In My Kitchen – March 2014

in_my_kitchen_march_13

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.

in_my_kitchen_march_13

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!

in_my_kitchen_march_13

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?!

in_my_kitchen_march_13

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.

in_my_kitchen_march_13

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.

in_my_kitchen_march_13

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

in_my_kitchen_march_13

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?

in_my_kitchen_march_13

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!