In My Kitchen February 2017

Well we are back and rearing to go! A shout out to Liz over at Bizzy Lizzy’s Good Things for taking the time to hook us all up. Head on over and have a peek at some amazing kitchen happenings from around the world.

So what have we got going on this month? Bread, bread and lots more bread I’m afraid. I have become quite obsessed with trying as many different grains, methods and styles as I can. I have set up a Facebook Page too hoping to get more ‘local’ sourdough lovers to share their stories, learn more about making sour dough and offering tips for local suppliers of baking supplies like flour and equipment. If you are interested or have a friend who is interested tell them to come and join in. Sourdough Baking Australia & New Zealand is a closed group so people need to ask to join or be invited by Members. Some of my recent baking highlights have been; barley bread,barley breadSome home milled wholewheat blend.bestand I’ve been working on mastering the making of sourdough croissants. sweet-starter-croissantsThe finished croissant.Sourdough croissantsWhile doing some research on dough lamination, I stumbled across this youtube video  where the chef uses what he calls a ‘tarp’ for rolling his pastry. I had never heard of this concept so off to the Google Research Centre and I discovered some really interesting information about the benefits of using a pastry cloth to toll pastry on. Seemed too good to be true, so off to Spotlight for fabric and using these basic instructions I made a couple of pastry cloths. I found them to be everything they were touted to be and I love the fact many mentioned that they had their family ‘hand-me-downs’ from mothers and grandmothers tucked away in their drawers. I made a double layered large one and 2 smaller single layer ones, but after using them I think the double is much better, so I’ll just fold the smaller ones when I use them. I only dusted flour twice while rolling out these croissants. No sticking whatever. pastry-clothOf course I had to have croissant for breakfast didn’t I? Here are a couple of the finished items along with a cup of tea made in the delightful cup with a china infuser and hat that I was given for my birthday. The spotty pots are a couple of my favourites too.tea-croissants The little cap on the infuser acts as a drip tray when you remove the leaves from the cup and as a lid for the cup when not in use. I love it.infuser-cupWe have finally been able to hang some pictures that were stored and this photo is one my nephew (who is a very talented photographer) had at his exhibition. She is a peanut-seller at the market in Vietnam and he really captured the essence so well it came home with us. Unfortunately my photo doesn’t do it justice at all!peanut-lady When I left work our Parents & Friends Association very kindly gave me a voucher for my favourite shop in Warragul, String & Salt.  String & Salt  have an excellent selection of quality homewares and cooking equipment, they run some incredible cooking classes and they also sell Falcon Ovens which is where we bought ours. The key factor to being a delight to deal with, is their level of service, not easy to find these days and they shine. Anyway, I used my voucher to get this gorgeous little Burgon & Ball Trug. We are starting to get a run of tomatoes coming in, not much else I must say, I know I’ve not been as attentive this season but things just seem sparse. Neighbours and friends are all saying the same so I’m glad it isn’t just my neglect.Burton Ball TrugThen finally In My Kitchen this month is something a bit different. I’m finding undoing the car seat, high chair and pram clips are causing excruciating pain to my dodgy fingers so I went back to the Google Research Centre and found this little thing called a buckle bopper.  You rest it in the palm of your hand and the knobby bit pushes in the clip and releases it.buckle-bopper It was ridiculously expensive for what it is and there are no Australian sellers so postage was also up there but if it reduces pain levels it’s not too bad.

So that’s my lot for “In My Kitchen” this month, I’m popping over to Liz’s now

for a peek into some of the others.

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Lots of Up-cycling going on here.

Now that we have pretty much got the main components of the exteno done, we can focus on sorting through all of the things that have been in the shed, in the ‘Dentist’s and in boxes throughout the house. As we cleared through each area I insisted we be ruthless and tag things to go, repair or keep if they had a good purpose. Determined to minimise landfill, we eliminated quite a bit through a local buy/swap/sell site and the couple of items left from that will probably go to the op-shop. We placed a couple of bits on the nature strip and they miraculously disappeared, the op shops have received a large amount and we are left with the things that needed to be repaired. All of these have been moved into the room we used as the temporary kitchen and I’m working through them one at a time. Fly-screens, piano stool, old wooden train, cupboard, a toy cradle and a few other bits and pieces. This chair is a folding directors chair that Mr ATMT’s grandfather made. It is beautiful, comfortable and very special to us. I’ll re-glue the joints, paint it and make some new covers. These original covers were made complete with hessian backing and I am excited about giving life and purpose to it. We also have a couple of card tables made by Grandpa hiding in this pile.

grandpas-dir-chairFor my first repair task I tackled this cute little cupboard which I believe was a chamber pot cupboard. It has been in Mr ATMT’s family for years, he can remember it being at their holiday house in Sorrento and moved to the replacement house at Blairgowrie where it was used for toiletries in the bunk room bathroom. I forgot to take a pre photo but it was pretty awful. Stained mustard yellow, rusty latches some ply wood missing. I wasn’t prepared to invest a lot of time or energy on it, so a sand, some filler and a couple of coats of paint and I think it will serve as a bedside table well.  I couldn’t bring myself to straighten the latches!potty-cupboardI found this old woollen army blanket that certainly looks like it has seen better days but the area out from the centre is quite good so I’ll make some pot holders from it. Wool is a great thermal barrier so I’m hoping they will work well for the hot, bread baking pots. The scrap will go into the compost or somewhere in the garden that needs some weed suppression. moth-eaten-blanketI had a cake stand that the stand had separated from the base so a bit of glue and it’s as good as new. This is it having a bit of ‘gentle weight’ applied while the glue dries.

img_0694Then there was Mr Squiggle, Mr Squiggle is one of Australia’s iconic childrens TV programs that aired for many generations.  This Mr Squiggle was a much loved toy of our older son and  now that we need to have a few things on hand to entertain our grandson, I thought I’d see how he came up with some surgery.  He was in a sad and sorry state, legs off and his innards suffering a serious prolapse, his head attached by a thread and he was generally in need of some TLC.

img_1801mr-squiggle-pre-surgeryimg_1802

With some stitching (I’m telling myself is as good as a Japanese embroiderer), a bath, a hair cut and a rubdown he is back in action. I should do a red tie just to finish him off. You know I’m not going to let him anywhere near the toy box now, don’t you!mr-squiggle-post-surgery Here are a couple of items not in our room of repair but acquired from the op-shop.

A Phil & Teds stroller (I’m told that is a good brand). It makes life easier for everyone not having to unload and transport half the house when we have Charlie so I went to the op shop on the odd chance and bingo! $20.00 later, a good go over with the pressure cleaner and we are set. A little bit of sun fading but everything else is fine. This came complete with a baby carrycot, extra seat so you can fit another child in, rain cover, sunshade cover, bag and it is great to handle. Thank you to whoever took this to the op-shop.

strollerI also stumbled on this book at the op-shop. What are the chances? Our grandson is Charlie and their dog is Baxter. Spooky…………had to get it!

baxter-book

baxter-charlie-book

Then there is the most dramatic up-cycling of all. We have moved the room affectionately know as ‘The Dentist’. It was either move it or lose it, as you looked directly out to it from the new kitchen window. By moving it we can create a courtyard area than we can access from the kitchen verandah, keep the history and still get to use the room for whatever we want.

dentist-after-move That concrete in the middle is the original steps into the room. It has opened up the space wonderfully and I am thrilled. future-courtyard       A couple of chains, a couple of jacks, a few logs, someone who knows what they are doing and snap!

img_0654 img_0659

We have managed to dispose a lot and thankfully not to landfill. If any of the repair jobs become bigger than I envisaged they will be re-assessed and dealt with accordingly.

I am delighted with being able to keep the dentist room. I can see this being an integral part of the landscape and not just a room in the wrong place!

Now, if only I can come up with a use for THAT crystal.

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New FB Sourdough Support Page.

Just putting it out there that I have started a Facebook Closed Group for anyone wanting to learn, share and chat about sourdough bread and other sourdough baked goods. I find that the big overseas groups are brilliant but it is difficult when ingredients and equipment they discuss are not available locally. Seasons and use of fahrenheit too is also a challenge, we are always arse about (or they are).

So anyway, I plan to try to post some weekly tips for anyone starting out, put some links for really good reliable information and have people share their baking results and ask questions. Although target audience is Australia and New Zealand, others are welcome to request to join. So, if you know of anyone who may be interested in learning more or sharing knowledge please pass on my link.

 

Facebook group is Sourdough Baking Australia and New Zealand, link is https://www.facebook.com/groups/SDaustralia/

bestThanks, Maree.

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Trifle. Or is it just a cake in a glass bowl?

It all started a few weeks ago when I was clearing out cupboards and posted on Instagram and Facebook a call for ways to use some old crystal bowls I have and am never likely to use for a number of reasons.

CrystalThat horrible dilemma when you really don’t like something, you can’t imagine ever using them again but they do have sentimental value and aren’t worth anything to sell. Some have been wedding or engagement presents and  have emotional ties.  If I gave them away I would prefer they go to someone I know or who is part of the family. I don’t usually have any issues discarding things I cannot see value in keeping, but these have worked their way into and under my skin. I think it stems from being brought up thinking these things were ‘the good’ stuff only to be used for special times and they demonstrated we weren’t poor when people came to dine.

I had many interesting responses on what to do with them or how to repurpose them, ideas such as creating some garden ornaments similar to these,

crystal-garden-ornaments

or a bird feeder like this,

crystal-bird-feeder

or even as pretty vessels for burning tea light candles in.

crystal-tea-light-holder

There was even a suggestion some could be used as the missile for the annual smashing  of our Christmas gingerbread house (cheers Stuart). That, I wasn’t going to entertain! Glass in the grass is not good when you don’t wear shoes.

Then came the trifle ideas, many voted that the larger bowl was definitely a candidate for trifle to be served in. My niece is a really good cook and sent me a couple of links for some nice sounding recipes, one was a limoncello one that looked pretty good. Celia reminded me she had a recipe on her blog that was easy as well as delicious and Francesca said she had a whole book dedicated to trifle and would like to send it to me. The selection in this book has to been seen to be believed, I will revisit this in the future I think.

img_0678I’m not convinced about trifle, childhood memories still make me gag at the thought. I hate custard, not the good stuff like creme pat, but the packet or store-bought goo labelled as custard. I also have memories of soggy peaches stuck into horrible, grainy  cake that tasted like sawdust. I do remember though that I liked the jelly and cream, especially if it was a nice dark jelly like port wine etc. Convinced by my cheer squad that a good trifle is great and I should go for it, I decided that my quest was to create a trifle to share with guests at our Australia Day BBQ. The research began and I must have looked at 100’s of recipes but could not decide on a finalist. I started to see the pattern of ingredients emerge so I winged it, convinced we would end up with yet another soggy, grainy mess.

Basically I was making a black forest cake in glass bowl.

This was my concept,

  • Layers of chocolate cake which had been sprinkled with booze which is traditionally kirsch in a BFC.
  • Thin Layer of  chocolate mousse
  • Layer of cherry jelly made using the juice from canned cherries and a splash of booze
  • Layer of black cherries
  • layer of whipped cream

Pretty simple  really. So this is how I did it, I made a jelly using the juice from the 2 cans of black cherries thickening it with corn flour and throwing in a splash of rum.

I made a simple chocolate mousse but thinned it down slightly so it wasn’t too thick. This was the alternative to custard part of the creation.

Annabelle Langbein’s Ultimate Chocolate Cake was baked  in 2 small round tins rather than one big springform tin.

Cream whipped, what can go wrong?

My cake was cut and ready to start assembling the layers in the bowl  but not unexpectedly, I had not been able to get Kirsch at any of the bottle shops. My next option was Cherry Brandy but no, not available either. I considered making cherry juice but gave that a miss. I took a leap of faith and decided to use some white rum as we had a supply of it in the cupboard. So here we have my Black Forest Rum Chocolate Trifle.

But look at the bowl………………..please ignore the creamy smudge. I know you wouldn’t notice it if I’d used the cut crystal but that’s karma I guess.

Chocolate Black forest Trifle After all of that I just couldn’t bring myself to use the crystal. I just don’t like it but I do think it might make a nice bird feeder! This was a winner with all of our guests, people could take a small spoonful portion or dig in and take as much as wanted. The rum was an absolute winner and I think that will be repeated if I make this again. There was no graininess, just boozey, chocolatey, creamy, rich yumminess. Now, a couple of days later the flavour and texture has improved even more. Verdict by Mr ATMT is that it was a cake in a glass bowl, a delicious cake in a glass bowl, but not a trifle. My internal psyche must have overruled I think.

Here are a few of our Australia Day BBQ snaps. Beautiful afternoon, great people and some great food for sharing. As well as my Black Forest Chocolate Trifle I made a Pavlova and peeking in the background is a lammington roll that a friend brought along.DessertsI baked a selection of sourdough breads. From L to R, baguette, baguette, sesame loaf, tomato paste, thyme and feta, baguette, caramelised onion and parmesan loaf (DELICIOUS) and a roast tomato focaccia. I believe the focaccia was great but the vultures devoured it too quickly to sample.img_2247 I was going to say we are so lucky to have such a beautiful area to share these events with family and friends, but it is mostly due to some very hard work on our part to create this space. Australia Day 2017

All worthwhile and we are lucky, very lucky.

 

 

 

 

 

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So, 2017. What is planned?

We knew 2016 was going to be a big year and it was. Our first grandchild (I cannot believe he turns 1 on Saturday), a wedding, an overseas trip to Greece and Turkey, our exteno close to finished. In what was an unplanned and somewhat hasty move I decided to pull the plug on a job that was sending me nuts. Best decision I could have made and most importantly, yes, I have a kitchen. A kitchen with everything in the same room, an oven bigger than a pocket handkerchief and a space that is a delight to work and entertain in.

img_1617  Consequently, I find that I am spending a huge amount of time ‘playing’ in this new space. I do struggle some days trying to justify my ‘playtime’, but then remind myself that it has been a very long time since I have had the opportunity to really enjoy being in the kitchen. I love the fact I don’t have to get anxious about fitting whatever I decide to make into a tight timeline but can cruise and enjoy. That is a little hard to get used to but I’m practicing a lot at getting it right!

Because of this my vegetable garden has also been a bit neglected but things seem to be taking care of themselves pretty well considering. A bit of water has been splashed around on those really hot days but the wicking beds seem to be doing their job well. The basic food stuffs are growing  and starting to bear,  tomatoes, capsicum, eggplant, cucumber, pumpkins, chills, beans and herbs. I must add some salad greens next week. I made this little video doing a tour of the veggie patch.

 

So what are the plans for 2017?

Painting is definitely up there. The windows, both new and old all need painting. Mr ATMT is planning on cracking on with painting the outside of the house and that is huge.

We are heading to New Zealand for  4 weeks a little later in the year so I am looking forward to eating (and drinking) our way around both islands at our own leisure.

As always there will be tinkering in the garden with setting up a couple of new areas, moving an old building (the visiting dentist’s room) to create a courtyard off the kitchen and tarting up the front yard a bit.

Bread-lots more bread! I really want to focus on developing more and more skill with sourdough baking. I am concentrating on milling my own grains, using lower hydration starters and creating more baked goods using sourdough. Things such as muffins, pastries, crackers (dry biscuits) and more. These are some sourdough croissants,

15936863_10155014395349455_8363030558073077763_oThese loaves are made using my home milled whole wheat and blending it with organic white flour.15800610_10155009828704455_2292718470782370349_oI have so many friends who want me to do some classes that I need to plan and work out the logistics of how this can happen.

I also want to get back into cheesemaking. I won a few awards at the Red Hill Show many years ago and have done intensive study at Gilbert Chandler University in Werribee. We dug out these old awards when moving ‘stuff’ out of the dentists room we are moving.cheese-awardsI stopped making cheese for a couple of reasons, due to arthritis I had undergone joint fusion in my fingers so I was a bit nervous about lifting 20 litre containers of hot liquid without incident, it was overtaking our home (the old home), kitchen, lounge-room and garage and the family were having to live around all of the paraphernalia and then there was the change in health regs and it became increasingly difficult to source a milk supply from local dairy farmers. This last point is going to be a challenge still, as many of the dairy farmers have opted out of dairying due to the hammering they got from major supermarkets squeezing the cost down to a point where it was just not viable. I would never be able to sell my cheese but is a process I loved doing and friends and family that ate the results loved it. Ah, our nanny state……. one wonders how Europeans have survived for so long.

These things along with spending time with our delightful little fella will take up more time than I imagine now. I might fit in a bit of work too, who knows what the wind will blow in?

 

 

 

 

 

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Another Gingerbread House bites the dust!

I was going to keep this as part of my “In My Kitchen” post, but we were so happy with the way this demolition went I’m doing a separate post as my farewell to 2016.

As many of my followers know, it has become a tradition to come up with all sorts of weird and whacky ways to demolish the gingerbread houses I have been making as part of Christmas since 1982.

We have had lots of ‘smashing good’ fun over the years but it has been especially nice now we have the ability to record the ‘smashing’  as we can revisit the memories at anytime. I’ve spent a bit of time viewing old ‘smashings’ and it is a great trip down memory lane seeing everyone so young, all together for Christmas and  how things have changed and evolved over the years. I hope you enjoy this years smash, I’ve put it up from 2 different angles. We were particularly impressed with how the house landed almost back on the board. Our older son Cameron has been a key player over the years with leading the smash and he didn’t disappoint this year. We did leave plenty of clear space as a safety net for our little fella!

Gingerbread house 2017

Happy New Year and cheers to a great happy and safe 2017. Thanks for sharing your laughs, tips, stories and lives in 2016.

 

Maree

 

 

#gingerbreadhouse #family #tradition

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Christmas Eve Fare.

Christmas for me is about making time to get together with family and friends and celebrating how much we value having them in our lives. When I was little it was all about presents, although we were never as focussed on that as many families I knew. Usually just one or 2 special items and a couple of fillers.  I remember fondly the Christmas day gatherings of my family and my country cousins if they happened to be visiting for the season. I remember when sixpences were put in the pudding and there was a competition to see who accumulated the most value. I remember cherry spitting competitions and dangling pairs of cherries on your ears as earrings. I remember water fights and running under the sprinkler if it was hot. I remember mum stressing and chucking a wobbly the day dad threw out the pudding cloth. I remember being mesmerised by the beautiful tree lights, sitting or lying under them and just watching them sparkle. I still do this, I love sparkly Christmas tree lights!

Christmas tree lights We once again hosted a gathering on Christmas Eve for our friends and it was a great night. The aim of the night is to be very relaxed, to enjoy each others company and I like the opportunity to make a few treats for us to eat. A few of the dishes we had this year were,

Dumplings! Ever since I read Celia’s post about dumplings that led me to the Dumpling Sisters site, I now regularly make dumplings from scratch. They are so easy to make, a little time-consuming but easy and they taste so much better than the bought ones. I’ve posted about these a few times but I can’t help myself, they are so good and were a big hit on Christmas eve.

Dumplings

Dumplings with ginger soy dipping sauce

Dumplings

Dumplings, my pleating isn’t too bad considering.

Another dish I made was Midye dolma or stuffed mussels. I tasted these when we went to Turkey and have wanted to have a go at recreating them ever since we returned. You can find street food sellers right along the waterfront in Turkey and they sell thousands of them. The mussels are stuffed with a mixture made from rice, currants and spices then cooked and served with a squeeze of lemon juice. I used the recipe from Ozlems Turkish Table and they were a hit. I have to add though, it is no mean feat cleaning and opening 60 odd mussels to stuff with dodgy hands, I have a whole new level of respect for the vendors in Turkey! My hands are still suffering and sadly don’t think these will be a regular item.

Midye dolma-Anatolian stuffed mussels

Midye dolma-Anatolian stuffed mussels

I made some mini sourdough croissants and filled them with ham and cheese and served them warmed through, very nice and definitely a repeat again item. I used the sourdough croissant recipe from Shipton Mill and reduced the cut croissant size to 7-8 cm by 15 cm and they were just right for finger food size.

Mini sourdough croissantsI also made some mini sourdough ‘baklavants’, croissants with a baklava style filling and a honey and rosewater glaze but they didn’t make it out and are now in the freezer for another time. We did have a few on Christmas Day with breaky.baklavantOf course there was a couple of platters of general nibbles, marinated mushrooms, oven roasted cherry tomatoes, focaccia and other assorted sourdough bread (oops, no pics apart from the tiny snippet front right below).img_0538 And of course our favourite Indian Pakora made using the recipe from Annabel Langbein’s Free Range Cook Book. These would have to be one of the best vegetarian party foods you can present. I served them with a yogurt and mint sauce made simply by blending yogurt and mint together. These are now a much loved tradition every year and it is always a hit.

Pakora

Pakora

It was a delightful Christmas Eve, our little fella decided he loves spicy stuffed mussels (and everything else really). Very clever of him to work out you can use a mussel shell as a spoon too!img_0560 img_0571We thoroughly enjoyed the night and were very well behaved which meant we were able to enjoy Christmas Day as well! I’ll do a short post on that next. Unfortunately we didn’t get to catch up with everyone we had hoped to but that will be addressed in the New Year. I hope everyone else has had the pleasure of having such a relaxed and enjoyable Christmas, it’s been lovely having a kitchen to work in!

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