"Stuffing vegetables is a rare culinary experience in these busy days. It is time-consuming and provides pleasure that we don't often experience anymore - the kind of bliss that results from communal cooking, when time is not an object and the purpose is the process as well as the end result." - Ottolenghi.
We started early, before light. It was cold, dark and the amount and size of wood that was sitting by the wood fired oven, our temperamental friend for the next few hours, was quite optimistic. However, this very morning in the shearers quarters kitchen on Moorabinda Station was not at all uninviting. In this basic, rustic, cold and dark kitchen, we had committed to prepare and enjoy a“winter brunch”, a menu taken from Karen Mordechai’s Sunday Supper Cookbook. This very morning was our idea of bliss and we were glad to be in among it.
As the morning sunlight began to flood in and the kitchen warmed up, the conversation and flour flowed freely and our communal brunch was well underway. Although our morning was moving along, somehow time had stopped. Out here on this rural property on this brisk winter morning nothing else mattered. Thankfully time was no longer running away. Beyond the property gates the world was nonexistent and our agendas didn't go past the following few hours. This morning we would spend enjoying a slow winter brunch and in the afternoon we would visit a neighbouring farm on the search of chickens and ducks for dinner. We were all focused on the day’s tasks at hand and were firstly impressively invested in chipping into this morning meal. A very slow living day it would be.
Three of us were pottering in the kitchen and the rest of us were pottering outside. We were collecting fire wood and manning the temperamental wood stove, setting and styling the table outside in the paddock, sharing the kneading and rolling of the dough and taking turns timing the bagels as they boiled, making coffee on the outside campfire for us all as we cooked and moving the table back to the veranda when the rain began to pour. Many keen, communal cooking hands – all in utter bliss – were invested to making this brunch very light work.
As far as the menu went, we did a little local tweaking. To top the bagels, barramundi had become our perfect local fish substitute (and cousin) to the recipe recommended sea bass. It was cured with loose black tea leaves and pieces of fresh ginger and had been hanging out in its curing bath for an entire three days prior. We also replaced fresh figs with pecans for the honeyed tart. Our lovely host for the weekend, Annabelle of The Dailys, lives right down the road from Moorabinda with her husband and three children on their pecan farm. So, incorporating pecans into the recipe was a must.
Around mid-morning, we found ourselves by the outside fire, sipping on cardamom coffee while cracking pecans with a suitably beautiful wooden nut cracker, as though it was the most important job of our day. Meanwhile, the bagels were also slowly rising and being carefully shaped and soon after the blood oranges were being peeled and the tart shell was baking in the wood fired oven. The process, it seemed, truly was as exciting and important as the end result.
When it was finally time to eat, there we sat - post cardamom coffee and pre chicken and duck farm visit - out of the rain and on the shearers quarters veranda. It was a peaceful, quiet winter morning and things were casual, yet intentional. The bagels were laden with olive oil infused cream cheese and the citrus salad was liberally dished out.
Or morning of communal cooking was savored – the winter brunch menu was perfection, and we were completely satisfied – not only with the spread on the table, but the process and communal effort it took to get it there. It was utter bliss.