Isolation Cookery

Friends and a well-stocked pantry save the day.

On the 4th of January 2022, my husband and I were booked at a local vaccination site for our Covid-19 booster shots. This was five months to the day from our second Astra-Zeneca injection. We’d been feeling a bit hay-feverish and sniffly in the days before New Year’s Eve (no partying or fireworks this year, home in bed before midnight). Then on the 2nd of January, we twigged that perhaps we were symptomatic. 

Luckily, a neighbour had some spare RAT tests because there were none to be found when we phoned every pharmacy (it seemed) in Adelaide.

I smell a RAT

The tests both came up positive so we cancelled the booster appointment and instead, booked a PCR for ASAP. That ended up being two days forward on the 4th of January. We isolated until the test, went out for the test, came back and 32 hours later had a confirmed positive. 

For the first few days, I had a cough and a slight wheeze when I laughed. At least I have a hubby who can still make me laugh. Right?

The symptoms have passed. A little bit of congestion is all that remains now on day nine of our mandatory 10 day isolation period (10 full days from our PCR test date, as per the rule for South Australia).

So what were we to eat?

When we got the immediate positive on our RAT my first comment was, ‘Oh my Gawd, what are we going to eat.’

I knew I couldn’t be too unwell if I still had my appetite.

Like everyone, we have just been through two years of a pandemic that has made us shop like we were about to get snowed in for a week. We still retain a little of the lockdown mindset, even though in Adelaide we have not had much in the way of actual lockdown. And really not much COVID-19 infection, come to think of it. And we definitely never get snow. At least not down here on the Adelaide plains, just kilometres from the Gulf. And it’s summer, anyway.

Our neighbour Tracey has a plot in the local community garden where we also grow a few things. She kept right on top of watering and bringing our daily harvest of cherry tomatoes, fresh mint and basil.

When we’d forgotten some essentials in our grocery order, (Covid brain fog, I’m sure) our friend Kirsty kindly filled in the gaps and did a grocery, bakery and pharmacy run. Her 14-year-old son even texted me one day to see if we needed anything as they were about to go to the shops. How nice is that?

Another friend, Lia, brought handmade farfalle pasta and a piece of Ricotta Salata (salted ricotta which can be eaten fresh or aged), both of which her husband, Saverio, made.

So, clearly, we are being looked after by our peeps.

Here are a few things we have managed to cobble together during our isolation:

  1. Homemade farfalle pasta with ragu,  topped with grated Ricotta Salata.
  2. Cinghiale (wild boar) and venison sausage with lentils and tomato sugo. 
  3. Spaghetti with homemade Pesto Genovese (it’s summer in Australia; our garden has basil) tossed with pieces of chicken breast that we grilled on the Weber. 
  4. Chicken breast with lemon and oregano on the Weber and an oven tray of broccoli, diced sweet potatoes and potatoes. 
  5. Buckwheat salad with blanched peas and capsicum (red, green, yellow peppers) that had been pan-cooked, low and slow, in olive oil and shallot. Tossed with fresh chopped mint, grated raw carrot, yesterday’s leftover sweet potatoes and chopped dry-roasted almonds plus some crisped bits of shallot on top. 
  6. Pasta with pesto, broccoli, and more peas.
  7. Open sandwiches of Latvian rye, salted ricotta and homegrown tomatoes.
  8. Feta, beetroot, rocket, shallot and balsamic-glazed walnut salad with a pork and fennel sausage.
  9. Couscous topped with a beef, chickpea, carrot and celery stew.
  10. Hummus and crudities with crackers.

Our portions were smaller because we are moving less and we haven’t needed the calories. So a little has gone a long way. We thought we would need a second grocery order but we have tomorrow all planned (did I mention we also have meatballs in the freezer?) and that’s day 10. We’ve managed with little suffering! OK so we are out of biscuits to have with my afternoon cup of tea, but that’s probably a good thing.

Staples that saved us

We generally have most of these items (and much more) in our pantry, fridge or freezer at any given time:

  • Homemade sugo or ragu in freezer
  • Tins of whole tomatoes
  • Dry roasted almonds (local only) for snacking or to cook with
  • Walnuts
  • Pine nuts
  • Tahini
  • Tins of chickpeas or other legumes/beans
  • Buckwheat
  • Few types of dry lentils
  • Crackers
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Shallots
  • Garlic
  • Pickles
  • Vinegars
  • All manner of condiments, herbs and spices
  • Flour and yeast
  • Olive oil (local only)
  • Locally made pork and fennel sausages
  • Latvian rye bread (‘rupjmaize’ from local Latvian community)
  • Potatoes
  • Dry pasta (various shapes)
  • Pesto (freshly made in season and some frozen for later)
  • Different cheeses for snacking or to cook and garnish with
  • Various cuts of meat or chicken in the freezer (meatballs too!)

The planning and preparation of good food is a highlight of our day, even under normal circumstances, and we would have been miserable if we’d not been able to do enjoy this during our isolation. We’re fortunate we have felt well enough to actually prepare meals.

I have a husband who takes charge in the kitchen and makes beautiful and delicious meals from what we can round up — even during a pandemic.

We are incredibly grateful for the kindness of good friends and neighbours during this period, without whom some of these meals would have been lacking.

Pesto, Peas and Broccoli

I’d love to hear how others have coped with cooking during a long lockdown or isolation. Who or what saved you? Drop me a comment and let me know.

Ciao for now, MLT

Remembering Louise Pergolini Tucker

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Louise Pergolini the graduate nurse in 1945

Tomorrow, the 10th of April will be seven years since we lost our mother Louise and I know we all think of her daily. More often than not I think of her in the kitchen. The place where she prepared so many meals for her six children and anyone we brought home with us. The room with a table around which 12 people could sit comfortably. Where there was always a light on and a chance to talk about your day.

Today, the day before what would have also been her 88th birthday, my husband decided to cook one of my mother’s favourite dishes in her honour. The dish she always ordered when it was available. A dish that spoke volumes of her Italian heritage – spaghetti con cozze.

The mussels Andrew cooked came from a farm in Port Lincoln here in South Australia. They were big and juicy and oh so fresh. Quickly cooked with some parsley, garlic, fresh tomato and white wine. Simple and tasty. Louise on a plate.

Buon appetito.

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A glimpse of my Adelaide in Festival mode

It’s not officially March, but March Madness has officially begun. Adelaide Fringe, Adelaide Festival of the Arts, Womadelaide and a motor race all happening at once. Today I strolled through the Central Market on my way to an exhibition and spotted yummy foods and Fringe performers giving a taste of their upcoming show. I love the festival season.

Published via Pressgram

A belated wish for 2014

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Greetings from my desk, complete with my new fit ball/desk chair.

The year 2014 and I have gotten off to a rocky start. Already we’ve had some ups and downs.

Roo and I arrived home from our marvellous time in Argentina and Chile, documented here, on 30 December after a long flight. Santiago-Auckland-Sydney-Adelaide. That’s 18 hours of actual flying, but about 24 door-to-door. Ouch!

So we didn’t make it till midnight on New Year’s Eve. It was all I could do to watch the fireworks on TV in Sydney, which is of course a half-hour ahead of us here in Adelaide. My head hit the pillow at 11.47 pm and I was out!

The first week back was filled with restocking the house with food after 6 weeks away, doing copious amounts of laundry and generally tidying our personal effects.  As well, I had registered for an intensive 5 day training course (Certificate IV in Training And Assessment) that required me to do some pre-work in the form of watching some training videos and completing some workbook exercises. My computer decided to give me grief as I was starting my pre-work for the course. Stress levels rose! But I sorted it and averted any major computer or personal melt-down. Suffice to say that first week was full.

Week 2 was my intensive course week. From Monday through Friday, 8.30am till 5.pm, I was in a room with other learners cramming six months of coursework into our five days. This included giving two presentations on which I was judges against a long list of criteria. Because of the compressed time to complete the course there was homework and preparation every night. Half way through the week I started itching. My back felt like I had a spider bite or a bad mosquito bite. However my course did not allow me time to scratch or see a doctor.

My presentations went off without a hitch and I received some feedback that I can use to improve my delivery and my engagement with learners.

Saturday morning I rode my bike to the doctor. One look at my back (and front) and he declared, “Oh, you’ve got shingles”. Great, thanks! My chicken-pox virus from circa 1958 had been percolating along just fine until a point of low immunity when it decided to rear its ugly, red, itchy head.

Meanwhile, on the Friday morning of my course, Speedy the wonder cat was found licking his wounds in the potting shed. He was nowhere to be found when it was time for he and brother Jose to come in the night before. It seems he had a run in with a car, motorcycle or bike. He was limping and had some visible abrasions and a minor cut on one leg. He is a curious and fearless cat, but this has slowed him down for a few days. Roo got him checked at the vet and it seems he’s on life number seven or six of his allocated nine about now…

So that’s where we are now. Fourteen days into the new year and I have gained the qualification I was working for and gotten a disease as a bonus! The cat has had a near-miss but survived another day. The good with the bad.

I do have some hopes for the year. Being healthy is high on the list. Eating well from what each season has to offer is always there. Writing and reading more are also up there. Appreciating the moment, just being, is also high up. And engaging with friends and family and followers, in the myriad of ways and means we have at our disposal, is a goal.

I need a nap. Peace everyone!

Bringing Abruzzo Home

Saragolla wheat pasta and lentils from Santo Stefano
Sharing a meal of eggplant parmigiana accompanied by saragolla wheat pasta from Morro D’oro and lentils from Santo Stefano Sessanio

Normally, at home in Australia we pride ourselves on how lucky we are to have a great climate (mediterranean, in the case of Adelaide) which gives us access to a variety of fresh local food and produce, year round.  Living by the low food miles philosophy is possible here. Sometimes I break from the philosophy, particularly when I come back from Italy laden with goodies as I did this year.

Legions of migrants have enriched Australian food culture enormously. One of the earliest ‘foreign’ cuisines in Australia was Italian and it is still much loved here resulting in formerly exotic varieties of fruits, vegetables and other ingredients being quite common now. We have great producers of  Italian-style meats, cheeses, wines, pastas and sweets. Siamo fortunati! We are lucky.

My recent trip to Italy was impulsive,  brief (for me) and truly enlightening. I’ve been to the Abruzzo region in central Italy many times now but this last time I felt that I connected in a more meaningful way. It’s always my aim when I travel to immerse myself in all a place has to offer in the way of history, culture and local tradition. Nothing speaks more of cultural patrimony than what people grow, raise, produce and consume.

In Santo Stefano Sessanio, near L’Aquila, high up in the mountains of the Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga, we ate at a restaurant, Il Ristoro degli Elfi. The Lentil soup alone was worth the trip, and we complimented our hosts Anna and Silvan on its flavour and delicacy. After finishing our meal and settling the account, our hosts presented my fellow diners and I with a bag of lentils each.  We had eaten Slow Food designated lentils, and as well as being restaurateur, Silvan Fulgenzi was the grower of the lentils.  So we were eating at the source.

The lentils of Santo Stefano Sessanio
The lentils of Santo Stefano Sessanio – produce by Silvan Fulgenzi

At my wonderful and quirky little B & B in Roseto degli Abruzzi, my grandfather’s hometown,  I was lucky to befriend the owner, Lucia Simioni.  She is passionate about the Abruzzo region and all it has to offer in the way of art, historic hill towns, ancient ruins and interesting initiatives by local people. She has a wonderful garden full of flowering plants and herbs all of which she obtained from a local supplier –  a medicinal botanical garden and agricultural enterprise near the tiny town of Morro D’oro, where my grandmother came from. One day we made an appointment to visit the garden.

The beautiful Giardino Officinale (Orto Botanico Azienda Agricola) with its small classroom and shop, is run by the friendly and knowledgable  Filippo Torzolini.  If you have been to the Abbey at Santa Maria di Propezzano then you were very close.  Filippo opens the gardens, classroom and shop to students and visitors interested in learning about the medicinal value of plants. Products made from plants, such as essential oils and flower-infused liquors and cordial drinks are available.  Filippo also told us about their pasta manufactured from the ancient grain Saragolla. This grain had fallen out of fashion, but he is now growing and producing various pasta shapes. I bought a few bags to try.

Saragolla Pasta
Saragolla Pasta

Click the photos below to see a slide show.

When I returned to Australia I had a cache or lovely Abruzzo products to share with my loved ones. As well as the pasta and lentils I had saffron from Barisciano, also near L’Aquila. And I was armed with techniques and ideas for meals to share.

Other bloggers have sung the praises of Abruzzo producers who are passionate about retaining their long history of gastronomy and I want to add my voice to the chorus that salutes their efforts. I urge you to read my new friend and fellow blogger Michelle’s recent post on this topic at Majella Home Cooking.

We are fortunate to have wonderful products in Australia to cook with and we owe a lot to our Italian migrants who have kept up traditions that bind families and communities together. May we be fortunate enough to go back to the source often. Buon appetito e salute a tutti!

I primi di settembre

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In Australia,  early September bring spring with it.  And Adelaide is putting on a spectacular display this year after a long wet winter. The lovely green patch of grass out the back of our house is perfect for spending time with the cats – who are full of energy in the gentle sunshine.

Our front garden is planted with native plants and the grevillea and tea tree shrubs are in bloom.  The native frangipani (Hymenosporum Flavum) is ready to burst into flower as well.

A workmate of Roo’s has a supply of freshly caught fish and we were lucky recipients of some squid and whiting on the weekend.  We put the fish to good use for a light lunch of pan-fried whiting with a pear and rocket salad.

Seafood and salad weather
Seafood and salad weather

Temperatures in the high 20s and 30s Celsius are a sign of sandal season and the green Birkenstocks got their first workout of the season.

Sandals out for the season
Sandals out for the season

I have to admit I am not a winter hater like some; I enjoy wearing cozy layers of clothing, not being sticky sweaty all the time, and not having to be slathered in sunscreen against the summer sun.

But it sure will be nice when the neighbour’s mulberries ripen. There are a few berries just starting to colour so it should only be a matter of weeks if these first days of September are anything to go by.

Pizza fatta in casa ~ Fleurieu Style

Perfetto
Perfetto

Da tre anni sto studiando italiano con lo stesso gruppo e la stessa insegnante. Di tanto in tanto diversi membri del gruppo si riuniscono socialmente. L’ultima di queste riunioni è stata alla casa di campagna della compagna di banco Maura e suo marito Vic. La loro casa di compagna si trova nella splendida penisola di Fleurieu, a circa un’ora a sud dalla città di Adelaide. Maura e Vic hanno avuto un forno a legna costruito sulla loro proprietà, e siamo stati invitati per il più iconico dei piatti della cucina italiana, la pizza.

Il viaggio verso la proprietà è molto bello in una giornata invernale. Le colline, normalmente asciutte, ora sono verdi dopo le piogge consistenti nelle ultime settimane. Gli animali sono in abbondanza sulle strade: canguri, mucche, alpaca, pecore, anatre, oche e una profusione di uccelli nativi. Abbiamo superato un cartello stradale per i koala e sicuramente erano fra gli alberi, mentre passavamo di là.

Si, guarda da vicino, ci sono canguri...
Si, guarda da vicino, ci sono canguri…

Quando siamo arrivati la pasta si era già stata allievitata, e il forno a legna era già acceso. Maura ha iniziato a stendere la pasta per le pizze, poi ha messo i condimenti su. Vic ha cotto le pizze al forno. E noi abbiamo apprezzato le pizze che ha risultato.

Il pomeriggio si è concluso con un recital musicale; Vic ha tirato fuori la fisarmonica e ha suonato qualche melodia. Poì Nick, il marito di Nicoletta, ha dimostrato anche le sue abilità con la fisarmonica. Siamo abbastanza sicuri che abbiamo intraveduto un luccichio negli occhi di Nicoletta mentre guardava il marito carezzando le chiavi di madre-perla …

Insomma, è stata una giornata stupenda con gli amici, il cibo, il vino e la musica.

Homemade Pizza ~ Fleurieu Style

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Perfect Pizza

For three years now I have been studying Italian with the same group of people and the same teacher. From time to time different members of the group get together socially. The latest such gathering was at the country house of fellow student Maura and her husband Vic. The property is on the beautiful Fleurieu Peninsula, about an hour south of Adelaide city. Maura and Vic have had a wood-burning oven built on their property, and we were invited for that most-iconic of italian meals, pizza.

The drive to the property is beautiful on a winter day. The normally dry hills are now green after some substantial rains over the last weeks. Animals are in abundance on the back roads: kangaroos, cows, alpacas, sheep, ducks, geese and a profusion of native birds. We passed signs for koalas and surely they were up in the trees as we zoomed past.

Yes, look closely, there are kangaroos...
Yes, look closely, there are kangaroos…

When we arrived the dough was rising and the wood oven was fired up. Maura began rolling out the pizza bases, Vic cooked the pizzas and we all enjoyed them enormously.

The afternoon finished with Vic bringing out his piano accordion and playing a few tunes. Another classmate’s husband Nick also displayed his playing skills. We’re pretty sure we saw a glint in wife Nicoletta’s eye as she watched her long-time husband  caress the mother-of-pearl keys…

Summer, where did you go?

Oh dear, I hope that three months between posts is not the new normal. But it has been a full three months as expected back in my January post.

A frantic pace was maintained by Roo, Giulia (la cugina) and I with performances and events galore during the March Madness season in Adelaide.

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I Cugini, Giulia and Lou

Giulia’s two month visit has come and gone in a flash. We managed to get to Melbourne together for four days and to meet up in Sydney after Giulia’s Outback Tour.

Giulia and I volunteered as marshals for the Adelaide Fringe Opening Night Parade and that was a blast to get a front row view of the homegrown colour and spectacle that we have all come to expect from the parade.

Roo, bestie Kat and I saw Neil Young with Crazy Horse and were blown away by the musicianship and Neil’s strong clear voice. A truly heartfelt performance.

At the Adelaide Festival of the Arts, Giulia and I saw a few performances but the standout for me was one I had not planned to go to but am glad I did – the wonderfully skilled dancer Sylvie Guillem.

The summer was very hot this year so our garden was not as generous as in previous years. We did manage some decent tomatoes though. And I once again made the recipe called Tomato Party from Plenty, a cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi.

Tomato Party!
Tomato Party!

Before Giulia left we got in a few more day trips, to wineries in McLaren Vale and as we usually do, we popped over to Port Willunga for a little beach walk.

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Port Willunga Beach cliffs

Since G wasn’t flying back to Rome until the evening we decided to have a good day of bike riding to tire her out for the journey. We rode to Henley Beach then home again and had a beautiful day for it.

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Bike ride along coast – West Beach, Adelaide

Daylight savings has now ended and my bike ride home will be in the dark. The view from the bikeway over South Road at Glandore makes for a lovely end to a work day.

We now have a beautiful Indian Summer in progress but it’s just a matter of weeks before the real chill settles over Adelaide. It’s all good!

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Almost home when I get here…