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Holiday in my home city

March 13, 2011

I had to go to the other side of Sydney for a meeting. Never one to waste the opportunity of hunting down some exotic foods (I live in a part of Sydney sadly deprived of anything even vaguely “exotic”) I offered to buy some Lebanese kofta mince to cook on the barbecue for our friday catch up in the park. It was our first catch up this summer – a group of families with kids who started school together, we used to do this more often in summer. Mums and kids head down after school with bikes, food and wine. Husbands/dads join us there after work. We chat, kids explore the park until it is too dark to see and the security guard comes and hits his car horn to warn us that he is about to lock the park gates. We run to move our cars just outside the gates and then start to gather up kids and picnic baskets. A fine end to the week and start of the weekend.

I found a lovely Lebanese grocery store where I stocked up on fat juicy olives, lots of Lebanese bread, turkish delight and more. I asked the guy in the shop if he had tried the kofta from the butcher across the road. “It’s nice” he said “but I don’t buy it. They are Iranian, they use capsicum in their kofta”. That sounds rather nice I thought to myself. But he was so dismissive of it. “If you like proper Lebanese kofta you won’t like this Iranian stuff” he declared. Hmm…perhaps I should stick to the Lebanese version…or should I sneak across the road and get some of that Iranian kofta to try anyway? I got directions to “the best Lebanese butcher” which was in the next suburb. The butcher shop was filled with Lebanese people ordering interesting things. Meat was being cut and prepared in really unusual ways and I wanted to know how they were planning to cook it. I was itching to get something interesting like them but had no idea what to ask for. Damn. Stuck to the kofta mince and some sausages. Boring. Across the road from the butcher was this lovely little bakery/pizza type of place. They were pumping out these Lebanese pizzas and breads and there was a steady stream of customers to the shop. Their dough looked amazing pliable and silky. I wanted to buy some raw dough just to play with it (those of you who are bread bakers will understand that urge I am sure!). I bought a very simple bread that had za’atar and was then topped with chopped tomato, fresh mint and a smear of labneh. I swore to the gluten-free gods that I would only eat a few bites…but it was so delicious that I ate it all. The bread was soft and light. The za’atar tangy from a little sumac in with the dried thyme and sesame seeds. Yum! It cost me $2.50. If I lived closer I am sure I would happily eat one of these for lunch everyday. At least until the gluten-free gods caught up with me!

I drove home happy. My car was laden with goodies and was filled with all sorts of aromas – spices from the Indian shop; olives, dried and fresh herbs from the Lebanese shop…and more. I really felt like I had been on a holiday…poking around interesting food shops, trying out foods that the locals are eating…all these are exactly what I love to do when I am on holiday. Next time I am feeling in need of an escape I know where I am heading.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. March 13, 2011 4:52 PM

    What a nice way to spend an afternoon. You need to go early one day to the butcher, before it’s busy and ask your questions so it’s not so intimidating- that way you can tell us the secrets too!

    • spiceandmore permalink*
      March 17, 2011 9:12 AM

      Absolutely! I will be going back there soon. Might not even wait until I have a meeting at that end of town this time…

  2. March 14, 2011 5:12 AM

    That is such a great thing about living in Sydney, so many exciting foodie options.

    • spiceandmore permalink*
      March 17, 2011 9:11 AM

      Absolutely. We are very lucky with the range and quality of food we have access to here in Australia. I love visiting other countries for their fabulous and authentic food….but in a few weeks I atart to miss the variety we have here in Sydney.

  3. March 14, 2011 5:28 AM

    and now I am looking forward to holidaying in your city 🙂

    • spiceandmore permalink*
      March 17, 2011 9:09 AM

      Yes very exciting. I must do some more work on that list of places to go/things to eat in Sydney for you!

  4. March 14, 2011 9:46 AM

    What a great park adventure, great memories & fun to be had hanging out with people at the end of the week like that huh. I love it when I let my hair down in exotic grocery & butcher shops…, I think I need to go early & ask more questions of the butcher too.., who knows what awesome recipes these guys can depart 🙂

    • spiceandmore permalink*
      March 17, 2011 9:09 AM

      I would like to follow some of those customers home and watch what they make with those interesting cuts of meat they were buying!
      I love the end of the week park catch ups. Should be more of it.

  5. March 15, 2011 5:39 AM

    Ok woman, so are you telling where all these cool shops are? Were you out Auburn/Flemington way? 😉

    I love love love the za’atar bread with tomato and yoghurt – quite easy to make at home, now I wish I’d given you a bag of za’atar when I saw you yesterday!

    • spiceandmore permalink*
      March 17, 2011 9:07 AM

      Yes next time we meet you will have to introduce me to all these different types of za’atar you have been ‘researching’!

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