Traditions & Experiments in My Kitchen

In the fabric of life, traditions are the warp and weft that bind us together.
Experimentation – a forum for innovation and creativity – design and embellish the cloth.

That rather fanciful metaphor at the head of this post occurred to me after thinking about textiles in my latest post, Patchwork. Naturally enough, those thoughts spilled over into thinking about this month’s IMK post when I realised that both traditions and experiments are often woven together in my kitchen.

Last month in my kitchen began with the Greek tradition of cutting the vasilopita, the New Year’s cake in honour of Saint Basil. We had our own on New Year’s Day just after the stroke of midnight after smashing the pomegranate on the door step and hanging the new gouri-gouri ornament that I described in my last IMK post, In a White Kitchen. A few days after the staff returned from holiday, we assembled to cut another vasilopita. Like last year, we made two giant cakes – one a tsoureki style bread/cake flavoured with mastic, mahlepi and anise; the other an orange cake with buttercream icing. The buttercream was an innovation from last year and, thus, eliminated the powdered sugar sprinkled on clothing and carpets. You can catch up on this communal Greek tradition in my post from January 2016, Divides & Binding Traditions.

staff_vasilopita2017

Remember a few months back when I reported on our unexpected olive harvest? We experimented with a brine and vinegar solution to cure the olives. Now to report: the slit olives absorbed too much salt too quickly and had to be put into clear water (with a little vinegar) so they would leach out some of the salt. They leached too much and we have a crop of rather bland and slightly soft olives, though they still have that excellent olive taste. Perhaps these will be used to make tapanades and other pastes where we can adjust by adding seasonings. On the other hand, the olives left whole fared better and these will be perfect just as they are. I have now been given several different (and more complex) instructions. A very complex issue here where everyone, it seems, has an opinion on the best and traditional way to cure olives.

cured_kalamatas2017

I am also still experimenting with those endless egg whites – particularly after a foray into ice cream making which produced yet more of the stuff. A report on this subject soon – depending on success…something that has been rather elusive.

On the other hand, another experiment in the kitchen achieved instantaneous and positive results. Lovely old silver plate fish knives & forks were restored using an aluminium/baking soda bath. 

fish_knife_fork_polished

I saw these little silver fish in the market and it reminded me of my post Silver Fish that explained how to easily and safely remove the tarnish from silver plate.

silver_fish_in_market-1-2017

And, speaking of markets, we made one of our tri-annual trips to the massive warehouse that stocks all sorts of foodstuffs and paraphernalia that keeps Athens restaurants and catering services running. We stocked up on bulk supplies of cooking oil, flours, sugars, pastas, crates of tomato passata, giant bags of nuts and dried fruits, well…any manner of things that will store well. The car was absolutely packed on the return journey. The morning out in the industrial suburbs required me to put my feet up for the rest of the day.

food_warehouse

The customary shopping style of our local laiki is more to my liking. Winter greens are back in full force in the market which means more tsigarista making!!!

greens_in_market_1-2017

These traditional Cretan sautéed greens would go perfectly with fish – so perhaps I will be able to use those silver plated forks and knives after all, reviving an old-fashioned practise.

fish_in_market_1-2017

Our annual marmalade making has commenced. The nerantzia, our bitter oranges, are ripe and ready for picking, despite their earlier dusting of snow.

Earlier

nerantzia_ripe_1-2017Now

This is also the first year my little potted kumquat tree has fruited. Experiments here, too, with kumquat marmalade with liqueur, trying a recipe posted by ladyredspecks@Please Pass the Recipe over 4 yesrs ago. Hint: Cointreau goes well with kumquats.

kumquat2017

So, another year begins, the weather will turn fair then foul and back again and the seasons will slowly change. The garden continues to produce – hearty herbs, wild greens and citrus now with more tender warm weather produce to come. The laiki sets up its fruit and veg stalls every Friday, and friendly faces are still to be found. It is comforting to know that life goes on with its traditions and creative experimentation, particularly in these changing, challenging times.

A monthly IMK (In My Kitchen) post. Check out other IMK bloggers, each of us writing about what’s been happening in our kitchens each month, now hosted by Liz @ Bizzy Lizzys Good Things who has graciously taken up the challenge (and before her by Maureen @ The Orgasmic Chef) to list all of us IMK bloggers. For earlier IMK posts, see the fabulous Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial who, began the IMK phenomenon and until 2016 listed all of us IMK bloggers. A chronological listing of my In My Kitchen blog posts can be found on a separate page, just click the link or look under the heading of Diaries in the Menu bar above.
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36 comments

  1. Wow Debi, that’s a mammoth post and so many very good things! Your fish knife reminded me of one similar that I bought at an op shop… yours is in much better condition. Thank you for the peek into your kitchen and the referral to the Diana Henry book, happy new year, and grazie for the very kind kind shout out. xx

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    • The fish knives were found languishing in a chest. They have now been cleaned up and I’m dying to use them. Things are never still in the kitchen (and market – which I consider an extension to my kitchen). I also love reading about other kitchens and I’m so glad the IMK posts continue!

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  2. The photo of olives with light reflections on each one is very impressive. All those markets with fish and greens look wonderful too! Lucky you to have citrus growing at home.

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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  3. Always like peeking into your kitchen Debi, no grass grows under your feet. I’d much rather shop at small local markets too… Thanks for the shout out, I hope you enjoyed the cumquat marmalade. I had to leave my potted tree in Melbourne with a friend, the the first time in 20 yrs there’s no marmalade in the pantry, we miss it

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  4. Such an interesting post Debi, thank you. What a thought to grow a kumquat in a pot. I have a Meyer lemon tree and a lime tree in large half wine barrels but never thought about a kumquat, I love them candied and preserved. I think I will search one out. Please do let us know how the marmalade turns out. I have some of those bone handled fish knives and forks that my grandparents left me. You have inspired me to polish and use them.

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  5. Challenging times indeed Debi- hard to tell what damage that man can do next. Love the visits to your Laiki- more fun than that Costco kind of place. Will you be updating your olive post with further details? Our olive season is only a few months away so I look forward to it.

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    • I guess we are now calling him “so-called” after one of his latest tweets. Meanwhile, we continue to #resist and live life as we should. Love my little laiki. Next post is on the olives. I really need to do better next harvest. I’ve been told it is every other year.

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  6. How wonderful to have grown your own olives… even if they were a little bland I would have them over shop bought ones any day. Kumquat marmalade sounds delicious 🙂

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  7. lots of goodies there Debi. My olive tree has had a crop this year, but the hail storm recently destroyed most of it. sooo sad. it has fruited early too. normally i would pick and brine them late Feb they have ripened and fallen off the tree already. I have blogged about brining them before. our old italian neighbour said they were great, better than hers! love the fish photos. the market must be a wonderful resource. cute little fish knives too. cumquats look so gorgeous on the tree, don’t they?

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    • I’ll have a look at your olive brining post…I am collecting different procedures. It seems for such a simple list of ingredients there are myriad ways of proceeding. The market is great, but our small local market puts the price of fish up. Better to go down to the central market, but it is such a schlep. Really love having a beautiful little kumquat – adds to the collection of citrus tress we have here.

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  8. Wow Debi, some amazing things here. Those orange trees look so pretty with their icy frosting, the olives are interesting, everyone has their own ‘best’ method that it usually takes years and years to decide on. The silver has cleaned up beautifully and I would love to go to those markets and suppliers. I love hearing you’ll of the traditions, very special. Cheers.

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    • The trouble with olive curing here is not the doing, but the choosing which method to follow! The silver plate cleaning method was amazing and I was glad to be able to bring those forks and knives back to life. I much prefer the markets, but we do need to go out to the wholesalers every once in a while. Putting the stuff away when you get back is what actually kills you.

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  9. Love all of the market photos. It’s what I miss most about living in a small city. How exciting to have orange and kumquat trees. I’m enjoying citrus season now as well but I have to buy mine since we aren’t in a climate for orange trees.

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  10. link to Silver Fish: cleaning tarnish from silverplate. My fish serving set is in desperate need and I’ve been avoiding the chore. Kumquat marmalade sounds an unusual treat, I’ve only noshed on the fresh fruit and found it too sour.

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  11. Debi, I have a few pieces of tarnished silverware (family treasures) that no commercially-made silver polish would clean. Please thank your chemist son. Your beautifully restored fish knife set made me a believer. Lovely how you “patched” together old & new, and intend to revive a tradition, too!

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