Friday, 22 June 2012

One red suitcase

We had two suitcases between us, D and I. That was all we moved here with nearly six years ago. Our lives stuffed into two boxes on wheels - one red, one black.

Now, those two suitcases lie deep inside a dark shed, cowering under a pile of things we've collected over the six years. Collected as unthinkingly as Chotto-ma collects things. Things by the roadside that catch her eye - twigs and dry leaves and shiny paper and shells from a beach. The Essential Superfluous.

But I tell you, there's something about packing your life into a box - it makes you think hard. When you have to squeeze all you own into a suitcase that can hold no more than 30 kgs, you weigh things very differently. You choose, and change your mind, then choose again. Till all you have is all you really want.

I still have the things I stuffed into that red suitcase. Apart from a thermal vest and a pair of long johns, which my mother-in-law felt were my only chances of surviving the wicked winter of the west. She'd laughed off central heating.

Life has changed so much since. We've collected furniture and potsandpans and clothes and books and a little girl. What if I had to pack everything into a red suitcase again? Actually, you know what, I don't even know if I need a suitcase. All I really need is the little girl, the little girl's dad, and my garlic press.

The very garlicky cheeseless pesto

This pesto became a vegan by accident. Mid-way through the making, I realised I'd finished off all the parmesan in my kitchen. I also swapped the pine nuts for cashew and almonds which gave the pesto a very gently rounded flavour, a more eastern twang. It was very good pesto indeed.

3 cups fresh Greek basil
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup cashew nuts
2-3 tbs almond, soaked overnight, then peeled
3-4 tablespoons minced garlic (depending on how garlicky you want it to be)
Half a red pepper
1-2 green chillies
Sea salt

Place the basil and green chillies in a blender. Pour in about 2 tablespoons of the oil, and blend into a paste. Then add the half pepper, and blend again. Very coarsely pound the nuts in a mortar and pestle (resist the urge to put them in the blender - the pestle-pounding really will make a difference). When the nuts are nicely broken up, add them to the blender, and give it a quick whiz. Stir in the minced garlic and the remaining olive oil.  Add salt.

(A little tip: save some of the pesto as a marinade for chicken thighs. Grill or pan-fry thighs after it's been sitting in the pesto for an hour.)


Thursday, 14 June 2012


Yesterday, she watched E.T. for the first time. Unblinkingly.

She was in the movie. She was on the bike, flying past the moon. And when the movie finished, she went to the magnetic alphabets on the fridge, and made her own E.T.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Red, blue and white

That was the colour of the city this long weekend. Four days of utter Britishness, and four key words - Queen, coronation, jubilee, flotilla. So, did we queue up for the famous flotilla? No, Ma'am. But we did queue up for something that rhymes with flotilla. Tortilla. Will that do?

It did do for us. The tortilla, the kibbeh, the paella, the churros, the Malaysian curries with roti canai. London's Street Food Festival was on.

World street food, on a very British day, on a very British street, under a very British drizzle. It seemed just right.

If you weren't there, here's what London looked like. When it all turned red, blue and white.