discovering a simpiler life

discovering a simpiler life

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

In my kitchen ~ December 2015

Here we are at the end of another year and the final installment of my IMK series hosted by the lovely Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.  If you'd like to take a peek into other peoples kitchens from all around the world pop over and take a look....grab yourself a cuppa or a wine and settle in to see what's been happening in my kitchen.

So, of my favourite months.  I know there are many who don't like Christmas or the craziness that seems to come at this time of year but I love it.  I don't have to worry about overloaded social engagements (just a nice steady stream....)nor do I have to spend too much on gifts and I think this has a lot to do with it.  I'm lucky to have never really had any Christmas family dramas of drunken fights or other bad behaviour - smooth sailing I'm very blessed to say.  Two years ago I took over the reigns of cooking Christmas lunch and I love hosting this as my gift to my family...

In my kitchen is lots of fresh garden produce...these carrots I love roasted with cumin, 
our purple garlic didn't fair that great a crop this year but I'm making lots of garlic butter for the freezer so I can use it for months to come.
this years basil has been so leafy I'm in heaven!  I just wish the tomatoes would hurry along so I can enjoy them altogether :)

lots of cavolo nero and mint - I love the cavolo nero lightly blanched, drained well and then tossed with evoo, garlic and lemon juice.
In my kitchen I've been making ricotta gnocchi with fresh sage & lemon burnt butter as a potato substitute that is sublime.

that heady smell of frying sage, butter and evoo gets me everytime
In my kitchen I've been crushing on this unfiltered evoo that I got from a trip to La Manna in Melbourne - perfect to dress a salad or add a slug to finish off dishes. 
In my kitchen is duck fat for my roasted potatoes on Christmas day.  I buy a whole duck and render the fat which I find is more cost effective than paying for just the duck fat and the added bonus of roasted duck for dinner!  Aldi stock Luv a duck at this time of year at only around $14 a bird which is great when you can pay up to $10 just for the fat at some grocers!!!
In my kitchen has been the sweetest locally grown cherries that we have been eating by the kilo - yum!
In my kitchen is this Turducken that I'll be roasting Christmas morning.  I know, I know, it's cheating but it will make for a dreamy lunch service ;) I've never had one before and am really looking forward to trying it - fingerscrossed it's good!! I wonder if any of you had tried one?
In my kitchen on Christmas day will be my treasured carving set brought from the Waterloo markets in Belgium a few years ago.
It wouldn't be December in my kitchen without my shortbread
rosemary salt that are all perfect for gifts or just to enjoy in your own kitchen ;)
In my kitchen sits my latest crochet project that I'm loving creating.  It will be a large blanket for the end of my bed.  I originally started the pattern from here but I've changed colours and some stitches along the way so now I'm just flying solo with my own ideas.
and finally, I'll leave you with a quote that I think just puts life into some sort of  perspective for me!

Ciao, Jan x

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

In my kitchen ~ November 2015

I know we say it each month, and I missed last months IMK series, but they are zooming by and before we know it 2016 is going to be kicking at our heels!!! I've been busy doing orders for @agluttonouswifehooks (look me up on instagram) but I did just want to share a few things with you all even if it's not a proper "in my kitchen", it's things that have happened in my kitchen, I hope you'll forgive and humor me.

A few months ago I entered a comp with the lovely Lorraine which was totally on a was about memories of cooking and here was my entry of 25 words: "cooking mama's chutney evokes special memories - I'm keeping tradition going - eating it on toast & butter straight from the saucepan & fighting over the jars." Low and behold, awhile later I received an email I almost sent to my junk emails but it was a notice telling me I had won a spot in the CSR "Made for Memories" cookbook.

"Squeel!!!!" NO!!! Really, me? Our a cookbook? I was so thrilled you have no idea. Or maybe you do! My small amount of words tried to sum up the sentiment, taste and treasure that was my Mama's chutney.

The little insert photo of mama was mine but the food styling wasn't.  We would never have had our chutney as in this photo.
Mama is my almost 90 year old grandmother (January 3rd 2016 will be the big milestone) who is more like a best friend to me. She had 11 children to a husband who didn't crack up to all she had hoped, to put it mildly. But, she raised them on her own in a 3 bedroom house on the smell of an oily rag and did a remarkable, selfless job. When I was growing up, a gazillion years ago (1980s, I'm not THAT old!!) , there was no daycare other than Mama. Lucky for us grandies. We were left to explore and be seen and not heard until meal times. Her ability to make a meal from nothing or have grated potato cakes doled out to too many grandchildren and adults to count as well as her famous potato & spaghetti soup, pancakes, or zucchini slice, or roast lamb shoulder to name a few and then having a batch of scones in the oven before we could wash the backyard dirt from our hands was a thing of legend. I have documented Mama's famous scones here

an old photo of Mama and my Mum xxx
I moved away from my country town as soon as high school allowed and it wasn't until I returned many, many years later, got married, then fell pregnant that I was home with my own child that our relationship changed from grandmother to a real friendship which we developed and was nurtured. She was a wealth of knowledge for me especially in those blinkered months of a new born baby: "give her some 'carb soda (bicarbonate of soda) it won't hurt, I did it with mine", when my daughter wouldn't settle, "put her in the bath, it will settle her"...."they are too spoilt!"..."it's easier to raise other peoples children" and this ripper "what is bred in the bone, comes out in the flesh" were only a few of the pearls of wisdom she would recount and I would gobble up. During my maternity leave, bearly a day went by that Mama didn't come and visit me for a cuppa or a light lunch, it was my break from the Groundhog day.

Many years later when I was struck down with my own illness, I then started to have Mama visit almost daily again. I had a few alterier motives. I had lots of time on my hands and I knew that she was a great baker and from who knows where this desire to bake filled me. I'd scour the internet, magazines and cookbooks to come up with fail proof methods. Mama was my ruthless critic. "No, it's not cooked enough"... "It could do with less fruit".. ."Hmm this could just be my favourite lunch" (my own home grown eggs in a cheesey omelette with brown field mushrooms fried with lots of butter, parsley and garlic) "Yes, that is perfect..." I think it needs more sugar..."Maybe next time use less spice". Although it sounds like tough love, I adored her for her honesty as she knew I was keen to learn. I devoured her old handscribed cookbooks and really loved evoking food memories for her.
Mama grating butter for her legendary scones
As the months and a few years went on, it was only in the months preceeding this chance opportunity, that Mama had been served a few very terrible health blows, one that held both her mortility and independance in it's hands. Ever cherished by all of our family, it's with a deep breath that I say she is still with us - what a fighter she is, thank the Lord. When I went to see her with the cookbook in my hand she was absolutely amazed to see herself in print - smiling photo and all. ( She is reknowned to not smile and have her eyes closed in each family photo!!)

So it is with a full heart and thankfulness to both CSR and Lorraine for this wonderful opportunity, and hopefully the family helps with record sales :)

Thanks to Celia for the IMK series each month, pop over and check out other peoples kitchens!

Ciao, Jan x

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

a gluttonous wife....hooks

As many of you long time readers will know, last year I taught myself to crochet.  I've never had a hobby other than cooking so it feels so good to finally be in that group of people who feels like they are doing something they are passionate about and love.  It started as a bit of fun to help fill in time as I have a lot of it on my hands but I never thought it would amount to much and I'd be onto the next thing as soon as I could master a granny square.  I never thought of myself as one of those 'crafty' people but it's really been one of the biggest blessings and surprises to come along in my life and I will be forever thankful I decided to give it a try.  

I started an instagram page @agluttonouswifehooks and have been busy with orders which is wonderful to help feed my addiction!  On the down side, my cooking and blog has taken a back seat but I'm still here hiding with my hook and yarn.  I've been drawn to doing beanies and baby goodies but I've also had a few blanket orders which I also love doing.  Most of the beanie designs are my own apart from the basic beanie tutorial which can be found here, although I've been using this sizing chart that has been fabulous from here. Here's a bit of what I've been making and a few links:

These baby packs are proving popular and so cute!! The bootie pattern is from here, the heart from here and the ripple blanket from here

baby butterfly from here
this flower is just a scalloped boarder rolled up and these booties from here

I taught myself to do these letters late one night

this teacosy from here

There's alot more on my instagram page if you feel like having a that's me all caught up!

If you are interested in placing an order or finding out more, feel free to email me at
Ciao, Jan x

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

grated plum shortbread slice

I love going to our local library and borrowing cookbooks - I read them before bed, I read them over breakfast and although I may not always make much from them all, something about the glossy print and food porn appeals to me.  

Lately my muse has been baking cookbooks and I stumbled across the hairy bikers big book of baking which is packed full with recipes from around Europe. Imagine fruity, cheesy, nutty, bready delights and you will get the picture.

One recipe that intrigued me was their Easy shortbread squares.  It calls for you to make the shortbread dough, split it in half, freeze then grate to create the slice - I had to try it out.  My additions to the recipe are in the brackets.
Easy shortbread slice by the Hairy Bikers - from their big book of baking.
Makes 12 squares
This is a cheat's version of linzer torte - the classic Austrian lattice-topped tart. It's perfect if you're not very confident with pastry and you want a really easy treat as there is no rolling involved - just grating.  Watch your fingers though! You'll need a 20cm loose based square cake tin. (I used just a normal 20cmx20cm square cake tin)

225g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
200g golden caster sugar (I used plain sugar)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large egg yolks
275g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
300g seedless raspberry jam (I used homemade plum jam)
1 tbsp icing sugar ( I didn't use)

  1. Using an electric hand-whisk, beat the butter with the sugar and vanilla extract until pale and fluffy.  Beat in the egg yolks 1 at a time, then sift the flour and baking pwoder on top.  Beat the dough with a wooden spoon until it is smooth and light, then divide it into 2 equal portions and form them into balls.  Wrap the balls of dough in clingfilm and freeze for 2-3 hours or overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 170c/fan150c/gas3 1/2.  Grease a 20cm square cake tin with butter and lin the base with baking parchment. (I use cooking spray instead of greasing and line the whole tin).  Put the jam in a small saucepan and warm it over a low heat until fairly runny, stirring occasionally.
  3. Remover a ball of dough from the freezer and coarsely grate it on to a board, making sure it doesn't become too compacted.  Tip the grated dough from the board into the prepared tin and scatter it evenly with your fingertips.  Whatever you do, don't press the dough into the tin - needs to remain in strands.  (this is a work out let me tell you now!! hard graft)
  4. Using a dessert spoon, drizzle the jam over the grated shortbread (I let the jam cool somewhat before doing this), but do not spread it.  Take the other ball of dough out of the freezer and grate it coarsely on to the board. Sprinkle it evenly over the jam, again resisting the temptation to press it down.
  5. Bake the shortbread for 40-50 minutes or until pale golden borown and set, then remove it from the oven and leave to cool in the tin.  Loosen the sides of the shortbread with a round-bladed knife and carefully take it out of the tin. (I just left mine to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then lifted it out using the overhang of the parchment)  Peel off the lining paper if necessary.  Dust the shortbread with sifted icing sugar and cut in into squares to serve.  (I actually didn't even see this when I made it so didn't do it!!)

I'm heading back to flick through it one last time before it's due back as there's so many more recipes I'm keen to try!

Ciao, Jan x 

p.s. I am not being paid nor do I have my arm twisted to say these words about the hairy bikers :)

Sunday, 6 September 2015

very best banana cake muffins ever

I was busy getting our dinner off to a flying start one night last week, when out of the corner of my eye I spied my daughter sitting on the couch with a spoon in her mouth and the tin of milo in her lap...she looked like she was in heaven. The last I'd heard of her she was making a milk milo but obviously she decided to ditch the milk!  I instantly scolded her and got her to put it away.  
When I turned my back, a thought came over me.  Kids aren't allowed to have a binge, they aren't allowed to have a bad day, they aren't allowed to have the poops or sulk, or play hookey or be naughty or yell, or scream in frustration....they really have to be seen as perfect all the time.  I wonder why this has happened? Such pressure for them to live under.
 I turned back around and opened the cupboard and gave her the tin and a spoon and she had the biggest smile on her face.  Truthfully, she probably only had a few big tablespoons worth but it was just wonderful to see her so content with such a simple guilty pleasure.  

Anyway, something that will be eaten, possibly late at night, straight from the freezer, is this recipe for the very best banana cake ever and cook along with the lovely Lorraine from NQN ...ok so I made them into muffins but it helps with portion control :)  It's a strange recipe that has a low cooking temperature and then the muffins/cake is put straight into the freezer to cool.  Have a read of Lorraines post and recipe and tell me you aren't in faux sara lee heaven!!  The batter made 18 muffins and they were baked for 1 hour instead of the 2 hours for the cake. Oh, and be warned that the cream cheese icing is so freakin addictive, it was lucky to make it onto the muffins.  We did have lots of precious licks of the beaters and swipes of the bowl that I'm sure is naughty but oh so nice.

Ciao, Jan x

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

In my kitchen ~ September 2015

Man oh man this year is ticking by, it's that time of the month that we play along with Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial who hosts the wonderfully voyeuristic In my kitchen series with a multitude of other food pawn stars enthusiasts from around the world.  Grab a wine or a cuppa, whatever takes your fancy, and take a look at what has been happening here in my kitchen...I'm so excited.....

I am absolutely super duper excited to share with you all, my almost completed, long awaited, new kitchen!!! Now, let me fill you in...just a little over 10 years ago we brought our modest 3 bedroom existing 1950's home.  Over the years we have changed the colour of the house, added a new back sunroom, replaced the mud bottomed garage with a brick concrete man cave haven along with making all of the backyard an edible garden where once only a New Zealand Christmas tree, a gum and a mammoth wild daisy bush abided.  

You'll have to just trust me on this as I stupidly don't have a before photo of the kitchen, but it was hideous but clean and functional. 5 years ago we painted the kitchen that had lime green cupoboards, small tiles, a red feature wall and the others were cream. We made the cupboards a grey/white in 2 tones, changed the handles on the cupboard doors and hid from our visitors the retro wallpapered, chipping, horrid interiors.  Yes, I've become one of those 'beige' people, but when you have lived with lots of weird and wonderful houses that were multicoloured, I want plain and classic.  
I've been blessed with a husband who can.  So a few weekends ago, after weeks and weeks of toil in the mancave, Mr.GW along with a great mate ripped out the old and started the new.
Sorry about the photo quality but I was in the way so had to be can make out the old lime green on the left that was hiding behind some cupboards.

Mr.GW put so much time into this beautiful Tasmanian oak and Victorian ash bench top - it's just gorgeous.  Notice the new double sink? That my kitchen junkie friends is a revelation!! Being able to have a sink of soapy water AND being able to empty something is ah-mazing!!!  We were also extremely lucky to get all of the cabinetry for almost nothing, a slab of beer to be exact as long as it was taken out and taken away from the owner.  
It is second hand but it is as clean as a whistle and you wouldn't even know.  
Mr. GW rebuilt it to fit and ta-dah!! Good as new.

before above and after below...still waiting on a shelf that will house the microwave so it's off the bench top and some where I can put my recipe books and a few other bits and pieces.

We still have a way to go - tiles, a shelf under the cupboards on the left to house the microwave off the bench, doors, dishwasher under the kitchen aid and a paint.  The large draws are fabulous too and have a soft close that closes them for you...seriously, we have become such a precious bunch!! First world problems hey.....I am one happy gluttonous wife and have been cooking my little heart out in there.
Now, it's 2 weeks since I first started this post, and we now have tiles!! You can see the original old tiles above, and new ones below...they originally were a lovely mission brown but we painted them but they would chip and I just hated them so having new tiles is just heaven.  It was Mr. GW's first attempt at tiling and he worked it like a boss.  There is no end to that man's talents, I'm truly the luckiest gluttonous wife I know!

Even though it's not quite finished and it's small and modest, it's my happy place and it's my home.

Thanks so much for stopping by, until next time....
Ciao, Jan x
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