img_8314Do you need something comforting that can be eaten out of a bowl and bring people together around a shared table? Do you need an alternative curry, that freezes well and serves the gluten free/ dairy free folk in your flock? If so, I think this lamb, tomato and cauliflower number can help. If you’re after a curry in a hurry (even a slow cooked one at that), then skip straight to the recipe at the bottom.

If not, read on. And… exhale. Well, that was a doozy of a week, wasn’t it. President Trump. Add to that two nights in a rocking chair with a toddler with croup, wriggling to find room to loll around a nearly 32 week, cauliflower sized bump. A spouse heading away again. A clicky, sticky pregnant back which makes you inhale sharply as you roll over at night. And others in your wider circle who are confronting things much, much darker.

Thank god for curry night and a well stocked freezer. I’m partial to curry night. I’m partial to it because it welcomes all sorts of bit players to the table, from cooling raitas and sprightly chutneys to crackly papadums and pillowy naans. It’s a welcoming home for all sorts of well meaning types – a simple spiced tomato and slow-cooked meat base will open its arms to invite in all sorts of veg, from cauliflower to kale, chickpeas and courgette. And served over cauliflower ‘rice’ it tastes like an indulgence, but is remarkably restrained.  The Hungry One likes curry night because it gives him a good reason to open a beer (or two). It also gives him free reign to add as much blistering chilli to his plate as he likes, without me raising an eyebrow about upsetting the balance of flavours I’ve put to work.

This curry also had an ulterior motive. At this stage of gestation my energy levels are flagging and it seems my iron levels might have something to do with it. I’m told combining red meat with tomatoes, chickpeas and spinach is a good way to ensure I get the most out of what I’m consuming. Bring it on.

I made this with diced boneless lamb shoulder, but it would also work beautifully with goat, beef cheeks, lamb neck or shoulder cut and still on the bone. The only tips and tricks are to brown the pieces of meat well for a good depth of flavour,  cook it long and slow enough until the meat relaxes against a fork and to taste and season the curry before serving. You will need to add salt and acid just before plating to make the flavours come into its own. It served us on the couch, my Dad when he came to watch Will one night so we could go out to belatedly celebrate my birthday and it’s a calming thought knowing that some more is stashed in the freezer for a day that needs a bit of bowl-comfort fast.

Here are a few other things that are going on:

Buying: I’m in full scale nursery nesting mode. I even battled Ikea on Saturday morning in search of new block out curtains. And today I lost far too much time choosing a wall decal (#hormones). I never thought I’d be a decal kind of girl, but there is something reassuring about how transient they can be – if we grow out of them, then off they come.  I found some great ones on the Melbourne Sticker Shop ebay store.  Sure, some of the quotes are greeting-card trite and some veer far too close to gender norms/straitjackets for my taste ‘My little Princess’ etc but there’s also a nice selection of dinosaurs, birds, Eiffel Towers, novelty moustaches – and for me- some dragon flies – which I hope will prove soothing to me and the stowaway to look up at when we’re wide awake at 3 am feeding. I’m thinking Will might also enjoy the world map on the back of his wall – I’m putting that in the Santa-pile.

Reading: The Pollan Family Table.  This family-style cookbook from Michael Pollan (Omnivore’s Dilemma, Cooked etc) is delightful – particularly for the moment when you spy Michael J. Fox in some of the wider family portraits and realise that his  wife Tracey Pollan is one of Michael Pollan’s sisters. Now THAT is a Christmas table that would be fun to join (along with John Krasinski and Emily Blunt’s, whose sister is now married to Stanley Tucci- that would also be particularly jolly).

Also this from Parks and Recreation’s glorious Lesley Knope. This sums up some of my sentiments about what happened to the world last week. The election of President Trump has made me despondent in a way that I’ve found difficult to translate into articulate sentences. I think the thing that upsets me the most is the gaspingly large proportion of white women who played a role in his ascendancy. Here, Lesley (even though she’s fiction) crystalises so much of what was tinkering in the back of my head when looking ahead at the years to come. “Our President-Elect is everything you should abhor, and fear, in a male role model. He has spent his life telling you, and girls and women like you, that your lives are valueless except as sexual objects. He has demeaned you, and belittled you, and put you in a little box to be looked at and not heard. It is your job, and the job of girls and women like you, to bust out. You are going to run this country, and this world, very soon. So you will not listen to this man, or the 75-year-old, doughy-faced, gray-haired nightmare men like him, when they try to tell you where to stand or how to behave or what you can and cannot do with your own bodies, or what you should or should not think with your own minds. You will not be cowed or discouraged by his stream of retrogressive babble. You won’t have time to be cowed, because you will be too busy working and learning and communing with other girls and women like you, and when the time comes you will effortlessly flick away his miserable, petty misogynistic worldview like a fly on your picnic potato salad. He is the present, sadly, but he is not the future. You are the future. Your strength is a million times his. Your power is a billion times his. We will acknowledge this result, but we will not accept it. We will overcome it, and we will defeat it. Now find your team, and get to work. Love,  Leslie”

Listening: I’ve gone back to comfort listening and thrown myself pretty heavily into Paul Simon. High on rotation at the moment is ‘There Goes Rhymin’ Simon’ from 1974  – in particular ‘American Tune‘. It feels about right for the current mood.

Also; the ‘This American Life’ episode just prior to the election ‘Master of Her Domain….Name’. In the same way that I often read ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and shake my fist at the destructive vagaries of the Verona postal system (if only the letter got there in time!) I feel similarly about Hillary, Huma and their emails – particularly after listening to this (if ONLY they had a sensible IT consultant).

Summary: “Sean Cole talks to reporter Garrett Graff, who read the 247 pages of interview summaries of the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Graff concludes that it’s not the scandal most people thought it was. Not a sophisticated, Machiavellian scheme to evade federal rules and record laws. The interviews “depict less a sinister and carefully calculated effort to avoid transparency than a busy and uninterested executive who shows little comfort with even the basics of technology, working with a small, harried inner circle of aides. Reading the FBI’s interviews, Clinton’s team hardly seems organized enough to mount any sort of sinister cover-up.” Listen here

What could the world have been spared if someone had been looking after her tech needs properly? If you have a good IT department, take a moment tomorrow to say thank you. 

Enjoying: Work life balance and the needs of a growing family are high on the conversational roster at the moment. Pat Gelsinger, CEO of the tech firm VMWare sees himself as a thought leader on work life balance (also on the role of spirituality in commercial enterprise, but that’s for another day). When he was at Intel and had a younger family he would easily spend up to 80 hours a week at the office. To ensure he was present and part of his family he devised a point system , where he would score two points if he got home before 5pm, one point if before 6.15pm, zero after that and minus one point for being away at weekends.  Interesting…

Watching: ‘Jason Bourne’. I’ve always firmly been team Ben. It might have been the phoenix tattoo, it might have been rewatching ‘Chasing Amy’ while I was sick with gastro a few months ago (which is essentially a comedy built from a pivot point of two men’s instinct to slut shame, which somehow was deemed ok as a plot device back in 1997), but my axis has started to swivel towards Matt. Jason Bourne is and always has been a great action hero and there should always be more, not less Tommy Lee Jones in my cinematic diet. This is a perfectly acceptable way to spend a Saturday night when you’re too rotund/tired to be out in public two nights in a row. Just add lamb curry (see below).

 Eating: On Friday night The Hungry One took me out for a belated birthday dinner to Ormeggio at the Spit in Mosman. It was my favourite kind of fine dining- by the water, relaxed but impeccable Italian leaning  fare and with an eight course tasting menu chocked with things I not only wanted to eat, but couldn’t muster the finesse or attention to detail to pull of ourselves. Highlights included the soup-dumpling style ravioli, which unleashed a truffle scented sticky broth in your mouth. They were reminiscent of the ‘Truffle Explosions’ at El Bulli (one of my favourite courses there) and left you scraping at the bowl for the last traces of the parmesan rich puddle they came wallowing in. They, along with Pilu at Freshwater (one of our other favourite haunts) have a terrific loyalty program where if you’re on their customer database they will provide you with one complimentary degustation any Tuesday-Friday in the month of your birth. Win!

Lamb, Tomato and Cauliflower Curry

img_8314Serves 6-8 with cauliflower rice

Shopping/foraging

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2 tbsp coconut oil/ghee
1 kg lamb shoulder, diced into pieces the size of a matchbook.
1 small head of cauliflower/ half a large one
2 x 400 g tins of cherry tomatoes/ chopped tomatoes
1-2 tsp salt (is needed to balance the flavour)
1-2 tsp apple cider vinegar (is needed to balance the flavour)

Curry Paste

2 red onions, peeled and diced
1 piece of ginger as long as your thumb
4 garlic cloves
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp turmeric
1/2 tsp chilli powder (more if you like things hot)
1/2 tbsp ground cumin
1/2 tbsp ground coriander

Optional
1 x 400 g tin of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 double handful of kale, finely chopped

To serve: raita, papadums, cauliflower rice

Here’s how we roll

1 Preheat the oven to 140C/285 F.

2 Take a large Dutch oven or casserole dish, pat the lamb pieces dry and use 1 tbsp of coconut oil/ghee to brown them in batches. Set aside.

3. To make the curry paste combine all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and whizz to combine into a slurry.

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img_82584. Add the remaining coconut oil/ ghee to the pan and fry the curry paste in the bottom of the dutch oven over a medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring often, until it smells fragrant. Taste it and make sure you can no longer taste raw onion.

img_82605. Return the lamb to the pan. Add the tomatoes and stir to combine. Clamp the lid on and place in the oven for 2 hours, or simmer with the lid on, on a very low heat for 2 hours.

img_82646. After two hours add the chickpeas (if using) and half of the diced cauliflower (approx 400 g – use the remaining cauliflower to make cauliflower rice).  Stir to combine and simmer on low for another hour, or return to the oven with the lid off for another hour.

7. Just prior to serving taste the curry. Add salt and apple cider vinegar to taste. You will need both to balance the flavours.  Fold through the kale (if using) and allow the heat of the curry to wilt the kale.

img_82728. Serve with cauliflower rice (made by blitzing the remaining cauliflower in a food processor until it resembles grains of rice then quickly stir frying to heat through and remove the raw taste) and raita.

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Previously in Poppyseed to Pumpkin

Each week mad websites and baby books will tell you how big your baby now is in comparison to a seed, fruit or vegetable. It starts as a poppy seed and goes from there. To make this process a little more palatable, join me as I bake my way through. Here’s the journey so far. (Nb, you can also see the poppy seed to pumpkin process in the app, or ebook from my first pregnancy with Will, or read about it on the blog here.)