A brief pause before the craziness. All of my siblings and parents are here together, it happens so infrequently, perhaps once every two or three years, and so a celebration is in order. I've been preparing  dinner in expectation. . . Morocco will be the destination.

A blood orange salad with pickled olives from my tree. The blood oranges are so intense and well balanced, they make the sweet navels I've been eating seem even more insipid than usual. Parsley and a sprinkle of smoky paprika and cumin and just before serving a spoon of orange blossom water.

A curious combination that I came across in this book. I found the rhubarb a little too tart and the vermicelli distractingly crunchy.

I've adapted the recipe for a thermomix.

500g of trimmed rhubarb stalks, cut into 5cm pieces / 50mls of water / 330g of white sugar. Process at Speed 1 @100 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and let this cool fractionally before adding 15g of rose water and 45g of lime juice (approx 3 limes) and process at speed 9 for 30 seconds.

A heavy bottle with a deep punt. 14.5%. Diam. Approx $A110.

I remember the last bottle of la collina very clearly. Someone else was paying for the meal and I spent the night sniffing and luxuriating in the wine while my work companions talked shop. The talking came to nought, but the memory of the wine has remained. . . I remember the scent being impossibly beautiful. . . I was not particularly keen to revisit  the wine for fear of disappointment.

The last two bottles I tried were from a warm cellar, in contrast this bottle has been in my wine fridge since purchase. The cork was crusted with tartrate crystals and mostly I thought the shape was better, though in the end my opinion was unchanged. The opening few minutes the most convincing. The nose in particular is deep and satisfying, layered and not immediately cliched. Spice, rosewood, menthol, Margaret river, bramble and boot. Much later it is the rosewood and boot that linger.

Treachery in Bordeaux. Book one of a wine maker detective series. The protagonist Benjamin Cooker is a wine maker, critic, buyer of modest works of art / wine paraphernalia and part time detective. He spends sleepless, tortured nights struggling over his tasting notes (?!) and he even writes harsh words about his own wines (the slings and arrows).

Somewhat belatedly I've invested in a tagine and heat diffuser. Till now I've been making do with my trusty Le Creuset cocotte. . . I suspect the difference in the meals I cook will be fairly marginal, but the sounds and smells of my imaginary Morocco already seem clearer.

Seven, the magic number.

In summary - brown the meat and while doing this prepare the spices, vegetables and herbs, then construct, seal and cook.

A recipe for gado gado.

I started off with a 450g pork tenderloin, after salting it was down to 340g and now after a month of drying, in the controlled environment of my spare fridge, which doubles as my white wine store, the meat weighs 260g.

It is acceptable. I was concerned it might be slightly sweet from the sugar in the cure, but it's mostly salt and paprika and it does remind me of my home produced duck ham.

Mint (soft tips only) from the garden, feta (marinated) from Kytren of Gidgegannup, sugar snaps (blanched in boiling water and split open) from the market and peas (defrosted and rinsed in cool water) straight from the freezer. . .

I dare not hope for apples, but both sides of my grafted tree have now produced flowers, though a few weeks apart. I don't want to pressure them or the bees, that seem more interested in my fecund olive tree that needs no help, but some action today or tomorrow please before the window shuts.