Dug up some horseradish, washed, peeled and grated it, the smell drilled through my sinuses. Made a sauce that keeps in the fridge for almost ever and is pretty addictive in cheese sandwiches, mixing grated horseradish, powdered mustard, a little cider vinegar, crème fraîche (sour cream), with a little salt and pepper. Used some to mix with flecked smoked mackerel and more crème fraîche, to make a pretty delicious pâté.
And then inspired by a lovely recipe by Cheryl Sternman Rule, I concocted a most delicious spread substituting ready cooked beetroot for the original fresh spinach.
PRETTY in pink SPREAD
2 oz/56g cooked beetroot
1/2 cup whole roasted, unsalted cashews (I roast them at 160 degree Celsius for about 10 minutes and let them cool)
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 oz/28g cream cheese
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon (or to taste) freshly grated horseradish
pinch of salt/fresh black pepper to taste
I started by reducing the cashews and the garlic into powder in the food processor, and then added the rest of the ingredients, it is necessary to stop and scrape the ingredients back from the sides where they will aim to escape. The resulting colour is pretty lovely and it tastes absolutely delicious (and quite sweet) with or without horseradish. When spinach is in season where you are, you may like to make a green spread and a pink spread the same day for the same meal and rejoice in the joy of natural food colours. Toast your bread ! Play with your food !
These past couple of weeks have been warmed with the nearness and kindness of friends and the smile of strangers, are my planets particularly aligned ? How easy it is sometimes to be alive (and grateful).
One only sees what one looks for, one only looks for what one knows. Goethe
This is just to remember to have dreams, daydreams and sleep dreams, to piece sensations and light together and create new images, a silent knowledge to bring into life.
My mother died ten years ago yesterday pretty suddenly. We went to visit friends and to breathe the wind and the sea, it was a good way to mark the day alive and kicking full of enjoyment for the moment and full of ideas and desires for the future, carrying the memories into the day.
We are quite French here so we learned from an early age that pears pair famously with blue cheese (roquefort!) for breakfast lunch or dinner. These pancakes are not crêpes, but the thicker, risen, smaller one they call over the waters drop scones on our right and pancakes on our left. We make them with kefir, but I guess any kind of butter- or soured-milk will do, and they are quickly mixed before breakfast on a weekend morning. In these days of strong icy wind and snowy-rain, a hearty breakfast is de rigueur, if you can count yourself lucky like we do and your home has not suffered in the recent floods or storms (and my heart goes out to people who are without shelter). In the most dreadful days of the plantation Cromwell’s choice to the native Irish was “To hell or Connaught“, in truth it looks like Connaught is one little corner of paradise, as we are repeatedly spared the worst of the weather, our top soil is paper thin (before we get working on it) but we are safe.
Pear and Blue Cheese Pancakes (enough for 3 large or 4 small morning appetites)
[adapted from Sustainable Echo]
SIFT OR MIX WITH WHISK THE DRY INGREDIENTS TOGETHER:
2 cups/270g flour (I use white spelt organic)
1 tsp soda
1tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
WHISK TOGETHER AND ADD TO DRY INGREDIENTS:
2 tbsp melted butter or oil
1 cup/250ml kefir or buttermilk (or milk soured with lemon juice)
WHEN IT IS WELL MIXED ADD:
1 cup/250ml kefir or buttermilk (or milk soured with lemon juice)
Thin slices of pear are delicately placed onto the batter once it has been poured onto a hot greased cast iron pan,
serve with slices of blue cheese of your choice, and a glug of maple syrup (definitely not French here). And then you may go and look at some trees and be grateful.
I climb into trees, run after goats, carry 25kg and even 40kg grain bags, but not every day. I slip on muddy paths and fall, tear my skin on thorns, get electric shocks, but not every day. I drop my tools, my gloves, forget to gather my baskets and buckets, have to retrace every single step, but not every day. I talk to the goats, to the cats and the chickens, to the plants, I sing to myself silently as I walk and louder in the car although I know that it is not remotely soundproof, sometimes I sing to the animals too. I talk to the birds, and, as I learned from my country grandmother a long time ago, I cut up cheese rind in tiny pieces and mix that with second-hand fat for their dinner, there is a pair of binoculars on the kitchen table to get a closer view of them as they eat, my favourites now as when I was a child, the blue tits, such exquisitely drawn little creatures. This winter has been very mild, no chilblains, no cracked skins on my thumbs, I remember one single day when the ground was frozen solid and it was suddenly easy to push the wheelbarrow loaded with the goats’ daily greens. I cut briars full of thorns planted in all possible angles that sometimes pierce through my thick leather gloves, nothing is intrinsically good or bad so thanks to those thorns my big daily bundles that the goats love passionately hold nicely together, in my arms, on my back, on my head, in the wheelbarrow.
There is still plenty of hay so most days in this January when it is difficult to imagine that Summer will come round again, I am grateful for the last long Summer full of dry days for cutting long grass, turning long grass, collecting long grass to feed the goats in the time of no growth. It is hard daily work but lovely chosen work, and I believe necessary work for my balance, for my head, for knowing my place in the universe. Some days as I sit in the shed I wish that the wood would get itself into the basket and carry itself to the stove side and when I get back inside I would rather nap than study and sometimes that’s exactly what I do.
Since yesterday there is a promise of Spring in the light and a million or more stars in the night sky but I am yawning into an early night in bed not long after the children disappear, I am still gathering my strength, plotting my Spring.
Slow start of the year here but that’s the best we can do, feeling cold and tired often but thankfully confident and spirited, being quietly strong, for the children and for the animals, being quietly present and conscious, for me.
I recently opened a box of papers and letters that were shipped when my mother died—ten years ago next month, I found newspaper cuttings—secret messages from her to me to be unfolded and received—and also photographs and mementoes of her children. I found two enthusiastically forked carrots I had drawn and cut out as a child, they made me incredibly happy as I realized that I long ago started tugging at the one thread with some insistence, and that I can allow and forgive myself some slow unproductive days in the crook of this Winter’s neck, wishing the moss would not be so damp, knowing fully well what the hibernating animal version of me would do right now.
I am cooking old reliables of comfort foods, turning the stored pumpkins, garlic and oversized courgettes into brightly coloured soups. Being completely uninventive on a day-to-day basis but always in full appreciation of the joy to be found in the simplest meal, I make all our sourdough breads, deliciously toasted when it gets old, to be smothered in thick cold butter.
I think it is good to move slowly at this time, better to prepare for the jump into the Spring that I know will come—I have seen all the buds on the branches, I know all the life incased in them, the promise.
Not new year resolutions as such, simply the hailing of the gift of another year of learning, new skills perhaps new tricks maybe, but more than anything the opportunity to know myself even more, to sit with myself, to do my thing (be a woman, a mother, a maker of stuff, a tentative horticulturist, a wild fermentator, a student homeopath…) , and through that to learn about being human and about life, to be able to find my heart filled with ever more gratitude and love.
HAPPY NEW YEAR to all.