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.

Harvests:

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.

Garlic.

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.

BBQ’d Bread and other stuff.

With both myself and Mr ATMT being out of action due to injury and surgery, it is very frustrating sitting at home looking at what should be done and can’t be. We decided to make a trip to the Springvale and Dandenong Markets because I needed a few staples for Asian cooking that we just can’t get here in Gippsland. I also love the feel of the places, different cultures, great variety of foods and busy, busy, busy people everywhere.

I bought a couple of new Kiwi knives, these knives are the absolute best value in the universe. I’ve mentioned them before but I am still in awe of how good they are. I bought this lot, total price $12.00ish. The one in the middle looked like it would be great for scoring bread dough. Didn’t disappoint me which I’ll cover later in this post.

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Tomato season begins in earnest:

IMG_5154It is time to plant up some of the tomato seeds that have germinated. This is the first lot, 75 in total, another 200 or so to go. I am in desperate need of more coffee cups, milk cartons or similar to plant into. I put a request in the school newsletter last week so with a bit of luck I’ll get some donations this week. Once potted up they are going into the greenhouse for developing.

BBQ’d bread.

I’ve been bored and frustrated trying to create really nice bread in the ‘Toy Oven‘ so today I thought I’d have a crack at baking bread in the BBQ. I gave my sourdough starter a bit of a workout this week as it seemed a bit weak, (that’s the only thing able to have a workout here at the moment)! I cooked the loaves in cast iron pots, one camp oven and one pseudo Le Crueset.  Boy, I’m glad I had this idea. This bread looks great, has great crumb and crust is beautiful. Only downside is there are a couple of hotspots where crust has burnt, but not badly. A bit of tweaking and I think this will a regular way of baking our bread. The added bonus of being able to cook 2 full size loaves at the one time is great.

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Favourite soup-Pho

I had planned on making gyoza dumplings for dinner but we had some for lunch at the Dandenong market. Plan B in place! I just love Pho soup. I made this last night using the stock I made on the wood oven top last week and it hit the spot on a cold, wintry night. Irony was, we couldn’t find bean sprouts anywhere at the asian markets or big supermarkets. I actually found some at the local fruit shop and what was most surprising is they were fresh. Just have to have bean sprouts on ya Pho! Check out he beautiful clarity and deep colour of this stock.

Pho

 

Dinner Winner!

On our recent road trip, as we were leaving Spear Creek Caravan Park in Port Augusta, we purchased some of their grown on the property frozen cryovacced (vaccuum sealed to exclude air) Dorper Lamb which we were told was ‘great’, they say the flesh is naturally seasoned by drought resistant saltbush plants the sheep eat while grazing the property. Not being huge meat eaters we were none the wiser and  thought it might be nice to have a couple of camp oven meals on our journey home. Two frozen parcels, one of lamb shanks and another of a small roast went into the camping fridge, we were looking forward to making a  feast in the camp oven on our journey home.

When camping in Mildura we cooked the lamb shanks in the camp oven and I must admit were very disappointed with the results, consequently I wasn’t in a hurry to try the roast and be even more disappointed.  The now thoroughly thawed joint had been sitting in the fridge since we returned home and I wasn’t sure it was still even fit for consumption as I have no knowledge of how long  cryovaccing can extend the shelf life. On inspection there was no swelling of the packaging, no discolouration of the juices and absolutely no smell when I opened the pack so I thought it was safe to give it a road test. With the weather returning back to winter out came the ever faithful slow cooker again.

In went a  couple of sprigs of rosemary,  10 garlic bulbs, juice of 2 lemons, about a half cup of both white wine and my home made stock. Topped with a sploosh of olive oil with some potatoes ready to throw in after a couple of hours.

Lemon garlic lamb roastThis went on slow at about 9.00 in the morning. Added some potatoes at about 12.00 which I took out at about 5.30 and put into my mini oven to brown and crisp up. I also added some cherry tomatoes to the oven to roast while spuds were browning.

Finely sliced some cabbage and threw into the microwave with a dash of stock and some black pepper, Julienned some carrots, cooked them with some honey and mustard and the tiniest dob of butter (because I’m supposed to behave myself), cooked a handful of peas and tried to work out what sauce to use. I put some of the slow cooker juices into a saucepan cranked up the heat and let it reduce, after a few minutes the taste test said it was a little too lemony so I chucked in a couple of cherry tomatoes. Back on the heat for more reduction and it turned out well, still flavourful but the tomatoes added enough sweetness to work.

Plated upMight not look neat and tidy but boy did it taste great! The lamb was stunningly beautiful, tender and juicy. It took me back to when little and we had a roast that really tasted wonderful. All the other strange elements actually went together really well. The potatoes had absorbed a beautiful lemony flavour and were wonderfully crisp.

This is my girlfriends plate, says it all!

IMG_1587In the garden.

I’ve given up on waiting for the weather to improve so some of the tomatoes have gone in!   I’m hoping these are black krim variety but due to the fact I’ve had some labelling issues they may very well be roma, san marzano, gross lisse or big beef!

Black krimExciting, 1st sign the beans are on their way through.

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Should be a great crop of garlic by the look of this.

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I love these little spaces that can be used for planting bits and pieces. I’ve put spring onions and a couple of mini yellow pear tomatoes in this one.

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Radishes are booming along!

IMG_1594Hopefully the weather will improve as next week is the Melbourne Cup which is our traditional ‘plant your tomatoes’ day. I’ve still got several to plant, just need to make a bit more room!

Greek lamb salad, tomatoes and crumbed cutlets.

This weekend has been a real mixed bag. With Saturday dedicated to my MIL visiting for lunch to inspect the ‘new old house’. She is a bit of a gun at 84, and a joy to have around. This will be the first time she has visited since we moved into the house in January. She lives on the Mornington Peninsula so my husband did the long trek to collect her while I put my thinking cap on as to what to serve for lunch. Because I had quite a few jobs to do outside I thought either a BBQ or I would make ‘pitta pizzas’. To be honest I couldn’t get motivated about menu planning. I had made some roast pumpkin and roasted sweet potato soup the night before as well as mixing up a poolish with rye flour as a base for a sourdough-ish loaf of bread. I decided I’d just wonder over to Trafalgar Butcher Shop and see what took my fancy and take it from there.

Good Decision, Wayne had some ‘Greek Style’ Lamb fillets so I thought a warm greek lamb salad would fit the bill beautifully. I have before mentioned  in this blog that we only buy meat a few times a year and when we do I want it to be good. I don’t want shitty stuff packed in plastic trays with what reminds me of feminine protection pads in them. I like to support local businesses who I know support local producers and you can’t do this at the supermarket chains. The salad came together beautifully.

My Greek Style Warm Lamb Salad method:

Roasted a couple of beetroot and cut them into small chunks, char grilled a red capsicum and sliced it, blanched some lovely fresh beans. These warm things were put in a separate bowl. Tore up some lettuce, chopped some small roma tomatoes, picked and chopped some mint and oregano, chopped a green capsicum, sliced a small cucumber, grabbed the olives that needed using from the fridge, picked a lemon. Put the lamb onto the bbq, 3 minutes one side. probably less than 2 the other side. While it rested for a good 5 minutes I mixed all the other salad stuff together, squeezed some lemon juice over it and gently mixed through the goats cheese. Spread the lamb on top with some shredded mint and served with greek yoghurt.

Warm greek lamb salad

Very, very nice! Wish I’d bought another couple of fillets!

The unprecedented third course!

During lunch I asked my sons how many times they can remember me cooking a lunch or dinner with three courses. Unanimous answer was only ever at Christmas. I have never been a desert person, kids were only offered fresh fruit or even cereal as a desert if they were still hungry after dinner, (we used to go through an awful lot of cereal).

So today we had, soup with homemade sourdough, warm greek style lamb salad and I had picked almost the last of the oranges, steeped them in some honey, a pinch of cinnamon and some orange juice then mixed through some strawberries and mint. Served with choice of greek yoghurt or ice-cream. Went down a treat! Three courses, light and healthy.

Orange & Strawberry desert

Sunday.

Feeling a bit melancholy today. Not sure if its due to the Federal Election result or because I just don’t want to go to paid work tomorrow or because we have had a few local  people pass away from  accidental or medical events and it plays in your mind.   With the weather  so lovely and knowing I have so much I want to do in the garden I just feel as though I want to power through things. I had one of those days that just didn’t go right. Up early after planning a greenhouse watering system in my head (when I should have been sleeping), off to the hardware store 40 klms because it is bigger than the one 25 klms away. Mmmm,  not be able to get what I needed there and the stuff I did buy was  wrong! Started to feel a bit antsy, but soldiered on (with an attitude I might add). Back to hardware store 25 klms away to get correct stuff and was rewarded this time. Back to the greenhouse and had handed the job to my husband because I just wasn’t in the right space to succeed. Great, progress but we needed some more fittings so back to the 25 klm away store. This was going to be finished today or I’d go he! At the end of the day I can’t say I did the misting system in the greenhouse I have to hand that accolade to my husband. A few tweaks and the young seedlings should be in a very safe zone.

Looking for the positive!

After shaking off the annoying thought of wasting the day  trekking back and forward to the hardware shop, I took a look at the garden and marvelled at the way things are just taking off and growing at a great rate. In particular a couple of the little grevilleas we planted are doing beautifully. Grevillea ‘Australian Beauty’, a low growing to ground cover variety with beautiful flowers that I think resemble pop corn a little bit.

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Tomato seedlings all doing well. Couple showing a bit of aphid invasion, dealing with that!

Double Whammy for Trafalgar Butcher Shop.

When buying the greek style lamb fillets yesterday, I spotted some crumbed lamb cutlets that didn’t look too shabby. I’m a bit fussy about my crumbing of meat cuts, I’ve tried a couple of cuts from various places over the years and decided it was just better to do it from scratch to avoid disappointment. Surprised and delighted to say these were absolutely beautiful. REAL breadcrumbs, with a light herb seasoning. Not too salty and the cutlets when cooked were absolutely beautiful. We had reverted into the classic meat and 3 veg aussie family of old for tea tonight. Cutlets, mash, peas and carrots with mustard and honey. Can’t remember when we last had such a meal. Don’t think it will be so long till the next time.

Straight out of the Sullivans! Meat and 3 veg

Cutlets done and dusted   Picture says a thousand words!