In my kitchen:
Are freshly picked capers (and a few caperberries). We had to fight 39°C heat and a million ants to get these. Ants are all over the plants. The caper buds have tiny nectar glands which attract ants. You have to flick the ants off before you can pick the capers. They are horrid.
The ants are so bad we have launched a counter attack. I hate ants. If there is one thing that stops me loving the country, it is bloody ants. Maus and I always go back to Perth covered in ant bites.
Here are the capers after soaking in brine for two days.
And here they are all preserved. We actually ventured out again to pick some more since this lot only made 4 jars. The ants weren’t as bad after our counter attack. I know it is not politically correct to kill things but ants are the limit. We have four huge nests on our block. BTW, Emily, the big jar is yours. Here is the recipe if anyone is interested.
Are cucumbers. Maus has started her summer cucumber patrol. We picked these the day we arrived in Bridgetown. Ever since, Maus has been knocking on the neighbours’ doors offering cucumbers. One neighbour wasn’t home the two occasions she knocked so I told her to just leave them at the front door. How desperate is that?
You will note the absence of tomato photos this year. They are coming – they are just very late. The alpaca poo that the beans so loved has made the tomato plants grow like mad but, alas, they have not fruited well. You would think this would have made me very happy, given the number of preserved tomatoes I have but I couldn’t help myself. I had to do something about it. The lush growth is caused by too much fertiliser, especially nitrogen. The solution: potassium. I have sprinkled sulphate of potash around each bush to encourage them to set fruit. Pretty soon I will be whinging about too many tomatoes. I am never happy, am I?
Well, out on the porch, are onions drying. This is the first time I have grown brown onions and I am very pleased with my efforts. There are still plenty in the ground. That huge one in the middle is the size of four onions. I have never seen anything like it. The white onions are supposed to be pickling onions but they have grown quite large. I usually pick them early and use them as spring onions but this year I had too many and they have formed into quite substantial white onions. I love the fact that I don’t have to find a use for them all straight away. I am going to try and store them properly so they last a few months.
Are red kidney beans, cannellini beans and borlotti beans. I, finally, worked out the best time to pick them – when they are all dried out. I wasted quite a few borlotti beans by picking them too early. This is the first year that I have grown them and I am very pleased. I bought a packet of seeds that had 8 seeds of each variety in it.
This is how many red kidney beans I have. These beans did the best. I love chilli con carne so that will definitely be on the menu this winter. This amount of beans would probably cost me about $2.00 to buy but it is still satisfying growing them yourself.
The borlotti beans did well but they ripened first and I picked quite a few too early so I had to throw them out. I eventually caught on. I will, at least, have enough for some soup and seeds for double the number of plants next year.
The cannellini beans were not so successful. We came down one week early in the season and some bug had eaten all their leaves. I only got this many from eight plants. I will plant these seeds and see if I can improve on the numbers next year. I didn’t even get to see what was eating the plants. It was funny because only the cannellini plants were eaten. I would have thought a bean plant is a bean plant is a bean plant but obviously not.
I love growing these beans as they are something I can grow over summer without adding to the overwhelming amount of fresh vegetables that must be consumed.
In my kitchen:
Is this very cute hand-made rusty funnel. The other day, I told Maus I needed a small funnel. “I have just the thing,” she said and produced this gorgeous baby. I asked her where it came from. “Don’t you remember? Your mum gave it to me, along with all those rusty screws, nails, nuts and bolts”, she replied. I never ceased to be amazed (by Maus and what she keeps) and by the fact that one generation ago, people had hand made kitchen utensils.
In my kitchen:
Are a couple of Ottolenghi dishes. This one is his cauliflower and cumin fritters with lime yoghurt (page 50 Ottolenghi The Cookbook). Our verdict was “Pretty good but not particularly special, therefore, not warranting a post.”
Is another Ottolenghi dish. This time, his leek fritters (page 36 Plenty). Our verdict was “Too much effort and only mediocre.” Again, not post-worthy. The salad comes from Saraban by Greg Malouf. It was very nice but not more than a sum of its parts: cucumber ribbons, feta, toasted almond flakes and pomegranate seeds. The dressing was lemon and olive oil. We have had it quite a few times since the cucumber glut arrived. If you are looking for a great cucumber salad, try this one by Belinda Jeffery. The dressing is fabulous. We have had that salad a lot recently, too.
Are some parmesan and pine nut biscottini with olives from a book I use all the time: Canapes by Eric Treuille & Victoria Blashford-Snell. Both Maus and I couldn’t decide on these guys. As you would imagine, they are rock hard, making them a bit difficult to eat with a dip or salsa. They were also strongly flavoured, so a bit difficult to marry up with other things. All in all, the verdict was “OK but wouldn’t do again. ” No post for them.
In my kitchen:
Is a jar of pekmez (grape molasses). There is a funny story that goes with this purchase. I have the book, Turkey, by Leanne Kitchen. Several of her recipes call for pekmez which, I imagine, is a bit like vino cotto or pomegranate molasses (I have previously substituted vino cotto in the recipes). I have been wanting some pekmez for ages. A couple of weeks ago, Maus was in Morley where there is a Middle Eastern grocery shop run by a very grumpy man with a very thick accent. His shop is very small. There are cardboard boxes on cardboard boxes and there is barely enough space to walk around them. (It is not a place for leisurely browsing). Maus asked for pekmez. The man had no idea what she was asking for. Clearly, he considered her accent very thick. In an attempt to explain what she wanted, Maus advised it was thickener for icecream. “Don’t have”, he retorted.
When Maus came home, I laughed and laughed. She had confused pekmez with salep which is a flour made from the tubers of an orchid. It is used as a thickener and as the basis of a drink. An icecream recipe I have calls for salep mix (which contains more cornflour than anything else). The previous week, I had sent poor Maus off to the Perth Lebanese Bakery in Kewdale to get some. The man who runs that shop (and who has an equally thick accent) is a real sweetie. Maus asked for 200g of salep mix and he gave her this packet. When Maus checked the box, she noticed “the bonus nuts” inside the packet. My recipe calls for 200g of salep mix so she went back into the shop to check whether there was actually 200g of salep in the box. The man opened the box and weighed it – yep, the nuts were a bonus. He then asked Maus whether she minded the fact that the box was opened. 🙂
Back to our grumpy friend… We were out Morley way the other day and I sent Maus back into the shop. (My accent is worse than hers and she had already embarrassed herself). She, again, asked for pekmez, this time explaining it was a fruit concentrate made with grapes or, sometimes, figs. She told Grumps it was from Turkey. He asked her, again, what it was and, when she again explained it was usually made from grapes and was from Turkey, he then said, “I have”. As Maus was paying for the pekmez, he said, “Only Turkish people buy this”, and gave Maus a smile.
And lastly, in my kitchen:
Is a new cookbook. It was my birthday last month and I got a cookbook – yah. (There is another coming.) It was a gift from my sister. Interestingly and coincidently, we saw Frank Camorra when we were in Margaret River for the Gourmet Escape in November. It is my first Spanish cookbook so I should find something new to try. I have already taken it to bed for a read.
If you would like to see what is in other bloggers’ kitchens this month, visit Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. Celia hosts In My Kitchen each month.