The tram freed itself from the Sydney Road scrum and jerked to a stop at Park Street. I was in a seat towards the back, idly gazing out the window, thinking about nothing in particular.
Some people got on the tram. Oh, look - it's my sister-in-law, H. She saw me at the same time and made her way down the aisle.
H. is English and beautiful and has a kind of old-fashioned manner about her that is charming.
She sat down next to me and we chatted as the tram sailed regally down Royal Parade under the massive elm tree canopy. She told me she was flying to Tasmania this weekend for her father's birthday, for which she was going to cook up a feast.
Then she pulled a small package out of her bag and showed me the contents. Curry leaves. Not dried curry leaves, fresh ones. She had been to the Indian deli in Sydney Road that sells groceries from the sub-continent and they have a local source for fresh herbs not available elsewhere.
H. leaned across to me, held out the curry leaves, gave me a sample sniff and then whispered conspiratorially, 'I have to get these to Tasmania!' Then she sat back and waited for my reaction.
'I know what you mean,' I replied slowly, 'the beagles at the airport.'
'Yes,' she said, one step ahead of me, 'but I could put them in the post!'
'Aha! Clever,' I murmured. And then, 'Do they have beagles at the post office?'
'Not sure,' she replied, 'but it's worth a try!'
Nothing will get in the way of a woman determined to get her ingredients to the kitchen, even across the boundary of a State that has a quarantine on fresh fruit and vegetables. But does the quarantine apply to curry leaves?
H. had already done some investigation. She told me she had called the Tasmanian government tourist office and they hummed and hawed and didn't know whether fresh herbs were among the items not allowed into the island State. Well, it is a government tourist office. You wouldn't expect them to know anything.
The sight of beagles sniffing out fruit smugglers is quaintly amusing in a world of aircraft guards, airport metal detectors and other anti-terrorist measures. I was at Launceston airport a couple of years ago and while waiting for a flight, I watched the beagles doing their work. They sniff all the passengers and their luggage and occasionally catch someone with a bag of apples or maybe an orange or a banana in their carry-on luggage. Often, the 'smuggler' is not aware of the quarantine laws or may simply have forgotten about the apple in their bag. But they still look as guilty as your average terrorist when the dog finds their illegal stash!
Dhal with fresh curry leaves.
Often spelt 'dahl' but I'm going with the 'h' before the 'a' because 'dahl' looks like a pet name for a close friend.
Wash a cup of yellow or red lentils, then fry them gently with a chopped onion, a sliced green chili and a quarter teaspoon of turmeric. Add 750ml of water and cook until tender and mushy. Remove from heat and mash well, adding more water if necessary. Return to stove.
In another pan, crackle half a teaspoon of mustard seeds in oil, then add a sprig of fresh curry leaves and two chopped red chilies, frying until curry leaves are discolored. Add this and salt to dhal and simmer for another five minutes.
Eat as a side dish with curry or simply with some naan and yogurt.