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.

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.