Thursday, 31 July 2014

Three grain mango salad and swimming against the tide

There's no denying that I'm swimming against the tide here. London is a city where most people work hard, shop hard, party hard, then when they've had enough they settle down and start a family. Which is fantastic if that's what you actually want. After 8 years on the treadmill of London life I realized that I didn't know what I wanted anymore: I was tired, my diary was filled with plans I had no energy for and my choices were coming from a strange place. I was rushing from one commitment to another, going along with the current, but not being fully present anywhere. I was disconnected from my body and my spirit, while my mind was working overtime. I felt like a machine. I decided that I needed to to re-establish my sense of personal freedom and individuality. Slowly, like a child working out who they are and what they like, I started. On the outside nothing changed at first, it was a simple inner choice to commit to myself. It turned out that what I was looking for was this: That feeling of anything being possible, of life as an adventure... Long, meandering walks through the quiet city streets when everyone is at work... Waking up each day at a time that is right for my body and deciding what my goals and priorities are according to how I feel... Being able to stop work and go for a run when the sun comes out... Working solely on projects I believe in... So far so wonderful. Here's the catch: it's not bloody easy. You need to somehow make money in order to survive, your sense of self is constantly tested, you feel judged often, sometimes you doubt everything, you make mistakes, you loose your balance... There is no safety net. You know all those uncomfortable feelings you'd rather distract yourself from? They're all here, waiting for you. You have to be strong if you want to go this way. One day you wake up and take stock:  I'm still here, surviving; I've learnt that I have the capacity to love myself unconditionally; I feel physically and mentally better than I did 5 years ago (no more chronic back ache for a start); I'm more present, more myself; I drink less alcohol (most of the time) and my diet is healthier, not because I'm trying to be healthy but it feels natural to me. So I've gone all the way back to the simplest and most important thing of all: health. With that in mind, here's a lovely three grain mango salad for you
Ingredients

Quinoa
Pearl Barley
Bulgur wheat
Mango
Cherry tomatoes
Cucumber
Coriander
Celery
Chia seeds for topping
Lemon juice
Olive oil
Celery salt and pepper 
Cook all the grains together, as that makes things super easy - they all take about 25min. Then just leave them, covered, in the pan to steam for a bit, before cooling. All the vegetables and herbs need to be chopped quite finely for this. Enjoy, preferably in the sunshine.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

White chia seed and banana cake, a strange method

I love cooking, as you know, but not having any scales, combined with a preference for healthy, savoury food has meant that I rarely bake. People tell me that baking is therapeutic, I find it powdery and messy. Until recently. You see I've found a strange method of baking that is most pleasing to my senses. It's physical, soft and aromatic. Every time I bake in this way, I find it such an enjoyable experience that a few days later, I bake again, trying the method out with different ingredients. I love the way it feels to do something differently to how you've always done it. For example, what's also occurred to me lately is that I can run around the park in the opposite direction... for the 12 years I have been running around Victoria Park, I've never thought to change direction - now everything is new! Small changes in behaviour and habit can have an enormous impact on the psyche. This is the lesson I now need to apply to the rest of my life: make small, important changes
So here is my strange baking method: Instead of putting all the dry ingredients in a bowl first, I melt the butter, then add the sugar and the chia seeds. I take the pan off the heat, sieve in half the flour, slowly, stirring; add the egg yolks. I stir more. I add the mashed banana, then the other half of the flour. Stirring all the time. Finally, the egg whites. At this point, I use the whisk to beat it all together and create the desired fluffiness, before pouring into a greased baking tray. Bake as you would with any other cake, in a pre-heated oven at around 180 for about 45min. Serve with a dollop of bio-yoghurt and some organic honey. Chia seeds, by the way, are one of the healthiest foods around, high in Omega 3, fibre and protein. 

Ingredients

3 bananas, mashed
100g white chia seeds
125g raw cane sugar
2 eggs (whites beaten)
125g butter
125g plain flour
Yoghurt and honey to serve