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melbourne: so hot… so completely cool

I think I’ve only been to Melbourne in summer once before. Today she is gray and wet and from my window on the twelfth floor I can see buildings and cranes with little twinkling lights on top. Today she is what I’m used to seeing her like. People scurry like ants on the street below. They seem huddled in on themselves.


But she turned on a fine show for me these past 48 hours. She was warm but she’s just so fucking cool. She dazzled with light and sparkling blue skies. She caressed with cold when the heat became unbearable.


Melbourne invited me in to her shows and restaurants in little graffiti laneways and fed me exquisite morsels of food that seduced my tongue and my tastebuds. She molested my mouth with microherbs and creamy avocado and nuts and seeds roasted in heaven. She exposed me to oysters and slivers of kingfish served in little cast iron cauldrons. They were like magic. You lift the lid and tendrils of trapped smoke jump out at you and tickle the inside of your brain. The dish begged to be licked.. but this is Melbourne and I don’t think they do that here in public. 



I ate and I drank. Mimosas at breakfast, gin and tonic at tea. I walked the streets and took photos. Nearly too many to count. I celebrated friendships old and new. I talked and talked and talked. And laughed. And cried. I met women I want to grow up to be like. I met others I never want to grow up to be like… I even managed to shop a little. Mostly black. 


I learned about the myriad forms of love. Safe love and precious love. Reckless love and unrequited love. Everlasting love and complete love. I learnt that I can’t be away from my little family for more than three nights without wanting to run back to them. Desperately. Longingly.

I reignited my love for art and creativity and three years on, I cannot imagine a more perfect way to celebrate my Comaversarry than by being in Melbourne by myself. I may even be getting a bit of my mojo back… and every time I worry about not going forward, I look back and realise how far I’ve come. The recovery was harder than the illness but the journey back up to the top has made it all worth it.


Melbourne you seduce me. I will be back. 


Dee x

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Aamchi Mumbai

I had to ask someone for a respectable title for this blog post. Aamchi Mumbai means my Bombay and I’m glad I asked. Because the titles I came up with were only rude or vulgar. But then, so is Bombay and I refuse to call it Mumbai.

Bombay hits you like a bullet in the head. Even the clouds look busy as we descend. Then the big tall building come into view and you see slums and shanties, butted up against exquisite palatial hotels and posh homes. I’ve practically spent every summer growing up here but it still never ceases to amaze me. 

I am here with two of my oldest, dearest and craziest chaddie buddies and they have promised me 24hrs jam packed with food, fun and plenty of shenanigans. This is PG rated so I’ll mostly gloss over the fun and shenanigans and focus on the food. We started by checking in to what can only be described as a little jewel in the sky. Floor to ceiling windows, beds from heaven, a kitchenette, hell we even had our own little living room. And boy did we live!

After being ‘instructed’ (I have very bossy friends) to clean up, we started our eat adventure at The Bombay Canteen. To get to The Bombay Canteen you have to drive through an insane part of town. It used to be an old textile mill area but the mills have shut down. From the outside you see these filthy, rundown old building but on the inside they’ve been converted to cool restaurants and bars. The staff seriously surprised me by how passionate they are about the food they serve. They have real opinions on each dish and their recommendations did not disappoint. 

We ate. A lot! I can’t even remember half of it so you’ll have to look at my pictures. And I know this a fall from grace for a carnivore at heart, but the jhowar barley salad is probably something I could live on for life. Talking about animal lovin’, I also just tasted water buffalo for the very first time and was blown away. It’s like beef, but better. Yes. That’s what’s I’m going to call it from now on… Beef. But better. Once we stuffed our faces we had no choice but to go back to our hotel and be lounge lizards for the rest of the afternoon.

I am seriously digging Bombay this time, something I never ever thought I’d say. It’s dirty and smoggy and edgy and gritty and weird and humid and hot and slightly cool because you can dress right up or dress right down and you’ll always fit in. It’s non judgey in a random sort of way so we got dressed right middle and stepped out some hours later in the most horrendous rain I’ve ever seen to have dinner at Cafe Zoe.

After dinner we made ‘friends’ with a cab driver who ripped us off. So we killed him with kindness and confusion in this torrential downpour and got him to take us on to Asilo… which they claimed was the hottest thing since sliced bread. But even bread gets mouldy in the rain and so let’s just say the rest of the night was a wash out. Or atleast that’s what I’m telling you!

Thank god our girls trip was only 24 hours long. I don’t think I could handle much more. We finished up at Farzi Cafe which experiments with molecular gastronomy and even serves bite size pieces of blast frozen yoghurt drizzled with fart juice (Hajmola. You have to taste it to believe it. It’s truly epic. I promise). 


Ah Bombay. With your lady boys and plastic toys. You are filthy and fast, your buildings are crumbling but your heart is intact. Mine, not so much! Dee x


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one big cock, manta ray boots & a cup of canberra

I’m cooking lamb shanks tonight. The house is empty. Eeeeemp. Teee. My children are cycling at the local park with their daddy. My outlaws are off on a jaunt somewhere in the city. And me, me, I’m just happy to be cooking in my own kitchen again. Little things, like knowing where the tongs are, where the roasted cumin powder lives. 

We’ve just come home after 5 nights in Canberrrrrrrrrrra. It was epic fun. It was also quite cold. I think I froze my testicles off (yes I used to be a man). Kidding. What I’m not kidding about is how much it’s changed in the past 14 years. The city is still all circular. It’s still bloody cold. And it’s still got the Parliament House, War Memorial and the Australian Institute of Sport. 


But the food, oh my god, I don’t think we had one bad meal. Smoque, where we demolished a platter for six in 25 minutes. Sammy’s Kitchen, butter chicken icecream at Frugii, a cup of heaven at Koko Black and a life altering conversation about yoga at Wood & Coal. Where Gonzalo is cool and owns 16 pairs of custom made cowboy boots (one made of manta ray skin cross my heart) and 300 other pairs. And a tea date with my son. And Bitter Sweet and Little Brooklyn. We ate till we popped at the seams…

Manta ray boots

Koko Black

Late last night I finally questioned if I might be pregnant. Exhaustion. Hunger of humongozoid proportions. Nausea. Till my husband pointed out that if every woman who experienced these systems was actually pregnant, the world would stand at 20 billion right now. It’s safe to say everything I felt was a combination of sheer exhilaration, tiredness and overeating.

Exhilaration at watching our kids compete at the Kanga Cup. Exhilaration at watching our teams win. The cheering, the quiet pride, the joy when their little faces light up. 


And then what goes up must come down. Like a floaty red balloon that’s run out of gas. The tiredness. The tiredness at the end of the day. The nerves, the hunger. And the tiredness that comes with sadness… Sadness at watching your team lose at the semis, but like any good meal we tempered the bitter with the sweet. The immeasurable pride in watching our kids play as a team-united in victory, defeat and mud-made it all worth it. 

There is no point to this blog post. There usually never is. Holidays fill us with memories and good photo opportunities, but nothing can compare to that feeling of walking back through your own front door. 

Happy holidays, and don’t forget, two is sometimes better than one. Dee x


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tkd & pork crackling

I have a feeling this might be quite a convoluted story. In fact I think my husband might say it’s one of those Kumars at 42 kind of tales. 

In fact I know he will but bear with me.

I have a friend and for the purpose of this exercise let’s call him Ox Man. Ox Man is big. I mean reallly big. I barely reach his belly button. And he’s tall and he’s strong and he cooks like a beast. I mean in a good way. The best possible way. If you eat the roast pork he makes you will declare your undying love to him and his family. And if you, by chance, happen to taste the pork crackling he makes you will sell your wife and children to have a piece of it again. 

  
But this weekend just past we went to their lovely home for an Easter Egg Hunt and brunch. One of my children, I won’t say who, I’ll just say it was the birthday boy, had a conversation in the car that went something like ‘…Mum will Ox Man make crackling today? No son, it’s only 10.30am. But mum, why not? It’s the best…’. Wait why am I telling you this? Stop making me lose my train of thought!

  
  
Anyway so we stuffed our faces with bacon and eggs and birthday cake and chocolate and flopped like fat buffaloes all over the backyard. An hour later when I felt I could finally move again I decided to show off some of my new moves. No, not ‘those’ moves you filthy animal! My taekwondo moves. I’ve learnt holds and throws and jab crosses and insteps kicks and even something that looks like a proper donkey kick. (I’ve been training for about six weeks now and I’m so broken it’s taken this long for my fingers to even work again). 

   No, I’ll probably never be this good!

 
I asked Ox Man to grab one of my wrists, any hand, any wrist, come on Ox don’t be a wimp. So he did. I assure you he wasn’t even using 1% of his full strength. And before I could even do my cool defense move, sorry, my highest defense, he fell to the floor begging for mercy. Now I am strong, I really am, and I was pretty insulted. Dude come on, seriously, grip my wrist properly… And. He. Did. 

And I could not move a muscle. No. Not an inch. Not a centimeter. Not a millimeter. Not an atom’s width. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. I could not release his grip. And he wasn’t even trying…

On the way home it hit me. HARD. Here is a man I’ve know most of my adult life. He is one of the gentlest, kindest men I know. We were in a safe environment surrounded by our husbands and wives and children and there was no real danger. But what if it was not a fake, pretend, I’m so cool show me what you got, situation? What if it was in a dark alley and a man was really out to get me? What would I do? How would I escape…?

It became abundantly clear. A man really is stronger than a woman. I’m all for women’s equality and all that but there are some things you have to accept. A man really is physically stronger than a woman

  
So my question to you is this… How would you explain physical limitations to your daughters? How would you teach your sons to be be kind and gentle, irrespective of their size?

What would you do to ensure your own safety? Would you take a self defense class? I am. And I know in a REAL situation my first reaction would be to get the hell out of there. But if I was wrist locked or arm locked or neck locked, I hope I’d be able to give him something to remember me by. (Preferably private parts that ached for a year or ten, a split lip, permanent scratch marks on his face and the desire to run to the other end of the earth the next time he saw me). 

It’s been on my mind. I’ve learnt a big lesson in humility and strength and in my own limitations. But one thing I haven’t learnt is how to replicate that damn crackling. Ox? Oh Ox Man, where are you?? Come on mate stop hiding, I swear I’ll go easy on you this time!

  
Dee x 


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what rhymes with ‘DELHI’

It’s hard when you live away from home for so many years. You come back and see things with such different eyes…

 

Women clutch their handbags so SO close. Men walk arm in arm and don’t think twice about sharing icecream from a single cup. They also have glorious moustaches. Children go to bed at the most ridiculous times.

  
  
My Madras smells like coconut oil and jasmine flowers. And did you know only 1 in about every 10 people wrap you in their arms and give you a jolly good great big hug. With damp patches under their arms. It cannot be helped. We are all going to drown in our collective sweat here.

And there is a lot of noise. Always. Loud talking. Loud horns. Loud calls to prayer. Loud street music. 

   
   

Would I change all this? Not. For. The. World. Because this is where I grew up, it’s all I knew for the first 20 years of my life. It’s where I feel at HOME. And the food. Please don’t make me cry thinking about the food.

We started our holiday with Mahiar’s Biryani. It is a long standing tradition at home that that’s what we eat for our first meal. He loads it up with pieces of succulent mutton and bones filled with marrow that can be sluuuked out in one gusty shot! Then you have to sleep it off for an hour or three and wake up and have some chai. We actually had this two days in a row just because we could.

The next few days went by in a blur. Sweet and spicy daal, masala fried fish, mums oogly boogly amazing cauliflower bacon bake, garlic bread, mutton ras… the list goes on and on. 

As if that were not enough. Greed then got the better of me and I longed to eat chicken malai tikka and daal roti at my favourite restaurant. So off I went with a couple of crazy girlfriends and we ate till we popped at the seams. One of them even taught me what I should do in the event I want to rob a bank. 

  (Chicken malai kebab. My undoing)

  (Disguise. In case you need to rob a bank). 

And this then, my dear friends, was my complete and utter undoing. When you’ve lived overseas for so long you tend to have very sanitized insides. You forget how quickly – and why – Delhi rhymes with Belly. Man oh man. Suffice to say for the rest of the week I lived on jam and toast, lots of lime juice, an occasional chappati and when I was really feeling fantastic, curd and hot white steamed rice. Uurgh. 

But like any brave soldier, soldier on I did. I’ve loaded up on the homeopathy, the ayurveda, the home remedies and even some positive thinking. I think I’m ready to go out again and conquer the food world.

Between yesterday and today I’ve eaten possibly the world’s best Indian Chinese. Twice! I’ve had ginger chicken and dragon chicken and this mind blowingly delicious lollipop chicken. (Yes. There’s plenty of chicken). I’ve eaten an ice-cream sundae at Haagen-Dazs and paan icecream and a DIY butterscotch and nut bar at Ibaco. 

   
   

Next I want to tackle the old haunts. Ajnabi. Oh Ajnabi, how I long to step into the slightly dirty, oily confines of your chaat shop. Saravana Bhavan of old, I need to compare you with the dosas your sister store makes in Sydney. Cakes n’ Bakes, do you still make that sickeningly sweet, disgustingly delicious Japoise Pastry? Ponnuswamys, Samco, how about some Chicken 65 and Egg Masala?

Be still my beating heart. We still have two weeks to go. Dee x

  
  


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lettuce turnip the beet

This is how little vegetables tickle my fancy. I had to google ‘funny vegetable quotes‘ to even come up with the title of this post. A friend of mine once said my blog was a vegetarian’s worst nightmare. That same friend said it was a carnivore’s orgasm! I’m secretly pleased, (that’s my pleased face below) but you didn’t hear it from me.
  
Now don’t get me wrong. I LUUURVE veges. I just have no idea how to cook them. I mean I can roast veges as well as the next person and they’re pretty damn tasty (but that’s because the roast drippings cover them in oogle boogle deliciousness.)

So to make up for turning the gentle stomachs of vegetarian’s around the world with my (beautiful oom nom nom nom) pulled pork recipe, I promised myself I’d attempt something sans meat. Today we had lunch at a friend’s house and she asked that I bring the coleslaw. ‘Coleslaw’. Yes. Coleslaw. You mean vegetarian? Like you mean you don’t want me to chop bacon in to it? Yes. Yip. Yup. Oui. Cole.Slaw. And what better chance to prove I can vegetarianify food or something or whatever the term is, than today?

After a bit of half-arsed research I concluded that coleslaw wasn’t rocket science but the traditional recipes just. sounded. so. bland. I decided to just wing it, imagining a Vietnamese pork roll while shopping. I came home armed with some cabbage. Green and red. Some chili. Some mint and coriander and carrots. 

From then on it was one big chop fest and I just mixed all these gorgeous ribbony bits of veges into a bowl. For the dressing I used salt and pepper, a good blob of crushed garlic paste and sesame oil. It still tasted too rich..too mayo-eggy-yuck. So in went half a cup of Greek Yoghurt. Boy did that do the trick. Oh, that and a sprinkle of my new favourite Saltbird Citrus Salt. It goes in everything!

  
Try this coleslaw. It’s great! It really IS a vegetarian delight. Especially inside a lovely warm soft roll with some freshly shredded pulled pork or even some supermarket hot roast chook. What? Chicken’s not a vegetable??!!

Lettuce turnip the beet. Dee x


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why would you go to an irish woman’s house?

To eat curry of course!! And what a mighty fine rogan josh it was. Made lovelier because I didn’t have to cook it. (Not that I’ve ever cooked a curry from scratch but still!!). 

So allow me to introduce Lisa. This lovely dear friend who cooks with passion and loves with heart. And has her own amazing blog where she Junk’d the Junk and had inspired many a yummy meal at our house. 

 

And she even wrote a guest blog post for me. She gives me a lot more credit than I’m due, but thank you gorgeous girl. One day I will hit you up for that rogan josh recipe but in the meanwhile I’ll just pop over next time you make some! So without any further ado here’s Lisa…

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If you are meant to be shot – you won’t drown!

Let me explain. I’ve a new old friend. I’ve known this woman for a few years and I feel like we had been on the cusp of a friendship for some time. Recently though it’s changed from an acquaintance into something more. 


Why the title of this this post? Well its simple, this new old friendship nearly never happened. My new friend became seriously unwell and was in a coma for some time last year. However being the tough nut fighter that she is, she did the virtually impossible and survived. I’m very glad that she did!


Lovely Dee who is beautiful inside and out. The most generous girl you could meet– if you say something like “what a lovely bracelet” it’s off her wrist and on yours in a flash. I’m very proud to call you my friend. 


Anyway enough smushy stuff already, onwards and upwards and all that. 

We went to an Italian / Lebanese charity cookery class, demonstration and feast a few weeks ago. It was so great. The demonstrators Marta and Tina were funny and engaging.


Their food was amazing. There was Panzanella, Gnocchi Potato and Bean Soup, Hommus, Baba Ghannouj, Parmigiana, Chicken Taouk, Roast Potatoes & Rosemary, Tabbouli, Tiramisu and Baklava. I rolled home.


The atmosphere was chilled and comfortable, the company was excellent and it was for a great cause, fundraising to support the School of St Jude in Tanzania that provides free education to children, who are not able to access private schools. You can find out more about it here www.schoolofstjude.org  


The stand out dish of the evening for me was Tina’s Baba Ghannouj. Look I know I know – Aubergine aka Eggplant is not something I ever got enthusiastic about. That was before. Tina she has changed my view on these shiny purple veggies – no longer are they the slimy oily things I dislike. They have been transformed into one of my very favourite ingredients. I’ve made this dip four times since the cookery class and Hubby#1, Children#1, 2 & 3 and myself are all elbowing each other out of the way to get to the bowl. 

So here it is Tina’s amazing Baba Ghannouj. 


Ingredients

2 Aubergines

2-3 big tablespoons tahini 

1-2 cloves garlic

Juice of 1 large lemon

1-2 tsp salt

1 tablespoon olive oil & some to garnish

Pomegranate seeds – or chopped flat leaf parsley to garnish

  


Heat your oven to the highest temp. I rub a little olive oil all over the skin of the Aubergines. Put the onto a grill tray and put into the hot oven for about 10 minutes – turn over and put back for another 10 mins. The time really depends on your oven. You want to blacken the skin and cook the flesh inside. Then peel the skin off and set aside to cool and drain for about 15 mins. 


Meanwhile crush your garlic cloves and juice the lemon. When the aubergines have cooled drain off any excess liquid. Put all of the ingredients into a food processor and whiz until smooth. You can do this by hand either just mash up with a fork and use some “elbow grease”. You can add more tahini, lemon, garlic to your taste. We like it with a good bit of tahini in my house.


Now to make it look pretty to serve, scoop in into a bowl, make a well in the centre and drizzle the olive oil over the top and scatter over the pomegranate seeds or chopped parsley. It’s so yum. Serve with flat breads, vegetable stick or crackers. I also like to put great big spoons onto a salad as a dressing. Enjoy. Thanks Tina for the introduction to Baba Ghannouj.


Here we all are enjoying the feast after the Italian-Lebanese Cookery Class. Notice how all the plates are empty – everything was gobbled up. Just shows how yummy it was!