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Last night, we had new friends coming for dinner – Israeli-Kurdish twins with their partners, a baby and a bump – and I’d been thinking spice, spice, spice.

The previous night’s scour through the cookbooks left me salivating for a compilation of dishes from Sam and Sam Clark’s ‘Moro: The Cookbook‘ and ‘Moro East‘, and Skye Gyngell’s ‘A Year in My Kitchen‘.  After a midnight fit of origami-ish page folding and unfolding, I ended up with my meal plan, which looked like this:

Avoacado tahini dip
Pitta bread (that we sprinkled with za’atar before baking)
Fattoush (I added half a finely sliced bulb of fennel into the salad too, which lifted it)
Aubergines with garlic, chilli and mint
Chickpeas with lime, chilli and coriander (I would recommend adding more chickpeas than recommended to make it a heartier stew)
Jewelled pumpkin pilav

I’d been hoping that the tamarind I’d stashed away in the back of my spice cupboard would come in handy soon, and oh my, it did.

I had three and a half hours to prepare this meal, and I wasn’t far off given that the new friends were Middle Easternly late.  (This is a good thing – my sense of time too has a hot, desert-like crawl.)  The only thing I needed back-up with (*somebody else to make*) was the pitta bread, a task kindly taken-on by a wide-eyed, panic-stricken husband whispering, “but I’ve never made bread”…

And before you know it he was joyously kneading away on his floured, grainy worktop proclaiming, “if this works out, I’m going to open a bakery!”  Yes, that’s just how addictive and wonderful and downright earthy bread-making is.

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This blog isn’t just about me rustling up some deliriously amazing (read disaster) meal; it’s also about living in someone else’s home.  So I want to highlight one of the wonderful things about moving in with my mother-in-law, the greatest hoarder this side of Hoardsville.  Our new home is also the house in which my husband grew up and we are starting to discover some of the books from his childhood stashed away.

There’s one in particular that I would like to bring to your attention: Maurice Sendak’s (you know, the chap who created ‘Where the Wild Things Are’) amazingly-written, beautifully-illustrated, funny and incredibly dark ‘In the Night Kitchen’ (1970).  Zippy adores it.  Her parents adore it.  And I covet it even more since I discovered it is also one of ‘The 15 Most Controversial Picture Books’ of the last century.  It’s perfect.  Whoever can lyrically blend Oliver Hardy, astronomy, nudity, cake-baking, and the Holocaust in a book for kids is a legend.

'I'm in the milk and the milk's in me!'

We have arrived.  I have been informed by many a Bristolian, since our landing here two weeks ago, that “everyone from Hackney comes to Bristol”.  Well, do they all move in with their mother-in-law as well?  Because that’s what we’ve done.

I’m 7-months pregnant with a toddler (and a very lovely, helpful husband) and my dear mother-in-law has welcomed us with open arms.  Conveniently, these arms have been in Australia visiting family since our arrival, which has meant that Sam (aforementioned baby-father) and I were able to declutter the MILK (Mother-In-Law’s Kitchen – like what I did there?) and replace the dangerous, non-food-related items on the windowsill with a veritable library of ace cookery books.  And when I say dangerous items, I’m talking nail varnish, weed-killer and other such noxious substances that you wouldn’t want to find next to your morning porridge.  Oh, and we’ve changed the locks.  And the alarm code.

Just joking, Mum!

So, this is the point at which I start cooking in another person’s kitchen.  Everyday.  On an AGA.  AN AGA!  How the heck do you bake a cake without a window?!

Wish me luck.

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