Saturday, 21 November 2015

Cooking: lasagna soup and frittata

My new go-to cure for insomnia: cooking! 

When I'm faced with a white night, instead of tossing and turning or watching TV, I've made a point to at least profit from the extra hours I'm awake - I will either knit/crochet/cross-stitch, or, as in this case cook.  At least this way, I will not have been up for nothing...

Pinterest came to my rescue, again:  I had already noted these two recipes and they were easy to make.  No noisy equipment to use (that would wake me up completely), or demanding work (which would not be ideal at my condition...):

Lasagna soup
(adapted from Afarmgirlsdabbles, to accomodate what was available in my fridge and pantry...)

2 tsp vegetable oil
1 Italian sausage, chopped
50g salami, finely chopped
1 cup onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbsp tomato paste
350ml diced tomatoes (passata)
1 bay leaf
750ml vegetable stock
100g short square pasta (Quadrettini )
1 tbsp dried basil
salt / pepper to taste
Start with a big casserole: over medium heat, fry the sausage and salami in oil until almost through.  Add onions and mined cloves and continue. Once all have a nice brown/caramel colour, add  tomatoes/paste and the condiments.  Add then the stock and bring to boil.  Only then add the pasta, together with the basil and any salt/pepper.  Leave to carelessly simmer, about 20 minutes.  A truly comforting soup, ready to be enjoyed...

(adapted from Donna Hay)

100g chorizo, finely chopped

50g feta
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 cup spinach (I had mini-portions, frozen)      
4 eggs
125ml single cream       
40gr grated cheese (I had mozzarella at hand)

salt/pepper to taste

Preheat oven at 200C (air). I don't have oven-proof skillets, and that's why I fried the chorizo separately.  And I don't use any oil, because the minute it hits the skillet, the chorizo starts oozing this beautiful piment oil, which is sufficient and nothing gets burned.  But always check - other types may necessitate oil to start cooking...
Beat eggs with cream and salt/pepper.
Everything else is stacked in a dish:  at the bottom I place the chorizo, which I then top with spinach and crumbled feta. Top these with chopped tomato and pour egg mixture over everything.  Finish with grated cheese.  I left everything to cook for about 15 minutes, at which point the smell coming out of the oven was the most welcoming indication that I had overcome my insomnia and that I could now go back to bed...

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Invisible Love (Les deux messieurs de Bruxelles), by Eric Emmanuel Schmitt

One of the first authors I read in modern French literature, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt remains one of my favourite ones (La Part de l'autre remains one of the books that opened my eyes...).  While French can be slightly complicated when in literature mode, his books remain an easy yet fulfilling read, with content that proves there is still much literary talent in our present day.

In this book, Schmitt deals with the subject of love in modern times.  A series of short stories, Les deux messieurs de Bruxelles found its place in my reading stash primarily because of its title:  anything that deals with Brussels, I have to buy and examine and have my opinion of it heard...

All the stories provide a twist on the notion of "love" - Schmitt goes beyond the caricature and investigates whether any one type of love better/more important than the other is.  The result is an insight into the various facets of our lives, how we deal with this feeling of intense care and how this feeling can influence and change the rest of our lives.

The first story by the same title had the strongest impact on me. And it's good this way, because it kept me yearning for more.   The stark contrast between the committed homosexual couple who will never have a family and the heterosexual couple who will go on to marry, have a family and create a huge mess of it all - it's just not right.... 

The deep love between Jean and Laurent will not be accepted by society.  But that will just not do - instead, they will "crash" the wedding of Eddy and Genevieve and take their own vows just as the young couple is celebrated by all their friends and families.  This link between the two couples will continue for the rest of their lives and will be manifested in financial and moral support as well as something more... The end of the story is wholly unexpected, which makes it even better.  (I have to admit I felt a little better for the future of mankind after reading this story.)

As so go on the short stories about the love for a pet, the love for the wrong partner, the love for one's child... All stories that defy our long-standing traditions, stories that make us (at least me!) look to our lives in a different manner.  Stories that make a point to challenge our perceptions and to change our attitude towards misfortune.  

Schmitt remains a master of short stories (and not only).  His use of the written word is the best antidote to everyday deception, betrayal, submission, apathy.  Because love is a universal theme and, however hard we may try to escape it, it will find us.  And conquer us. Hopefully...

Friday, 13 November 2015

Cooking: lentil salad with veggies

I've been feeling rather under the weather this past week, and during such times, the one thing sure to bring back the smile in my face is cooking.  Comfort cooking, that is.

Add to that that I've been longing for such a lentil salad (yes, there are many of us out there who like lentils), plus a dish that can be savoured on the go and hey presto - this recipe popped up in my trusted Pinterest.

Lentil salad with veggies
(adapted from Kalyn's Kitchen)

1 cup green lentils
1 tbsp lemon juice (in my case, three lemon juice ice cubes)
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3-4 tbsp olive oil (or to your taste)
1 cup finely cubed bell peppers (I used frozen mix)
200g chopped green olives
3 green onions, chopped
1/2 tsp.  smoked paprika
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 tbsp dried parsley

salt / pepper to taste

I started with the lentils, which I put to cook in water over a medium-low heat, to a ratio of 1 to 3.  (No salt added at this point, so that they don't go hard).  In the meantime, I used my multi to chop everything:  olives, green onions, bell peppers.  The reason was that I wanted them chopped as small as possible, so that everything is about the size of the lentils - this makes for a much better presentation...

Once the lentils are cooked, you could leave them to cool before adding them to the rest of the ingredients.  Or, like me, you could  start mixing the salad now, and make it a warm one: delicious!!!

Toss everything in a large bowl and make sure you taste at least some of it before inviting your friends over (big mistake...).  A friends- and family-approved recipe, which is to be repeated very soon!



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