A few weeks after losing Archie (our little boy), my better half Peter returned back to work but would come home at lunchtime everyday to see me. The first day he came back was the first day I stepped into the kitchen (we had survived on foods from incredibly generous family and friends up until this point). We ate scrambled eggs and avocado on toast. Or that was the plan at least, in actual fact we pretty much just ate avocado and blackened bread. I’d ruined the scrambled eggs, charred the toast. How can you ruin scrambled eggs when you cook for a living? Who knows, but I did and it led to a melt down. What was I going to do with my life? I can’t even scramble eggs! It was not pretty.
It has been a bleak few months and for the first time in my life food and eating have been pretty low down on my priority list. I didn’t think I’d ever actually know what it felt like to eat for energy and not for fun, but that is what it has been like – food to fill a hole. But then little by little my love of cooking is creeping back in. Our large groaning bookshelf is serving a purpose – how many cookbooks does one girl need? It is rebuilding my confidence, rebuilding my body -which has taken a battering, and is helping me fall back in love with cooking and eating.
Being someone who writes recipes for a living I’ve never been particularly good at following recipes from books, often I would read them as inspiration and tweak things here and there depending on what I have and what is in season. However I genuinely feel like this mammoth book collection has been a saving grace – I haven’t felt able to ‘go it alone’ and being hand held is exactly what I need right now. My weekly goal is to find things to cook during the week, make a list and shop. Simple but it is proving to be a huge help. I love going to the butchers, fishmongers, green grocers and even supermarket – things I took for granted before. There is something wonderful about being frugal too. My aim is to make use of everything we have, trying to keep waste to a minimum. It’s a wonderful exercise.
So what do I mean by foods that heal then? There are the foods that are nutritionally sound, such as the bombay eggs and spinach I had for lunch today (spinach, turmeric, green chilli, garlic, cumin, free range eggs… winner on so many levels), which I know are healing me on the inside and then there are the recipes that are healing emotionally. There is definitely something calming almost meditative with certain recipes, especially things like baking and preserving which take time and patience. There have been many batches of bread over the last few months (a few inedible), and even Peter has become addicted to the no nonsense recipe we have adopted.
So for my first ‘healing’ recipe I give you a simple one. Jam. It was one of the first things we made, and we’re still enjoying the fruits (sorry) of our labour. Also, making apricot jam leads onto one of my favourite meals of all time… the most comforting thing you’ll ever eat. I’ll save that for next time though.
- 1kg apricots (when I made this years batch I also had a glut of flat peaches, so threw a few of those in there too)
- 600g granulated sugar
- Juice of 2 lemons
- A bay leaf
Halve the apricots, keeping 6 of the stones to one side, and place the flesh in a large heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the sugar, lemon juice and bay leaf and give everything a good stir. Leave to one side to steep for a couple of hours.
Using a nut cracker, or rolling pin (be careful though!) crack 6 of the apricot stones and remove the kernels. Place in a small bowl and cover with boiling water, for just enough time to remove the brown paper skin. Split each kernel into 2 and add to the pan of fruit.
After 2 hours place the pan on a low heat and stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Once it has dissolved turn the heat up to medium-high and cook for around 25 – 30 minutes, stirring often. You want the apricot flesh to have cooked down and should have a lovely deep colour – it’ll be a medium soft set jam.
When the jam is ready, leave it to cool for 10 minutes and then carefully spoon into sterilised jars (try and make sure you get at least one apricot kernel in each jar). Seal whilst still hot and then leave to cool before labelling them. Once you open a jar, remember to store it in the fridge.