I am typing this from our backyard. It's nearly midnight, and it's too hot to be inside. Out here in wogville, we are living like our ancestors did - no air con. We've talked about buying a portable unit for nights like this, but decided that there is no point in spending a packet of cash on something that we might only use for 2 weeks of the year - plus we have nowhere to store it when we aren't using it.
If I was 20 years younger, there is a chance that I would have been silly enough to sign up for some action and adventure, and would currently be somewhere like Afghanistan, sweltering under body armour and a helmet and lugging a machine gun and 20 kilos of assorted stuff up and down forbidding hills. There are tougher places to be than sweating a bit in a nice backyard in wogtown. Think of how lucky you are.
It's been too hot to cook in the kitchen this week - even slicing stuff for a salad is enough to bring on a sweat. We've therefore abandoned the kitchen and retreated to the backyard, where dinner consists of something on the BBQ and a couple of salads. J gave me a great little electric BBQ for Christmas - but as she is a "polotarian" (eats chook, but not red meat), its use is restricted to grilling vegetables and chicken. It does a great job, and unlike the old red-meat beast, it's clean. You could eat off it. The old thing looks like a cross between a grease trap behind a Chinese restaurant and a rusted sheet of tin.
Monkey is the most fortunate, since he is still small enough to fit into his old baby bath. It's his equivalent of those hip baths that you see in Western movies (he's not allowed to smoke a cigar in it though, or have his back scrubbed by a hooker). He can't lie down in it - it's definitely a sitting bath, but when we eat outside, he sits in his tub and eats dinner from there. Sheer luxury if you ask me. I'm thinking I might flop the canoe down on the grass and fill it with water and emulate the Monkey. We did something similar when Junior broke his leg - he couldn't bathe in the bathroom due to the layout of the room, so he bathed in the canoe in the backyard. Not sure what the neighbours made of that.
This week saw a new salad being introduced to my repertoire. Another Christmas present was a book containing 400 sauce recipes, and sauces include salad dressings. I like a good tomato salad, and often curse the food retailers around here for no longer stocking interesting tomato varieties. We had a grocer that closed his doors last year that used to sell the oddest looking tomatoes, but the remaining grocers have not moved to fill that niche in the market. They were genuinely ugly and feral beasts. So we are stuck with the plain old garden variety tomatoes - at least until I figure out how to grow them successfully. I have tried growing them three years in a row, and the sum total of my efforts has been about half a punnet of cherry tomatoes.
The new salad that we tried this week was a simple variation on one that I have done a lot - chop up a few tomatoes, then make a dressing of one part balsamic vinegar to four parts olive oil, and add to that one crushed clove of garlic and a huge whack of tarragon. Don't forget the salt. We normally do it with basil and/or mint, but tarragon was a new variation for me.
Which is good, since I planted a small tarragon plant in our garden before winter, and it has turned into a tarragon hedge. It has truly gone ballistic. It hangs out over the lawn and sheds leaves onto the lawn, so mowing the lawn can be quite fragrant and pleasurable when one runs over the leaves with the mower. The tang of tarragon in the air is quite amazing. I'm thinking of attacking it with the whipper-snipper, just to see how it smells.
The nice thing about the salad is you can throw in a ridiculous amount of tarragon - so long as you like that aniseed-type taste. The first time I did it, I snipped off a stalk about a foot long and used the leaves from that. The second time, I moved up to two feet of tarragon. Next time, I will go for a yard of it - it's not like we are about to run out of it, and J and I both love it.
This is a salad that you need to allow to steep. You don't dress it just before serving - you chop everything up and dress it an hour before hand, allowing the precious bodily fluids to mingle for a goodly amount of time.
It also helps if you skin the tomato first. I was sceptical of that, so I did one with skins on and one with skins off, and removing the outer layer definitely makes a positive difference.
It goes really well with wog bread as well. I buy old fashioned loaves from the local deli and then paint slices with olive oil (both sides) and pop them in the toaster. Easiest way to make bruscetta. I have a big tub of semi-dried tomatoes in the fridge, which I top up with olive oil. I then use a pastry brush to paint the oil on the bread slices, so they are properly coated from edge to edge. You have to be careful with the toaster - the bread toasts a lot faster with oil on it, so you have to dial it down to about half the normal level to avoid carbonated bruscetta.
We've been accompanying that this week with coleslaw, freshly made and dressed with J's special dressing. After years of eating mushy coleslaw out of a can at boarding school, it was over 20 years before I could face eating it again. I can thank Jamie Oliver for giving me the inspiration to give it another go. I always use a green cabbage and a purple one to add a bit of colour, and J has taught me to go easy on the carrot. I never thought much of the radish either until I tried this dish, and I now find myself munching through the crunchy little buggers with delight. It also helps to throw in a handful of dried cranberries (for sweetness), or raisins if you don't have them handy.
Dad told me once that a bloke he knew had been stuck on Malta during the siege in WWII. He lived on tinned carrots, and almost nothing else, for months. 50 years later, this bloke could still not face carrots. Dad had a similar experience with rice pudding. His corvette (a small escort vessel, not a sports car) spent a few months tooling around the Arabian sea (also in WWII), dropping off chests of gold to various Bedouin chiefs in order to keep them friendly with the allies. All they ate for 3 months was tinned rice pudding - breakfast, lunch and dinner. That is one dessert that Mum didn't put on the table much when I was a kid. I've seen Dad eat all sorts of bits of an animal (mum and dad also belong to an offal club, which is a bit much for me), but the only food I have ever seen him blanch at is rice pudding.
Thankfully, my coleslaw aversion did not last quite that long.
Bloody hell, it's hot.