Wednesday, 23 May 2012

we made the fire.

You know, I was going to babble you about the fishing trip that my dad used to take me to when I was younger. I tried hard to jog my memories back and tried my upmost to write them all down here, so I can share those magical moments with you. But I found it hard. It's proven rather difficult.
Such a moment, that has been wrapped up tightly with so much emotions, isn't the kind of thing you can share by talking perhaps.

Growing up, I didn't have very good relationship with my dad unfortunately. 
It wasn't until very recently that I have learnt to understand him for who he is really. I'm pretty sure he will say the same about me.

I think we were two strong characters with very different ideas about way of life. 
We used to argue day in, day out until he shouted 'Under my roof, my rules!'. 
I was so desperate to get away from that roof, the roof that sheltered me for all the wrong reasons. What he expected of me seemed so far from what could be achieved or what I wanted to pursue. I just wanted get out and do my own thing so desperately. And that desperation eventually brought me here, to London.
I remember my dad yelling at me once, that he didn't believe I will be able to last here as I have been a quitter for all those years he remembered. He more than often used say I give up things too easily. It was so harsh things to hear, I know. But that was my dad. And I know why he said that. 
He knew if he said that, I would work harder and make sure I last, just so I can prove him wrong. He knew his daughter too well.
The man with very few words congratulated me on my first return visit home, almost 3 years after landing in London.

My first camping trip few weekends ago reminded me a lot of the fishing trip. 
Being out in the wild with very little convenience, gave us a chance to appreciate each other's company. Hearing nothing but the birds singing, we could hear our voices better. Looking after the fire that kept us warm and full, we learnt to be patient. Searching for the stars in the dark, we found each other in different light. Walking along the muddy woodlands, we spent time helping each other. We made an effort to talk. Not to upset each other, not to demand anything but just to keep each other's company happy. 

Sweet lentil and goats cheese salad
serves 2

for the salad
80g puy lentil
1-2 shallot, finely sliced (save little bit for the dressing)
some cooked and pickled beetroots, thinly sliced
some mild goats cheese
some olive oil
salt and pepper

for the chilli and coriander dressing
some finely chopped shallots
1 1/2tbsp cider vinegar
1tsp caster sugar
pinch of salt
pinch of crushed chilli
handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped
1tbsp olive oil

This is simple and humble plate of food that is perfect served on its own as a light lunch or as a side with beautifully grilled meat. Gently fried shallots add lovely sweet flavour to the lentils whilst shallots in the dressing keeps the dish fresh and light.

First of all, cook your lentils with plenty of water and pinch of salt for 20-25mins. You want them to be cooked through but still have a bite to them. Once ready, drain well.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix all the ingredients for the dressing except the olive oil. Set it aside. Add the olive oil in when you are ready to bring things together.

Now, gently fry the shallots in little olive oil until dark golden. 
Add the well drained lentils to the fried shallots as well as the sliced beetroots.
Bring things together by dressing them generously with prepared chilli and coriander dressing. Season with black pepper.
Plate up, add your goats cheese, drizzle little more dressing over the salad and tuck in.

I treasure the fishing trips with dad. It is one of the very few memories that is not tainted with anger. Every moment I can picture of those trips has an ordinary father and daughter loving each other the way that I saw in others.

Monday, 7 May 2012

I am happy that you are.

I know this sounds really really bad.
Mum, please just look away if you are reading this first sentence as I am about to explore our inseparable love-hate relationship. 
But my dear readers, I will be honest with you.

In the past, if my phone displays 'mum_mob', I used to hesitate. 
I hesitated big time because, a) she tends to ring me when it is not really appropriate time for me, b) from my experience, I know almost every time she probably won't be in a good mood when she calls me, and c) sometimes it is a real struggle for me to comprehend what it is exactly upsetting my mother. 
For instance, one Saturday evening, I'd just got in from work and just as I sat down, even before I got changed, my mum's on the phone. Bear in mind and please understand, it had been a long old hard day. My journey home was awful due to the chaotic traffic caused by  rugby match. I was tired, hungry, hot and bothered quite frankly.
One thing and the only thing that I did not wish to do, and could not put up with on that particular evening, was to have my mum on the other side of the line and listening to yet, another, repetitive, stories of her non apparent issues. Yes, I am sorry, but I said it.

My mother has this habit of repeating her opinions. 
It is chronic as far as I am concerned. If it happens to be a negative one, she goes on for even longer. She mostly only ever rings me when things aren't quite brilliant. 
It seems as though, she somehow finds comfort from ventilating the stuff out to this poor soul. 
But I find that really hard so I tend to shut it out. It is not exactly easy to cope with the fact that I cannot physically help her due to the long distance. With just over five and a half thousand miles between us, to be precise, and although my head will tell me there is nothing I could do about it, I'll indeed still feel guilty. 

But lately, she seems a bit different. In a good way, of course.
Like the other Wednesday for example, I was in the middle of doing something when my phone went. I realised it has been a long time since I spoke to her last and thought to myself I'd better answer.
'' I hear you've been busy talking to your little sister. Did you not call me because you don't want to speak to me these days?''
I laughed. 
I could hear her giggling while trying hard to put on a serious voice to have me on. I remember this mum, whose sense of humour was always celebrated by her children and who used to be the master of seeing the funny side of every story.
For the first time in a very long while, I felt warm inside. I found the comfort in her. I felt strong that I had my mum back. 

Like her, I could see the funny side of this, us.

Eggy Bread with Balsamic Strawberries

for the bread
few slices of bread
couple of eggs, lightly beaten
drop of milk
pinch of salt
some ground cinnamon
some sugar
some butter and little olive oil

for the strawberries
150g sweet English strawberries, halved or quartered
2tbsp balsamic vinegar
1tsp vanilla sugar
some freshly cracked black pepper
few mint leaves, finely sliced

for the garnish
dollop of natural yogurt
toasted pistachio nuts, roughly chopped

I love eggy bread. When I was young, but old enough to be in the kitchen, I used to make this a lot for my sister and brother. My original version of first ever eggy bread is nowhere near as fancy as this, but the big bowl of crunchy brown sugar always made it delicious.
This version has lots of elements that will be appreciated by more educated palate, like balsamic marinaded strawberries with cracked black pepper. It is sweet, sticky and spicy. This luxurious strawberries keep the whole thing very fresh; alive.

First, you need to marinade strawberries as this will give strawberries some time to take up on those flavours that you're about to add.
It is very simple to do this. Get a large bowl, put strawberries, balsamic vinegar, sugar and black pepper. Mix them well, cover it up and leave them in the fridge as long as you can. Anything between 20mins to overnight will be fine. When you're ready to serve stir in the mint to re-introduce the freshness.

Make the egg mixture by whisking the eggs with little milk to loosen it up. Season it with pinch of salt and dunk the bread into the mixture. When they soaked up the mixture, pan fry them with little butter until golden brown and sprinkle with some sugar and cinnamon.
I fry mine with little drizzle of olive oil as well as butter to stop the butter burning.

Spoon the strawberries onto your eggy bread with a good dollop of natural yogurt, and don't forget to sprinkle some chopped pistachio nuts for the extra crunch.
Hope you enjoy.

She says, 'Now I lost everything, I can see what I couldn't see back then. And you're right. I was too busy looking for what was not there, almost forgot to appreciate what I had all along... I'm sorry if I have been a depressing company at times but I am happy now, content where I am and who I am.'

Being content where we are, I am very happy for you, mum.