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


The eggplant and the helicopter.

Sunday evening. Almost dark. No breeze. Warm. Embers still glowing in the grill.

The helicopter had started earlier. It made low arcs in the sky stabbing the ground with a searchlight that swung around like a drunk wielding a light saber. Its engine made a nice clean treble chop, chop, chop on the approach and a rumbling bass whirr on the ebb. Sometimes this makes the glasses rattle in the cupboard, but only when I’ve placed them too close together. When this happens, I simply move them slightly apart, and then only the house shakes and I can't do anything about that.

Something about helicopters and Sunday nights in this town. Maybe the pilots earn double rates on Sundays. Maybe the city goes nuts. I don’t know. It went away after a while.

I like Sunday nights. I like the peace and the solitude and the warm spring air and the distant sounds of traffic and the trams trundling along a Sydney Road canyoned by crumbling Victorian verandahs over darkened fabric shops and smoky kebab houses.

Sometimes I hear the trams ringing their bells madly and I imagine another passenger climbing down on to Sydney Road and almost being run down by an insane motorist gunning his car past the tram. I’ve personally almost been knocked down dozens of times. Why don’t they do something about this? They need miniature red-lit boom gates in their tails - they'd only need to be three feet in length - that come down and physically prevent cars passing: and not leave passengers' lives to a driver's good nature. Surely that’s not too hard. Trucks and buses used to have boom-arm trafficators with little silhouette cable-operated plastic hands on the end. So surely trams could be similarly fitted. I must speak to the Minister for Transport. Is there one?


Barbecued eggplant, Lebanese-style.

Take two large eggplants.

Lay them on their sides, like grounded zeppelins, and slice them into rounds almost to their bases but not quite. You don’t need to peel them.

Make a paste of four tablespoons of olive oil, six minced garlic cloves, two teaspoons each of paprika, cumin, fresh (or dried) chopped lemon thyme, a teaspoon of cayenne and half a teaspoon of chopped fresh mint. These measures are flexible. Vary them according to the size of your eggplants and your personal taste.

Brush or pour the paste on the cut surfaces of the eggplants - like putting garlic butter in a cut loaf - then wrap them each separately and tightly in two layers of foil. (Cut off the stalk ends so they don’t pierce the foil.)

Place on the grill over the coals. Lid the grill. I have an open grill and I use an old wok lid as my barbecue lid. It gives plenty of depth and works beautifully. Rotate the eggplants through ninety degrees four times – about every ten minutes of so, depending on the heat. The eggplants should collapse slightly. You’ll know when they’re done, and so will the whole neighbourhood.

Open out on a serving platter. Serve direct from the foil, or arrange slices and serve with yogurt or leben, and wedges of lemon.

And chilled beer. It was a hot night.


White Dove said...

I am related to a Lebanese family by marriage (and I mean a large family).
They are the most welcoming people and their tables are always laden with the most exotic delicious food. "What", you're not eating tonight" they say to me in mock horror as my plate empties once more!. We'll be together again at Christmas, and I will be bringing your Lebanese eggplant dish. They'll love it! Thanks for that

kitchen hand said...

Now you've put me under the pump, WD!

neil said...

You did say to personal taste, but a teaspoon of cayenne? I like hot, but can feel the tears and sweat forming already!