Yesterday, I was reading Casual Kitchen, a cooking blog that does a great job of distilling a lot of other cooking blogs, as well as always providing interesting food for thought. Daniel was talking about what a relief it was to be in a kitchen that was 70-80% packed for a move because he did not have to contemplate which coffee mugs or wine glasses to use as all but the last two had been packed. The basics were to hand, but none of the peripheral stuff, which was inspiring him to cook more not less. Daniel challenged his readers to contemplate what could they get rid of and not miss.
So, would I be better off getting rid of 70% of my kitchen equipment? What do I have that I could get rid of and not miss? Certainly I have a lot of platters - we got married in the Year of the Platter - and I could probably get rid of half of them, and still have plenty, but I won't. Wear and tear is slowly taking its toll, and I suspect this cupboard will get emptied by natural attrition. Appliances? I use all my appliances regularly (toaster, blender, food processor, stick blender, toasted sandwich maker, and the hero, my Kitchenaid stand mixer), so nothing to ditch there. In another cupboard, I have a couple of salad bowls, about 10 mixing bowls of different sizes (some of which also double up as heat proof bowls for melting chocolate), about half a dozen baking dishes, a couple of souffle bowls (that also get used for salads, and serving from time to time) and a salad spinner. They all work hard for me all year.
Onto the less used items: I have two large colanders - and yes, I could probably get by with one - plus three tiny colanders that I use for jobs like rinsing salted capers, but are by no means essential. I have a mortar and pestle, that gets used maybe three or four times a year. More embarrassingly, I have two full drawers of baking equipment: a cupcake tin, a mini muffin tin, a friand tin, a madeleine silicone sheet, two springform tins, six cake tins, a swag of cookie cutters and a cookie press, a couple of square tins for brownies or slices, oven trays, a couple of loaf tins, a bundt tin and a mini-bundt tin. A lot of this was given to me, or came from my grandmothers' kitchen when she was packing up her house, and it all gets used, at least a few times a year. My least favourite drawer is the plasticware, which is in a symbiotic relationship with my freezer - when the freezer is full, the plastics drawer is half empty, when the freezer is empty, the plastics drawer won't shut. And the plastic drink bottles appear to be breeding with the takeaway box lids. I keep throwing them out and more and more turn up.
The entertaining-related items are probably the ones that don't really earn their living in my kitchen: the "good" dinner plates, the cake stand, the ham stand, the butter curler (inherited from my grandmother), a cherry pipper, tea cups, dessert forks. In a world, where there are people who don't know where their next meal will come from, it does seem wrong and indulgent to have so much, and I feel awkward about it now I am looking at it all. But would I ditch any of them? The simple answer is, not as long as I have the cupboards to hold them. I love to entertain and it really makes me happy to use the things that have come to me from other people, other times, other places. I feel a strong sense of continuity when I hold them. I also feel that the way you make a happy house is to fill it up with memories. If a fire took them from me, I probably would not replace any of these things, but while I have them, they are helping me build those memories. Sorry Daniel, but I don't agree. Two coffee cups just wouldn't do it for me.
Now onto some food for the very sticky weather we are having. Cold pea soup is a favourite of mine, and I already have one chilled pea soup on the blog. This recipe popped out at me from the Dec 90 / Jan 10 issue of Delicious (part of my We Made It Challenge with Melinda from Melbourne Larder), and I wanted to try it because of the mint gelato. The soup recipe is very plain - peas, potato, onion, lettuce and stock - so make sure you use really good (preferably homemade) stock, or else your soup won't taste as good as it should. The mint gelato is delicious, and when I make it again, I will make it in a deeper plastic box, as the large and shallow box the recipe called for meant it was impossible to get pretty balls of gelato. The taste was great, regardless of how shambolic my gelato balls looked. And make sure you do make the gelato: the soup without it is pretty bland, but together, they are light and refreshing, and completely perfect for this muggy weather.
Green Pea Soup with Mint Gelato
from Delicious, Dec 09 / Jan 10
1/4 cup castor sugar
1/3 cup water
2 tsp grated lemon zest plus 1 tbsp lemon juice (or a little more)
1 cup plus 2 tbls slivered fresh mint plus extra leaves to garnish (forgot those for the photo!)
½ cup mascarpone cheese
1 egg white
Put sugar, water, lemon zest, juice and mint in a saucepan over low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Increase heat to medium, and simmer for 2 mins. Cool syrup and strain, pushing down on solids to extract as much flavour as possible. Stir cooled mint syrup into mascarpone. Freeze in a plastic box (deep enough for you to use a melon baller to scoop the gelato) for at least 2 hours. Place frozen mixture in a food processor with egg white, and extra mint. Puree and refreeze for at least four hours.
2 cups of green peas (frozen is fine),
1 large peeled potato, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup shredded lettuce (iceberg)
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
¼ cup thickened cream
Combine potato, onion, lettuce and stock in pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Add peas and simmer for 2 more mins. Puree soup in a blender until smooth. Add cream and season to taste. Chill for at least a couple of hours. Ladle soup into bowls and top each with a small scoop of gelato.