Last weekend was the final hurrah for our old kitchen and bathroom. Now our weatherboard worker’s cottage has been stripped of its lean-to addition and reduced to four very cosy rooms, each one really having to pull its weight. We have a study/kitchen, two bedrooms/storage, and a living room/everything else. We’ll be spending the next few months building a new kitchen, bathroom and larger living space, and I’m aiming to be very calm and graceful and to take our chaos in my stride! (A wry smile from my husband.)
If you’ve ever read the book Peepo by Janet and Allan Ahlberg to a child, then our house feels like that family’s house more than ever. Every nook has something tucked into it. Towels hang over the backs of chairs, dishes get washed in a tub on the kitchen table, and boxes have been shoved on top of wardrobes and under beds. In this new renovating life I make many trips a day to get water from the tap in the front garden, and to take dirty washing-up water to the shed in the backyard that is now our bathroom/laundry and has our only drain. The narrow shed has a washing machine, bath tub, laundry trough and toilet in a line, and the wall above features a unique display of DIY plumbing combining recycled copper pipes, lengths of garden hose and washing machine tubes. Strangely enough, the shower under the mini instant hot water service is fantastic, and I kind of love the indoor/outdoor ambience in the shed. Walking back to the house wrapped in a towel feels like the best camping – probably because it’s not winter yet.
So on the weekend, knowing that we would soon have just a small electric cook top, I went all-out making the most of our oven and all its free-flowing gas. The oven was rather old and had an occy strap to keep the door shut, but it cooked beautifully and I loved it all the same. I wrote myself a list and worked my way through it, enjoying every minute – hot cross buns (it was Easter), some biscuits using up leftover dough in the freezer, a few loaves of bread, a second batch of kasoundi with the last tomatoes from the garden, a bottle of lime cordial using up a few limes, and a lemon cake. We made some borsht for the week ahead and roasted a piece of pork belly that was in the freezer. It was like a long last supper, then a signing off. Soon after the cake came out of the oven, the plumber came and turned off the gas. The next morning the oven was in the front yard in a pile of hard rubbish and the demolition had begun.
Kasoundi is an Indian relish that is much lower in vinegar and sugar and higher in spices than an English chutney, so it’s more like a curry – a richly flavoured one to have in small portions. I think it’s one of the best things you can make with an excess of tomatoes. Normally I’d use red tomatoes, as I did for the first batch, but with a pile of green ones on my hands, I thought, why not? It worked really well – with a bit more tang than the red version, but still delicious. Kasoundi is addictive in toasted sandwiches with cheese and avocado, and on scrambled eggs.
¾ cup chopped ginger
20 garlic cloves
8 long red chillies
250 ml vinegar (I used apple-cider vinegar)
170 ml oil (I used olive oil)
4 tablespoons cumin seeds, ground
2 tablespoons coriander seeds, ground
2 tablespoons brown mustard seeds
1½ tablespoons turmeric
30 curry leaves
2 kg red or green (or a mixture) tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon salt
220 g (1 cup) sugar
Put the ginger, garlic, chillies and vinegar into a food processor and blend until finely chopped. (Alternatively, chop by hand.)
Heat the oil in pot and add the cumin, coriander, mustard seeds, turmeric and curry leaves. Fry until the mustard seeds begin to pop, then add the tomatoes, salt and sugar, and the ginger, garlic and chilli mixture. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for around 3 hours, until reduced by about a third and starting to thicken.
Ladle into sterilised jars while hot.
Makes 1–1.5 litres