In My Kitchen – March 2014

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In My Kitchen is is hosted by Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial where she is joined by bloggers from all over the world affording us a glimpse of what they’ve been up to that month. I have been following (silently – sorry Ceila!) the series for a little while now, enjoying a little nosey into the kitchen sink dramas of others, everywhere. Well, I am taking the plunge today and  giving you a peek  into my kitchen, in what I hope will be a regular monthly post.

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In my kitchen, I have two, much loved, Le Creuset cast iron, ridiculously heavy pans. Many years ago we had an old, romantic, overgrown Victorian garden. It was a magnificent garden, in which we discovered a covered-up-with-years-and-years-worth-of-leaves-and-twigs, big rectangular pond complete with a fountain, which was overhung by a beautiful weeping willow tree – the source of much of the muck. A couple of weekends were spent clearing it out, fixing the fountain and filling it up with water, koi and aquatic plants. The garden was also full of all sorts of fruit trees – apple, pear, walnut, plum and cherry – it really was a magical place. One year we harvested more plums than we could eat so I decided to make a chutney. I took out my large, old faithful Le Creuset dutch oven and proceeded with the recipe. I left it burbling gently on the hob, wandered into the garden to skim leaves off the surface of the pond and got chatting to our neighbour who convivially produced a glass or two of wine. By the time I got back into the kitchen, the chutney had cooked down and burnt to a cinder- the sugar had carbonised and was welded to the bottom of the pot completely destroying my beloved Le Creuset. No amount of scrubbing, soaking, or scraping over the next few weeks could lift off that burnt-on mess. I shed tears throwing out Old Faithful. I was overjoyed to receive a new one as a gift the following Christmas, and have since acquired a smaller oval one — but I have never made a chutney again!

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In my kitchen I have a handmade utility knife from the Japanese Knife Company. It is completely handmade by a small group of highly skilled artisan nokaji whose skills have been passed down for 4 generations. It is my favourite kitchen tool. I bought it 17 years ago it from a very knowledgeable elderly gentleman  at a food show, who really impressed me with his calm and serene manner. I  have remembered him often and have never forgotten how he thinly and quickly pared an apple using only a simple little paring knife. Twelve years later, I attended a knife skills course and was surprised and delighted to find that he was teaching it. In the literature that they give you before starting the course, we were asked to bring in our knives so that we could learn how to use them properly and also have them sharpened. When I handed him mine, he recognized it immediately (despite the fact that it has no markings on it anywhere) and even knew the Japanese artisan who had made it – how amazing is that?!

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In my kitchen I have sourdough bread, handmade by Duncan, who cycles over to me every week, to drop off one of his artisan loaves of bread. Last summer, I volunteered to help out at our local Food Festival and met some wonderful local people and producers as well as the talented husband and wife team behind The Elephant Bakehouse. They ran a tasting workshop as well as a stall and I am happy to say that the stall sold out well before the festival was over. They produce the most delicious varieties of artisan sourdough bread using local (as much as possible)  organic flour.The flavours are complex and the texture dense, chewy and so, so satisfying – no comparison can be made to the flabby mass produced sliced loaves which have never been touched by human hand. Duncan makes the bread himself and his wife looks after the rest of the business – they are both really passionate about their bread and with every reason. They are in the process of securing local premises from which to start baking for the greater community. My son takes two slices, toasted, spread with peanut butter and carefully wrapped in tinfoil on his way out the door in the morning, to eat on his way to school.

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In my kitchen I have a jar of pretty pink beetroot sea salt. In October, I visited Cape Town, staying with close friends. I had an amazing time, visiting lots of fabulous restaurants and shops. One of the places that Alex took me to was Babylonstoren. It describes itself as a Cape Dutch Farm with vineyards and orchards surrounded by the mountains of the Drakenstein Valley. It is a stunning working organic farm with fabulous restaurants, shops, a spa and tastefully furnished whitewashed cottages for guests to stay in.

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1. Gorgeous chickens running free
2. The Drakenstein Mountains
3. Babelstoren

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1. Beautifully presented salad and sandwich at The Greenhouse
2. The cured meat room in the Farm Shop Barn
3. A view of the gardens

It oozes style, charm, beauty and character everywhere you look and no wonder as it is owned by Karen Roos who used to be the editor of the South African edition of Elle Decoration. We met up with a friend of his, Simon, who is a passionate and knowledgeable gardener. It didn’t surprise me to hear that no expense had been spared to make Babylonstoren what it is today. The “Farm Shop”,  unlike anything you have seen before, is housed in a series of rooms in one of the barns from where I came away with this stunning beetroot sea salt. I love pinching some over a buffalo mozzarella and watching the pretty pink colour stain the milky white cheese.

in_my_kitchen_march_13In my kitchen I have a jar of delicious home made jam. As I don’t make chutneys or jams, I am always grateful to receive homemade versions from friends. My friends from Cape Town visited London just before Christmas and brought me a jar of this amazing Plum, Chilli and Cherry Jam which Rob had made. It is fabulous with goat’s cheese. Don’t you just love the adorable jar with the chalkboard label?

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In my kitchen I have fridge magnets. Not any old magnets, mind but words with which to compose all sorts of messages. I love these because they are food related. They have been packed away and then in storage for quite a few years so it has been a delight to get them out again.

in_my_kitchen_march_13This is what my son put up on the fridge the other day – should I be worried?

Well that’s it for this month. Many thanks to Celia for coming up with this series and hosting it. This is the link to take you to the archives http://figjamandlimecordial.com/in-my-kitchen/ Please do go over and look at what other bloggers are up to in their kitchens!

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36 thoughts on “In My Kitchen – March 2014

    • Thanks Laura! Far too much wine gets drunk here – my son became an expert in topping us all up round the table by the time he was 12 or so! He has seen us all drink responsibly and I have to say that he is very good about it himself.

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  1. Very nice post and lovely stories. I’ve had the same happen with a Le Creuset..it had to be replaced as I can’t do without it. I’ve just been given, by my son, a set of three I.O.Shen knives. I’ve always had good knives, that I have cared for, but these are something else:)

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    • Thank you. I am happy to hear that I am not alone in ruining a Creuset! I still feel annoyed with myself when I think of it now and it must have happened about 20 years ago!. I’m not familiar with I O Shen knives but there is nothing like a good sharp knife in the kitchen. If I know that I am going to be cooking at a friends place I will always take my knife with me as I feel so clumsy with a not so sharp knife. I remember handing over a small fortune for it, all those many years ago but I still have it and use it every day.

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  2. Oh Selma, what a lovely, beautiful and funny post! I did the SAME thing to my blue Le Crueset pot – the enamel actually spalled off the bottom. All our fridge magnets are boxed away, a direct result of having a built in refrigerator with a wooden door. I miss them! Don’t worry, you can always use more wine.

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    • I am so glad you enjoyed my first IMK post! I can’t believe that you too, have ruined a Le Crueset pot – I am beginning to not feel so bad about it now! I’m in good company! It’s lovely to get the magnets out again though I am slightly concerned as to the content of the next declaration from the teen!

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  3. There are so many wonderful things in your kitchen- I love the magnetic poetry box, the jam, the bread, ( delivered by Duncan on bicycle indeed!) and the beetroot salt ( which I am determined to find out more about. Thanks for joining in.

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    • Thank you so much Francesca. When Duncan arrives with the bread on his bicycle, it is hard to believe that I am in urban gritty South London! The beetroot salt must be so easy to make with Maldon or flaky salt and a little beetroot juice. I am totally in love with your camping kitchen and life which I saw earlier today – sigh.

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    • Sandra – thank you so much. I have really enjoyed going through your posts and have probably commented a little too much – please don’t feel that you have to reply to them! I have really enjoyed thinking about and writing this post – the IMK community are very supportive and I am so enjoying getting to “know” everyone!

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  4. What a lovely well written post Selma. I felt like I just got to know you a little! What’s in the kitchen really says a lot about a person and I can tell you are a very thoughtful, caring and warm person….just by your post! :) Love all the things in your kitchen.

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    • Thanks so much for such a lovely comment. When I started this blog I truly thought that I would be read by family and friends and possibly friends of friends. I never dreamed that I would get to “meet” so many amazing people all over the world too! So it’s quite nice to be able to tell you a little about myself through items, old and new that are in my kitchen. x

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  5. Thanks for sharing your stories and kitchen, Selma!
    I also have knives that I carry about to other kitchens ( and measuring spoons that I keep in my purse- just in case.)
    My son gave me a le cruset pot that he wasn’t going to use and I use it to make bread and stew in (on separate occasions, of course!)- I would use it a lot more if I could handle the weight better.
    Welcome to IMK!

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    • Thank you Heidi – I used to worry about getting stopped and searched when I took the tube (underground/metro) to friends with my knives stashed in the bottom of my handbag! Those pots are so heavy but they are so fabulous for stews and sauces. I keep meaning to try that bread – it’s on the list…thanks for stopping by!

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  6. How wonderful to peek into your kitchen, thank you so much for joining in, Selma! :) I love the look of your knife, and what a great story – true craftsmen like that are a dying breed. And I’m so sorry to hear that you killed your cast iron pot – I can understand completely how that would put you off making chutneys again! :)

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    • Celia, thank you so much for having me – you have such a wonderful IMK community – everyone has been so lovely and welcoming and I have found so many interesting people to follow. The knife story still gives me goosebumps – talk about fate. In a city the size of London, what were the chances of me seeing this chap again and then, for him to recognise the knife – well….And I feel that I have to face my demons and attempt a chutney this year – probably not in my Crueset though! I am already planning next month’s IMK post!

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  7. i so much like to see into other folks lives…especially their kitchens! It is just a peek into the soul of a cook I think. So thanks very much for this post. I feel I know you much better via the wonderful world of blogging.

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    • Thanks Teresa, I have enjoyed writing it. I too, love a little snoop – one of my favourite things is sitting upstairs on the bus, after sundown, in the run up to Christmas so that I can see all the wonderful Christmas decorations/trees that are put up in people’s homes! Of course the other thing is looking at what people in the checkout queue have in their shopping trolleys…always lovely to see kindred cooking spirits in the queue! x

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