I love to entertain. My husband could tell you that an evening on the couch with me can be high entertainment depending on my mood. As a former theatre student, putting on a show is one of my favourite things to do.
Our second apartment in Sydney, a bright and sunny two bedroom apartment on the 19th floor, was a perfect backdrop for many, many entertaining opportunities during our 2 1/2 years there. The kitchen was tiny, but the view made up for that and more. A sweeping, uninterrupted view of the south end of Sydney and out to the airport and Botany Bay. We could sit with a drink on our tiny balcony and watch planes land all day.
Sunrise and fog from our apartment in Woollahra
Sunset over the Sydney Football Stadium
But as nice as it was to have a quiet drink on the little balcony, I liked it better when our apartment was full of friends. So we hosted birthday parties, engagement parties, drama class graduation parties, our annual Cinco de Mayo party and scores of good old fashioned dinner parties.
One dinner party in particular stands out in my memory of that time.
I had just finished taking a one day course on traditional Indian cooking. I learned to make butter chicken, dahl, beef madras and other tasty treats. The cooking class itself was hilarious. The class took place in a junior high school on a Saturday morning. I was there with two other friends and we were painfully hung over. The teacher hadn’t purchased enough supplies, so there weren’t enough onions to go around, and the ones she did buy were well past their prime. I spent all morning trying not to fall asleep at the stove. When I did finally get home and go to sleep I awoke to sheets that smelled like curry. Not an auspicious beginning to my Indian cookery adventures.
However, I am nothing if not fearless. And slightly stupid. And a big fat show-off. So I organised an Indian themed dinner party for the following week to demonstrate my new skills to my friends. And I invited… a man from India. See, that’s where the fearless stupidity comes in. Who does that? I was setting myself up for failure.
The menu was complex, but I had all day to work on it. I had bought a lovely piece of shimmery blue fabric that looked like sari material to use as a table cloth. I set the table and downloaded some Indian music. I was in the zone.
Everyone arrived and snacked on the pakora’s that I was frying up and serving with my homemade tomato chutney. The chutney got a great response and I was starting to feel calmer. We sat down for the main course and everyone ate well, having seconds and thirds of some of the dishes. For dessert my lovely friend from India had brought traditional Indian sweets and we enjoyed them with port and whisky. Everyone seemed happy and in good spirits. No one got sick the next day. It was a success!
There would be more successful evenings, and a fair few failures in our apartment in Woollahra. We moved away from that apartment about 10 months ago. And while I loved our apartment in Kings Cross and I love our current apartment near Bondi Junction, I know that when I think back on our time in Sydney I will remember that apartment set high up above Woollahra as our home.
This is easily the nicest recipe that I learned in the Indian cooking class. It is easy, stores well in the fridge and tastes amazing. You can serve it as a dipping sauce, on top of fish or chicken or pork, as a sandwich spread, etc.
2 tbs vegetable oil
2 tsp chopped fresh curry leaves
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp mustard seeds
1 large clove chopped garlic
1 chopped green chilli
2 cans crushed / diced tomatoes, drained
2 tsp curry powder
salt and sugar to taste
Heat the vegetable oil over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the curry leaves, cumin and mustard seeds and fry for 3-4 minutes, until the mustard seeds are fragrant and beginning to pop.
Add the garlic and the chilli and fry for another minute.
Stir in the tomatoes and reduce heat to medium / low. Allow to reduce until thick, about 20-25 minutes.
Stir in the curry powder. Taste for seasoning and add salt and sugar as needed.
Cool in the fridge until ready to use.