Thursday, September 27, 2007

Saying Sorry

Brainhell wrote this on Sunday:

yesterday during the movie, at 630 pm, the cough urge grew strong, so i went chin down over a towel. it was a drool fest but no suctioning.

in 8th grade 'tony' drew for me caricatures of holmes and watson that his brother had developed. i scorned his version and drew my own, more cartoonish. the teacher noticed mine and praised my creativity. i lapped up the praise and never mentioned the concept source. the teacher even had a silkscreen made of it. 'tony,' who became a professional artist, never mentioned it either. this is my apology. i'm sorry, 'tony.'

And it got me thinking, as most of his posts do. There's this notion that when we're dying, or when we're just seeking to make peace with ourselves or sense of our lives, we try to make amends. I know that saying sorry to those you've wronged is one of the twelve steps of AA. We apologise to people we've hurt and it helps us to move on, to start afresh. But, I wonder, what about those who've wronged us?

The comment I left for Brainy was about my friend Mina in grade four. Well. She has been "mean Mina" to me for many years now. My daughter, when she was quite little, loved the story about me and mean Mina having our final falling out. Mean Mina was little, even punier than me. But wiry and strong with her sharp knuckle-punches and chinese burns. She had two offsiders, huge already-bosomy "sisters" who were actually auntie and niece... one of them later became my friend so lets not name them here. They were all after me, stomp, stomp, stomp, I ran to the monkey bars, I shimmied up to the highest point, I spent the next hour prising their grasping fingers off me. Phew, it was a close call.

I digress. Mean Mina, you owe me an apology for stealing my idea for the school motto in grade four. "Helen St keeps things moving". And my picture of the swimming fish. Even more so, you owe me an apology because my idea won the competition and you got a free T-shirt.

can we decide to seek people out and demand apologies from them, or is that just really immature & ridiculous?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Lebanese Feast - kib'be a'raahib

Here's the Lebanese feast I made on Saturday night. It was pretty spectacular and really full of flavour, especially the lemon soup and the mackdouse (this is the stuffed pickled eggplant you buy in a jar). As we were eating Ruby asked me how I liked it and I said "I love it, I just wish someone else had cooked it." So we'll have it again, definitely, but Richard will take it from here... Recipes & pictures below.

By the way, it's vegan.

Lebanese Lenten kib'be (kib'be a'raahib -monk's kibbe)
This is enough to feed 8 people so adjust as necessary

2x small-med brown onions, fine diced
1-2 small red chillies sliced
1 tsp Lebanese 7 spice (baharat)
1 cup finely diced pecans or walnuts
Olive oil, salt to taste
Golden sultanas optional

Sauté onions in generous quantity of olive oil until just starting to caramelize, then add chilli and spice, then pecans, fry another 2-3 minutes on med-low flame, set aside to cool.

Potato dough (for ‘crust’)
2x Med small onions
Generous handful fresh basil leaves
1/4 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp cumin
7-8 Med-small potatoes boiled, drained and cooled
4-5 cups pre-soaked and washed burghul, (brown and fine - asmar ou nayaim)
Salt to taste

Process basil and onions in food processor until v. fine dice, not watery - smooth paste, but lumpy puree!!
No large pieces allowed!!
In mixer with batter attachment, mix potatoes, burghul, spices and onion mix together to make stiff dough. If too sticky, add more burghul.

Prepare large baking pan with light ‘oiling’. Divide ‘dough’ in 1/2. Fill small bowl with water and a pinch of salt. Wet hands with this water, and flatten handfuls of dough into large pancake discs across palm, and lay,( pat) into dish. Join these up one by one like putting together patchwork quilt, until they cover the bottom of the pan about 1/2” thick. Smooth seams with damp hand. Spread with filling, then use same procedure of patching together the top ‘crust’. Smooth seams, and gently score the surface with diamond pattern, to make easier to cut. Drizzle sparingly with olive oil.

Bake in mod-hot oven until golden brown.

Serve it with lemon lentil soup, green salad, pickled eggplant (mackdouse) and radish relish.

Lemon soup

Boil one generous cup of washed lentils till tender - skim water often, add 2 med diced potatoes, boil till tender, then top off with water and lemon juice to taste. (several lemons!, or supplement with citric acid- milleh leymun)
In mortar and pestle grind 2 garlic cloves and large tablespoon fresh chopped coriander, sauté in 2 tblspns olive oil, when almost golden tip on to soup, and add 2 bunches rough sliced spinach or equivalent silverbeet, stir and simmer till wilted.
Add salt to taste and serve.

Radish relish

2 bunches radish, well cleaned
Lemon juice

Fine dice radish in small food processor bowl. Do not Puree.
Transfer to serving bowl. Pour over juice of 1 – 2 lemons, salt to taste.
Add small tablespoon to top of each kibbe slice on serving platter or on individual plates

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Boarding House Masquerade Ball

Last night I went to the Marrickville Boarding House Masquerade Ball at the Petersham Bowling Club. I got there too late to hear the Sydney Street Choir but I'm looking forward to doing that another time. It was a really great party with excellent dancing and singing along to "YMCA", "Mamma Mia" and "Red Red Wine". Lots of the people were wearing masks, hats and other pieces of finery they'd made themselves at the "Get Frocked Up" workshops run by Marrickville Council. It seemed that everyone wanted to have their photo taken so I spent the evening clicking away happily.

Click on the photos to see bigger versions. My favourites: the woman with the pink faux fur coat (left, third row from the top), and the elegantly aloof man with the amazing blue eyes (left, second row from the top) because they look like a couple of movie stars.

If you're in one of these photos and you would like a free print copy, just email me your name and address and the number of the photo at

Friday, September 14, 2007

Pickles and Pikelets

When I was in Tokyo in July I stayed with my very smart and artistic cousin. Our fathers are brothers, from a quiet family that's a bit Jewish, a bit German, a bit English, and above all, very very proper. My cousin went for something completely different - she married into a huge, noisy, expressive and emotional Lebanese family, and she's never looked back. It was really wonderful being with her in Tokyo, where she'd lived for just a few months. But she had a grasp on the language after some intensive lessons, so we managed to find our way around without too much embarrassment.

After a day's hard gallery-ing and shopping we'd go home to the apartment she shares with her gorgeous husband and their three lively children, and she'd conjure up the most amazing Lebanese feasts (her mother and sisters in law taught her to cook when she first got married). In fact, apart from the bento boxes that I had for lunch at the conference I went to at Tokyo University, I ate mainly Lebanese food while I was in Japan. And what what food it was, so good, made with so much love, that I never once wished for sushi.

So, I have her recipe for Lebanese Lenten kib'be (kib'be a'raahib, or monk's kibbe) and in a rare cooking moment I'm going to attempt it tomorrow night. I've just been up to my local Middle Eastern deli to get some of the ingredients, the most exciting of which is a jar of mackdouce - pickled eggplant stuffed with red pepper and walnuts. This is served with the Lenten kib'be (a sort of nutty "pie" with a potato crust) along with lemon soup, green salad, and radish relish. Watch this space.

It's Ramadan, and the deli had some special things on offer:

like these mouth-watering bags of pickles - soaking in this briny liquid are cabbage, whole chillies, chunks of cauliflower, beetroot, and red capsicum...

and these, the softest of fluffy pikelets, sold with a tub of sugary rose-water syrup in which to dip.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Ratty wounded on escapade

Toby contemplates the cost of his adventures.

On Thursday night we let the ratties out for their evening run. Toby, the more adventurous of the two (Billy is a woos and spends his "running" time hiding under the couch) discovered a hole under the stove. Down he went, under the house, and didn't return. Eventually we had to go to bed, and just left a macadamia nut under the stove to entice him back. It worked! He came trotting out holding it proudly like a basketball. So, all was well until last night, when we noticed that one of his back feet was lacerated, perhaps crushed (sob) and had blown up hugely. There's redness and pus and it's not pretty. Off to the emergency vet, a delightful young woman who told us she loves rats and said "Right, Mr Piggy, we'll have to confiscate that" when he licked the lubricant off the thermometer that had been taking his temperature you-know-where. So, $145 later and armed with a bottle of antibiotics, and under strict instructions that he is to rest(!) here we are trying to get his infection down so he won't lose the foot. "What if we just amputated the foot now?" I asked, but no, the philosophy with animals, as with people, seems to be save it if you can.

Friday, September 07, 2007


Long ago people enjoyed swimming in the Cooks River at Marrickville and Tempe. They would take day trips by train from the overcrowded and polluted inner city - from places like Darlinghurst and Paddington - to enjoy the fresh river water and the clean Marrickville air. Picnics, swimming, boating...

Marrickville even had its own lifesavers: this is the Steel Park River Patrol Lifesaving club sometime in the 1930s. Quite a bunch of spunks. I wonder what colours their stripey swimming costumes were?

Actually, although the Cooks River is unfit for swimming now, and may still be the most polluted waterway in Australia, we do have a beach of sorts. A little bit of sand only about 15 metres wide in a curve of land between mangrove patches. A few years ago it was always littered with Coke bottles, discarded homemade bongs, bits of toilet paper and the occasional car tyre, but lately it's been much cleaner... and last week, on a day I left work early and took a long walk after hearing an old friend was dead, here's what I saw: