When we first viewed our pokey little townhouse in Alexandria 4 years ago, Senhor R was doubtful. ‘But we can’t cook in that kitchen!’ He said. But since I do the cooking, we took the house, and I took on the Corridor Kitchen as my personal challenge, determined to conquer it.
As we move out now, I can’t say I haven’t bitched about the kitchen constantly; the lack of exhaust fan, the florescent lighting, the lack of bench space, the damp, the mould, the lino, oh yes, AND THE FACT THAT IT FLOODS EVERY TIME IT RAINS. Or did, until last month. But the fact is, I’m a much better cook than I was 4 years ago, and the kitchen is why. What follows are the top 5 lessons I learned from cooking in my Corridor Kitchen.
Lesson One: Neccesity really is the mother of invention.
If you have an ok kitchen with only a few irritating aspects, chances are you can let them slide – not quite enough cupboard space? Get rid of some stuff. Small sink? Grin and bear it. But if your kitchen is very basic, you will be making improvements. Constantly. And your creativity will know no bounds.
When it came to ideas for our kitchen, there were literally no wrong answers. And as an added bonus, the kitchen was so ugly that it didn’t matter what we did to it. We were free to focus completely on utility and throw aesthetics out the window. This was actually incredibly liberating and…
- We came up with an ingenious combination of hanging rails, hooks and magnetic strips to hold our knives and most used utensils.
- We bought a massive bookshelf from a law firm that went into liquidation to use as our pantry.
- Friends donated us a kitchen island made out of an old artist’s trolley.
- Senhor R rigged up a complex system of extension cords and powerboards so that we could have more than just two appliances in our kitchen. So what if I could never use the microwave at the same time as the kettle. *
Lesson Two: lack of storage can actually be a good thing.
It sounds completely crazy, but as I move into my new kitchen which seemed initially to have so much storage, it has become very apparent that the important thing is not how much storage you have, but the quality of that storage.
In a ramshackle custom-altered kitchen like the Corridor, we were forced to create our own storage, thus that storage was custom designed for us. The kitchen became a work-in-progress (as much as it could in a rental property) and was user friendly precisely because it was user designed. Commonsense aspects of this design included;
- Eye-level storage
- A combination of visible and hidden storage.
- Prioritising items based on frequency of use.
Lesson Three: The bench tops are always shinier in the kitchen next door.
When I viewed the apartment we’re moving into now, I was blown away by the kitchen. But now that we’re unpacking our stuff, there are aspects of the Corridor Kitchen I’ve really come to appreciate. The massive pantry made of bookshelves, for example, or space for a bin.
Although I know that not everything in the new kitchen can be perfect, I guess when I was working within the ridiculously rigid constraints of the old one, I figured that every kitchen out there was better than mine, in every way. But of course there are things about the new kitchen I don’t like. I’d rather have more cupboards than a dishwasher, for example. I crave more shelves inside the cabinets.
Lesson four – I love shelves!!
Shallow, open shelving makes everything visible and you always know what you have. I never really appreciated this until now. In our last place, most of our belongings were stored on shelves because there was no built in storage except for the kitchen cabinets.
Turns out we can’t just throw all these shelves away and what’s more, in some ways they are actually better than ‘real’ storage. This is especially true in the case of food, where they make everything accessible and visible. Who cares if the outside of your olive oil bottle gets dust on it?
Lesson five: ‘Useful’ items aren’t always that useful.
Too many of a useful thing is still too many things! I’m looking around at our one million plastic containers and our one million pyrex containers thinking…what the hell do we need all these for again? Why do I have 4 frypans? What’s the logic behind out two sets of cutlery?
I guess I assumed that because we had limited space in our old kitchen, everything in there must have been necessary. But of course that’s not the case. When there’s space we tend to fill it – you never find an empty kitchen drawer.
What about you? What lessons have you learned from your kitchen?
* When my Dad came to stay he was pretty worried we’d end up electrocuting ourselves.
My sincerest apologies for the inconsistent posts lately chums, but I’m pleased to announce that Corridor Kitchen is moving – both literally (to new kitchen) and digitally (to a new host).
There have been some teething problems with both but we should be properly sorted next week.
There is also an exciting project in the works for October, so watch this space for future announcements.
Lau, Corridor Kitchen
Bikes and coffee and hipsters – seemingly unrelated things come in threes. Why? Who knows, who cares. As puzzling to me as Shirt Bar was the other week and no less delightful, Lonsdale Street Roasters (or LSR as it is known) meshes this triad of seemingly random objects (yes, hipsters are indeed objects) except to me, coffee roaster+bikes+hipsters=café, where shirts+whisky+coffee=scratching my head a bit.
I think it’s safe to say LSR in the only so-cool-it-hurts espresso bar in the ‘berra, a city renowned for it’s roundabouts, public servants and, oh hang on a sec, bicycle paths. Bicycles hang from the ceiling, yellow and white magnetic letters spell out the menus, all the staff are under 25, artfully arranged bric-a-brac adorns the walls. It ticks all the boxes, the only thing missing is the Astroturf.
LSR pretty much serve coffee, as they are predominantly a coffee roaster. But they do have a smattering of breakfast, cakes and sandwiches with fashionable fillings (slow roasted pork with chipotle, anyone?). It’s order-and-pay-at-the-counter. If there’s no room inside (and I pray if you go anytime other than Autumn, there is), perch yourself on a milk crate outside.
I order a macch and Mum orders a cap, before realising yet again that that’s not what she really wanted, but as always not caring enough to change it. As expected, they do that thing that shits me where instead of 1/3 espresso 1/3 milk 1/3 froth dusted with chocolate (let’s call it an Australian cappuccino), they latte art the hell out of it so it’s basically a flat white with chocolate. Which is fine in this case as it’s not really what was wanted anyway but surely the point of a cappuccino is the foam, micro or otherwise (please not this is a generalised rant and not aimed at LSR specifically).
Of course, swings and roundabouts, anywhere you get a flat ‘cappuccino’ like this, I get a super short and concentrated macch, just the way I like it. So really, I can’t complain. Well, I will, but only on principle, and only in the safe confines of the blogosphere, never to anyone’s face.
Lonsdale Street Roasters
3/7 Lonsdale Street
Braddon ACT 2612
A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to a bread making workshop as Brasserie Bread in Banksmeadow. Silly me, I got Banksmeadow mixed up with Beaconsfield and so I found myself on a bus down Botany road at 10:35am, starting to panic. It’s a long way to Banksmeadow and I’ve learnt my lesson for next time.
Of course I needn’t have worried, as I entered the post-industrial café and through to the baking classroom I was greeted by a bunch of young ladies wielding state-of-the-art SLR’s – food bloggers. Brasserie Bread Training Manager Matthew Brock welcomes me offered me a drink and a disposable apron (damn, I knew I forgot something!). I chose a macchiato and then realised I was the only coffee drinker. Good mach though.
Matthew introduced the class by talking a bit about artisan baking and what it means. He explained that there is an emphasis on good quality ingredients, but the process is just as important as the materials. Artisan baking is all about doing things by hand rather than by machine. Matthew points out that the senses are crucial to the artisan baker, as he or she will rely on sight, smell, taste, touch and sound to determine whether the bread is ready to move on to the next stage.
He tells us he’s going to start by stimulating our sense of taste and pulls a tray of warm pastries out of the oven, which he cuts into generous chucks for us all to enjoy. At first we nibble, bird-like but then our senses get the better of us (we are food bloggers after all) and we chow down. They are heavenly. Although I have a sneaking suspicion that description would apply to many foods reheated in a bread oven…
After some munching and some more explanation, we move on to our first recipe, a multi grain ‘Struan’, a word which means ‘the convergence of streams’. It’s bread with a bunch of components coming together to make one tasty, low GI bread. We are given 5 bowls – a ‘bega’ (a starter), a ‘soaker’ (a mix of soaked seeds, flour, water and salt), fresh yeast (7g), a mix of flours and an olive oil/ agave nectar combo ‘for something a little bit different’. All these ingredients come together to form the Struan, and you can find the recipe here and here, but what’s more important is HOW they come together.
Matthew explains that the seeds have to be soaked overnight because otherwise they’ll leech the moisture from the bread and you’ll end up with a very dry loaf. I don’t have much experience making bread, it always seemed like a huge pain in the arse to me, but what surprises me more than anything as we knead and fold it is just how wet and sticky the dough is. I always thought bread dough had to be dry enough to just fall off your fingers and kneaded to within an inch of its life, but this dough reminds me of pão de queijo in terms of texture. We use very little flour, kneading it for about five minutes and then folding it up, placing a bowl over it and leaving it to sit for a minute. We knead it again for a couple of minutes, fold it up, place a bowl over it and leave it to rise for around an hour.
After this, we slap and roll the bread around a bit (literally, pick it up, slap it against the bench and roll it over). I’m more bread than blogger as I try and scrape every skerrick from my hands. ‘Every loaf of bread that you bake at home is a lesson,’ says Matthew, and I think, fair enough, but in my miniscule kitchen it’d be a pretty messy lesson.
We move on to shaping and this is the fun bit because it’s now that we really come to understand what he meant about the senses. We tuck all the sides of the dough up and under and then turn the dough over, so that the top is rounded. We then push down with cupped hands on this dough ball, rolling in a circular motion so that it becomes tighter and tighter. It’s hard to explain, but we can feel when it’s done. Then it’s dusted in rolled oats and left to prove, upside-down in a hairnet-lined bowl for about an hour.
We spent a bit of time in between rising and proving the Struan shaping some other loaves from some ready-to-prove dough they had prepared for us. We shaped multigrain dinner rolls (a similar process to shaping the Struan), a white baguette and a seed-encrusted pain d’epi or wheat-stalk bread. The pain d’epi was by far the coolest looking thing we shaped, and deceptively simple. Once we’d rolled a baguette, it was dampened in a tray with some wet paper towels and rolled in a tray of seeds. Then, with scissors held low and almost flat, we cut almost all the way through the dough, peeled a ‘petal’ to one side, made another cut and immediately peeled one to the other side. Matthew told us to act fast, as the ‘peeling’ must be done as soon as the dough is cut or it will spring back into shape. You can see detailed instructions on how to shape pai d’epi here.
By the end of the day we had so much bread to take home and then of course it was time to try pretty much every kind of bread Brasserie Bread makes, dipped in a whole raft of scrummy things – goat’s cheese, artisanal butter, soft cheese baked in the oven with wine and garlic…you know, your usual Tuesday lunch. My favourite by far was the olive and rosemary bread, salty deliciousness but I also loved the garlic bread and the sour cherry.
Anywhere there’s a ton of food bloggers, you never feel self-conscious about taking photos. I sure hope poor Matthew wasn’t camera shy. We all had a lot of fun. The class went for three hours and it would have been well worth the money if I’d had to pay for it but disclaimer, I didn’t and that could only add to my enjoyment.
Brasserie Bread have a range of courses, including kid’s classes (which are booked out until 2012!). They also do gift certificates, just pop into their café to purchase one. Courses cost about $150 and include everything you’ll need. Oh, and you get to take home all the bread you make and then some…
1300 966 845
1737 Botany Road
Banksmeadow NSW 2019
Home made Hummus. It’s one step up from buying a tub of dip and a box of crackers, and yet somehow, platingt up seems so much more decadent, like a special occasion. People don’t generally expect home-made snacks, as shop-bought snacks are neither rare nor expensive nor difficult to come by.
This recipe came from a supermarket magazine, either a Coles or Woolworths one (I’m sorry, I can’t recall, I only have the clipping). It never fails. It’s great with pita shards or carrot sticks if you’re feeling particularly virtuous. I’ve served it here with some awesome Multigrain Struan that I made in a Brasserie Bread Class the other day.
You could soak dried chick peas (it makes the hummus creamier). You could add coriander (it adds complexity). You could use lemon instead of limes (it’s a tad more exotic). But sometimes, isn’t it nice to serve up something plain, simple, spur-of-the-moment and yet somehow impressive? Classics are often classics for a reason.
Quick tip: use middle eastern tahini/tahina rather than the rock solid stuff my mum used to buy in health food stores. It’s often more expensive than ‘anglo’ tahini (is there such a thing?) but it’s much creamier. Just give it a stir, it’s infinitely more stirrable as well.
1 tin of chick peas, undrained
The juice of one lemon
1 Tablespoon Tahini
1 garlic clove, quartered
1-2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
A food processor or immersion blender
Process the chickpeas with half their liquid and all other ingredients. Serve drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with paprika.
Keep in touch!
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Disclaimer:All opinions in this blog are mine, an everyday, real-life person. I do not claim to be an expert on anything. I do not accept payment for reviews and nor do I write sponsored posts. From time to time I give away products and experiences to my readers, all competitions have completely arbitrary rules, all decisions are final and all prizes awarded as I see fit.