/ MY STORY
My name is Di Gray and I would like to tell you about The Kittens Kitchen.
In a previous life I was a Petrol Manager for Woolworths in Renmark and then in Adelaide. When my husband Trevor relocated to Yorke Peninsula with his work, Woolworths could not find a position for me over here so after 3 years of working in Adelaide whilst living here I took my long service leave, resigned and decided to start my own business with a Boutique Hotel for cats which I called Cats Have Staff.
This kept me occupied most of the time.
Then one night during a function that I was catering for at Port Victoria, I had so many people ask me for my recipe for Apple Crumble, that I said to Trevor "I could sell this". And so, The Kittens Kitchen was born on the strength of Apple Crumble.
At my first market I was selling Apple Crumble and cupcakes. I think I made $50 and was ecstatic. At my second market I added Strawberry Jam, and from then on things kept growing.
I continued to add to my range and started making relishes and sauces, even though I do not eat them myself. This is where Trevor came into his own as Chief Taster and Quality Controller.
He is also extremely helpful in the kitchen chopping up ingredients with great skill, having been well taught by his mother who was a professional cook. He wears the badge of "Kitchen Bitch" with pride and is also my Purchasing Officer, my Logistics Manager, my Transport Manager, etc, etc.
Most of the recipes I use are old and were passed down to me by my mother and grandmother, particularly the Cornish ones as my grandmother was a Cornishwoman. I grew up with her Cornish pasties and I still think that they are the best. My main recipe book has lost both its covers as well as a few less important pages.
As well as the old favourites, I also make many modern recipes for which I must thank Google and various magazines. I don't think my grandmother would have known what to do with chillis or jalapenos, and as a modern take on Melon and Lemon jam I make Rockmelon, Lemon and White Pepper Jam.
When I was a child, every Christmas school holidays was spent at the kitchen table cutting up fruit for jam and preserves. At the time I resented it because I wanted to be outside playing with my friends. When I look back on that time, I am thankful for the apprenticeship as I now use those skills learnt as a child every day.
At home we have created lots of above ground vegetable garden plots and have replanted the orchard that was long dead before we bought the property. We are harvesting vegetables and in a few years we will have our own fruit to pick as well. Luckily, I have a great network of friends who contribute produce from their gardens, but I still buy a lot of stuff in bulk. I never thought that I would need to buy onions by the 10kg bag or tomatoes by the box. A shopping trip to Adelaide usually results in the car struggling home with 25 kilo bags of flour and sugar and boxes of mixed dried fruit or other necessities.
I currently have over 35 fruit jams in my range as well as about 20 savoury lines, 10 sauces, Olive Oils, Dukkah and Sticky Balsamic Glaze. My baked range includes Nutloaves, Fruitcake, cookies, Fairings, Gourmet Pies, Sausage Rolls, Cornish Pasties, Banana Bread, log cakes and anything else that I think of or have time to make. I can also make Gluten Free to order and Gluten Free Nutloaves
are now part of my standard market range. I cook so much that I have just had to buy a new oven because I blew the old one up — even though it was only 3 years old.
Until recently I did at least one market every weekend, but after my mother died in March 2019, I became my father's sole carer until he died on New Years Eve 2020, and the markets had to take a back seat. I am still a regular at Kadina market and do other markets such as Snowtown or Moonta where possible. Port Victoria General Store was my only retail outlet until recently, but we deliver regularly to Adelaide and interstate, and sell from our new retail outlet in Kadina, The Kittens Kitchen Tea Rooms plus Coffee at 38 Taylor Street. I have even been known to meet people in pub carparks to exchange brown paper parcels for cash!
My 3 sons and their wives think that it is great now that I do all this cooking and a visit to my stockroom is usually the first point of call when they visit. My 13 year old granddaughter's first question is usually "Do you have any spare Lemon Curd please?". Last time she came over I had sold out, so she had her first lesson in how to make Lemon Curd from scratch. She is also a very keen cookie maker and often helps when she visits, ably assisted by her 5 year old sister. The traditions handed down from my grandmother are now being passed on to my own granddaughters.