This November’s kitchen

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This November morning woke up with a cup of coffee and a desire. A slow dry wind breezes through the kitchen’s back door. In the oven a cheesecake awaits its baking time. It might be a long one. A yogurt dough aspiring to be a pâte brisée is in for disappointment – I forgot the pre-bake step. Doughy it will remain. Yogurt dough, quark made at home, and a sugar substitute serve this morning’s baking. The mayhem of a low carb lifestyle.

But, the trace of freshly ground spices gathers together the tasks of this morning. Welcoming all. It’s supper’s lamb marinating in a tender Nigel Slater recipe. This one, flop proof. The lamb, only enough for two of us, awaits a long and slow cooking this afternoon. It marries the day, the heat, and the dryness – the willingness to gift the moment.

The oven’s clock’s beep calls hands to pause the flow of words, to straighten the apron, and test the wobbly cake. Memory hints to switch the oven off and leave the cake in for some time. I trust the memory. But, I’m not yet trusting myself to share the ingredients, the instructions, and the recipe. I’ll stick to the notes, allow the desire, and drink another cup of coffee.

This April’s kitchen

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From scratch cooking ups happen in this kitchen – consciously and gingerly – whether or no it’s February, March, April. ‘From scratch’ strikes one as down to earth, healthy, this is the (only way) to do the self-sufficient-kitchen-cooking-living-it-thing … a lost art … more often than not drifting towards ‘I’m a bit better than the person next door’- thoughts…

… oops, be careful, because the person next door might be closer than you think … my husband (a side by side companion in the kitchen) buys tarragon from the store while I take a walk in the garden and pick some leaves from the scraggly growing herb; a recipe calls for tahini, he writes the (missing) ingredient on the blackboard shopping list while I open a cupboard promising sesame seeds and olive oil; he lingers and browses the array of condiment bottles found on the shelves in the food stores while I linger and browse through cook books and make up-to-scratch bottles of pure goodness condiments…

… alas, both he and I know – that life is more than from scratch or not from scratch, about this way or that way … both and is good! And allows me to enjoy both his cooking and my from-scratchings.

… my mouth watered … my hands itched …  so, whether or no, this April brought forth Adam’s Cafe’s North African Pickles, Nonna’s plum and Cognac mostarda, Marmellata di mele cotogne …  while my husband shook his head.

Dear reader, do you have any favorite from scratch foods to share? Or do you rely on the “both and” way of life in the kitchen?

This kitchen’s January

is for pickling, fermenting and preserving

and

purging, freshening and perseverance.

 

preserved lemons

preserved lemons

 

In mid-stride of making some soft cheeses – labneh, cream cheese, and ricotta – as well as refreshing the yogurt, buttermilk, and sourdough cultures – my insatiable appetite for learning connected dots to the process of fermenting vegetables. On the shelf two bottles of carrots bubble an entrance into this lost art of food preserving. With zest and gusto I entered this January’s kitchen.

 

harissa and a spice mixture for pickling

harissa and a spice mixture for pickling

 

And then, for no reason, the cook’s scientist partner decided to upgrade his knowledge on high carbohydrate foods. Storms of talks were cooked up – not only in the kitchen. Admitting the aforesaid insatiable appetite, I relented and read and read, for hours. A verve followed: to purge the pantry, to freshen the vegetable drawer, to change cooking and eating habits …

… and, yes, I’ll need perseverance, or you’ll have to bottle me up, with zest and gusto – for good keeps…

 

 

Linking with Celia for January’s In My Kitchen (I”m a bit late for the linking, but the writing occurred…)

 

 

 

 

In my kitchen this December

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This middle of the day needs the burning of candles – but today the candles burn on one side only, out of necessity. Summer storm clouds draw curtains across the window, and light divides shadows …an acedia of sorts threatens to rise out of its slumber. The light on the candle burns heavily to invite, to incline – a heart, hands and feet …

But the kitchen is hushed in the middle of this day’s afternoon … the light of the candles will have to guide evening darkness, out of another necessity – load shedding. And no, it doesn’t mean getting rid of extra weight, or losing winter hair (although many of us are pulling out hair) – just that every household in our country is on the receiving end of a deliberate shutdown of electric power. The demand exceeds the supply. 

The words I’m typing are battery charged and fueled by the atmosphere of candle light. Some say that acceptance is a vital practice for transformation. The slowness of the candle flame continues to invite, to incline – this heart.

May I link with Annie, Anne and Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial – as the days of December bring back memories of  summer days at the beach – sunburn, ice cream and the smell of body on tap shampoo. Memories of young hands helping ouma moedie mixing and kneading boerebrood and vetkoek – and young eyes watching the tins and tins of dough rising almost with a holy silence – safe under their muslin cloths.

Memories calling for remembrance.

Today in this kitchen: a fragrant lemon tonic waiting to be bottled, a whistling kettle announcing a cup of tea, and a slice of panforte hinting at a taste of chili and chocolate … and in the background the kitchen clock’s ticktock, the thunder rolling, and the quiet of a city shedding its load …

 

Dear reader, I invite you to enjoy some photos of similar happenings at donnaincucina – you’ll find a feast for your eyes! And no, it’s not my photos, but photos of someone dear and near to me.

 

 

 

a post with no name

As not even I will be keen to read a post titled Blancmange.

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A sweet dessert I learned to make in the beginning of my high school years – in the home economics class. Was it our first lesson in making puddings? Memory misses some moments, but does remember the inner excitement and the outer control. And it does remember the pudding: a white and wobbly jelly – bland and tasteless.

Did the undissolved maizena and thick milk skin upset young and tender taste buds, and just maybe, nipped a budding chef? Or was it the benumbed lesson, must-be-ironed aprons, and curbed atmosphere in the kitchen?

A drill, I then decided, never to repeat.

 

Browsing through a favorite recipe book nearly 40 years later, Muhallabieh caught my eyes: the dish’s name, an exotic sound on my ears; its history, as old as the Middle Ages. As I read the list of ingredients, a memory band tightened and brought back – yes – visions of a white and wobbly, bland and tasteless jelly.

With a mind stuck in the past, my eyes continued in the present…

…we must admit, a milk pudding doesn’t sound promising at all. Imagination doesn’t work here, you just need to try it…

Against all odds, I followed the authors’ advice.

I was gratified.

If you’re looking for a sweet dessert to make in a few short minutes (setting time is 3 hours … during which time you too can set), this whitedish is for you.

 

Dear reader, do you have a similar story to tell?

 

 

It’s not too sweet

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or is it just my imagination?

Not many weeks ago I wrote that it might help me to keep stock of culinary treasures – of some good food finds. In my search for a synonym for culinary (I searched for a word with less than four syllables), I came across (another four syllable word) comestible. It’s a rare word for edible. I understood the impact of stretching the use of multisyllabic words – heartburn is galling.

A pick-me-up treasure – and I promise, no heartburn (if you ration yourself), is Gordon Ramsay’s chocolate fridge cake. And, to stay true to my nature I swopped only one ingredient: cashew nuts replaced salted peanuts. Previous posts tell similar stories of swopping ingredients. However, rereading the posts tells me that they’re in dire need of editing.

Now, to find a good synonym for the four syllable word imagination…

Melkkos

“The primary requisite for writing well about food is a good appetite.”

A good appetite I have; writing well craves practice.

On my way to work this winter morning I caught the tail-end of a radio talk: reminiscences of melkkos. A hodgepodge of memories jumbled to the fore. Cinnamon sticks covered with a thick hot milky sauce – waiting to be licked clean (fine, it’s true, I’m spilling beans).  A carefully measured mix of dusty cinnamon and grainy sugar – waiting to be layered. While a spoonful of melkkos and cinnamon sugar crunched under teeth, another sprinkle of the spicy mix covered awaiting food – but first a peek whether the adults were eying us. I suspect they were watching their waistlines – as well as ours? Years ago, however, a waistline was not a familiar coloring-in body part.  Final just-want-to-make-sure-if-there’s-not-another-helping made room for silent sighs – echoes of happy, almost holy feelings – of fullness, of completeness – that all was well with our souls.

I’ve given the recipe for melkkos in a previous post. Wander there if you’re in need of some comfort soul food, or wander there to connect with another soul’s memories.

On the menu tonight – melkkos. The challenge –  wondering whether my husband will match my mood…