There were still no shops open on the way home last night, even at 5.30pm. And even though I was half tempted to go to the Turkish greengrocer to stock up what I really wanted to do was get home, in the daylight, feed the cats and switch off, if not from the sirens, at least from the endless speculation heard in an office, seen on Twitter, read on the front of the Evening Standard.
Usually I never deliberately listen to, or read the news; a few years ago, after yet another early morning spoilt by listening to a Today rant, I made a decision to wake up differently. Now I listen to BBC Radio Three, not Four, to classical music not current affairs. It has a slow, measured pace, and the only aggression is the odd parp of a trumpet, instead of the interminable parping of politicians. But in the last few days I have become a newshound, wondering what was happening where, and where would be next. Monday night was the worst. After a gentle hour of blackberrying (the actual gathering of the fruit rather than feverish IMing), feeling proud of my kilo-haul, I found myself in a street full of shuttered shops; suddenly it seemed imperative to listen and learn. I wonder though, now, if I did in fact learn anything. In reality, all that happened was that the news and speculation, combined with the sound of sirens and the absence of my neighbours, made me more anxious. I stayed up too late, continually checking my phone, Twitter, Facebook and the news, and was exhausted.
Last night I made a Radio Three decision; I switched off my phone, tuned into the Prom and concentrated on my immediate surroundings and life. I did some washing, deadheaded my flowers and cooked. Thanks, once again, to the lack of shops, I was stuck with the ‘things I might already have’ but I also made bread and a blackberry compote. Order was restored. Well, almost. I would have made a cake with the compote but I needed milk, and there was nowhere to buy any. That will, hopefully, be a treat for tomorrow.
And WTF did I eat? An incredibly simple, light and storecupboard-friendly potato salad, based on a Jamie Oliver idea that I spotted in a negative review of his most recent book. I am not a Jamie fan, for lots of reasons, but this could convert me. In essence, you steam cubes of sweet potatoes and ordinary potatoes, then mix them with a pesto of fresh coriander, bird’s eye chilli and feta (I recognise that my storecupboard is a bit eclectic…). I ate it with some chicken confit, read a magazine and enjoyed the quiet, in my head as much as outside.
For two, as a small main or a large side dish, you will need:
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
potato, 1 (maincrop not new)
olive oil, a dash or two
sea salt and black pepper
sweet potatoes, 2 largish
bird’s eye chilli, 1 small one
fresh coriander, a handful
1. Peel the sweet potatoes (and the old one if you don’t like the skin) and wash the old one, then cut them into cubes/smallish pieces.
2. Zest half a lemon and cut it in half.
3. Put the potatoes and zested half of lemon into a steamer and steam until the potatoes are tender, about 8-10 minutes depending on the size of the potato cubes.
4. Meanwhile wash the coriander and chop it up. De-stalk (and de-seed if you like) the chilli, then put it on top of the coriander and chop the two together. Add the feta and lemon zest to this mixture and chop them in too. Everything should be chopped as small as possible, without being puréed, and mixed together well; I’ve not tried this in a pestle and mortar but I bet it would work too.
5. When the veg are done, put them in a bowl, squeeze the juice from the hot lemon over them (use a pair of tongs unless you have asbestos hands) then tip over the coriander-chilli-feta mix, pour over a glug or two of olive oil, toss together and season to taste. Best eaten warm but any leftovers would make a better lunch than a flat-packed sandwich.