Over the past month the weather has gotten quite nippy here on the south east coast of Australia. It’s perfect for indoor enjoyments, warming our small apartment by turning the oven on, and comfort food.
Just as well, because the G.O. and I have spent the last three weekends keeping each other cosy company on the couch while fighting off our common cold/flu lurgy. Expeditions have been circumscribed. I haven’t been to the farmers market for over a month. We’ve been eating courtesy of our pantry-freezer stash and foraging at local shops.
En route dashing to the shops I diverted to a garage sale and was rewarded, netting myself a ginger-garlic grater -perfect! fresh ginger for tea was on my shopping list- and yet another cookbook I couldn’t resist buying for a few dollars. One day rather than just browsing, I’ll make something… What attracted me to Donna Hay’s At My Table (1995) was the artistic photography by Quentin Bacon and the simple fresh recipes and ideas. “The photographs in At My Table have been taken as polaroid transfers. Each image is printed onto cotton paper and each is therefore an original work of art.”
When I can’t get to the markets what I miss most is proper free range eggs. The eggs at the local shop are labelled free range and they’re local from within a 100 km radius of Sydney but I can’t help thinking they’re not what I envision as really free range pastured eggs from farm chooks. I couldn’t have been more delighted to get a text from my bestie Mrs S. who was coming for a visit asking Do you want eggs? Yes. Half a dozen or a dozen? However many you can carry, was my response. Her husband has a band of what she calls not free range but feral range chooks in his Blue Mountains backyard.
As she hands the eggs over Mrs S. says to me. I don’t eat the eggs… those chooks will eat anything, bugs, food scraps, rubbish. My suggestion to not die and fall over in the back yard or they’ll eat you, didn’t comfort her. That’s why backyard eggs are better than shop eggs! You can see, Mr S.’s chook egg is the one on the right, with the lovely yellow yolk. The other egg is free range but grain fed, hence the orange yolk.
Backyard eggs inspired me to cook rice pudding like my Pa used to make, as close as I can. The G.O., enigma that he is, won’t eat plain boiled rice in any form but will eat rice pudding. My grandfather’s rice pudding was my favourite dessert when I was a kid. He made it just like this in an old enamel dish, but in a wood burning oven. I can’t replicate that nor milk from his dairy cows, or home grown eggs usually. But it’s still good, and the G.O.’s current preferred sweets for Sunday afternoon tea and Monday smoko.
The recipe is from my 1984 revised version of The Commonsense Cookery Book. Thumbing through it, refreshing my memory on rice pudding how-to I came across a recipe I’ve been seeking for a decade… The G.O.’s favourite sweet made by his grandmother was apple rice meringue… I’d never heard of it. But I have the recipe now. It’s his birthday in a few weeks. Stay tuned.
Pumpkin is the G.O.’s favourite soup. I love it because it’s the easiest to make. I saw Beck from In Search of Golden Pudding’s Roasted Pumpkin Soup and decided it was time to turn into soup the pumpkin given to us in April by a Taylors Arm neighbour. Similar to Beck, baking on a non stick tray pumpkin pieces skin on with whole unpeeled onions and garlic until golden. When cool, scraping/squeezing out the softened vegetables into a saucepan, I blend them with stock… by mistake I added 1 tub of chicken and another of beef stock… it was delicious… plus a generous glug of macadamia oil to give the soup weight and depth, and season only with white pepper. This time inspired by Beck I also scraped in the caramelised cooking juices off the bottom of the pan. Best Pumpkin Soup Ever.
During winter in particular my motto is “I love cooking with wine—sometimes I even put it in the food”, so I was pleased when I re-discovered untried in the bottom of a draw the wine saver my sister gave me for Christmas… a few years ago… I like a drop of red in a glass or in the pot but the G.O. doesn’t drink it. The wine saver works by swapping the screw cap/cork with the stopper then using the pump to vacuum out the air inside that will turn the wine if left for too long. Not that it happens much!
The quiet transition from autumn to winter is not a bad time at all. It’s a time for protecting and securing things and for making sure you’ve got in as many supplies as you can. It’s nice to gather together everything you possess as close to you as possible, to store up your warmth and your thoughts and burrow yourself into a deep hole inside, a core of safety where you can defend what is important and precious and your very own. Then the cold and the storms and the darkness can do their worst. They can grope their way up the walls looking for a way in, but they won’t find one, everything is shut, and you sit inside, laughing in your warmth and your solitude, for you have had foresight. ― Tove Jansson, Moominvalley in November
Thanks to Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting In My Kitchen and the IMK community for foodie inspiration & the virtual company they provide. If you’d like to join in, link back to Celia’s blog.