Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Looking up, listening

The beauty of waking to rain lies in the listening. There is no more delicious sound to be had, tucked up, dry and warm. Blowing small ripples across the surface of my tea, thawing fingers frozen solid by the cold, I watched the rain fall from a grey sky in silent gratitude last week. Winter inspires introspection, and close skies, well, they make looking down rather than up easier on the eye. Earth squelching beneath socked and booted feet; the profusion of green that thrives in this damp cold; a small scruffy dog leading us across the park – there is much to look down on during this season. My neck, however, was developing a crick from the weight of a low, skewed gaze. With the rain that gaze shifted upward, to the cold, dripping sky.

Clearly I have not been looking up enough of late. Rain, in a dry continent, changes everything.

Sunday: Football. Sherbrooke lies in the Dandenong Ranges, a place of steep, rolling hills and small-scale daffodil farming on Melbourne’s fringe. A rectangular field of mud sits atop a steep hill there, too. Drawn by the promise of a little bushwalking, we plunged into a triangular sloping patch of tall trees and scrubby undergrowth on the other side, an hour before play got under way. Wind rushed way up high through the bending branches of slender eucalypts, a lonely, haunting sound deep in winter, one I love. Later, the sky changed dramatically as Oscar played, much better, I am pleased to report. There was bright sun and a small kiss of almost-snow on the wind. Back turned on the action, I watched two kookaburras settle themselves, feathers bristling, on waving branches. Wild. Graceful. A young magpie sang out, announcing their arrival and the dog, clown that she is, balanced on her tiny hind legs to leap at them, barking. Their disdain for her futile attempts made us giggle.

Listening. Hmm. Should have listened more closely to the little voice that said, ‘too fussy’ – you know the one, surely - when approaching a recipe from what is, this winter, my favourite reading. It was delicious, oh yes, but used every pan and all my patience to produce a dish that was scoffed in seven minutes flat. Sheesh. This got me thinking. About formal, fussy dining and the kind of multi-pan, showing-off it involves in home kitchens. Frankly, I can’t be bothered. Better to serve a simple dish cooked well and wow them with a sauce good enough to make them look up and engage, if only to refill their plates, at least once. Yes, please.

Why re-invent the wheel? Walnuts are exquisite right now. From Claudia Roden.

A chunky, robust Southern Turkish sauce from Roden’s New Book of Middle Eastern Food. Perfect for dipping crisp, raw veg in to and slathering on falafels. You can make your own, and sometimes I do, but it’s just as easy to go out and buy a good dry falafel mix and doctor it with huge handfuls of finely chopped coriander and parsley.

2 cloves of garlic, chopped
Coarse sea salt
1½ cups (about 125g) of shelled walnuts, chopped
4 tablespoons of tahini
Juice of 2 fat lemons
1-2 tablespoons of boiling water
Large handful of chopped parsley

Pound the garlic with a good pinch of salt for 30 seconds, add the walnuts and continue pounding to make a chunky paste. Blend in the tahini and the lemon juice, then the boiling water, stirring well until smooth. Stir through the parsley and thin with a little more water if you like.

Or, whack the first 5 ingredients in a food processor and whiz away, stopping just short of a smooth paste. You may need to add a little warm water to get things moving around the blade nicely, but you want some texture here. Stir through the parsley. Keeps well in the fridge, but bring it back to room temperature before eating.

Serve with oven-warmed pita breads; a bunch or two of red radishes, quartered; hot, doctored falafels (see recipe intro); shredded lettuce and some thick plain yoghurt.


Kris said...

The walnuts from our tree down here in Tasmania are almost gone. But I looked up today and there where black cockatoos stripping the last of the nuts. It's a nice way to miss out on something I enjoy so much.

Christina said...

Oh wow, this sounds rich, nutty and very satisfying on a damp day. Damp days won't be happening for quite a while around here, so in the meantime, I'll just have to appreciate yours.

Mevrouw Cupcake said...

This looks like heaven and makes me want to dig out her book right now and make a feast from it!

We're going to Turkey for vay-cay in September and I'm sooooooo excited about the food and the week of sailing the Aegean we've got planned!

Callipygia said...

I like the edges of weather that push down on us, making us feel our animal-selves. And right, absolutely no more high wire act cooking. The most drama I need is Turandot with my Teradot...couldn't resist.

Another Outspoken Female said...

Another stunning post! I have Tasmanian walnuts from the market, hulled but still oh-so-sweet.

Ricki said...

Mmmm, sounds so rich and delectable. Love that 2nd photo!

You've captured perfectly how we tend to take for granted what's right in front of us. . . until we can't. I'm going to take advantage this summer of all the looking up I can!

Johanna said...

sounds like a meal I would happily partake of, but I am curious about what you made from Denis Cotter.

Freshly shelled walnuts are a pleasure - I so rarely have them these days but sometimes I think of my childhood friends with the walnut tree and have a yen for them

Lisa said...

Just beautiful. I can picture it all. With the exception of the dried falafel mix that is. I'm a dreadfully snobbish purist in the kitchen most of the time, though I am inclined to cut down on cookware and dishes as much as possible.

grocer said...

beautiful post Lucy.

I have a confession to make: when I first came across your blog i thought, "looks pretty but what will I learn from this airy fairy stuff?"

It's now, without a doubt, one of my favourite blogs. Even when you're writing about rain and clouds and cold days, they inject a beam of gold into my days.

Thank you. For the rays. And for making me see things differently from time to time.

docwitch said...

This is such a beautiful post. Your writing and images are so lush, and I love the sound of that walnut recipe.

I have to revisit this post and soak myself in it for a while. And slather.

Anonymous said...

I simply love the combination of walnuts and garlic. I've used the pounded pair as a basis for a dressing before, and it's never failed. It's just so simple. And the easy creations are so often the most pleasing.

katiez said...

Goreous walnuts! Ours have a really thick shell and much smaller meat...
As to the dip/spread sounds wonderful - I love the idea of adding tahini. I've made a walnut sauce before... this sounds better!

bee said...

i've tried another recipe of roden's with walnuts and it was outstanding. your pics are wonderful as always.

Wendy said...

Dennis Potter is terrible for that isn't he? I save Wild Garlic... for Friday nights when I want to unwind with a fussy recipe and a few glasses of wine.

Just found a secondhand Roden book and am stunned that I've never discovered her before. She has a wealth of beautifully simple recipes just like this one, doesn't she.

Anyway, it's raining here too. And, though the height of summer, the temperature is hovering around 10oC. Off to take Marco on a very similar walk to yours. Your beautiful writing has made me look forward to it all the more.

Anh said...

A lovely post as always. And that walnuts, I need to get my hands on some.

Lucy said...

Kris - yes, what a delight be able to gladly give up one's walnutty-bounty to such beautiful, wild, winged creatures!

Christina - I wish you and your similarly parched-land torrents of rain. It's a lovely use of walnuts.

Mari - I am officially jealous! Oh, you eat Very Well. I expect full reportage on your return!

Calli - a musical play on Teradot is VERY welcome! Ah, weather. The impact it has on me each year grows and grows. Weather and landscape make me feel far quieter in these cooler days, too!

AOF - aren't they marvellous? I want a walnut tree of my own. Have you seen their beautiful foliage?

Ricki - raise that chin and take it all in, darls! You know, this is much like a pate and spreadable like one, too. Very Rich and Very Delish.

Oh, Johanna - tell, me, did you eat those walnuts as a small person? Gorgeous. The Cotter recipe? Let me see - rustling of paper - ah, here we go. Page 289. 'Gratin of Crushed Potato, Spinach, Spiced Aubergine and Fresh Goat's Cheese with Thyme and Caper Cream'. It is UBER-yum! Especially that cream sauce, but very fussy. Love the book, though. Think I love him, too!

Lisa, you do make me laugh! I am a snob about these things normally, too! I wonder how you make yours? They would, no doubt, be gorgeous.

Grocer - I am pleased to have changed your thinking, if only for a moment! More pleased, though, that you have enjoyed reading and continue to do so. Thanks, darls.

Docwitch - and, joy of joys, it is gluten-free! And vegan, I have just realised...though I know you are, of course, not vegan. Winter is, absolutely, my favourite season. Isn't the rain divine?

Hi Cookinpanda - great flavour combination, garlic and walnuts. I once made a lentil soup from, I think, a Deborah Madison recipe, featuring pounded garlic and walnuts blended with a little cream. Wonderful stuff.

Hi Katie - it's a gorgeous flavour combination and the tahini is just right to make a thick, chunky sauce. Hope summer in France is treating you well!

Thanks bee - Roden's a great little source for vego and vegan recipes. Her Book Of Jewish Food is surprisingly useful, too.

Wendy, yep, I love him and that book, but what was I thinking when a) I had been out to lunch with my best friend - some wine was involved - and b) she was coming home for dinner, too, when I so rarely get to see her? Cooking fussy stuff while guests are here is not a pretty sight...The book is inspiration from beginning to end, though. Which Roden did you find?

Anh - go and grab some, before they disappear! Mine were organic and only $9.99 a kilo. Bargain!

Wendy said...

It's A Book Of Middle Eastern Cooking. Much different to A NEW Book... I wonder? It's fab, anyway. And only 50p!

Julia said...

Yum, I've been really enjoying walnuts lately, and I am going to a Turkish party soon, might have to test this recipe out! Really enjoying your blog Lucy, I've blogrolled you!

Johanna said...

Oh yes, it was great fun cracking open the walnuts off the tree and eating them - apart from the dodgy black ones! Had falafels tonight - from a local takeaway - they do them so well here. Thanks for the inspiration.

Lucy said...

Wendy, you know, the Librarian in me (you know, the one who stopped selling children's books and now obesses over alphabetising and categorizing all of the books in the house)must have noted that my edition was the very slightly revised 1968 one. No difference, really. You'll love it - such a treasure! Her Book of Jewish Food is worth a look, too.

Hi Julia - a Turkish party sounds like lots fun! Thank you - shall reciprocate. I am learning so much from your experience.

Johanna, darls, my pleasure. It is nice to have a night off cooking, once in a while...

Liz said...

I know what you mean - waking up to rain, being warm under thick covers, listening to the dull drops - it's just contentment all around.