The events in Paris this weekend have rendered me rather mute over the last few days. I wanted to get on to the blog almost immediately, but it seemed a little superficial to be talking about food whilst the people of Paris reeled from the attack.
During this period of reflection I came across a poem on facebook. Written by a lady called Oriah Mountain Dreamer, the first verse reminded me that – rather than being irrelevant – cookery and the sharing of food can in fact be a useful tool in times of distress. I will be discussing my thoughts on this topic at a later date. For now I leave you with Oriah’s beautifully poignant words and a recipe for mindful cookery.
Today, may we let ordinary things show us
How to make room for heartache and hope
Letting soup simmer all day
Paying attention to the taste of hot sweet tea
Letting the scent of cinnamon slow us down
Let’s make love to this day
In the way we linger and listen to each other
Finding a way to be still for three breaths
Letting our hands come to rest on the table
Sitting in the centre of Debussy’s “Claire de Lune”
Softening to the sadness
There is a way to be with anger and fear and grief
A way to hold them with so much tenderness
That terror cannot take root
Let us make a light of that tenderness
Leaning into each other, feeding each other
Creating together a heart that can hold it all
~Oriah House © November 13, 2015
I encourage readers to approach this recipe with the same mindset as you might a meditation. Put aside plenty of time, take your time with each stage. Perhaps put on a cd or tune into your favourite radio show. Breathe deep and slow as you stir, try to remain present with the task in hand. I find cooking in this way incredibly useful for processing the thoughts and worries of my week.
I chose mushrooms for this exercise because they are particularly high in magnesium, a mineral that can help relax tense, stiff muscles and aid relaxation. Some also believe that magnesium can ease insomnia, anxiety and headaches – classic symptoms of stress. (Huffington Post. March 2010) Raw cacoa adds a deep, savoury flavour to mushroom dishes and is also a great source of magnesium. And the dry sherry? Well there has to be a little mischief.
- 2 medium onions
- 600g mushrooms
- A good splash of dry sherry
- A handful of red lentils
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable bouillon
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 tablespoon of paprika
- 1/2 tablespoon raw cacoa powder
- 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 litre of water
- 1 1/2 tablespoon creme fraiche
- Peel and finely chop both of the onions. Remember, take your time. Pour a little rapeseed oil in the bottom of a large pan and gently sweat the onions until soft and translucent. Stir regularly to prevent them sticking. Slow cooking the onions in this way allows them to develop a mellow flavour and infuses the kitchen with one of the best cooking smells ever discovered.
- Tip the diced onion on to a plate and set aside.
- Inspect the mushrooms. Brush any soil away with a pastry brush. Chop the mushrooms into bite size pieces.
- In small batches, fry the mushrooms until golden brown. Add a little more oil if required. Shake the pan occasionally but don’t stir. Tip each batch onto the plate with your onions and move onto the next one.
- Return the fried onions and mushrooms to your pan. Splash in the dry sherry and simmer to reduce.
- Toss in the red lentils, vegetable bouillon, paprika, cacao, bay leaf and thyme.
- Stir well and pour on the water. Bring to the boil and reduce to simmer. Set your kitchen alarm for 30 minutes. Put the kettle on and put your feet. Stare out of a window. Breathe deeply. Anticipate the flavours of the final dish.
- After 30 minutes or so, taste the soup and season with extra salt and pepper if needed. Take off the heat and blend until smooth.
- Stir in the creme fraiche beofre serving with crusty wholegrain bread and extra creme fraiche if desired.