It was still hot when I went to bed. I propped the back door open, leaving the screen locked, so the night air could creep in and cool the house. The back door faces south and a nice breeze comes in and teases the lace curtains in the lounge room.
When I woke this morning, there was no nice cool night air, just the smell of burnt eucalyptus. The bushfires have flared again. That cold snap we had at Christmas put them out like a martini glass bails out the Titanic.
I unlocked the screen door and went outside. The sky was that odd shade of pale red that is really light brown with highlights of orange, burnt umber, raw sienna and yellow ochre, depending on what kind of trees have been burning overnight. Or did I read that on the shampoo pack?
I picked up the beer glasses and dinner plates we left on the outside table and took them inside to wash up. I never wash up after a late dinner. It disturbs the quiet. All that crashing and chinking. I usually just stack them in the sink and cover them with water so the food doesn't turn rock hard. Last night I just left them where they were.
The kettle boiled. I made tea. Tracy and twelve-week-old Thomas were still sleeping. William was stomping around like a baby giant. Once they start walking, they don't stop.
Here's the recipe for last night's spinach paneer, which is also called saag paneer.
You will need:
One large bunch of spinach, washed and chopped.
One tablespoonful of fenugreek leaves.
200g pack of paneer. Or make your own. Apparently it's easy.
One teaspoon turmeric.
One and a half cups just-boiled water.
A slotted spoon.
One half teaspoon black cumin seeds.
One tablespoon ground coriander.
One teaspoon chilli powder.
One teaspoon finely grated ginger.
One teaspoon salt.
One half teaspoon sugar.
One cup yogurt.
Paneer is Indian cheese made without rennet, which is why the label says 'Suitable for vegetarians'. I had wondered. It is also made without salt, doesn't melt under heat and is enhanced by what you cook it with.
Put the spinach with the water that clings to it into a pan over a low heat, together with a dash of oil and the fenugreek leaves, which are also called 'methi'.
While the spinach is sweating, chop the paneer into cubes and fry it in the ghee. You can use oil but ghee is tastier. While it is frying, stir the turmeric into the just-boiled water. Once the paneer cubes start to brown, lift them with a slotted spoon and drop them carefully into the hot turmeric water for five minutes before draining. (Keep the water.)
Into the latter pan, still warm, put the cumin seeds, coriander powder, chilli powder and finely grated ginger and stir them around, giving the pan a good shake.
When the spices are hot but not burnt, add the fenugreek-infused spinach along with the salt and the sugar and half the turmeric water. Another stir, simmer for a few minutes and then add the yogurt and finally the drained cheese.
Let it simmer for another five minutes or so before the aroma becomes far too enticing to resist.
Eat with red rice and fenugreek roti.