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In my kitchen…

…were fudge brownies, baked for Small Man to take to his mate’s 21st birthday party (apparently they were a hit!)…

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In my kitchen…

…is a sack of Manildra Protein Enriched Flour.

This has the highest protein of all their bakers flours and the 12.5kg bag usually costs about $13. When I was at Southern Cross Supplies a couple of weeks ago, this was on the clearance stand for $5 (it had a small hole in the back). I didn’t actually need more flour, but I couldn’t resist the bargain…

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In my kitchen…

…is this magnificent piece of amethyst – a gift from my mum…

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In my kitchen…

…is a new enamel roaster by Wiltshire.

A headsup to my bread baking friends – this is the same size as the 30cm enamel roaster I use to bake my loaves in, but it’s a lot cheaper than the Falcon brand I usually buy from Peters of Kensington. I haven’t tried the Wiltshire roaster yet, but it looks almost identical to the Falcon one.

It’s currently available for $25 from Harvey Normal online (plus $10 shipping I think). I bought mine from Victoria’s Basement, but they’re now out of stock there…

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In my kitchen…

…are Delucas Wollemi open range eggs.

Our chooks are approaching retirement and hardly laying at all these days, so we’ve been supplementing with these eggs from Delucas. I like that they declare their stocking density to be 1000 hens per hectare (well within the free range code of 1500).

By the way, if you’re interested in knowing whether or not the eggs you’re buying in Australia comply with the code – this article by Choice Magazine is very useful

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In my kitchen…

…was a batch of moghrabieh – a house favourite…

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In my kitchen…

…is dried Priscilla sourdough starter, made following Maureen’s technique and using the dehydrator that she so kindly sent me a few months ago. It worked a treat!

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In my kitchen…

…was a magnificent bottle of 1998 Mount Pleasant shiraz, uncovered in a recent cellar tidy up. It was drinking at its peak…

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In my kitchen…

…is a box of frozen sashimi grade South Australian greenlip abalones. I love eating abalone but have never tried cooking it before…

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Finally, in my kitchen…

…there is always bread! A sourdough sandwich loaf this time, plus a batch of cheese and olive rolls for Small Man…

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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 May and send your link to Maureen at The Orgasmic Chef. Thanks for hosting Maureen! x

I’m in a good space at the moment.

The wacko menopausal health issues seem to be in check for now, my men are doing well, and life is gentle.

With both boys now out of school, the rhythm of our household has changed. Our sons are young men now – they manage their own schedules, get themselves to and fro unassisted, and have even taken over their own washing and cleaning.

Big Boy is proving a deft hand in the kitchen; Small Man less so. Our dinner conversations continue to be quirky and interesting, with a constantly changing focus. Every night, as I watch my three men deep in discussion, I give thanks for such a harmonious and loving family. I can’t remember the last time an angry word was exchanged at the dinner table.

This morning, as I started to unstack the dishwasher, I noticed that the sun was rising. So I downed tools and sat outside with my hot drink, basking in the gentle warmth of the autumn light. It was a very soothing way to start the day.

Perhaps it’s a sign of middle age, but lately I’ve been filled with gratitude for the small things, and each day it seems to be something different. This morning, it was the little blue pen I was writing my shopping list with. It was just a 50c biro, but I suddenly felt incredibly fortunate to have a whole drawer of pens to write with. Thirty years ago, my friends Cath and Andrew went around Africa in the back of a converted army truck, carrying pockets full of biros to use as currency – such was the shortage at the time of writing implements in some of the poorer regions.

Often in our first world lives, commodities become so cheap that we cease to value them. I know the faux bone-handled knives in my cutlery drawer aren’t worth much, but I adore them – for their history, and the way they feel in my hand, and the way they spread butter on a piece of toast. I love that we humans use tools, and I’m particularly happy when I find a clever piece of kit that makes my life easier. Like my offset spatula. I’ll stop now before I work my way through the entire utensils drawer.

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Einstein once said…“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

I haven’t always been good at the latter, but I’ve been practising.

I’ve been watching the sun and marveling at the miracle of light and heat, and listening to my boys and feeling my heart throb at the timbre of their voices. I’m spending time staring at fossils that are hundreds of millions of years old and wondering how it’s possible to be holding a remnant of such ancient life in my hands. I’ve been turning off my devices and engaging in actual conversations with old friends, laughing and crying and sharing hard times as well as happy ones. And I’m trying to focus my attention on the minutiae – on the difference in taste between the peppermint and spearmint that grows in our garden, and the feel of bread dough under my fingers, and the perfect zigzag our resident St Andrews Cross spider weaves into her webs.

Life is good at the moment. Gentle and mindful and wondrous and happy.

Much love to you all. ♥

Our weekend began with hotdogs and small children.

On Thursday, I received a bulk order of magnificent pasture raised Ajani Pork from Country Meats Direct. This is the first time I’ve bought from Ajani, though I’ve since had a wonderful sms conversation with owner Rose. It’s a joy to find folks who are deeply committed to the welfare of their stock…

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We decided to try the sausages on Friday night. I whipped up a batch of poorly but enthusiastically shaped faux brioche rolls

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We were joined by Will, young Tom and Not-A-Baby-Anymore Grace. Everyone cheerfully scoffed sausages in rolls smothered with tomato sauce (which, I’m told, counts as a vegetable).

Will was delighted – our Cornish friend has missed his English-style pork bangers…

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Before going to bed that night, I mixed up a four kilo batch of sourdough in my large plastic tub. For those who are interested, the formula was 600g active starter (166% hydration), 500g remilled semolina flour, 1500g bakers flour, 1350g water, 36g fine sea salt…

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The dough was folded twice before I went to bed, and once more when I got up to pee at 2.45am. That’s not an integral part of the process, by the way.

This is what it looked like at 6am on Saturday morning…

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I baked the dough into four loaves and gave away three of them…weekend bread is made for sharing…

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By 9.30am, I was at Eveleigh Markets and overjoyed to have scored a parking spot right outside the front door!

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I came home with an assortment of treasures, including a magnificent pasture raised Burrawong Gaian chook, watercress and olives from the Darling Mills stand, and a mixed bag from the lovely lads at Margin Mushrooms

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At lunch time, our friends Kevin and Carol popped by to pick up a loaf of sourdough. They hadn’t eaten, so we all sat down to leftover japchae noodles. Spending time with old friends is a weekend bonus!

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That night, Pete turned the chicken, mushrooms and a few of the olives into this sublime, non-traditional coq au vin. A third of a bottle of Ashton Hills 2000 pinot went in (winemaker Stephen George is a genius – what other Aussie pinot is even drinkable let alone sensational at sixteen years old?)…

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On Saturday evening, I made another four kilo batch of sourdough. All mixed by hand. Scrunching everything together in the large tub is incredibly therapeutic…

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The dough which greeted me this morning (Sunday) was even bouncier than the previous one…

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I shaped up and baked four more loaves, experimenting with decorative slashing along the way. The two long loaves went to neighbours…

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I met my beloved mum for coffee after lunch and passed one of the round loaves to her. She’s not a fan of sourdough and I’m working hard to convert her! I took this video to show her why Pete is convinced that our bread is better than the supermarket varieties.

If you squish a slice of white sandwich bread, it compresses to paper thin. Whereas our sourdough will bounce back…(the jungle drums in the background are coming from the dishwasher)…

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I was sitting in the kitchen today, marveling at the fact that after nine years, I’m still experimenting with sourdough and enjoying it so much. Linda wrote a bit about this today, and I couldn’t agree with her more – baking bread has never felt like a chore to me. Even when life is hectic, there always seems to be time for sourdough. In fact, at those times, the bread making seems more important than ever, because it brings a sense of rhythm and routine – a panacea for the angst that comes with crazy busy-ness…

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 I hope you’ve all had as much fun this weekend as we have!

A few bits and pieces from the past couple of weeks…

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Big Boy made his first batch of marshmallows, under Pete’s watchful eye. It takes dexterity to pour hot sugar syrup into beaten egg whites without splashing…

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I cooked an old Women’s Weekly recipe for Vietnamese-style coriander chicken. It had a whole tablespoon of crushed coriander seeds in it, which I loved. The boys less so…

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I attempted the Tartine recipe for baguettes, which mostly uses plain (AP) flour. They didn’t end up as holey as I’d hoped, but they were very tasty…

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Leftover beef stew was upcycled into lasagne…

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Pete and I visited the Biennale installations at Carriageworks. They were large and impressive and glorious…

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I’ve been knitting dishcloths and wiring up angels…

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A long chorus of crystal angels has been hanging on our dining room window for over a decade. Every morning, they put on a light show for us…

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A visit to Haverick Meats yielded these glorious grassfed beef shortribs. Butcher Mark went out the back to find them for me, as the ones on display were all grainfed…

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I braised them slowly with root vegetables following a Ming Tsai recipe, then served them with crusty sourdough…

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I’ve been practising my slashing, and finally feel like I’m getting the hang of it. It’s taken over a dozen loaves to get a result I’m really happy with…

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I texted my friends Will and Bethany and asked them if they’d like a loaf. They politely accepted, then sent this photo with a tagline of “Bring me the sourdough!”

For all of you Grace fans who’ve been wondering what she’s been up to…now you know…

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Hope you’re all having a wonderful month! ♥

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A couple of weeks ago, I bought myself two bags of bakers flour.

I usually buy one at a time, and I’d already picked up a 12.5kg bag of Manildra flour on our last trip to Harkola.

A few days later, Big Boy took me out for a decaf piccolo at Coffee Alchemy in Marrickville. I asked him to swing past Southern Cross Supplies on the way home – after all, it’s foolish not to take advantage of a strapping 23 year old when you have access to one. The addition of the 25kg sack of Ben Furney Premium Bakers meant that I suddenly had 37.5kg of bread flour in my kitchen.

I was pretty excited – having so much flour on hand  in autumn is a huge gift (in summer, it’s a burden, as the heat leads to bug problems). Here are a few photos from this week’s bread making mania…

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An experimental filled fougasse, made with Jamon offcuts, Dorset cheddar and dried Greek figs. I used the same dough as our stuffed focaccia (tutorial here), but shaped it into four fougasse at the end rather than a slab…

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I had cocoa leftover from chocolate truffles, so I tried stenciling a couple of sourdough loaves. My design skills are limited to very simple paper cuts…

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I’d spritzed the top of the loaf with water before dusting, then made two long slashes on either side of the cocoa…

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I was pretty chuffed with how they turned out! Baking in an enclosed pot meant that the rise was controlled, so the design was preserved on the finished loaf…

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Small Man came home from uni yesterday and I said “I’ve baked some focaccia for you”. He cut himself an enormous slice and ate it plain…

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The leftovers were sliced up and frozen…

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They’re the perfect base for a quick pizza lunch that the boys make for themselves – defrosted, cut in half and topped with tomato sauce, cheese and fridge finds. Here’s a photo from last year to show you what I mean. I’d like to point out that Big Boy and Small Man don’t usually have beer at lunch…

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I made two loaves of walnut sourdough, then drove to our friend Nick’s house to leave one at his doorstep (he was pretty pleased).

I also baked these macadamia, pecan and walnut loaves. They’re seriously dense, with nearly a quarter kilo of nuts in each loaf (recipe is here). The crumb is tinged purple from the walnut skins…

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Finally, my truffle salt encrusted loaf – burnt or artisan? I kept forgetting to put the timer on, so it baked longer than usual, but the end result was particularly delicious…

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As I’m typing, there are two batches of sourdough proving in the kitchen – one will be turned into cheese and olive rolls, and the other into a white toast loaf.

Happy days! I hope you’re having as much fun in your kitchen as I’m having in mine! ♥

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