The pandemic and lockdown have always felt awful and we’ve all had to adjust to the shock of suddenly finding ourselves in such a terrible situation. I remember at the start I’d wake in the morning and it would be like when someone you love dies, or a love affair ends, and you suddenly remember; remember it’s true. And it’s devastating all over again. Fortunately – although it’s still not easy – one does adjust and life becomes that annoying phrase the government keep putting out: ‘the new norm’. Hopefully not to be a ‘norm’ for long enough for it to become an old norm!
On the cooking front though there was a kind of excitement in the challenge of ‘making do’ and ‘not wasting’ and cooking from what was in the fridge or cupboard rather than running out to the local Tesco down the round, open 7am-11pm seven days a week, so one could always have what you suddenly fancied. Well, that’s how London life is … We don’t have to plan ahead; we just pop out to the always-open shops. Or we used to.
I was excited to discover how many shops and delis were now delivering food; gorgeous Italian favourites from Corto Deli; fish and fresh meat from Sandy’s Fishmonger in Twickenham. The rare success of getting a Waitrose delivery was an excitement for the day; never had food shopping formed such an important part of my life. Yes I love all those fantastic markets in Italy and Spain and France, and the gorgeous sensuous pleasures of enjoying the sights, smells and tastes. I remember the exotic delight of the souks in Marrakesh and the fragrance of spices piled high in pyramid shapes. But when it comes down to it, running out of milk, tomatoes, potatoes, fruit … well the basics are more important than I even gave them credit for.
I have to confess I’m feeling a little less excited by it now. I long to just plan a meal; plan what I want to cook … and go out and buy all I need without all the hassle current shopping demands! But still, there are sometimes those little frissons of pleasure when you do something a little bit different simply because when you look in the fridge and pull out what needs to be used now … you find you can make something very delicious for supper. And tonight I did. A packet of smoked salmon delivered by Sandy’s a few days ago; a perfectly ripe half avocado that needed to be savoured at its best; a third of a pack of baby spinach leaves that were still fresh enough to enjoy but definitely on their last good day; and some eggs.
This isn’t a recipe as such – it’s a putting together. So I’m not going to list it all. But I did add to the basics I found (above) some boiled new potatoes cut into bite-sized pieces and some gorgeous little cherry tomatoes halved. I boiled the egg; about 6 minutes so it would cut easily. I made a dressing with 3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil; 1 Tbs cider vinegar; ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard; ½ teaspoon honey; a pinch of dried dill; sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, which I whisked together.
I got out a nice big, shallow bowl and started layering: spinach, potatoes, tomatoes, avocado (peeled and sliced).
I rolled the pieces of smoked salmon and laid them on top, with the quartered hard-boiled egg nestled in them. Then I drizzled over the dressing.
I poured a glass of chilled Sauvignon Blanc … I sat down … and then I ate. And it was wonderful. All those gorgeous flavours coming together. Excellent smoked salmon; not too salty; thicker slices than often found in packets which was all the nicer for the salad. The dressing with a slight sweetness, a slight heat from the mustard; a suggestion of the dill to complement the salmon (fresh would have been nice but that for Life After). Sometimes you just have to live in the moment … and supper was a very good moment in time!