Uprooting oneself and moving to the other side of the world is a delicate business. Like repotting a plant, it’s relatively easy to pull up a life by its stem and place it elsewhere. But it takes time, attention, the right conditions and a welcoming environment for a life to thrive in its new location.
I’ve spent the last three months finding a good pot to plant myself in back home in Australia. The desire I felt in NYC to slow down and focus on the things that make me happy has lead me to something new: a country life.
Last week I moved to Kyneton, a small town nestled in the Macedon Ranges, about an hour from Melbourne. 6,629 other people live here, which is around 8.2 million less than New York City. I have traded in my Brooklyn apartment for a large weatherboard home with a garden that boasts an apple and pear tree, and my new oven is roughly the same size as my Williamsburg kitchen (only a slight exaggeration). Life is definitely slower. And so far, I’m loving it.
All this decision-making and moving is hunger making work. And as Spring unfurled its petals here in Australia I found myself craving comfort food, but on the lighter side. Well, lighter if you call adding some mint and lemon to a lovely, fried hunk of cheese “light”.
Here I am on holidays! And I am enamoured with California. We’ve driven from the foggy, rugged coast of the north to the searing heat and modernist architecture in the southern desert. The diversity and beauty has been startling and I’ve loved getting to know the West Coast. Next stop is Oregon and Washington by way of a camper van – more adventures ahead!
I’m taking a moment out from sitting by the pool at the deliciously mid-century Ace Hotel in Palm Springs (I know. Tough life, right?) to share a recipe of mine that has just been published in a magazine, a real-life printed magazine! Remedy Quarterly is a lovely little journal full of food writing and recipes. The latest issue is centred on the theme of Discovery and I wrote about my discovery of cooking as a way to find my sense of home in New York City. I shared this recipe for baked mushrooms that I cooked at least once a week over Winter.
The key to simple, quick and delicious meals is a well-stocked pantry. If you’ve got the basics of a meal already in the cupboard, you can spend less time running up and down the supermarket aisles and more time picking the best of the fresh ingredients on offer.
Many of my favourite cookbooks start with a chapter on what to store in the larder. Mark Bittman advises that “cooking at home becomes exponentially easier, faster, and more spontaneous when you have basic foods at arm’s reach.”
However there’s a fine balance between stocking up on essentials and hoarding little bits in bags. I try to keep my pantry stocked with my most used ingredients, though a jar of exotic spice or a specialist Asian sauce has been known to sneak in.
Nigel Slater has a cramped London kitchen (I empathise) and notes that “cupboard space is at a premium. My store cupboard is lean and restricted to essentials rather than groaning with all manner of ‘things that may just come in useful’.”
Nigel notes that if he had to whittle down his pantry to three ingredients to take on a desert island, he’d choose lemons, olive oil and Parmesan cheese. If he and I wash up on the same island, he’d have my dried pasta, capers and parsley and we’d be able to make a version of this dish (with the tuna we catch from the sea).
Many of the ingredients required for this recipe are already in your pantry, or they should be.