In My Kitchen July 2014

Well, I’ve just blown back in to the garden from Rome, with spoils to show for it. Only we demolished a lot of it before it even occurred to me that it was a new month already (the boys have made fast work of a hefty chunk of Parmesan).
Do you enjoy poking around on other people’s kitchens? If so, head over to Fig Jam and Lime Cordial and join the fun.
So here are a few things that survived the onslaught. In my kitchen there is:

this beautiful slab of pancetta. And there is a bit of a story to it, as it happens.
Months ago, I received an email from my good friend Tuba that I ought to check out a blog called Rachel Eats. I consider her an authority on blogs worth reading, so I immediately complied and was subscribed by the end of the first paragraph. There’s good food, and also great stories and photography in her pages, and I’ve learned some invaluable things by reading her.
When I planned to go to Rome, it was in the back of my mind to write to Rachel. It feels a bit creepy to email someone out of the blue, but I did it once before and had a blast (thanks, Daisy of coolcookstyle!) Anyway, long story short we did manage to meet up over coffee and cornetti (very, very good cornetti, I might add, at Barberini on Via Marmorata). It is an odd feeling to meet up with someone you’ve read – a cross between meeting a pen pal and a matinee idol (dated references, I know). But what’s lovely is that there is so much to talk about. Rachel took me and Kaya on an impromptu tour of her neighborhood, Testaccio, and since everything was closed that day (Sunday), she took me to her butcher’s the following day to buy a bit of cheese and some pancetta to take home. It was a lovely little shop, clean and simple and full of cured meats of every description. I could have gotten carried away if I hadn’t been keeping one eye on Kaya the whole time.
Unwrapping the pancetta at home and slicing it (to be enjoyed alongside some fried liver and onions on Saturday, a.k.a. Liver Night), I felt my trip and my daily life collide, and had to smile.
In my kitchen there is:

a black truffle sitting in a box of eggs. This is also thanks to Rachel. I was flying home on Monday, so I wanted to get a sandwich for the plane. Rachel took me into Volpetti, a pungently scented temple to fine foods. “It’s a bit like a jewellery store,” she said as we entered and she breezily greeted the woman behind the counter and set her to the task of making me a sandwich. As this was happening, pizza bianca sliced and being laden with burrata and prosciutto, I spied a basket of black truffles on the counter. My mother had said she would like to have a truffle, so I plucked one out of the basket and held it to my nose. It smelled like an ambassador from the realm of dirt. Dizzied by the mushrooms hanging above, the rows of olive oil and vinegar, the cheeses and salami, I stumbled out clutching my prizes to find Rachel and Luca playing at the water fountain outside. And the sandwich was an absolute treasure.
Oh yes and about the eggs. My mother wanted the truffle to make scrambled eggs with, and she read that we ought to let it sit among the eggs overnight. Well who are we to argue? We tried it and the eggs, once cracked into a bowl the next morning, did seem to have an earthy perfume. Aided by generous shavings of the truffle itself, we were treated to a plate of eggs that tasted, in my mom’s words, as if they contained “a million mushrooms.”
In my kitchen there is:

this beautiful brick of salt. My friend Jessica, whom I shared the flat in Rome with, presented me with this surprising gift one night. The boys have had their tongues all over it, crazy for salt as they are, so if you come over I wouldn’t advise touching it. But that doesn’t bother me much so I enjoy ritualistically shaving salt off my salt lick and adding it to my food.
So this month I am drinking, with gratitude, to the generosity of friends both old and new.

Chin chin!

Treasure Hunt

When I was in high school at St. Stephen’s School in Rome, we had an annual “treasure hunt” in which groups of students would be sent to all corners of the city, led by obscure clues. 21 years later, on the occasion of the school’s 50th anniversary, I found myself setting off on a treasure hunt mission once again.
(Please forgive the length of this post; submitting a report on our progress is the final, crucial step of the hunt and I am using this post as the group’s official submission.)
Our team, Team Purple received these clues:
1. Find the nostalgic antique shop at Via di Ripetta, 49. What seems to be its specialty? Photograph the display windows. You could price an interesting object or even buy one. One wonders what the shopkeeper thinks of the new Ara Pacis “container” by Richard Meier.
2. Go to Piazza Santi Apostoli. Admire the palace facing the church. Which family owned it? Note their “stemma” (family crest). Then enter the church and find a spectacular floor mosaic witht this same stemma, with additions showing where this nobleman fought for and against whom. Birds, sheep and banners. Then quietly enter the crypt. Who are the two apostles and who is buried in the chapel to the left (father of Pope Julius II) and at the opposite end is a fake catacomb grave. She is a girl with wo fish called __________. What room with frescoes has recently been opened to the public?
3. Go to the Ufficio della Provincia opposite the Piazza Santi Apostoli. What can one do below the building? If you are so inclined, you might want to do it.
4. You have seen the tombs of the two apostles. There is another, besides Peter, who is buried in Rome. Go to the Tiber Island and find wehre the apostle is buried. What is his name? How did his remains get to Rome? What ancient guild also has a space in the same building where the apostle is buried?
We retreated to the terrace to strategize, and decided to tackle clue 4 first, since the Tiber Island is close to the school, From there, we would continue to Piazza Santi Apostoli and finally on to Via Ripetta, not far from the Spanish Steps. “Remember,” Mr. Brouse had warned us as he handed out clues, “the churches close from 12 to 4.”
When we arrived on the Tiber Island (where I once had to go for a tetanus shot after stepping on a rusty tack), we found a wedding party pouring out of the Basilica of St. Bartholomew on the Tiber Island. Could this be where our apostle was?
As it turns out, it was. The body of St. Bartholomew has been laid to rest in this enormous porphyry bathtub:

This seems a fitting vessel for such an important saint, though St. Bartholomew travelled in a somewhat less illustrious manner. His remains were apparently conveyed to the church in this bowl:

Exactly who brought them there and why was less clear. Rifling through one of the books for sale in the church, I found two possible stories. One was that King Otto II brought them with the intention of later transporting them to Germany, and another suggested that King Otto III had built the church there in order to honor St. Bartholomew and a martyr by the name of Adalbert.
As for the ancient guild, it is only fitting that at a time when grain mills were often water powered, the guild of millers would have a space in a basilica on the Tiber Island.

We were feeling quite pleased with ourselves as we left the church, our sights set on clue #2.

It wasn’t a very long walk to Piazza Santi Apostoli, and it was easy to tell we’d found our mark when we were greeted by a line of saints looking stately stop their perches.



We hadn’t kept a very vigilant eye on the time, however, and ended up staring hard at the front door to the church through heavy and resolutely locked gates. Still, the palazzo across the way was still there to be admired.
The stemma proved easy to find

20140629-081857-29937647.jpg Though there was still the matter of the family’s name. The massive doors of the palazzo were open, so Lizzie and I wandered over to see what we could discover. I was just getting ready to propel Kaya forward into the cortile of the palazzo so that I might follow him in when a spectral figure stepped out to greet us. Lizzie asked her politely whether we might enter, but we were informed firmly that the interior was private and for us to go in was quite out of the question. Lizzie pressed her for the name of the family and she said xxxx…schacchi. Confused, we tried several times to repeat what she’d said to her satisfaction, but she tired of us, bared her teeth, and walked in to the private interior of the palazzo. “I don’t think that she told us the actual name of the family,” said Lizzie as we crossed the piazza to share what we’d discovered.
We needn’t have worried – this sign was displayed on the street for all to see:

This all called for a coffee break. We cooled our heels for a while in a nearby bar, over coffee and sandwiches, while plotting our next move.
We had spotted the Ufficio della Provincia before our break.

20140629-083337-30817889.jpg We wondered what it might be possible to do below the building. “I bet you can get married,” guessed Matt, and no one could top that.
Well the answer turned out to be quite different. About 6 weeks before our trip, a Leslie had written us about a museum that hadn’t been there when we were in Rome. It was apparently some sort of reconstruction of a Roman home that you could join tours to see. The only upshot was that you had to book in advance, and this we failed to do. Imagine our surprise to find ourselves brought to the door of that very museum, which is housed beneath the Ufficio della Provincia, by the hand of the treasure hunt. Matt and Leslie went in to see if we might not be able to secure last minute tickets and emerged with a reservation for the 3 o’clock tour.
It was 1:30. On to clue 1.
Evelyn fell asleep as we walked towards Piazza di Spagna, so Matt sat in the shade with her while we walked on in search of Via di Ripetta. It announced itself with the presence of the Ara Pacis museum.

I couldn’t imagine the proprietor of a fusty antique shop having much good to say about the gleaming white museum, but unfortunately we will never know what they might have thought. For although we walked the length of Via di Ripetta, we could find no sign of the shop in question. We thought this might have been number 49:

but it was hard to tell because the numbers jumped from 44 to 60 to either side of it.
Thankful that we hadn’t dragged a sleeping child on a wild goose chase, we headed back to regroup and catch our tour.
The museum was very interesting. The highlight for me was a narration of all of the events depicted on Trajan’s column which the Roman houses we visited would have looked out upon. During the section of the tour in the ancient homes, they used lots of light effects to illustrate how the houses might have looked, including one particularly striking one where they used light to complete a mosaic floor.

20140629-085308-31988482.jpg And although they were a tiny bit heavy handed with the “going back in time” narrative and the tour proved slightly too long winded for the children, we had a good time.
Back outside in the blazing sun, we decided to take another crack at the church.
CLUE 2 continued
We found the crest in the floor

20140629-085638-32198657.jpg but failed to interpret it.
We found the saints in the crypt (which smelled of the underworld)

20140629-085754-32274865.jpg but lacked the energy to chase down the rest of the bedfellows.
The room that had recently reopened turned out to be a recently restored chapel

20140629-085912-32352868.jpg that we were unable to enter. It was after 5 and we were at the ends of our ropes. So we parted ways, not exactly victorious but certainly feeling that we’d had a few adventures and uncovered a gem or two. And it brought back to me how much I’d always enjoyed St. Stephen’s treasure hunts. There’s the puzzle of it all and the putting our heads together, but most of all I think it’s something that shows you how rich the obscure at destinations in the city can be and it reminds us to unearth these hidden gems wherever we may find ourselves.

Go Team Purple!

Grape flowers… and leaves!

The first time I visited the land that was to become our garden, I remember walking past a tall pine tree with a wild grape clambering up its side. There were red grapes on the vine, ready to eat, and we picked some. It seemed like such a lovely, generous thing to be presented with. I remember the heat of the day, the chanting cicadas, the sweet grapes.

We have planted a number of grape vines since we moved to the garden, mostly vitis vinifera (the variety of wine grapes, hence its name) but also one vitis labrusca (ours is a seedless Concorde grape). That one, also known as fox grape (which will make sense to anyone whose botanical Latin is ticking along nicely), was not very happy for the first few years, which is not so surprising considering that it is a native of the Eastern United States. It seems to be coming into its own this year, though, which is good news for me because those grapes are my favorites, since I did some growing up in their native land. In addition to the ones that we have planted, there are wild grapes springing up all over the place, and as our watering routines have improved, they seem to have proliferated further.

I have mentioned before that Ali is very interested in the scents of our plants, and we love to sit on the porch and breathe it all in. Recently, we noticed a new smell, a slightly sweet and yet also sharp scent that we hadn’t noticed before, that was distinct from the honeysuckle, the mock orange, and the jasmine that were also in bloom. Lying in the garden bathtub, staring up into the tangle of wild and cultivated grapes overhead, Ali put his finger on it — we were smelling the grape flowers.

grape flowers

I’d never given much thought to what a grape flower looked like, let alone that it might be scented.

At around the same time, I noticed that a lot of people were selling grape leaves in the market and this made me want to make stuffed grape leaves. There are two kinds of stuffed grape leaves that I am familiar with. One is the olive oil dish, grape vines stuffed with rice, currants and pine nuts. These are eaten cold at family gatherings, most notably at new year when my mother in law will put a button in one and a coin in another – eating one of these ensures good fortune in the new year. Every year I stuff my face with grape leaves and come up empty, but they are very tasty, so it is hard to have sore feelings about it. The other kind of stuffed grape leaf is filled with meat and eaten hot, with garlic yogurt. That’s the one I wanted to make.

I called up my mother in law and told her about the leaves and she said, “Oh well it’s very easy. Just get your minced meat and add some salt and pepper, roll it up and cook!” I hung up the phone and waited. About 30 minutes later, she called. “There’s a bit more to it. Let me explain.”

Etli dolma (meat stuffed grape leaves)

1/2 kg. minced meat (it should be fatty or the dolma will be too dry. My mother in law recommends lamb, and I have to say I agree)

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1 tomato, 1 onion1 Tablespoon each chopped fresh dill and mint

1 Tablespoon rice

1 Tablespoon olive oil

grape leaves


1. First, you boil the leaves. This makes them pliable, and also starts the process of cooking them. You just need to blanch them for a minute or so. Their color changes to a dull green:


2. Grate your onion


and then grate your tomato. You will end up with a nice, wet slurry:


3. Add this to the meat, along with the salt, pepper and herbs, throw in the rice and oil and knead it until it is all mixed in.

4. Now comes the fun part! Get your dull green leaf and lay it, ribbed side up (smooth side down) on the table. Make a small meat log and place it on the leaf:


Then fold up:


fold in the sides:


and roll it up:


You may notice that these are not the elegant, long-fingered shape of the rice dolma. This is partly down to my beginner status, I expect, but I have usually encountered etli dolma as a more substantial, thumb-like parcel. It’s up to you how you fold yours, of course.

5. Pack all of your dolma tightly into a pot:

in a pot

Dot them with some butter, add water to the pot to just cover the parcels, and cover it all with a plate:

plate on top

Since you’ve gone to all the trouble of finding a plate that will actually sit snugly inside your pot, be a good fellow and weigh that plate down or you will end up with floating dolma buoying the plate in a most dismaying manner. I used my meat pounder, but a big tin of tomatoes or beans would also do the trick.

6. Cover the pot and cook the dolma until the grape leaves soften. In my limited experience, this takes no less than 30 minutes. Only your mouth can tell you if they are ready. It is an arduous but necessary task to sample the dolma after 30 minutes and then again in 5 to 10 minute intervals until you are happy with the results.

If you like, serve them with garlic yogurt (which is just garlic pressed into a bowl of yogurt with a pinch of salt thrown in for good measure – a wonderful, instant sauce) or plain yogurt.

I love this dish because the leaves are slightly sour and tannic, and I have read that grape leaves are very nutritious. Plus, it gives us something to eat off those vines until the grapes ripen. Then we’ll have other jobs to do!

In My Kitchen June 2014

I’ve missed a few months, in both senses of the word. I know that we all have busy lives and it is just a matter of claiming the time to do things like sit down a write. Happily, it is pouring rain in the garden today, so I am sitting in the outdoor kitchen listening to it, smelling it and savoring it, because although we will probably have the odd shower in the weeks to come, this is likely to be the last real storm we have before our long, hot and bone dry summer.
There are loads of interesting kitchens to visit; if you’re interested, stop by Celia’s blog, Fig Jam and Lime Cordial which is Command Central for IMK posts.0
This is a bit of a May and June mash-up, but never mind. In my kitchen there are:


Cut flowers! And since I never bother to cut flowers from the garden, this can mean only one thing: my mom is back in town. She spotted the snapdragons and was busy with her secateurs in no time. They are a particular favorite of mine. Ali is more concerned with scent when considering plants, and he has filled our garden with fragrant plants. But I love my showy snapdragons because they are a feast for the eyes (the variety is Madame Butterfly. They are hybrids, but these ones have come back for three years in a row, so I forgive them). And besides, if everything were scented it might become a bit much.
My mother went to Paris to visit some friends shortly after she got here, and came back bearing gifts. In my kitchen there is:

this beautiful egg basket that she found at a flea market. Who knew that such beautiful things even existed? Well, plenty of people I am sure, but not me. It is nice to have something pretty to keep our eggs in, since the ladies put hard work into producing them.
On the subject of eggs, we’ve received an exciting gift from our neighbour:

Do you see those smaller eggs in the front? They’re from his Guinea fowl! He heard we have an incubator, so he gave us 10 eggs. We’ll give him a couple of the hatchlings in return. I am very excited to have Guinea fowl, not least because I have heard that they are quite aggressive around snakes; we’ve got lots of snakes here. I like the black garden snakes just fine, but we’ve got vipers too, and poor old Lulu (our dog) just got bitten on the nose by a big one. She is at the vet, attached to a bag of serum. She seems to be getting better, but it has been a pretty miserable few days for her. She’s always been aggressive around snakes, but I bet she’ll tone down her attitude now… Anyway, hopefully the Guineas will take over the snake patrol before long!
On Friday, Ali wandered into the garden and came back with this:


We’ve been here for six years now, and the trees that we planted in those first few years have started bearing fruit in earnest. Not all of them, of course; I am pretty sure we will only eat a handful of our own cherries. But we’ve got plenty of apricots! I’ll have to think of something to do with them all, since I am sure we can’t eat them fast enough.
And that’s a quick look at some of the things in my kitchen this month! While we’re on the subject, here’s the view from where I am typing — if I stand up, I have a clear view of the tub in the rain:

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen!

Saved by sardines

It seems that lately I am always biting off more than I can chew, but I think it is symptomatic of birthday season (or actually, of Baki’s birthday, which never seems to end). Baki had a semester break, so we went up to Istanbul for a few days so the boys could see their grandmother and celebrate Baki’s birthday with Ali’s family. On our first day there, we went to the tulip gardens in Emirgan park.Image

It was a glorious spring day, and we were surrounded by thousands of tulips in full bloom. Every great city has spaces where you can forget everything, and Emirgan park is definitely one of those places. It was like something out of a fairy tale. Kaya loved all of the flowers, and wanted to smell them all. Baki declared himself thoroughly bored. (Though he did perk up when we encountered swans in the pond.)


But for some reason, even though we got our trip off to the best possible start, the whole thing felt a bit like swimming in quicksand. I just felt stressed out while we were in the city and had the sense that I was fighting it all the time. The kids were bouncing off the walls, high on sugar and too much TV, and I never seemed to get anything done. It was wonderful to see everyone, and we had a lovely little party for Baki, but mostly I felt really frazzled.

Ali picked us up at the airport yesterday, with me nearly kissing the ground I was so happy to be back. We packed Baki off to school this morning and went out to the garden, stopping, as we always do on Mondays, at the market in Kemer. I stock up on vegetables for the garden and for the apartment, and always stop by the fishmonger – Mondays mean fish for lunch. Now while I was in Istanbul, Ali’s mom and I would sit and have tea before the boys got up and one morning we got to talking about fish because we always eat fish while I am there. I mentioned to her that I had gotten some fresh sardines at the market not too long ago and she said that I ought to cook them in the oven with a bit of olive oil and lemon juice. Well that sounded really good, so I got a kilo of sardines, which the fishmonger cleaned for me, even taking out the backbones. And I took them to my kitchen, which is now scented by white wisteria.


I shaved an onion on my deadly mandoline, laid the sardines on top, put some more onions over them for good measure, then scattered some lemon peel around. I poured on the juice of one lemon and some olive oil, sprinkled on a bit of salt, and baked the whole thing for about 20 minutes at 200C. With leftover stuffed grape leaves from Baki’s party and a big salad, it was just the thing to restore my sanity.Image

Sardines to the rescue!


Getting back on my feet

That’s Baki off to the right (in a Bad Piggies t-shirt), behind his friend Lexi, in red…

There is a big Lunapark in Antalya, right on the way from the apartment to the garden. Baki used to beg to go there every single time we passed it. Luckily, his persistence wore out, but he does pipe up on a regular basis to make sure we remember that he really really likes to go on the rides.

Well, in my last post I said that March is important because it has my birthday in it, but actually there is a far more important birthday this month and that is, of course, Baki’s. I consider it a special day for myself too, because it’s the day I became a mother (I know that sounds cheesy, but there you are).

We had planned to have a party for his whole class, doing something outdoorsy. But Baki really wanted to celebrate before his school holiday starts on his actual birthday, and I couldn’t imagine pulling a party together on such short notice. So as a compromise, I offered to take him and a few friends to the Lunapark.

It was actually a little controversial among his classmates that he did not invite the whole class, and I felt pretty bad about putting him in that position. But it sounded like the kids really discussed it, and then I didn’t feel so bad. It can be good to throw a spanner in the works once in a while. I just hope he doesn’t get ostracized from other parties… I told him we’d do a party for everyone next year, if he wants.

Well, five kids in an amusement park is an easy A. The kids had a whale of a time. One disadvantage of the Lunapark, as one of Baki’s friends’ moms pointed out, is that there are a lot of rides for really little kids, and lots of rides for teens, but not as much for kids Baki’s age. Luckily, her daughter Lexi knew the ins and outs of the place and guided us to every ride they could go on. She was absolutely fearless, and gaily threw up her hands and screamed on the rides while Baki and the boys looked green around the gills.

I really loved hanging out with Baki and his friends, and seeing their boundless energy (though I wish they didn’t have to run everywhere – what’s wrong with walking??) and the great camaraderie between them. We stopped for a snack, and it was so much fun to listen in on their conversation, with all of the kids talking at the same time and somehow managing to communicate with one another. Another thing I liked was that when some of the kids were too scared to go on a ride, they just said so, and no one made a big deal out of it. 

I kept it short and sweet — we were there for about an hour and a half and then we went out for ice cream nearby. I think it is a good thing that we did it that way, because by the time I drove Baki back out to the garden, I was half demented with tiredness. I made dinner in a daze: fish in salt – a meal you can actually make in your sleep. I’m living proof!


Now that that’s over with, I am making my favorite tonic — beef bone broth. We stopped at the butcher on the way back into town today and they had soup bones, so I got a huge, 5 pound beef bone. I am just using half of it. Bone broth is my new obsession; it is insanely good for you — promoting gut health (including an ability to help heal the disgusting sounding Leaky Gut), and joint health of course, plus it is good for your skin and hair and nails, and it’s got valuable amino acids in it that you don’t get from muscle meats. There is a summary of its benefits here.

To make this elixir, I use a liter/quart of water for each pound of bones, and add an onion (unpeeled, which gives a lovely rich color), a carrot, a few tablespoons of vinegar (to leach the minerals out of the bones) and then anything else I have that seems like a good idea at the time – parsley stems, peppercorns, bay leaves, celery, etc. In this batch I have dried mushroom for umami, a chunk of ginger, star anise, and peppercorns. I cook it in my new best friend, the slow cooker. My slow cooker can cook for up to 20 hours, so I do it for the whole twenty on Low Heat and then when it’s finished, I run it again so it cooks for 40 hours total. But I dip into it while it is cooking. And of course, the stove is also an option, though I would feel nervous having the stove on while I slept or was out of the house.

After it’s done, I strain it into a big bowl and then, because I prefer a broth that isn’t fatty, I refrigerate it and then lift off the solid fat after a few hours. The broth is like jello when it gets cold from all the gelatin in the bones. (When I do chicken bone broth, I throw in some chicken feet for extra gelatin, since chicken stock tends not to solidify as much as beef. Yes, mom, I found a use for all of those feet from our chickens until we perfect our chicken feet recipe!)

My mom and I always keep stock in the freezer, but I never realized what a healthy, healing food it was. A cup of this in the morning with some salt and pepper makes me feel ready to be shot out of a cannon! Be warned, though, it is not everybody’s cup of tea — Ali hates it on its own. Never fear though, if you have good bone broth a hearty soup or gravy is never far off, plus it adds great flavor to braises.

In My Kitchen March 2014

Well, February escaped me so I am grabbing March by the horns here. As always, hats off to the talented Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting this excellent series. Stop by her blog for links to kitchens all over the world.

March is the most important month of the year because I was born in it; I am ready to enjoy all 31 days.

And with me in my kitchen this month you will find…



Sorry, I know it isn’t the prettiest food (but I did refrain from a raw shot) but I am very happy to have this liver for two important reasons. One is that these are livers from our own chickens. I hate to admit it, but when we first started to eat our own birds we sort of got through cleaning them out as fast as we could and as long as we got the guts out with no poop explosions we were ready to call it a day. But the chorus of voices chanting about liver’s awesome nutritional profile, nature’s most potent super food, better than a vitamin pill, kept going round and round in my head and we decided to take things a little slower and pay more attention to all that stuff we were pulling out. The birds we were culling were young roosters (too many roosters in the coop) and they had beautiful, dark red livers. I “breaded” them in almond flour with a bit of coconut mixed in (almond flour just clumps like heck on its own, I discovered) with some paprika, oregano and garlic powder thrown in.

This is the second reason I am so pleased:


I was one of those kids who loved liver, so I am delighted that Kaya likes it too. Baki is another story, but you can’t have everything.

Also in my kitchen this month are my two new best friends, ghee and coconut oil (which was shy, so only ghee in the picture)


It is fairly easy to find good butter here, so I make it into ghee at home – a very hands off process in my kitchen. I just set it on a low stove until the solids turn light brown (30 to 40 minutes) and strain it through a fine sieve. I find it really nice to cook with. It has a fairly high smoke point (485°F /252°C), doesn’t need to be refrigerated, and it’s not very expensive. Coconut oil, on the other hand, costs a small fortune here, more than twice as much as single estate cold pressed extra virgin olive oil. I brought a lot back from Thailand, though, and I don’t use it as much in cooking.

Two of my favorite things to do with coconut oil are oil pulling and bulletproof coffee.

Oil pulling, like many good ideas, is not new at all. It’s an Ayurvedic practice and basically involves taking a tablespoon of oil in your mouth (I use coconut oil, but sesame oil is traditional) first thing in the morning and swishing it around for ten minutes. Then you spit it out, rinse your mouth and give your teeth a brush. Why do this, even though it feels really weird to have a mouth full of oil and 10 minutes feels like forever? It makes my mouth feel really clean and fresh. There are lots of claims about what oil pulling can do, but for me it is just a nice clean feeling that I am after. There are loads of articles online about it, of course.

Bulletproof coffee is the marriage of ghee, coconut oil and coffee. You just put a tablespoon of each in your black coffee and blend it – in a blender, or using an immersion blender. It makes a creamy and insanely good drink that tastes better than any sugary or milky coffee drink I have ever had. And I am a black coffee drinker, but this just makes me happy every morning. There are some health claims attached to this too, but I’m in it for shallow reasons. As with oil pulling, I’m just thinking with my mouth here.

And last of all, I have a little egg update for you:


Did you spot the difference? Our Ameraucana hens are laying, and we now have their beautiful blue eggs in the nesting boxes every day. Tell me you wouldn’t want a room the color of that egg…