In which our intrepid hero drags himself from bed to keyboard.

I hate summer. It’s not just the scorching temperatures and the ridiculous humidity here in Sydney. There are days when even summer itself feels like it needs time off to head to the beach, and autumn has to fill in whilst it’s away.

January is supposed to be the hottest, wettest month in Sydney, but this year, we’ve had cool spells and not that much rain, just stifling mugginess.

When I’ve got secret projects that rely on reasonable temperature and humidity, I can only work on them late at night, spending my days passed out from heat fatigue, slowly rotting in my own sweat. It’s exhausting and my health suffers. I push myself too hard and make myself sick.

My first secret project was my Third-of-a-Century Dinner. Last Friday, I turned 33 years and four months old, or 33 1/3. To celebrate, I had a bunch of friends over for dinner on Saturday. They had to bring a bottle of wine each, and in return, I sent them home with full bellies and a small bottle of whiskey liqueur.

It wasn’t an easy undertaking, as my guests had a pretty restrictive series of dietary requirements:

  • no meat
  • no poultry
  • no prawns
  • no gluten
  • no whole eggs
  • no bananas, kiwifruit, melons, avocados…

Thankfully, no one had a dairy problem; that was about the only common food intolerance that was missing.

The entrée consisted of a Moroccan-style autumn soup (containing, amongst many other ingredients, pumpkin, lentils and kumera) with harissa cream and gluten-free za’atar lavash crackers. The lentils were a little undercooked, but on the whole, it worked well.

For the main, we had barramundi in blueberry butter, with a side of rocket leaves in raspberry vinaigrette.

Unfortunately, having tasted the blueberry sauce halfway through, Mim K/W decided it was too tart to just pour over the fish, failing to realise that the butter, fresh blueberries and chives that I still had to add would change the flavour dramatically; she’d already lightly drizzled it over a couple of barramundi fillets and taken them out to the diners—with only the barest fraction of the sauce that they were supposed to have—before I could point this out to her. I also ran short of rocket for the salad, and Mim missed out.

The main, therefore, wasn’t as I’d hoped, but on the upside, we do have a metric crapload of scrummy, leftover blueberry butter in the fridge.

Dessert was my old fallback: strawberry and lavender sorbet.

Originally, I’d planned a different, somewhat summery menu—strawberry gazpacho andaluz, citrus barramundi and tomato-preserve ice cream—but the dismal, semi-autumnal weather kind of ruled that out. I also had to delegate a lot more of the cooking than I would’ve liked to Mim, being too tired and ill to do it all myself.

But the punters seemed to like it well enough, so maybe I’m being harsh.

I’d like to thank Mim for all her help and everyone who showed up for helping me celebrate. I’d also like to apologise to all the people I’d loved to have invited, but just didn’t get around to—next time I do a dinner, you’re definitely on the list, and I promise it’ll be even better!

(Oh, and sorry to Mim and the cats for being such a crabby bastard in the kitchen.)

Of course, I mentioned two secret projects in my last post.

I had a gift to give one of the friends I’d invited for dinner, but technical issues prevented me from getting it done in time. (I know that a poor workman blames his tools, but if something says on the bottle that it’ll be ready in 24 hours, I expect it to be ready in less than 100.)

It’ll be ready real soon, and as soon as I can give it to the lucky giftee (note the lack of gender pronouns), then I’ll post pictures here and on Facebook. Oh, and I’ll stop being so goddamn cryptic about it.