In My Kitchen -Sydney Rd Shopping & Putting things off

Too bloomin’ cold and too much else going on here so not a lot of food IMK this month. Our positive energy and thoughts are being transported to Celia-Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. who normally ‘stitches’ all our IMK posts together every month. Unfortunately Celia is enduring difficult times so we are all ‘winging’ it by posting to comments on her site. For someone who is always the first to offer a helping hand and support to others, we wish her and her family a quick bounce back to normality. She is quite an amazing and caring person.

For those of you who don’t get my regular blog posts, we have started moving everything from the kitchen to what will be the temporary kitchen while our reno/extension (yes, my real kitchen) are taking place. You can read about that here.

The Lovely Francesca from one of my favourite blogs ‘Almost Italian‘ told me a couple of posts ago about a store in Brunswick that sells ‘everything Italian’. As luck would have it, we ended up in Sydney Rd last weekend when we were in full ‘avoidance’ mode at having to repair a broken poly pipe in the back yard.

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On Saturday morning it was raining heavily, a freezing wind blowing and it was threatening to snow (that is a rarity) so I quickly decided we should go looking at timber flooring for the reno rather than play in the mud. We turned off the water main, Googled for some showrooms of timber flooring and headed to Coburg in Melbourne. Coburg is close to the suburb I grew up in, Preston, but it certainly isn’t anything like I remember it. After looking at the timber place, I knew we would find somewhere to eat along Sydney Rd, understatement. We parked and walked for ages along the strip shops savouring quite a few tasty things on the way. God, I felt like I was in the Middle East and in particular Turkey (or how I imagine it). Such a haven of interesting shops and friendly people. After we’d had a kebab at one place (we weren’t piggies, we did share a small one) , we then ate lunch at the Middle Eastern cafe/bakery Zaatar. Lunch was a couple of freshly baked Middle Eastern pastries and they were delicious. The pastry was superb! We grabbed some Turkish mastic ice-cream to eat as we headed into more interesting stores. This had a very different taste but I think I could easily get to love it. We didn’t choose it based on it having ‘Booza’ on the label.

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I was very tempted to buy this bag of chillies, (please excuse the blurring)

Chilli

but really, how many chillies can one use?

We then headed further down Sydney Rd to Brunswick and I remembered the lead Francesca had given me about the Mediterranean Wholesaler for everything Italian. Well, the delights continued! I came out from there with some beautiful looking aged, hard cheese, we just can’t get that here.

IMG_1675and some balsamic vinegar that was in the cutest little bottle,

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definitely going back there. Thanks Francesca!

Back at home I’ve dried some of my Phoenicia sourdough starter (this originally came from Celia sharing some of her starter Priscilla). Having some dried starter, means I can share it and have some as a back up incase something terrible happens to Phoenicia.

IMG_1652Lastly, I have a lovely little teapot (1-2 cup) that I bought at what is the best tea shop I’ve ever been to. Tea Leaves in Sassafras which is in our Dandenong ranges, a popular  place for a weekend drive. We ended up there a few weeks ago after collecting something reasonably close by. They sell online and the prices are reasonable. The knowledge the staff have about tea is quite amazing. Love it!

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So that’s it for this month. Looking forward to reading some of the other posts, it really is fun looking into peoples kitchens. I hope that Celia is back on top of things next month, we love hearing her stories.

Weekend wrap.

While I’ve been busy playing with bread dough and cleaning out cupboards Mr ATMT has been doing some back breaking work to make the front yard look a bit more attractive. A couple of months ago I posted about how we did the initial marking out for the front yard layout and now it has been well and truly locked in! Brick edging set on place around the pathway and toppings added to create a new look completely. There is not a lot we can do because of the big pin oak so we aim to just fill the entire area with low maintenance, bird and bee attracting yet pretty and very tough plants. We are also on the look out for a suitable centre piece or water feature for the centre of the circle . Nothing too fancy or glitzy, just tasteful. Got any recommendations?

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Toppings in and partly mulched some of the area that will be planted. No cupids or statues of David allowed as the feature.

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Our own little Downton Abbey with a crunchy gravel entry to the front door.

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Foccacia take 2.

Last night I posted about the Peter Reinhart foccacia I made and tonight I made up the other half that I had kept in the fridge since yesterday. Tonight’s topping was olives, sliced up stuffed with feta capsicum, garlic, olive oil, sea salt flakes and cheese. Tick to this recipe, so light, silky and easy. I rarely wrap up my own food too highly but this is a winner!

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So that’s it for the first weekend wrap of 2015. Back into the office tomorrow, but hopefully I will get things sorted in record time and not have to stay too long.

Weekend wrap.

Christmas thoughts.

I’m pleased to say that even though Christmas is about to hit us, all is calm, peaceful and smooth sailing  down here. I consider one of the best decisions we have ever made was to avoid the hype and marketing that goes with Christmas. We focus on friends, food and fun. I must admit that I am not a religious person and for a long time I struggled as to why we even have to acknowledge Christmas when we are non believers. I found it just too hard trying to explain to many of our ‘just because you should’ extended family, so I came up with my own justification that I use the Christmas period to celebrate family and friends and to reminisce. I am also a big fat sucker for pretty lights and I like nothing better than sitting on the floor staring into those sparkly delights. IMG_6682We decorated a tree this week and it was quite emotional. No kids live at home any more and they have pretty much cleared out all the tree ornaments with them. That’s OK, my plan was that they get a new decoration each year, then when they left home they would have enough to do their own tree. We are left with lots of broken balls, baubles without hanging hooks and tinsel that has lost most of it’s sparkle. We do however, have some beautiful memories, cards the kids made from kinder and early school years.20141214_194754books that were lovingly read in the lead up to Christmas and ornaments made with love from family and friends. Little knotted christmas bells that my sister gave me when our daughter was born 15th dec 1986, they went on her hospital crib and jingled around the ward for a few days. A decoupage egg ornament my niece brought back from America, a lead light decoration made by a family friend who has had long-standing mental health issues and I have no idea where  or how she is now. Especially nice are the few ornaments we bought way back when we were as poor as church mice and the only thing we could afford when we went to buy some decorations were pencil sharpeners. Important not forget how far we have come and the obstacles we have tackled to get where we are now.

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We went down to Monbulk yesterday morning to have a lovely catch up with friends and also managed to visit the Monbulk Market. Small market, but big on quality from what I could see. Our favourite organic vegetable growers Thorpdale Organics were there so I was able to thank Wendy and Tony for their ever consistent quality produce and outstanding service and wish them a happy festive season. I also got to sample some preserves from Grandmas Delights. Quite nice they were too!

We continued on to the Dandenong Market and returned with some pork ready for the next sausage making adventure, some turkish bread and mangoes. Summer is here for me when I start gorging on mangoes and this began in earnest today!

Outside wrap.

We (well, mostly Mr ATMT) finished fitting out the last wicking bed with its four poster poles. I can now train the tomatoes up the climbing twine and will be ready to fit shade cloth in preparation for the summer swelt that is bound to hit.

IMG_6695The plot where corn was  planted but had been decimated has had the chooks in there a few times this week to cleanse and I decided to put some diatomaceous earth in the drills with the new seed. DE is an organic product used for organic pest control management in livestock, poultry and agriculture. DE is a really interesting product and it would take far too long to cover its reputed benefits in this post so I recommend you do some research.IMG_6685Starting to get some decent harvests now. First tomatoes and capsicum were picked tonight, I also picked some very young butter beans. These went into a pasta dish along with some of the last of the broccoli, some snow peas, nasturtiums, asparagus and herbs.IMG_6703I made a pasta sauce out of sour cream, lemon juice, sage, S&P and some delectable pumpkin seed oil. This is an interesting oil that has the most amazing dark green colour and it adds a nutty overtone to the dish.IMG_6706 IMG_6708

Quite delicious really!IMG_6718Please take the time to enjoy your family and friends rather than get carried away with commercial activities this Christmas!

 

 

 

Indulgence!

Due to MR ATMT having an allergy to any kind of seafood/fish, I very rarely prepare fish at home because it is a pain having to remember to be meticulous with separating anything that has had contact from the fish for fear of causing a reaction. He’d better not upset me!

I was lucky enough to be given a couple of freshly caught fish and decided I’d treat myself to cooking it  using the asian smoking method. I pretty much followed a recipe I found at Feasting at Home and it worked really well.

First up was to make some 5 spice blend to go in the marinade. That’s nice and easy.

Five Spice Recipe:
1 cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons whole cloves
2 teaspoons fennel seed
2 whole star anises
2 teaspoons peppercorns

Toast all in a skillet over medium heat until just fragrant, 1-2 mins only. Grind in a coffee grinder until smooth.

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Then to make the marinade:

4 cloves garlic whole

3 Tblspns fresh ginger- sliced

2 tsp Five Spice (store bought or make your own… see below)

¼ Cup neutral oil

4 Tblspns soy sauce

2.5 Tblspns brown sugar

1 orange (¼ C fresh orange juice and zest, divided )

Put the whole lot into the blender and whizz until all smooth and processed. Place the fish into a container and cover with the marinade. I left mine overnight.

I dragged my Indian karahi out from under a pile of ‘stuff’ on the verandah to make the smoker. Lined the base with 4 sheets of foil, and added:

3 Tblspns of rice

2 Tblspns loose leaf black tea

2 Tblspns sugar

2 Dried red chilies

Stir these together to get an even mix, place a cake cooler over it ensuring there is some clearance between the smoking ingredients and the steamer or whatever you use.

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Put the marinated fish into your steamer, (I placed a bit of baking paper under them) put the lid on and place the wok over a fairly high heat until a good amount of smoke appears. Turn the heat down and continue for approx another 5 minutes, turn down again and then another 5 minutes. Fish should be cooked by now. It may have taken a bit longer for mine as I was cooking outside and the breeze was playing with the heat! I then placed it on the grill for the shortest time, just to colour the outside.

IMG_6441I made a little concerned that the smoke flavour may have been a bit on the strong side but it wasn’t. As Goldilocks would say, “It’s just right”.

I picked some lettuce, snow peas and thai basil and chives. Cut up a cucumber and tomato, making a stack piling everything on top of each other. I then placed pieces of the fish on top,  sprinkled with some chopped thai basil and chives  and then added a squeeze of lime juice. Some grilled sourdough that I had spread some feta cheese onto and it made the most beautiful lunch.

IMG_6442I took spoonfuls of the salad and placed it onto the bread and savoured every mouthful. It was delicious.

IMG_6449Now to VERY carefully clean up my trail of fishy stuff, unless of course Mr ATMT upsets me!

 

 

Weekend Roundup

Golly, lots of things achieved this weekend. Had a lovely start to the weekend by heading off to the Warragul Farmers Market to stock up on the great, local produce that is presented  at this market. I came home with some of Thorpdale Organics sensational Produce. This business goes to great lengths to ensure their produce is at its absolute prime when presented for sale. I bought some kohl rabi, potatoes and some of the nicest lettuce I’ve had in a long time (apart from my own of course!) I used the lettuce in some chicken wraps I made for lunch. I also bought some goats cheese, apples and the most stunning bunch of waratah flowers. They are massive and look great in the lounge under the bay window. 20141018_185412The lettuce I bought from Wendy & Tony went into some ATMT’s Chicken Wraps we had for lunch. It was a beautiful day, kids had come home and we had other friends here as well. These chicken wraps are one of our favourite camping meals as they are so easy to prepare, tasty and don’t create many dishes. This time I added some Middle Eastern Spice mix I made to the chicken and it gave it a little extra zing. I’ve added the spice blend to the bottom of the recipe. After our leisurely lunch I continued working on getting the hall reno moving along more. The Anaglypta wall paper has been a little difficult in a few spots, I think because of the amount of fill and work done to the panelling underneath. It’s is coming together though, can’t wait to see it finished. The pattern we have chosen is one of the original heritage styles which is in keeping with the house. IMG_5205   Work continues out in the yard with Mr ATMT having nearly completed the fence around the vegetable area. Need to oil the timber, design and make a gate and it a tick off the list. Yay, haven’t had many ticks recently! IMG_5193The cherry tee is really booming. It caused some difficulty for Mr ATMT to access what he needed to for the fence but it coped well. Look at those baby cherries!IMG_5197 I am really happy with the progress I’m making with my sourdough bread. Since investing in Chad Robertson’s book, Tartine Bread I have learned loads of new tricks. Last night was the first time I have done an overnight proofing in the fridge and it worked well. Makes it great for time management. I have also been a little concerned that the hole in the lid of the DO (Dutch Oven) where I have to remove the knob so it fits in my ‘toy oven’ has been letting the valuable steam escape. This time I removed the knob and plugged the hole with a bit of bread dough.  Loaf looks good. I only bake once a week so wont be able to see the crumb until it is cut later in the week. IMG_6100I also made a double batch of Lemon Cordial Recipe tonight. This had proven to be an absolute winner! My son and his fiancé are now enjoying it and even want to make some for their upcoming engagement party! A win I think.

Can’t think of a title for this post!

I was trying to come up with a catchy title for this post but it just didn’t happen. I had toyed with Friends, food and ….mmmm, got stuck, fun, friends and ……. stuck again. SO here it is, the post without a title! We had a lovely evening at a friends home in the Dandenong Ranges on Saturday night. There is something soulful about getting together with people who you can relax with, share ideas with and most importantly, have so many of the most wonderful belly laughs that it hurts! I wanted to take an offering so with the batch of sourdough I was working on I decided to make a couple of sourdough bread sticks to take. Should have proved a little longer but it just had to go on due to time restraints. As most of you know, I have limited cooking facilities so these were baked in the outdoor BBQ with the hood closed. I was very happy with these, the crust was crunchy, the crumb soft with a good flavour, sort of came out with a ciabatta style structure. This was sliced and we ate it slathered with beetroot relish and brie cheese. Very nice! My friend had made some Georgian cheese bread which is similar to puri and it was lovely, rich, but soft and full of flavour. Sourdough ciabatta bread sticksThe bay tree I’m working on establishing as a ball top with a straight stem needed some straightening so I bound it up with soft tie and cleaned any side shoots off. It’s at the right height now so I pinched the top out and will keep trimming to get the desired result.IMG_5622 Mr ATMT started extending the veggie garden path to where it will finish at the old stables. Neatened things up and now just need to infill the pavers with toppings.IMG_5627My garlic is going really well, This lot is planted in a separate box in the garden,IMG_5629 And this lot is in the asparagus bed. I’m a little concerned that the asparagus hasn’t yet started showing and I have read that garlic and asparagus shouldn’t be planted together. Waiting game now to see what eventuates.garlicThe succession planting of the broccoli is coming on nicely,IMG_5647 I pulled the last scrappy beetroot and will make some relish from these as they aren’t pretty enough to serve whole. Couple of baby parsnips here too that I pulled to see how they are progressing.IMG_5650 IMG_5632I put an old sewing machine base in the vegi patch and plonked a surplus sink onto it. This is proving to be a great asset as a workbench, potting bench and I can chuck stuff into the sink and hose it off before bringing it inside. I’m considering adding a foot pump or caravan sink type water tap to it to add to its use. IMG_5648 I’ve bagged the kale seed heads to keep the seed,IMG_5637 Such a lovely afternoon the workers downed tools and enjoyed the sun too!IMG_5635The backyard is shaping up nicely. Mt ATMT top dressed a few patches in the grass and put down some new lawn seed. Last time he’s says, it will have to fend for itself now. Let’s wait and see how that pans out!

Why basic essentials on hand are essential!

We have both Mr ATMT and my close friends birthdays on the 28th & 29th May respectively, we usually try to organise some sort of get together each year but this year we hadn’t really put a plan of attack into place. I spoke to my friend at 4.20 and said why don’t you call in on your way home for a drink to toast the birthdays. Her partner was also hauled in to call in for a quick drink to celebrate. I felt that it would be nice to offer a few nibblies to accompany and stopped on my way home to buy some cheese, wine and a few pieces of fruit to throw together. I then had the idea that surely I could present something a little better at representing a birthday celebration with what I had at home, managed to serve this at 5.45. Bloody good effort if I say so myself!

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What was on the platter?

My attack was:

  • As soon as I walked in the back door at 5.10 (after putting the wine in the fridge) I sliced 3 chicken thigh fillets and threw some Annabel Langbein asian style marinade I’d found in the fridge, (I can’t remember what it was or what I’d used it for) over the chicken. I did know it had fish sauce and chilli in it!
  • Out to veggie patch to pick some celery and carrot, rinsed and sliced, onto platter (best celery I’ve ever grown as it turns out)
  • Picked last of my basil, rinsed, into jar with olive oil, cashews, S&P and parmesan, blasted with bamix to make a quick pesto

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  • Thinly sliced some of my sour dough and threw into toaster
  • Took some turkish bread from freezer, defrosted for 1 minute in zapper machine, drizzled and rubbed olive oil over it and put into hot pan to grill
  • Cut  some pickled onions into quarters and put them and some pickled cucumbers into a couple of dishes
  • Threw the chicken that had been in the marinade into a pan, tossed a few times till cooked.
  • Opened the cheeses I bought which consisted of Maffra Tasty, Gippsland Brie, a blue vein and some lovely goats cheese. I pushed some of the goat cheese into a small ramekin so it could be used as a spread on the sourdough.
  • Quince paste onto platter
  • Peeled mandarin, onto platter
  • Everything onto platter, time to our a glass of wine and say happy birthday!

IMG_4376Happy birthday Geoff and Sally!

Just ticking what came from stock that I had because of pre-storing, making or growing.

Sour dough, pickled onions, quince paste, marinade, turkish bread in freezer, garden where I could pick basil, celery, carrot, cashews, good olive oil, parmesan salt and pepper  on the shelf. Not to mention the good company that was the motivation for making an effort!

Weekend Wrap.

Sold!

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The sale of the house we have lived in for app 23 years has now become unconditional so we are having to face both preparing to leave and preparing the ‘old new house’ for living in. The list is endless and I seem to be adding to it every hour. With the move scheduled for mid January and Christmas slap bang in the middle we could be in for some long shifts. Oh well, keeps me off the streets!

Silver beet rolls.

At the end of another long day cleaning, painting and weeding I tried throwing a few items I had on hand together and was well rewarded. We traditionally have nibbles and drinks when doing the Christmas tree so this served the occasion well.

Picked some silver beet,

Silver beet

Blanched till just wilted, chopped finely and added to a bowl with some ricotta, feta nutmeg, spring onion and an egg. Added a small knob of grated parmesan cheese and mixed all together well.

Ready to roll

Spread onto sheets of puff pastry and rolled as for sausage rolls. Into the oven for 20 minutes and we had some lovely silver beet rolls to eat while we decorated the tree for the last time at this house, enjoyed along with a glass of bubbly of course!

Done!

Will have to get to the final of the Christmas decorating touches another night, after  I have rested up from this weekend’s efforts.

Xmas tree

Oooh, exciting PS! Picked 2 raspberries of the new canes I planted at the ‘new old house’. If I had to choose from all the things you can grow, raspberries would be in my top 5.

Warm Chicken Salad

I always seem to have run out of steam when its dinner time and I’ve had a busy day at work. I like to keep evening meals really simple to prepare, not taking up too much time to cook and to be relatively healthy. As usual I don’t really deal in measurements, it sort of evolves around how much is needed and adjusted accordingly. Too much and it ends up in a lunch box, too little and we can always have an extra treat after dinner! This was tonight’s fare.

Chicken ( cut into short strips), put into a bowl and pour enough sweet chilli sauce in to give chicken a thin coating, stir through and sit till ready to cook.

The other things I am adding to this salad tonight are some onion bread crouton, crunchy potatoes, cucumber, seared cherry tomatoes, beetroot, feta cheese and some fresh herbs. As my bok choy has bolted (if anyone has any solutions to this I’d welcome them), I am throwing in a few leaves and a few of the thin stems. I will quickly throw them in with the chicken for no more than the last minute or so. This changes according to what is available, which tonight isn’t all that much!

I had baked an onion and rosemary loaf of bread on the weekend so used a bit of that to make some crunchy croutons. Cut bread  into whatever size you like, put into pan with smallest amount of olive oil and keep turning until they are nice and golden and very dry and crunchy. Put aside.

Spuds – Wash, peel and cut into small enough bits that they will mix through salad well. I just bunged them into the microwave (covered) for about 5 minutes, waited till steam had evaporated and put them into pan with a ‘plop’ of olive oil. Turn and stir until they have reached the colour you want. There is no reason why both the croutons and the spuds could not just go in the oven and do their thing in there while you prepare other items.

Toss the halved cherry tomatoes into pan that is still hot and cook until they just start to soften, don’t overdo it! Put them aside.

Add chicken to pan and start cooking it off, not too hot, not too cool. Stir occasionally. While cooking tear lettuce into pieces the size you like, slice up some beetroot, finely chop some herbs (tonight mint and oregano), crumble some feta or goat cheese, slice some cucumber  and green capsicum and put with the croutons and spuds. I actually like to put everything into a bowl or plastic bag and swirl everything around to make sure flavours have combined well. When chicken is cooked add this and turn through the mix.

Looks a bit ordinary at this point!

Turn everything out onto serving platter, top with some more cheese, herbs and maybe some spring onion. Really does taste quite tasty!

Woo hoo, here we go!

After deliberating for ages, I have finally plucked up the courage to have a go at establishing a blog! I live in Gippsland which is about 2 hours east of Melbourne Australia and have a hobby of having a go at growing, cooking and preserving all kinds of foods and beverages. Many years ago I was a successful home cheesemaker but the family got sick of me taking over the entire kitchen (and sometimes the lounge as well) with my processing equipment. That along with upping my work hours to full-time meant I slowed down on the cheese production (and a lot of other things I really enjoyed!). I am keen to get back into cheesemaking and when we move I will  have a dedicated area for my preserving and cheesemaking, this will be called the ‘Fowlers room’ named in honour of the age-old Fowlers Vacola Preserving system. I love growing all kinds of fruit and veg and can’t wait to establish the new produce garden. We have purchased an historical house (1920ish) which needs a major dose of TLC and renovation. The focal point in the backyard of this house is a very old mulberry tree, the aim of this blog is to record and share all that goes on ‘around the mulberry tree’ whether in the garden, in the preserving room or in the renovation of this lovely old property.

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