I wish I could say that my cooking has been inspired of late, but no, it has not.
Cherry tomatoes from the garden are happy-making, though. The yellows in particular have a crisp, just-picked sweetness that make you wish they were there, a short stroll to the back fence, year round. Each morning I'm picking handfuls of juicy tomato goodness.
It's been brain-numbingly hot some nights and weirdly, disturbingly, cool others. The bay tree has, would you believe, sunburn - do not think for even a nanosecond that your Mediterranean plants will not need loads of water and careful shading which, being Mediterranean, you may imagine they can do without. The lemon thyme even keeled over, gasping for relief yesterday. How did I manage to neglect it? I'd make a terrible parent.
But the okra is thriving in these hot days. I kept trying to take a photo, but nothing does her red-veined foliage and deep crimson stalks justice. I'm hoping the colour film I've just loaded will.
Kitchen. Hmm. Not much going on in there of interest, though the washing up looked good one afternoon. Bless that little sink. The way the light hits it makes me rather happy most days.
Come to think of it, there have been some successes; in the shape of stuffed nightshades, mostly. The Stuffed Brinjal from Roden's Book of Jewish Food is good, but will be better with adjustment (the all-pervading coconutty richness was overwhelming) and, as she suggests, by using smaller eggplants. Red peppers stuffed with brown rice, chickpeas, caramelised onions (four big ones, to be sure) fat, juicy raisins and luscious snippets of unsulphured apricots from Turkey. Oh, boy. Topped with - oh how could I have forgotten to share this gem of gems? - smoked almond dukkah. I swore, loudly, so good were those smoky nuts. Roden once said that she 'discovered' * (I shall paraphrase here; the memory is a distant one) dukkah, a spicy Middle Eastern dry 'dip' of nuts and seeds, in Australia, served next to small dishes of locally grown olive oil with flatbreads, for double-dipping, at cellar doors nation-wide. Being, as it is, Australia Day, I can think of no better way to illustrate our multi-cultural embrace.
Dukkah may be Middle Eastern in origin, but if there's one thing we Australians do rather well, it is to dispense with tradition and adopt things - unconditionally - as our own.
Smoked Almond Dukkah
Adapted from Paul Gayler, this is incredibly simple, but you will need a mortar and pestle. Many dukkah recipes make HUGE quantities which, inevitably, being so over the top, go stale. Small batches, made often, will actually get used. Divine with eggs - imagine little quail eggs, peeled and dipped in this? Goodness. Now there's a thought...
Take a palmful of smoked almonds, another of sesame seeds, yet another of coriander seeds and no more than half a teaspoon of cumin seeds. Toast them all in a dry frying pan over a high heat for one minute, moving constantly, until they smell irresistible. Cool a little before crushing, none too finely, with some chunky sea salt. That's it. All done. A teeny tiny amount of smoked paprika is a bloody good addition especially if you've fried eggs in mind. Which, come to think of it, I've not thought of often enough this year.
Happy Straya Day.