Japanese-Style Mushroom Broth

“There is not city
But the city within.

No door, but the door
To simple wisdom.

We walk, dumb
As newborns.

Into the tremendous and endless
Blessing.”

– from ‘The Hinge’ by Cynthia Cruz

Last night was sweltering, the heat of the day barely letting up. And despite their exhaustion, the kids weren’t interested in sleeping. Too hot perhaps, too sticky. After kissing them goodnight, we could hear giggles and hushed voices from their bedroom. W had climbed into T’s bed and they were laughing, telling each other stories, grabbing toys and reading. Even through my frustration at their refusal to go to damn sleep, I was warmed by their closeness, aware that those stolen moments away from a parent’s prying eyes are the excitement of childhood.

Continue reading Japanese-Style Mushroom Broth

Eggplant Panzanella

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If you’re not interested in a quick side of politics with your panzanella, scroll down now. If you are, though, let’s take just the briefest of moments to celebrate the solidarity, where around the world millions of women stood up against racism and hate-mongering, stood up for the rights of the marginalised. Critique and reservations notwithstanding, it warms the cockles. Some amazing pics of the marches here, and some good reading here and here and here.

#NastyWomenEverywhere #WomenMarch  Continue reading Eggplant Panzanella

Orecchiette with Ricotta, Eggplant & Black Olives

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“Things have a life of their own,” the gypsy proclaimed with a harsh accent. “It’s simply a matter of waking up their souls.”

– from One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Over a decade ago now I spent some months in Colombia. I travelled from Ecuador up through the green coffee-clad mountains to the coast, searching for warmer waters and the landscape of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. After a spell in Cartagena – a bright, vibrant city – I caught a boat with a Frenchman to a small, impossibly glorious, island in the Caribbean waters. There was nothing on this island but a dirt road, a tiny town, and a hut with a thatched roof and no walls where we could sling our hammocks and fall asleep watching the stars reflecting off the ocean. I would have scrambled eggs for breakfast every morning, and the freshest fish for a late lunch. I spent my days reading and reading, and exploring the beaches and rocky shores. It was a bizarre and beautiful time in my life.  Continue reading Orecchiette with Ricotta, Eggplant & Black Olives

Shakshuka with Schug + Herby Zucchini Salad

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Not that long ago, a special occasion called for booze and parties, wild costumes and late nights/early mornings. In these present days of small children and being all grown up, special occasions are mostly food-based. Afternoon barbecues, civilised early dinners, pancake breakfasts, brunch. Which is alright by me, truth be told. I like going to sleep early, and I like to cook. And I love to eat.

And so for Mother’s Day this year, I put on a brunch. First time cooking for guests in our new house. I’m not really one for the hallmark-card holidays. S and I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day and since having kids we haven’t really paid much attention to the parents days either. But we’re back in our home town now where the various members of our extended family live, and so this year we celebrated Mother’s Day with my mum and her partner, my little brother, and my older brother, his wife, and their daughter. Continue reading Shakshuka with Schug + Herby Zucchini Salad

Sabich

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Last month I loaded the kids onto the train and headed a couple of hours south for a long weekend in Byron Bay with various members of my family. It was still blistering hot, so we spent three days lazing on the sand, taking walks, cooling off in the ocean, drinking coffee, swimming in the pool, cuddling sick children, and enjoying the cool evening breezes that would come through as we headed out to grab dinner, the sun a low golden orb in the sky.

Byron Bay is the hippie capital of Australia. Clinging to one of Australia’s most picturesque coasts, the combination of a temperate climate and golden sand beaches is irresistible. That said, these days Byron is a bit of tourist mecca and can get both crowded and expensive. Generally, we prefer the hinterland, where the cool dark subtropical rain forest climbs along hills hiding cascading waterfalls and quaint little towns with barefoot pubs. In fact this recent trip to Byron was my first one in almost a decade. Continue reading Sabich

Grilled Eggplant with Ginger Dressing

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“The smell of manure, of sun on foliage, of evaporating water, rose to my head; two steps further, and I could look down into the vegetable garden enclosed within its tall pale of reeds – rich chocolate earth studded emerald green, frothed with the white of cauliflowers, jeweled with the purple globes of eggplant and the scarlet wealth of tomatoes.”
– Doris Lessing

I’ve been dreaming in eggplants these past few weeks. I never knew how much I loved this most delicate of nightshades until this year. Every weekend since they came into season we’ve come home from the markets with our bags overflowing with the deep royal purple of eggplants. I tend to favour the long slim Japanese eggplants with their slightly sweeter taste and thinner skin. I’ve made this salad more than a few times lately, and last weekend S made a deliciously smoky baba ganouj that he served with lashings of tahini, a drizzle of sticky-sweet pomegranate molasses, salty fried haloumi, and roughly torn fresh mint. Continue reading Grilled Eggplant with Ginger Dressing

Eggplant Orzo Salad

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It was bigger than an emu’s dark brown egg
But smooth and glossy. Its outside was curiously hard
If you picked it up. Like a turtle egg it bowed
With a sort of elasticity to the touch. I dug
A fingernail in. Beneath the purple surface.
The taste, we knew, would be strange, perhaps poisonous.

– From ‘Eggplant’ by Thomas W. Shapcott, in The City of Empty Rooms

I’ve had a rocky relationship with eggplant (aubergine) over the years. It was one of the few foods I went off during my pregnancies. It can be difficult to cook well, and after a few kitchen disasters I avoided cooking it myself at all, for many years. So often the vegetarian stand-in for meat at pubs and restaurants, I could stand never to see a soggy slice of eggplant laden down with tomato sauce and cheese again. Continue reading Eggplant Orzo Salad