the missing purple ingredient

So, for the last 9 weeks, I’ve been on what I’ve renamed the Wonder Bride Diet but more commonly known as the Australian Womens Weekly 21-Day Wonder Diet. First up, I had never had skim milk before and I’ve also never been on a fully fledged diet before (thanks to Mum’s genes) and therefore had misconceptions about the value of them and questioned if they really worked? Inspired by wanting to look my best in Vera but by no means in a sacrificial mood or wanting to commit to lent of not eating tasty food altogether, I came across this so-called diet-book at a friend’s house. Her mum had purchased the book at the local shops because first and foremost she thought that the recipes looked good. Flicking through the book, it quickly engulfed me and the next day I bought the book on ebay.

Most of the recipes are fabulous, so tasty you wouldn’t even know they were “diet” food.  I had some girlfriends over for dinner and cooked a fish dish and had them asking me “have you taken a break tonight from the bride diet as this can’t be in the book? !” The basic premise is for 21 days you only eat 20 grams of fat per day with three regular meals and two snacks and the claim is you can lose up to 10 kilos. 30 minutes of exercise per day is encouraged to aid weight loss but is not described as essential. You do need to be somewhat organised to cook the three meals a day as it’s by no means a lite ‘n’ easy route with frozen meals and breakfast in a clear packet but a diet with an abundance of fresh fruit and vegies, a good source of protein and even a bit of carbs as it allows you both pasta and bread albeit it’s rye.

Now, I pride myself on having an extremely well-stocked fridge and pantry most weeks as pre-wonder-bride-diet I often liked to stand in front of the fridge at the end of a weekday and drum up a meal on the spot from the assortment of food available. My man would sometimes roll his eyes as we pushed the trolley around Coles and I placed (what I termed “basics”) in it which could include Plaistowe Dark Cooking Chocolate (in case I wanted to make spur of the moment Caramel slice) or vanilla and chocolate mini meringues (in case people popped around for dinner and an Eton mess dessert was needed). Given my love of cooking I also felt that I had a quite thorough knowledge of most ingredients be it spices, flours, pastas, herbs, sauces or cheese.

So did I feel stumped Week 1 when looking over my shopping list I noticed the word sumac. At first I thought it may have been like semolina or then like a pistachio. Enlightened after a google search I realised that my hunt was to find a purple spice often used in Middle Eastern cooking. My man and I hit up Coles then Woolies scouring the spice aisle trying to find this thing called sumac. We asked bewildered store assistants who queried “is it like cumin” or “is it like basil” and all this left me was feeling even more stumped than before. The recipe said it wasn’t an essential ingredient and could be substituted for something else but this just made me want to hunt it down even more.

It was in a tiny grocer store in Chatswood on a little shelf in a small bag that I finally discovered sumac. It tastes a bit like poppy seed and has a very faint taste but I feel very satisfied that I can now add sumac to my cooking repertoire.