Sunday, 24 January 2016

How to make an elegant dish for one out of very little

I am the Queen of fast, easy and nutritious food. My work schedule means that I don't have hours to prepare an evening meal and despite having a hectic life, I cook every single day. This quick and simple dish is elegant enough for a dinner party and is not expensive at all. Why anyone would buy ready-made tomato sauce when the real thing is so easy to make, is one of the great mysteries of the universe- please give it a try.

Ingredients for one person:

One tin of chopped tomatoes, 100 grams of spaghetti, four cloves of garlic (crushed), a splash of olive oil, a small tin of anchovies, one bay leaf, 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, 50 grams of unsalted butter and a good grinding of pepper.

Heat the olive in a small pan over medium heat. When the oil is very hot, add half the butter and the garlic. Toss for twenty seconds or so until the garlic is lightly browned. Remember that garlic burns quickly and when it does becomes bitter (which will ruin the dish).

Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan, the thyme, bay leaf and the black pepper. Bring to a simmer and cover the pan. Leave to cook for around twenty minutes until the sauce has thickened and small crater-like bubbles appear on the surface.

While the sauce is simmering, boil enough water to cook the pasta according to the package instructions.  I like my pasta softer than al dente so usually add two or three minutes to the recommended cooking time. Once the pasta is cooked, drain and keep covered. Mash the remaining butter with the anchovies. Add to the hot pasta and toss until coated in the anchovy butter.

Serve the spaghetti draped in the tomato sauce and with a good grating of Parmesan cheese. Accompany with a robust red wine and a salad. My supper last night!

For a dinner party, I would add a first course of seafood such as smoked prawns or small bowls of moules mariniere and to follow the main pasta dish, salad, a cheese platter and a very light dessert such as strawberries with an orange sabayon. All very easy and inexpensive to make.

Happy eating!

Photo copyright SvD.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

RIP David Bowie

I was not a huge David Bowie fan but I have to admit that he was a pretty unforgettable kind of guy. He was devastatingly good-looking, lived a hedonistic lifestyle, was matter of fact about his bisexuality and created music that struck a chord with millions around the world. If he had passed you in the street you would have had to stop and gawp.

In an age of fabricated stardom- think silly reality TV shows where wannabes shout, sorry, sing covers in front of live audiences- a man like David Bowie was a rare thing. That sheer honesty of conducting one's life on one's terms is the sign of a person who knows themselves enough to ultimately only care about what they think. Don't confuse "I don't give a shit about what others think," with narcissistic, self-absorbed, ego centric selfishness. Those who live life on their terms however outlandish or colourful those terms may be, are fearless in their belief of themselves. They're the sort who possess and display an inordinate amount of courage. They're least likely to appear doe-eyed on your doorstep and beg for your approbation. They will probably never ask your opinion at all. What they will be though, is exceedingly charming and probably the life of the party. And they most definitely will have a disconcerting ability to see through the haze of bullshit that constitutes the average person.

There are few people in this world who have the courage to be themselves and to discover the life that was intended for them. We often hear about destiny being set in the stars but I do believe there are those, like David Bowie, who wrestle the sword of destiny and carve out the life they exactly want. It is possible but few will have the guts in their lifetime.

Reading the comments in various media on the death of Mr Bowie, the recurring praise is one of admiration for a great talent and how unique his music was. He stands out amongst the crowd because quite simply he was beyond ordinary.. He challenged himself and pushed the boundaries further away. He revolted against the norm and invented his own prototype. He purposefully went so far out into the (metaphorical) desert that he was forced to find the genius within himself. His music was inspired by anxiety, apprehension and loneliness. Artists can never create out of thrilling bliss; angst and sadness give rise to their opposites which the artist searches for and craves through creative expression. Miserable people leave a priceless legacy behind for happy people to stare blithely at.

All of us share a similarity with David Bowie- we too could take the chance to become extraordinary. It is worth remembering always: Tota vita nihil aliud quam ad mortem iter est. The whole of life is nothing but a journey to death. - Seneca.

Photo copyright SvD.

Friday, 1 January 2016

2016- New beginnings

We Brits live for chattering about the weather. We've had a very warm Winter thus far with temperatures in the teens and constant rain. Today on my walk in the countryside, it was minus 1, the ground was frozen underfoot and the frost was biting through my thermal socks. Every fellow walker I came upon said the same thing: "At last! Proper Winter!" Ours is an evergreen optimism which in spite of everything, never fades. A winter should be cold not some halfway soggy, warm imposter. And despite the grey skies we remain eternally optimistic.

Optimism, that great word which conjures up hopeless and hapless individuals endowed with little else or one who merely sees hope as a type of blessing. We were hoping for a real winter and so when it arrives, we are very grateful. We were hoping that things should be as they are meant to be. We are used to the cycle of nature and the seasons which symbolise beginnings and endings.

A New Year is upon us- what type of year do you wish for? One of beginnings or endings? Many will start the year grasping at resolutions and convictions soon to be abandoned into the slush pile of living. (Resolutions, like diets, don't work because our stamina and resolve eventually collapse.) Others will carry on as normal, or rather, will continue to live their version of the truth, a type of reality they have created for themselves, which they use as a shield because they simply do not want to face who and what they have become. Many more will stay in miserable relationships or in jobs they hate and will flee from their reflection in the mirror. I know quite a few people who have voluntarily become mentally comatose because they do not have the courage to face their reality.

Spring, that other new beginning, will soon follow winter. An acorn does not require courage to germinate into a sapling or even to grow into a mighty oak. Humans, on the other hand, require an inordinate amount of bravery to merely survive. Strength to overcome obstacles, bravery in our beliefs and values which are our own and not just the latest trend, courage to accept the things we cannot change. It takes remarkable fortitude to say: "This is who I am. I know who I am and I will not be swayed."

In a world where at the touch of a finger we can have access to  the latest news or gossip, it is very easy to become addicted to the lust for more. More. More. We mistake vacuous celebrities as trendsetters and innovators. even politicians behave like Hollywood actors these days, heroes in their own scripts. We live in an age where it is nigh impossible at times to distinguish truth from fiction. And we're not supposed to go a little nuts? Yes, we can be forgiven for losing our way- that is also the human condition.

Along comes a new year with all its promise of new starts, new hope. The human spirit is designed to triumph in adversity. If we call upon our bravery we can become indomitable and invincible. Brave enough to make the right decisions, strong enough to find out who we are. Today begins the journey of a lifetime.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Photo copyright SvD.