in my kitchen + april

chestnuts2

I can’t believe it’s already been a month since my last ‘In My Kitchen’ post (my very first contribution to this beautiful online kitchen community hosted by Maureen at Orgasmic Chef). It’s seemed like a very short few weeks, mostly due to the Easter break, family events and our quiet holiday down south.

It’s still autumn, slightly colder than last month but still warm enough for a t-shirt on sunny days. We’re spending evenings in blankets but daylight hours still regularly involve iced coffee (and shorts, as you can see!).

Anyway, back to this month in my tiny apartment kitchen. It’s been an enjoyable one, thanks to visiting friends and an armload of produce from the south west last week. Here are some photographic highlights:

chestnuts

  1. sweet chestnuts

As I mentioned in this post, Aaron, Loki and I were lucky enough to spend most of last week rambling around the south west countryside. During a long walk in the forest (including Balingup’s spectacular Golden Valley Tree Park), we came across a rather stunning sweet chestnut tree full of clusters of spiky burrs. Not being a seasoned ‘chestnut forager’, I was unaware that the most of the mature nuts were actually on the ground rather than on the tree (darn it) but I did pick a couple of split pods (cupolas) that have since matured. I’ve removed the fruit (wearing a pair of rather inadequate oven gloves) and the skins have darkened to a familiar shiny brown. I’m looking forward to roasting them for a salad.

honey

2. beechworth ‘bee cause’ honey

I’ve been a loyal supporter of 100% Australian Beechworth Honey (a family owned honey business based in Corowa, Victoria) for many years now, alongside various other smaller Western Australian honey producers (such as Dean’s Bees honey, which I’ve posted about here). Although you’re probably aware that I’ve switched to maple syrup, coconut nectar and rice malt syrup for my weekly baking, we still use honey on occasion (usually atop porridge or Weetbix) and issues of colony collapse are constantly on my mind.

If you haven’t heard about colony collapse, it’s a loose term referring to the impact of ‘Colony Collapse Disorder’ (CCD) and a consequential worldwide decline in bee colonies. The reasons are complex and multifaceted, in part related to the global spread of bee diseases, reduced availability of nectar and pollen resources and use of agricultural chemicals that are harmful to bees (read more here). Australian honeybees currently remain unaffected, but there are concerns for global food security and ecosystems in general.

As a larger Australian honey producer, Beechworth established their ‘Bee Cause’ project a couple of years ago to fundraise for farming, education and research projects related to colony collapse. Though the tag was initially attached to their honey mead, it’s now expanded to include a range of premium Australian regional honeys such as the ‘coastal honey’ above, all of which are available via local grocers and supermarkets. Not only is the honey delicious (I drizzled it over my porridge below!) but Beechworth have committed money from every jar to the future of honeybees. See more here:

 

I am not in any way affiliated with Beechworth honey, nor have I been compensated for this post. I enjoy Beechworth products at my own expense and all of the above opinions are my own. 

porridge

3. porridge, porridge, porridge

Porridge (or oatmeal) has been in high breakfast rotation over the past couple of weeks. During our holiday down south, the morning air was crisp and cold; perfect conditions for warm bowls of steaming oats. We’ve enjoyed our porridge in quite a few different ways, mostly as I’ve been trying to ‘mix things up’ for blog posts. Our favourites so far have been coconut cream oats (pictured above), traditional creamy porridge with poached quince (recipe here) and the creamiest banana cinnamon oats with fresh banana and coastal honey.

I’m going to post a few more porridge recipes before the cold season is out, so watch this space. I’m thinking roasted pears with rosemary, honey and cinnamon, maybe some chocolatey cacao oats… oh, and do you want the recipe for these coconut cream oats? I didn’t really write it down but, you know, I’m sure another breakfast trial can be arranged…

starter

 4. sourdough starter

As I’m sure you’re all aware, there are plenty of wonderful sourdough bakers among our friends in the blogosphere. One of these is Sandra (aka ‘Lady Redspecs’) from Please Pass the Recipe. I’ve drooled over all of Sandra’s sourdough posts, from her traditional spelt sourdough to this gorgeous Turkish pide, so after confessing my absolutely terrible history with sourdough in this post, Sandra offered to send me some of her own dried starter.

Another confession: I haven’t activated the starter yet, partly as we left for a holiday after I received it and… mostly as I’m scared of killing it. But as Sandra has said, many baking failures are due to lack of confidence (fear!) so next week, I’m going to rehydrate this little wonder. I’m pretty darn excited (and scared, but mostly excited!). Thanks Sandra x

podcast

5. love, food podcast

I’m one of those people who always listens to something as I cook, either via Netflix (like Michael Pollan’s new documentary) or more recently, via internet podcasts. The most recent of these (thanks to the gorgeous Amy at Thoroughly Nourished Life) is a series called Love, Food by an American dietitian (RDN) named Julie Duffy Dillon. This series is wonderful – affirming, encouraging, balanced and real. It covers everything from internet dieting trends to negative self-perceptions (self loathing) and their impact upon our mental health and life choices.

I’ve also been listening to this series as I work out, which is a new thing for me (I normally listen to my workout playlist or comedy series, such as the Wilosophy iPhone podcast by Wil Anderson). I definitely recommend it, it puts any emphasis on weight (loss) and poor self image into a more healthy perspective.

cooked

6. quince

I’m still eating my way through the last half of this batch of oven-poached quince (which I blogged about here). It’s absolutely stunning, ruby red and mellow, though I’m starting to think that I want to bake/create/cook with the remainder of the jar. My first thought is to make this quince crumble cake with crème fraîche from Australian Gourmet Traveller, however if you have any favourite recipes, send them my way! I love cooking tried and tested favourites from friends.

So, that pretty much sums up the last month in my kitchen as we transition further into Australian autumn. Thanks again to Maureen for hosting this monthly link-up – if you’d like to read about other contributing kitchens (or write a post yourself), head over to her post at Orgasmic Chef for details!

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35 responses

    • Aw thank you so much lovely! You’re one of my bread gurus now, haha! I will keep you posted on the baking trials, we’ll see how I go. Loved your IMK post too! x

  1. Look at all that stunning foraged and other produce! Just gorgeous. Your quince (quinces?) have me drooling haha, seriously :). Hope you enjoyed your Easter break, lovely – it certainly looks like you have made the most of it! xx

  2. Would you believe i’ve never had quince? I mean, I think I’ve had things with quince in it (and I’ve enjoyed some hand lotion that’s supposedly quince-ish), but I’ve never really met the fresh fruit in the flesh. Is it peary? Crisp? Tart? Regardless, I now must make it my mission to track some down because this is gorgeous. Your ruby description is so apt. Just perfect!

    • Thanks lovely, raw quince is pretty much inedible! It’s astringent/sour, dry and reallllllly hard (so difficult to cut, even). But cooked, it transforms into the most luscious, soft and sweet fruit. So delicious. Really difficult to describe the taste, it’s sort of like cooked pear but sweeter and more delicate. Definitely track some down if you can! xx

  3. love those chestnuts! I haven’t made sourdough and do feel kinda slightly intimidated. Also the problem with baking bread in my house is that I just eat it all really quick. Oh well, I do love that we are well in to porridge season here!

  4. Great post Laura – and I am very envious of your sourdough starter – my husband and I started making our own yoghurt last week (it’s easy) and bread is next up – so I’ll be keen to see how you go! Happy Friday

    • Oh wow, I’ve never made yoghurt. I’d love to give it a go though, I just read your post – I had no idea it was so easy! I’ve only got a tiny bit of my last tub of yoghurt in the fridge, so I think I know what to do with it (do you have any idea if it’d work with plant milk? Like coconut milk or soy? I’m curious…
      Thanks Laur xx

      • Hi Laura you need around 4 tablespoons of yoghurt per litre of milk – not sure about using anything other than cow or goats milk though but you could always experiment!

  5. Hi Laura:)
    WOW! Just look at all of the wonderful ingredients in your kitchen this month. As you know, I’ve done an IMK post for the first time and I’m delighted I did. I’m “meeting” so many talented bloggers and getting a taste of their kitchen “stuff.”

    Those chestnuts look oh so dangerous and difficult to get at. They remind me of the time I tried to un-shell walnuts. What a mess!

    Yes, the colony collapse is a scary thing indeed. I try to patronize local honey producers also. I’ve contemplated beekeeping but, I’m just not ready. I do my best to provide plants for them in my garden though:) (and no pesticides EVER!)

    Thank you so much for inviting us into your kitchen Laura. I enjoyed my visit and will stop by again. I’m curious as to how that porridge turns out:) Good Luck with that starter too!

    • Thanks so much for adding your comments Louise. My cousin keeps bees but I could never imagine keeping them myself… I’ve never been stung before so I don’t even know what that feels like! You’re entirely right, at least we can do our bit by providing a healthy environment for them to live in, whilst supporting beekeepers and producers that do the right thing! So nice to be a part of IMK with you! May there be many more months of sharing our kitchen adventures :) xx

  6. Such gorgeous photos and what a lovely update! I’m all about the porridge/oatmeal these days, too, even though it’s warming up FAST in Dallas. And like you, I’m a fan of listening to a podcast or music as I work in the kitchen. My latest obsession? Hamilton!

    Happy April, lovely!

    • Aw, thanks so much Erin! I think I need to look up Hamilton, that’s a new one for me! I’ve just started listening to something called Unqualified by Anna Faris which is pretty funny. It’s like having friends in the kitchen as you work! Stay cool lovely (says me as I’m snuggled under two blankets!). Happy mother’s day for next weekend too xx

  7. Lovely post, as always. Good luck with your sourdough starter. Mine started out really good but then sort of gave up: I think I wasn’t giving it enough attention after a while but I’m going to wait til it gets warmer here to try again as my kitchen is so cold I don’t think it helped. Enjoy your quinces – I have posts with quince paste, jelly and brandy as well as a quince and ginger cake if you are still looking for things to do with them.

    • Thanks so much lovely. Argh, yes I’ve killed a few sourdough starters in similar ways, I’m hoping that this one survives and conquers! I must check out your quince posts too as although I’ve finished this batch of quince, I’m planning on cooking some every year from now on (to make up for all the years when I wasn’t aware that quince existed!). That quince and ginger cake sounds divine. Thanks lovely x

  8. Welcome to IMK. What beautiful pictures, stunning! The situation with the European honey bees is quite grave, and complicated. They still haven’t really determined the cause and it is complex as you say. Good luck with the sourdough, I will look forward to reading about your progress.

    • Thanks for the lovely welcome Liz! I am loving the virtual community of IMK. I can’t wait to read along with this month’s posts now that May has started (I am so sorry for taking so long to reply to these messages, April ended up being a crazy month). Thanks for your insights into the issues I mentioned too x

  9. Lovely post Laura! Keen to see what you do with your sourdough starter – I have wanted to get one of my own for some time after seeing beautiful breads and cakes – I’m a bit like you, a little apprehensive about ‘keeping it alive’, but I’m sure once you get into a rhythm it would be easy peasy!

    • Thanks so much Caeli, haha… we shall see how long the sourdough starter lives on! I am keeping everything crossed, so to speak :) And yep, the blogosphere is such a gorgeous inspiration when it comes to home sourdough baking. I am amazed at what some people produce from their own domestic ovens xx

  10. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve killed off my sourdough starter – I always have some dried ready to rehydrate and start again. And even when you think you’ve killed it, just give it a generous feed over a couple of days and it will be probably bounce back. Gorgeous photos and I’m quite envious of your quinces. I’m heading into spring and summer so we’re topsy turvey in our kitchens :)

    • Argh, even though I’m sorry to hear of your sourdough mishaps, its nice to know that I’m not the only one Nancy! Maybe I’ve thrown them away too quickly though. I didn’t even think of trying to revive them. Thanks for the lovely words, this was such a fun post to put together! Enjoy your warm spring and summer season! It’s definitely weird being on opposite sides of the globe (but heaps of fun, too!) x

    • Oh wow, what a cool way to use chestnut skins! I had no idea that it was possible to make hair dye from them! It’s been lots of fun doing a monthly IMK post. Can’t believe it’s May already (I need to get my act together for this month’s post!) x

  11. Oooh I’ve never seen a chestnut all fresh like that. They’re pretty! I love foraging! I also love porridge… although your’s photographs so much better than mine ever has (all of your combinations sound delicious)!.
    I have thought I’d killed my sourdough many a time. They’re amazingly resilient things! Here’s to bread baking adventures!

    • Foraging is SO much fun isn’t it? I wish I knew how to forage for my own mushrooms… I’ve done a little bit of online research but I’d never feel confident unless I had some sort of guide (too many stories of people getting poisoned, argh). I think I need to have a little more faith in my sourdough starter. I mentioned to another commenter that perhaps I threw out the ‘dead’ starters a little too early instead of trying to revive them! Let’s have a little more confidence in this new one (I am so excited!). Thanks Lisa xx

  12. Great post Laura, and just the BEST photos. Is that the tiniest, most perfect little black beetle in the first photo? I’ve never actually handled chestnuts at their spiky stage – they look amazing! Total freaks of nature, like land anemones!
    We had a couple of days away last week and I scored some freshly-picked chestnuts at the local op shop of all places. Can’t wait to get roasting. Good luck with your starter! Look forward to your updates about it.

    • Yes, that’s a little ladybird in the first photo Sas, I have no idea how he/she ended up there… but it made me so happy when taking the photos (I’ve heard that they bring luck!). As for the chestnuts, they’re seriously spiky. The green spikes still have a little bit of ‘bend-ability’ though their points are sharp. I can imagine that it must be seriously painful to step on a dried one! Thanks lovely. Enjoy those gloriously earthy roasted chestnuts xx

  13. Hi Laura!– more more beautiful photographs. It’s always a beautiful surprise to open up your blog. Favorite– the chestnuts! I had no idea they looked like that– so darn cute! Like some kind of Easter treat. take care friend, xox

  14. phew lucky that i realised you had done an IMK for april. I think your blog name is not on maureen’s list. i just thought to check it when i saw your name come up on other posts.:) what lovely chestnuts. sounds like macadamias where you actually pick the ones on the ground rather than on the tree. they fall off when they are ready. i know – isn’t it a worry about bees? we used to always have bees around including those gorgeous blue natives but not anymore. what a sad world. we also don’t have any snails at all around here. i miss those little fellas.

    • Thanks lovely, yes I did try and let Maureen know that she’d left me off (I commented twice) but to no avail. Never mind, I think she’s got a lot on her mind at the moment. I appreciate the lovely comment – very cool to have your feedback on the bee issue (and snails! I don’t know what happened to the ones where you live, we still have heaps here in the wet season). And I need to find me a macadamia tree! I have tried to crack my own but I’ve never seen them grown. Soooo difficult to get them out of their shells (no wonder they’re expensive!). Thanks again Sherry! x

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