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Dear ana,

Poor neglected epistolary blog indeed!

I’ve been a pretty terrible correspondent because I’ve been a pretty terrible homemaker for most of this year. Being in a months-long funk is not very conducive to creativity, so I’m sad to say I’ve been eating pasta with sauce out of a jar for most of my dinners and falling into bed with the internet instead of knitting.

But, this story has a happy ending!

I’ve moved into a bigger house (with, as you already know, our mutual friend Alex), and it has resulted in a flurry of domestic activities. It’s amazing how much more motivated to do stuff I am when I’m in a bigger house (natural light! dishwasher! KITCHEN!) and around someone else who is also enthused about cooking, gardening and crafting.

So I’ve been baking and frying and stewing and knitting and gardening and decorating quite intensely for the past month or so. Hopefully this means I can post here more frequently.

As I’m typing this I’m sitting at our kitchen table, and opposite me Alex is measuring out the yogurt culture she received in the mail today so we can make our own yogurt. I have a lemon slice setting in the fridge, and cooked dinner for everyone tonight while looking out the kitchen window at Alex and my other housemate, Lisa, mow the lawn and plant our new vegetables (four varieties of tomatoes, capsicums, various herbs).

For dinner I cooked this ‘mediterranean’ gnocchi dish. Melbourne in particular is a city with a big Italian migrant population (WWII era, I believe), and their evolved influence informs a lot of our standard food (pizza, pasta, and ‘antipasto’ are fairly typical fare). This dish in particular I kind of improvised based on a dish I ate in a fairly upmarket (though very hip!) Italian restaurant near my friend Jackie’s place on the other side of town. I loved the dish so much when I ate it that I immediately had Jackie (who is a fabulous foodie herself) tell me just how I might prepare it. Here’s what I wound up with:

Fried Gnocchi with Mediterranean ‘Vegetables’


  • Basic potato gnocchi – You can buy plastic-wrapped packets of them off the shelf (non-refrigerated!) in the supermarket here
  • Olive oil – LOTS
  • About half a small onion
  • Salt
  • Antipasto vegetables – black olives, roasted red pepper, marinated artichokes, marinated eggplant – anything will do
  • Proscuitto if you’re a meat eater
  • A fresh, ripe tomato
  • Fresh parsley
  • Parmesan cheese

In terms of quantities, remember that gnocchi is very filling. So measure out how much gnocchi you want to eat, and then measure out your antipasto to be about equal quantity to the gnocchi in total.


So, you can roast or fry the garlic. I kind of decided to do this at the last minute, so I fried the garlic, but putting whole cloves of roast garlic in is a freaking awesome path to go down, I must say. But I fried, so:

  1. Fry your garlic (minced) and onion (diced finely) in a cast iron pan with lots of olive oil and salt. Do it over a medium-low heat and do it for a long-ish time – you want it to caramelise. If you’re eating meat, toss the shredded proscuitto in towards the end of this process to crisp it up a bit. When the garlic/onion is about right (give it a taste!) take it out of the pan. If the pan is all cruddy now, rinse/wipe it out.
  2. Now it’s time to fry the gnocchi. Fried gnocchi is pretty much the best thing in the entire universe. While boiled gnocchi ranges from doughy to gooey, fried gnocchi goes chewy and soft and caramelised – basically like the most perfect roasted garlic. It’s amazing. So: Your pan should be about medium heat. You need more olive oil. Put your gnocchi in the pan, all spread out evenly. Leave it to cook for about four-five minutes, until it’s slightly grilled (kinda golden) a bit on one side. Then you can toss it around to cook more evenly. Having one side crispy gives a nice bit more texture. Test it by biting into a bit every so often (you should be able to feel with your stirring when it’s getting softer). When it’s just about done (about 8 minutes)…
  3. Add all your pickled antipasto vegetables. Don’t even chop most of them them up – just make sure they’re relatively well drained. Whole olives, whole strips of pepper/capsicum, quarters/sixths of pickled artichoke hearts. Add back the garlic and onion (and proscuitto). Mix it all in. You want to make sure the antipasto stuff is hot enough but not cooked any more.
  4. Once everything is heated through, turn off the heat and add a diced tomato and a generous handful of chopped parsley, mix that through too. (Room temperature tomatoes are best!!) Again, you definitely don’t want to cook the tomato, just stir it through.
  5. Serve with parmesan cheese.

It is SO DELICIOUS. The caramelly garlic and olive oil goes perfect with the texture of the gnocchi, and the various flavours with the antipasto is a perfect complement. Having everything the same bite-size makes for a great balance of flavours when you’re eating, too. Usually when I make pasta I make a tomato-based sauce that I throw things into, but I absolutely love this method of just tossing big chunks of things in with the chunks of gnocchi without glueing it all together with any sauce. And it is so damn easy, and antipasto vegetables can hang around the fridge (and/or cupboard) for months and months.

Alex wanted to write up a food blog post of her own about it (in fact, now she’s finished with the yogurt cultures and is typing away madly on the other side of the table), so I think that counts as a success. Will no doubt be making this again! And next time I must remember to take a photo, too.

I look forward to reading more about your food and knitting adventures soon, too! I hear that you’ve been doing some natural yarn dyeing again? Do tell.

<3 <3 <3


wreath close-up

I’ve been pondering a post about my recent and less recent failures in the world of craft, but because said failures meant I found myself dejected, it’s been hard to summon energy to talk about them.

But I’m starting to climb back up I think, which gives me just enough oomph to at least manage a pictorial update. Read the rest of this entry »

Hello, poor neglected epistolary blog!

Dear Emily,

I’m so sorry that I haven’t been able to hold up my end of this bargain and to keep you abreast of my crafty activities. There was a lull in my knitting for a bit, but things resumed soon enough, and that is absolutely no excuse at all.

I shan’t attempt to catch you up with my backlog of achievements (big word for little things, really), because it’s partly the mere thought of having to do that which lead me to avoiding my blogging duties int he first place! What can I say, I am slightly neurotic.

Instead, here are a number of things fresh off from this weekend:

1. My friend MC (who has a lovely blog there) is hard at work washing and hand-carding fleeces that she was given a while back. I have discovered that I find hand-carding a very soothing activity, and quite addictive too. Yesterday afternoon she decided to hand-dye a big batch of batts with food dye. Fun AND gorgeous!

colours, colours everywhere

2. I frogged my budding Pogona shawl. In the taupe coloris of Pierrot’s Teori yarn, which i find disappointing, it is a project I never even entered into Ravelry, such was my reluctance at handling it, knitting it – everything. I finally came to my senses and decided to admit it was DOA. Winding the yarn back felt good.

Then I started swatching two silk laceweight yarns together because I realized that these two tones would look interestingly faded/precious together, and reminded me of a 17 or 18th century brocade. I thought maybe I could do an interesting scarf with double-knitting colorwork, but I think that the two hues are too close; most easy patterns I was considering would end up looking muddled (you can perhaps see what I mean there, even if there are only a few rows of actual colorwork right on top of my swatch.

Here, I shall put the two pictures next to each other (click for embiggening on Flickr):

swatching two silks swatching two silks

Dear ana,

I’m sorry to hear you’re not having a very productive time of it, lately. Perhaps it’s a seasonal thing? I’ve been baking frantically since the year began, it seems – for parties and barbecues and picnics and stitch n’ bitches, and… well, for every possible occasion that I can make people nom the things I’ve made :)

I’ve just gone back through all the photos I’ve taken over the past couple of months, and unsurprisingly a lot of them are of food. Most of them are worthy of reporting on, so I shall do so here.

Read the rest of this entry »

My dear Emily, sorry for having neglected you for so long.

I don’t really have a proper excuse or explanation for it; you know how these things sometimes happen.

Over the Christmas break I had friends here at home (as well as some family – the whole thing was kind of.. ‘revolving doors’ for a bit) and as a result spent many hours of happy domesticity cooking with people, watching Jamie Oliver shows with people, and of course, eating too much in the company of people. I must report that I we used the recipe I gave you for mulled wine to make mulled cider: it was a treat. Read the rest of this entry »

Dear ana,Banana Cake

I hear you have some overripe bananas, so I’m sharing my banana cake recipe. It hales from my childhood–I think I had some at my friend’s house (age 5? 6?), and Mum made sure to get the recipe, and it’s been made hundreds of times since.

I made another one of my own last night, after finally purchasing a thermometer for my increasingly decrepit oven. The first time I tried to use the oven after I moved into this house, the temperature knob came off in my hand; another time when I opened the door the glass panel on the front fell right off (it’s since been repaired).

At one point a few months ago I tried to cook a honey and spice cake, but within about 15 minutes of being in there the top had started to burn while the bottom remained liquid; by the time it was no longer raw I had to saw 2 inches of charcoal off the top of it.

So, upon installing the oven thermometer, I discovered that ~160°C on the thermometer = ~120° on the dial. Thus I was able to set it accordingly, and lo and behold, my banana cake turned out awesome. I forsee more baking in my future.

At any rate, here’s the banana cake recipe. Measurements are Australian (I believe there’s a slight difference in US/Aus cup & spoon sizes, I’m not sure how we compare to European measurements).

The cake itself is rather ‘mild’ for a cake, I suppose–leaning towards banana bread, but I think a bit too soft and sweet for that. But not too sweet for my tastes! It doesn’t need to be iced–the browned top sort of caramelises deliciously, it really is just perfect as it is. But don’t make the same mistake I did and take it out of the pan too soon–I ended up peeling the top and the bottom of the cake off because I didn’t let it cool for long enough. (On plus side, it meant I got to eat all those delicious scrapings aaall at once.)

Banana Cake


  • 2-3 bananas
  • 125g butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 & 1/2 cups self-raising flour
  • Powdered cinnamon, or any other spice you fancy–this time I also put in a wee pinch of nutmeg, and a small spoon of minced ginger

Round or square cake baking tin (NOT a loaf one!)


  1. Over-ripen 2-3 bananas. As in, as close to completely black as you have the patience for. If I end up with over-ripe bananas before I’m ready to make a cake, I freeze them. Defrost before using.
  2. Beat together:
    125g butter
    1 cup sugar
    2 eggs
  3. Mix in:
    The 2 or 3 mashed overripe bananas
  4. Add:
    2tbsp milk
    1&1/2 cups SR Flour
    good pinch cinnamon (and/or spices of choice)
  5. Cook for 30-45 mins in moderate oven (150-170 celcius) or til springs back then test with skewer. I find the colour is a good indicator; it should be golden brown (see pic).
  6. Let stand for a couple of minutes, turn out & cool on wire rack.
  7. NOM

So, now I know the oven is working, I have plans for all the things I’m going to bake! I’ve been using Evernote to clip recipes I want to try so I can read them from the iPad when I’m in the kitchen; the only problem is that I can’t adjust the text size on the fly in Evernote on the iPad (which seems a huge gap in functionality–I just want to zoom a bit! Note to self: submit feature request).

Here are a few of the ones on my to-bake list:

Also, as I’ve become a bit more cluey about cooking in the past year or two, it’s occurred to me that this banana cake recipe is pretty standard; I could fairly easily substitute some ingredients for others and experiement–e.g. zucchini and chocolate cake, pear and honey cake, etc etc, om nom nom.

Baking ahoy!