Assuming it’s not too late to ring in the new year (hey, it’s still January), happy 2011 everyone! So, I hope you guys had nice holidays. Mine sure were tumultuous. I know it can seem like the new year’s just an arbitrary point at which we humans decide that the Earth has completed another round of the Sun. But December, amazingly, was a month of endings for me – it was as if the Universe was determined to shake out all the old baggage it didn’t want me to carry into 2011 – and January has been a month of new beginnings.
I have so many things to share with you guys. Honestly, I have a list of at least 20 things to talk to you about, so I’m going to get cracking. The first is a discovery I made in my local bookshop: the latest book from Jamie Oliver (provider of perfect roast chickens and emancipation for undergrads boiling canned beans). Called Jamie's 30-Minute Meals, each recipe provides step-by-step instructions to preparing a full sit-down meal in half an hour. My first attempt consisted of tray-baked chicken with pancetta, mashed potatoes, an out-of-this-world creamed spinach, and a strawberry drink-dessert. The next time I tried a sausage ragú with penne, a zesty chicory salad, and a batch of mini frangipane tarts. Admittedly each meal took me an hour, but I was still impressed at what a short time that was to have made so many dishes in.
And everything tasted great. Having tried a fair few of his recipes now, I’m starting to realise what Jamie’s genius consists of – he has an instinctive feel for ingredients and where they can take a dish, and by combining just 3 or 4 flavours, he creates something really special. For example, the creamed spinach is flavoured with just spring onion, garlic, thyme and nutmeg, but those 4 things elevated the simple spinach and cream to a whole new level. The other major hit was the frangipane tart, with which we ended the wholesome penne and salad meal. Who knew that almond, orange zest and vanilla paste could become something of such heavenly, fragrant warmth.
‘Making a difference’ is one of the topics that’s often on my mind. So, I wanted to say: thanks, Jamie, for making such a difference to my new year, and for showing me that endings don’t always have to be sour and that some can be sweet and fantastically frangipane.