I had one of THOSE days again. I pretty much went into panic mode about my occupational / living / geographical status.
Don’t get me wrong, being a lady of leisure and traveling all over the place is bloody, damn awesome. Particularly as I somehow managed to find a husband who will virtually beg me to spend a bit of money on myself and never makes me feel guilty that his was the career we chose to nurture while I get to sleep in late when I want to. But every now and then – between the lunches, and copious amount of reading and experimental cooking time – I suddenly realise “Holy crap, I don’t have a job. My husband is a contract worker. We don’t know where the next job will be. When don’t know WHEN the next job will be! We don’t know where we’ll be next week, let alone next month!! I don’t even know what to fill in when asked for my residential address!!! I don’t know what to fill in where Facebook asks what city I live in!!!! I can’t breathe!!!!!”.
But on days like this, there is one thing I can count on to quiet the voices, ease the pressure, still the storm and envelope me in a warm, cuddly haze of happiness: Food. Those dishes that evoke a happy childhood memory, or remind you of a special time and place with special people or, simply, remind you that no matter how crazy and unpredictable and scary your life might seem right now, you can always count on a few things to stay the same. The right meal can achieve all that. Your favourite spaghetti bolognaise recipe will taste today like it did last week or last year or the first time you closed your eyes and savoured that second mouthful (the first mouthful you just shoveled down of course, because it was just spaghetti right, how good could it be?). This is one of those dishes. A very special take on something resembling a bouillabaisse that reminds me of home and my mom. It is also one of the first things I remember making after I discovered that I rather loved cooking, so adding a bit of orange zest to some fish was very shoo-wow! Some people would get comfort from aunty’s cottage pie or granny’s chocolate cake or matron’s mash. I found it in a bowl of my mom’s seafood broth.
What dish do you choose when you’re in the mood for a bit of nostalgic psychotherapy? Google Analytics tells me there are loads of you out there reading my blog, but you’re all rather quiet. I’d love to hear from you! What passes for mash in Jakarta, Nottingham, Madrid, Glenorchy or Roodepoort?
From Elsa van der Nest’s fabulous book, Simply Entertaining.
olive oil for frying
2 medium onions, finely chopped
15ml garlic, finely chopped
45ml mixed fresh herbs
45ml fresh basil
2 bay leaves
2 x 400g cans whole, peeled tomatoes
30ml tomato paste
200ml dry white wine
500ml fish stock (Ina Paarman’s liquid concentrates are worth a try)
500ml mussel stock (use reserved cooking liquid when preparing mussels)
25ml triple sec liqueur
finely grated zest of half a lemon
finely grated zest of 1 orange
600g line fish, cut into 4cm squares
300g calamari rings
24 mussels, cooked, on the half shell
basil leaves for garnishing
1) Heat oil in a large pot. Add onions, garlic, herbs, basil, bay leaves and seasoning and sauté until tender.
2) Add tomatoes, tomato paste, wine and stocks. Simmer gently for 40 minutes.
3) Add liqueur, brandy and zest and simmer gently for a further ten minutes.
4) Liquidize the mixture until smooth then pass through a fine sieve. At this point you could refrigerate for a few days and just continue when you’re ready to serve.
5) Gently reheat the sauce. Add the line fish and cook for 3 minutes. Add the calamari, prawns and mussels and simmer for 2 minutes more.
6) Garnish with basil and serve with squid ink pasta.