A simple pasta is what Nigella Lawson would call a perfect kitchen supper. It’s the type of eating that begins by sneaking a bit of each ingredient into your mouth while preparing. You’ll dip your finger into a simmering sauce more than necessary just because it tastes so good. And you’ll finish with a big bowl eaten at the kitchen counter, with the cooking pot in arms reach, ready for second helpings.
This kitchen supper was inspired by a fortuitous rain shower at the farmers’ market that sent me into the nearest marquee for shelter. The stall I sought refuge in presented fresh, creamy, meaty walnuts that bore little resemblance to the ones sold in the supermarket. They were so tasty, they formed the basis of a simple pasta.
On most Saturdays, a fresh, crusty loaf of sourdough bread appears in my kitchen. With it comes the promise of thick slices of toast slathered in jam, crusty bases for a golden array of scrambled eggs or a platform for melting cheese. It seems impossible, given these options, that I don’t devour it entirely in a day. But sometimes, the weekend comes and goes and leaves behind a hard heel of bread, recoiling in a crumpled paper bag at the end of the bench. This is when I’m most excited, because it means I have a key ingredient that cannot be purchased in a store: stale bread.
A frugal kitchen finds a use for all odds and ends, with ends turning into beginnings of new meals. Stale bread makes excellent croutons for soups or salads and breadcrumbs that can be stored in an air-tight container for up to a month. But on these mid-winter days that are only briefly acquainted with sunlight, and are quickly enveloped in dense fog or frost, I like to turn my stale bread into soup.
Breakfast isn’t often sophisticated. It can be satisfying, sure. Or hearty. Maybe even a treat. But sophisticated isn’t a word that gets used for breakfast regularly. It is, however, the correct term to describe this dish when presenting it to your mum this Sunday for Mother’s Day.
It’s a very simple recipe, but don’t let that fool you. This plate is full of texture and dances a fine line between savoury and sweet. With persian flavours and several surprising elements, it is both interesting and delicious to eat as well as beautiful to look at. 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.
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.
Preserving food at the end of Summer requires respect for tomorrow’s hunger. The effort of chopping up fruit, sterilising jars and dabbling in science to capture the sweetness of the season brings no immediate gratification. But when the chill of the evening air takes your breath away and the sun is keeping its distance, a twist of a lid to reveal a soft peach or sticky jam is heavenly.
This week I found myself with a tomato glut, ripe for my future cravings. Continue reading →
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 →
It’s summer holidays. The days are long, hot and the markets are filled with colourful fruit and veggies bursting with sunshine. It’s preserving season, that time of year when it’s possible to capture a season in a jar and save it for shorter, bleaker days ahead.
Lemon tree branches are currently heavy with golden fruit. I’ve been using a lot of lemons this season. We live in an area dotted with natural mineral springs. Some enterprising body tapped our local spring in 1890 and it’s still possible to pop down to the tap, pump the wooden handle and collect bottles of slightly effervescent, natural mineral water. How romantic. Except that it tastes terrible. The sulphur in the water hits your palette and screams “EGGS!” as you try to chug down a glass in the hope of receiving the touted health benefits of the brown-ish water. I’ve found that the only way to make our local mineral water drinkable is to pour it over ice and and squeeze half a lemon into it. There’s something about the clink of the ice in the glass that hints at more tasty contents and the lemon distracts your tastebuds from the lurking sulphur.
Despite my increase in water consumption, there’s still more lemons to be had. So, inspired by my recent journey into Middle Eastern cuisine via Ottolenghi’s beautiful cookbook Jerusalem, I set about preserving lemons.
It’s the dawn of a new year, and first things first: breakfast. All promises for better living and resolutions to drop bad habits need fuel to come to fruition and what more appropriate way to start fresh than to crack a few eggs and give life to a delicious breakfast.
I have been making scrambled eggs badly for ever. I longed for fluffy eggs with a velvety finish. Instead I’d serve up edible but inelegant eggs that needed a generous serve of crispy bacon to divert attention from the dry yellow mess cowering on the toast.
And then we moved to the country, where new friends have productive chooks and old friends come to stay the night. So with the ingredients at the ready and a desire to cater delicious breakfast for our guests, I set out to learn how to make perfect scrambled eggs.