IMK February and reno update (Be warned, not much food!)

Well, I did say we were in for a big, busy year and that has proven to be true just in the first couple of weeks. We headed off to Pambula Beach for our annual dose of camping surf and sun, knowing full well we would have to return at some stage for the arrival of our first grandchild. Well, 4 nights into our holiday, the call came in so we secured camp and headed the 5&1/2 hour drive back to be rewarded with the beautiful ‘Charlie’ being born early the next morning. I think I was more stressed waiting for his arrival than I was going through the birth of our own children. A good outcome with a healthy baby, a healthy and happy mum and dad and some very thrilled grandparents. Here we are, the first hold of our first grandchild. Pretty darned special!

1st Hold

Three days later mum and Charlie, were sent home to make their own way in the world. Mr ATMT drove to Rosebud to pick up his 87 year old mum, brought her back to Newborough (2 hour drive each way) so she could see her 8th great grandchild then drove her back home again (he was a tad tired after all this driving). What a delightful experience it was to see her face as she welcomed this new addition to the family. As someone who never met a grandmother and barely remembers a grandfather it was quite a special moment seeing the four generations, mother & son, mother & son, together.

Not bad for 87 is she?

4 generationsIn My Kitchen-There is not much food cooking!

We have stripped everything out from the old kitchen space and commenced stripping the painted brickwork of the chimney. I trialled a sample of a product called Peel Away and we were very impressed with the test patch so here goes nothing. This product is reputed to be able to strip up to 30 layers of paint in one hit, doesn’t smell and is suitable for removing lead and asbestos based paint. The process is simply a matter of slathering the product on, covering it with the special paper they supply and waiting 24-48 hours for it to do its stuff. The paper is then peeled away and what’s left easily scrapes off and the surface can then be scrubbed clean. If repainting a neutraliser needs to be applied before painting.

Here is the spot we trialled on the front of the chimney under the mantle. Pretty impressed!

Peel AwayFirst section of the chimney brickwork treated with Peel Away. Coating applied and the special laminated paper placed over it waiting for it all to cook!

Peel Away Paint Removal SystemThe builders are back on site after the Christmas break and continue to excel in doing a sensational job. We came home from camping to having a roof on the new section, complete with keeping the old tin (with old telephone insulators) from the original gable and reinstalled it into the new gable. It’s little touches like this that keep the authenticity of the house intact.

IMG_6341We have ceiling windows installed that will become part of the new kitchen.

Ceiling windowsThe windows have been delivered and we are excited beyond words waiting for them to be fitted so the existing kitchen wall can be removed and I’ll get a real feel of what the space will be. In fact I had to start removing a few of the boards……………  just because I had to.

IMG_6367There have been a few little bits of food coming out from the toy oven and temporary kitchen. We had friends join us for a gathering on Australia Day so I made a tomato, cucumber, feta cheese and red onion salad.

IMG_6333 I served an assortment of breads. Potato and rosemary focaccia (toy oven), plain baguettes and herb baguettes (cooked in the barbecue) and 2 rye loaves (toy oven). All went down well with dukkah, cheeses and pickles.IMG_6331 I made a chocolate pavlova which made a nice change from the normal pav. I anticipated someone else would bring a pavlova and was right so it was nice to have a choice between normal and a chocky one. I topped this with freshly picked mulberries,  strawberries and lightly sweetened cream that I had grated chocolate into. Very nice.IMG_6335The mulberries were from our own tree and this is the first year we have had such a bountiful harvest. We think it may have something to do with the fact we set up a timed sprinkler  under the tree so all our pots would be watered while we were away. Boy, have we enjoyed mulberries! This is a 5 minute harvest-extra large coffee cups.

MulberriesBut look at what happens when you pick them.

IMG_0132Hence the warnings issued that when you plant a mulberry tree don’t plant near paths or areas where you will be troubled by staining. I love it!

Head over to Maureen’s at Orgasmic Chef to see what others are doing ‘In their kitchens’ this month, some may even have some food and goodies to share! Thanks for hosting Maureen.



Extended autolyse sourdough trial

Sourdough loaves using extended autolyse.Someone in one of my training classes (eons back when I was a Training Officer), once made the comment of “Geeze, the more you learn the more you realise you don’t know”.

This is a little how I feel about bread baking. The more experienced I become, the more I realise there are still millions of options as to how to create a loaf of bread that you are happy with. I think that’s the ultimate goal, finding a method and a recipe that gives you what you are happy with. Once you know the basics you can experiment with flours, different levels of hydration (how much water) so that the dough is more dense or has a more open crumb, add extras such as seeds, nuts, fruits, chocolate, spices, colours, it goes on and on. Of course the journey to get to find a loaf you are happy with can be a very long one indeed.

For our day-to-day bread, I am happy with a dough made from about 30%rye, 70% bread flour, 72% water, 20% starter and 2% salt. This is loosely based on Chad Robertson’s Tartine County Loaf and I’ve been really happy with it.

I have been reading a lot about the virtues of ‘extended autolyse’ recently. This is a method where the flour and water (or a fair portion of it) are mixed together before the starter and salt are added. This mix sits for a few hours which allows the flour to take up the water really well and gets the gluten  developing really well. It is purported that it can really help with ‘heavier’ doughs that are a high or total percentage of whole wheat flours. I tried this method when making  these loaves today. Flour and water were mixed together at about 6.00pm, I did a few stretch and folds before  leaving the mix on the bench overnight. In the morning I added the starter, then 1/2 an hour later the salt and did hourly S&Folds over the next 5 hours. Bulk ferment for about 3 hours then divided, preshaped, rested for 20 minutes before final shaping and into the bannetons. These two loaves were left out to proof for 2 hours before baking and another loaf has gone into the fridge for overnight proofing.


The results were great, excellent crumb, smells delicious and they feel really light and airy. I’ll be interested to see how the one in the fridge shapes up tomorrow.


In My Kitchen – January 2016.

Welcome to 2016 where a very busy year is staring us straight in the smacker. To start the year, we have a grand baby due to arrive (literally any tick of the clock), a wedding in February, hopefully a working kitchen soon after that and a holiday to Greece and Turkey in May. I’m also hoping to hold some sourdough bread workshops once we have a kitchen, so I’m trying to wrap my head around the best way to present information that is most useful to participants. Thanks to Maureen over at Orgasmic Chef who has kindly taken over the co-ordinating of In My Kitchen while Celia has some ‘being gentle to herself’ time.

I’ve had a peek at a few other IMK postings and I can definitely say I’m not going to wow you with delightful Christmas goodies and gifts. In My Kitchen this month is very down to earth and some may even say “boring”. Never mind, here’s what’s In My Kitchen this month regardless.


Cucumbers, chillies, tomatoes, garlic, eggplant, beetroot, capsicum and in a couple of days there will be corn. We are chook sitting for our son, so I think I will have to turn some eggs into pasta over the next couple of days.

Egg Cucumber HarvestI love pickled cucumbers so I made some bread and butter cucumbers (not sure what the difference between the two is). I have been using this recipe that I found over at Liz’s Suburban Tomato Blog  and it’s a winner. Bread & Butter CucumbersPickled beet and cucumbersI also pickled some beetroot using this blend of pickling vinegar. This was enough for 500g of beets.

    • 750ml malt vinegar (can blend types to suit)
    • 400g caster sugar
    • 2 star anise
    • 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns

Boil all together, let cool then strain and pour over cooked beets that you have sliced or cut to desired shape and size and packed into sterilised jars, seal. Let mature for a couple of weeks before using. I really like the flavour of star anise with beetroot. Served with some feta or add greek yogurt, blitz it and you have a delicious dip in a matter of seconds.


I’ve followed a tip from Francesca at ‘Almost Italian‘ and this year not plaited my garlic harvest but just bundled the heads together and hung them. This was so much easier than plaiting and I think they look pretty good! I have not bought garlic for years now and I just love having it on hand knowing it’s been grown with no chemicals, no bleaching agents or sterilising agents to reduce the chance of it sprouting on the shelf. Nearly 100% of supermarket garlic is imported and the growing conditions are very questionable.

Garlic harvestAs well as this stash (it should last 12 months) I have kept enough aside for planting. I usually plant in March. This is much earlier than many recommend, but I have had great success since doing so.

Garlic for plantingWe have been picking tomatoes since mid November. Most have been from the greenhouse but they are now coming in from the wicking beds as well. We have to pick as soon as they get a slight blush because the birds are onto them like a flash if we don’t.

TomatoesI have about 15 compost buckets on my kitchen table. I take responsibility for collecting the compost bin from the staffroom at work  (sadly, I don’t have to compete with anyone for the privilege of doing this). I bring the bin home, add the goodies to the compost then usually forget to put the bin/bucket back in my car to take back to work. I’ve given them all a good scrub and airing and they are ready to be returned for the new year. I really wish I could create a swell of enthusiasm among others on staff to be more involved in sustainability and waste management, but there just isn’t any interest or sense of purpose  for doing so at all.

Compost binsClean out the fridge soup! There were many bits and pieces that were getting close to needing to be used or piffed (compost only, not rubbish bin) and as the weather was nice and cool today I made soup. This meant I could use up some celery, pumpkin, sweet potato, stock, and turkey that were sitting in the fridge. I added a stubby of passata,  some potato, my favourite zing szechuan (sichuan) pepper  and served the soup with some sliced chorizo I had grilled, flat leaf parsley and some of my ‘Maurizio’ sourdough

IMG_3585that had been grilled, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and rubbed with garlic.

Clean out fridge soupHappy New Year to all fellow IMK’rs out there and to any new participants. I am really looking forward to see what 2016 will bring to everyone.

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