Mid Winter and More Gnocchi

Some pictures today.

I need to get into the kitchen shortly and make the gnocchi recipe one last time. It is all about the method really. Then I will write it up and publish it on janiesmill.com – we are promoting Sifted Durum this week. It takes a lot of work to get a recipe right (and test until I can choose correct flour). Gnocchi is simple and forgiving and the Sifted Durum is perfect.

( You saw gnocchi shots Last week so we will wander about the farm while I tell you my tips as the recipe evolved. Recipe development takes ages!! and you have to come along for the ride with me). Let me know what you think.

Browned Butter Gnocchi with Sage and Crispy Potato Skins.

Serves Two.

Ingredients:

One cup of boiled and riced potato. One cup JM Sifted Durum Flour. One small egg. Pepper and Salt.

For the sauce: Sage One Tablespoon Salted Butter

Method:

Boil a big organic potato ( or two medium organic potatoes) in their jackets in salted water until soft.

Tip: Do not cut the potato into pieces. Boil whole with the skin on.

Tip: If you want to eat the potato skins make sure to buy organic potatoes. It is generally understood that chemicals ( and nutrients) reside just below the skin of root crops. I prefer the nutrition without the chemicals myself.

Drain and cool slightly then with two forks scrape the skin off. Lay the skin out on a paper towel and save.(optional).

Cool the potato a little more, uncovered so the steam evaporates off the potato, until warm enough to handle.

Push the potato through a ricer to collect one cup of potato.

Tip: if you don’t have a ricer push the potato through a colander.

One tablespoon at a time fork one cup of Sifted Durum into the cooled (not cold) riced potato.

Tip: Your objective is to coat each particle of riced potato with flour so use a fork to lightly toss the potato and flour together.

Add one small beaten egg to combine your potato dough into a ball. Pepper and salt to taste.

Tip: Do not over mix or over knead. Just mix to combine into a ball then press firmly into shape. Too much kneading and mixing will result in chewy gnocchi. We do not want chewy heavy gnocchi. We want gnocchi with a soft fluffy inside.

Sit the ball of dough covered with barely damp towel for no longer than 10 minutes.

While the dough rests: Place a pot of salted water onto the stove and bring the water to a rolling boil.

Place a flat heavy bottomed pan with melted butter beside it.

Place the serving plates in the oven to warm.

Divide the ball of gnocchi dough in half – leave one half covered. Don’t let the mixture dry out.

With the least amount of intervention possible roll the potato dough into a long sausage about 1/2 inch in diameter. Roll with floured hands on a floured surface. The dough will be delicate. With your fork: quickly cut and shape into even sized tiny pillows about 3/4 of an inch long. Again with the fork slightly mark one side of each gnocchi with ridges. Lay the gnocchi out on a baking sheet to wait.

Tip: Some cooks let them sit for an hour or so but I find that they keep that light fluffy interior if I cook them straight away.

Repeat with the second half of your mixture.

Cover with a barely damp kitchen towel.

If you are going to freeze half the gnocchi – this is the time to freeze them.

To create your dish:

Turn the salted water down to a high simmer.

Throw the potato skins into the sizzling salted butter. (Optional)

Boil a serving of gnocchi at a time for 1-2 minutes ( until they rise in the water) then with a slotted spoon scoop up the gnocchi and place them straight into the same pan as the potato skins. The water clinging to the gnocchi will sizzle, deglaze the pan and create its own minimal sauce, so don’t dry the gnocchi first. Sauté hot and fast. Toss in a couple of sage leaves. Brown slightly on each side. (about 20 – 30 seconds a side)

Serve immediately into a warmed bowl, pour over the hot butter and add a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

My choice of sauce is always the thick browned butter with the crispy sage and crackling potato skins straight from the pan.

Or You can serve the gnocchi from the boiling water straight to the warm serving bowl and top with a fresh pesto or light tomato sauce of your choice.

Tip. You can double the potato and the flour but increase the egg portion with caution. One and a half cups of flour and potato still only needs one egg.

For those of you who did not see the finished product last week. Here is a sneak peek.

And there you have it. How on earth I condense all that into a coherent recipe I have no idea!

Have a lovely day!

Cecilia

We may rise up to almost freezing today and there might be a bit of snow about. A good day to be in the kitchen!

PS – if you make the gnocchi and have Instagram or Facebook – tag me or link me so I can come and have a look. You are my recipe testers after all!

LETTING COLOUR IN

Colour spelt with a ‘u’ – colour not color. Many words in American have ‘u’ removed. But English travels and like all languages is endlessly evolving. We can choose our spelling!

The chickens laid us an egg yesterday so I made gnocchi.

I am going to work and work on my food photography while I am in California. I am attracted to so many different genres. But the dark moody look is my favorite so far. Now all I have to do is work out how to get what is in my minds eye onto the screen.

Gnocchi

1 cup Janies Mill Sifted Durum Flour. 1 cup boiled, drained cooled ( a little) and riced potato. 1 beaten fresh egg.

Roll into long fingers. Cut into tiny pillows. Fork. Boil and run across hot salted butter.

Do not over mix/knead. Do not let the potato fool all the way. Rest only about 15 minutes then boil.

Grief does not go away. But it can settle. We allow it a space to reside where it can belong but not cloud our days. Like a sad neighbour who you nod to as you leave your porch. We allow loss to find itself a place to live in our world. We live with grief. We don’t ‘get over it’.

Anyway. Things are moving apace. It is cold but not too bad. Already half way through January. My remote work begins on February 14th. So much to do. So exciting. There will be lots of baking, recipe development, pictures, articles on baking and flour and always my customer service and shipping. While traveling!

It is not an easy ask ( of myself) however I am determined to make the work work.

I am older now and older women have trouble staying still in one place. We need to move or we get into trouble. The moment I decided to find a way to take my work on the road my heart, that had been booming at me to ‘get a wriggle on’ ( Dads words), settled back into place and pace. My breathing slowed – I can see ahead again. I am on a mission.

I read Wild ( thank you for the recommendation) then watched the movie and as usual the book was better.

I am off out into the cold to remake the pigs bed and throw a bale of good hay into the chook house. The door is frozen open ( which is part of the reason they are not laying in the right place) so they are merrily roaming wild.

I hope you all have a great week!

Cecilia

Black and White

I am still in my black and white period. Though I do feel a brightening.

I think subject matter has a lot to do with the success of monochrome images. With colour it is a much simpler equation. With black and white it is all about form and structure and light.

Though I still remember when we only had black and white film as an option.

It is cold. Almost all colour has leeched from the landscape. The fields are in sepia now. We have a lot of wind out here on the prairies lately. After a summer with less wind than usual. It is the epitome of lonely: this howling cold wind.

I got really dark there for a bit.

Now I feel a little colour creeping in.

( I have been working on bread and pasta to create images for the marketing team at work) so here is one of those. Though I am not ready to leave the extreme discipline of monochrome yet.

I need to stay very disciplined to see my plan through. This omicron is everywhere down here. I think it is just a matter of putting on our life jackets and riding it out. These surges are going to keep returning – we need to adapt as best we can. If ever there was a case for building a network of support this would be it. Being a working single parent with school age kids must be so hard, with so much illness wreaking havoc. We need to gather around our little families and BE the village. And so I will.

And a moment of full barn colour before I dip back down again.

I hope you are well. ( such a loaded statement these days!).

Cecilia

In Transit

Good morning the Fellowship of the Farmy. I am in California for the holidays.

I apologize for not being available lately. I had a number of issues (wrong word), things (even wronger), unavoidable challenges? to deal with and my head space got crowded as things came to a head. My Dad commenced to shuffle off his mortal coil ( his words) and I was unable to be with him. The Matriarch ran into some health issues and was in and out of hospital. All this coincided with me reconfiguring my workload at the mill so I could re-assign a number of my responsibilities to other members of staff allowing me to focus on baking and customer care and orders.

Then the new Variant loomed, a couple of other issues made themselves known and all of a sudden it became too much. I saw Burn Out, broken Break Down and Screaming Bloody Heamee Memees looming on my horizon. I was not coping. Not sleeping. My face developed an invisible twitch just around my mouth. I could not see Dad ( him dying in New Zealand and me in USA). I was not able to visit Sandy in hospital. I had to keep reminding myself where I was and what I was supposed to be doing. Even my conversation developed gaps as I struggled to find words. I could feel my heart beating so hard I could feel it with my hand. I was melting.

So I went on the defense. I fled emotionally. Concentrated. Dug deep. Hunkered Down. Became very Still. Froze. Like the way a piglet does when she gets a fright. Removed myself. All those things. It helps to stand on one foot and pause. Just watch things play out through a port hole. To freeze and listen hard. To retreat. Think. So I did. But it was hard on everyone else. And I am sorry for that.

My mother in law the Matriarch was recovering at speed thanks to Johns care but then my Dad died. I thought I was ready for the tectonic shift of losing the last parent. But when I was told that my Dad had died in New Zealand – even though I knew he was dying and even though I knew covid would ban me from saying a decent goodbye or helping my siblings with his send off, or attending his funeral or baking bread for his wake or raising a glass in his honor or any of the things the oldest daughter should do, even though I knew these things – I was more angry than I think I have ever been in my life. Wild spitting destructive anger. I was deep in my mental pause by then so I had no valve for the fury that rose into my mouth, blinded my face and took my words. I silently carried rubbish bags into my room, shut the door and commenced to clear it out, for two days I sorted through years of detritus and threw stuff into the bin bags.

I was sick of it all. Sick of all this stuff. Sick of all this plastic. Sick of all this ownership. Sick of this comfort. Sick of pretending to be sweet and malleable so as not to upset anyone. Sick of being so far away from my children. Sick of this damn virus. Sick of walls. Sick of me. I wanted to bite and glare and shake this off like a wet dog. It was a dangerous rage this one. It could burn stuff. Break people. So I threw that into a rubbish bag too. I piled the bags up into the corner of my bedroom to wait and flew to California.

I think I am hard for myself to know.

I have looked at these paragraphs for over a week now and wondered if this is overly dramatic or quite true.

I need to calm down for about a year.

( I did not discard everything – I put the oil-skin hat and coat from Dad, art from Mum, recipe books from my grandmother, the hand made coffee mugs and glasses gifted to me by different children, a bowl and a knife, bench scraper and bowl scraper all into one box. In fact it was a curious and consuming exercise. Possessions have levels and once I began to let go of each level a whole raft of useless things followed behind clattering into rubbish piles. But gifts from the ones I loved I kept. My cameras and written words went into another box. I have kept some clothes because otherwise I will be cold (and they are useful for wrapping fragile objects) but I don’t like most of them. My clothes no longer reflect who I am – they have been overwhelmed by millwear, and comfy culture).

Anyway as I breathe out here in Visalia, with my son and his children, I remember that life (as Shakespeare and you and I know) has chapters in it, episodes, dynasties. I loved being a stay at home mother, being a single mother of many, being a teacher, a friend, being involved in the film industry, being a mother of adults, learning to farm and succeeding, being married,

But now many of those descriptions have the word absent in front of them. Absent mother, absent teacher, absent friend, absent daughter, absent sister, absent wife, absent film, absent writer. Absent me.

The time has come to try and turn my absent into active.

So now I am forcing my life into its next Act where I am determined to blend it all together. And I am burning the trail to get there. I want to be active not absent. Writing, baking, moving and learning. Working alongside my children and grandchildren and sisters and bothers too. I almost loitered too long. I allowed a gap to widen between my selves. I almost lost my people. My country. Myself.

Now I am determined to move to and get to know each of the youngest members of my family and create a present relationship with each of my children and my brothers and sisters. I want to rekindle my old friendships and work harder to keep my present ones alive. I am going to try and stir my life back together with all its eclectic ingredients and bake it.

I will continue to work for Janie’s Mill remotely – taking that show on the road – by teaching, baking with, writing for and supporting her customers and in turn supporting myself, as long as they will have me. That in itself a a huge piece of work and I relish the challenge.

My possessions will decant back down to my two old suitcases. Two phones. My office into a satchel. I will create a new rhythm to my old life. One that is no longer absent. John might get so sick of my darting between countries feeding my families and working from remote locations, that I become homeless again but that is his right and my risk. Active and absent. It is a hard ask.

I am in California now, flying back to Illinois tomorrow and will return to California in February to help with the children for a month, then back to Illinois in March, then late March I will travel again and go to New Zealand for a while, NZ is on course to open without supervised quarantine Feb 13th. But I will need to self quarantine. If they close the doors again I will go to Australia. I look forward to Canada opening up. I am back in the game.

And of course – as ever – I am taking you along for the ride – if you want to come.

So there you have it.

Act V

Cecilia

PS – I am working in Black and White as an expression of my personal mourning period for my father. I think we should give ourselves permission to grieve as long as is necessary. Grieving and mourning is not all about uncontrollable tears it is also about respect and goodbye and time. And Dad taught me by using black and white photography as his medium. So I will create black and white images as my goodbye.

Sunday Morning in December

My first Sunday off in a few weeks. The dwindling days of December 2021 are plodding off the calendar. 2022 is going to be the year of decisive action. No more making do.

Here is my 24 seconds. With all this rain and generally warm days the fields are still green.

It is cold outside. We had the storms and winds on Friday night but no tornadoes thanks gods. It was a wild black night and Saturday was grim for a number of reasons but Sunday has dawned sunny and clear and cold. Just right for the branch and yard clean up.

I love the frost on the deck.

In 10 days I fly out to California for a Christmas celebration. Which is good. I feel my wings unfurling and they need direction.

Water for birds and ducks and pigs in the winter is a constant worry – with the weather getting colder. I am trialing water close to the house so John can easily fill it while I am away. Wai walks past the house a couple of times a day so he will find it. I don’t worry about Tima so much – she will always find a way to get what she wants. Everything but the cows are free range and the cows have all the gates open now.

The theory is to fill the water bowl with warm water in the morning then empty the bowl after the last chores at night so it is not full of ice by the following morning – making it hard to refill! We can’t leave a heater in it – not with ducks.

Tia has been sold to a friend of John’s and went to live in Kentucky last week. I hope they did not get mixed up in those devastating tornadoes. We have not heard yet.

This wee miss has it sorted.

Living in the glasshouse agrees with her.

I hope you are all ok.

Cecilia

24 seconds out my front door and a recipe.

Here is my 24 seconds. Actually 29. But there you are – an extra few seconds to see the crunchy frost on the deck.

27F/2C. Sunny. Sunday.

It is So Long since I posted a recipe. And I have been working on these rolls for ages. Determined to create easy, fast brioche rolls with stoneground flour. These held up perfectly last night when made into hamburger rolls.

As usual with a recipe that has only a few ingredients ( my favorite kind of recipe) use the very best of everything. Good high fat butter. Whole milk. A fresh farm raised egg – I used a duck egg, and of course really good flour. Stonemilled and untreated if possible. I used Janie’s Mill High Protein Bread Flour. In New Zealand get some good bread flour from Shelley Bay Bakery. Or a good unbleached bread flour from your supermarket.

Simple Fast Tasty Fluffy Brioche Rolls

(No one is ever going to ask me to write a cook book because I cannot keep put my recipes into the accepted format).

So. Soften 3 tablespoons of butter. Not melted – just soft. Set aside.

Heat 1/4 cup of milk and 1 cup of water in a pot and warm to just above tepid. Add 2 teaspoons of yeast. Beat in one large egg.

In a mixing bowl whisk 3 1/2 cups High Protein Bread Flour and a teaspoon of salt.

Make a well in the flour – add wet ingredients. With a bowl scraper and dough hook (alternate) mix the wet and dry ingredients together.

Then with the mixer running on low; drop tiny cubes of softened butter into the dough, bit by bit.

Mix further for up to 8 minutes until all the butter is incorporated. Every now and then stop the mixer and scrape the dough off the hook and back down into the bowl. Mix gently until silky and shiny.

Initially the dough will feel too wet but resist the urge to add more flour. This is a brioche thing – it takes time for the fat from the butter and milk to blend in.

Turn out onto scantily floured counter and knead for a minute until you have formed a flat ball.

Cut into 8 pieces. Turn the edges under and pinch together to make 8 balls.

Turn on the oven to 400f – place each roll 1/2 an inch apart on a sheet pan covered with baking paper. Allow the rolls to puff up in a warm place for 15 – 20 mins.

Just before you bake the rolls; brush the rolls ALL OVER – even down the sides – with egg wash. The whole roll needs to be glazed to help hold the steam inside the roll. (The best egg wash is one egg and one tablespoon of whole milk whisked together).

Bake at 375 for 20 – 22 minutes or until done.

All together this takes about two hours from beginning to baking depending on the warmth of your kitchen.

And my kitchen was very warm because I was baking these too!

Have a lovely day.

Cecilia

24 seconds out my front door

I waited a little longer this morning.

So there was more light. And much to my delight there was WaiWai out on a morning stroll!

It is warm this morning – 45F and going up to 52F with a little breeze today so I am hanging sheets on the clothesline.

Dough is rising for this weeks bread.

Experimenting with flour for biscuits ( that we call scones in New Zealand).

It was a tie! The JM Italian Style flour made lighter fluffier biscuits but the JM Silky Smooth Pastry/ All Purpose held together better.

So much fun.

Good morning!

Cecilia

Full Moon Full Schmoon

Did you see this pic on my Instagram feed yesterday?

It is not a conventionally pretty shot. The internet is full of the most amazing close-ups of this other worldly out of this world moon. But the juxtaposition of scrappy industrial detritus and perfect natural beauty appeals to me. I do love balance but we do not live in a perfectly balanced sublimely curated Instagram world.

I did a whole series on decay when I was younger – but where all those images ended up I have no idea. Traveling does that to a person. Her memories get lost. No memorabilia to remind her of the memories. If we were to hang a whole decade of memories on one image what would it be.

I am waiting for the sunrise. No work today – not officially anyway. We are again at that stage in the year when I leave for work in the dark and return in the dark. I do not see daylight for five days. I see these Midwest winters as my anti-skin-cancer period! But I never see my animals in daylight, they are all tucked up in bed when I get back to the farm.

Well the light is up. So I will go visiting.

Good morning Nelson. No sun today.

A beautiful crop of roosters.

Tima and Wai ( under the pile of blankets in the background) still sleeping. It was early yet – when I layered up and went out.

Time for me to get going too!! I am working on my cheese loaf. Maybe rolls.

Oh, the book I am reading is called The Lincoln Highway – A Novel. So good!! Written by the same fellow who wrote A Gentleman in Moscow. Two extraordinary books. I have to keep reminding myself to read slowly.

I have read A Gentleman in Moscow three times.

Good morning!

Have a lovely day!

Cecilia

Video – 24 seconds out my front door plus a bunny bonus

There you are now.

The leaves are blowing away. Basically it is cold and getting colder. The wind is up now and roaring outside. The weather will be grim today.

Not for Nelson though- she has ventured way out of the glasshouse and is now exploring the wash-house. And, by the way, eating the washing baskets!

Back into the kitchen again!

Good morning!

Cecilia

The Eyes Have It

I was in the city (Chicago) for two days this week. Oh, how I miss the big city. My visits to the city are usually to promote Janie’s Mill flour. I am carted from restaurant to restaurant by Sysco reps ( they are JM distributors). There is driving and walking and fast talking – always with people I have not met before – culminating with a meeting of culinary minds in the kitchens of some of the best restaurants in Chicago. Food and tons of excellent company.

I got back to the farm shattered – hanging in rags – as they say in England. But deeply satisfied.

My bags are in no way a conventional sales persons bags and they are heavy!

Something I noticed, because I was meeting a lot of new people and we were all masked of course; when all I can see is a persons eyes, just the eyes and forehead, I feel confident enough to catch that persons eyes and hold them for an entire volley of conversation. (the scary fake smile mouth and teeth are covered). I am charmed by their eyes is what I mean. As though a spell has been cast around us. This contact is returned – one goes around the gathered circle catching and holding eyes. And those eyes are steady. The eyes have their own meeting complete with subtext and back-story.

And after almost two years of this I see more eyes now than I ever did.

This is not something women can usually do – to hold a mans eyes for a long period of time is often not appropriate. We have to make other facial adjustments so as not to send the wrong messages. But with a mask on all we have is eyes so by the end of a good conversation we know every golden fleck and hue and those short conversational connections gather their own kind of magic. A new kind of magic.

That kind of does and does not make sense.

I am baking bread today.

Lots of bread. Then some kind of dessert pie using my pastry flour. Any ideas?

It is cold – 36F/2C ( In a couple of months I will be wishing for this temperature but today it feels cold). Good day to have the oven on!

Good morning!

Cecilia