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In My Kitchen… September 2019

Last month I predicted the Ekka winds and, they arrived bang on time on the first day of the Ekka. I also predicted an early spring and that is well and truly here. We went away for a week to Bali and came back to a full flush of blooms and warm evenings.

In my August kitchen…

cheese plate with fruit, nuts and crackers on a bold printed table cloth
mezze platters with olives, dolmades, feta cheese and focaccia

…a rushed feast was assembled for an an impromptu get together in our backyard, under the shade of a huge poinciana.

large poinciana tree with thick branches
large poinciana tree over hanging fence

The tree sat in our neighbour’s yard but spanned our own and had been the focal point of many great parties over the past 18 years. It was our last hurrah for the poinciana, which was chopped down the following week, to make way for development next door. We attempted to get a vegetation protection order from the local council but it was rejected – twice. Despite being well over 10 metres tall with a girth of over 3 metres as well as a home to a variety of birds and wildlife, it was not deemed worthy of a protection order. With only a few days notice, we decided to say farewell to the tree in style.

long table laid with mezze platters and wine glasses
I bought this length of cloth in Zanzibar
– it is the only cloth long enough for the extended table –

Our dining room table was carried up the back and friends were invited to have one last celebration under the tree. It was a lovely afternoon.

two workmen in protective clothing and hats chainsaw down a large tree, using a cherry picker

The tree is now gone, leaving the yard fully exposed to the harsh Queensland sun. It’s now time for a new phase in the backyard. In time we will plant lillipillies along the fence line to throw some shade from the Western sun, once the building work is complete. For now, we will bide our time and decide what is the best use of this space.

In my kitchen…

blue ceramic bowl of green and purple olive with wooden olive strainer alongside
I can’t remember where I acquired the wooden olive spoon

…as part of the feast, were marinated Greek olives. In the past, I have been able to take my container to the local supermarket for deli items but they no longer allow this practice. It’s perverse that when the world is saying ‘no’ to single use plastics, the supermarkets have doubled down. So, I found a place that will allow me to bring my own container. That place is Mega Continental Deli at West End.

These mixed olives, and other goodies such as vine leaves and pickled chillis, come in huge 20 litre steel tins. Mega Continental are only too happy to accommodate me bringing my own containers. They will continue to get my business as a result.

In my kitchen…

large five kilo bag of white rice in white cotton bag

…is a large cotton bag of basmati rice. Rivianna is my favourite brand of rice however, we have stopped buying it as it usually comes in soft plastic. I was delighted to see this 5 kg cotton bag, complete with zip and handles, on sale for half price at the local supermarket. This will keep us going for quite a while and who knows what I might end up reusing the cloth bag for (probably more rice).

In my kitchen…

large platic bag of grated cheese with smaller plastic bag resting on top
smaller bag to show scale

…is this large bag of grated cheese. We use grated cheese every Friday night on our homemade pizza and it’s truly amazing how many ziplock plastic bags I have amassed as a result. It’s hard to get anything larger than a 500g bag at the supermarket and the thing is, grated is often cheaper than buying a block and doing it yourself. Mega Continental came through for us. I was able to buy a 2kg bag of generic ‘Tuscan’ cheese for less than the price per kilo of grated cheese at the supermarket. Sure, there’s still soft plastic involved but nowhere near as much as individual bags. The next size up is 12 kilos which is a lot of cheese. I think we’ll stick to 2kg for now.

In my kitchen…

block of darrell lea liquorice chocolate

…is the most magical chocolate I have ever tasted. Darrell Lea Liquorice Chocolate. It contains crunchy aniseed chips and world famous Darrell Lea soft eating liquorice. It’s like a Choo Choo Bar and chocolate bullets rolled into one. I thought dark chocolate would have been better but actually, the milk chocolate is a great match. Darrell Lea is a well loved Australian sweet and chocolate brand that started in 1927 and nearly went out of business in 2012. Some clever re-structuring by the administrators meant their shops closed but the brand and products survived. Not only did they survive, they’ve gone from strength to strength with new products and availability in major supermarkets and even Australia Post. If you like liquorice, you will love this chocolate bar (only available at Woolies).

In my kitchen…

slab of red pepper and olive sourdough focaccia cooling on rack

…I have been diligent in draining the hooch off my sourdough starter, and feeding it twice a week to make it a little less ‘sour’. As a result, I’ve been baking sourdough almost twice a week. Last month I talked about making a sourdough focaccia. It was so popular at home and work that I baked another and blogged about it. If you want to make something different with your sourdough, give this a focaccia a go.

In other sourdough news, I baked this small sourdough fruit loaf. It looked spectacular but I should have trusted my judgement and included more fruit to make it a little sweeter. I will have another crack in a few weeks.

There are many more things I could share this month but I think you’ve been very dedicated if you’ve read this far into the post. My feet have barely touched the ground after arriving back from overseas as we are off to a niece’s wedding next weekend, in the Hunter Valley. This means very little cooking before we head off again. I am looking forward to the wedding but am also looking forward to really being back in my kitchen. Sherry from Sherry’s Pickings is hosting our IMK link up. You can visit her blog via the link to see what is happening in other kitchens around the world. If you want to join in but have hesitated, there’s no time like today!

22 comments… add one
  • Mary BYRNE September 1, 2019, 8:08 pm

    Hi Fiona. I always enjoy your posts. My comment relates to the 5kg bag of Riviana Basmati rice, which I have been buying for some years now. As you can imagine I have several of these bags and use them in many ways. We don’t have fly screens and fortunately not many flies but when I make a baked custard in an old baked enamel dish, the custard comes out of the oven and straight into the Riviana Bag. The nifty zip ensures no flies while the custard cools. You can also tuck the handles in under the dish to keep the top taut. buona cucina! Mary

    • Fiona Ryan September 3, 2019, 11:55 am

      Hello Mary – thanks for reading my blog. It’s always nice to hear from regular readers. That’s a great idea about the use of the bags. I have a similar enamel dish and know eactly what you mean about it fitting in. I hope all is well at the Winery and B&B and, you are seeing lots of grey nomads passing through during (a very mild) winter.

  • bitemebypamtree September 1, 2019, 10:01 pm

    I buy this rice too when it is half price. And I keep the bags too….still looking for a use for them but they are lovely. And hello from Yerevan Armenia 😎

    • Fiona Ryan September 3, 2019, 12:04 pm

      Hi Pam – stop the bragging! Mary has a suggestion below. I’m also thinking ‘fun cushion’.

  • Mae Sander September 1, 2019, 11:14 pm

    Your farewell party for the tree is a delightful idea, though it’s always sad to lose a beautiful specimen like that. I hope you can grow some shade plants quickly.

    Your bulk purchases look impressive. For us, those quantities would be impossible to use in any reasonable time frame. Even a 2 lb bag of rice lasts months! As a result, we have little hope of addressing the packaging dilemma you mention, though our local bulk food store totally welcomes the use of one’s own containers. You can even weigh them before filling them to get a tare weight of what you buy. Most of what’s there though is dry foods (spices, flours, grains…).

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

    • Fiona Ryan September 3, 2019, 12:10 pm

      We are really feeling it’s loss this week as the temperature ramps up. The Lillipillies will grow quickly but we need to wait until they have replaced the fence. It’s going to be a long couple of months. There are only two of us so bulk purchases last a long time. I expect that rice will last us up to a year or so. I keep excess dry good in the freezer (when I can) to keep them fresh. Most bulk food stores in Australia focus on dry good as well as a basic liquid items such as honey, tahini etc. Deli items are a little more difficult to pin down.

  • Maria Valastro September 2, 2019, 6:09 am

    How very sad about the tree! I’m sorry I couldn’t be at the farewell – my family gathering went on far longer than expected (but then what was I thinking? Italians!). Hope you had a great time in Bali.

  • Francesca September 2, 2019, 8:51 am

    I’m wondering which supermarket has reneged on the practice of bringing your own tubs for deli items? I do hope that’s not happening in Victoria when I return in late September. This is outrageous.
    It’s a daily battle getting goods that don’t come in plastic.I often buy cheese slices cut finely for my pizza from a deli, but they then put plastic sheets between each cheese layer to stop them sticking together. back to square one.
    Sad about your tree Fiona.

    • Fiona Ryan September 3, 2019, 1:51 pm

      It was Woolworths Francesca. I used to do it regularly but have been to a couple who have said ‘no’. It seems that the reduce plastic movement has inadvertantly alerted them to this and now they have cracked down, lest there we litigation (because let’s face it, who doesn’t want to sue a supermarket over some feta cheese?). Yes, the tree is a great loss. We are toying with the idea of raised garden beds but realistically, they will need in Autumn as we have really missed the boat for spring and summer in Brissie.

  • Eha September 2, 2019, 11:15 am

    Hello from the Southern Highlands of NSW. Saw you commenting on Fran’s blog methinks and felt like travelling north – lived in the Northern Rivers and Mermaid Waters, Gold Coast for over a decade so know your area well. Sad that a glorious tree had to go in the name of progress. Hope this will not bring a monstrosity next door ! As far as substitute planting – I think Charlie Albone of ‘Selling Houses Australia’ has had some great ideas to repair such damage. And I am quite jealous to read of the Mega Supermarket . . . wish we had something similar closer than over 50 kms . . . .

    • Fiona Ryan September 3, 2019, 2:17 pm

      Hello Eha – thanks so much for taking the time to comment on my blog. I always enjoy comments from people, to move the conversation along. The block was large and is being split to accomodate two new houses. They will be large, with pools and very little space left on them blocks but at least they are houses and not high density. We have just been away to Bali so have also been sinpired by Pandanus. If trained correctly, they can throw good shade and screen out the neighbours. We will wait for the new fence to be built first. As to Mega Continental – delis are not good at promoting themselves. Maybe there is something secret in your neck of the woods.

  • sherry September 2, 2019, 12:21 pm

    i feel very sad about that tree. it’s a crime to chop it down. bloody council – let anyone do anything. grrrrr. I love Mega! it’s like aladdin’s cave, isn’t it? Love that sourdough loaf, and that liquorice choc looks the bomb. Thanks for joining in IMK. cheers sherry

    • Fiona Ryan September 3, 2019, 2:18 pm

      It’s been a great loss to us. I’m itching to get up the back and start making things right but we need to wait until they build their retaining wall and the new fence. I ate far too much of that chocolate last night but it is so moreish!

  • Tandy | Lavender and Lime September 3, 2019, 2:03 pm

    I wish grated cheese was cheaper than block cheese here. I know I would love that chocolate!

  • johanna @ green gourmet giraffe September 8, 2019, 10:58 pm

    I love reading about your ways to avoid plastic. But am very sad about your tree disappearing – according to an article recently trees disappearing from the suburban landscape affect us all because it means the area warms up more without all the shade – but there do not seem to be enough common good discussions lately (though I heard about a book on it that came out recently but Jane ??? – which sounded interesting). I’ve tried that darrell lea chocolate and enjoyed it but am more reuglarly a fan of the liquorice and bullets they produce and very happy the company is still producing. Great table cloth too. I have been inspired by your savoury focaccia recently and now think an apple sourdough might be next!

    • Fiona Ryan September 15, 2019, 5:23 pm

      Apple sourdough – that’s a good idea too! Our yard is like the surface of the sun. It is already so hot and it’s not even summer. I have a small lillypilly and the fence went up on the weekend so I’ll be planting it this week.

  • shaheen September 13, 2019, 3:44 am

    That is so sad about the tree. Your platters look good and i love olives and that wooden spoon is cute. Basmati rice is good and I am told that from Pakistan, even better. I know my husband would love to try the licorice choc. – me, not so much.

    • Fiona Ryan September 15, 2019, 5:29 pm

      Yes, the tree is definitely a sad loss. It was a good afternoon. We are thinking about raised garden beds but they will have to wait for (our autumn).

  • jrrose80 September 14, 2019, 7:55 pm

    Looks like you had a lovely farewell for that beautiful big tree. I love that olive spoon – so cool! =) And your sourdough is looking yummy – must get some dehydrated starter going now that the weather is warming up. Happy Spring!!!

    • Fiona Ryan September 15, 2019, 5:30 pm

      The problem with only having two of us is that we have too much bread! I’m always bringing loaves into work. They are disappointed if I don’t bring some in after a weekend ; )

  • Clara Jenkins September 14, 2019, 8:56 pm

    Your farewell party for the tree is such a great idea this post is personally very touching for me. Thank you for this post keep celebrating.

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