Thursday, 7 January 2016

Considering The Wasteland

Dear Nigel,

So, the Turkey's last remains are languishing in the freezer, the tree is leaning outside by the shed and there is a feeling of uneasy emptiness inside, like a vacuum ready to be filled. The winds whistle through the treetops of the tall pine trees opposite and round the corner of the cottage like pan pipes, creating mischief and discord in their wake. It is a time of new beginnings and pointless resolutions, but any change brings with it a certain amount of fear and courage is required at times like these.

In Ayurvedic medicine, the source  of this discord is Vata, which particularly dominates in Winter. To balance this, heavy, warming, or oily foods are recommended. So I make a simple root vegetable soup with parsnip, carrot and sweet potato, warmed with cumin seeds. I have friends to feed who are ready to relax and unwind now that Christmas is finally over and the children are back at school. It is good to finally have the time to catch up. We exchanged quick, illicit calls and emails, and cancelled detailed-made plans all through the weeks running  up to Christmas. There never seems to be enough time to spend with the people you actually want to see. And true friends know that when Christmas calls we are all well down each other's list of things that must be done. But now is the time for eating up the leftovers and picking up the threads of loosely woven, flexible friendships which have endured many a choppy sea.

In the fridge there are endless small pieces of cheese waiting to be used up. I am thinking to bake with much of these, perhaps a pastry with roast vegetables beneath. I search your recipes and choose one for supper tonight which will be tasty and hearty, and will use up a piece of Taleggio which I have knocking around. The recipe is 'Baked eggs with kale and Taleggio' (page 521). It contains a fair scattering of pumpkin seeds which add both a nuttiness and protein to the dish. The cavolo nero is shredded and baked with egg like an omelet before the taleggio is allowed to melt on top and the pumpkin seeds scattered over.

We both found the taste well-balanced and particularly liked the nuttiness of the pumpkin seeds against the tanginess of the taleggio, which can be a bit over-powering at times. I have to confess that I simply couldn't be bothered to chop the pumpkin seeds, so just scattered them whole; but I rather like them that way and prefer the look of the whole seeds. Altogether, a very tasty dish that was quick to prepare and left little to wash up afterwards ( - always a bonus to those of us who wash up by hand).

The constant wet and drizzly weather seems to have swayed many of the usual hoard of New Year's joggers who usually coax their wobbly unfit bodies out on punishing long runs at this time of year, (their faces bright pink and set with a fixed smile of grim determination,) to stay in and keep warm instead. The desire not to get ill is stronger than the frustration of feeling obliged to finish off that last half a box of chocolates rather than look at it another day.

It is easier to slip on an over-sized sweater and lose yourself in a good book. Perhaps one about diet, or keeping fit, or man's journey up the North Face of the Eiger or something - all best accomplished from the comfort of a warm sofa, I find. You could work up quite a sweat, I think, contemplating the difficult decisions to be taken in planning the next stage of the route, considering the changes in the weather, the dwindling food supplies and the injuries sustained by other members of the team. All quite enough exercise in itself. Goodness me, it must be time to put the kettle on...

I am finishing up the last of the fated Millionaires' shortbread, which was the real bug-bear for me over Christmas. It was my own fault, I suppose, in asking everyone what they wanted to eat over the festive season. Tom requested this, and it seemed an innocuous request at first. But it was the one thing that I didn't have time to make beforehand. So I bought the ingredients, planning to make it at a leisurely time over Christmas, of my choosing.

The ingredients were still staring at me several days later, and one of my older children (who shall remain nameless) actually refused to go back home until I'd made the blessed stuff. So there was I, hoping for a walk in the park, feed the ducks, park the kids at the swings - no such luck: It must have taken almost four hours to complete the procedure, given that there are three layers and everything has to cool down before the next is added. Of course I also had help with the weighing and stirring, by a small pair of hands stood on the kitchen step, so nothing was going to happen at any great speed. It was cold and starting to get dark by the time we eventually got to the park and the railway station to drop off nameless redhead with attitude problem and a tray of not completely set millionaire's shortbread.
It is not my favourite teatime treat, let it be said.


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