This week in my kitchen.

19 July

Look at that. Practically a month has gone by and you are all completely in the dark about what’s been happening in my kitchen. Truth be told I have not been as committed to the cooking as I have been in the past. There are only so many hours in the day and I have been laser-focused on my novel. Did I mention my novel? Only about a hundred times. BUT my first draft is finished and I am letting the poor thing breathe for a bit before I start wrangling it into shape.

So… on to the cooking. Can I tell you how much I love living in an area which is so committed to supporting local farmers and where there are so many opportunities to buy food from the people who grew it? A LOT. So I have been preparing lots of seasonal food with ingredients sourced from within 100km of here. Bliss! For example, last weekend we had friends for dinner and I made a grilled vegetable soup that was very winter-tummy-warming. Eggplants, capsicums, tomatoes, garlic… mmmm. All from around here except the tomatoes. Then salmon on a bed of fennel and sugar snap peas. All from around here. Accompanied by dutch cream potatoes and a winter slaw… all ingredients from around here.

The flavours were so rich and just ‘there’ – if you know what I mean? Maybe not 🙂 Let me attempt to explain: when you buy produce from the supermarket it just doesn’t seem to have zing or pop. As if everything all the flavour has been watered down. Which is what happens when you grow for shelf-life not taste, and when things are left in cold storage for months, years, however long it is. And then put it in plastic. Don’t start me on the ‘oh how great are we getting rid of single use plastic bags but look how we wrap EVERY SINGLE THING in plastic in the produce section’ thing. Now look what you’ve done… I told you not to start me 🙂

27 June

Friends, hello! I have missed you all. I was blindsided by work and any spare minute I had was spent focusing on my first ever novel, so my poor little blog has been sadly neglected. But working on it today as reminded me how much I love thinking about, talking about, writing about food. As well as making it and eating it, obvs. I can’t tell you specifics about what I have been cooking up because my brain does not retain information for that long. I can remember yesterday! But apart from that, I am the traditional fish in a bowl. Ooh a castle, ooh a castle.

I can give you overall things – I have been heavily investigating both Plenty and Plenty More from Yotam, so a bit away from the sweet baking and more towards vegetable deliciousness. Both books are highly recommended and many thanks to all my loved ones for presenting them to me on the occasion of the anniversary of my birth. So… that’s about all from me right now. But I make this personal commitment: it will not be two months before I am back.

29 April

Again, more than a week since I updated, so let’s just forgive me and move on. I have had distractions, people, distractions. We took a trip (more on this in a minute), I got a job (SO time-consuming!) and I have been focused on my novel. Wait what? You didn’t know I was writing a novel? Well, you do now 🙂

Back to the trip, which included quite a few gastronomic highlights, I tell you. We zoomed across the beautiful vastness of NSW to the Barossa Valley, and returned via the Great Ocean Road. Two destinations not previously discovered by my good self, so it was good to get there. I will now impart to you my wisdoms in relation to eating on the road, and in new places:

Wisdom ONE

Crowdsource some recommendations. Hit people up! Ask around, particularly your food-loving friends. Our very short trip to the Barossa was enhanced incredibly by some local knowledge. We didn’t have time to do all that investigating ourselves, so were very happy to find the following two gems on advice from a loved one:

FermentAsian – easily the best Asian food I have eaten in ages – next level – accompanied by an encyclopedia-sized wine list. I kid you not.

Rockford Wines – every sip a winner, friends! Credit card BLOWN.

Wisdom TWO

Go with your gut. When you arrive at a restaurant and your insides say ‘hmmm’ and the owner is a smart alec who treats you like an idiot because you have the hide to ask a question about something on the menu – go. GO, my friends. Life is too short.

That is all. Over and out.

5 April

Yes, it has been more than a week since I updated. That whole Easter thing got in the way of blogging, but it was a distraction I was happy to have. A long weekend. Glorious weather. Beach days. A house full of friends and family. And a lot of cooking for an appreciative audience. Is there anything better?

It is weekends like this that remind me why I love to cook. Big tables covered in food. The people I love sitting around it, eating drinking talking laughing. It’s not only important, it is pretty much what life is about, hey?

So over the last week my kitchen has produced: pistachio and semolina cake (check out rosewater in the ingredients section for more on this pretty and delicious little baby),pain au chocolate, chocolate chip and pecan cookies,  chocolate fudge cake (it was EASTER, people, the FESTIVAL OF CHOCOLATE). And of course, we had some actual meals with vegetables and stuff: a roast chicken dinner, and then a serious triumph with a slow cooked leg of lamb (six hours) and a massive tray of roast veg. This was good. Highly recommend!

What deliciousness did you create in your kitchen over Easter? Please hit me up in the comments 🙂

And stay tuned for updates from the road. Yes, FoodieWordie is off on a trip to the Barossa Valley! I have a strong feeling the next ingredient research will be GRAPES.

23 March

This week has seen a few interruptions to the normal flow of life so my actual cooking adventures have been minimal (read: zero). The upside of this has been a dive into podcast world as I tripped on trains. I caught up with an old favourite – Gastropod – and discovered a new one – Cooking by Ear.

Let me tell you a bit about both. Gastropod is a pretty ‘science-y’ look at food, eating and other matters gastronomic. I remember one episode about a non-wine drinker deciding to sit the Master Sommelier exams and the crash course she went on to learn all about the science of wine and tasting. She then went on to write a book called ‘Cork Dorks’. Haha. Anyway, the episode I listened to this week was all about sourdough cultures. Anybody who knows me knows I am a bit of a geek about sourdough, so this was right up my alley. I learned so much interesting stuff about the differences in cultures and why those differences exist. But the piece de resistance, the top of the pile of discoveries, was learning that there is a sourdough library in Belgium. A SOURDOUGH LIBRARY! You can check it out online and take a 360 deg tour. Go on! You know you want to! You can click on some of the little jars to see where they are from and hear local stories about bread-making in that particular place. It makes me so happy to know that this is in the world.

Enough geeking out and on to my new favourite – Cooking by Ear. A chef by the name of Cal Peternell (ex Chez Panisse) goes to someone’s house – this first episode was Frances McDormand – and they cook a recipe together while chatting about food and other stuff. They give you an ingredient list at the start so you can cook along with them if you want. So you get: a recipe, a cooking lesson from a great chef, a chat with someone interesting and you end up with dinner! How. Good. Is. That?

Check them out, my friends. They are both well-worth your time.

14 March

Firstly, I finally produced some croissants I am proud of! Hooray!

It has been a bit of a journey but I realised that I had been working with a recipe that was just not clear enough in either instructions or detail. And the results were… ummm… less than optimal. So I went on an investigative mission to find some answers and landed on The French Baker by Jean Michel Raynaud – which I must confess is one of those books I have a love/hate relationship with – but in croissant world it is pure unadulterated love! It is one of the few recipes I could find that uses dried yeast (fresh is SO hard to find where I live) and had wonderful step by step photos. I was SO impressed by myself and the results.

Secondly, I have been reading a seriously interesting book called Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat.

The subtitle is ‘mastering the elements of good cooking’ and it is a detailed look at the science behind the aforementioned four elements and how they work together to create deliciousness. For those of us who are obsessed with restaurant reviews and such (me) Samin worked at Chez Panisse with Alice Waters, and also taught Michael Pollan how to cook. Michael Pollan is one of my food idols (check out Cooked on Netflix and you will also fall in love with him).

Anyhoo, the book is based on the premise that if you master the four elements you will be able to cook anything and be liberated from slavish recipe-following because you will understand the science. Rider: baking is a bit different – you do need precision in recipes and instructions to achieve extraordinary outcomes – see previous re croissants! 

Back to the book: I am only part way through and have already learned so much and seen immediate results. The book is split pretty much in half – the first half is the science, bitches (anyone else a Breaking Bad fan? If not, that reference will just seem offensive – ha) and the second is recipes, but recipes you now understand and can adapt, change and be confident in doing so.

The book has lovely hand-drawn illustrations and charts, but no photos. Her philosophy (I love this) is that photos set a standard that is often unreachable, and just result in a feeling of failure.

Check out this book is you are interested in freeing up your cooking – for someone like me (overly attached to instructions) it is a revelation.

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