version is based on current garden pickings. I think many Indonesian cooks use what’s on hand and aren’t too fussed with following a formula. A very successful version can be made with the following summer produce:

  • Cos lettuce, chopped
  • silver beet leaves, green only, steamed
  • new yellow fleshed potatoes, cooked, sliced
  • mini tomatoes, halved
  • cucumber, sliced

To this, I have added,

  • hard boiled eggs, quartered
  • fried strips of tofu
  • peanut sauce

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The Peanut Sauce.

This is a wonderful cheat’s peanut sauce and I am indebted to Celia for this recipe. It is really tasty and cuts out a lot of work.

  • 60g Jimmy‚Äôs Sat√© Sauce
  • 50g smooth peanut butter
  • 60g coconut milk (or to taste)
  • ¬ľ¬†teaspoon sesame oil
  • 10g dark sweet soy (Kecap Manis)
  • 15g lime juice (or tamarind if limes are scarce)
  • 10g brown sugar (or any sugar)

Whisk all the ingredients together until combined and then taste and adjust as needed. ¬†I like to cook the sauce down a little to make a thicker sauce as I am not a fan of the ‘drenched’ version of Gado Gado. The sauce has deep notes of three spice powder and is hot and sweet and tastes pretty authentic!

The magic sauce, Jimmys
The magic sauce, Jimmys

I like to build this salad, starting with the lettuce ( Cos or Iceberg) then adding the steamed vegetable greens, followed by cooked potatoes, then green beans if available, then arrange the tomato and cucumber slices or chunks around the sides, interspersed with hard-boiled eggs. Then cover with the sauce, followed by any extra lovely things you may have hanging out in your pantry, such as tapioca krupuk, or fried shallots, or fresh, lightly steamed bean shoots.

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This version is based on my resolution to use what’s on hand, just like the good ibu of Java would do. No more running to the shops for one or two rogue ingredients. But I wish I had some krupuk!

An authentic version of peanut sauce can be found in Sri Owen’s Indonesian Food. ¬† I like the cheat’s version equally well.

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