In My Kitchen, September 2017

Spring has arrived and with it the September edition of IMK, a global monthly link up currently hosted by Sherry’s Pickings.   Here’s what is happening in the Napoli kitchen this month!

In my kitchen are lots of eggs. The girls are going great guns, and we are now occasionally in surplus, so it’s lovely to be able to give some home grown fresh eggs to people.  Rosie (aka The Unit) is producing double yolkers every now and again, while baby Grace produces these little mini pointy eggs.

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The Small People carefully collect the eggs from the nesting boxes every afternoon when they get home from school; they love the variation in size and colour and regularly send me photos of each day’s collection.

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Outside my kitchen window is an excavator.  It’s all systems go go go on the Grande Rinnovamento.  We are, I think, only the fourth family to own this grand old lady in it’s 127 year history.  These walls hold a lot of stories; the servant bells around the house with one for the “drawing room” speak of bygone eras, as does the little box at the back of the laundry with a door, which was once used for servant food deliveries. It is going to be a long, and no doubt sometimes complicated ride, but we are all very excited about it.

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In my kitchen is chocolate with white truffles, which the Sorella bought back from her recent trip to Croatia.  The fragrance when I opened the packet was incredible, and so was the taste, which was much more truffle than chocolate.

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I recently added to my cake tin stash with this great ridged tin.  It is a traditional shape for Amor Polenta cake which I made last week, but I’m sure other cakes will be great in it too.

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That’s it from my kitchen this month.  It’s going to be a busy few weeks as we plan to move out as the renovation accelerates, and onto a temporary kitchen until we can return.  Hope all my Australian readers have enjoyed a lovely Father’s Day today.

Today’s cake – Amor Polenta

Such a romantic sounding cake, one with the word love in the title.  Hailing from Lombardia in Italy’s north, it is not an extravagant cake, but typical of Cucina Povera where polenta or cornmeal was often used to take food a little bit further.   Traditionally Amor Polenta is prepared in a ridged cake tin, but no reason why you couldn’t use a normal loaf pan.  The tin I bought was a little too big for this quantity of mix, as the cake is usually nice and high, so next time I’ll make a double batch of mixture (or buy a smaller tin, but I think I’ll go with the double batch as it’s a gorgeous cake).   You need very very finely ground polenta or cornmeal for this, not the typical polenta used in savoury dishes, or you’ll get a very grainy texture.  The Strega – an Italian liquor and a favourite of Mamma Rosa, added a delightful subtle fragrance to it. The Marito loved it, so did I. This one is going to become a regular for sure.

Ingredients
120g caster sugar
100g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
8g baking powder
100g fine cornmeal (polenta)
80g flour, tipo 00
70g almond meal
Splash of liquor such as Strega or rum
Icing sugar, for dusting

Making it

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees and grease the tin with melted butter. Using an electric mixer, beat sugar and butter until combined then add the eggs and beat till nice and creamy. Add the vanilla and baking powder and combine. Add the cornmeal and combine, then the tipo 00 and combine, and then finally the almond. Lastly add the Strega. Pour the mixture into the tin and use a knife to smooth the batter. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool and dust with icing sugar.

 

Bacco Osteria e Espresso, Sydney

A cobbled laneway.  An Italian osteria.  Chefs who know Italian food.  It’s all looking positive for Bacco, recently opened in Ash Street.  Since Fratelli Fresh fell into the hands of a large dining conglomerate and Andy Bunn left the scene, it isn’t quite the same, so was good to see a new casual Italian diner around this end of town.  It’s a handy spot to catch up with a friend for a chat, who is about to make me jealous with her itinerary of three months of travel.

The interior is unfussy, true to an osteria style.  And the menu is compact but broadly appealing, other than some specific offal dish which doesn’t tempt us.  Be prepared to get to know your neighbours, the tables along the side wall are so close to each other that they may as well have been joined.  Not the place if you’re looking for privacy.

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The dishes we try are tasty and the flavours good. What lets them down that night is the service. Drinks have to be chased, attention is hard to come by, and when my credit card payment doesn’t get processed properly there’s more waiting because the waitress disappears so fast that I can’t catch anyone’s eye to fix it. A runner would have been easy. So there’s a bit of work to be done but it’s early days. Anyway here is what we try

A couple of simple potato and prosciutto croquettes. I’m partial the odd croquette, especially when they have a good crunchy coating.

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The artichokes with straciatella is Italian simplicity done well. The straciatella is gorgeous

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Grilled quail with witlof and pine nuts.  Simple, nicely cooked quail but the dressing is a little tart for my liking.

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The pasta dishes are very nicely executed. Though at $24 and $26 they don’t have the portion generosity of a Flour Eggs Water. CBD rents and all that.

Gnocchi with pistachio – petite little pillows combine with nutty crunch

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Strozzapretti with a pork and guanciale ragu – very nice indeed.

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Bacco Osteria e Espresso, 1 Angel Place, Sydney Ph 02 9235 3383
http://www.bacco.com.au

Bacco Osteria e Espresso Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

In My Kitchen, July 2017

I don’t do cold weather well, so am glad we are over one third through winter. Though on a relative scale it has been pretty mild this year, with lots of blue sky days, crisp but not overly cool.  It has still been nice to wander around the garden, check on the chooks, and see what is left of the herbs, which is not much. Roll on, spring.  Here’s what is happening in my winter kitchen this month.

In my kitchen are these cute little hand made egg cups I bought at the markets in Tel Aviv during my trip to Israel last month.

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They are perfect for our eggs. Rosie, our Rhode Island Red, who is ridiculously big for a pullet and would scare off half the neighbourhood dogs, has just started laying.  Her eggs are markedly lighter than the Isa’s.  Our Wyandotte (Grace) and Plymouth Rock (Maddie) are yet to lay.

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I used a couple of eggs in these corn fritters, from the Bills Open Kitchen book.  These are really really easy fritters to whip up and quite tasty.

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In my kitchen is a “girasole” (sunflower) courtesy of Mamma Rosa.  Made with a puff pastry case that is cut and twisted into a sunflower shape, this one has ricotta and broccoli, though she also makes a version with ricotta and spinach.  Mamma Rosa is armed with an iPad these days and is loving watching cooking videos on YouTube in her native Italian.  This was from one of those.  She enjoys surfing the net a bit these days; she came across LinkedIn the other day and was trying to figure out how to sign up, I was in hysterics.

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Also courtesy of Mamma Rosa is one of this year’s homemade salami.  If you grow up on this stuff, preservative free, the commercially made version doesn’t cut it at all.

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The other day we found this bottle under the stairwell.  Having had a look at its watermark, we think it is a 1930’s Bosistos eucalyptus oil bottle.  It will be interesting to see what we find in various crevices once we start the Grande Rinnovamento.  Certainly the garden had some interesting things buried in it when we were doing a clean up when we first moved in almost a year and a half ago.

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Short and sweet from the Napoli kitchen for this month.  Thanks to Sherry for hosting this global monthly link up, take a peek at kitchens around the world!

 

Tel Aviv, Israel

After four days in Jerusalem, our next stop was Tel Aviv, city by the sea.  Our meeting schedule here was jam-packed.  We were all inspired and excited by the companies and people we met, but we were all pretty shattered by the end of the trip.  We crammed in an incredible amount in eight days in Israel (plus over 50 hours to get there and back, transit connections are not ideal so be prepared!). There were a few office sandwich and salad meals but we did have some lovely dinners.

One of the people we met was the Mayor of Tel Aviv, Ron Huldai. What a character! 18 years on the job and so full of enthusiasm and love for his city, very big on connecting people and creating community, physically and via their “smart city” technology.

For something different, we had a meal at Spoons in Jaffa, run by Hila Solomon, a private dining experience rather than a restaurant.  Here we heard from six extraordinary women making a difference in different fields from medicine to law to impact investing, while eating some beautiful home style food. Among them was the leading neuroimmunologist Professor Michal Shwartz, whose work on the brain and immune system could have groundbreaking consequences on diseases like Alzheimer’s.

There was also Sivan Borowich Ya’ari, the founder of Innovation Africa, who, by bringing energy to remote villages, has had transformative impact; for instance many medical clinics could not store basic medicines and children’s vaccines because they did not have refrigeration but could once they had electricity, thus having implications for reduction in illnesses.  Energy has also allowed villages to pump water out of the ground, so that children don’t have to spend hours looking for water, and can go to school instead.

This spatchcock dish, with sumac and pomegranate molasses, was a standout.  I have asked Hila for the recipe.

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And this bread was like a cross between a pita and a pancake.  So fluffy!

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My whole life I have disliked Turkish Delight, but that is clearly because I have never tried the real thing. On the left is Turkish Delight and quince cubes. On the right is an Israeli milk pudding called malabi; extremely smooth but on its own it does not have a lot of flavour and definitely needs the extras.

Here is lovely warm Hila.  She divides her time between Tel Aviv and Sydney, and will be doing private dinners in Sydney later this year.

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I thought it was fitting that after a dinner with nearly 50 women, a man did the washing up!

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Between meetings one day, we did a super quick stop at Caesarea (“2000 years of history in five minutes”, joked our guide), a town built by Herod the Great.  There is a lot to see and explore in this sea side town, but we only had time to stop at the amphitheatre, which is now used for very select artist performances.

As I mentioned in my post on Jerusalem, I’ve written about the business aspects of this trip separately, but I will mention one company here because I really like the potential global impact of what they are doing, and, it is food related! TIPA are making compostable food grade packaging.  All those sandwich bags, cracker packets and so on, instead of taking 500 years to decompose, take six months in the TIPA product version.  The founder, Daphna Nissenbaum, founded it after getting frustrated by the amount of plastic waste simply arising from her children’s lunchboxes every day. Here’s a (crushed from my suitcase) sandwich bag I bought home.

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Now, a lot of us talk the talk on plastic waste, but will we as consumers walk it and  actually pay extra for these kind of products? At the moment, having not achieved scale and manufactured in Germany, the products are more expensive than your 500-years-to-go-away stuff. So let’s see.

We had a couple of meals at Jaffa Port, a seaside port in the Old City of Jaffa, where there are a number of restaurants, cafes, and a few shops.  It’s a pretty stretch.

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One of the meals was at The Old Man and The Sea, which gave the ultimate opportunity for a flat lay shot!

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We stopped in at this bar afterwards, not sure what the deal was with the camel’s head.

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Do also go to the Carmel Markets, full of wonderful food, and the neighbouring craft market.

There are also some pretty boutiques and cafes around the upmarket area of Neve Zedek. We passed a real estate agent and nearly keeled over at some of the apartment and house prices.

One evening we had a meal at the home of a local Muslim woman as part of the Mama program.  By catering for a meal for a group of women, it provides a form economic empowerment. Her home garden was a fertile surbuban oasis full of colour. While here we heard from the extraordinary Dr Orna Berry, who was Israel’s first female Chief Scientist, and was the first sale of an Israeli startup to a large foreign company, in her case to Seimens.

We also went to the Charles Bronfam Auditorium for a performance of The Marriage of Figaro by the Israel Philharmonic

I think we saved the best till last with a meal at Kimmel Restaurant.  The food here was just fantastic, my favourite of the trip. Though the staff told me that the restaurant was closing at the end of June after 25 years, what a shame! However the chef does have two other restaurants, one of which is called Blue Rooster.  I have gotten in contact and asked for a couple of the recipes, see how we go.

During the meal we heard from Emi Palmour, the Director General of the Department of Justice, who is absolutely awesome.  What she has done in the department in terms of achieving diversity and inclusion deserves applause.  She has built a department that is not only diverse from a gender perspective, but also diverse in its ethnic minority groups, age, and disability. There has got to be benefits in a justice department that better reflects the society it is serving.

A few other random Tel Aviv snaps below!

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Jerusalem, Israel

This month I was fortunate to attend a Women Leader’s Trade Mission to Israel, with 40 diverse and fabulous Australian women, organised by the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce; our group spent four days in Jerusalem and four days in Tel Aviv. There to examine and try and understand all things innovation, it was a wonderful opportunity to experience such a complex and fascinating country.  I’ve written on the business aspects of the trip elsewhere, so here I’ll share with you some of the meals (in our 16-18 hour days we had to eat!) and our lightening fast version of sightseeing in between meetings.

With little time to waste, after our early morning flight arrival and a quick freshen up we headed to the Israel Museum.  It’s a fabulous building, and regarded as one of world’s best museums after extensive renovations in 2010. A must for archaeology fans, as it houses some of the world’s oldest pieces.  The 5,000 year old butter churner had me intrigued. (Is dairy allowed in Paleo? We’ve been eating it for a while it seems, Pete Evans). Set on 20 acres, I loved the large corridors and spaciousness and surrounding gardens. Our tour guide, Elana Ben Chaim, was just charming and delightful – grab her if you can!

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That evening for dinner we headed to Kedma, which you arrive at after a stroll through the very pleasant outdoor Mamila Mall.

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The food was delicious, and here we got a taste of the mezze style of dining we would see a lot of over the next eight days.  Vegetables and dairy feature heavily in the diet here, and very little processed or deep fried food. Every eggplant dish we tried throughout the trip was fantastic – I’m not sure if it is the variety of eggplant, the soil, the water, or the cooking technique!  The focus also seems to be more on savoury rather than sweet, with desserts taking a back seat.  I did find that in general red meat tended to be overcooked compared to what we are used to in Australia, though that may be due to kosher style of butchering, so after trying it at a couple of meals I generally skipped it. Besides there were just too many fabulous vegetable dishes to try. The Marito would have a field day in this country.

From Kedma there is also a great view of the city and the night light show against the Western Wall.

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By far the most confronting part of the trip and of life in general was our visit to the Yad Va’shem Holocaust Memorial the following morning.  An imposing and stark building, what you see inside will leave your heart heavy, your face solemn, and make you drag your feet. You can’t take photos inside but what you see will stay with you.

The capacity for unnecessary human evil is fully on display here, and walking on the pavers of the Warsaw Ghetto, seeing the abandoned shoes, the house keys that people took with them thinking that they would return home one day, touching the carriage that took children to Auschwitz, leaves you silent and rather distraught. There are lots of displays and videos but the sensitive and learned guide we had made clear enormity of the suffering of the six million lives lost.  One and a half million of them were children, amongst them newborns, who are honoured and remembered in the separate Children’s Terrace.

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At Yad Va’Shem you will also see Schindler’s List, the list of all the Jewish people Oskar Schindler saved.  Number 123 is man who now lives in Melbourne, who told our guide that his first stop whenever he visits Israel is the Catholic Cemetery to pay his respects at Schindler’s grave.

One fact our guide shared of which I was unaware, as were most of our group, was the heroism of Denmark.  They refused to accede to Hitler’s demands and brand people with stars or treat them differently, and then organised for their safe removal to Sweden. Denmark is the only country that appears in the Avenue of the Righteous.  This is a path that circles the museum which has the names of people from all around the world who risked their lives to save others from Nazi hands.  One of those is a man who now lives in Melbourne, who was honoured in 1991. Another who is honoured is Irena Sendler, a Polish Social worker who saved over 2,000 children.

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We stopped at Nafour Restaurant to recover and for a mezze refuel. It has a nice outdoor courtyard at the back.

From here we went for an unfortunately too short visit of the Old City of Jerusalem. I would have loved more time wandering the cobbled streets, so do leave yourself a good amount of time if you find yourself here.  There were some very interesting looking market stalls and an endless selection of spices.

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The Old City, a UNESCO World heritage site, is divided into quarters – Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Armenian.  In the Christian quarter you’ll come across the Holy Sepulchre.  Inside is the site of the crucifixion of Jesus, where his body was laid to be shrouded, and the site of his tomb.  I sent some photos to the Small People as I walked through and one of them replied “surely that’s not real?”.  You have to make up your own mind.

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If you’re walking through the Old City, particularly in the evening, it is also hard to miss The Dome of the Rock, an Islamic Temple and holy site and one of the world’s oldest examples of Islamic architecture.   At the moment, visitors are not allowed inside, so you can only wander the outer square.

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We also did a breakneck speed stop at the Dead Sea.  It was one on my bucket list! The Earth’s lowest elevation, it is about ten times saltier than your average ocean.  Doesn’t smell the best either and avoid splashing, apparently it tastes even worse.  But yes you do float straight away, it’s a really weird feeling!  Girlies no shaving beforehand, you’ll feel the sting of all that salt! We did give ourselves a good body scrub though, it was a good laugh.

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deadseaOne for ancient history lovers is Masada, the site of Herod the Great’s Fortress.  How on earth did they do that 2,000 years ago? For the fit and those ready to brave the heat, you can climb to the top via stairs, otherwise there is a cable car.

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We had a traditional Sabbath Dinner and heard from  Rabbi Yael Kari, a female Rabbi from the Israel Movement for Reform, a modern form of Judaism.  She was so lovely and serene.  And I’m not sure if all Sabbath dinners are like this, but there was a crazy amount of food, including good old Jewish Penicillin, chicken soup.

One evening after a geopolitical briefing (the geopolitics of Israel will make your head spin) we headed to the Western Wall, a very holy place of prayer for Judaism. At 9.30pm it was very busy.  There are separate sides for men and women; the male side looked quite social, with many men sitting and having a chat, whereas the female side was definitely less so and pure prayer was the order of the day.

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You can wall the full length of the Western Wall in the underground tunnels, very cool, and not one for the claustrophobic.

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Oh I must mention the breakfast at the King David Hotel where we stayed.  One of the best hotel breakfasts ever!  Just loved the salads and the vegetable tarts and pies in particular.

 

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It is a very grand old style hotel, and also a very busy one, I have never seen so many families and children running about in a luxury hotel. I shot took this picture of the foyer early one morning in a rare moment of quiet.

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A few more snaps of Jerusalem below, some from my fantastic fellow travellers.   A truly interesting city and would love to go back and spend more time there.

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Next stop – Tel Aviv.

 

Hearty winter lentil and vegetable soup

This is a really easy, filling and healthy family meal. You could skip the risoni if you prefer, or add some cooked rice instead to make it gluten free. Not the prettiest dish, but really tasty. Serves 4.

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Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 large ripe tomato, seeds removed, coarsely chopped
1 large potato, cut into small cubes
1 medium carrot, diced
Handful of green beans, cut into 2-3cm lengths
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
1 large zucchini, cut in half lengthways then thickly sliced
1 cup French green lentils
1 cup risoni
1/3 cup chopped continental parsley
Salt for seasoning
Grated parmesan, to serve (optional)

Making it
In a heavy based pot, heat the olive oil on medium heat, add the onion and a pinch of salt, and fry off until the onion softens. Add the diced tomato and continue to saute until the tomato begins to break down.

Add all the vegetables and another pinch of salt, combine with a wooden spoon then add about 1.5 litres of water. Add the lentils then bring to a simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the risoni and simmer gently till cooked. Check for seasoning. Stir through the parsley and serve, add parmesan if desired.