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


Behind the news.

The sun is warm but it comes later in the morning and goes earlier at night. Time moves on. The seasons pass. Children grow. The baby cut a tooth yesterday. William is a schoolboy. Thomas misses him. They were inseparable. Have I ever taken a photo of one without the other half in shot?

Thomas learned to swim this summer, had the confidence to climb the diving board at Coburg, dove off in a kind of flat fall, swam to the other side, climbed out. He wore yellow swimmers and yellow flippers and looked like a fat duck. William, not confident enough to dive, called instructions from the side. Some curious children gathered to watch this small muscly boy diving. ‘Who taught you to dive?’ they called. ‘Him,’ lied Thomas, pointing to William; and stood on the end of the board, rocking gently up and down, toes on the edge, arms outstretched, waiting. ‘Tell me when, Winnie,’ he called. The pet name remains from when he could not pronounce the name at twelve months. William paused, then shouted, ‘Now!’ Thomas fell to the water in a perfect falling dive. They repeated the charade several times.

That was a children’s summer, rolling away like a billycart wheel, oblivious to frowning adults rustling newspapers full of flood and earthquake and fire and rain; or holding them, folded, over haggard faces to ward off the savage sun. And now autumn, and St Patrick’s day already gone, and Easter approaching.

Red capsicum stuffed with fragrant rice and lentils.

In a large heavy pan with a tight fitting lid, fry two sliced onions in ghee or oil. Grind a quarter teaspoon each of cardamom, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper. When onion is done, add spices and stir, then add a cup each of basmati rice and rinsed red lentils, three and a half cups of boiling water and two teaspoons of salt. Stir. Lid the pan tightly. Turn down heat very low. Walk away. Don’t touch it for 20 minutes. Then sneak a peek, and if the rice grains have ballooned, it’s done.

Meanwhile, top three red capsicums and remove seeds and pith. When rice and lentil mixture is done, stuff the capsicums with it. (The above quantities will yield more than enough mixture.) Replace tops and place in a casserole, which should be of a size that roughly holds their tops in place. Pour some tomato puree, a little watered down to assist the cooking process, into the gaps so that it comes halfway up the capsicums. Add some chilli or curry powder to give the sauce a little heat. Cumin-based powder works well and adds to the fragrance. Bake until capsicums collapse, about an hour. Adjust fluid if your oven is particularly hot.

Serve with yogurt and sweet lime pickle, my current favourite condiment. It is bitter, sweet, tangy, potent, salty, fruity and smells like the late summer wind through a grove of ripe citrus on the mountainside of an island in … where?

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