Every few months I pull out a Koan card. This card is something I keep in mind for the coming months and it's always the perfect advice for me. A few months ago, when I was finishing writing my book ("Polska" is now available for pre-order), the Koans advised me: "I burn the books in my bag, but the verses written in my guts cannot be forgotten". After all the research, this advice really struck a cord - it was time to forget about all the other books and create something new. Then when my baby was born the Koans said: " The seeds of the past are the fruits of the future". A reminder that every moment counts, because the baby is like a sponge. Today, I pulled out a new card. Right now my life is very busy - my baby is nearly 6 months and requires more attention than before, I am building a website for myself (something I haven't done since 1999) and I have a very long to do list, which needs to be completed before my book launch (July in the UK, September in the US). I am also selling my flat and trying to buy a family home with my partner. So the Koans told me: "Water heats slowly and it boils suddenly". They are advising patient perseverance. Perfect. Difficult, but really the perfect advice for me for now. Slow, consistent perseverance in the knowledge that everything will come in the right time and in the right way. In the midst of all these things I need to do, I also need to cook and eat. As I'm breastfeeding, I'm making an extra effort to eat healthy, nutritious, filling, food (because I am starving all the time). I made a risotto recently with local asparagus, which we bought in a farm shop somewhere in Sussex between London and Eastbourne. I also used local cheese instead of Parmesan. Apart from that the risotto recipe was the basic one - onion, arborio rice, vegetable stock added gradually. Then the steamed asparagus and some par-boiled peas. The cheese is added right at the end, once the risotto is cooked. The next day I rolled the leftovers into balls, covered them in breadcrumbs and fried them in rapeseed oil.
I bought beautiful carrots from that very same shop and shredded them. I juiced an orange and used that, along with good quality Virgin olive oil, Moroccan cumin and salt and pepper as a dressing. Finally, I tore some mint leaves from the garden and straight into the salad.
As the climate becomes more Mediterranean so should our diets! I don't mean to trivialise climate change, it's just that in the UK a slight climate change isn't such a terrible thing. Weather has never bean our strong point. So far this year it's been a lovely Spring and today felt positively hot. Days like these I like to eat light food that makes me think of holidays in Italy or the South of France. These mushrooms are perfect for sitting in your garden with a glass of wine and envisioning the glistening Mediterranean Sea, even if you're just staring into your murky pond.
2 Portobello mushrooms or similar
200g ricotta or another soft, white cheese
Handful fresh basil
5 sundried tomatoes
Handful pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 slices halloumi
Salt and pepper to taste
Place the mushrooms upside down in a baking tray and put the oven on 150 degrees C. Fry the halloumi cheese for 3min each side or until golden.
Blend the ricotta with the basil, sundried tomatoes, pine nuts and olive oil, reserving a few pine nuts and sundried tomato for topping. Season. Stuff the mushrooms with your ricotta mixture and top with the remaining bits: halloumi, sundried tomato and pine nuts. Bake for 25min. Serve on a bed of rocket and eat outside in the sunshine if at all possible.
Seemingly overnight Spring has brought with it many wonderful things: shiny, new leaves on the trees; showers of cherry blossoms; the first warm rays of sunshine and also, happily, it has also returned to me my love of cooking. Motherhood dimmed my passion for the act of cooking somewhat in the first few months as I focussed exclusively on the butter bean (who's not so little these days). Yet here I am, joyfully spending an entire weekend by the stove. Over the past few days I have baked sourdough bread, made aubergine curry, an Alfafa sprout salad and these spelt cookies, twice. They were good the first time but I felt like I could improve the recipe by subtracting half the butter. Yes, you read it correctly the recipe has been improved by adding less butter.
150g spelt flour
4 tablespoons tahini
100ml runny honey
2 tablespoons ground almonds
1 tablespoon soft butter
1 tablespoon raw cacao nibs
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Topping: either Eridanous Sesame Paste (you can buy this at Lidl) with honey or 2 tablespoons tahini and 1 tablespoon set honey and 1 tablespoon soft cheese like mascapone or Philadelphia
Melt the butter in a large pan. Once it has melted add the tahini. Stir for 1min on a low heat then turn the heat off. Stir in the flour, followed by all the other dry ingredients. Finally, add the egg. Mix it well to a paste the consistency of peanut butter. Pull off bits of the dough and roll it into a ball about the size of a golf ball. Flatten the top and lay them all out of a greased baking tray or on a baking tray covered in baking paper. Bake for 12min at 180 degrees C.