'No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.'
That's such an interesting quotation from the late Laurie Colwin, the prolific American writer who said she relied on the guidance of Marcella Hazan, Jane Grigson and Elizabeth David, among others. Likewise, I've been dipping into my favourite cookery books and blogs more often, particularly over the last few months having had spare time on my hands when I was unwell. In the lead up to Christmas and the new year, I found myself cooking things that have been on my culinary back burner for months, if not years. The kitchen bench has been completely buried by cookbooks, loose recipes, bags of Sicao chocolate, vanilla beans, bottles of whisky and vodka, all types of nuts, and piles of fresh ingredients.
My friend and fellow cook and blogger, Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, is a font of knowledge when it comes to sourcing quality ingredients in bulk, and Celia is at the top of the list when I need clarification or advice on cooking. For example, Celia's instructions on chocolate making are among the best I've seen. And if you need help with baking bread or making jams and preserves, visit Celia's blog before you start cooking. Also on Celia's blog is a monthly round up of In My Kitchen posts from cooks and bloggers around the world and this post is dedicated to Celia, with thanks.
In my kitchen this month...
There are vanilla beans steeping in vodka to make vanilla extract, a simple thing I've wanted to do for way too long. Rather than percolating the beans, Celia's method relies on a gentle process of cold maceration. I can hardly wait to taste and cook with the results! I'll bring you updates on the process as the infusion changes colour.
In my kitchen there are cherries galore—export quality, delivered fresh to my door from Cherryhill Orchards in the Yarra Valley. A little indulgence at Christmas and the perfect edible gift for family and friends, these are without question among the best cherries I've ever eaten. I used them to bake my outstanding cherry pie last month, which has been a hugely popular post.
In my kitchen are these petite éclairs that were devoured so quickly, I barely had time to take any photographs. Recipes featuring choux pastry have been appearing on a number of blogs lately, including salted caramel profiteroles on Viviane Buzzi's Chocolate Chilli Mango; and chocolate éclairs with raspberry cream on my friend Susan Hutchinson's blog, Susan's Sumptuous Suppers. Pastry making is one of the cooking techniques I'd like to master in my retirement, with a little guidance from the writers of my Le Cordon Bleu cookery books. Watch this space!
In my kitchen is some home made Irish creamy whisky which has been on my must-make list for 25 years! My friend, fellow cook and food blogger, Manuela Zangara, posted her version of the recipe recently on Manu's Menu. Having now tasted this, I don't know why I procrastinated about the recipe for so long. I will post my take on the recipe later this year.
In my kitchen is this melt-in-the-mouth chocolate almond fudge and not only is it one of the smoothest I've ever tasted, it's also quick and easy to prepare as it's made in a microwave. The recipe was on Mary Younkin's blog, Barefeet in the Kitchen. I will post my version later this year.
In my kitchen is some tasty Bald Rock beef jerky, which was kindly sent to me by the producer, Dan Ford, who uses 100% Australian grass-fed free range beef and an ancient drying process that preserves the natural flavours. If you're interested in Bald Rock beef jerky, you might like to support Dan's Kickstarter project.
In my kitchen is a magic custard cake, fresh from the oven. I first spotted the recipe on a Californian blog, White on Rice Couple, written and photographed by Todd Porter and Diane Cu. According to that post, Todd and Diane saw the cake on Pinterest and adapted the recipe from Tarta Magica by Mabel Mendez. This cake or pudding has such an interesting texture.... there's a layer of custard like pudding at the base and at the top is a light, airy vanilla sponge cake. My friend, Sue Dodd, from Sydney Markets, said she added some blueberries and it worked well.
There are always fresh flowers in my kitchen and one of the loveliest in terms of colour and perfume was this rose that my Peter picked and presented to me from our garden. If you happen to know the name of this variety, please let me know.
Finally, in my kitchen is a swipe card to our local gym, which I've joined with Peter (who was a fitness instructor once upon a time). Being totally desk bound at work for the last eight years (and bedridden for much of 2013), the kilos have crept on and I now feel as though there's a cumbersome hippopotamus staring at me when I look into the mirror. It's time to get back into shape and make exercise part of my every day activities, especially now I have more time for cooking all sorts of delicious good things (as you can see from this post).
Now tell me, what's been happening in your kitchen lately? And are there recipes that you've been wanting to try for ages, but have yet to do so? What are they and what's holding you back?
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I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.