I used to go to the supermarket everyday. I hated the lighting, the overload of choice, the running into people, it always felt like a small but unpleasant assault on my system. But instead of getting my sh*t together and implementing a plan with a longer term focus, I went everyday, hating it.
My mouth fell open with recognition as I read this passage from Karl Ove Knausgaard's incredible book My Struggle:
"Both Linda and I live on the brink of chaos, or the feeling of chaos: everything can fall apart at any moment and we have to force ourselves to come to terms with the demands of a life with small children. We do not plan. Having to shop for dinner comes as a surprise every day."
But now because I live much further away, I really can't leave food shopping till 3.30pm.
I go once a week and now have, what feels very civilised, old-fashioned and like I am pretending to be someone else entirely, a "town day". I wash and blow-dry my hair the night before, I swap my gumboots for proper shoes, I take Harriet out of her pyjamas. For that day I am one step away from a twin-set and pearls. It's one big shop and whatever I forget we do without until the next week.
And as a consequence sometimes there is not much to eat.
The treats go first. Chocolate, good bread, goats cheese, tiny teddies for the kids. The few hero recipes I had in my mind whilst shopping are cooked and eaten (beef brisket, mulled wine, campfire chicken, winter slaw, fennel ice cream) then the grapes and bananas go and I have to delve further and further into the back in the of the freezer for meat. Some pieces are so caked with icicles I am too scared to touch them let alone eat them. And then we are left with what is in the veggie garden which at the moment is rocket, rocket, rocket and a bit of spinach and the pantry dregs.
Out of necessity I am therefore compiling a shortlist of my favourite recipes for In Between Salad Days which can be knocked up easily, tastily and out of not very much. This cauliflower soup and it's variation (below) meet all those requirements. I love this with a sprinkle of pecan dukkah, some blanched spinach, some good bread pulled out of the freezer and made crunchy in the oven with lashings of cold butter and lots of salt and pepper. The kids don't really like it but when they are hungry enough they eventually come around.
And a postscript, the talented Natasha Robinson wrote a piece in The Australian about her time visiting us. The link is here and in this world of increasing urbanisation where some people are horrified at the thought of living near a town that does not sell free range chicken or panicked when further than 10kms out from a hipster barista, she does such a great job of capturing the magic that is out here in the country.
1 celery stick
1L chicken stock
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup of cream
Spinach, a handful chopped and blanched in salted, boiling water for a couple of minutes
Salt and pepper
Cut up cauliflower florets and the stalk into small pieces, toss with olive oil and sea salt in a baking dish and bake at 180C until starting to blacken on tips. About 10-15 minutes.
Chop two onions and start to gently cook in a saucepan with a bit of olive oil and sea salt. The salt helps bring out a bit of the moisture in the onions which helps stop them from catching.
While the onion is starting to soften chop the carrot and celery stick and after about ten minutes add to the pan. Cook gently for a further ten minutes
Then add cauliflower, stock, water and bay leaves and let heat for about ten minutes or until bubbling.
If things are really Mother Hubbard you will want to pad it out a bit further. At this stage finely slice a clove of garlic and gently fry with a small nob of butter and a dash of olive oil in a separate pan. Then add a drained tin of cannelli beans and add to the garlic butter and cook for a few minutes more and add to the pot with the cauliflower and stock etc.
Blitz well with a barmix, generously season with salt and pepper, put back on the heat. When it comes to the boil, turn the heat off and add 1/2 cup of cream. Serve with bread and butter and chopped spinach and pecan dukkah (recipe below).
As an alternative to this soup, roast the cauliflower with sumac (this spice is quite new to me and I love it - looks red, tastes lemony), add freshly grated ginger to taste when you add the stock and use natural yoghurt instead of cream. And chopped coriander would be nice ontop as opposed to the blanched spinach.
(from Sneh Roy's excellent A Tasty Express)
1/2 cup pecans (she suggests pistachios but I have subbed in pecans)
2 tbs coriander seeds
2 tbs coriander seeds
2 tbs sesame seeds (I subbed in fennel seeds instead only because I had no sesame)
1 tbs ground cumin
1/4 teasp salt
1/4 teasp chilli flakes
Place all ingredients in a dry frying pan and toast on low heat for 5-8 minutes, stirring, until fragrant. Remove from heat and grind roughly in a mortar and pestle.