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My desperate attempts to minimise food wastage are often confounded by my inability to pass up a bargain.

$12 for a 2½ kg box of glacé pears? Normally $20 a kilo? Yep, I’ll take them…

Huge fish heads for $5 a kilo? Don’t throw them out, give me all of them…

Free range chicken carcasses for $1 each? I’m sure I can find room for those…

Sigh.

As a result, I usually have two bulging freezers and a fridge full of supplies that need to be used up. Here are some of our recent emptying-the-fridge/freezer/pantry meals.

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Last week, our friend Johnny passed me a bag of Italian prosciutto offcuts, and the lovely Dot gave me a wedge of very ripe Brie and a ball of mozzarella…

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Before heading off to the wedding last weekend, I’d baked a double batch of sourdough for the boys. As they only ate one loaf, there was quite a lot of stale bread leftover when we got home…

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I turned it all – bread, prosciutto, cheeses and some semi-dried tomatoes – into savoury slices. One for Johnny, one for Dot, one for Luca around the corner who’s in the middle of exams, and one for Big Boy’s lunch.

They’re a doddle to assemble (basic instructions are here) and infinitely adaptable – I skipped the cream this time and used just milk and eggs. Any cured meats, cheeses and antipasti you have in the fridge can go in. My friend Patrick describes this as mac’n’cheese with bread instead of mac; Johnny calls it “bread’n’boc(concini) pudding”.

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The fish heads were all scaled, de-gilled, vacuum sealed and frozen. As I’m the only person in the house who will eat them, I defrost one every couple of weeks and microwave it, topped with a little jarred black bean sauce, scallions and ginger. It’s ludicrously easy to cook (thanks Auntie Sim!) and I love having one all to myself for dinner…

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A recent freezer excavation turned up 300g of chicken mince and two half packets of dumpling wrappers (they defrost well, so it’s always worth freezing leftover skins).

These became an easy dinner one night

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…and dumpling noodle soup the next, with the addition of noodles and some defrosted homemade stock. I’m always happiest when I have a large stash of stock in the freezer, and the pressure cooker makes that easy

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During International Scone Week, I baked buttermilk scones for Small Man (they’re his favourite). He was out during the day and only managed to eat a couple, so that night, I broke them up and used them to top a mixed berry crumble. I routinely freeze leftover cake or brioche or cookies to throw onto defrosted fruit for an instant dessert…

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Here’s an earlier one we made with leftover tea cake and frozen blueberries…

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Finally, I made fruit and nut cakes with the glacé pears…

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We usually make this simple recipe at Christmas, but it’s good eating at any time of the year, with the added bonus of being both gluten and dairy free. It was also a great way to use up all those nearly empty packets of nuts in the back fridge!

Here’s the basic formula…

  • 250g seedless dates
  • 350g mixed glacé fruit, cut into pieces (cherries, mixed peel, apricots, pears etc)
  • 80g raisins
  • 450g mixed unsalted nuts (works best if you can include brazil nuts in the mix)
  • 100g ground almonds
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 large (59g) eggs
  • 2 tablespoons (40ml) honey
  • 1 teaspoon homemade vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons rum

Instructions, with photos, are here. I baked the cakes in lined loaf tins for an hour at 150C with fan, then allowed them to cool slowly, doused in rum and wrapped in foil and a tea towel. They keep for ages and slice well if stored in the fridge…

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Are you good at resisting a bargain? And what clever recipes do you have to use up your leftover bits and pieces?

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Cousin Jono loves Laura.

We know this because he told us so on Saturday night, in a speech that moved us all to tears. Pete and I have just spent the most glorious weekend in Mudgee, celebrating their wedding with family and friends.

Festivities kicked off with dinner on Friday night and ended with brunch on Sunday. Pete’s family know how to party properly!

The wedding mass was held at the historic St Mary’s Catholic Church in town…

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At 1pm, a chartered bus picked us up from our motels and drove us to The Vinegrove for the reception. The sun was shining and the venue was stunning – elegant and relaxing and charming, all at the same time…

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A large marquee was set up for the sit down meal, but it was hard to drag ourselves away from the huge roaring fire and comfortable lounges outside…

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Gorgeous copper lanterns glowed with reflected sunlight…I loved these so much I wanted to steal them (but I didn’t)…

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The marquee was elegantly adorned with white flowers…

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We partied hard for eight hours (the first return bus didn’t leave until 9pm). The food and wine were superb, and it turns out that I’m an amazing dancer after six glasses of sauvignon blanc.

We caught up with Pete’s cousins, whom we only get to see every few years; made friends with Dave and Andy (Statler and Waldorf), the gorgeous Julia and her wee bubba; got the phone number of Bruce, who is going to be our go-to Uber driver from now on; and fell madly in love with Andrew and Emma’s beautiful children.

Without wishing to gazump the bride with photos from the actual ceremony, here’s a pic of her to-die-for Cinderella shoes…

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On Sunday morning, we drove back to The Vinegrove for a fortifying brunch of bacon and egg rolls, before making our way back to Sydney. Our new cousin Laura gave us a white bouquet off the table to take home…

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All our love to you, Jono and Laura!

Thank you for letting us share in your celebrations!

Happiness is…

…eating tender ginger beef on a cold, rainy night…

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Happiness is…

…rocking my black heart sunnies with my red Clint Eastwood Ecuadorean hooded cape. Because it’s winter in Sydney, and the red hearts felt like overkill…

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Happiness is…

…escaping into the city for a couple of hours on my own. Even when it’s grey and overcast, Sydney is always beautiful, and it’s always home…

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Happiness is…

…catching the cute baristas at Gumption in the Strand Arcade cracking themselves up over their inability to pronounce the name “Hugh”…

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Happiness is…

…baking Small Man’s favourite buttermilk scones for International Scone Week, hosted by the lovely Tandy at Lavender and Lime. Pop over and join in the fun!

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Happiness is…

…finding an hour to temper some 70% Amedei dark chocolate into after dinner bites…

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Happiness is…

…achieving the plasticky sheen and holey crumb so coveted by Italian bakers everywhere…

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Happiness is…

…running into Steve the Bush Jeweller at the Rocks Markets and finding that his new pendant matches my other pieces exactly. Made from an old silver plated fork and spoon, it came on a sterling chain and cost just $28…

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Happiness is…

…learning from Auntie Sim how to steam a fish head in the microwave.

Pop a split and de-gilled head (just one side, about 350g) into a dish and cover with sauce and ginger, then cling film the top. Microwave on high for three minutes, medium for three minutes, then low for three minutes. Scatter over chopped scallions and serve.

I ate this on my own for lunch…

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Happiness is…

…discovering a new brand of shoes for my Hobbit feet. These are Wolkys and unfortunately they’re not available here (I bought then in San Francisco). To date, they’re the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn…

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Happiness is…

…knitted churidar pants from Fabindia – super long, über comfortable leggings that bunch at the ankles, hence the name “churidar” which means “bangle-like”. Best of all, they’re just US$22 a pair from Fabindia online, delivered anywhere in the world for free if you spend over $100…

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Happiness is…

…a new dryer.

We really did try to fix our old one, but after 16 years, it was no longer possible to get parts. We were pretty happy though when the repairman told us where to buy a Miele demonstrator model for $700 off the recommended retail price!

The model we bought uses heat pump technology, which my engineer husband believes will save us $300 a year in electricity…

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Happy days! Hope all is well in your world too!

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My friend Patrick said…”Celia, you’d make a good American”.

I’m not so sure about that, but I do know that I could happily live in San Francisco.

Last month, our family of four spent twenty-six days in California, staying with our beloved friends Dan(ielle) and Patrick. It was a trip we’d planned with some trepidation – Dan and I are extremely close, but even the best of relationships can be tested by sharing close quarters for such an extended period of time.

It’s a huge testament to our friendship (and Dan and Patrick’s great patience and generosity) that we didn’t have a single tense moment during the entire stay. And after nearly a month of living with them, we found it difficult to come home. It took me five days to get over the jet lag, but a lot longer to recover from the soul lag. You see, I left my heart in San Francisco.

I bought myself a new pair of Zenni prescription sunglasses just for San Francisco!

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This was our first proper holiday in a decade, and the longest we’ve ever been away. And I fell in love with all of it – Oakland City (where we were based), San Francisco, Berkeley and the East Bay. Most of all, I adored the people.

As a generalisation, San Francisco is a city of friendly, liberal-minded extroverts. Everyone we met was cheerful, and most were happy (keen!) to engage in conversation. Whether it was at the supermarket checkout, in a museum, or while waiting for a delayed flight, the folks we met were almost universally good natured. They have a lightness of spirit that reminded me of Sydneysiders, but their gregariousness and willingness to chat to strangers took it to another level for me. I was completely smitten.

Whilst we visited all the attractions, we didn’t have an overly touristy holiday. Dan and I shopped at Safeway and Target and Walmart; we visited Mexican grocers and Ecuadorean handicraft stores; we ate at local eateries. We attended a neighbourhood 4th of July parade, and froze in nosebleed seats at a night ballgame. The fog rolling in over the Golden Gate Bridge became a familiar sight.

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We cooked dinners at home, taught Dan to bake sourdough and temper chocolate, and sat in her backyard watching for hummingbirds. And yes, I did send packets of dried Priscilla to San Fran, where it was rehydrated into Dan’s starter Johnny Cash (you were right, Emilie, King Arthur flour is the bomb. Thanks!).

Dan's first sourdough loaf, made with her Johnny Cash starter.

Dan’s first sourdough loaf, made with her Johnny Cash starter.

Tempering chocolate with Dan and Patrick’s beautiful children – I hid the golden ticket moulds until the last minute!

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As a food lover, I found San Francisco full of surprises.

The French fries were disappointing (someone needs to introduce chicken salt to America), but there was a vast array of unbelievably good cheeses on offer everywhere, even in little corner grocery stores. Supermarket meat was almost scarily cheap. Oakland Chinatown offered live bullfrogs and tortoises for sale. And then there was the unparalleled wonderfulness of Berkeley Bowl. I have never seen produce as fresh or diverse or glorious for sale! I seriously considered moving to Berkeley, just to shop there.

I actually squealed out loud when I came across the mushroom display at Berkeley Bowl West.

I actually squealed out loud when I came across the mushroom display at Berkeley Bowl.

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It really was the holiday of a lifetime!

Dan and Patrick, Tully, Mitch and Benny, we love you guys (and we miss you desperately). Words are inadequate to express how grateful we are – thank you for making our visit so much better than we imagined it could be!

I’ll be posting more photos soon – I have over a thousand to sort through!

The In My Kitchen gathering is on hiatus at the moment, as our lovely host Maureen concentrates on getting herself well. She’ll be back on the job in September and we wish her all the best for a speedy and complete recovery!

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In my kitchen…

…are treasures from San Francisco! We spent July there with our beloved friends Dan and Patrick and have only just arrived back, so please excuse this slightly jetlag-addled post. Lots of photos to follow soon!

I brought back kosher salt and French Fleur de Sel de Camargue…

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In my kitchen…

…are fridge magnets from Piedmont and Alcatraz…

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In my kitchen…

…is gum from the fabulous Powell’s Sweet Shoppe and a new red Moleskine notebook. I’ve developed a love for journaling while on holidays…

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In my kitchen…

…is a superb new UE bluetooth speaker from Costco, San Francisco. They have them here too! Wonderful music quality and it fits neatly into a nook on the bench…

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In my kitchen…

…is the best bread knife I’ve ever used, a Victorinox Fibrox Ergonomic 26cm. It cuts through a crusty sourdough loaf with ease…

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In my kitchen…

…is a mountain of flour. I’d let supplies dwindle down before we left, but made a quick trip to Southern Cross Supplies the day after we landed back in Sydney…

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In my kitchen…

…is yesterday’s bake of sourdough loaves and focaccia. Monkey Girl took very good care of Priscilla while we were away…

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In my kitchen…

…are Starbucks’ You Are Here mugs from San Francisco and Los Angeles. We brought a few back as souvenirs!

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And soon to be in my kitchen (hopefully)…

…will be scones for International Scone Week! Pop over to Tandy’s blog to find out more. Here are mine from 2015 – I’d better get baking for this year…

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Tell me, what’s happening in your kitchen this month?

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