After the flurry of posts the week before last, I spent last week in a similar flurry of busyness which kept me from blogging – every bit of it utterly enjoyable!
A birthday/bon voyage night at Red Rock for my friend NZ. K who is going home for a few weeks for the first time in quite a while. Good luck, K, sending good thoughts for a smooth trip and looking forward to coffee for debrief when you get back!
Going shopping for our costumes for an upcoming Halloween party (which was enough fun in itself) and finding actual autumn decorations – just like for Christmas but for autumn celebrations! Autumn is a really tough one to decorate my festival tree for in Australia, the main celebration going on is Easter so there are flowers and eggs and bunnies and baby chicks galore but of course that’s all Spring stuff so inappropriate. My origami skills, which I used one Summer to fold 250 butterflies to flutter around my tree, are not quite up to autumn leaves (something I must fix while I’m here!) and pumpkins are plentiful and appropriate to Harvest but have commercial Halloween references and you can’t do the same thing every year. Finding the beautiful, can’t-believe-they’re-plastic Japanese maple and Cherry tree autumn leaves was wonderful!
But the biggest highlight came the Sunday before all that and was having four friends over to fill the house with chatter and laughter and use all six dining chairs! I had finally got round to getting a bamix-like appliance (nothing beats the real thing but of course my 14yr old workhorse is Australian power) and so I invited everyone over for no reason other than to celebrate opening my precious jar of tahini which I had brought from Australia. (My friend, UK A., tells me that you can get tahini here but it’s just called sesame (goma) paste instead but I didn’t know that so it was worth celebrating lol!) I started by getting the meat marinating at around 10:30 am and spent the whole day blissfully pottering around the kitchen making everything from scratch.
The bread was the most fun of the day – obviously with the hommus and babaganoush and Lebanese grilled chicken and lamb we had to have flatbread but I have yet to find such bread here. Our supermarket sells something that is called “pita” but they are big soft, rather delicious but highly leavened bread rolls. Making things more difficult is the oven situation – ovens are not usual in Japan and all I have is a tiny convection microwave which, if I were more of a baker, I probably could have used but didn’t feel confident to do so. I was sure that I had once had dips in a Greek restaurant in Melbourne with some wonderful bread which, upon bringing our second helping, the waiter had said they cooked fresh on the grill. An hour or so of hunting for the right key phrases and I finally found a recipe here for Lahuhua, a flatbread from Yemen which is made from a batter much like pancakes (the thick kind) but using yeast and water instead of eggs and milk. It was a strange experience for me – I recognized what was going on as I started combining the same ingredients one would combine for bread but the amount of water seemed like way too much! Usually I don’t follow recipes, I just use them as a muse to get an idea of techniques or flavour combinations and then do my thing but I was all at sea with this one. I trusted the recipe and poured in the water and watched it turn into what looked like a very thin, bread-coloured milkshake – certain I’d be sending Superman up the street for bread later. Sure enough, though, after the first “rising” the milky liquid had become more of a batter and after the second it was perfect! One hint, if you leave the bread in a stack for a while before serving, the cooked side of the pancake will soften and then it is the most delicious, soft bread you will ever have tried! I highly recommend it!
Dessert worked out really well, too and I have had requests for the recipe so I will put it below (since I made it up when I couldn’t find any turkish delight so I guess I have copyright lol.)
Sorry I have no pics of the food, I was having too good a time! This is what it looked like when everyone was gone, though! Thanks again for coming US A. & R. and it was lovely to catch up with you, UK A. and to meet the lovely French Canadian I. I had SUCH a ball and invitations will be out to you all again soon!
Honeyed Figs with Rosewater Yoghurt
Figs – 2 medium sized per person (however many you would like!) quartered
Caster sugar – enough to lightly sprinkle over figs (about a tblspn and a half for 12)
Ground Cinnamon – enough to sprinkle a little heavy-handedly over all your figs (say, a third of a tspn per quarter fig)
Honey – enough to drizzle generously over the figs (probably three quarters of a cup for the twelve figs) – Note: this is sooo much easier if you drizzle it straight from a squeezy bottle but do try to get a nice honey to do it if you can. In Japan honey is a bit “beggars can’t be choosers” but avoid anything which would be overpowering like a Blue Gum honey – the key to this dessert is the delicate flavours.
Natural, Set Yoghurt – 1 1/2 cups (none of that sweet, runny, custard stuff – REAL yoghurt lol!)
Caster sugar – 1/2 cup
Rosewater – around a teaspoon or to taste depending on the one you have. Obviously best quality you can find/afford but be a little careful as too much can be overpowering and with some rosewaters your yoghurt will smell like your grandmother’s soap! If you are unsure about using it, buy it in plenty of time and make yourself hot milk with sugar and a drop or two of rosewater before you go to bed at night for a few nights – it’s incredibly soothing and a good way to get used to how much, or rather how little, you need!
Start your oven heating to a low heat – about 150 Celsius – either before you start preparing the figs or five minutes before you are going to put them in the oven. You don’t want it to be pre-heated as such, just not cold when you put the figs in.
Loosely line and ovenproof dish with baking paper so that the juices don’t bake into it and they are easy to get out to pour over the figs when serving.
Quarter your figs and lay them out in a single layer over your dish.
Sprinkle the cinnamon and sugar and drizzle the honey over them.
You can leave these aside ready for the oven till 40 minutes before you need them.
Place in the warming oven for 40mins. The figs are ready when you have beautiful juices running round the bottom of your dish and the figs are soft but still holding their shape.
This should be done at least half an hour beforehand and can be done up to a day before hand but the yoghurt might lose it’s texture if done too early.
Mix all ingredients.
Place in fridge to keep it chilled but also to allow the moisture of the yoghurt to melt the sugar crystals through it (this is why you need at least 30mins)
Serve the figs and the yoghurt, not forgetting to drizzle some of the pan juices over the yoghurt – you won’t BELIEVE the colour!
Happy cooking! Do let me know if you try it!