Far away and in my kitchen


Christmas and summer is well and truly upon us. Where did 2013 go?? Last week, it was still a teensy bit cool in the morning. Over the weekend, it became gloriously sunny, summery, and humid – like we are standing in a sticky warm bath. A time for sitting under a fountain, sipping Vietnamese iced coffee, or flocking to the beach.


A long way from America

Last week, I received a very exciting parcel from Anne at Uni Homemaker. I had commented on her peanut butter pumpkin spice kiss cookies post that I couldn’t find pumpkin kisses in Sydney, and she promptly got in touch and sent some to me!


I found much more than pumpkin kisses in the box, Anne had also sent butterscotch morsels, creme de menthe chips, and Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips. I sneaked a couple while taking photos. The pumpkin spice kisses tasted like mildly spiced gingerbread; the creme de menthe made me think of minty candy canes, and I can already see the Ghirardelli and butterscotch jazzing up some oatmeal bars and brownie bars that rotate through our kitchen.


…and Anne’s box also had these colourful baking cups!


Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial does a round-up of “in my kitchen” from fellow bloggers each month. When I saw Anne’s box of goodies, I knew they had to feature in this month’s round-up.

A broken oven and flood of jam 

Our old, creaky oven is officially on its last legs. The oven light went out, quietly, modestly, on the weekend. Currently, pastries, breads and cookies are going into a dark cavern of an oven, with only smell and sound to guide me.

*silent movie-style gesture of despair*


There are some consolations. The lack of a good oven has encouraged me to discover jam and preserves. So far we have a sour cherry jam, which has been made into thumb print cookies (and survived the black cavern of an oven!), and a blood orange and carrot marmalade.

Here’s hoping the oven will be fixed before I flood the house with preserves and fermented things, like kimchi. Or even garum. I think Mr Gander would be keen to fix the oven before I moved onto garum. 

Christmas via Sri Lanka

Summer means cricket (the sport not the insect). Everywhere. On the radio and TV at home, in the car, on the smart phones. It’s the sound track to a classic Aussie summer, and at least in our household, Christmas baking wouldn’t be the same without the drone of cricket commentary in the background.

This year, I made a Sri Lankan Christmas cake – just before the oven light gave up the ghost. I first read about the cake in an old book. Then, it seemed to be everywhere, with cooks, writers and bloggers raving about how moist and flavoursome it was, how it was better than any other kind of fruit cake from ye olde England.

The cake recipe asks for various Sri Lankan preserves. So a friend and I left our familiar cocoon of inner west Sydney and journeyed to a Sri Lankan grocery store. There were so many things that we did not recognise (and I felt like a kid in a candy store).

We found the preserves:


The chow chow or chokoes was preserved in a dark, thick syrup that really tasted like condensed, dark palm sugar. It had no vegetable taste, just a deep, sultry kind of sweetness. It would probably make a great stir-in to a spice and molasses-laden banana cake. Like date butter, but more mysterious.

The pumpkin preserves weren’t made of pumpkins like Halloween pumpkins, but ash melon – the picture looked a little like melons that I grew up with in China. The pumpkins / melons tasted like crystallised melons from Chinese new year snack bowls – a childhood memory found in the most unexpected place, in a jar from Colombo. 

I also found these:


Red is my favourite colour, so red basmati rice and roasted red country rice flour caught my eye. I’ve since learned the red country rice flour is made into a steamed breakfast dish called puttu, and was traditionally steamed in a bamboo tube. Quite a few recipes call for rice flour to be steamed with freshly grated coconut, and the steamed rice served with side dishes including a Kadala curry or bananas. The ragi vermicelli should be steamed, which reminded me of a Moroccan dish of steamed noodles, which I didn’t learn in time for our Moroccan dinner party but is still on my to-do list.

My friend also became excited by Sri Lankan groceries. Between us, we must have bought 5 different varieties of rice. What does one do with so much rice? Plan an Iron Chef Rice ( + Vermicelli ) dinner of course!

That’s it from me, I can’t wait to visit other people’s December kitchens!

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21 thoughts on “Far away and in my kitchen

  1. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial 11 December 2013 at 7:24 am Reply

    Saucy, your beautiful first IMK post took us up to the record 50 post mark! Thank you! It has become very warm in Sydney all of a sudden, hasn’t it? What a generous gift your friend sent you, you’ll have enormous fun with all of those, and isn’t Flemington a fabulous place to shop! I hope Santa brings you a new oven for Christmas! xx

    • saucygander 11 December 2013 at 10:13 pm Reply

      Hurrah! Lucky 50! I’m so glad the post went up just in time, and hopefully some of the things made from the Sri Lankan groceries will feature in future posts. I’m also hoping Santa brings a new oven, because I’ve been so good this year… really I have! 😀

  2. Joanne T Ferguson (@mickeydownunder) 11 December 2013 at 10:44 am Reply

    G’day Saucy! Great first post indeed, true!
    What a lovely gesture in sending the parcel from the States and love your jam photo too…Great kitchen view!
    Viewed as part of Celia’s In My Kitchen
    Cheers! Joanne

    • saucygander 11 December 2013 at 10:21 pm Reply

      Hi Joanne, thanks for visiting! Anne is such a lovely person, not just because of her “care package”, and has a fantastic blog.
      It was fun putting together my first IMK post, hope to join again next month!

  3. Two Red Bowls 11 December 2013 at 3:34 pm Reply

    Your poor oven. Love this post and seeing all the baking goodies — I didn’t know Andes made baking chips! No lie, a few weekends ago I literally spent 15 minutes unwrapping and chopping them for a mint chocolate muffin. Yep. Really did. Glad I know for next time I can just buy them in a bag (duh)!

    • saucygander 11 December 2013 at 10:26 pm Reply

      It can be so worth finding good quality baking cups, that taste like real stuff and not cornflour (or whatever they put into the cheap stuff)! Tasting the baking goodies, you know, for quality control and so I can write a blog post, was probably the most fun part of the day! 😀

  4. Liz 11 December 2013 at 4:50 pm Reply

    what a fun-filled post! Your silent movie despair move cracked me up–well played 🙂 And what a score–all those yummy baking treats. Can’t wait to see what you do with them.

    Love that you’re enjoying summer and Christmas–seems so strange to imagine, but my way is backwards to you so there you have it. Enjoy the sun and warmth.

    • saucygander 11 December 2013 at 10:40 pm Reply

      We found it strange to have a real white Christmas one year, in England! And then talking to someone from DC today, they just had a snow storm. It’s a crazy planet.
      Really hoping the oven light is fixed soon, though going on my “oven like the caves in Mordor” metaphor, Two Red Bowls gave me the idea of an Orc cake – something heavy and chocolatey. Even a broken oven can be good fun.

  5. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella 12 December 2013 at 12:36 am Reply

    I’m so intrigued by that Sri Lankan Christmas cake and I think I know somewhere that I can get those preserves! And sorry about your misbehaving oven :(And lastly what a generous package!

    • saucygander 15 December 2013 at 1:44 pm Reply

      The Sri Lankan cake is smelling amazing right now, can’t wait to ice it and blog about it! (still looking for oven guy to fix the light, fingers crossed!)

  6. Francesca 12 December 2013 at 6:53 am Reply

    Ahat a wonderful surprise from America. Welcome to IMK.

    • saucygander 15 December 2013 at 1:45 pm Reply

      Hi Francesca, thanks so much for visiting! I’m still finding time to visit all the IMK kitchens, so much fun so far! 🙂

  7. Francesca 12 December 2013 at 6:54 am Reply

    That was meant to read ‘What’- my fingers aren’t awake in the morning.

  8. Mary @ beyondjelly 12 December 2013 at 8:28 am Reply

    What a brilliant parcel to receive! Those pumpkin spice kisses do sound intriguing.

    • saucygander 15 December 2013 at 1:47 pm Reply

      Hi Mary! Thanks for visiting! Yep – can’t wait to showcase those pumpkin spice kisses, I’m thinking a slice with those kisses on top! 😀

  9. Anne ~ Uni Homemaker 16 December 2013 at 7:33 am Reply

    Hey Rhonda, I’m so glad you liked the box of goodies I sent over! 🙂 Thanks for the shout out, it means a lot to me. I’m so sorry to hear about your oven going out. I hope you have it fixed soon. Have a stellar week, my friend! 🙂

    • saucygander 22 December 2013 at 7:53 pm Reply

      Thanks Anne, have an awesome Christmas!!

  10. TIFFIN bitesizedfood (@TIFFINbitesized) 19 December 2013 at 3:57 pm Reply

    I really enjoyed your very cosmopiltan post with goodies from all over the world. Particularly enjoyed your foray into Sri Lankan cooking. Thanks for joining in!

    • saucygander 22 December 2013 at 8:03 pm Reply

      Thank you for visiting my kitchen! It is so much fun, looking forward to next month! 🙂

  11. laurasmess 24 December 2013 at 6:53 pm Reply

    Gorgeous post!!! I love the images of summer, so beautifully bright and colourful. I do feel lucky to be in Australia at this time of year, despite longing for woollen jumpers and hot puddings on occasion. Love the package of chocolate treats also. Pumpkin spice kisses!!! Ah! Anne is great. Merry Christmas xx

    • saucygander 26 December 2013 at 8:55 am Reply

      Yes, sitting in a breach house today, looking out into picture perfect ocean waves, I feel incredibly lucky. Having grown up in Australia it wouldn’t feel like summer without a heatwave (or two) and crickets in the garden/bush!
      Have a lovely boxing day!

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