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I had a grand plan.

I was going to use a kilo of my recent bargain buy to create a salt dough, which I would then wrap and roast a chicken in.

Only…when it came time to make dinner, it just seemed like too much work.

So instead, I dragged out my trusty Römertopf baker and sat it in a sink of water to soak.

Then I blitzed up half a loaf of stale sourdough in the food processor and squished it together with two pork sausages (squeezed out of their casings), a handful of frozen cranberries, garlic, salt, pepper, a chopped onion, an egg and shredded sage leaves from the garden. I threw the fat from the chicken in as well, for good measure…

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The stuffing mixture was laid into the base of the wet Romy and topped with a free range chicken, which had been rubbed with olive oil, salt and a little pimenton (smoked paprika)…

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Lid on, then into a cold oven. The temperature was turned up to 200C with fan and the timer set for an hour. And I went out for a late afternoon walk by the water…

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When I came home, Pete had taken the lid off the pot and put the chook back into the oven for a further 45 minutes until the juices ran clear…

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. . . . .

The Römertopf makes creating midweek dinners like these a doddle – yes, I know, I bang on about this all the time. But it took me less than 30 minutes in total to prep, and then I had an hour to stroll along the bay while it cooked by itself. Every morsel of chicken and stuffing was eaten – the addition of extra sausage resulted in just the right amount of food for the hungry wolves.

So…I’m sorry this isn’t a post about salt-crusted chicken. If you’d like to try that, here’s the recipe I’d originally planned to make (it even specifies flossy salt).

But as I plonked the dirty clay baker into the dishwasher and rinsed the breadcrumbs out of the food processor, I wasn’t at all sorry that I didn’t have to scrape up shattered salt dough or mop up leaking juices.

Some recipes require more chi.

For all the other times, there’s the Römertopf!

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Mixed berry crumble is Small Man’s new favourite dessert.

If he finds out that I’ve made it, he’ll actually stop eating his dinner to leave room for it. He can eat an entire dish on his own, but out of politeness, will usually limit himself to just two-thirds. I’ve blogged an earlier version of this recipe before, but we’ve now refined it to (our) perfection.

It’s incredibly simple, and uses just a few fridge and freezer ingredients…

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Welch’s frozen fruits are a Costco find and we’ve been delighted with them. They’re reasonably priced, packed in Canada, and the berries and cherries are delicious without being overly sweet. We always keep a couple of packets in the freezer.

The fruit is sweetened with a little of our neighbour June’s apricot jam, and the topping is made from a quarter portion of our tea cake recipe (made without the added fruit, then carefully wrapped in clingfilm and frozen). Any plain pound style cake should work equally well, and it’s worth freezing end bits of stale cake for this.

Yesterday afternoon, I taught Small Man to make his favourite dessert. Here are the basic ingredients…

  • 2 cups of frozen mixed berries (don’t bother defrosting them)
  • ¼ cup of good jam
  • 250g (or whatever you have) of plain butter, pound or tea cake (defrosted, if frozen)
  • 30g unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

It’s completely fine to just eyeball these quantities, as it’s hard to go too far wrong.

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 160C with fan. In a pretty baking dish, mix the berries with the jam (I usually do this with my hands). We added a little peeled and diced apple as well this time.

Step 2: In a mixing bowl, crumble up the defrosted cake and mix in the melted butter and brown sugar. Try not to squish it together too much – the aim is to make a fine crumb…

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Step 3: Evenly scatter the crumb topping over the fruit, then bake for 30-40 minutes (start checking after 20 minutes to make sure it’s not browning too much)

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Step 4: Voila! The crumble is ready when the top is a golden brown and you can see the berry juices starting to bubble up at the sides…

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. . . . .

Now seriously, isn’t this the easiest dessert ever? We like to use homemade cake and jam, but I can’t see any reason why this wouldn’t work with bought ingredients – a good supermarket jam (try to pick one that isn’t too sweet) and a plain madeira or pound cake should be fine. I hope you enjoy this as much as Small Man does – it’s a sure-fire way to brighten up a mid-week dinner!

I went to Southern Cross Supplies in Marrickville today to buy a sack of bread flour.

As I walked past the clearance pallet, I noticed two large bags of Australian sea salt, marked down to $5 each. If you’re ever there, take a peak at the items outside the office door – there are often huge bargains to be had. I’ve picked up everything from foil chocolate cups to torn bags of bread flour, all at heavily discounted prices (cash only).

I use Olsson’s all the time in my cooking and baking, so naturally I came home with one of the bags of salt. It’s a wonder that I didn’t buy both…

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As I was driving home, I tried to figure out how I was going to explain it to Pete. Big Boy brought the bag in for me, and left it next to the stove.

Then my darling husband walked into the kitchen…

Pete: “What the f…?!”

Me: “It was $5!! It was a torn bag..”

Pete: “You shouldn’t have taken it even if it was free. What are we going to do with it?”

Me: “We might need it for trading when the next Bedouin caravan comes through..”

Pete: “Babe, you bought 25 kilos of salt…”

Me: “It’s ok! We’ll be ready for the zombie apocalypse now!”

Pete: “Right…if we’re attacked by zombie snails…”

{Silence}

Me: “Kiss me on the head so that I know you still love me…”

Pete: (sighs) “I still love you, you mad woman…” ♥

. . . . .

I reckon I could have gotten away with buying both bags…but it’s probably too late now.

But you know what? For the last 33 years, my life has been filled with conversations like this every single day. Full of laughter and teasing and deep affection, even at the hardest of times. I feel like the luckiest woman in the world.

And opening the sack to discover that the locally produced “kiln dried flossy salt” was perfect for baking? Well, that was just icing on the cake!

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At the recent Peters of Kensington stocktake sale (shh..we don’t mention it too loudly in front of Pete), I bought two Tala muffin pans to replace some of my rusty old ones.

When they arrived, I was delighted to find them sturdy and heavyweight, with what appears to be an excellent non-stick coating. They’re a bit smaller than my Chicago Metallic pan and were an absolute steal at just $5 each.

I had planned to make filled focaccias that day (my default when I need a quick lunch – our easy tutorial is here) and decided instead to turn the dough into little pocket breads. Each batch of dough was sufficient to fill 12 muffin holes.

. . . . .

Start by making the dough as shown here and allowing it to rise. Grease the muffin pan with melted butter.

Once the dough is fully proofed, preheat the oven to 240C with fan. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gently shape it into a flat rectangle. Roll the dough up to form a long skinny sausage, then cut it into 12 roughly equal slices.

Nestle each slice into a greased cavity (photo below shows a double batch). Cover with a clean cloth and allow to rise for a further 15 minutes of so (longer if your kitchen is a bit cold)…

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Once the rolls have puffed up a bit, brush the tops with any remaining melted butter…

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Pop the muffin pan(s) into the oven, reducing the temperature to 220C with fan. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the tray(s) and bake for a further 10 minutes or until well browned. Allow to cool on a wire rack before scoffing.

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. . . . .

Despite the semi-dried tomatoes burning a bit on the top, these were delicious and great fun to make and eat. They’re also very easy to share – we handed out half to friends and neighbours and the boys made short work of the rest!

In my kitchen…

…are Laguiole cheese knives, bought on sale from Everten Online.

Did you know that Laguiole is a style rather than a brand? The good ones are still made in France and stamped accordingly, like these by Andre Verdier…

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The bee is traditional, but its shaping varies slightly between makers…

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. . . . .

In my kitchen…

…is the bargain of the month: Udder Delights Organic Triple Cream Brie for $3.97 a wheel. These had an early February expiry date and were heavily reduced at Costco (who usually sell them at the already discounted price of $12.99). I bought three wheels, portioned them up and stashed them in the freezer

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. . . . .

In my kitchen…

…is an 80s knitting project: a bacon and egg beret, complete with peas. The truly sad thing is that I can actually remember wearing it out to dinner when I was 19 years old…

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. . . . .

In my kitchen…

…is another ricotta cake. They’re getting better with each attempt…

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. . . . .

In my kitchen…

…is my Christmas fossil, a 400 million year old orthoceras slab. The unusual large specimen on the right has a clearly defined propulsion tube (siphuncle). It’s ludicrous that the retail price on this was $45, less than a good dinner in Sydney costs…

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. . . . .

In my kitchen…

…are chocolate wheels, made using the plastic ma’moul moulds I found at Harkola…

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Some designs were more successful than others…

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. . . . .

In my kitchen…

…was an ang pow lantern, made for Chinese New Year celebrations with my cousins. I wrote a step by step tutorial on these here

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. . . . .

In my kitchen…

…was a quick Römertopf dinner, made with our leftover Christmas ham, assorted fridge and freezer vegetables, moghrabieh, tinned chick peas, Herbie’s chermoula spice mix and water…

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After a couple of hours, I pulled out the bones and added a handful of small pasta, then put it back into the oven for another 20 minutes…

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It was very easy to make, and an ideal way to use up leftover ham…

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. . . . .

Finally, in my kitchen…

…is a new dishwasher.

After the extensive repairs we undertook in 2014, we managed to get another two and a half years from our trusty old workhorse, but we just couldn’t justify fixing it any more. Our old machine was installed on the 15th January 2002, and it lasted fifteen years and one week. I think that’s an amazing run given the heavy duty usage we’ve put it through!

So naturally, we’ve bought another Miele.

Here’s a really big tip for my fellow Aussies…if you’re looking to buy a Miele appliance, check out their Unboxed stores. These outlets are kept pretty quiet, but all the appliances they have on offer come with a full mechanical warranty and sell for about 25% off recommended retail prices. They’re out of their original packaging, and some will have surface marks or scratches, but all will have been fully tested before sale. In January, they had dishwashers starting from just $585!

The retail price on the machine we bought was $1,499 and the Unboxed store had it for $1,050. We went one step further and bought a machine with a blue dot on it (lightly run, usually a demonstration model) and paid just $900. It’s German made, whisper quiet and very water efficient…

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. . . . .

Tell me, what’s happening in your kitchen?

If you’d like to write an In My Kitchen post, please do so by the 10th December and send your link to Liz of Bizzy Lizzy’s Good Things. Thanks for hosting Liz! x

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