The Oriental Grocer, whose freezer, this week, delivered the prettiest wheels of sliced lotus roots and more bright green edamame pods, is by far my favourite market stall. Tightly-packed shelves teeter with produce from the four corners of the globe, all the while jostling for your attention with the freshest of coriander, large, crisp heads of wombok and colourful chillies, bunched like tiny, hot bouquets. Long smooth garlic shoots, as wide and solid as a pencil nearly tempt me each week. Nearly. Next visit, perhaps. I wish I knew what to do with them. Let’s see what can be rustled up for those for lotus roots, first. This recipe I know to be a sensation.
Challenged by A.O.F., the past week was spent, rather happily, eating gluten-free. In the process of noting each meal, my style of breakfasting – a vague hunger seems to set in only after 9am – obviously requires a little work. Predictable slices of toast or rice cakes punctuate most mornings, interspersed with the odd small bowl of muesli. Porridge sits too heavily, alas, and smoothies, that other unthinkably-easy breakfast, are too cold mid-winter. Lacking imagination, clearly. So, I’ve been playing with morning food and one of the more interesting thoughts, found while flipping wistfully on a Saturday morning, was a dish of fresh Medjool dates served with a sliver of mild feta cheese and toasty almonds; a simple, elegant idea from Nadine Abensur.
It’s wonderful. Unexpectedly so. I wouldn’t suggest you eat this regularly – cheese at breakfast is a little over the top - but if you, like me, prefer to eat a little (and later) in the morning, then this may just grab you. Makes a lovely, if not slightly odd lunch, too. A couple of years ago, we meandered through a Parisian market, looking for fruit to satisfy the familiar traveller’s need for fibre. One stall holder coaxed us over by pitting a fat, fresh date and stuffing it with the smallest, sweetest, milkiest walnuts I’ve ever tasted. I audibly gasped. He grinned. Naturally, we bought handfuls of both. Merci beaucoup.
Take three or four fresh, plump dates per person, slice each along its length and discard the pit. Toast some sweet walnuts, pecans or almonds in a dry pan until fragrant and, while warm, stuff each date with two nuts. Cut a slice of feta, a mild, creamy one, and stuff a little of it, too, into your date. Arrange on a plate, drizzle with honey or agave syrup mixed with a tiny, carefully measured droplet of orange blossom water. Rich. Blissful. Indulgent. But not the stuff of everyday breakfasting. Lord, no.
Still, the question remains. I need ideas, suggestions and inspiration, people, to get out of this silly self-made breakfasting rut.