The sky - cloudy. I know not of the weather that is to come, it be sweltering or stormy. My surroundings are enshrouded in a foggy mass that reeks of burnt sulphur and smoke. It's rather bleak, I admit. The muggy sky is far from picturesque, a scene fit in a post-apocalyptic movie.
But it definitely does not reflect my mood, despite the sky that's a sight for sore eyes (sorry 'bout the pun). I trudge, though with a light heart, down the familiar concrete path. After all, it's Friday, the day I've been anticipating most eagerly since Monday. But today, I bypass my house, walking past the familiar gate to the new complex, sitting there like a present waiting to be unwrapped.
I have yet to explore, so on an adventure I embark.
I roam the walkways, still new with their dusty surface and other curious venturers who traverse them for the same reasons I do. I walk about, blissfully ignorant of the sweat that makes my collar cling to my nape and the load on my back that makes the strength needed for every step seem to be multiplied tenfold.
My stomach rumbles. Lunch.
I make my way to a café, a diner with a warm ambience and the fragrances of cooked food lingering in the air, mingling with the quiet chatter of diners. I greet the cashier with a smile, order my soup, and make my way back to my seat with a steaming bowl of carrot-orange (color) pumpkin soup with sprinkles of parsley. The green bits of parsley are soon mixed with the black of coarse pepper, and I inhale deeply before digging in.
The bowl is drained quickly, bread used to mop up the stubborn dregs that remain at the base of the bowl. My right hand advances towards the plate of bread, the other holding David Sedaris' Naked. The right discovers that the plate is bare (heartlessly so), and so I pack up, purchase a pastry or two before hearing the bells jingle with my parting footsteps.
It's another twenty minutes that I spend there, for can't help but stroll the supermarket aisles, fascinated by foreign products. I return home with my pastries, bananas, oats, an energy bar, and a jar of Fauchon spread. There goes my budget, oh well.
The rain tumbles down now, in a shower I'm certain will be shortlived. The groceries are unpacked, my bun was eaten, and this post written (as well as somethings that's pretty exciting but I can't say shhh).
And now, bread.
The below two recipes were made with the time-constrained soul in mind (after all, when are we not constrained by time?). Quick and with little fuss to be made, no-knead bread is the answer. Last year, I baked a loaf of this bread that I'm sad to say, was largely unsuccessful. Hence, I've devised a cheat's method for all you poor dears out there who like me, sadly lack a dutch oven.
And so bread it is - loaded with spice and gooey figs, sultanas as well as dates. It's for the sugarfree junkies out there, vegans, bread lovers, and the everyday person alike. Enjoy!
No-Knead Spiced Bread
makes 1 21-cm loaf
3 c bread flour (450g)
1 tsp yeast
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 c water
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp clove (optional)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 c dried figs (4-5)
2/3 c pitted medjool dates (4-5)
1/3 c raisins / sultanas
1. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl, then add the water and stir till a sticky but even mixture is formed.
2. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm, draft-free spot for at least 2 hours.
3. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and shape it into a 20-cm disk.
4. Flour the bowl and return the dough to it. Cover and let it rise for another hour.
5. Preheat the oven to 200c with a ovenproof casserole / dutch oven (see below for notes if you don't have a round one) for 10 mins.
6. Tip the dough into the casserole and cover. Bake for half an hour.
7. Remove the lid and continue baking for another 20 mins, until golden.
8. Let it cool for 30 mins before slicing. Enjoy.
If you don't have a round casserole, you can place a cake pan IN the casserole and bake the bread in the pan like I did.
And now, bread always needs a spread.
The two packets of pre-roasted chestnuts sit on the dining table most invitingly (we have a continuous supply on hand). My hand, the left one this time, stretches out and grabs them. The contents go into our ancient food processor along with the seasonings. I blend. Blend and blend. Blend till the processor's overheated, cools down, and blend again. My hand grasp the small piece of equipment while my eyes are fixated on the blender. C'mon, I say, c'mon let the oil flow. But it doesn't.
Then it strikes me.
There is no oil to be released.
So water swooshes in and saves the day.
My end result: a creamy paste, mild in flavour with a not too oily disposition. Not bad. Not bad at all.
Maple Cinnamon Chestnut Butter
makes 1 large jar
300 g pre-roasted chestnuts (2 cups)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp sal
2 tbsp. maple syrup
1/2 c water
1. Process chestnuts in a food processor to a floury consistency with salt and cinnamon.
2. Add in maple syrup, then water in tablespoonfuls. Process some more until a creamy / pasty consistency is reached.
3. Transfer to an airtight container and keep in the fridge. Lasts for about 10 days.
The following are excerpts of what I've scrawled in my little notebook about the weather in the past week. Enjoy! (this was slanted since the rain, too, was slanted)
I love how the rain pitters and patters, how it splatters all over surfaces, consistent, uncontrollable. I love being able to look out of the window, where the chill seeps in, and see a world now foreign to me. It's a magical thing, rain.
It's been raining. Hard. The past few days have been ones where thunder and lightning prevail, accompanied by torrential rain which blurs the landscape out into hazy masses of blobs, drowning out the drone of class with its constant drumming upon the roof, and soaking anything beneath it.
It's a nice change, after the past weeks of stiflingly hot weather. But I dislike the cold that accompanies it - the chilly vines which take root in your toes and crawl their way onto your limbs. The chill seeps everywhere, reducing all into shivering figures frantically rubbing their hands. It's futile, of course. Who can withstand this weather?
It's frosty everywhere. I've got frosty fingers, frosted toes, and a smidge of frosting on my nose. But, really, my teeth are chattering unstoppably despite the thick jacket I've got on. I fear I might go into hibernation.
After this chilly weather, I've got baked bananas to keep me warm, similar to how 'nana ice cream' cools everything down. And if fulfilling an especial purpose, bananas deserve the royal treatment - that is smor-ised, or fluffernutt-ed. Add additional toppings like pomegranate arils / nuts if you wish. And of course, don't ever forget to enjoy.
Oh, and a moment to thank the lovely guys over at Sorted Food for their feature and the equally charming words that accompanied this post. Very aptly put indeed (chuckles)! *blushing a deep shade of fuschia* Do check them out for their uber-smexy food.
- to be continued -
hot, hot summer
recipe for banana bread is at the bottom
The weeks are passing by swiftly, far too swiftly for the mind to register, but in time for the camera to capture the best moments.
I type amidst a haze of stifling heat, one that clogs up the mind and your insides. This week is much more different than the last, where storm clouds ruled alongside turbulent weather. But this week, the sky is devoid of the poofy, puffy white masses, bearing only wisps of lost cotton puffs and the lone birds.
We fall down, like in the nursery rhyme where we sniff posies and go round in rings. Man down, we say, for the numbers in class dwindle, the seats left empty. The occasional sniff or cough breaks the unusual silence, and now, the chugging fans in class dominate the atmosphere.
I suppose summer is in one of her moods again, where she bears down on us with her overbearing glare, melting us down, urging us to just surrender, to just let go.
We all have been urged to let go at some point or another, to release ourselves from some sort of safe point. We're pushed to our limits, to the breaking point, and the persistent whispers of let go begin to enter the mind.
But no, we say, no. We do not give up, for we are more resilient than the whispers, more determined to succeed than to let the whispers do so. We fight, with bravery and with courage, and most of all, resolute.
Now, I come with something to fight this summer, she who is most furious. It defends us, it sates our appetite, and it brings some form of pleasure with it.
It is jam. Chia jam.
I adore the texture of this jam. It's soft and speckled with bits of chia seeds, all the while with a rich and summer-y flavour to leave us with a better impression of her. This jam is packed with fibre, omega 3, protein, and delicious-ness. The making is short, but not as short as the amount of time you finish it (okay, I do exaggerate). Enjoy as a topping, as a spread for your pb + j, or on anything else you fancy.
And now, for a worthy accompaniment to jam - bread.
I'm sure I've mentioned it before, as I have with many other things, but banana bread is one of those things that childhood never, ever lets you forget.
I see her, with her platinum blond cropped hair standing up starkly against the greenery which encompasses us. She beckons us with a smile, one that is as wide as the brim of her hat. Come, she urges us, come try some fresh banana bread with tea. And never did I forget that banana bread - the softness, the airiness, the natural sweetness.
After so long, I haven't forgot - and here, I've succeeded in replicating that flavour into my bread. It's moist, it's soft, and best of all, wholesome. The bits of mashed banana appear occasionally here, along with some walnuts added for texture. Stir in some other seeds or what-have-you into the bread, or top with more nuts, seeds etc. I did so with a seed mix and coconut.
This banana bread is anything but unsatisfactory. Warm it up prior to consuming, if you wish, and as always, enjoy.
1. Preheat oven to 170 c. In a bowl, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar and cinnamon.
2. Combine mashed bananas with milk and vanilla extract. Pour into flour mixture and stir well.
3. Add walnuts and any other ingredients, then pour into a greased loaf tin (mine was 9 x 22). If adding toppings, sprinkle them on now.
4. Bake for an hour. Ensure that it is cooked through by inserting a toothpick, which should come out clean.
5. Let it cool for 15 mins, serve and enjoy.
-to be continued-