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

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.


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?

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_0541-001Warm and snuggly at the shed!

Making do in the kitchen! Hot air balloon flight-Tick!

I have not been that motivated to do much since we returned from our holiday in the balmy summer warmth of the Mediterranean. I’d never understood why people head to warmer parts over winter, but I can now see why.  One bright and sunny thing we have going on is that our oranges are ready for picking to give us a daily serve of juice. These oranges are sweet but with a degree of tartness which I like to give you a bit of a zing.IMG_8488With the imminent move into the new kitchen, I’ve been trying to avoid shopping for much, as we will soon have to move everything from the makeshift kitchen to the new kitchen (never thought it would happen!). This means the fridge and freezer will need to be cleaned out and defrosted and all pantry items sorted through and some culled. So there has been a few “make do” meals happening rather than throwing things out. Breakfast today was sourdough pancakes with maple syrup, lemon and sugar, fresh juice and a lovely cup of tea. Didn’t use much in the way of pantry surplus, but it did mean I could use the sourdough starter that would normally be discarded. These pancakes are always so light. To make the batter I use approximately 1 cup 100% sourdough (SD) starter, about 3/4 cup of SR flour, a generous tablespoon of sugar, one egg and enough milk to mix to whatever consistency you prefer.IMG_8491Our first breakfast in the almost finished new family room. The pancakes look a little wonky but were fine.IMG_8493As I work through using (or chucking) anything in the freezer that should go, I’ve found that the ‘toy oven’ put on a very low setting is a great place to start the defrosting process. The item then goes back into the fridge to avoid contamination as it completes the defrosting process. I have some lamb chops defrosting on the top of the oven here. I also ran out of my normal bread flour so I am using up whatever is to hand. This Italian flour was used to make a loaf scored to resemble a sunflower about to open.IMG_8480It is quite pretty, not necessarily like a sunflower, but pretty. Sunflower loafThe chops were grilled with a pomegranate molasses glaze. I served them with leftovers of a dish I made earlier in the week. Stuffed eggplant (vegetarian), a red pepper burgul salad and some obligatory mash. Sadly the chops were as tough as old boots! The rest however was  delicious.IMG_8495 It is that time of year where we are inundated with oak tree leaves falling. This is one of the collection points from last year where we had added manure, grass clippings and other organic ‘stuff’ throughout the year. What is in the barrow is the result, beautiful black, crumbly compost. I emptied this bin and re-assembled it for collection of this years leaves. Once it stops raining I can start re-filling it. I do run the mower over the leaves to  hasten breaking down.IMG_8478

Holiday snaps – Hot Air Balloon flight, Goreme Cappadocia.

I had thought that on our return I would be very organised and would carefully put together a series of posts in correct sequence of our journey across Greece & Turkey but I just haven’t, so I’m randomly putting up a few shots. These are a few of our hot air balloon flight across Goreme Cappadocia. It took quite a lot of self-help to get me onboard and I am thrilled that I did. Being among 90 hot air balloons up in the air at the same time was amazing. I was fine once I had clipped the safety harness on, which alleviated my fear of jumping out. Over at Almost Italian, Francesca has just posted about preferring to look up rather than down. I know we’ve touched on heights before but I am so pleased (and chuffed with myself) that I overcame the doubt and fear.

IMG_2649Sunrise in the sky at 4000 feet.IMG_7283Capadoccia hot air balloon IMG_7212 IMG_7225 IMG_7242 Landing. These guys actually pull you in and ‘park’ the basket on the back of the trailer. Skill levels and brawn that would astound you!IMG_7294I think I took about 400 photos during this flight. It is still too amazing for me to sort inside my head to work through which ones are special and why.

I may still get to doing a series of better constructed posts, I hope so for my own sake.

Tastes of Turkey

One of the things I enjoy most about travelling is the exposure you get to seeing how different cultures eat, cook and celebrate the special events in their lives. The food in both Greece & Turkey was wonderful, healthy, fresh, colourful and varied. I have come home motivated to try a lot of different dishes so I reserved a couple of Turkish cook books at the local library, this one, Anatolia-Adventures in Turkish Cooking arrived Friday so I’ve done a couple of test meals.

Anatolia Recipe BookYesterday I made ‘Ezo The Bride’ Soup, or also known as red lentil and burgul soup. I had been eyeing off a recipe for Turkish Bride Soup that Annabel Langbein has developed but I hadn’t gotten around to making it. This soup seems to have many variations to both the ingredients and the story as to how it evolved, when I googled it, no other recipes seemed to use rice as well as lentils and bulgur and many others used butter to cook the onion first.  I didn’t have enough red lentils so I made up the balance with brown lentils. Served with some pumpkin seed sourdough it was a hale and hearty meal indeed and one I think, that would be extremely high in fibre content. Oops, should have wiped the bowls before taking pictures I think!

Turkish Bride soupI mentioned last post that I made some red pepper paste, this paste is used in just about everything in Turkey. It is as common as our tomato paste is and it is delicious. The version I made is quite spicy as I used my rocoto chillies as well as red capsicum to make it. This pic shows some tomato paste on the left and some weird-looking pepper paste on the right. It has been stored in the fridge with olive oil covering it so it looks strange but you can see the brilliant colour of it. Most of it is still hiding under the layer of oil.

Pepper pasteTonight I made a version of Lamb kebaps with Barbecued salad.

Lamb kebabsThis was delicious! I deviated a little in the cooking as I didn’t have any meat skewers and our little grill pan is all that is available at the moment so it was easier to shape them like kofta. I made these a little earlier so the stove was free to cook the salad skewers, I also included some eggplant in the vegies to grill. The meatballs were reheated just prior to serving.

Kebabs fryingI couldn’t be bothered making pita bread so it was served with some mountain bread (not really recommended) and some greek yoghurt. I’m glad I halved the paprika in the sauce mix as it was quite hot, tasty but just a little too much.

Ready to eat kebabs

Both of the recipes I tried were really nice so I’ll continue testing a few more. I will create a document and add the recipes for these dishes later.

Last year I mentioned we had bought a Kitchen dresser, and that I was going to give it some TLC. I just didn’t like the shiny lacquer finish that had been applied and I wanted it to look far more soft and silky.

Antique kitchen dresser

well I’ve finally been working on getting it to look more like it would have originally. It means going over every part of it with water based paint stripper, lots of sanding, possibly some oxalic acid applications to remove some black staining, lots more rubbing with steel wool then applying a finish of beeswax and carnuaba wax. So far it looks promising as to how it will progress but there is a long way to go yet. This is after the first attack.

Sideboard drawersSome would think this enough to burn the unit but I happen to love wondering about what it may have been that chewed its way along the back of this drawer.SB Drawer eatenHere are a couple of pics taken in a little restaurant in Goreme Cappadocia Turkey. These women sit here most of the day making dumplings, Turkish ravioli (manti) and other beautiful goodies.Goreme mantiThis is the setting our table was placed, you look out over some of the amazing ‘homes in caves’ which is what this area is most noted for.IMG_7137 This will give an indicator as to how much the tourism industry is effected by the unrest in the area. Normally would be packed at this time of year.IMG_7136We under-estimated how much food would be served by a mile. This was the appetizer,IMG_7139Followed by the main meal of Turkish ravioli (this is what the women made) it is about the size of the tip of a finger and painstakingly shaped to perfection. There is about a match sticks head worth of filling in each piece. This was served with yoghurt, red pepper paste and dried herbs. The other dish was smoked roasted stuffed eggplant and I am drooling remembering it! The bread was baked in their wood oven and I thoroughly enjoyed every morsel!Manti

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