In my kitchen-Finally!

For those that don’t get regular updates to my posts, for the last four years I have endured living with no real kitchen, no hot and cold water connected at the same outlets, bucketing water for dishes, no real oven, no proper storage and have been using the gas camping cooker as a range. I’m not complaining, luckily I am a very resourceful person and have managed quite well even down to baking our sourdough bread weekly in either the ‘Sunbeam Pizza Bake N grill bench top oven’ or on the gas BBQ.

This was the space when we first moved in to this house, there was no cold water to the sink, only hot. The cupboards, floor and wall were all rotten and stunk!

Kitchen 1We started our ‘exteno’ this time last year, it involved moving the existing wall out another 6 or so metres, plus there so much other work my mind starts to glaze over just thinking about it. Check out my blog for full details, I shudder at remembering it in detail! This shot shows things in early progress stage.

Kitchen layout This is what our dishwashing facilities were in February this year. That was fun, as we had ours sons wedding and houseful of guests! Kitchen sink removed This is the same corner where just today we brought in the antique dresser/sideboard that I have been working on restoring over the last few weeks. The unit had been coated with polyurethane that gave it an orange ‘glow’ and I was adamant that I wanted it back to its raw timber state. I have dressed the timber with Feast and Watsons carnauba wax which is a natural blend of beeswax, citrus oils and some other wonderful smelling goodies. This has been a labour of love, my hands hurt like hell but I don’t care, I love it! sideboardThis is the sort of project where you need to know when to stop, if you are into things being pristine and ‘neat’ then these projects would leave you disappointed. I’ve yet to put the handles on and the hinges need a tweak or two, but overall I am so happy with this project. Notice the chimney has also been stripped and that there are real benches in the middle of the room (albeit covered with bread making ‘stuff’). I now need to fill this beauty with some very special items. When I was about 16/17, I went with my then boyfriend to pick up some second hand golfing stuff his father had bought from the ‘Trading Post’ (yes, pre buy/swap/sell days) and this lovely old lady was getting rid of a beautiful Royal Doulton dinner set. Well this dinner set has moved with me, been boxed for years and only once or twice seen the light of day as I knew one day I would have an old dresser where I could display it. I have no idea why I bought it, but I thought the $8.00 she was asking wasn’t such a bad investment. Complete with soup bowls that have little handles and everything else. Don’t think it’s valuable, but I am very excited about seeing it out from the boxes and realising my dream that ‘one day’ has come .img_9508Tonight was the first night we could cook outside, ON THE NEW DECK! There are just too many things being achieved all at once now, I don’t know where to start. Hope you like the lovely stand the Weber Q is on! This pic is from the new deck looking back into the kitchen space. The boys are debating whether the light fitting over the island bench that moves in the breeze because its not tightened should stay on the angle. It’s one of those bottle of red discussions!img_9519-001I’ve been turning out some pretty impressive sourdough bread,img_0814 And because I have a real stove top, I can take my Indian Karahi out of the shed andimg_0827create meals like this beautiful Indian vegetarian matar paneer curry,img_0828 or this cumin stew which is a recipe from the Anatolia cook book. I have returned this to the library and forgot to write the recipe down, but it was lovely, strong flavour but lovely.Cumin stewI made Turkish boregi (water pastry) which is really a light style of lasagne. I needed to use up some things in the fridge so this is what it tuned into. This was really easy, I will add the recipe later this week. A great picnic, holiday dish.img_0841 img_0833I know there is so much else to report “In My Kitchen” since the necessary hiatus it has undertaken. Thanks to Liz at Bizzy Lizzie Good Things for picking up the reins and supporting us all in sharing what is ‘In My Kitchen’ every month. I never thought I’d see the day when I could actually say I had a kitchen. Still a few things to do, range hood, display shelves, splash backs behind the benches and stove, painting the windows etc but we are pretty much there. This time last year the kitchen benches were still standing as the framework of the old rooms, covered in cobwebs and all sorts of other debris. I’m happy that we have retained the feel of the old house but the working components are clean an functional.img_9523

Posted in Bread, In My Kitchen, Renovation | Tagged , , , , , | 31 Comments


Today is officially my last day of being employed by the Victorian Department of Education & Training. I am not retiring (not quite at that magical age) but I have not been happy and felt that I needed some space to focus on directing my energy into areas I am positive about. Things like sustainability, food, bread making, environmental issues, waste management and of course grand parenting, painting and working on some much needed reno jobs. I am fortunate enough that our money man said we should be able to survive without relying on the soup kitchen, so why not?

So this afternoon, we had a little toast to my freedom of being able to choose which direction I want to take, while sitting in the back yard with one of the few glimpses of sun we have seen so far this Spring.  Watching the wattle birds and magpies shows we have come a long way from only seeing mynah and blackbirds on the block. Yes, the champagne bottle was carelessly placed onto the grass (chucked from the chair!).

champagne-bottleAfter the little toast ceremony I got stuck into working on stripping the hutch section of the antique dresser that will go into the kitchen. This unit is integral to a whole lot of other steps being able to proceed so I need to get it done.  This is me using the gurney to wash off the water based paint stripper I’d applied to remove the old polish and poly-urethane finish.img_4013This is the hutch after first stripping attempt. Lots of sanding, cleaning and waxing to be done yet.img_9446This is the base of the unit waiting to have the doors and drawers refitted. I’m really happy with the result. I’ve used a Carnauba  Wax finish and it is lovely and smells wonderful with its citric and beeswax base.DresserThe doors done and waiting on the base unit to come into the kitchen. I really think this old dresser will bring a sense of history to the room and I’m very excited about it. The hutch I’m working on is on the rear right of this base unit.sideboard-bottomGlenda’s Orange MuffinsOrange MuffinsA couple of months ago Glenda from ‘Passionfruit Garden‘ posted a recipe for orange/lemon muffins and we also had a giggle about conquering Ikea and its complexities. I made Glenda’s recipe for the orange muffins this week and came to the conclusion that Glenda is a much neater and far more consistent baker than I. Her muffins looked perfect and as you can see mine are a bit all over the shop. Never mind, they still tasted great and the orange syrup that goes over them at the last minute just sets them off beautifully. This was the first baking apart from bread I’ve done in the new oven so I’m still getting to learn its foibles which thankfully aren’t too many.

So, here I am unemployed for the first time in 42 years. Feels GREAT!


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Weekend Wrap-Garden, Sustainable Living, Sourdough

I always feel as though I’ve taken the easy way out when I use ‘Weekend Wrap’ as a post title, but it really does sum up everything quite accurately for this post. I’ve touched on a little bit of everything this weekend, in the garden, sustainable living, sourdough bread and cooking.

Garden Wrap

We have several compost bins strategically placed around the yard, so that when they are full the contents can be spread easily. This, in theory is good, but because the wicking beds in the veggie patch needed a good topdressing, I had to use compost from the bin in the veggie patch as well as raid some from the bin in our Easterly garden bed.Compost-Geddye binThis compost bin sits  hidden (almost) and I used most of its contents topping up the wicking beds in the veggie patch and then spread the rest over this bed. We have relocated the bin a little further up the bed for the process to start over and will do the same again next year.Compost readyNeed a little something to quickly fill this fence space! I love the way the compost just oozes new life into the soil.Compost spreadThis is a barrow full of compost from the bin within the veggie patch. Sorry, the light is a bit harsh! The 4 barrows from this bin went to the rhubarb, potatoes, asparagus bed and garlic bed which will house the tomatoes in a few weeks. img_9353The potato bath filled up.img_9371Rhubarb that looks like it could take over the world!Make a caption!And the very obvious evidence as to why we should avoid single use plastic rears its head. This shows just how plastic stays intact in the process of composting. I try to avoid single use plastic, but it still sneaks into my life, sometimes invisibly. Interestingly, a fair chunk of this comes from ‘eco’ coffee cups.img_9380After shovelling all that compost I needed a little ergonomic break, so the hammock had its first workout for the season. It was a stunning day yesterday and everything was glowing in the garden.img_9384 img_9391 My brother-in-law gave me some native orchids last year and I was thrilled to see how this Dendrobium is settling in. I love these orchids and do a little ‘happy dance’ every time I look at the beautiful flowers stemming from it.img_9393

A bit of sustainable living.

I try to avoid single use plastic as much as possible and as hard as I try, I find it quite difficult getting local retailers to fill a BYO container or bag. I was thrilled when visiting the Yarragon market yesterday that the lovely people at “The Nut Bloke” were more than happy to accommodate me and put my purchases into my bags that have now been going for about 6 years with no signs of failing yet.Plastic free shoppingWhen we first started planting the garden out four years ago I put in a blood orange tree. Well this tree has struggled and struggled and I’ve kept up the vigil with TLC and lots of chook poo as a bonus. Well, this year we had a harvest, yes, a harvest. Might only be 1 orange but it is juicy, well-shaped and it has some ‘specks’ of blood in it. img_9410 Unfortunately, I think the tree will have to be moved due to a change of plans with the garden bed its in, so I celebrate this harvest in a completely appropriate manner. img_9417I can highly recommend blood orange in a glass of bubbly!

Sourdough Bread and Baking

For a long time I have read about using sourdough discard from feeding starter to make sourdough crackers (dry biscuits to me). I finally gave it a crack using the recipe from the King Arthur Flour Website. I collected discard for a couple of weeks (Kept in fridge), and as simple as mixing 1 cup flour, 1 cup sourdough discard, 1/4 cup butter, pinch salt and 2 tablespoons herbs we had wonderful crackers/dry biscuits.

img_9400I added finely chopped rosemary and would HIGHLY recommend giving this a try. I can see so many variations popping up in my mind for flavour variations of these.sourdough crackersMy bread bakes today was a high hydration/low inoculation (%starter) white loaf. Had to rush a bit to get into the oven but it was great. Light crumb, great crust (forget I dropped it from the oven at the halfway mark!). The loaf on the left is a little under-proofed due to the rush, the loaf on the right is a little over-proofed (and dented) because I had to go out.img_9404Crumb shot of the slightly under-proofed loaf. Still good enough to go with the plate of ‘nibbles’ we put togetherRainy Day Loafcrumb The weather had turned from Spring Glory back to Winter, so for the first time during the day this year, we lit the fire, sipped the bubbly with the blood orange fruit added, and feasted on the sourdough crackers (dry biscuits), soft sourdough bread, some King Island Brie, some French Blue, cheese, home-made pickled onions, some delicious prosciutto from Stellas Pantry in Warragul (they also fill BYO containers), a leftover grilled chorizo sausage sliced up and some Mersey Valley Tasty cheese. CompostAnd I didn’t even nod off after this indulgence! How was your weekend?

Posted in Baking, Bread, In The Garden, Recipes, sourdough, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Knockin’ up Some Gnocchi

I cannot believe how I coped for so long with our lack of decent cooking facilities. I’m starting to come out of the zombi zone and realise what I can start doing again. There was no way I would have contemplated making gnocchi in the old state of affairs. It worried me putting a big pot on the butane camping stove would end with an explosion. I could have done it on our heavy duty gas ring that I used for passata making etc, but really…..Well, worry no more! Tonight I made some potato gnocchi with a Napoli Style sauce. It was delicious. Gnocchi was light and fluffy and the sauce had a great depth to it as I’d let it simmer for a few hours. Shaping GnocchiFor the gnocchi I mixed together:

  • approx 1 kg Gippsland Gold potatoes that I’d baked in the oven. Peeled and put through the ricer (I turned the peels into baked chips by adding some oil and salt then returning to the oven to bake until crisp)
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 200g OO flour
  • nutmeg- about 2 teaspoons
  • Salt & pepper
  • Mixed herbs

All gently incorporated until it came together in a nice ball, not too sticky, not too wet, just right! I sectioned the dough and rolled each section into long strips about as thick as a pointer finger and then cut it into small pieces about 1.5-2cm long. I don’t have gnocchi rollers/boards and I find making the traditional line marks with a fork both time consuming and awkward for my dodgy hands, so I leave it plain. Once cut, I rested the pieces on a semolina floured board until ready to go in the pot.

For the sauce I put 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped carrot, 1 stick chopped celery, 2 bay leaves, 1 litre home made passata, parsley, S&P, a splosh of balsamic, a generous 1/2 cup of olive oil and about 700 mls water into a stock pot, bought to the boil with lid on then removed lid and let it simmer and reduce for a few hours. Lovely concentrated flavour and a silky feel as the oil had emulsified though the sauce. Served with some chopped parsley and parmesan shavings along with some fresh sourdough to mop up the excess juice.

Gnocchi with Napoli Suace

Ear Ear! Ere’s this weeks bread.

More practice with the new oven and I think I’m getting there. The oven is really hot and holds its temperature so well that I’ve needed to take that into account. This loaf is 20% rye at 70% hydration. Best colour I’ve had so far cooking in the new beast.

Rye sourdoughIt’s still raining here and it’s not likely to stop in the immediate future so I might get the chance to do some more training with the beast.

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Catch up post. Kombucha among other things.

Well it was time to do the taste test! My first batch of kombucha had been bottled for a second fermentation which I had read creates better carbonation, 2 bottles with some ginger added and 1 plain.

KombuchaI had read that kombucha can be pretty explosive on opening, so I decided to do this outside. Good decision!img_9281This is the trail of exploded KB over the side path. Haven’t seen something like that since the kids were home and had partied hard! I probably should have taken heed of the people who recommend refrigerating the bottles before opening. I’ll take that on board for the next batch.kombuchaThis what remained in the bottle after the explosive opening.Ginger kombuchaI can say though, I loved the flavour. The slight ginger overtones were wonderful and it was bubbly and refreshing.

For a wander through the patch.

It feels like an eon since I’ve played in my veggie patch, probably because it is. We are opening again for the food gardens section of Gardivalia this year so I had better pull my finger out and get things in order.

AsparagusThere are signs of life coming from the asparagus bed,Crimson broad beansthe crimson broad beans my brother-in-law gave me look so pretty,Broad beansand the normal ones are in flower too.coriander growingWhen I was sorting out moving stuff from the temporary kitchen to the new kitchen I threw some old coriander seed into this bed and hopefully it will keep growing. I don’t have much luck with coriander so fingers crossed.De la mal maison roseThe souvenir de la mal maison climbing rose I planted last year near the green house is in bud. I can’t wait to see these bloom, one of my favourites.leaf mold compostI spread one of the  leaf mold towers we had breaking down for the last 12 months over this bed, I now need to choose a spot for the next one to be placed. So easy just removing the wire and spreading the lush conditioner over the bed.


I’m finally getting a handle on how the new oven operates and made some oat porridge bread. Here is the oats cooking (on a real stove top!) waiting to cool to add to the dough.Oat porridge breadThis one of the 3 loaves I made. I used the recipe from the delightful Maurizio’s site and although once again, it’s not as pretty as his. I’m quite happy with the result. Oat Porridge sourdough breadCrumb shot! Not as fine as Maurizio’s but I didn’t mind.Crumb shot oat porridge sourdough.With spring in the air and me officially finishing work I hope to be able to get a bit more in control and do some finishing off of all our half started jobs.

Posted in Asparagus, Baking, Bread, Broad Beans, In The Garden, Preserving, Renovation, sourdough | Tagged , , , , | 16 Comments

Lunch at King Island

Last year for Mr ATMT’s ‘special’ birthday celebration we had organised  to spend the weekend in Melbourne with all the family  sharing an apartment, going out to dinner with a close-knit group of friends and then heading off on a hot air balloon ride over Melbourne at dawn. Well the apartment and dinner went well, but the balloon ride was cancelled due to being too windy. A voucher was issued that could be used within 15 months on any number of activities. Because we had done the AMAZING balloon ride in Turkey, we didn’t think one over Melbourne would have anywhere near the WOW factor so he chose flying to King Island in a DC3, having lunch and doing a mini explore of the area around Currie in the South West section of the island. King Island is a small island located in Bass Strait about halfway between Victoria and Tasmania’s main island. We headed to Essendon Airport which is about a 2 hour drive but being Sunday morning it didn’t quite take that long. Here is our transport for the day. DC3 “Gooney Bird”  a beautiful plane that first flew in 1935.

DC3 Gooney BirdThe interior complete with vinyl quilting and ashtrays in the seats.Inside the DC3King Island is renowned for its high quality dairy products, fresh seafood,  green pasture where cattle graze and fatten into quality beef and more recently a thriving kelp forestry/harvesting industry. Apologies for the following photos. It never works well taking shots through bus/plane/train/car windows, the weather was awful and I am struggling with a terrible ‘Man Flu”. Wonder I got out of bed to make the trip really! Sometimes though, you just get carried away with the moment and keep snapping away regardless and expect everyone else will have the same appreciation for your enthusiasm. Like here, where along with 3/4 of the wing you get a glimpse of Melbourne from about 1500 feet.DC3 over MelbourneOr here, where we are heading towards Port Philip Bay, the safe shipping harbour for freight entering Melbourne from overseas and where Melbournians spend many recreational hours at the safe beaches along the shoreline. IMG_9165 Or here where we have passed over “the Heads” and entered Bass Strait territory.Out the headsAt this point we hit quite a bit of cloud and didn’t have much to view until we landed at King Island.

One of the more recent industries to develop on KI is kelp harvesting. Apparently kelp is used in the food, textile and agricultural sectors. I don’t know a lot about this industry but the appeal to me is the sustainable and organic concept. I will be doing some reading to find out a bit more. This is a shot of some kelp that has been hauled from the beach drying in readiness to be put into a ‘chipper’ to make little kelp bits that are exported to wherever they need to go.Kelp harvest curing An example of some of the rugged beach near Currie.Currie Coast King Island with some pretty little coastal plants holding onto the banks.IMG_9235 King Island is renowned for its lobster, oyster and prawn quality. Some lobster pots near the harbour.Lobster pots This cute little boat house is known as ‘The Restaurant with no food’. Apparently it is available for parties, community use and anything else that is self-catered for. It sits beautifully overlooking the harbour.Restaurant without food After lunch, we headed off to the the King Island Cheesery and I was pleasantly surprised that they sold the cheeses at about half the cost of what we pay retail. So often you go to a direct outlet and it is so expensive it doesn’t warrant the hassle of carrying it, but that was not the case here. King Island Cheese selection You may wonder why there is no detail about the lunch that to us was to be an integral part of this day. Well in honesty it was awful. I suspect there may have been something going on in the background that led to things like canned chicken soup, tinned pudding, packet custard, store bought mayo and 1000 island dressing and gravox on the roast beef. I had only heard good things and seen good reviews about the restaurant so I’m going to be gracious and not do any naming and shaming here.  We did however have a lovely bottle of Pipers 9th Island Sauvignon Blanc and the oysters and prawns were fresh and lovely.

On our flight home, Mr ATMT paid a bit extra to sit in the ‘jump’ seat for our landing back at Essendon airport.

IMG_0742He got a birds eye view of the approach over the city and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.CockpitWe had a lovely day, the old DC3 is beautiful and I love the sound of the thump, thump, thump, throbbing of the engines. I found it extremely comfortable and would highly recommend it in a heart beat.

If however, you are hoping for a quality gastronomical experience, do some research first. Very disappointed. Once I have communicated with the organisers I will decide whether or not to comment on the establishment.

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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!

Posted in Baking, Bread, Chickens, Fruit, Preserving, Renovation, sourdough, Sustainable Living, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments