Every day of the past week I wondered if the weather could be any better. I don’t think it can. Glorious sunshine, cool air, spring flowers and most people seem happier. Spring is the loveliest time of year, and I appreciate it more living in Europe with our cold winters (even though this year’s was not bad). Spring comes ever-so-gently with a bit of green here and there, small buds, the twittering of birds. It’s the kind of transition that doesn’t rock or jarr, but it takes you by the hand and kindly leads you into what is next.

Asparagus is probably my favourite spring vegetable and embodies all the best features of its season. Not aggressive in taste but distinctive on its own, joyful to the eyes when cooked properly, fresh and simple. We’ve had it twice in the past week, basically the same way, oven roasted with salt, pepper and olive oil. When its cooked just right, it doesn’t need anything else.

Once again I went to Taste for a basic potato and leek soup base, then I added the asparagus. This soup was fabulous and an easy way to eat asparagus with a few other veggies. The potato in it makes it a bit more filling. I would say the thin cream is optional depending on your taste. Happy spring eating.

  • Potato, Leek and Asparagus Soup I followed this recipe somewhat closely except that I used small potatoes, left the skins on and blended the soup with a stick blender. Potato skins have lots of nutrients. Small One (and I) need nutrients. It’s easier to not peel and chop a potato. Everyone wins, really. Toss the asparagus in olive oil, salt and pepper and pop into the oven at about 200 for as long as it takes to be perfectly roasted. You should be able to pierce it with a fork, but it should not be too soft. It will be a vibrant, green colour. Check on it sooner rather than later, very few things in the food world are sadder than over-cooked asparagus. Chop up the asparagus and add to the soup at the very end (you can turn the soup off when you add it in).

It’s been a long, six-week absence from writing. I didn’t spend the winter in hibernation, swallowing down comfort foods and drinking hot chocolate. We had visitors every few weeks it seemed, which made for lots of talking, cooking, eating and walking but not a lot of energy for writing. What can I say, Small One has been consuming more of my physical and emotional reserves lately. When I started this blog, I made one small internal vow – I didn’t want blogging to get in the way of cooking and meal time, so if I don’t feel like taking a photo, I don’t take one, and there is no blog entry about beef stroganoff. The eating has been good this winter, the cooking continues to become more natural, and maybe one day writing will also be more of a normal part of my life.

In the mean time, spring seems to be seducing us in Geneva. The past few weeks have been sunny and even warm during the day. Today I was out in capris, running shoes, a t-shirt and fleece jacket. I wasn’t planning on inventing a spring drink, but at my last doctor’s appointment, I was slightly anemic. Enter the plan to get more iron into my diet without going overboard on red meat.

I have read about spinach smoothies and was intrigued by the idea, so I tried making one of my own with ingredients that sounded good to me. I now drink one every day. Today I am on my second. Husband was disturbed by the idea at first and told me nicely that he hoped I enjoy it, but it wasn’t going to become a part of his life. But even he was won over in the end. I think it has to do with three special ingredients. (Spinach is not one of them.)

  • Spinach Smoothie put into a blender any combination of fruit that you like (warning: even a bit of banana goes a long way). Mine usually have strawberries and oranges. In this one (you can see it in the blender at the top) there is: spinach, strawberries, frozen berries – a cheaper alternative to fresh ones and orange juice. If you like it to be more like a juice with more liquid, just add more juice or water. Now for the three special ingredients that change everything – ginger, mint and honey. Be generous with the ginger and mint; it gives the smoothie life and a wonderful freshness. Half a lime has also been tasty with it. Lots of people put yogurt in smoothies, but I don’t in this one because calcium inhibits the absorption of iron, which is what I need from this smoothie (although the vitamins and minerals don’t hurt)
  • Another warning: spinach smoothies tend to not look very appetising. The only reason why this one looks half decent is because of the frozen berries. Normally it’s a puke shade of brown.

Is it possible to start the nesting phase at week 21 of pregnancy? Because I think I’m there, complete with the to-do list that I put things on after I’ve done them just for the thrill of crossing it off. Kitchen cupboards? Re-organized completely with the promise of more to come. Living room rug and lamp? Perfect for the bedroom. Tangled jewelry????? Re-use old Christmas decor for a necklace tree, of course. This doesn’t have much to do with cooking except for a new, possibly-permanent addition to our kitchen, which is the table photographed under the bowl of soup. We found it in Sri Lanka, shipped it here and for several months it’s been in the living room waiting for its corner of the kitchen.

Then nesting came along, and we finally put it in its place. We’ll see if it stays, but in the mean time, I enjoy looking at the splash of colours. When summer is here, it will be a perfect place to have a late-morning breakfast.

In the mean time, it is busy holding my fish soup.

As previously mentioned, fish is now a prominent part of my weekly meals, so I try to find different ways to eat it to keep my cooking life and eating life more interesting. I turned to Taste for a recipe and found a basic one that sounded good but revamped it quite a bit. I loved the way it turned out and ate it for lunch or dinner for four days in a row. Making it again as a vegetarian dish will be easy, but the fish added a wonderful flavour to it.

  • Curried Fish Soup heat oil in a large pan, add a nicely chopped white onion to it. Once the onion is fragrant and soft, toss in a bit of curry powder (the flavour you get from the soup is somewhat dependent on the type of curry powder you use – I used a Madras Curry powder and a Jaffna Curry powder) and lentils.
  • This is where I deviated a bit from the original recipe, which calls for powdered mashed potatoes as a thickener (the kind you buy in a tin and then turns into real potatoes later on). I skipped that and poured in a red lentils instead. The quantity will depend on how thick you want the soup to be. Keep stirring to let the flavours mix together for a minute or two, then add water – a litre to two litres, depending on the quantity of spices and lentils. Also add some vegetable bouillon. Bring to a boil and then simmer until the lentils are mostly cooked.
  • Add a can of drained chickpeas (or two, depending on the quantity) and chopped tomatoes. I also added some left over potatoes we had in the fridge.Check the seasoning and see if it needs anything else – typical flavours that complement a fish curry could be a bit of lemon, tamarind, or just more salt, pepper or chili.
  • For the final five minutes, chop white fish into reasonable-sized pieces (I used cod), and toss into the soup. When the fish is cooked, take it off the heat. Watch this carefully as overcooked fish will go to pieces.
  • I didn’t have coriander, but I think it would have finished the taste of the soup off nicely. A dollop of yogurt or creme fraiche is also a tasty topping.

This post is a simple excuse to brag about Husband. Who cooked ostrich for dinner on Sunday. Yes, the big, ugly, scary-looking bird found on the African continent.

I do the majority of the cooking, not because I am better but because of roles, time and that sort of thing. Husband is a great cook, and enjoys finding inventive recipes to try. Even better, he has a varied palate and will eat most things except dessert, and if it’s cooked well, he will enjoy it. Every now and then on the weekend, he goes shopping for groceries at Manor, which is the higher-end supermarket in Geneva with great meat on sale and also a fantastic selection of seafood. I guess every now and then, the random ostrich is on sale as well.

(It is worth noting that Husband’s ostrich from Africa was cheaper than Swiss beef. This is probably more of a statement about the cost of Swiss meat than it is about the price of ostrich.)

The ostrich was a fascinating piece of meat – lean, purplish-red in color, and firm. It was not excessively bloody and felt good to the touch when I poked it. We had it on Saturday night with beef for our evening of raclette. (That’s a long Swiss story we’ll save for a different blog post.)

It tasted strong, too strong for me, and a bit gamey. On Sunday night, Husband found an ostrich recipe and went to work. The result was great. The Chili-Rubbed Ostrich with Ginger Orange Syrup was peppery, and while it burned my taste buds, it also took the edge off the ostrich taste. The syrup offset the heat nicely. Ostrich meat is great to chew on, not tough, and I’m sure that if it was a bit more rare, it would even be tender (no rare meat for this pregnant woman).

Every meal Husband cooks for me ends up being memorable for some reason, from the first pot of bolognaise to the baked trout with salsa on our first day in our flat as a married couple to the fragrant tortellini soup when I was sick to the ostrich. I look forward to a lifetime of good eating together.

Fish was a family staple while we were growing up. We probably ate it once a day until I was 14-years-old. These were the cheapest kind of Filipino fish – galungong, dalagang bukid and others. We only ate it deep fried from the top of the head to the tail. The eyeballs were doable, but other than that, I was not a big fan. It has taken me many, many years to realize that fish can taste fantastic and be as satisfying as meat or chicken.

These days I have even more incentive to eat it as much as possible because its omega 3 and DHA are excellent for the small one inside of me. White fish is my preference, and so far cod – or le cabillaud royale in French – is definitely my favourite.

Cookbooks are one of my favourite wedding presents and some of the presents that I use most frequently. A friend of mine bought me the Thai Bible by Jacki Passmore, and the Fish Cooked in Butter recipe is a winner for cod. I followed the recipe closely with the exception of putting very little butter and no cornflour on the fish. I skipped the breading part entirely and put the fish directly in the pan. I also left out the bamboo shoots – didn’t have any – and added pak choy instead.

  • Fish Cooked in Butter season with salt and pepper 400 g of firm white fish (sliced), coat evenly with 1/2 cup of cornflour (no need, really), shaking off the excess. Melt 120 g butter in a large pan over medium heat and cook the fish slices for about 40 seconds on each side, until golden brown and almost cooked through. Carefully lift out of the pan and onto a plate and set aside.
  • In the same pan sautee 4 thin slices (shredded) of ginger, 3 spring onions (chopped), 1 clove of garlic (sliced), and 1 chili (sliced). Sautee for about a minute, stirring. Add 60 g of bamboo shoots and 2 tomatoes (cut into wedges) and simmer for a few minutes, stirring. I added the pak choy here instead of the bamboo shoots.
  • Season with 1 tablespoon of fish sauce and 1/2 a teaspoon of brown sugar, and add 3-4 tablespoons of water to make a sauce. Simmer for 1-2 minutes, then return the fish to the pan and heat gently in the sauce. I also added some lime juice to it because I think lime juice is always a good addition to Thai dishes.