Holiday in my home city
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.