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



In a large bowl, I tumbled quartered peeled potatoes and chunks of pumpkin in olive oil, salt and pepper, set them in a baking tin along with a whole head of unpeeled garlic and some rosemary and placed the tin in the oven.

It had been a cooler day. My brother - the vague one from Alice Springs - was coming to visit. He would arrive some time in the afternoon or early evening. He couldn't be specific. Things change. He might see something interesting on the trip from the city to the Peninsula and be diverted. A lot can happen in ninety minutes.

The rosemary was starting to get fragrant and I was chopping some more garlic. The radio on the shelf was broadcasting the cricket. I used to listen to the cricket just to hear the voice of Alan McGillivray. Now I listen to it to find out who is winning, if anyone. A five-day game that ends in a draw is a marvellously Victorian thing, like a steam omnibus. Cricket should be heritage listed.

Half an hour later. I made slits in two pieces of lamb loin, pressed in halved garlic cloves, rubbed the meat all over with olive oil and pepper and wrapped the pieces in foil, placing a sprig of rosemary in each. Then into the oven, amongst the vegetables in the pan.

A noise from the radio, louder than the usual hum. The ball had clearly hit Andrew Symonds' bat but the umpire had missed or ignored it. Dreadlocked Symonds failed to walk and stayed at the crease. Cricket is a gentlemen's game, but in these cliched 'inclusive' days, even those who are not gentlemen can play. In stark contrast was the Indian captain's gracious handshake for Symonds when the latter reached a hollow century. Unless the handshake was ironic, which I doubt.

Another half hour. Early evening now. I chopped two fat white zucchini into thick rounds and gave them the same oil, salt and pepper treatment and scattered them in the pan where the other vegetables were coming along nicely. Zucchini doesn't need long.

The boys had exhausted themselves on the beach - Thomas is now fully ambulant - and were asleep. The trees were golden outside the big picture window to the west. Tracy sat on the green velvet sofa, thought for a minute and said, 'No wonder he missed the plane from Alice Springs.'

'No wonder,' I replied. I grew up with him. Do we eat or do we wait? He doesn't carry a phone or I would have called him; but you kind of expect people to call you if they're running late, not the reverse. Unless you're running a restaurant, of course: 'Hi. You're fifteen minutes late. We'll keep your table another ten.' No. That wouldn't work for family. Give and take. Be nice to each other.

We waited. We are in the habit of eating late anyway. I like breakfast and lunch on time but I can eat dinner at midnight.

We waited until eight-thirty. The roast was good, tender and still pink in the middle. There was gravy and, just for a change, mint jelly instead of mint sauce. We took cloves from the whole roasted head and squeezed them, like a toothpaste tube, so that the softened garlic spat out one end, onto bread. This is delicious. You must try it. The garlic loses its bite, but the baking accentuates its earthy flavour. Even better, take the garlic-coated bread and mop up the gravy.

We ate at the table watching the gold on the trees deepen. In the branches, birds flittered and squawked and were gone. Far-off traffic groaned and there was the occasional distant crash of surf. It grew dark. He didn't arrive.


Cindy said...

I've not perfected the roasting of pumpkin. Too firm or too mushy, occasionally burnt but never caramelised. Any tips?

Yep, roasted garlic is incredible and unlike garlic in any other form.

kitchen hand said...

Trial and error, I'm afraid, Cindy. The oil seems to help for some reason.