I am writing this on a Tuesday; we had a public holiday yesterday, so Maggie was home and we spent much of the day in our kitchen. As we do. However, I did have just enough time to write the post about our meal of gnocchi with a blue cheese sauce, the final home-cooked meal of the past week.
The weather was wintry from Monday to Thursday, with strong winds driving the apparent daytime temperatures down to single digits. So, our oven was quite busy, beginning with a lemon & yoghurt cake. I found this recipe about this time last year, when the cooking group I support at Strathdon Aged Care said they would like to cook something with the season’s fresh lemons from our tree. It is relatively easy to prepare, cooks quickly and the end result is light with a pleasing balance of tang and sweetness. Maggie took some with her on Tuesday to share with her work buddies, a practice we have followed for many years.
The centrepiece of Tuesday evening’s dinner was lamb korma, one of the modest number of dishes from the Indian sub-continent that Maggie cooks and eats with relish. When three elderly members of our family were still living in their own homes, we used to make lamb or chicken korma for them using a Pataks brand of paste. More recently, Maggie went looking for a recipe that we could use to cook lamb korma from scratch. The first attempt was edible but, to our palates, not repeat-worthy. A further internet search found a recipe on Pataks own website. It worked pretty well and, with a few small modifications, we will make it again this winter (and then I will write a post about it). We served the lamb with a side dish of spicy potatoes and some store-bought Naan bread.
For the next two wintry evenings, we turned to a couple of faves – chicken braised with leeks and veal parmigiana; they always satisfy. On Thursday afternoon, we also made a batch of pea & ham soup, using an Otway Pork ham hock. The hock was much bigger than specified in our recipe, so the end result was quite richly textured but still with well-balanced flavours.
We were scheduled to visit Julian, Sara & Iris on Sunday, so we set aside some of the soup for them. Then I remembered Sara telling me – hint, hint – that there were no tubs of borscht in their freezer. Iris is quite fond of borscht and, with so many vegetables and so little fat, it is a good-health food; sometimes Sara will add some lentils or similar to make it more complete as a meal. So, we made a batch of borscht, setting aside a tub to put in our freezer for me.
On Friday afternoon, we made one more dish for Iris and her hard-working parents – lasagne, using our homemade bolognese sauce. The previous time we had taken lasagne to Healesville, we had shared some of it as a light lunch; then Sara and Iris ate the leftovers on the Monday, while Julian was at work. My son found a way of letting me know that this was not his preferred outcome! So, this time, we planned to leave the entire dish with them to share at their leisure.
By Saturday morning, the weather had improved. That and the prospect of light traffic – many households had gone to the coast or the snowfields for the long weekend – enticed us out of our home to spend a leisurely couple of hours shopping for ingredients, including those we would need to make the dish of gnocchi & blue cheese.
Our first destination was Migliore, a small business that produces a fine range of Italian biscuits, cakes and the like. We shop at their Armadale premises regularly, mainly for the benefit of my father, who is a devotee of the cheese-and-cayenne biscuits. With each purchase, Maggie puts her name on a ticket to go into the monthly draw to win a hamper of Migliore goodies. On Thursday, she had received a phone call with the happy news that she was the winner for May. And what a pretty hamper it was!
From Migliore, it was only a short drive to the Hawksburn shopping precinct, home to Tosacano’s and Stocked, two of our favourite suppliers. And stock up we did, including Toolangi Delight potatoes, a bunch of spinach and a piece of gorgonzola cheese, the three key ingredients for our meal of gnocchi.
Shopping done, we decided to visit a cafe that we had driven past en route from Migliore to Toscano’s. The seasonal kitchen opened earlier this year as a partnership between one of our favourite writers of cookbooks, Beverley Sutherland-Smith and her daughter, Suzanne, who has form in the kitchen too. On this long-weekend Saturday, the cafe was busy but unhurried. We began with our ‘road-test’ coffees – a skinny cap for her and a short mach for me – which were both very flavoursome, to the last drop. Then we shared a serve of smashed avocado, feta & friends on sourdough toast; it was tasty and, by comparison with overworked versions we have eaten elsewhere, light and well-balanced. We could easily become regular patrons!
The mild weather lasted all day, so we were able to use our Weber to barbecue some excellent mid-loin lamb chops, which we served with wilted spinach and slow-roasted tomato halves. And then it was Sunday. Did I mention the gnocchi?
(I won’t be writing an ‘In-digest’ post next week. We will be exploring the Barossa Valley in the second half of this week; our home-cooked meals – new veal and duck dishes and a new dessert – for the first half of the week will be covered in separate posts; and, besides, I did vow that this series would be occasional, with a focus on innovations and highlights.)