I cleaned and oiled my wooden cutting boards today. I do that about 3 or 4 times a year. First, I cut a lemon in half and sprinkle the board with some rock salt. Then I scrub the board with the cut side of the lemon. The salt acts as a gentle abrasive. When finished, I wipe it down with paper towel, and then oil it well. The oil penetrates the wood, preserving it and giving it a lovely sheen.
Then I oiled the wooden handles of my French knives. They look so good now. In celebration I spent an hour chopping vegetables to make home made tomato paste. AND I made a gorgeous Indian eggless custard. The recipes will appear here in due course.
I had a conversation yesterday with a friend. He is an artist. No, really, he is a real artist – a person with a real gift for capturing emotional content from inanimate things in his camera. But he does not trust himself as an artist (my interpretation of him). So whenever he has an exhibition coming, or a showing, he wants to do fancy things with his work. My sense of art aches for him, because I think he has such a “pureness” about his work that it does not need fancy backings and layouts and formats. I just want him to let his work shine. He of course, argued with me.
But I realised afterwards that I am about letting things, people, work, shine – to be themselves and to glow in that. Even my cooking. It is simple, usually, and quick, usually. It is often rustic (I like rustic). But the joy of eating, whether that is sitting on the floor, watching TV, eating in the park, or at a formal dinner, is from the food – from the ingredients – not from the layers of complexity introduced. I have a friend at the moment going through a period of loss, and yet when she ate my garlicky ginger soup, the look of happiness on her face was truly amazing.
Simple. That’s me.
I don’t like trickery, whether that is in art, cooking, work, politics,books, life, love … No wonder I have a reputation in my work for getting to the heart of the matter and simplifying things so that people can understand and engage. Removing the layers of bu**#@%$ that people seem intent to build around things. Maybe it gives them power. When you remove your own need for power, wisdom and authority come naturally.
My meditation this month is on being aware of awareness travelling from one object of focus to another – niimf in Shum. Being aware of being aware is not a difficult concept to grasp but being aware of awareness as it moves from one area of mind to another is an amazing thing. Try it. Think about the last book you read. Now think about what you are going to do tomorrow. See? Catch it? Your awareness moving? Try it again. Book. Tomorrow. Book. Tomorrow. Did you notice your awareness moving? It is called niimf (nee-(i)mf).
I was reading over breakfast the book “Flora” by the photographer Nick Knight which captures in photographs the dried flowers of the Natural History Museum in London. (See the image at the top of this post.) In the Introduction he talks about his awareness of the plants he was working with in a way that really resonated with me.
I was struck by the fact that these plants didn’t look dead. Life was very apparent. I could see the movement of the wind blowing through their leaves and petals, sense the water flowing throughout their vessels and their flowers straining to turn and open into the sun’s rays. But these plants had one important difference – the fragility, the tragic urgency had gone and they had taken on a new certainty of being; a statement like boldness. They have escaped their fate.
So what to cook for you today while I am reflective and mellow? Why not tomatoes and melted cheese?
Pomodori Gratinati (Tomatoes Gratineed with Cheese)
Source : inspired by Twelve: A Tuscan Cookbook
Prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 40 mins
Serves: 4 – 6 people, depending how you use it
6 large ripe plum tomatoes
3 Tblspns chopped parsley
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
10 or so mint leaves
10 or so basil leaves
1 Tblspn freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 Tblspn grated fresh pecorino cheese
1.5 Tblspn fine breadcrumbs
6 Tblspn cold pressed virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Wash and dry the tomatoes and halve them. With a teaspoon, gently scoop out the flesh and seeds without damaging the tomato shells. It may help to use a small knife to sever first, then scoop with the spoon.
Put the tomato shells into a baking dish cut side up, and season with salt and pepper.
Finely chop the tomato flesh and seeds and put into a bowl. Add the parsley, garlic, mint and basil. Stir in the grated cheeses and breadcrumbs. Mix well, and add half of the olive oil. Mix again.
Spoon the mixture into the tomato shells and drizzle with the remaining olive oil. Bake in the hot oven for 25 – 35 minutes or until they are lightly golden and cooked.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
The Holiday Series
- Mint Paneer: A recipe
- Srikand: A recipe
- Creme Fraiche: How to make
- Thick Thick Yogurt (Yogurt Cheese): How to make
- Yogi Tea: A recipe
- Roasted Rosemary Pears: A Recipe
- Pomodori Gratinati (Baked Tomatoes with Cheese): A recipe
- Ginger Garlic Lentil Soup: A recipe
- Oven Baked Chickpeas: A recipe
The Tomato Series
- Bruschetta al Pomodoro
- Chana Chat with Chat Masala
- Ginger Garlic Lentil Soup
- Go Spanish – Tomato Paella
- Plump Ruby Bites – Oven Dried Tomatoes
- The Simplest Spaghetti
- Take a Tomato – Quick Tomato Soup
- Tomato Rasam for a SPICE Hit!
- Tomato Salad
- Simple approaches