OMG – Shiitake and Asparagus Carbonara Gnocchi

All weekend, as I was showing people our shiitake mushroom growing area, I was keen to pick the 2 big fat mushrooms that were well and truly ready, but thought better of it as they do look pretty impressive sitting there growing out of the oak logs. These 2 pics aren’t of the current logs, I forgot to  take a photo of them, but these are of the ones I had at our last house.

Shiitake sneaky!
Shiitake sneaky!

Shiitake 5The two mushrooms had grown so much we were concerned they may have hit the ‘too far’ point but we went ahead anyway. Tonight’s dinner was going to be potato gnocchi with a shiitake and asparagus Carbonara style sauce. Along with the shiitake I picked some asparagus, a big spring onion,  some parsley, found a couple of eggs, and I bought some light cream and bacon to add to the sauce. While the potatoes were baking in the oven at 180c, I prepared the Carbonara style sauce.

Shiitake mushroomsThese mushrooms were very big, slicing them was like slicing steak!Shiitake MushroomsCarbonara style sauce

This is for half if using 1kg potatoes as as I froze half of the uncooked gnocchi

  • About 500g of mushrooms sliced. Our 2 shiitake weight about 350g and I added about 8 normal mushrooms to the mix.
  • 3 rashers of good bacon or similar sliced
  • 1 onion or a couple of spring onions whites chopped.
  • Couple of asparagus spears cut into 3cm sections
  • S&P
  • 4 garlic cloves (more or less as you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 300ml container light cream (can’t bring myself to write ‘Lite’)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • handful of Parmigiano Reggiano (I bought some excellent parmesan while in Melbourne)

Into a pan drizzle some olive oil and when hot add the bacon and onion, fry until transparent.

Add the minced garlic and sliced mushrooms and allow to cook until softened.

Add the white wine and cook off for a few minutes

Add half the cream and simmer, don’t allow to boil.

In another small bowl mix the egg yolk, rest of cream and the handful of parmesan. Rinse the cream container out with a little water and add to the sauce.

Let sit until just about ready to serve. Make your gnocchi.

Make your gnocchi.

1kg is of hot baked potatoes (I used Gippy gold but desiree would work well)

4 egg yolks

200g plain flour

pinch of nutmeg


  • While potatoes are still hot remove skins and put potato through a potato ricer or food mill. If none of the above, mash or even grate but don’t add any liquid.
  • Turn onto floured board and very gently mix in the flour, egg yolks, nutmeg, salt & pepper.
  • Gently bring the dough together but DO NOT overwork it. If it is extremely sticky, back of with the mixing but gently incorporate some flour. Err on the side of caution, too much flour = golf ball gnocchi!
  • Divide dough into about 6 pieces and roll each pice into a long piece as you would if you were rolling out play dough and cut each long pice into little pieces about 2.5cm (1″) in size. If you don’t have gnocchi paddles you can skip this bit but if you do it is a nice finishing touch to run the pieces over the paddles to create indentations that collect the sauce better.

Shaping GnocchiI picked up my paddles when in Melbourne. Place the shaped gnocchi on a tray or cloth that has semolina sprinkled over it until ready to cook. Have a big pot of salted boiling water ready!GnocchiI only cooked half of this mix tonight, I have frozen the ‘ready to cook’ gnocchi for next time I get the urge. For cooking, divide into smaller batches of about half or a quarter and add to the boiling water. When the gnocchi rises to the top of the water it is ready.

Turn the heat back on your sauce, set to low. Add the asparagus and remaining cream, cheese, egg and nutmeg mix, stir through. Very gently heat while gnocchi are cooking. DO NOT BOIL!

As the gnocchi pieces come to the surface of your pot, scoop them out, drain lightly and add to the sauce mix. Repeat until all gnocchi is cooked.

Serve with chopped parsley, I was a little too over zealous tonight (you could stir this through the sauce) and some extra parmesan if desired.

GnocchiThis was undoubtedly the nicest gnocchi and sauce we’ve had in a very long time. The shiitake mushrooms have a delicate flavour but they add such a great meatiness to the dish. By blending both varieties you create both flavour and texture. Very enjoyable!

2 weeks in 1-Melbourne, Gardivalia and some theatrical “Cultcha”!

Well, so much for slowly getting into this not working caper! I have been so busy I am exhausted. As a little treat to myself for finishing work, I headed off to Melbourne for 3 nights to check out some places I have wanted to see and experience for a while. First was to sort out somewhere to stay. My focus was on going to food shops, in particular those with middle eastern and european specialities, looking at stores who supply bulk foods with no packaging, checking out options for ovens I can use when I begin sourdough making classes and visiting CERES, Collingwood Childrens’ Farm and a couple of markets. Most of these were more towards the north side of the city central (which I wanted to stay away from) so I booked an Air BnB in Fitzroy North. The apartment was in Barkly St, just a stones throw from everything I needed. It was scrupulously clean, in a quiet location and met my requirements beautifully.

I am embarrassed to say that even though I grew up in Preston, I had never been to the Abbotsford Convent. It was a very wet and rainy day so it was a bit ‘spooky’ walking among these imposing buildings as no one else was around.img_9553The convent was established in 1863 as a refuge for women in need. It was developed on land that had been subdivided as ‘gentlemen farmlets’ near the junction of the Merri Creek and Yarra river. By 1900 the Convent was the largest charitable institution operating in the southern hemisphere. It was one of the largest Catholic complexes in Australia and at its peak, over 1,000 women and children lived behind its enclosed walls. There were vegetable and fruit gardens, dairy and poultry farms and a piggery. Income to buy what could not be grown or made on site was generated through lace-making and commercial laundry services. I bet there are a lot of interesting stories to be told about what went on living here.

img_9550Some beautiful buildings and gardens are to be seen. Love these chimneys!img_9551The bakery at the convent is still in use.img_9552A massive stained glass window upstairs in the historical section.img_9544Love seeing these old buildings still showing signs of their former lives.img_9556 A quick walk over the road takes you to the Collingwood Childrens’ Farm. Set on the bend of the Yarra river, this is a stunning example of food productivity, biodiversity, agriculture, permaculture principles, and offers education (in particular to students) to those who never have the opportunity to see how food actually ‘happens’. It was extremely wet and miserable this day, this is a pic while I’m peeking out from under my umbrella! All the school kids were leaving in droves, driven out by the rain. I didn’t mind.

Collingwood Childrens' FarmCERES-Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies

CERES is a short drive away from the Abbotsford Convent. CERES (pronounced ‘series’) is a place where people come together to share ideas about living well together, and directly participate in meeting their social and material needs in a sustainable way. Through social enterprises, education and training, employment and community engagement, CERES provides the means by which people can build awareness of current local and global issues, and join in the movement for economic, social and environmental sustainability. This is done in a number of ways, education, by doing demonstrations and showing examples and by taking education programs on the road to schools. It is a great use of space on the easement under the power lines that supply Melbourne and surrounds with electricity.

img_9532 Great classroom!img_9534 There is also an organic store where you can purchase items in bulk, BYO container or bag. I was quite surprised at the extremely  high cost of these items. I also visited Source Bulk Foods in Sydney Rd Brunswick (as part of seeking out plastic free packaging suppliers) and decided that at more than double the price of nuts available at Dandenong Market and from our own local “The Nut Bloke” (who will also let me fill my own container), it is a no brainer. Stay local!img_9539After I had wandered around CERES, I headed towards Brunswick to see how much I could buy at the amazing array of food shops that are scattered right along Sydney Road from Coburg right back to Brunswick. I was very self controlled and only bought some cheese and pasta and Mediterranean Wholesalers Sydney Rd Brunswick. I wasn’t so well controlled at BAS  Food Imports, or Kahvecioglu in Campbellfield that I went to the following day. Kahvecioglu is one Turkish food supply store I will definitely be returning to. I forgot to take photos of my purchases so I will have to do this as part of IMK this month.

Some “Cultcha”.

Every year we make sure we support our local amateur dramatic society (TADS) by going along to their annual production. This year their play was ‘What the Bride Wore’. I love these events and wish I had a little more confidence as I have a secret hankering to be involved. It is real ‘nuts and bolts’ theatre, good fun and a very good way of catching up with some locals we don’t see often. Well done guys.tads The following day we had the pleasure of seeing a slightly more refined production presented by the Off The Leash Theatre Company. We were lucky enough to see a play called Milo’s Wake. Milo planned his own wake before he dies so he can participate in it. The wake is complete with an Irish Band who sing and play and there is the opportunity to join in a few songs. I was blown away with this play, the script is powerful, every emotion is presented and it hits you hard. The acting was first class and the music was a great feature. So proud to know we have such talented local theatre groups putting on such high calibre productions. I was going to say there is a performance on the 30th at the Railway Hotel Drouin, but I see that’s sold out. Brilliant!



This weekend we participated in the open food gardens weekend as part of Gardivalia in conjunction with the Baw Baw Sustainability Network (BBSN). The weather was atrocious yesterday but we still had some brave people turn up. Today was much better, the rain had eased, wind had dropped and we had a good attendance. You meet some lovely people doing these events and I even managed to cope with doing an interview with ABC Gippsland. Very brave indeed!

Our mascot with his shower cap on!img_9912 img_9907 img_9904 img_990132mls of rain yesterday, not conducive to having people go out and look at gardens. Thanks to those that did take the time to visit us, we loved having you.



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


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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