in my kitchen + autumn

books

I’ve been wanting to participate in the ‘In My Kitchen’ series for… months? Probably years, by now. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, I believe the series was started by the lovely Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial back in 2010 as a way to chronicle the seasonal happenings in her own Sydney kitchen.

After roughly twelve months, she sent out a call for other bloggers to join the series and (fast forwarding to February, 2016) there are now dozens of participants each month from all over the world. Maureen at Orgasmic Chef has joined Celia as the present host of each month’s ‘In My Kitchen’ series (not a small feat, at all) and in turn, her blog has become the single ‘hub’ for both readers and participants to click through each month of kitchen features. Good idea, huh? So. Much. Fun.

As for me? Well, I’ve been quietly following the series for at least eighteen months, maybe more. I’ve occasionally commented, but I’ve mostly been reading, learning and admiring the incredible cooking talent that occupies domestic kitchens worldwide. There has been much intention to join the series; in fact, I have a couple of draft posts from six-or-so months ago that remain unfinished. But as per usual, my temperamental, inconsistent blogging qualities won over and my desire to participate never translated to actual engagement.

Until now.

carrottray2

So, it’s March. The first month of Australian autumn, characterised by gradually decreasing temperatures, russet leaves and hot cross buns (nah, we don’t really do pumpkin spice in this country). As per this writer from the Huffington Post, it’s really not cold yet in Australia so… well, I’m still wearing shorts and t-shirts (evidence here) but cooler nights are providing greater enthusiasm for roasted vegetables and spicy Shiraz.

Despite the continuation of balmy weather, there are a few other things happening in my kitchen this month, mostly dictated by gifts from family and friends. So (following the general template of these posts) here’s a short update of what’s happening in my kitchen:

  1. Recipe Books.

As per my header photograph, I’ve been gifted with a few new volumes recently which are proudly adorning my timber coffee table. They all generously lean towards my obsession with plant based whole foods, sustainability and seasonal eating, so I’m reading a few recipes each night and taking notes on what to cook as the season changes. So far, I’ve made a few deliciously ‘cheezy’ cashew things from The Unbakery by Megan May (a gift from my friend Lucy, thanks lovely) whilst adapting a couple of apple-y autumn salads from Seasons by Donna Hay (a gorgeous hand-me-down from my friend Elissa, who knows me all too well). I’m fuelling my Mexican bent with The Thug Kitchen (whilst attempting not to corrupt my angelic mind, isn’t that right Vicky (thanks lovely) and Graz?) and learning about dehydrating and flat breads from Amy Chaplin (this one was a gift to myself, I am totally enamoured).

I’ve also dug out an older literary gift from my friend Trixie, A Change of Appetite by Diana Henry. Mostly as I miss her (Trix, not Diana, obviously) and her tiny dog Clem, who in my opinion is Loki’s long-lost soulmate. See, this is Loki’s face when I mention Clemmie*:

loki

*possibly a bit of creative license. I was actually telling him to get out of the way as I wanted to photograph my cookbooks on the bed (you can spy some binding in the upper right hand corner).

You can look forward to seeing the influence of this reading upon my cooking over the next few months (I might even share a recipe or two, with appropriate credit).

buns

2. Argentine Brioche Buns

Aaron and I have been eating our way through a bag of sweet buns over the past week. They were part of a thank you gift from the beautiful mother of some friends of ours who hail from Argentina; as far as I can tell they’re made from brioche dough with a soft, sweet jammy centre. Lucy (who made the buns) advised that the jam is actually quince paste, or dulce de membrillo, a popular confection in South America.

They’re absolutely delicious, buttery and rich, perfect with strong coffee for afternoon tea (there are a couple left over that I’m thinking of turning into breakfast grilled cheese… would that be a travesty? Sweet quince, melty rich cheese, sweet brioche dough… yum. Watch this space).

sauce

3. Condiments. And lots of hot sauce. 

As I mentioned in this post, I had the privilege of catching up with Graz and his wife Jennee a couple of weeks ago during their recent trip to Western Australia. What I didn’t mention is that after our dinner outing, Graz gifted us (meaning Aaron and I) a bag of homemade condiments including South Carolina mustard sauce, house BBQ sauce and tomato sauce alongside a generous jar of ‘Big Red Rub‘ (smoky barbecue dry rub).

Oh my golly. These condiments are good. I’ve had them on the table twice this week, accompanying crisp barbecued chicken, smoky baked potatoes and homemade apple coleslaw. I also made a soft boiled egg, beet and lettuce salad (old school styles) dressed with homemade dill, caper and lemon ‘proper mayonnaise’ and for some reason the mustard sauce suited that too.

I can’t wait to try the rub with some free-range pork ribs on the weekend (hopefully from Plantagenet) braised for a few hours under foil. I’ll serve the juicy pork with some soft white rolls, salted butter, corn and hot sauce, perhaps some fat dill pickles for good measure. It will be ridiculously good. I’m calling it. Oh, and there will be beer.

cups

4. Tea cups by Patricia Fernandes

Some time ago, my friend Lucy gave me four pastel-coloured embossed tea cups made by a local Western Australian ceramic artist, Patricia Fernandes. They’re from FOUND at the Fremantle Arts Centre (the most amazing store, ever) and I loved them instantly, so much that they went straight onto my ‘special objects’ shelf.

Ha. Do any of you have one of those? A place for beautiful objects that really should be used, but aren’t… in my case, because I’m afraid I might ruin them. Other key items from that shelf include a stunning salad bowl from Gorman Home Time by Connie Lichti, a handmade salt dish from Gewürzhaus, some ceramics that I found in a tiny store in Italy and a Hofbräuhaus beer stein from in Munich, all of which have never been used (except on the odd occasion for food styling, go figure).

Anyway, yesterday I decided that enough is enough. Squirrelling objects away for the winter (or the dust bunnies) doesn’t benefit anyone. So this afternoon, I gave the cups a gentle rinse, dried them and removed the labels. I’m in the process of brewing a nice big pot of steamed green tea with lemon and I intend to drink each sip quite thoughtfully from the cup in periwinkle blue. Next time Lucy comes around, I’ll make a batch of these and rinse the cups again, refreshing them with a pot of steaming spiced soy Chai (or maybe these homemade mallows and hot chocolate).

pana

5. Pana chocolate

This raw, organic chocolate is an absolute favourite of mine. Partly as it feels virtuous (despite being decidedly chocolatey) but mostly because, in all honesty, it’s just so darn delicious. Think of the deepest, richest bitter cacao combined with smooth, creamy cacao butter and hints of sweet coconut nectar. That is Pana, with whatever mix-ins you fancy.

Talking mix-ins: I have a particular love for the mint bar, seconded by the fig and wild orange bar with chunks of moist dried fig (bar pictured above). I’m also desperate to try the hemp and nib version, because… well, ‘body scrub’ (follow the link and explanation regarding Australian laws. Yep, I like living life on the edge).

Despite my infatuation, Pana doesn’t regularly feature in my kitchen as it’s a teensy bit pricy (as most organic small-batch products justifiably are). Instead, I ‘make do’ with slightly cheaper homemade treats such as these sticky salted tahini date caramel bars (which are wonderful to keep in the refrigerator for mid-afternoon energy lapses), energy balls and Medjool dates. Until the recurrent impulse strikes and I squirrel a bar of Pana home from the health food store, like this one. They’re sooo good (and no, I have no affiliation with Pana chocolate, I just like their products).

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6. Apples, apples, apples

I got another text from my mama today. She’s harvested the last of the apples from her tree (excluding the extra-high ones that she can’t reach) and they’re currently sitting in a basket on her kitchen table. The remaining apple count in my refrigerator sits at three (the extra teeny tiny ones that were too cute to eat) so I’m keen to collect a few to make this gorgeous apple caramel cake (Jen, you goddess you) and Amy’s kale, apple and wild rice salad (with crunchy pecans and sweet cranberries).

I also intend to revisit my spiced apple and buttermilk cake as there’s leftover buttermilk in the freezer… or maybe I’ll just turn it into pancakes with caramelised apples. Ain’t no harm in that.

So that’s it. This month’s kitchen round up, thanks to inspiration from Celia, Maureen, Jen, Anne and other friends I’m yet to meet.  Here’s hoping it’ll become a beautiful monthly ritual!

pomegranate molasses. and loki.

side

It’s Monday. The last day of February and, officially, the end of Australian summertime. Rather hard to believe, as the weather remains warm and I’m still in light clothing past midnight (it’s 01:04am). As I type, a slight breeze wafts through the open door, the air redolent of wet grass and burnt shrubbery. Both were presumably soaked this evening by domestic sprinklers, a timer set to summer restrictions. I can imagine the leaves unfurling after hours in the blazing sun.

This is my favourite time of day. The inky black, the quiet. The street is almost still and other than Loki’s gentle breaths, our living room is too. I’m tired but relaxed, my fingers wrapped comfortably around a glass of iced water. I type, thoughts align: if only life was always this simple.

glass

In my last post, I mentioned that I made some pomegranate molasses from some fruit that was languishing in my refrigerator crisper. It’s absolutely beautiful, sticky and piquant, so much better than anything from the store.

The original plan was to use the molasses in this sort of salad with some crumbled blue cheese, mum’s leftover apples, lentils and a sprinkle of toasted walnuts. Instead, I ate the apples (yep, told you I would) then went Ottolenghi-esque with various glazed roasted vegetables (carrots, eggplant, Brussels sprouts), all of which disappeared with some wilted spinach, toasted pepitas and soft goats cheese.

I took absolutely no photos. Well, other than these, which were snapped after I made the molasses. I guess I was too busy eating.

lid

So, take two: I’m posting the recipe for pomegranate molasses today with plans to make more as autumn takes hold. It’ll be drizzled over roasted cauliflower (in yoghurt, olive oil and sumac), whisked into lentil salad dressings and best of all, I’m planning a chicken tagine with the molasses, plenty of pepper and oregano.

All very autumnal food, slow and nourishing, fragrant with warming spices. Watch this space for (new season) recipes, coming soon.

But for now? Make this molasses and drizzle it over your (homemade or store-bought, I don’t judge!) hummus with some toasted crushed pistachios and/or walnuts, chopped tomato and parsley. Have an end-of-summer (or winter, depending upon where you are) sundowner, with char-grilled bread and some chilled white wine.

It’s super good, borderline gourmet with very little fuss. You’ll be glad you did.

Pomegranate Molasses

Adapted from this recipe by Sarah Hobbs

  • 2-3 fresh pomegranates to yield 1 cup (250mL) of juice (I found 1 pomegranate = roughly 125mL of juice)
  • 1/4 cup white caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Remove arils from pomegranates (I use the scoring method from this post). Place into the bowl of a food processor, then process until crushed (the inner seeds should be visible and all flesh should be reasonably pulpy). Strain through a fine sieve into a jug, pressing the pulp with back of a spoon to release the juice.

Combine the juice (which should be around 1 cup) with the caster sugar and lemon juice in a medium saucepan. Stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves.

Increase heat to medium and bring mixture to a simmer. Allow to cook for 15-20 minutes or until the mixture is syrupy, has reduced by half and easily coats the back of a spoon. Set aside to cool slightly, then pour into an airtight jar.

I store my pomegranate molasses in the pantry (at room temperature) as I use it quickly, however it should keep indefinitely in the refrigerator.

aerial

As I know how much you all love Loki, I thought I’d end with a quick snap (by Aaron) of what he does every time I use my food processor. As soon as the motor starts running, he sprints to the kitchen bench and launches an attack.

Heck he jumps high. I do hope he’s not afraid of it. I’ve attempted to confine him to the bedroom while I use it but… well, he hates it (meaning the confinement, but possibly the food processor too). Maybe he wants to operate it himself?

loki

meat cake and puppy teeth

lokicakecut

My husband bought me a laptop for Christmas. Well, Christmas and my birthday and our fourth wedding anniversary last year. Due to the notable expense, it was a few presents in one.

It’s beautiful; shiny and new and expeditious. After almost an entire year of stealing hours on Aaron’s desktop computer (read my original eulogy here) it feels like a luxury to have my own device again.

As I had hoped, the accessibility of a laptop has somewhat rekindled my passion for creative writing. I’ve been tapping away at all hours of the day and night, sipping cold tea and humming absentmindedly. I’ve also uploaded almost twelve months of digital photos from my DSLR, uncovering many edible inventions and several hundred (no, I’m not joking) photographs of Loki (our scraggly fur-kid with ambrosial eyes).

toofs

ballAh, Loki. He’s one family member who’s less than fond of my Christmas present. Within a few days, he identified the laptop as competition for my undivided attention (second only to my cell phone). He takes great pleasure in lying across the keypad, ‘nosing’ my hand away from the keys at every given opportunity.

This occasionally leaves wet smudges on the corners of the screen. I kind of like them; I’ve left them to dry like a little line of clouds.

They’re evidence of his friendly occupancy, his shared residence of this shoebox of ours. This place is his home.

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It’s hard to believe we’ve had this smart little bundle of energy for over twelve months now. We celebrated his first birthday last September and, rather cheesily, I baked him a ‘meat cake’ with sweet potato and carrot ‘frosting’.

lokicakelokicake3

It was an improvised job, a spontaneous project based on this idea by my friend Trixie. I packed it full of his favourite things (minus the loose ‘anything on Aaron’s plate’ category) in this order:

  • cake: one beaten egg (plus the ground eggshell – just dry them out and pound them up in your mortar and pestle), about 350g of beef mince, chopped parsley and some bone marrow (leftover from bone broth) mixed and oven-baked in a small 15cm/6 inch lined tin until firm (160 degrees C /320 degrees f for roughly 20 minutes from memory). Allow to cool, remove from tin and invert onto a plate.
  • frosting: mash one small steamed sweet potato and one steamed carrot (peel left on) together with some bone broth to loosen. Spread over cooled meat cake.
  • decorations: Italian parsley leaves and sliced vegetable leather (from my favourite local Perth dog bakery, Go Fetch)

I was rather pleased with his level of enthusiasm:

lokiup side ear lick bite fini

Yep. One happy dog, although I can’t really extol my canine baking skills – he’s rather unfussy when it comes to food. We’re very, very lucky.

Hopefully he feels like he’s lucky, too.

hugs laurloki

I treasure each moment with this pup; his tentative growls, morning licks, keen stick legs and pleading eyes (usually whilst I’m eating my cereal. Or eating anything. The common factor is eating). He’s always enthusiastic, regardless of fatigue, fear or pain.

The trust, unconditional love and genuine affection you receive from a dog is incredibly humbling. It makes me want to be better, to try harder, both for him and because of him.

He deserves the very best of me (as does my husband. No, not just because he bought me a computer).

lokisleep

Thanks for indulging this very personal, sentimental post of mine (I do hope those of you who keenly follow my Loki photos on Instagram feel satisfied with a big ol’ dose of scraggly cuteness! For those who don’t – I assure you my next post will be something vegetarian and delicious).

I’m praying for many more years of meat cakes and nose smudges. It’s definitely worth the daily vacuum bag full of dog hair.

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