… something beginning with ‘k”. Ketchup? No, it’s known as tomato sauce in my part of the world. Not kangaroo either; that said, I’ve eaten it willingly enough in restaurants or Aboriginal communities, but we haven’t cooked any at home. No, ‘k’ is for ‘kitchen’, specifically, our kitchen; and that is the subject of this post.
Each Tuesday of the year, our preferred newspaper, The Age includes a liftout section devoted to food and beverages, under the banner Good Food. Most of the content is built around well-traversed subjects: restaurants, recipes, food producers, wine, bars, cafes, food ethics, kitchen equipment, chefs, cookbooks and so on.
Our interest in the content varies from week to week, but there are two items that we enjoy consistently. One, known as Brain Food, provides witty and informative responses to questions from readers about ingredients and cooking methods. You know the type: Where do I go to buy this obscure ingredient in a recipe I want to try? Why do recipes specify unsalted butter? What is the benefit of resting a steak?
The other is called Kitchen Spy and is a whole page about the domestic kitchen and cooking and eating habits of a specific person. Usually that person is involved in the food industry in some way; sometimes it is a ‘personality’ from another sphere. On the whole, it is a good read and, often enough, we find it educative or thought-provoking.
So, given that cooking is a central pillar of how Maggie and I have constructed our shared life, I thought it might be fun to imagine what Kitchen Spy would look like if our kitchen was the one featured. Here is how it unfolds:
Cobram Estate olive oil, Murray River pink salt flakes, Campbell’s salt-reduced stocks and five different vinegars, including the one that we infuse with cumquat and spices ourselves. Several different pastas and rices, flour for pasta and baking, and homemade muesli (toasted and raw). Numerous spices, both seeds and ground, dried oregano, saffron brought home from Dubai and the spice mixes we prepare ourselves – berbere, baharat and an Indian-style mix for fish curry. There is always plenty of garlic – Maggie gets edgy otherwise – and, at present, our home-grown kipfler potatoes. There’s a ‘k’!
Two fridges actually. The one in our garage is used to store raw nuts and oily seeds, frozen meats, frozen soups – some for our 11-month old grand-daughter Iris – and sauces, a little bit of wine, any overflow of fruit and vegetables from the kitchen fridge, and numerous jars of homemade goodies – green tomato pickle, red tomato relish, pear and ginger chutney, spicy peach and apple relish, orange marmalade, preserved lemons, limoncello, dark berry jam, fig and ginger jam, pickled cherries. We also use this fridge to thaw meat out slowly – it is opened less often, so its temperature is more constant.
The main fridge has a wide range of fresh fruit and vegetables, meat ready to cook, numerous condiments including mustards brought home from Dijon, Norganic Golden Soya Mayonnaise, Jalna yoghurt to have with my muesli, light sour cream, homemade breadcrumbs, Irrewarra sour dough for toasting, Western Star unsalted butter, South Gippsland free-range eggs, Santa Vittoria mineral water and minced horseradish – one of Maggie’s lifelong pleasures.
Palate memories – from travels, eating out in Melbourne and our childhoods. We were both fortunate to have parents who could afford to buy premium ingredients and to have mothers who knew how to use them. Recipes written by chefs and cooks; My Umbrian Kitchen by Patrizia Simone has been by far the strongest source in recent years. And food producers and retailers – we have many conversations about food with our suppliers.
Most memorable meal
Hands down, it was our lunch at Hotel de Centre in Meursault, south of Beaune in Burgundy. I have written a post about this, so I won’t repeat it. Suffice to say that it kick-started three giddy days of dining, wining and falling in love with Cote d’Or.
Well, it’s not wine. But only because that is no secret! No, it’s a combo of mid-evening crumpets with Vegemite in the cooler months and Arnott’s Savoy crackers all-year round.
We’re cooking …
The last meal we cooked at home was char-grilled spatchcock and peaches, accompanied by a rice salad made with arborio (risotto) rice. This will be the main course for lunch on Christmas Day. We hadn’t made it since April, when the peach season ended, and we decided to have a practice run to tighten up the method. It was delicious! I will share the rice salad recipe after Christmas.
An assortment of sharps, including a knife Maggie bought in Toledo, Spain in 2010; serrated Victorinox knives for fine slicing of onions, etc; and a mezzaluna, for chopping fresh herbs without overusing your wrist. The Sunbeam mixmaster is a reliable workhorse for my baking repertoire; two different types of Sunbeam blenders do a lot of work too. We have a variety of Scanpans, two Le Creuset pots and a set of Baccarat stainless steel saucepans that I chose as my farewell gift from a workplace in 2000. As well as a colander, we have four stainless steel sieves – they all come in handy and Maggie never misses an opportunity to remind me that she insisted on having the two smaller ones. And then there is our Weber Q, which has enabled us to take our outdoor cooking to a remarkable level.
We’re drinking …
We begin each day with black tea made in a pot with leaves – a blend of Irish Breakfast and whatever it is that Lan Choo puts in its packet. Just before Maggie leaves for work (Monday to Wednesday) or we begin our day’s program, we have some freshly-squeezed orange juice, followed by a Nespresso short black. We like wine but we have to buy at lowish price points – well, something has to give! At the beginning of our seventh decades, we rarely drink any of the full-bodied South Australian reds that set our generation apart from that of my son, Julian, who is a winemaker and pinot-phile. At home, our preferred varieties are Chardonnay, especially from Margaret River; Riesling, from the Eden and Clare Valleys; Rose, mainly from France; Prosecco for a festive occasion; and a grab-bag of medium-bodied blended reds.
I am way over the permissible word limit for Kitchen Spy but I hope you have enjoyed this post. My best wishes to you for the festive season.