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.

Being at home during lunch time, making sandwiches, cleaning house and crossing off things on my to-do list is probably not the vision I had for my life when I was at the peak of career-dreaming in university. That was six years ago when I slept little and never rested, ate pancakes three times a day and considered ramen noodles with frozen vegetables a complete meal. This is my Now, I rise to make porridge on the stove for breakfast, make or cook lunch and dinner. I am feeding a child who lives in my body, vacuuming and scrubbing two toilets (only weekly, it is worth noting).

I used to congratulate myself for a well-written and argued column that was going to change The Universe, now I consider myself The Best House Wife Ever for changing our sheets weekly. Six months after marriage I shamelessly brag to Husband when I’ve cleaned the whole flat.

This is not the big plan I had for my life in the years of change-the-world aspirations. I am starting over again. Again. Again. Looking upward for the restoration of the inside, empowering the inside to look outward. Again. Again.

We are in need of wholeness, our dreams are no exceptions. How corrupted they are by other people’s plans and ideas, by notions of success and the false burden of potential. What I have in my hand is what I need Now. What fills my life in this season is what is best Now. Nothing has been withheld from me.

He crowns the year with bounty, His wagon tracks overflow with abundance.

These are my meditations in 2011, a year that promises to be the best of my life not because of the great things there are to accomplish but because of the change there can be in my attitude, habits, lifestyle and heart. Body, soul and spirit change. This will be my food for the simple year of gratitude and joy.

With thoughts like these, it’s no surprise that my taste buds are craving the most basic of things like a tuna sandwich, simple, nourishing and perfect. Is it too much to say that this sandwich ministers to my soul? That my body, soul and spirit feel more whole and integrated after chopping the onions and pickle, squishing my fork into the meat, and piling it on a slice of not European baguette bread but fluffy whole wheat American bread?

The soul needs simple food these days. It is fuel for the simple life I need where laundry is done, pillows are straightened, relationships are right, rhythms restored and life made whole.

  • Soul-Feeding Tuna Sandwich take a can of tuna and mix some kind of a white sauce on it (mayo, ranch, whatever), chop a quarter of an onion and a dill pickle into it. Mix. Eat. Love.

We started the new year with one of my eating no-nos – pork. There is probably enough research in the whole world that suggests that there are a few problematic things about eating a lot of pork even if there are a few benefits. We eat as little pork as possible, and it is difficult because it’s so darn tasty especially in smokey, cured, raw ham-laden Europe.

But every now and then I make an exception especially when I find a recipe that looks as great as this one. Confections of a Foodie Bride is one of my regular blog reads – I love her recipes but don’t cook them often as the ingredients can be hard to find in Europe, and I’m not a baker. I couldn’t resist this one for the ingredients, but also because I’ve never brined anything. It is always fantastic to learn something new about cooking.

Her secret to tender pork chops is a 24-hour brine in molasses, water, salt, pepper and rosemary, and it works. The meat was soft and tasty. The sauce is also a real winner. I followed the recipe carefully, so I don’t have any cooking notes today. I paired the pork chops with a creamy polenta that turned out to be a bit of a disaster. I have rarely cooked polenta and forgot that it really does thicken at the end. I thought there was too much liquid and started adding more polenta after the first part had already cooked – BAD idea. It was still salvageable at the end, but I’ll be doing that a bit differently in the future.

Salads are not my “thing,” and I’ve never understood people who can eat a salad for lunch or dinner and have enough energy to live for the next few hours. If I make a salad for us at home, it’s generally just a leaf that I like – spinach, rocket or watercress – with lemon juice or balsamic vinegar. I break out the cherry tomatoes if I’m feeling generous. But veggies are a favourite of mine, and I enjoy doing creative things with them with the right inspiration.

When I lived in Ukraine for three months, I was introduced to the world of beets. They were everywhere, the gigantic, sandy orbs of brown that after boiling in a pot, bled the most red juice imaginable.  After a bit of research, I also found out that beets are one of the best kinds of veggies out there – a superfood, whatever that means. It is full of antioxidants, B vitamins and other goodies, and it is so naturally filled with flavour. Ukrainians primarily ate beets in salads, so I started making one of them while I was there. Since then, I usually boil the beet, peel it, slice, add salt and pepper and eat.

I had to take a salad to a dinner a few nights ago though, and went hunting for a salad recipe that looked interesting because, as previously mentioned, I don’t really “do” salads. This warm salad recipe from Taste looked great, and after a few modifications, I loved it. It was very easy to prepare, all that needs to be remembered is to put the beets in the oven 45 minutes to an hour before you want to start making the salad.

  • Warm Beetroot Salad I followed the recipe unless I didn’t have an ingredient. So I used real beets instead of baby beets, and spinach instead of the silverbeet. Roast the beets in a hot oven for as long as it takes for them to cook, remove, peel and cut into manageable pieces (I did squares).  Chop walnuts – I used pecans because it’s what I had – and toss in a pan with chopped garlic and olive oil. Don’t let anything burn, the point is to let the garlic infuse with the oil and for the nuts to get the flavour as well. Turn off the fire and toss the spinach leaves in there as well but do this QUICKLY because you don’t want the leaves to wilt. They should be in there enough to get warm but removed before they really “cook.” Toss with the chopped beets, crumble feta cheese on top and add a bit of red wine vinegar to finish.