In My Kitchen: not even half baked

Late in June the oven in our apartment stopped with a pop; adjourning baking of the G.O.’s rain-checked sausages, bacon & onion gravy birthday dinner to the electric fry-pan.

Our relationship with the appliances in that apartment is uneasy. It’s coming up to 6 years old and the shiny appliances selected by the developers are more for show than go, rather than the domestic day-to-day use the G.O. and I put them to. We rent from my sister and in return for a not paying an arm and a leg we fix anything that goes wrong.

Even though I use it constantly I treat the oven cautiously since a couple of years ago I was wiping out the base when the door exploded into a storm of shattered glass that covered the expanse of the kitchen and then some. It took numerous telephone calls, 2 afternoons home from work and $600+ to realise the repairs. At the time I assumed something I did must have caused it but a later Google search for “smeg oven doors shattering” indicated probably not.

As we had enough food to keep us going for a few days and were reluctant to consider the unhappy subject of appliance repairers we took a leisurely approach to investigating the issue. A week or so later we tested and diagnosed a blown fan heating element as the problem. Once again I consulted Google, and found I could buy a replacement online. Which I did, from http://www.stoveconnection.com.au. When it arrived the cardboard box went directly into the back of the wardrobe until the G.O. could get around to installing it… which took another week or so. 

In the meantime we had to eat.

Out came the slow cooker, for a pot of old fashioned pea and ham soup, onto the balcony because of its pungent cooking aroma habitually remarked on by the G.O. The ingredients -dried green split peas+soup veges+ham hock+Massel vegetable stock- cost about $12 and when cooked are so much more delicious than the sum of their parts. We it enjoyed for weekend dinners and there was enough leftovers for 5 containers of lunch soup for me.

old fashioned split pea and ham hock soup for lunch with a view
old fashioned split pea and ham hock soup for lunch with a view

Out stayed the slow cooker on the balcony and in went lamb shoulder, Buller’s Malmsey, Massel vegetable stock, onions, carrots, and potatoes for the making of Pulled Lamb Shepherds Pie… except I forgot I didn’t have a working oven to bake pie so it ended up being Deconstructed Pulled Lamb Shepherds Pie. The leftovers are slated to become ATMT’s Shepherds Piesties.

slow cooking deconstructed shepherds pie on the balcony
slow cooking deconstructed shepherds pie on the balcony

Out came the simmer mat I recently bought from Victoria’s Basement, and the big stainless pot. In went a piece of silverside, water, onions, carrots, celery, malt vinegar, mustard powder and brown sugar to transform into corned beef for the G.O.’s weekday lunches. On went slowly sautéed tomatoes.

corned beef and winter tomatoes
corned beef and winter tomatoes

Out came the retro pudding steamer I bought from Braidwood Markets and in went a suitably old-style recipe using pineapple & coconut jam also from Braidwood Markets. On that, later, went a new recipe for Perfect Custard made with leatherwood honey.

steamed pudding with pineapple & coconut jame and perfect custard
steamed pudding with pineapple & coconut jam and perfect custard

Out went our no supermarket biscuits rule guideline. In came ginger biscuits for the G.O.’s smoko. The Woolworths Select Stem Ginger Cookies are delicious but tooooo sweet. Far better are the Nairns Stem Ginger Oat Biscuits.

invaders... supermarket ginger biccies
invaders… supermarket ginger biccies

We survived several oven-less weeks but the last week of easy pasta and toast meals when imagination and time ebbed meant the other thing that’s gone out are our waistlines…

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 via comments on Celia’s August IMK post.

“But the kitchen will not come into its own again until it ceases to be a status symbol and becomes again a workshop. It may be pastel. It may be ginghamed as to curtains and shining with copper like a picture in a woman’s magazine. But you and I will know it chiefly by its fragrances and its clutter. At the back of the stove will sit a soup kettle, gently bubbling, one into which every day are popped leftover bones and vegetables to make stock for sauces or soup for the family. Carrots and leeks will sprawl on counters, greens in a basket. There will be something sweet-smelling twirling in a bowl and something savory baking in the oven. Cabinet doors will gape ajar and colored surfaces are likely to be littered with salt and pepper and flour and herbs and cheesecloth and pot holders and long-handled forks. It won’t be neat. It won’t even look efficient. but when you enter it you will feel the pulse of life throbbing from every corner. The heart of the home will have begun once again to beat.”Phyllis McGinley (1905-1978)


68 thoughts on “In My Kitchen: not even half baked

    1. Thank you 🙂 I use the oven to slow cook my way through the winter repertoire of slow braises, but which I can replicate somewhat in the slow cooker if I choose.

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    1. Thank you. I love the set and forget of the slow cooker, but in winter the oven does double duty to warm the apartment. The G.O. is pleased that his supply of homemade biccies has resumed 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Just goes to show Ella that we don’t need ovens at all. You have done rather well with the other appliances. Very few people own ovens in China and Greece. I hope the GO has managed to install that spare part- it can get rather tedious. Your one pot meals sound very nourishing.

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    1. In winter I tend to slow cook in the oven to make those one-pot meals that feed us for a few days, but the pea and ham soup was conveniently on the agenda anyway. We both love it but the G.O. hates the smell… it is a bit pungent! And corned beef is a regular on the menu regardless of the season.
      Better than getting someone in – the G.O. installed the part and cleaned the oven!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I use the large oven on my gas cooker once in a blue moon. I use the small, efficient, quick electric oven on my benchtop often for baking. Firstly, the power it uses we generate ourselves from the sun. Secondly, it’s small, heats quickly and efficiently and I’m not heating lots of unused space. Thirdly, baking is sort of my job so I’d be lost without it, but outside the baking we rarely if ever use the oven. I make a big pot of soup every week, whether from a chicken carcass, or a vat of curried vegetable puree, or that stock pot of vegetable scraps always on the go. Even in summer…

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    1. Makes so much sense for you to not be overheating your kitchen. The smaller electric oven is a clever solution. Winter is our time for slow oven braises cooked on weekends to warm the apartment when we are home. I look forward to them from autumn onwards and don’t want to think about them after mid-springtime! Stock and soup on the go is a wonderful idea.

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    1. I like to do at least one batch of pea and ham soup each winter, it’s something everyone in my family cooks. The G.O. usually requests corned beef, it’s such a simple & versatile cut of meat.

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  3. EllaDee, your IMK post was an inspiration to me! I’m facing a similar situation here, only it has to do with our propane tank, which sprung a leak during our move. The gas company won’t install a new meter until the tank completely runs out (understandably so), hence no to gas to cook with when it does — on the stove top or in the oven — until it’s repaired. The flames are flickering ominously low right now! Any day now I’ll be breaking out the crock pot and looking to your menus and resourceful cooking methods to get by. Thanks! 🙂

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    1. Thank you. I’m sure I could use the slow cooker for so much more, but there is only 2 of us and we can only eat so much! When I bought my first slow cooker I was amazed and impressed by the variety & imagination of the recipes and ideas available online for slow cooking. Your crockpot will save the day 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I love electric slow cookers aka crockpots, and have 2. The usual and one that has a bowl that can be used on the stovetop for browning then inserted into the electric base to do its slow thing! In winter I prefer slow cooking in the oven on weekend afternoons to warm up the apartment but slow cookers are also good for soups, tomatoes, whole chicken etc in summer if you don’t want to heat up the kitchen.

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  4. Thank you for reminding me! I want to buy a slow-cooker. Now that I’m spending so much time out of the house working, it would make dinner so much easier. Oh and I love that quote by Phyllis McGinley. I’m proud to say it describes my kitchen quite nicely, except for the pot of stock constantly bubbling away. Knowing me, I’d burn the house down if I tried to do that! lol

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    1. Slow cookers are so inexpensive these days, I’m tempted to buy yet another. So handy for making tomato sauce, freezer soup etc and of course meat dishes using those lovely old-fashioned cuts.
      Your kitchen sounds lovely by association, and where my heart lies also 🙂

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  5. (Hmmm, I keep trying to leave a comment – and it keeps locking up – so quickly before it gags again!)
    Slow cookers are a wonder. The ham and green pea soup sounds yummy…(or would but it’s too darn hot to think much less cook, so it’s lighter fare for a few weeks) Never seen a simmer gadget like that – so logical.
    Yes, ready for fall and maybe some real cooking.
    (will now see if the shorter version will go…)

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    1. How odd, or maybe not… WordPress hmmm…but your comment got through this time 🙂
      The simmer gadget sat in the cupboard for a while but once I began it’s in constant use now.
      Stick with warm weather fare while you can but when the weather cools, and it will 🙂 remember pea and ham soup tastes so much better than it looks and smells!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. An exploding oven door! Geez. It might have been financially equivalent to just get a new one…anyway. Inventive and yummy no bake solutions too! Plus, that quote at the end…perfect. I fantasise about a big, open farmhouse kitchen that was big enough to fit a round table and bowls of leeks and carrots. One day!

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    1. Replacing a Smeg oven with same isn’t within my means. But yes, my own modest Chef cost only slightly more than that door!
      I love the imagery & feel that quote evokes, and want that for my kitchen also 🙂

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  7. Wow! Lovely and inspiring as usual. I have an old industrial cooker the size of a small village that I think I might consider to be my third child – it is at our rental home because the door has to be removed and 6 strong people rallied to move it anywhere – so it stayed in place. But I miss it! Getting to the point where one has a working kitchen with just the right bits and pieces, be they dodgy thrift store purchases or old wedding gifts or shiny new practicals, is a special place to land in one’s life! Taylor Arms perhaps? Certainly you have some beauts though in your Sydney kitchen! All that they helped you create looked delicious…

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    1. I know what you mean about appliances being like family… I feel the same way about our coffee machine. And when the Oscar chopper I had for 29 years died, it was a sad day but I’ve yet to develop a relationship with an oven, although I can truly say I love my Chasseur pots. Between both residences we have more than enough kitchenalia and appliances although I have a few more things on my wish list.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Pea and ham soup, oxtail stew and silverside are my hubs favourites – which is great because none of them require an oven. When we first moved to the RUC I had no oven or hotplates and just cooked everything in the slow-cooker and electric frypan. When the oven was connected it felt like Christmas!

    It must have nearly given you a heat attack when that glass exploded. Surely it’s a design fault and the manufacturer is responsible for replacement…

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    1. When I did oxtail stew -slow braised in the oven- it was a little fiddly to eat. Next time an oxtail comes my way I think I’ll make a long simmery soup-stew in the slow-cooker. We both like nanna food as the G.O. calls it. This weekend it was the other end, lamb necks which were a lot simpler.
      A slow-cooker and electric frypan are handy appliances but in winter unlike those of you in tropical climes the oven is a consideration for warmth as well as food 🙂
      The oven door exploding was a shock which is why I think at the time I assumed it must been something I did while wiping out the base, and the repairman never mentioned warranty etc. It was only later I saw online other people had the same experience. Quite dangerous had anyone been in the trajectory.

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  9. Lucky that it has been cold enough to enjoy the soups and deconstructed shepherd’s pie! I love one pot meals, and think a slow cooker would be a good addition. However, I am looking very enviously at your simmer thing. My stove is very crummy and you have to be quite particular when simmering. Things catch easily. Your little gadget may be just the ticket! I intend to get a new stove and oven at some point, but the opening to fit it in is quite narrow. It is enough to make me procrastinate longer 🙂

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    1. One of the things I love about winter is how easy it is to feed us, but slow cookers are great for summer too, the simplest way to turn a big bag of tomatoes, basil and onions into a wonderful sauce.
      Even on this fancy new-ish Smeg gas cooktop, the simmer mat makes a difference to keeping a low even heat, and will be of use with my good old Aussie Chef gas stovetop at TA as well. I procrastinated for years over a new stove at TA, and just after I had a meltdown dealing with the bloody thing’s electric burners events transpired to open my purse 🙂

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  10. You have made be think of investing in a slow cooker… definitely handy to have if your oven decides to call it a day. Pea and ham soup, gosh I can’t remember that last time I had that. One of my favorite shop bought cookies are the stem ginger ones. Thanks for sharing your kitchen treasures 🙂

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    1. Slow cookers are handy to have anyway, and that one is a basic inexpensive supermarket brand, worth its weight in gold.
      I know… ginger biscuits and a cup of tea… simple pleasures 🙂

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    1. Thank you. I can live -just- with the oven having 3 elements that are consumables but the door issue was shattering… pun intended! Disappointing for a not-inexpensive appliance. But all is well for now, and it’s simultaneously cooking dinner and warming the apartment 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. “the kitchen will not come into its own again until it ceases to be a status symbol and becomes again a workshop.”
    Amen!
    Back in our city life we knew people who would build houses with fancy pretty kitchens they never used. Or they’d pay big bucks to remodel their kitchen, but it was all for show, since they didn’t know how to cook.

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    1. My benchmarks are my grandmothers’ kitchens, nothing fancy but they worked. These new apartment kitchens are designed for people who eat out or heat up frozen dinners I’m sure 🙂

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    1. In my later research I heard of the Smeg oven doors shattering during self cleaning… it’s a shock isn’t it. But I’m pleased you were able to get yours replaced. When it happened to me the oven wasn’t on, I just had the door open and was leaning in wiping the base. It was out of warranty anyway by that time but I was surprised to learn it’s such an issue. We were finding bits of glass for over a year.
      Thank you. We’re moving steadily towards making the move out of the city plan happen 🙂

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    1. I think appliances aren’t what they were. I remember my grandparents fridge which my aunt and uncle later had for decades. Back in the day stoves were a once or maybe twice in a lifetime proposition.
      Thanks you. It was good to have options, and the slow cooker was really handy 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Seems you have been very resourceful in the kitchen! My boys would be lost if they had to go too long without treats or even bread from the oven. We have googled many appliance repairs and hubby teases he should start a blog on appliance repairs using parts bought on ebay! The cost savings is incredible. Glad to hear your up and running again in the kitchen.

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    1. The worst was not being able to make biscuits for the G.O. to take to work. Plus I kept thinking I’ll make this then realising… no oven!
      Once we learned you can buy appliance parts online it was great! And there are heaps of YouTube clips on how-to if necessary. Obviously some things need an electrician but swapping out the parts is do-able if you are a bit handy. I agree with your husband, the more info out there the better.
      We’re back to homemade biccies and winter braises in oven the which is good because the weather is still cool.

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    1. Before I buy anything I scour the online reviews, For an awareness of the worst of any pitfalls… Most appliance reviewers, I think, are inclined to do it as a warning to others rather than give accolades.
      Thank you. I can’t praise the steamed pudding and Perfect Custard recipes highly enough… such a lovely& simple food memory to recreate 🙂

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    1. We who are the cooks, even when from time to time we deal with dodgy appliances still manage to put meals on the table. No restaurants or takeaways will make their fortunes from us!

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    1. Have you made split pea and ham soup? It stinks! Cooking it outside was the only way I could get the G.O. to agree to it. It never ceases to surprise him how bad it smells vs how good it tastes.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ha again! Brilliant thinking there Elladee! I love pea and ham soup – but never make soup in summer. My Texas sis-in-law on our recent trip offered me soup for lunch at 99 degrees F – and seemed bemused when I laughed! We ended up with salad 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Love how inventive you were with the slow cooker and the simmer mat. But I could see how after a few days or a week, it would get to be a ton of work. Bravo for finding your workarounds and allowing yourself some leeway. 🙂

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  14. oh i know the pain of a broken oven from many years as a renter…your steamed pud looks amazing! Can’t wait for cooler weather for some more cooking! -Cate from IMK

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    1. Appliances just aren’t what they used to be… I factor replacement in my initial spend these days!
      I can feel the season ebbing away so I’m ticking off the last few cool weather must do’s and must tries before I look forward to summer foods… and mango season 🙂

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  15. What a coincidence that should mention sausages and onion gravy. Just today I was tidying some posts and came across one for Toad In The Hole and thought ‘Wow, that’s a good looking brown onion gravy. I should make it again.’ I cook caramelised onions in the slow cooker on the porch. I only ever do my corned beef in the slow cooker – as you have used it so much, I was surprised when used the stove.

    Gone out are our waistlines…… ha ha ha

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    1. I’ve never cooked Toad in the Hole but I just looked up the recipe… how very interesting. Definitely the gravy would make it. I’ve yet to try caramelized onions in the slow cooker but it’s on my list and I can imagine why you’d need to do it outside.
      I cook corned beef in ginger beer in the slow cooker if we are eating it cold… tastes weird hot… but prefer the stove top for the traditional version.
      ha ha ha… I had to eat lettuce salad for work lunches for 2 weeks to counteract the pasta 🙂

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