Putting things together.

We are very close to the finishing stages of our kitchen and exteno project. IMG_8852I’m in the process of moving everything from the temporary kitchen, the old dentist room, the shed and the spare bedroom into our new kitchen. So far all the bits are fitting in beautifully and I will have oodles of space to store everything. I’m being ruthless and items not thought about, used in 12 months or damaged are going straight to the op shop pile or tossed.  We still haven’t got water and gas connected in the kitchen but we do have it in the laundry so we have been able to clear the plastic table and babies bath out from the bathroom and can wash dishes in the laundry. This has been the greatest challenge I’ve faced with this whole experience. I really didn’t like having a loo in the dishwashing area!IMG_8848We can now work on plans for renovating this bathroom. The part with insulation is where we have extended the wall out from the existing room. Love the drapes? 2 shower curtains that do the job well enough. We still have to do a few jobs but it is certainly well on the way to completion and the space is working extremely well.IMG_8887 IMG_8859I’m still using the 2 butane gas camping stoves and hope this box of butane cans is the last I will need to buy for home use. They are an excellent product and you can cook everything on these cookers, I suspect there may even be times when I take one outside to the verandah to cook with.  IMG_8904We had friends around for tea last night and I felt like doing something ‘Asian’ so went to the gorgeous Dumpling Sisters website for some inspiration. My first exposure to the Dumpling Sisters was when Celia posted about their fantastic home made dumplings and I made the wrappers from scratch. Their dumplings are great and the wrappers are oh so easy! Anyway, for this meal I made their Mapo Tofu, well, it was improvised based around what I had and what I couldn’t get locally. I didn’t have chilli bean sauce so I used black bean sauce and added some chilli sauce and some of my home made chilli paste. I couldn’t get soft tofu, so I used hard but fried it off first to give it a nicer texture. I used veal instead of beef as I had taken some out of the freezer earlier to make  dumplings with. I added fresh beans, omitted the black beans and served with chopped red capsicum and spring onions. It was delicious!IMG_8863Next  up was their ‘One Pot Cauli Satay’. I’m not a huge fan of satay but I love cauliflower and really enjoyed this meal. I added a chicken thigh fillet, halved the curry powder (Keens) and also added peas. This was great! Glad I cut back on the curry as I was concerned that it would be too hot, but with using half it turned out to be just right.IMG_8864For desert (very unusual for us) I made lychee and orange sorbet. This was absolutely delicious, served with our freshly picked oranges that had been segmented and sitting in their own juice for a couple of hours. I only made half the recipe and it was more than enough for the four of us. We still have some in the freezer for when I need a hit. This would have to be one of the easiest and lightest of deserts I have ever made. It was perfect for finishing off the chinese style  dishes and cleansing the pallette.IMG_8870Today I bottled my Kombucha, I added ginger to 2 bottles and left one plain. I believe this will now do a 2nd fermentation in the bottle resulting in a bubbly beverage. Fingers crossed. I made a fresh batch with the scoby and a fresh batch of sweet black tea. Like the reflection on the bottles!IMG_8898I love my soda stream,  I have had one since they were first released and came with small glass bottles. I love the concept and my main reason for using one is to avoid all the plastic bottles soda water comes in. We usually use fresh fruit or lime cordial that you can buy in glass bottles for flavouring. I wasn’t really happy when I read this on the side of one of their new style bottles. Why on earth would these have such a short shelf life? Some research is called for here, but I suspect I might be going back to an old fashioned soda syphon that come with metal gas bombs and a steel carbonation chamber. IMG_8892I’m working on getting better results with baking bread in my new oven but I must say, the Sunbeam Pizza Bake N Grill is hard to match! Still a way to go but it does taste great.IMG_8874My capacola is doing what it should be doing. Not smelly, no blowflies, no mould and it actually smells wonderful. I’ll watch the conditions carefully and if it starts to warm up I’ll take it our daughters house which has a very cool and humid underfloor area.IMG_8856We’ve been picking oranges and amazingly Rene has been laying eggs. She is over 4 years old and we thought she’d lost it but it appears we were wrong. This equates to pretty much one a day. IMG_8851I’m impressed!

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Corn, Kombucha, Crochet, Capicola and Cactus back. Part 1

So what’s been happening?

Kombucha

As part of my commitment to trying to live as sustainably and waste free as possible, I’d explored and seen a lot of discussion around the traps about something called Kombucha, or fermented sweet tea. I was a little negative and hesitant as my only experience with fermented products (apart from beer and bread) was kaffir and I hated it. I read a post from Tammy at Gippsland Unwrapped about making Kombucha for everyday drinking and also for fermenting for a longer time to create vinegar for home use (cleaning etc) and I was hooked. I had to give this Kombucha thing a go! Tammy very graciously offered me a SCOBY to use as a starter for creating my fermented tea, and the lovely people at String & Salt in Warragul were gracious enough to act as our exchange point. I really love it when like minded people and businesses can work together and create a hub of support so we can share and learn new things.

So this is what a SCOBY looks like.

Kombucha SCOBY

It’s weird. I’m not going to go into explaining all about it, you can get that detail by visiting Tammy’s site at Gippsland Unwrapped , you may even pick up some great tips about living without waste while you are there.

I did some extra googling to try and get my head around the steps involved in turning this weird beast into a usable product and I was amazed at how easy it seems to be.

First up I made a batch of sweet black tea,

Kombucha black tea

Black tea for KombuchaLet it cool, then added the SCOBY,

Adding SCOBY to the teacovered the concoction and while I’m still quite unprepared for what the outcome will be, set it in a dark spot to do its’s thing. Milton the Monster anyone?

Kombucha fermentationIt appears to be behaving, I dipped my finger in and I am quite excited about the end result. In a couple of days I’ll decide if I do a second fermentation or not. Interesting indeed.

Corn

Last seasons corn harvest was stored differently than previous years. Rather than remove husks, de-silk, blanche, cool, wrap, I simply removed the silks, wrapped the husks back around the cobs, wrapped them well in foil and bunged them into the freezer.

IMG_8780IMG_8783  Always the sceptic, I cooked some the other night expecting to be disappointed. I certainly won’t waste my time doing the blanching process again. The corn was great, almost as good as freshly picked. Olive oil, freshly cracked black pepper, mmmmm….

Capicola

For my first attempt at processing some charcuterie, I decided on Capicola. I apologise in advance for those who disagree with my spelling, but there as many versions of spelling this meat as there are of how to process it, so I’m sticking to Capicola. A cured meat product made from the pork neck. I stupidly (so the store told me) selected in store pick up rather than posting of the collagen skin (even though I’d paid postage) so the neck was sitting in the salt brine longer than I had anticipated. Let’s just put that down to experience.

Capicola in brine After salting the pork was rinsed with in red wine while I prepared the other ‘bits’.Capicola rinseI made a rub of cracked black pepper, chilli, sweet paprika, fennel, salt and I’m sure something else….. and rubbed it over the pork.

IMG_8838Emergency situation at hand as far as the wraps went so I improvised by buying some fake salami skins, soaked them, cut them open into a flat piece and used them to wrap the pork. Not real happy about having to do that but we will see what develops.

IMG_8831I wrapped the pork in the skins then put it into elastic net ready to hang and hopefully cure into a delicious cut. CapicolaIt is a little late in the season to be doing this but I’m game.

Well, seeing as it taken me 3 hours with internet and photo issues to get this far, I’m breaking this post into 2 parts. Hopefully tomorrow night will be more successful.

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Turkish Cooking Class, in Warragul!

Whenever we travel, I like to do some sort of cooking class or have a hands on session with food in some way. I love the memories the experience brings and it is a fantastic way of learning more about a local culture as food is usually an integral part of any country’s history and social make-up. Unfortunately on our recent trip to Turkey I did not get the opportunity to participate in a local class due to the fact tourism has been so rocked by recent events, there were not sufficient numbers (2) to hold a class. I had registered interest with 4 different places and had a good window of opportunity, but it just didn’t get off the ground. Due to this, I did not even blink when my favourite business, String & Salt  in Warragul, West Gippsland announced they had 2 last-minute places available for their ‘My Turkish Table’ cooking session last Saturday. In 2015, S & S’s Michelle, participated in an 8 week vocational and cultural exchange to Turkey, and shares her cultural experiences and demonstrates making the Turkish dishes wish such passion  and enthusiasm you can’t help but be swept away and enjoy the whole experience.

String & Salt Turkish TableAlong with the 10 or so dishes we made, there was a great little set of detailed notes that covered things like spices, cooking styles, essential ingredients and sourcing them, information about some local drinks and when they are served and some basic Turkish phrases. Everyone at S&S has the same infectious, positive attitude. This is Chef Anne preparing a smoked eggplant which will become part of the eggplant mash the lamb stew (Sultan’s Delight) was served on.String & Salts AnneSome of the other dishes we covered were, gozleme (I was so involved I forgot to take photos), Hiro’s Boregi, a beautiful pastry dish made with of layers of pastry, greens, spices and a egg/yoghurt custard.

Hiro's BoregiThe baked result! This was one of my favourite foods in Turkey.Hiro's boregiThere was also a variety of salads,   carrot dip (look at that focussed attention!),Turkish Carrot dipSultan’s Delight  or lamb stew cooked on the stove top and served in a traditional Turkish Clay pot.Sultan's DelightSkewering the marinated chicken,Chicken kebapswhich was cooked over charcoal in the back alley. The charcoal imparts such an authentic flavour, not to mention the ambiance it creates!Charcoal chicken kebapOnce everything came together we sat around the communal table and shared String & Salt’s sensational Turkish Table Feast.My Turkish TableOf course we had to finish with a delicious and extremely easy version of rolled almond and pistachio baklava. Definitely a repeat to be made of this.Rolled baklavaString & Salt is where we purchased our brand new Falcon oven so it’s  fitting that on the same day as this class I baked bread for the first time in the new oven. Few things to learn after using a pretend oven for so long but I don’t think there will be any issues by the look of these!IMG_8622Thanks everyone @stringandsalt sensational!

 

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In My Kitchen, July or August?

Although our lovely IMK hostess Maureen is recuperating and no ‘formal’ IMK is in place for a while, there are quite a few of us who are still enjoying doing a post under the IMK banner. We wish Maureen well and hope she is back on deck very soon. Here is my ‘In My Kitchen’ for July or is it August? I never quite know if its about what happened the previous month or what’s on the upcoming horizon.

My very first In My Kitchen post was a little rundown on what limited facilities we were coping with and plans for the future vision. I am pleased to say we have come a long way (over a long time) in finally establishing a good working kitchen.

We recently travelled to Greece & Turkey and these are a couple of things I brought back as momentos. From L to R, a second-hand tap just like the ones you see on all the ablution washing stations on Turkey outside Mosques and call to prayer points. This will end up in the garden somewhere and I love it! Then there is a clay pot, some  assorted rolling pins and paddles that are traditionally used for transferring the delicious gozleme to the cooktop and off. I’m finding them very handy as little bread peels. See how well they blend in with the gorgeous bench tops?

Turkish souvenirsOn the right is a clay dish that is used for placing on the top of dolma or dolmades as they cook. Does the same job as a plate but I like the memory of buying it at the Çanakkale market. The shiny little dish below is for presenting little treats to guests, things such as Turkish delight, small pastries etc. I found a set of these in a catering store in Istanbul for 18TL (the set) and in the tourist spots I noticed they were selling for 25TL each. Happy with that find. I have a little bowl full of Ouzo lollies that we bought in Greece ready for anyone that takes a fancy.

Ouzo lollies I  did manage to bring a couple of Turkish plates back. I must admit I was a little disappointed with the shopping opportunities. At the limited places we visited, things were either cheap, or really expensive and not what we considered great quality or value. Love the colours of this plate and it reminds me of the hot air balloon ride we did at Cappadocia. IMG_8636This hand painted plate is very different but I just adore it.Turkish platesIn My Kitchen is the first loaf of bread baked in the new oven. This was baked Saturday and it’s now Wednesday and I had a slice tonight with just a smear of butter. Delicious!IMG_8659The view of cupboards (actually they are all drawers) in the island where the sink and dishwasher is going.IMG_8647New oven and a few more drawers. Why can’t anyone put labels on straight?IMG_8646 Below is the last of the makeshift kitchen. The ‘toy oven’ has been relegated to the shelves and most of the other stuff on this set of shelves will be going to the op shop or chucked. My bread books will be displayed onnsome shelves beside the chimney and the bread ‘trolley’ will probably sit in the chimney alcove.

IMG_8656 The existing wash up area is about to become a thing of the past (hallelujah!) Those beer bottles are not my breakfast dishes but some I tipped old sauce out of while clearing things out.IMG_8655I have an impending sense of being clean and organised, I like that!IMG_8653So, what’s in your kitchen this July? Or is it August?

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We have a real oven!

I had convinced myself I wouldn’t fall into the trap of starting to use the kitchen until it was completely finished. Who was I kidding? With plumber son still away on his honeymoon, we won’t be able to have the plumbing or gas works connected but I just couldn’t resist the opportunity of having the power connected to the oven so I could see if it was a win or if I would regret my choice and ‘bone up’ to living with it.

Our ever reliable electrician Amador from Safety 1st Electrical understands my passion for cooking (and I’m sure would love a few more loaves of sourdough) was more than happy to accommodate me and hook the electrics up so I could crank the new oven up. My first impression when seeing the clock light displayed was , “well at least that works”! We powered up ‘the beast’, let it go for about an hour to burn off any residual factory nasties while I was trying to work out what to cook as the first test.

Falcon FX professional ovenI had just mixed a batch of bread dough so decided  on making some sourdough muffins with the residual starter.  I didn’t really have a recipe in mind, but I knew the banana bread muffins I made a while back were good and I wanted (needed) to use up some berries that were in the freezer.

We have a winner! I was so impressed with the even temperature of the oven, the easy understanding of the instructions and the fact the timer bell didn’t drive me nuts when it chimed. These are the muffins, made and baked within 45 minutes. They are delicious and I can’t wait to start trying so many more things. I’m especially excited that I will be able to bake items over the size of a pocket-handkerchief whenever I want! Recipe is below.

Soudough fruit muffinsSourdough Fruit muffins

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Making a dough proofer and more red lentil soup.

I have really struggled posting since we returned from our trip. This has resulted, I think,  from a combination of a few things. It is so flipping cold, wet and miserable here we just haven’t been doing a lot of work, there is an element of frustration that we are so close, yet so far away from completing the target  and I fear I just keep repeating the same old thing. I need a bit of a boost and motivation (or a return to the Mediterranean) I think.

Anyway, whinge over and here is what has been happening over the last few weeks.

BREAD-

I’ve been having fun playing around with a few different concepts in relation to mixing, proving and using different flours. Because it has been so cold it is difficult to find a spot with a fairly consistent temperature to prove my dough. I have previously investigated buying a dedicated proofer but they are ridiculously expensive for what they are and the scrooge in me refuses to fall in to that black hole. Also, with baking for just ourselves, a few family and friends, it doesn’t really matter if the consistency varies a little between each batch and management of time can be adjusted to suit. Anyway, I thought I’d have a go at creating something that if really necessary, I could use. My initial experiment comes in the form of a lizard/reptile heat pad that I bought for $6.00ish (including postage) from eBay.

Reptile heat padIt has a temperature dial  and is only 5 amps so won’t use much energy. It didn’t come with an Australian plug but a quick fit of one of our travel plugs and we were off and running.

I put the mat, dough and a jug of water (to keep humidity levels up) in under a plastic storage box and monitored the temp over a few hours.

DIY prooferIt seemed to work really well, but next time I will put the bannetons on a cake rack as it did show signs of being a bit too warm on the base of the dough. I will probably use a tub that isn’t as high too. Quite happy with the result though for the first test. Temp got up to about 23 over an hour.

Bread prooferThe next experiment was using some new Teflon Baking sheets/wraps. As most of you know I’m a bit of an ‘anti-waste’ freak and Tammy from over at Gippsland Unwrapped posted about these sheets a few month ago. Because I’m baking in a cast iron pot and not on a stone, I need to use baking paper every time I bake bread. There is a wide selection of better ethical and environmental choices to make in selecting baking paper but I thought I’d try these sheets.

Teflon baking sheetThey certainly moulded to accommodate the pan quite well and they baked in my tiny little oven set to the max without any obvious issues. I haven’t researched issues such as embodied energy or outgassing but I’ll get to that later. The bread baked well but seemed to have more moisture trapped on the base than I would normally get.

IMG_8538It certainly didn’t create an issue bad enough to stop us enjoying some fresh bread with calamari, a home made tartare style sauce and a fresh salad made with lettuce from the garden, roasted capsicum and red onion drizzled with olive oil and red wine vinegar.

IMG_8534 I find store bought tartare sauce awful and home made is usually  loaded with mayo, so I adapted by mixing, greek yogurt (app 3/4 cup, maybe a generous 1/2 cup), a generous tablespoon of mayo, 1tblspn of dijon mustard, 2-3 gherkins finely chopped and about a tablespoon of capers finely chopped. S&P and mix all together, add a squeeze of lemon and it’s done. So much nicer and I would think healthier than store bought. I tend to judge a pub dining room by whether or not they make their own sauces and condiments. It takes only a minute and adds so much flavour to the meal. This lunch was with our daughter and our gorgeous grandson who turned 6 months old last week. It’s great that he is now old enough to sit up at the table in a high chair so he can get used to sharing the ‘family gathering’ food fest that will certainly be a regular event. Look, he already loves the wooden spoon!

Last of tomatoesI picked these tomatoes and rocoto chilli from the greenhouse yesterday. I think this may very well be the last of the crop although there are flowers on the tomatoes up near the roof. I’m impressed  to have picked these and it’s nearly August. Don’t hold your breath for more to follow for a while.

String & Salt ChaiSunday morning chai. We started a winter tradition of making ginger tea after we returned from India about 3 years ago. It is a beautiful brew where you bring milk, cardamon pods and ginger to the boil  then add black tea allowing it to steep for a few minutes before pouring. We tasted the chai tea String & Salt (my favourite shop in Gippsland) sell at the Warragul Farmers Market and it was really nice, very similar to our Indian brew but with a few extra punches. They sell a pack that makes a 2 litre mix so you can keep having a hit over a few days. I might have to see if I can leave a couple of containers for refills rather than have the little plastic bags each time. They are so accommodating I’m sure we can arrange something.

Comparing Red Lentil Soup

The last red lentil soup post I did related to the Turkish Bride Soup Recipe I used in the Anatolia cook book.  I didn’t have red lentils for that but it didn’t change much except the colour. Well I’m all stocked up on red lentils again so today I tried a recipe from the book Turkish Fire by Sevkap Yuce. This recipe was so simple (even after my tweaking) and was absolutely delicious.

Red Lentil SoupRed Lentil Soup with Milk from Turkish Fire. Original recipe on left, my adaptation in brackets

1/3 c olive oil (drizzle to cover bottom of pot)

1 large onion diced (1 large white and 1/2 red onion chopped)

1 Tablespoon flour

1 tablespoon tomato paste (used a bit more)

1/2 cup red lentils

1 tablespoon pul biber (1 tablespoon kashmiri chilli flakes)

1 cup milk ( I omitted, using extra water)

(I also added 1 roasted red capsicum)

 

Sweat onion in oil in pan, add flour and tomato paste cook a few minutes. Add lentils, pul biber or chilli, 2 cups (3 in my case) water, roasted red capsicum and simmer until lentils are tender. I turned the heat off after about 15 minutes and let it sit until serving the next day.  Serve with a dollop of greek yoghurt, chopped parsley or herbs of choice and with crusty bread drizzled with olive oil and rubbed with garlic. I LOVED this soup!

Finally, a kitchen update.

I know, this has been going on and on and on and on for so long even I’m sick of it. The good news is that the bench tops have arrived and they are simply stunning. Can’t really see in this pic but believe me, they are great. They do need another coat of oil sealant but we love them. Cupboards are in (need a few more handles), oven is in place (not connected), floors are done and it is looking great. That vacant wall on rear left is where my 1920’s dresser that I’m restoring is going to go. Jobs left to do are:

  • Decide on and install a rangehood (hardest thing in whole project)
  • Finish restoring mantlepiece, paint and re-fit it to chimney.
  • Display shelves (same timber as benches) in alcove on right of chimney
  • Finish painting windows
  • Tiling (minimalistic)
  • Fit dishwasher and sink plumbing, connect gas & power to cooker (honeymoon son’s jobs)
  • Enjoy!

IMG_8510This photo taken 12 months ago of the wall where the cooker now sits between 2 windows and the room extended. God, I get the jitters when I think of how much work stripping that chimney has taken. Not to mention all the other jobs as well.IMG_2242-001 The photo below shows the old back of the house which was removed and the rear of the house extended. That old wall lines up to about 1/2 way along the island bench and where the new second window is. IMG_3114 Has it been worth it?

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A couple of favourite winter things.

There are two things I love to do in winter, eat soup and to listen to live music at our friends shed when they hold a home concert.

The soup is easy, almost anything can be thrown together to create a great soup but we do love a good pumpkin soup. We were graciously given some pumpkin by friends at the end of their harvest and tonight I used this to make a batch of pumpkin soup. This pumpkin looks exceptionally nice and I have saved the seed from it with the intention of having a much more successful season next year.IMG_0543-001Served with greek yoghurt and flat leaf parsley and toasted pumpkin seed sourdough.IMG_0546-001 To make this pumpkin soup I keep it simple,

  • 2 onions, (or leek)
  • 2 tspns curry powder
  • 2-3 teaspoons grated ginger
  • however much chopped up pumpkin you want to use (4 large handfuls as a guide tonight)
  • stock or sometimes I just throw in a packet of chicken noodle soup.
  • enough water to cover what’s in the pot.

Chop the lot up, put into a pot and bring to boil, simmer until pumpkin is cooked to soft and mushy then blitz with a stick blender. You can add coconut milk if desired but I prefer not to.

Music warms the cockles.

The other delight is taking the time to just sit and listen and appreciate live music in a cosy setting. Blues and country is normally on the playlist on these afternoons but it really doesn’t matter. Great people, cosy atmosphere and wonderful local music. When the day is blustering outside and rain is starting to fall, you can just mellow out a little and get the heart beat back into sync.

IMG_0539-001

IMG_0541-001Warm and snuggly at the shed!

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