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.

Sourdough fun and frustration.

As regular followers know, I love playing with sourdough and making bread. It’s times like now, when I want to seriously play that I get incredibly frustrated with my limited oven capabilities. I have to keep reminding myself its nearing an end. I think knowing that makes it all the harder.

I started making bread at least 35 years ago. Back then it was all yeasted and things were done the hard way. Dough was beaten, bashed and kneaded for a good 10 minutes to get the gluten to develop, enabling the bread to have structure. These methods are still applicable at times, but the newer approaches such as stretching and folding the dough over a period of time has made things a lot easier and also offers you much more flexibility to schedule your baking.

I had dabbled with sourdough on and off over the years but about 5 years ago I got back into it seriously. I think we have only bought about 3 loaves of bread over the last couple of years and that’s usually when on holiday. I must admit that I’m a sucker for a cheese and tomato toasted sandwich on fluffy, white supermarket bread. This is diminishing too though ( I don’t want the plastic bag!).

There are millions of different people baking bread all over the world. All have different methods for making their breads, their starters, the flours they use and their baking regime, all are right, all give different results. This is why it can be really hard for beginners to know where to start. I’ve found now that I tend to stick to a basic recipe  (Chad Roberston’s Country Loaf) that I know will give good results for everyday bread. I do however love experimenting and trying other concepts to see how they work, to compare the results and continue to learn more and more.

Today I baked a loaf based on a recipe I found on one of my favourite bread blogging sites.  Maurizio has a blog called The Perfect Loaf, not only is it filled with great tips, advice, recipes and information, but you can feel the passion he has for this craft as  he writes. To match this his photos are stunning. It’s worth having a look at his site if only for the photos. You may just come out wanting to bake bread!

Here is my today’s loaf based on Maurizio’s recipe for his “Best Sourdough Recipe” It’s pretty,

IMG_3585but it isn’t nearly as pretty as Maurizio’s.

theperfectloaf-mybestsourdoughrecipe-11My dough was 80% hydration not 86% as was his. I didn’t leave it to retard in the fridge for the 15-16 hours he suggested, mine only got about 8. I didn’t get a crumb that was as  open as his (I’m a little heavy handed when it comes to shaping) but it isn’t too bad. This loaf tasted wonderful, really good crust and soft flavoursome crumb.

IMG_3591I’d wager that Maurizio’s looks so much prettier  because he has an oven, a real oven that can bake above about 210 degrees celsius max. An oven he can create steam in with his ingenious tip of using lava rocks. I am using this,

Toy ovendon’t get me wrong, this little oven has done some amazing things over the last couple of years, but I am really looking forward to seeing what I can produce in a proper oven.

Thank you to all the wonderful people who share their wisdom and skills for others to benefit on this wonderful medium. Go and have a look at The Perfect Loaf, it’s a great site.

Thanks Maurizio!