In My Kitchen – February 2015

 

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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.

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Here are the capers after soaking in brine for two days.

048copyAnd 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.

030copyIn my kitchen:

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?

057copyIn my kitchen:

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.

059copyIn my kitchen:

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

058copyIn my kitchen:

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.  🙂

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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.

Scan-150129-0001If 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.

61 thoughts on “In My Kitchen – February 2015

  1. Would you be kind enough to tell me the name and/or location of the Middle Eastern grocery shop in Morley? I’m in desperate need of some Pekmez.

  2. Hi Glenda, really enjoy your blog. Curious as to the shop in Morley you got your salep, have a few middle eastern recipes calling for it and want to try them first with this instead of the cornflour substitute. Many thanks!!

    • Hiya, The Salep came from Perth Lebanese Bakery, 117 President St Welshpool. Whilst you are there, get some flat bread. It is much better than the stuff, with a month use by date, you get in the supermarkets.

  3. How did I miss this? Yes salep is similar to what I have ordered I think. Sadly I don’t get bonus nuts though. I have a funnel like that but I think it was for fuel or oil. Caper envy! I have a sad little bush I bought about 5 years ago and it keeps hanging in (sort of). Might chuck it out under the hot dry oak tree and see what happens. Yours look sensational. Thanks 🙂

    • Maree, it is my understanding that this is all you can get here. My book is Canadian and this is what she said to buy. I still haven’t made the icecream yet.

  4. What a grand harvest of fresh produce – and my first look at fresh caper berries. We’re in the midst of cool & rainy weather so even my hardy herbs need wellies and waterings. Thanks for sharing your honest recipe reviews – won’t bother with those two fritter recipes now.

  5. Glenda, your ant adventures in retrospect will make every one of those capers taste even more divine. (I love capers… ants not so much.) Some of your beans were new to me… fun learning about them. I especially loved your handmade funnel, unbiased recipe reviews, and grocery shop story! Thanks, too, for your link to the cucumber recipe… you’re right, the dressing does sound fabulous… just printed it off. Can’t wait until cukes are in season here again.

  6. I cant believe you grow so much exotica in your garden. I cant even grow a tomato. I really like that date syrup its rich and gorgeous. Glad you survived the Grump shopkeeper

  7. Glenda, you are the best gardener on the planet. I can never believe how much you manage to grow – you could probably feed your entire community! Love that you’ve managed onions, we’ve never grown a single one despite several attempts, and I do so wish you’d knock on my door with cucumbers, because our cucumber plant turned out to be another bloody trombie. Poor Maus, I can just see you now..”right! That only made four jars, come one Maus, we’re going back out to pick MORE capers!!” Hahahaha!

    • Hi Celia. You are right, I was on the cause. I even went out one night and picked some. Ants sleep at night. The only trouble is, it was pretty hard to hold a bowl and a torch and pick on the side of a hill in the dark.
      These are the onions I grew last autumn and they have been a real success. The ones I grew in spring are not so impressive. Every year we learn something. I think you should pull your trombies out and start again with pure stock.

    • Hi Johanna, I have made some great Ottolenghi recipes but they are not all fabulous. The leek fritters, in particular, were a lot of effort for not much.

  8. I can always rely on you Glenda for your absolute honesty when it comes to recipes from cookbooks and their blog worthiness. The two mentioned from Ottolenghi look like nice enough but perhaps not so special, as you say. Thanks for the hints on bean picking. Ours are very slow this year due to the unseasonal weather ( ie cold) unlike your very hot season in the West. I love the idea of growing caperberries. I wonder if they would grow in Victoria? Must find out.

  9. Amazing home grown produce Glenda and the capers look fabulous… lucky Emily! I feel the same way about ants and we get big, small and flying ones. Wonder what old utensil Maus will find next, love the old funnel.

  10. Am so impressed by your perseverance against the ants to claim the capers! Ants are a pretty big adversary here in Alice Springs, too, but this year it is the grasshoppers that are giving me fits. They are really in plague proportions. Very interesting post, and I appreciate your discerning honesty about not posting things you aren’t that impressed with!!

    • Thanks Ardysez, You would have more than your fair share of bugs in Alice. We have enough here. Grasshoppers can really play havoc with a garden. I bet there are many that are decimated.

  11. I read your post and the whole time I was thinking, oh how I wish I was your neighbour so we could share produce. I am just loving those beans and the onions and well… everything!

    Last season I had a bumper crop of pumpkin which I lovingly stored away to use in the next winter… and then my dear husband decided to clean his fishtank near where I’d stashed them. He isn’t as careful as I am (my virgo tendencies make me a neat freak) and long story short, no more pumpkin stash as he wet them and didn’t notice. Several days/weeks later I noticed a horrid stench. The compost got my pumpkins so I’m hoping they pop up again when I spread it out.

    ANYWAY! 🙂 I love capers… strangely I have never thought about where they come from or what they look like fresh so I was chuffed to learn about that! I considered making a growing attempt too… so much produce, so little space! 🙂

    Thank you for a wonderful tour x

  12. Ah – and I was just asking about beans in my IMK post. Had I known that you were the bean expert I would have come directly to you. Sometimes I should scan the entire post and then read the details because I was intrigued by the salad sitting behind your fritters, trying to figure out what you had in there. all I had to do was scroll down a bit to find out. I’d give it a try just because it looks so pretty & different (of course my husband is anti-cucumber so it would be a one woman salad).
    I would be interested in hearing what you think of that cookbook. My husband’s last name is Solera & it might be a nice shower gift for my daughter (who won’t be a Solera for much longer).

    • Hi Diane, I don’t know much about Spanish food, so I can’t really critique it. The recipes are for regional specialties rather than generic Spanish cuisine. Does that help?

  13. Hope you’ve seen off the last of the ants in your pants Glenda. One of the games the children used to play was to put an obstacle in the way of a column of ants that used to march straight into the house. As soon as the ants worked a way around or over it, they’d build it up bigger.
    Love the little funnel. Amazing how we’ve gone in such a short time for hand crafted implements to such badly made items (sometimes) that they’re almost disposable.

    • Hi Anne, I am sure the ants will be there when we go back – the bastards. We are going to keep putting stuff out until they leave the nests. I have had enough of the buggers. The trouble is, the caper plants attract them and I do like having the capers.

  14. Hi Glenda – a very busy kitchen this month! Love the capers (and also hate ants!). You and Maus are very dedicated! The pekmez (called pekmezi in Greek) is a great ingredient. I just ran across a recipe for La Tarte à la Raisinée – raisinée being the Swiss equivalent to pekmez – which I am dying to try. In Greece – specifically around the apple growing area near Volos – they make a pekmezi with apple juice. I’ve even seen references to pear syrup, although not in Greece. Northern Greeks also use salep in custardy type puddings which is very nice. Both products were probably worth braving the grumpy shopkeeper!

    • Hi Deb. Like I said in the post, I presume it is just grape juice boiled down until it is a syrup much like making pomegranate molasses. I will have to crack it open and try it.

  15. The G.O. will agree with you about the ants. Usually we find them useful to a point – there’s a nest near his workshop door which opens from the ground up… they are a deterrent for the unwary reaching for the latch! But this year they are out of control. There are ant mounds all over our front yard in particular. We keep the ants out of the house by being diligent but I was like a broken record while we had houseguests, exhorting them to not leave sugary drink remains, wrappers etc laying around because ants do not need any encouragement at all!
    The Ottolenghi fritters and the cucumber salad look great. Over the holidays I did make it to Big W and grabbed the store’s last copy of Jerusalem (and it received a rave review by the checkout girl), so I’ll look out for The Cookbook as well. Another of your suggestions “Mma Ramotswe’s Cookbook, Nourishment for the Traditionally Built” was under the Christmas tree for me!

  16. What an absolutely wonderful post. I love your capers. We eat loads of them. I wonder if they would grow in Victoria? I do a bit of preserving. I have a huge veg garden and fruit orchard and I preserve our own olives, but your capers are inspiring.

  17. Your produce is all so gorgeous! The beans look fantastic, I have yet to try growing beans. I never thought to grow capers, I will have to add that to my list for the garden this year maybe.

  18. Glenda, I’m new to IMK and wanted to tell you how much I love your cover photo, made me smile! And these beans are gorgeous, particularly the borlotti. As for the ants, we hate them too – ever since they made their way into the kitchen in our old house and we had them everywhere, sugar bowl included. Little annoying blighters!

    • Hi Ania, welcome to the IMK community. The thing I hate most about ants is: they bite you for no reason. If they just crawled all over me I could just about cope but they bite and I react quite severely to the bites.

  19. I’m with you about the Ants…trust me if you give them an inch..they will rule the world. Hate them!!! Hope you both well xxx

    Sent from my iPad

    • Hiya guys. I hate ants big time. They are the only bug that bites you for no reason. Other bugs only bite if under stress. See ya soon. Don’t forget out date in March.

  20. You’re such a productive gardener/cook Glenda, I have serious produce envy!! Chilled cucumber soup is lovely on a hot day! I think I’d have left the capers to the ants, i react badly to their bites.

    • Hi Sandra we react badly too. Last time we were here Maus was bitten and half of her upper leg was one large red hot welt for days. I was bitten on the arm recently and I had a similar reaction – about 4 inch welt. Geez, I hate ants.

  21. Hi Glenda, I have a few ants to contend with but nowhere near the sound of the herd that is on your property. Mine seem contained to just the strawberry plants. I have to be ninja like and quickly pick the berries before they notice and begin their flash mob. I have heard that diatomaceous earth (food grade) is quite good at eliminating ants. As long as its kept dry, which shouldn’t be a problem in a Perth summer. Good luck! Kirsty xx

    • Hi Kirsty. Thanks so much for the suggestion. We don’t like putting any poison down because we have three dogs. We will definitely buy some.

  22. Hi Glenda, I was just thinking about your cucumber dilemma. Stephanie Alexander has a nice recipe for bread and butter zucchini pickles which I think would work well with cucumbers. Nice on a biscuit and cheese and a good way to use up a kilo!

  23. That’s it, Glenda! I’m moving in next door to you so I can barter with you for some of those home grown spoils! Seriously, love all of it, you are a very clever gardener and cook. The cookbook sounds great too!

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