How many times per week do you think it’s acceptable to include brown butter in a meal? Three seems reasonable… right?
I made brown butter for the first time last week. A friend brought me some wild mushroom and garlic ravioli and I needed a quick sauce to go with it. Now, for those of you already in on how magical brown butter is, you can nod your head knowingly and smile a distant smile, remembering your first time. For the rest of us, this is a butter that grew up, got an expensive haircut and started annunciating its vowels more clearly. It’s sophisticated and elegantly simple.
12 weeks ago my previous existence was thrown up into the air with the birth of baby Nell, and it’s now slowly resettling in a different configuration. My hair (and the rest of me, to be honest) doesn’t get washed as often, I now go down the baby aisle of the supermarket and my approach to cooking has simplified even further.
When time and available hands are restricted, good quality ingredients and big flavours come to the fore. I find myself buying interesting or strong flavoured ingredients to base a meal around, using pantry staples, frozen homemade stock and home-grown tomatoes, lettuce and herbs to fill it out. Halloumi and feta make simple salads more flavoursome, and having a bowl of cooked grains like quinoa, cous cous or freekeh in the fridge means the start of a meal is already done.
Using the produce of the season will help a simple meal pack a flavour punch. Fig trees are currently heavy with fruit, and I’m not one to miss an opportunity to relish the soft, deep purple and crimson sweetness on offer.
It’s the time of year when Summer is hiccuping out the door as Autumn stumbles in. Both seasons exist at once, with chilly mornings developing into glorious sunshine and days flip flop between warming soup or cooling salad weather. What better way to bridge the seasons than a salad full of earthy flavours and autumnal delights. Continue reading →
Lentils are the most easy going of the dried legumes stored in my pantry. They don’t require soaking, so I don’t have to intuit that I’d like to eat them the day before I crave them. And they’re quick to cook, only taking about 20 minutes compared to the long slow boil that others in the family prefer. Lentils are not fussy about what they’re paired with, happy bulking up a salad or providing a base for juicy meats. Thoroughly versatile ingredients like this are worth their space in my store cupboard.
Roasting chestnuts wasn’t as fun as I thought it would be when I stopped at the farm gate on a beautiful stretch of gumtree-lined road to pick up a bag for $3. Like broad beans, chestnuts herald a new season and only hang around for a short time. This is key, as they both rely on you to forget how much effort you had to put in to prepare them last year. Unlike broad beans, shelling chestnuts is a full-contact sport that carries risk of puncture wounds and burns. But if you manage to avail the sweet flesh of a chestnut from its burning shard of shell, you will be rewarded with the full earthy flavour of this nut.
The beauty of eating seasonally and locally is that the produce you’re presented with at the market tends to work well together. The rust-coloured pears, crisp dandelion leaves and mild, crumbly blue cheese that I picked up at the market were very content to be paired with the sweet chestnuts from the nut farm. It doesn’t take much effort to follow nature’s plans for your dinner table; just buy what looks good, prepare it simply and be rewarded with the flavours of the season. This salad is autumn fare, no doubt.
The autumn sun is casting beautiful golden light at the moment. It adds a warm glow to my street which is currently lined with bursts of crimson, saffron and the most vivid yellow as the trees prepare to cast off their leaves. With this lovely spectacle comes a chill in the air (to everyone who warned me that Kyneton gets cold, this is your chance to nod knowingly). But the fading sun still has some warmth in it, making it possible to sit outside, as long as your hands are wrapped around a mug of something hot. Continue reading →
When kitchens were built around large hearths and blackened pots bubbled while suspended over hot coals, pot roasting was a popular technique used to transform cheap cuts of meat into flavourful meals. Not much has changed. Sticking a chicken in a pot with some bacon, veggies and half a bottle of wine will result in a big flavoured, robust meal that will reward a decent appetite.
It’s the teamwork of the meat and the vegetables that I appreciate in a pot roast. They nestle together in the close quarters of a dutch oven, sharing cooking liquid, adding flavour and collaborating to produce a well-balanced offering. Continue reading →
Turning a head of cauliflower into a tray of roasted, golden, gently spiced florets happens often in my kitchen during the cooler months. I use the caramelised flavour and interesting texture as a base for warm salads, pastas, soups, or just for eating directly from the tray, preferably with a beer in hand.
A big, informal pie, one with an unfussy crust and a richly flavoured filling, is always a crowd pleaser. The crunch of a spoon breaking through pastry, a veil of steam briefly shrouding the pie before revealing a creamy centre is not only satisfying to watch, but also to hear. A spoonful of chicken and leeks topped with a jaunty piece of crust is a welcome addition to any buffet plate. Which the 14 people who snuggled into my kitchen on a crisp Autumn afternoon to share an Easter feast will attest to.
I’ve been keeping a hungry eye on one particular plant in the corner of our veggie patch. It shot up quickly, its deep purple stems thickening and extending into large, violet-edged leaves. Crinkly, delicate mauve flowers opened with a shock of yellow stamen protruding from their centre, promising the arrival of my favourite nightshade – eggplant. The bulbous beauties have indeed developed, but are not quite ready for the picking. So when I saw a basket of oddly shaped organic eggplants at the market, I was happy that other plants could feed my craving.
A few spectacular storms and crisper, darker mornings have heralded the start of Autumn in Kyneton. The grass in the backyard is becoming less crunchy underfoot as it soaks up the rain, soothing its sunburn, and the pear and apple trees have started to give us their fruit.
This is my first Autumn in 18 months. The endless Spring/Summer afforded to me from a cross-hemisphere move six months ago has been delightful. I’ve had a year of juicy stone fruit, fragrant tomatoes, crisp lettuce (some of which I grew myself), barbecued meat and long, warm evenings sitting outside with friends.
But as I pack away Summer, preserving fruit, making tomato sauce and pulling up the bolted lettuce, I’m anxious to start a new season of cooking. The produce at the Farmers Markets is also in transition and my basket had a bit of each season in it this week. When I spied a bundle of watercress I also picked up a potato and some spinach to go with the broth I had bubbling away in the slow cooker at home. It’s (finally) time for soup! Continue reading →