Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.

31.3.06

Heat.

Cooler weather is around the corner. It's darker earlier and this weekend, days will get dramatically shorter with one whole hour lopped off the end with the conclusion of daylight saving. I don't like the passing of summer. It's too short. And I like heat.

I consoled myself by making a nice big rich hot curry.

If you're making a curry and can't be bothered with hard to find herbs and spices, pre-prepared sauces can help. The more genuine, the better. Like Ferns pickles and curry pastes. They are the real thing. You can find them in Asian food stores and some smaller supermarkets. They're definitely worth searching out.

I bought some Ferns Butter Chicken Curry Paste and followed this easy recipe:

Rich Butter Chicken

Marinate half a kilo of boneless chicken pieces in a teaspoonful of Ferns Butter Chicken Curry Paste and half a cup of yogurt. An hour minimum, overnight is better. Then bake the chicken in a hot oven until done.

While it's baking, melt 50 grams of butter in a heavy pan, add three teaspoonsful of the Ferns paste, fry it for two minutes, add 200ml of tomato puree, a cup of water and a teaspoonful of sugar, bring to the boil and simmer for half an hour. The fat will separate. Watch the liquid level and add more water if necessary. Then add 200ml fresh cream and a teaspoonful of dried fenugreek leaves, also known as kasuri methi. You're done. Simply combine the baked chicken pieces with the sauce and serve with another swirl of cream. Top with coriander, serve with rice or naan.

Actually, it wasn't that hot. I don't suppose it's meant to be but next time I'll throw in a chopped chilli pepper.

30.3.06

27.3.06

We always come back to comfort food.

Comfort food is sweeping the blogosphere like a favourite chequered woollen blanket (does that simile make sense? no) and I'm jumping on the bandwagon.

On St Patrick's Day night, this is what graced the Kitchen Hand table (it helped that the day wasn't especially warm because this is food for a cold climate):

Coddle.

Take four pork sausages. KR Castlemaine is now producing its version of Irish sausages which is what I used but you can use any sausages you wish. Next time I might try kangaroo sausages - it is the healthiest meat in the world, being very low in fat. (Although perhaps coddle made with 'roo bangers should really have a different name.)

Boil, simmer, drain and cool your snags. Meanwhile, cut two thick rashers of bacon into half inch squares and cook it in dripping (or butter or oil) for a minute, then add a chopped large brown onion and cook until golden. Now add a crushed clove of garlic and cook for a minute.

Remove the bacon, onion and garlic from the pan and brown the sausages. Hmmm. Some recipes have the sausages straight into the casserole without browning. I browned mine. Slice two largish potatoes finely and arrange, or merely toss, them in a casserole. Top the 'taters with the bacon and onion mixture and then throw in some dried sage and some white pepper and half a cup of chicken stock. Maybe more depending on the size of your tubers. Now on go the sausages, all lined up nicely.

Bake for 30 to 45 minutes. Garnish with parsley. Eat with Guinness. That's a cliche. You can drink what you like. I had red wine. It was delicious.

*

I like St Patrick's Day. When I was very young it used to be a holiday from school and we'd march in the city and parade in front of the formidable Archbishop Daniel Mannix, who it seemed ran the city, if not the entire country. The uncle I never knew was named for Archbishop Mannix.

26.3.06

The wedding, concluded.

The aromas emerging from the kitchen end of the long house, deep behind the wide verandah, were now too insistent to ignore. Down on the lawn, people were taking photos and the children from the wedding party were running around waving their birds a little less reverently than they did during the serious part of the ceremony.

Then an announcement was made to proceed to the house where dinner - a great buffet - would now be served.

It was the biggest feast I have ever seen.

There were cold dishes - terrines and platters of antipasti and cold meats of every kind. There were steaming casseroles - pastas in all shapes and in all sauces, lasagnes, cannellonis, timbales; there were curries, hot and mild and in between - lamb curries and Thai chicken curries and vindaloos and tandoori baked meats and parathas and chapatis and naans and jasmine rice and basmati rice and wild rice and red rice and brown rice and saffron rice. I love saffron rice. There were cold salads and warm salads and there were tarts and quiches and frittatas and pies. There were breads and rolls and there were tureens of soup and there were ...

Tables had been set up on the huge verandah that ran the full length of the house and most stayed there and ate and drank and watched the sun disappear altogether and watched the moon rise and ate and drank some more. And just when nobody could eat any more and speeches had been made and the children were darting in and out of the shadows on the lawn below and shrieking with the joy of being allowed to run around at a wedding, someone announced dessert.

The massive groaning tables inside had been magically cleared, probably by fairies, and were now laid with a pile of desserts and sweet things as big as the mountain behind the trees. There was a chocolate cake large enough to feed a small nation, scattered with shards of chocolate the size of broken dinner plates; a cheesecake of similar dimensions drowning in passionfruit syrup and a giant orange almond cake. A tiered hummingbird cake was the centrepiece - the wedding cake itself. Around all of these were scatterings of other delights - plates of delicate little meringues, cupcakes decorated in all colours; there were lamingtons, of course, and neenish tarts and yoyos and rum balls and little hand made chocolates and those fancy biscuits they call biscotti.

So everyone decided they could eat some more after all.

And they did.

24.3.06

The vegetable interview.

Fellow Melburnian, Mr T. Taco has nominated me to take this meme, which I am calling an interview because I still can't come at the word 'meme'. It reminds me of paradigm and synergistic.

So here we go. Microphone on.

Do you like vegetables?

Yes.

That's a relief. 'No' could have killed the interview. Do you have a favourite?

All of them. It annoys me when people leave their vegetables on the plate. Eat your vegetables, people!

Is there any vegetable that you think (or know) most people don't like, but you find great?

Swede.

Why?

Do you mean why do I like it? Or why do I think other people don't?

I mean why do you like it?

It has a great colour, a great texture, a great flavour and a great name.

Is there any vegetable that you think (or know) most people find great, but you don't love that much?

Your questions are complex. Potatoes stretch me a little sometimes.

What experiences did you have with it?

I used to eat them raw when I was a kid. Have you heard the story about how if you shut your eyes and someone offers you a piece of raw potato and tell you it's apple, you won't be able to tell the difference?

No. What kind of vegetables are unusual to you?

Achoccha, burdock, calabaza ...

Then how can you reel them off just like that?

I googled vegetables a-z.

Oh. Name a couple of vegetables that you cook and eat.

Rabe braised with garlic, salted and peppered and finished with a swirl of cream. Grilled red and green peppers latticed into a frittata. If they are a vegetable.

Nice. Which vegetables do you want to know more about and bring into your kitchen?

Ideally, only ones I grow in my garden.

Which are?

Tomatoes ...

That's a fruit.

I know. I was just seeing if you knew. We haven't been in this house very long and so far we only have, aside from the tomatoes, herbs including basil, sage, oregano, parsley, coriander ...

What?

... coriander - some people call it cilantro - plus we had some zucchinis and cucumbers in but they're almost finished. The silverbeet is still going strong and there is also dandelion. And chilli peppers.

Some thoughts about vegetables?

I don't really think about vegetables all that much. T., my wife, does. She's obsessed with potatoes. She recently confided to me - after thirteen years - that the first time I invited her for dinner in our early courting days, she took a look at what I had painstakingly cooked and her first thought was: 'Where's the potato?'

She only had eyes for the potatoes and there were none? Sad. For her. What did you cook that was so sadly lacking in potatoes?

Chicken breast fillets marinated in ginger, tamari, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil and served with steamed mushrooms, strips of honeyed carrrot, snow peas and florets of broccoli. Dessert was strawberry gelati scattered with fresh strawberries.

Sounds like you only had eyes for the food as well if you remember it that clearly.

Let's leave our eyes out of this and stick to the script, OK?

Anyway I would have wanted potatoes too.

That's academic. You weren't invited.

Name a great cookbook.

R. J. Gilbertson's Guide to Australian Meat Cuts. No, wait, we're talking vegetables, aren't we? Our main vegetable-friendly volume is Charmaine Solomon's Complete Vegetarian Cookbook, Angus & Robertson, 1990. Another great book, ironically, is Steven Raichlen's The Barbecue Bible, Workman Publishing Company, 1998. This is a book everyone should have. The recipes are amazing: Catalan grilled artichokes, fire-roasted breadfruit, Argentinian grilled eggplant, garlic kebabs, onion-cilantro relish, sesame spinach, grilled rujak (an Asian mixture of crunchy vegetables and acidic fruits grilled in sauce of peanuts, chiles and tamarind), Turkish shepherd's salad, Peruvian potato mixed grill and hundreds of other recipes. Then there's the meat. Once you've read it, you'll never eat another boring barbecue of chops and snags ...

Snags?

Sausages. Chops, sausages, white sliced bread, Red Crow and potato salad with too much commercial mayonnaise congealing in the sun. And warm cask wine.

Sounds disgusting.

It is. Cask wine should always be served chilled.

Thanks for your time.

It's a pleasure.

23.3.06

The wedding, continued.

We drove for an hour and a half deep into the Yarra Valley and up into the foothills of the Great Dividing Range. At half past one, we turned off the main road and pulled up a narrow gravel drive through dense bush to emerge in a clearing adjacent to a vast, sprawling house surrounded on all sides by a wide verandah.

Lawn sloped away from the front of the house until it reached the shrubbery. Beyond that, soaring trees - forest gums, mountain ash, that kind of thing. Through the trees, you can glimpse a mountain that rises dramatically, blue and sheer, in the warm afternoon light.

The sprawling house was just part of a larger estate that my sister had hired for the weekend. She had thoughtfully invited guests to stay overnight as it was such a long way out of town. Cabins were dotted around the property way beyond the trees and a shady pathway led to a camping ground 400 metres from the main house.

Family and friends drifted in through the afternoon, settling into their cabins or setting up tents at the camp ground. The ringing of hammers on tentpegs could be heard echoing through the trees.

In front of the house, a white tent decorated with pale blue swagged fabric had been set up in a corner of the lawn and a cousin was pouring drinks. How refreshing - a wedding where you don't have to endure the ceremony, an endless photographic session and the time in between before you get to have a drink.

Five o'clock rolled around, five-thirty. Everyone was gathered in little groups on the lawn in the shadow of the big house, some reclining on spread blankets or folding chairs, others standing about with drinks. Then some music came floating down from the verandah, ethereal sounds like birds in a forest with a distant drum beat. Someone announced over a microphone that the wedding party would soon be approaching.

Just as the sun dipped below the ridge of the mountain, turning the sky vermilion, the bird and drum music stopped and became flowing water instead. With reeds. Kind of a soothing 'shushing' sound.

Then they emerged into the clearing from a dark part of the shrubbery. Children led, some bearing banners of softly coloured filmy material which bobbed and waved gently like a lazy bird's wings. Others carried thin, long, white birds created from papier mache and some kind of fabric. The birds moved backwards and forwards, as if in flight, as the children took their faltering little steps.

The person who had made the announcement over the microphone went on with a commentary over the water soundtrack. She told of spiritual pathways and water; birds and their connection between the mundane and divine worlds; of regeneration and sanctuary. As she spoke, the wedding party advanced into the clearing. She went on, telling the assembled guests about the place where my sister had met her future husband: on the edge of Corner Inlet near Wilsons Promontory, a haven for migratory birds from all around the world. There, the mountain peaks rise out of the sea and form a chain of islands across Bass Strait to Tasmania. This is the path of the silvereyes and other birds.

The fading light played on the costumes of the rest of the wedding party. Flowing gowns of cut sheer fabrics floated and shimmered. My sister's costume was no brighter nor showier than the others. The party looked for all the world like a flock of birds as it circled the clearing and came to rest just as the speaker told how the couple's dream of replanting the rainforest was bearing fruit - the birds had started returning.

And with that they were married and then the performance was over and it was time to eat.

21.3.06

Gardens, gates, games, etc.

The young camellia - the one I put in the ground in September - suffered through the heatwaves of summer but survived. Some leaves turned brown. Now it's flowering in early autumn. Aren't they supposed to flower in winter?

*

Three quotes to rebuild the back fence: $1300, $1100 and $450. The $450 guy did a great job. Moral: always get several quotes.

*

The weekend before last saw temperatures creep into the high thirties but it was far hotter in the house than at the height of summer, because the sun is lower and hits the two north-facing windows. Given that it appears the previous owners of the house seem never to have opened their windows, I don't know how they coped with the heat. I have ordered exterior awnings. They'll be installed within weeks. I will also put two trees in the front yard, something deciduous and with a good canopy. The local nursery has a good selection. The guy mentioned Manchurian Pear and some kind of a maple. I don't know my tree varieties but I know what I like. I might take a trip to the Botanic Gardens and check out some trees.

*

The Commonwealth Games are in full swing and it seems warnings of congestion may have actually scared people off from coming into the city. Monday was a glorious golden autumn day, so we decided at the last minute to go and see the men's 20 kilometre walk. An easy drive into town, plenty of vacant two hour meters in William Street next to the Flagstaff Gardens, a pleasant stroll down La Trobe Street for a block or two and there we were in Docklands. We sat in the shade of a palm tree right next to the course and ate lunch - mashed chicken and vegetables for William and chicken and lettuce sandwiches for us - while we watched Nathan Deakes crack eighty minutes for 20 kilometres.

*

It is reported New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark has snubbed Melbourne by knocking back an official invitation. Maybe she just doesn't like flying into Melbourne.

Most of Queensland under giant banana smoothie.

When Cyclone Larry (who names these things - haven't they caught up with modern naming trends? I'm waiting for Cyclones Jayde, Tylah and Harrison) hit Queensland yesterday it took 90% of the entire nation's bananas with it. And that's a bloody lot of bananas. I should know. We eat most of them. A lot of the sugar crop went as well in the cyclone which, at its peak, was measured at strengths of up to 70 million Kenwood blenders.

Fortunately there were few, if any, casualties. Fears however are held for towns further inland whose structures might not have been built to withstand cyclones. Meanwhile there's another cyclone, Wati (that's better!) lurking off the coast.

Queenslanders have a dry sense of humour which seems to surface at times like this.

The Innisfail Hotel lost most of its roof and three quarters of its wooden veranda. But was manager Nick Bohm fazed? No: "There are a few people in the pub having a drink and talking about it and others driving around with video cameras. We have no power but grog on ice, which is the important thing. Everyone is really happy no one is hurt and now it's time to clean up."

Indeed. Just try not to slip on the skins of 85 billion bananas.

The wedding.

The Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony featured a boy with a lost duck, an airborne tram, flying koalas, giant fish, Queen Elizabeth II and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. It was almost as theatrical as my sister's wedding. But not quite.

L. is my youngest sister. She has spent the last few years living with her boyfriend in the rolling windswept hills behind Toora near Wilson's Promontory. Having studied the original topography or whatever -ography is involved in finding out what the landscape looked like thousands of years ago, they planted four thousand of whatever trees used to be there before the original rainforest was razed for grazing. Yes, four thousand trees.

In between planting eucalypts, they converted a cow milking shed into quite a passable rural cottage, the kind of thing too often described as 'Tuscan', because it is tan rendered. You kind of expect to see doe-eyed goats emerge from behind a stone wall overhung with grapevines or eighty-year-old grandmothers struggling up a narrow gravel path with a load of greens and a couple of buckets of water.

But no. Only kangaroos nibbling on whatever it is they nibble on and wombats digging huge holes in the surrounding hills. L. adopted a wombat once. They domesticate quite well. She drove it up to Mum's in town and let it walk around the loungeroom.

So my sister's wedding was never going to be a ride in a white Roller, a walk down the aisle, photos outside Captain Cook's Cottage and dinner at Receptions R Us with dancing to Love Is All Around played by the house band.

It was fun. More later.

18.3.06

Weekend.

It's all happening here. The Commonwealth Games are in full swing and the city is gold in the autumn sunshine. Here's the marathon course. It's on Sunday morning, 8.30am.

We're away for the weekend to a country wedding - my sister's - somewhere around the upper reaches of the Yarra river.

Enjoy your weekend. Enjoy the Games.

And happy St Patrick's Day.

16.3.06

Music to cook, eat, wash up and peel potatoes by. An A-Z.

Cooking is fun. Usually. But sometimes it's not. Like when I'm peeling ten potatoes or trying to get the skin off twenty cloves of garlic or scraping an inch of char off the bottom of a burnt pot or washing up. (Did I mention we don't have a dishwasher? We don't have a microwave either. We're practically cavemen.)

But music helps. Whether you're cooking or eating, music can heighten the experience. For example, if you crank Neil Young and Crazy Horse up to maximum volume, you won't even hear your dinner boil over and burn. (Nor will next door theirs.)

In talking about music and cooking, may I preface this by saying I don't like those cookbooks that come with a CD inside the front cover with titles like Warm Food Cool Jazz. Why? I don't know. I just don't. If anyone has given me one, I apologise. It's nothing personal.

In fact, I don't even like 'cool' jazz. I like a lot of different types of jazz, but not the kind that sounds like an airhose going off underwater with notes wriggling up and down the scale like an insane snake accompanied by bangs and toots. It drives me nuts. There. I'm a philistine as well as a caveman.

Having said that, let's talk about what I do like. A good way to get a picture of what someone likes is to ask them to list an A-Z of their musical tastes, naming the first thing that comes to mind for each letter. So here's the first half of mine:

A. All India Radio: fantastic sounds, ideal for a sweltering night when you are sitting outside with a cold drink next to you and it's so hot even the crickets are too hot to chirp. All India Radio's ambient sounds creep out the window and the notes surf the humidity before falling to the ground, where they die, quietly.

B. Bach.

C. Cranberries, The. Dreams has always been one of my favourite songs. And Dolores O'Riordan's voice kills me. The Irish accent is the best in the world.

D. Diorama, Silverchair's 2002 album. They worked with Van Dyke Parks on this. They're barely kids and they write a song called Without You and it's as good, in an entirely different way, as Harry Nilsson's Without You. Check out some of the reviews.

E. Enya. You can't have too many Irish singers. Listen to Marble Halls and weep tears of joy. Or of sadness, if you listen to the lyrics.

F. Fugues. Don't ask me what a fugue is. Look up a few definitions on the 'net and see if you can work out what the hell they're talking about. I just like how they sound.

G. Gregorian Chant. In fact, most choral music. Speaking of medieval, I love the way the choir at church sings stuff composed five and six centuries ago. Palestrina, Allegri, Byrd. It puts what happened yesterday or last week in perspective. Well, it does for me.

H. Hushabye: my favourite Beach Boys song. It's just a simple lullaby but the harmonies are beautiful. Hard to find but it's in the Good Vibrations boxed set. Pillows lying on your bed/Oh my darling rest your head/Sandman will be coming soon/Singing you a slumber tune.

I. I Wish You Were Here. By Ed Kuepper, genius. Enough said. Try Ed Kuepper Sings His Greatest Hits For You on Hot Records. Once you do you'll wonder where you've been all your life. Or where Ed's been.

J. Mental blank. Someone remind me on something starting with J.

K. Kenneth McKellar singing Silent Worship from Handel's Ptolemy. Hard to find but released among others on Where'er You Walk by Polygram Classics Australia. Can't find a link.

L-Z later.

Anyone else want to have a go? I'd be interested to hear.

14.3.06

Revenge.

T. woke me at about two, maybe 2.30, in the morning.

'It's big and it's crawling across the kitchen floor,' she said, showing admirable brevity and conciseness for such an early hour. 'It has four very large feet and it's about a foot long.'

And that's all I really needed to know. I was down the hallway in seconds. I didn't want it to disappear under the fridge or wander into the laundry and hide itself in the washing or maybe eat the washing.

I swung the door to the kitchen open and it whined horribly on its hinges. They all do that at 2.30 in the morning. Maybe oil doesn't work when it's dark. It's one of those mysteries of life.

Why do things look bigger in the light of a full moon? I don't know. And why does something that looks like something that moves also appear to be moving itself? That is, when it's not something that moves but is actually an inanimate object. That doesn't make any sense at all, but it's what I was thinking at 2.30 in the morning.

At first I thought it was moving. Then I thought it wasn't. I took a closer look. Then I put the cricket bat down. I didn't need it any more.

The foot-long something with four large feet was a twig of dried bay leaves. It had four large leaves left, two at the top and two lower down. It had fallen from the hook on the kitchen wall near the stove and landed on the moonlit floor beneath the window and it looked weird and crawly and insect-like, in a ghostly kind of way.

I went back to bed. The next day I made soup and put four bay leaves in it. That's just overkill. You only ever need one.

11.3.06

18,000 kilograms of rice.

72 nations form the Commonwealth. They're all in town for the Commonwealth Games and a guy called David Payne of Delaware North (Australia) got the contract to cook for the athletes.

A story in today's paper (not online) shows what he's ordered for the fourteen days of the Games. As well as the rice, there's 5000 kilograms of pasta, one hundred kilograms of garlic, 1160 kilograms of mushrooms, 6000 loaves of bread and 60,000 lettuces. Sounds like spaghetti alfredo and caesar salad for dinner every night. Just kidding. There's also 25,000 chickens, 50,000 eggs, half a million pieces of fruit and two and one half tonnes of meat (what's a tonne?) coming in.

Up to fifty chefs will be cooking at once. Leave your egos at home, guys. Here's a sample of what's on the menu: for breakfast, kippers, Jamaican porridge and ugali (corn meal mash). Lunch could be boiled boiled coco yam, goat stew, shepherd's pie, lamb korma or okra with tomato gumbo. What's for dinner? Lamb rump with bush tomato, Moroccan couscous salad (Morocco is in the Commonwealth?), vegan agnolotti, ginger pork belly with coriander and chilli or char kway teow. The dining hall seats 2300. You'd get hungry walking up to the bar.

Payne did the Sydney Olympics so the Commonwealth Games should be a piece of cake. Or a walk in the park, whichever you prefer.

Another statistic: they're trucking in a million bottles of bottled water. Why? Melbourne's water is among the world's purest and cleanest.

9.3.06

Visitors.

9.30 on a warm, humming, late-summer morning. Sun streaming in the double doors of the beach house, facing east onto the verandah. A titree thicket beyond, in a garden which falls away sharply so that the verandah sits halfway up the trees. Birds visit. It's like a treehouse.

*

A flash of black and white dropped from somewhere above and lit on a branch above the verandah. A magpie. It let go with an ear-piercing call, kind of a musical, ringing oggle-oggle-oggle, as if it were gargling diamonds.

The magpie finished his song and then the children arrived. One hopped up the steps, because they were there; one dropped down from a branch above and one flew up from down below. These are the children that were eggs in September, when their parents would swoop on anything that moved including you and me walking down the street. Now they're sociable again, out and about, visiting, that's don't mind if we stay for a little something and have you met the children visiting.

They came into the house. One sauntered through the double doors, stepping high and rolling his hips, as if he owned the place. Another flittered behind him, nervously, then a couple more. They are still greyish. The striking black and white plumage comes later.

We had laid some cheese, small cubes, on the floor. One of the nervous ones took the nearest piece, wheeled around and hurried out without so much as a Thank You. The saunterer came further inside, took a good look around and then marched off to the left. A piece of cheese had rolled away, almost behind a chair, and he had spied it. He hauled the morsel out from behind the chair and stopped to watch the others, cheese in his beak.

One started up a plaintive, beseeching cry. The cheese is there, Magpie. Just help yourself. He kept crying and another 'pie gave him a playful peck as it walked out the door with a nice piece of cheese.

We sat watching them. William flapped his arms wildly as he does when he gets excited. He sees a dog, he waves his arms. We take him to the lake to see the ducks, swans and geese, he waves his arms.

It's amazing how they all have different personalities. (I'm back on the magpies now.) The chest-out saunterers, the timid flitterers, the greedy ones. Most were happy to pick up one piece of cheese and take it outside. But one bird, possibly possessed of more brain, picked up one piece of cheese, then another and then a third - all in the same beakful. You could see it moving the first and second pieces further into its beak as if it knew what it was doing. Well, it did know what it was doing.

Then it hopped out the door with a beak full of cheese and flew away down to the ground, dropped the pieces, picked them over and ate them.

The cheese was a lovely soft nutty Colby, one of my favourite cheddars. Lucky magpies.

7.3.06

Saag paneer.

My first attempt at this. Although the concept is dead simple - it's essentially spinach with cheese - recipes seem to vary widely in terms of spices and other ingredients (other than the spinach and the cheese, of course).

Here's how I did it:

Sautee an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic in a little peanut oil and butter. (I believe ghee is the correct medium but I had none.)

Cook up some spinach - I used two 250 gram frozen packs.

Lightly toast some spices. I used: a teaspoon each of coriander seeds and cummin seeds and some dried curry leaves ground with the mortar and pestle (which is which? I can never remember); a half teaspoon of turmeric and a half teaspoon of chilli powder. Then add these along with a little grated ginger and salt to taste to the spinach. Now also add the sauteed onions.

Tip the whole lot into a processor, give it a good swizz until roughly pureed and then place it back into the pan.

Meanwhile, or subsequently, depending on how many hands you have, fry 250 grams of paneer (I used this one) cut into half inch cubes. Some recipes ask you to deep fry but I fried it in a heavycast iron pan with just a little peanut oil. Probably wrong, but it worked for me just fine.

While the paneer is sizzling, quickly swirl a big dollop of plain yogurt through the spinach mixture which is quietly simmering very low on the back burner.

When the paneer is golden brown and slightly crisp on the outside and looking so delicious that you want to eat it right then and there, don't. Instead, drain it and place into a bowl of hot water into which you have added a teaspoonful of turmeric. Leave it for five minutes. I think the idea is that the paneer takes on an even more golden colour. Well, that's what happened to mine. Then drain it and fold it through the spinach.

Time to eat. With basmati rice or chapatis or naan or parathas. I still haven't figured out all the different Indian breads but I do know they're all delicious.

5.3.06

1.3.06

The glass casserole dish.

Having made a basic bolognese sauce (onions and garlic sauteed in a large pot, mincemeat browned; finely diced celery and carrot, tomato paste and fresh diced tomatoes added; herbs aplenty - basil, a bay leaf, whatever; topped up to the brim with water and maybe some wine if you wish and then left to simmer for hours, scraping the sides occasionally as the fluid evaporates), what to do with the excess?

Cook some rice.

Make a mixture, about two to one cooked rice to bolognese sauce, maybe throw in a little sumac, stuff capsicums or peppers (or whatever they're called in your part of the world) with rice mixture having removed seeds, put their tops back on and place them in a glass casserole dish, preferably close-fitting so that their tops stay on, place some canned diced tomatoes in plenty of juice around the peppers, top the whole shooting match with cheese sauce (that was left over as well - or use breadcrumbs and parmesan or any combination of cheeses), bake.

Peer into the oven in about half an hour and if the fluid is boiling, they should be done. I do like my glass casseroles.

*

Red peppers are expensive right now, about $10 a kilogram; green ones about $6, but I found some orange ones at $2 a kilogram. So we had the orange ones. I don't care what colour they are.