I got chills. And mondegreens.

 

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Hmm, I seem to have the mid-winter blahs. How are you doing? At first glance, there’s no real reason for it. I actually do like winter and the heating’s fixed and I have my puffy jacket, but the blahs have definitely descended. I was going to write a Taking Stock post from July to July and I think that’s what triggered it. I looked back to last July and went “Holy [expletive deleted]!” when I realised how many major life challenges had happened in the past year. So I decided not to write that post in case it made the blahs worse.

Instead, I thought I might write about a farting masseuse in Bali (true story) but I just couldn’t make it as funny as it actually was. Then I decided I needed to get out in the fresh air. Inspired by Edie’s blog, I decided that now is the time to conquer my irrational fear of running outside. I downloaded the couch to 5K app and I bought a belt thingy to hold my phone and keys and I was all set. But when you go to work just as the sun’s coming up and you get home just before it goes to bed and it’s minus four degrees in the morning (MINUS four, people!) you can find all sorts of excuses not to go outside.

So, before this starts sounding like the diary of Ms Deputy Downer, here’s something I remembered to cheer myself up: mondegreens. That’s what you call it when you get the lyrics of a song wrong. For example, you know that song “Gypsies, tramps and thieves” by Cher? I always do a mondegreen on that. Even though I know it can’t be the right lyrics, I always sing, “I was born as a rabbit in a travelling show.” Then I start laughing because the idea of Cher as a rabbit is pretty funny. (Real lyrics: “I was born in the wagon of a travelling show”.)

My sister and I used to love Simple Minds and we’d always sing, “Promised you a miracle, guinea pigs are beauty things.” Which they are. They’re very cute. But I don’t think that’s what Jim Kerr was singing! When I was a little girl I thought the lyrics to “You sexy thing” by Hot Chocolate were: “I’ll be needing milko”. Because they were making hot chocolate, right?! Anyway, mondegreens are a global phenomenon and here are a few that always make me snort:

  • I got shoes, they’re made of plywood (I got chills, they’re multiplying)—from Grease
  • I’ll never be your big St Bernard (beast of burden)—Rolling Stones
  • Oooh, ooh, ooh, better watch out for the string bean (skin deep…because that makes much more sense!)— The Stranglers
  • Save the whale, save the whale, save the whale (sail away)—Enya
  • Rocket man, burning all the trees I’ve ever known (burning out his fuse up here alone)—Elton John
  • Alex the seal (aww, cuter than the real lyrics: our lips are sealed)—Go-Gos

And I just learned a great new one from this website:

  • I just wanna extradite your kids (I just want your extra time and your kiss)—Prince

And with that, I’m off to make dinner. But oooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, better watch out for the string bean! What are your fave mondegreens?

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Raindrops on roses and…

 

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Are you busy? Of course you are. Everyone is. It’s a thing. Are you sooo busy that your head is spinning and you’re talking too fast and you’re running on empty and you’re just hanging on until the time when, hopefully not too far off, you can stop and catch your breath? Well, can I stop you now? Just for five minutes. Maybe not even that long.

Make yourself a cuppa or sit in a café and buy a coffee. Get a pen and a piece of paper (ooh, how old school!) or use a serviette. You’re going to make a list. It’s not a to-do list. This is a fun list. Put everything else in your head aside and write a list of things you like. Anything that pops into your head. No, it’s not a dumb idea. It’ll make you feel better. It’s a mini break for your brain. In absolutely no order at all, here’s mine:

Reflected sunsets.

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King parrots.

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A bucket of strong tea.

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Roses with a smell.

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Wide open spaces.

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Dogs. All dogs. Any dog. They crack me up.

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Wooden floors. Wooden walls. Funky architecture using wood.

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The colour green.

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Holidays to the back of beyond.

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Beetles (the bugs, not the cars, although I like those too). Large rambling gardens. Old notebooks with long forgotten jottings that surprise you. A vegie patch you can make dinner out of. Home-made food. Windows that face north. A three-day weekend (better still, a sneaky day off in the middle of the week).  Soft rain. Old sheds…

Uh-oh, time’s up! But do you feel a bit less busy? I hope so. The best part about this list is that, once you start it, you want to come back to it. And it never ends.

 

Puffy jackets, presents and pretzels

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This misty morning, quite early, I put on my puffy jacket and went to the Arboretum for a wintry walk with some friends. It wasn’t quite as wintry as the scene in the tile above, but the fog was a real pea souper (as my mum would say) and for a lot of the time we didn’t really know where we were going because we couldn’t see any landmarks. It was the first outing of the puffy jacket this winter. I do love winter, despite complaining about it sometimes, and I especially love my puffy jacket. It’s like walking around in a super-insulated yet stylish sleeping bag that repels all cold and damp. We all had the wrong shoes on, so our feet were soon soaked and freezing, but our puffy jackets kept our hearts warm.

These friends did me an enormous favour recently. They helped me make a very hard decision that improved my situation and theirs but was at the same time heartbreaking. Despite the help they’d already given me, today they gave me presents as well. I was really overwhelmed by their kindness. When I got home, the fog was starting to lift. I decided to change my plans for the day and get rid of all the “shoulds”. There was freelance work that should have been started. There was an assignment that should have been finished. There was a garden that should have been weeded. There were cupboards that should have been sorted out. There was ironing that should have been done. And on it went.

I chucked all the shoulds out of the window and opened my presents instead.

Are these not the nicest presents to receive on a foggy public holiday when you’ve got a bit too much on your plate and you decide not to tackle any of it?! The HoneyBee Wrap smells amazing and I’m very excited about using it. I was thinking only last night how good it would be to get rid of as much plastic as possible in my life. I keep hearing about how much plastic is in the oceans and the soil, and how much is ingested by animals and us. So how good it is to make a start on a plastic-reduced life by using beeswax wrapping.

The cookbook is full of really interesting and slightly challenging recipes. There’s a lot of fermenting, which I know is good for us, but I find it a scary concept. No doubt there’ll be a few failures before I get that right. For tonight’s dinner I’m going to make the rather less scary and extremely delicious sounding sweet potato latke with goats cheese cream, sautéed spinach and poached egg. And next on the list is vanilla, date and tahini salted caramels. Drool!

But before that there’s proper relaxing to do. Inside, the boots are drying by the fire. The pretzels (gluten free!) are in the bowl. The coffee’s made. There’s a book to be read. Outside, the rosellas are chiming like bells in the silver birches and the white-winged choughs are kicking up the fallen leaves and foraging for insects. I hope you’re having a good, slow day too. The shoulds can wait.

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Carbs and spices

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At the exact moment that winter arrived, my heating broke. Obviously this was happening to people all over Canberra, as every heater-fixing business was booked up for a fortnight. Luckily I had a week off and could escape to the coast, where it was 10 degrees warmer, but I came home to a minus 5 degrees Celsius morning and a house that was teeth-chatteringly cold.

While I waited for the day the heating wizard was booked to come, I decided there was nothing for it but to wrap up in a blanket and cook hot, spicy, carbolicious food. If you’re warm on the inside, you’re warm on the outside, right? And slaving over a hot stove warms you up too. Just make sure the blanky doesn’t get too close to the hotplates …

Here are my two tummy-warming faves from this week. These dishes together would serve three quite generously. They’re gluten-free. You can mess around with the quantities and spices to suit your taste. I was channelling Marilyn Monroe (Some Like It Hot) so I went for maximum spice. (Note to self: best not to take photos while curry is steaming hot.)

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Green rice with paneer

  • 1/2 cup basmati rice (or use 1 cup if you want a milder curry)
  • 200g block of paneer cheese
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 1 bunch English spinach or kale or Tuscan kale or silverbeet (I used Tuscan kale)
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tomatoes or 8 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons paprika (or 1 teaspoon if you want a milder curry)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 dessert spoons of coconut sugar (or soft brown sugar or palm sugar—whatever you have)
  • olive oil

Cut the paneer into 1cm cubes and shallow fry it in a splash of olive oil until lightly browned. Remove from the pan and set aside. Shallow fry the cashews in the same pan until lightly browned. (Keep an eye on them as they can catch and burn easily.) Remove any tough stalks from the kale or spinach and chop the leaves roughly. Chop the tomatoes into smallish chunks.

In a large saucepan heat the cumin seeds, mustard seeds and sugar in another splash of oil until the seeds start to pop. (Just a couple of minutes, if you’ve got the heat up.) Add the rest of the spices, the rice, the tomatoes and the spinach and give it all a good stir. Pour in just enough water to cover the mixture. If you’ve used a full cup of rice, you’ll need about two cups of water. Half a cup of rice needs only one cup of water. Stir it all again then put the lid on and turn the heat down to a low simmer. Leave it to cook, covered, for about 15 minutes.

Next, squeeze the lemon and add the juice to the pan. Give everything another stir. Test the rice to see if it’s still slightly chewy. (If the curry is sticking to the bottom of the pan, add a splash or two of water.) At this point, if you have an electric cooktop you can turn it off and leave the mixture to steam with the lid on for another five minutes or so until the rice is cooked through. Last but not least, stir the paneer and cashews through the cooked rice and spinach. The combination of tastes and textures in this dish is sublime. Serve with a dollop of plain yoghurt on top and with a side of garam masala spuds if you’re going for the full carb experience.

Garam masala spuds

  • five medium potatoes, scrubbed or peeled and chopped into 2cm-ish pieces
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes (1/4 teaspoon if you want it milder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • glug of olive oil

Put the potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Cook until tender. Drain then put back in the pan and shake them around to fluff the edges. This will make them crispier. In a frying pan heat the glug of oil and add the spices and potatoes. Cook over a high heat and shake the pan frequently so that everything gets coated in oil and spice. When the potatoes are crispy and well-coated, they’re ready!

By now you should be warm enough not to notice that the heater’s broken. Bon appetit!

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To the beach!

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You won’t find Woonona beach in any guidebook. It’s two kilometres of gently curving sand at the edge of a formerly working class suburb of Wollongong—which, like pretty much the whole of coastal Australia, has some beautiful beaches. In Wollongong you can walk for hours from beach to beach, along the sand or along walkways and cycle paths at the top of the beach if the tide’s in. Woonona, though, is my favourite.

In some ways it’s special because of its ordinariness. There’s something about it that reminds me of the beach in that excellent Edward Burns film No Looking Back. I love that film for its small town feel, its real-life characters and genuine emotions. It’s also got a brilliant cast: Edward Burns, Lauren Holly, Jon Bon Jovi, Blythe Danner. Their quiet desperation is played out by an always empty beach where the wind never stops blowing.

A period of quiet desperation in my life was spent walking along Woonona beach.  There’s nothing that a beach walk can’t solve. I’m a beach-in-winter kind of gal, and when I first moved to Woonona there were times when I had the whole crescent of it to myself. I remember walking on the hard sand at the water’s edge, watching the sunlight turn the waves a glassy green. There were silver backed gulls and huge pacific gulls wheeling above the breakers. Tiny hawks hovered over the vegetation in the dunes. Way out on the horizon the container ships lined up, waiting to unload at the port to the south. When the sun began to set it went down like blazing magnesium tape behind the escarpment.

The beach changed every day. I don’t know why, but that surprised me. It was as if the beach was a physical representation of what life was trying to teach me: there is always change. Sometimes the beach was strewn with dead cuttlefish, white and fleshy and rotting. Sometimes there were beautiful pebbles, worn smooth and glistening. I once found a grey pebble with a perfect circle of white quartz in it. One day the beach was full of sponges and someone put a bar of soap next to a sponge. That made me laugh out loud. When there was a king tide or a big storm the beach changed shape completely and after a while it was hard to remember what it had been like before.

I used to ask a lot of questions as I walked along Woonona beach. I was looking for answers, trying to see all the angles, hoping and wondering and praying. On one particularly memorable day I threw out a prayer that went like this: “Help. I need backup. I need a home.” The answer came, in the form of a phone message, as soon as I finished the beach walk. Like I said, there’s nothing a beach walk can’t solve.

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This week I went back to Woonona to visit a dear friend and to walk on the beach. We started at the northern end, near the saltwater pool where we’ve both done many laps in summer. This also happens to be the spot where, in 1770, Captain Cook and his crew were running low on water as they sailed up the coast in their “discovery” of Australia. They left the ship and set out in a small boat to look for water on land. But, according to Cook’s diary, there was “giant surf which beat everywhere upon the shore” and the little boat was leaking too much so they turned back.

The best part of this story was that there were four men from the local Dharawal tribe walking along the beach at the time, carrying a small canoe, and they pretended not to see Cook and co. Just imagine their conversation. They’re out on the beach, probably about to go fishing in a more secluded spot where the surf’s lower, when they see some really odd-looking creatures bobbing about in a strange type of canoe. “What is that?” “Whatever it is, I don’t like the look of it.” “What are they wearing?!” “Who goes out when the tide’s like that?!” “Just keep walking. Maybe they’ll go away.”

Dharawal is apparently also the original name of the trees that used to grow all across the region. We call them cabbage palms today because that’s what Banks called them when he first saw them, on that same trip when he and Cook tried to come ashore for water.  They do look a bit like cabbages on long sticks, but I wonder whether Banks actually named them that because he’d just had his dinner. Perhaps he’d had a meal of cabbage (to keep away the scurvy) and claret (because they were low on water) and that’s what his slightly inebriated imagination came up with.

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This picture of Cook sits on a plaque at the top of Woonona beach. I love the way that he looks resolute, so formal, while all the little photos that make up his image are of smiling, relaxed looking people.

As we walked along the beach this week my friend and I caught up on each other’s lives. We asked questions and nutted things out and looked at all the angles. The sand was cool and wet underfoot and the autumn air was surprisingly hot. At the end of the walk we rolled up our trousers and paddled in the sun-warmed water pooling by the rocks. It felt glorious, so we did it again. My friend commented on how good we were going to feel after walking and talking and paddling our feet. She was right. We did feel good. All our worries seemed smaller, left behind on Woonona beach for the tide to wash away.

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Autumn ramblings

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Canberra’s had her autumn party frock on for the past few weeks, and what a party it’s been. The region looks so pretty in its purple, red, orange and yellow glad rags. Every day I’ve watched the trees in my street becoming more beautiful. I’ve seen the first fogs of the season hanging over the Arboretum, where a whole forest of yellow sits alongside a forest of red, which sits alongside a forest of orange, which sits alongside…well, you get the picture. And talking of pictures, my plan was to drive around and take masses of autumnal photos to post here to brighten up your day. But all I’ve managed to take are a couple of shots of the view from my back garden.

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Autumn used to mean a slowing down, a time to make soup and bake, a time to be cosy inside or to stride out for a walk under a still blue sky and feel the cool but not yet cold air on your face. I don’t know what’s happened, but there doesn’t seem to have been much slowing down so far this year. Are you finding that too? I was planning to write a post last week about the value of time but I didn’t have time to write it!

I did manage a walk, though, a long, delightful ramble up a nearby hill. I’ve been meaning to walk up that hill for ages. I tried to walk up it a few months ago but couldn’t find the beginning of the path. I thought I could cut across a golf course and end up at the bottom of the hill, but all I found was a fence. There didn’t seem to be an opening. Months later, I noticed someone else walking that way and he didn’t come back, so I decided there MUST be an opening in the fence somewhere. I went and looked again and realised that I’d missed it the first time because I’d been approaching it from the wrong angle. I just didn’t see it. And if that ain’t a metaphor for life, I don’t know what is!

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So off I went, up the hill. It felt so good to huff and puff a bit, to stretch the muscles and the lungs and the imagination. It felt good to take the winding path, the long view, to look out beyond the ‘burbs to the Brindabellas stretching away into the never-never. I met some friendly cows. I looked at interesting grasses and seed pods and rocks. When I got to the top of the hill, two wedge-tailed eagles appeared out of nowhere and circled above me in the blue, blue sky. It was a magic moment.

And what struck me the most as I stood at the top and looked out was that it was only the first hill. The path kept going. There were more hills to climb, more winding paths to follow, more views to see. I didn’t keep going that day; I walked home happy and made a cup of tea. But those trails are still there, waiting to lead to the next adventure. Who knows what’s around the corner? Happy autumn ramblings to you!

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Firgun!

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Here’s an excellent word for you: firgun. No, I didn’t just swear at you! It’s a Hebrew word and we all should use it, or at least we should embrace the sentiment. It means the exact opposite of schadenfreude—something I confess I’m guilty of indulging in a bit too often. Firgun means to take pleasure in someone else’s good fortune, to be delighted when something good happens for someone else. Isn’t that lovely?

My boss came out of her office this afternoon and announced that she’d learnt a new word from this article in The Guardian. We all got quite excited (it was a slow day) and had a long discussion about how to pronounce it and what its origins were. We discovered that there’s even an International Firgun Day, on 17 July. That’s gone in the diary, in capital letters.

Then we found this: the Firgunator. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard. Not at work, anyway. You type in a name and it generates hilarious random compliments. Here’s one I just got:

You’re smarter than google and Mary Poppins combined. No matter what size your shoes are, no one can fill them.

Have a go. If you’re feeling a bit blah or you’ve had a hard day and you need a bit of ridiculous fun, go forth and firgunate! And next time someone tells you a bit of good news, don’t feel jealousy or self-pity; give them a big smile and say, “Firgun!”

P.S. As far as I know, the word has absolutely nothing to do with Chinese New Year; I just used that photo because it’s playful and happy and that’s how saying, “Firgun!” makes you feel!

Material world

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I had a great idea the other day: to make all my own clothes for the rest of the year. How fun would that be?! When I had this (cough) genius idea I happened to be in a town with a great little fabric shop, so I ran down there and oohed and aahed over the range of materials. I was rich in ideas but poor in cash, so I ended up buying only a couple of metres of a really pretty blue fabric to make a dress out of. The shop also sold sashiko fabric by the metre, not just in little kits, so I got hugely excited and bought a couple of panels of that too. Then I left the material in the back of the car for two days.

My track record in sewing is not great (you can read about the terry-towelling bikini here: Stash) but I did manage to make a wearable dress over summer. Now that I’ve calmed down—and remembered to get the material out of the car—I’ve realised that I don’t have the time or skill to make all my own clothes. I was even going to try to make underwear. I still might have a go at that, but s-l-o-w-l-y does it!

I’ve been inspired by people’s participation in the 100 Day Project, which is encouraging folk everywhere to make art every day, even if they think they’re no good at it. So many people are actually very good at it, as it turns out. I don’t want to make art at the moment; I want to make things I can use and wear. I’m weary of traipsing around the shops, looking for clothes that fit, that are the right colour and that aren’t too expensive but aren’t made in sweatshops either. To be honest, it’s a struggle. I’m tall. I have middle age spread. I like wearing natural fibres. It’s hard to find clothes in breathable fabrics and styles that enhance the good bits and hide the not so good bits.

A colleague at work is always beautifully dressed. She’s middle-aged and rounded. She wears simple dresses and skirt/top combos but she always looks good because they fit her properly and the materials are gorgeous. I asked her where she gets her clothes. She told me she goes to a well-known material and craft store chain, buys quality fabric in bulk and takes it to a dressmaker. “What a good idea,” I thought, “but why not be your own dressmaker?”

As usual, my aspirations have exceeded my abilities and the time I have available, but getting things out of cupboards and out of the car is a start. I’ve cut out a shirt with sleeves (Impressed? I am! Also scared!) and I’ve found two half-knitted socks from last winter that will be finished this winter. I’ve also decided which patterns to use. I’m making this shirt: Aster, by Colette Patterns. And this one: Sorbetto. Then I’m making a dress, a long coat and some trousers from Everyday Style, which I know I’ve raved about before, but it’s a lovely book. If I’m not curled up in a ball on the floor at the end of all that, I’ll have a go at a dressing gown.

Pictures of successes will be posted here…eventually. Failures may also be displayed to make you laugh. If you can recommend any fab patterns and materials, do let me know! If you’re not already making art or sewing or baking marvellous creations but you’d like to be, go and get started! Or at least start getting things out of the cupboard.

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Something beginning with P

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This is a post about food, not poppies, but my pictures of the cookbooks I’m about to tell you about were sooooo bad that I had to use a picture of poppies instead. Poppies grow in the region we’re going to visit in this post, so I’m only cheating a little bit. Do you know this cookbook: Persepolis: Vegetarian recipes from Peckham, Persia and beyond? Oh boy, I adore this book! I would so love to sit down and have a cuppa with its author, Sally Butcher. I suspect she’d make me laugh so hard that I’d snort tea out of my nose. It’s a collection of vegetarian recipes spanning North Africa and Central Asia, written in a chatty, funny style. It’s also hugely informative about the places the recipes come from. Did you know, for example, that meze comes from the Persian word meaning taste? No, neither did I.

For a couple of years I had an on/off (mostly off) Persian boyfriend. He’d lived in Australia for most of his life but his love for Persian food had not diminished. Before I met him I knew precisely nothing about Persian food, but hearing him talk about it made me go and research it and I became a little obsessed. I was lucky enough to stumble upon this book: Persiana, by Sabrina Ghayour. Mr On/Off had been talking about fesenjan, which is a kind of chicken, walnut and pomegranate stew. That was the first dish I cooked from the book and oh!my!goodness! it was a revelation.

If, like me, you have a bottle of pomegranate molasses in the cupboard that you bought because it sounded exciting but now you don’t know what to do with it, go and make fesenjan. I’m impatient, so I didn’t cook it for as long as Sabrina says to, but it was still mouth-wateringly marvellous. It’s piquant and silky and satisfying. Another recipe from Persiana that I’ve made over and over again is joojeh kabab: saffron and lemon chicken. It’s super easy and completely delicious. You marinate chicken in a yoghurt/lemony/saffron mix then blast it in the oven until the edges char. People wolf it down.

A further recent find in the bookshop was this: Mountain Berries and Desert Spice, by Sumayya Usmani. It’s a collection of Pakistani desserts, which, I’ve discovered, basically contain everything I like in a dessert: cardamom, rice, nuts, dried fruit, rose syrup, berries, soft cheese and that magic ingredient that makes everything in the world seem all right…condensed milk.

So far I’ve made apple halva (like stewed apple but more buttery and fragrant), ground almond and saffron ladoos (a condensed milk treat), and carrot rice pudding (so delicious for breakfast AND it contains vegetables so it must be good for you). The book is laid out according to the regions of Pakistan and the author weaves her personal story into it. It’s beautifully photographed and a pleasure to read. That pleasure increases once you start making and eating the gorgeous sweetmeats.

But back to Persepolis, which I like so much that I could eat the book. Yesterday I cooked a thankyou lunch for a friend, with all courses from Persepolis. We started with pan-fried haloumi with honey and sesame seeds. (Have you tried haloumi with honey? No? Go and make it now. Salty and sweet. So good.) Then we had Somali curry (with peanut butter, chilli and coffee—who knew?!) with tomatoey rice, which had lovely crispy bits on the bottom. We finished with ice-cream made with saffron, coconut milk, coconut sugar and cream, topped with date syrup. The coconut sugar and date syrup were my additions, because that’s what I had, and they gave it a wonderful carameliciousness.

So if you’re wondering what to cook for dinner this week, may I suggest something beginning with P?

Not baking

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People, we have a situation. My oven is broken. Actually, it’s more than a situation. It’s A MAJOR INCIDENT. I love baking. I find it relaxing. I’ve never been a science nerd, but baking is a science I can really appreciate. You mix wet and dry ingredients in carefully measured amounts, apply heat and…something wonderful emerges. Now that I’m home for good, I’ve been looking forward to doing some serious baking. It turns out that my friends have also been looking forward to it. Two weekends ago a friend said to me, “I’m so glad you’re back. I’ve missed the baking.” This weekend another friend came over for morning tea, and when I told her my oven was broken she expressed genuine angst. Then I fed her cheesecake instead and she felt better.

Cheesecake has turned out to be my rescue recipe in these days of no baking. I started a new job two weeks ago and I was under pressure to bring in a cake because I said I would when they interviewed me. The interview question was something like: “What would you do to break the ice with your colleagues?” and I said I’d bring in a cake. All three interviewers broke into smiles and started writing something down. I imagined it said, “Will bring cake. Employ immediately.”

So the pressure was on. I had in mind some kind of lemon drizzle cake to win friends and influence people. I thought perhaps I’d make a lemon cake with—gasp!—mashed potato in the mixture. I imagined something light and tangy with a satisfying sugary crunch to the icing. I bought the ingredients, came home and, uncharacteristically, turned the oven on before I started mixing things. I put my hand in to check the temperature and a cool breeze blew over it. The oven was blowing cold air. Disaster! But then, baking gods be thanked, I remembered cheesecake. I did much recipe surfing and tweaking to get exactly what I wanted. There’s a deluxe version, with lemon curd on top, or a plain (but still incredibly rich version). It contains the five most important food groups: biscuits, butter, white chocolate, cream cheese and lemon, so we will all get a calcium/protein/carb boost from eating it. Also, no-one will die of scurvy. Here’s the recipe, me hearties:

Lemon cheesecake

Base:

  • 150g biscuits/cookies (Choose whatever biscuits you like. I used gluten free choc chip cookies.)
  • 50g desiccated coconut
  • 80g melted butter

Cheesy part:

  • 100g white chocolate
  • 500g cream cheese
  • 1 can (395g) condensed milk
  • 2 lemons

Lemon curd topping (for deluxe version):

  • 60g butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 lemons

Crush biscuits in a blender until they’re fine crumbs (or put them in a sturdy plastic bag and bash them with a rolling pin if you need to get rid of some aggression). Mix them in a bowl with the coconut, then pour in the melted butter and mix to combine. Press the mixture firmly into a greased dish. I used a 21cm pyrex dish, which made kind of a cheesecake slice. You can also use a 21cm spring-form baking tin for a more traditional looking cheesecake. Put the base in the fridge while you make the cheesy bit.

Melt the white chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Try not to get any water in the bowl or the chocolate will seize. Once it’s melted, take the bowl off the pan and let it cool. You can sit it in a basin of cold water to hurry it up. In another bowl, beat the cream cheese and condensed milk. Add the juice and zest of the lemons. Mix it well so that no lumps remain. (But, really, little lumps are okay. See picture above. No-one minds.) Add the cooled white chocolate and mix it in well. Pour the mixture on top of the base and put it back in the fridge, covered. If you’re making the plain and simple version, your work is done. Leave it to set for at least four hours, unless you don’t mind slightly soft cheesecake.

For the deluxe version, make the lemon curd by whisking the eggs with the sugar, juice and zest of the lemons in a small saucepan (non-stick is best). Add the butter and heat the pan slowly, stirring all the time. Keep stirring until the mixture thickens. It takes about 10 minutes. Pour the thickened lemon curd through a sieve while it’s still warm, to get rid of any egg white lumps that may have formed. Let the lemon curd cool then spread as much as you like on top of the cheesecake. Put the cheesecake back in the fridge if you haven’t let it set yet. Otherwise, slice and eat as soon as you feel like it!