Today is Good Friday. A blessed day to you all.
There’s no escaping that most of the world is either under lockdown or restricted. I feel the weight of this on me every day, not only because I fear my loved ones will fall ill but because the world is out of kilter.
Today, I especially think about Jewish people all around the world who cannot come together with their extended families to celebrate Pesach. Today is day three of this sacred and important religious rite which is ultimately about freedom. Freedom of oppression, of being contained.
We have entered week three of lockdown in South Africa and we’ve only just received the news that another two weeks have been added. It’s grim but it could be so much worse.
Apart from it’s obvious origins, I keep thinking about this acronym, this hybrid word that has so quickly entered the lexicon. “Co” a prefix meaning “join” as used in co-habitation, co-operation. Vid or video, from Latin videre ‘to see’ , which also originates from the Tamil word for eye. We the CO will collectively have to SEE what this virus is showing us. There is so much to take in and understand about how unnecessarily complicated the world is, and how fragile. When the system breaks down, you can start seeing how it was put together and question how the whole machine works, and how we can change it so that it works better. But to do this we need to change. It all starts (and ends) with us. We have been granted a rare opportunity, to slow down, retreat indoors and take stock.
To change what we can, however we can.
This strange state of being has taught me a few things, such as how to slow down more. Feeling so out-of-control on so many different levels has also taught me to take control of what I can – my body. I have always cared about what I eat, without feeling guilty. Balancing comfort and pleasure with what makes me feel good because it’s healthy and tastes good. I feel that my body is a special sort of animal that needs to be taken care of. Ultimately, love starts within your own body, caring for it through what you eat.
So now I spend even more time in the kitchen. I find myself staring wistfully at the store cupboard, hearkening back to the dishes I ate as a child, re-creating nostalgic recipes that comfort and bolster. I build immunity with vitamin C powder, Echinacea and propolis. Make endless cups of rooibos tea with honey in it. Food that not only feeds but nourishes.
Vegetable lasagne with roasted leeks. Chicken soup with homemade stock, turmeric, garlic and palm oil free ramen. A standby (I can almost make it with my eyes closed) is tuna pasta with chilli, capers and black olives. Drizzled with lemon scented olive oil and a shower of grated Pecorino. Then just to shake things up a bit, black rice salad with smoked turkey, cranberries and ginger for lunch. Every day, a square of dark chocolate to lift the mood with a shot of magnesium and caffeine. Inexplicably I am more hungry than usual, despite much less exercise and so much sleep. But I am so grateful that I have enough.
I must say, I am so tired of binge watching, shedding a few tears into the sofa pillows when someone gets a makeover or a woman is reunited with her child. I stopped watching the news a week ago. I tune into important updates and always listen to our president’s national speeches, but the rest of it is just far too overwhelming. It doesn’t help to be consumed with worry. It’s far more important to support everyone you know in your community. This is the one time social media can help us step up to the plate, to keep us connected and supported.
So what can we do? Bake cookies to leave on your neighbour’s doorstep, well wrapped of course. But most of all we can celebrate with our immediate families. It all starts with getting dressed – properly! This will be the first time in weeks, for me, I love my pyjamas but give me a break already. Applying makeup and wearing jewellery almost feels alien to me now. It seems like the right time to set the table with your grandmother’s cloth, your favourite crockery and a hodgepodge of everyone’s favourite dishes. Keep it simple. Play some music. But most importantly, reminisce about all the good times. Skype, Facetime or WhatsApp call your parents and grandparents. After that, phones off. It’s time to break bread and think of all the ways that we can be grateful for what we have. This is love in the time of corona.
Cheese blintzes with blueberry compôte
I am inspired by Pesach for this wonderful traditional Jewish dish: sweet cream cheese-filled crêpes fried in butter until golden brown all over. I have been longing to make them for years. My best friend Ilana has her birthday close to Easter and only about twice Good Friday fell on the same day! One day I will make her a special Easter brunch with hot cross bun bread-and-butter pudding, coddled eggs and these blintzes, accompanied by a mug of hot chocolate!
4 large eggs
1 cup plain flour
1/3 cup castor sugar
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup cold water
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract or powder
Vegetable oil for frying
Cream cheese filling
100g cream cheese such as Kiri or Philadeplhia
1 egg yolk
2 T vanilla sugar
Pinch of salt
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Orange blossom water
Freshly grated nutmeg
3-4 cups of frozen blueberries
1 tsp cornflour, dissolved in cold water
2 tsp brown sugar
A dash of liqueur (optional)
Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl. Add the sugar and vanilla and whisk until pale and creamy and the sugar has dissolved. Whisk in the flour, milk, salt, water and oil until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour up to overnight.
In a small bowl whisk the sugar and egg yolk together. Then add the cheeses, nutmeg, orange blossom water and salt and beat until smooth. Refrigerate until needed.
Bring the batter back to room temperature. Pre-heat a non stick pan and add a small trickle of oil, tilting to cover the edges of the pan. Use a ladle to swirl the batter into a round pancake. Cook over medium heat till golden. Do not flip to cook the other side. Tip out onto a plate, uncooked side down. Repeat until the batter is finished.
While making the pancakes gently heat the blueberries with the cornflour mixture until cooked through and glossy.
Fill each pancake with a tablespoon of cream cheese. Fold over along the bottom, horizontally. Then fold into a flap on both the left and right of your parcel, like an envelope. Fold the top flap over.
Fry in the same pan, folded side down first, in equal quantities of butter and oil to prevent smoking.
Serve immediately with the warmed compote on the side.