Saturday is our work day. It’s been five weeks since we returned to Geneva, and we spend a good portion of the day sorting, packing, building and taking down in the hope of turning this flat into our home. One marriage surprise for me was how enjoyable it would be to work on projects with my husband, and we are discovering new skills all the time. He is strategic, creative and excellent at putting things together. The other marriage surprise is that we have not had any major decorating arguments.

Lunch on Saturday isn’t planned, so I just go through the fridge and hope that ingredients will work together. A stir fry works beautifully in these situations – we love veggies, soy sauce, garlic and onion. The hardest thing for me about cooking a stir fry is getting the flavour evenly throughout while making sure that nothing gets undercooked or overcooked. Here’s my asian invention, using the contents of our pantry and refrigerator.

  • Stir Fry chop chicken, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, onion and garlic. In one pan sautee onions and garlic in olive oil, add chicken and cook on low to medium heat. In a wok, sautee onions and garlic, add broccoli and carrots and cook on medium heat. Add soy sauce and sweet chili sauce to both pans (I used strong Tamari soy sauce and a Thai sweet chili sauce). Add the mushrooms when the broccoli and carrots are starting to look done because it doesn’t take mushrooms long to cook. When the chicken is done, add the contents in that pan to the wok and cook together for a few minutes. Taste and add more flavour depending on your preference. When it’s finished and the fire’s off, I cut spring onions and corriander (cilantro) over the top.

When I find a good thing, it’s all I want for a season. Salmon is that thing right now, and I hope I’m not going to be sick of it after this week is done. Husband loves smoked salmon, and I do too. It’s also perfect in the summer. The 300 gram pack of it in the fridge got used for my lunch (on toast) and our breakfast (with scrambled eggs on toast). Last night I put it on pizza.

I found Taste* the last year I was in Australia, and it became the source of my recipes. Everything I’ve made from this site has been a success (I do pick carefully and read the user reviews as well). The gourmet pizza with salmon recipe stood out to me because it was simple, had few ingredients and I’ve never made something like it before.

I have no idea how to find yeast in Switzerland, so I skipped making my own pizza dough. Finding a pre-made crust at Coop turned out to be easier than I thought.

Devi: (to a shop assistant) Pardon. Bonjour. Je cherche pour…les pizzas..pour le..le.. (gestures with hand something under) – in English: Excuse me. Hi. I’m looking for … the pizzas.. for the.. the.. (gestures, etc.).

Ready-made pizza dough is available in Switzerland, and now I know what it’s called – le pate (with an accent on the a). This recipe was a plus for another reason, homemade pizza sauce. It was simple – onions, garlic, fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, salt and pepper. It would also make for an excellent tomato base sauce for pasta – I’ll be using this recipe for a while and creating variations of it.

Husband rated this pizza as a five out of five. I loved it. All the main ingredients are uncooked on top of the baked pizza, so it’s summery, fresh and fun. The smoked salmon is strong, but the tart dill mayonnaise takes the edge off the fishiness. Coop didn’t have baby spinach; I used watercress instead – at least, I think it was watercress. I’m not sure about that, actually. The leaves were small and green.

Prep time for the sauce was 15 minutes, and it takes 40 minutes to cook. Cooking the pizza with the tomato sauce was probably 15 minutes, assembly of the pizza about 5 minutes. Technically this took “longer” to cook, but it really doesn’t seem like it at all because it was so simple.

  • Smoked salmon pizza with dill mayonnaise I skipped the cheese on the pizza because I think cheese and fish is a strange combination. I loved it with the “watercress,” so if I make it again, I don’t know that I would use baby spinach. The mayonnaise was creamy, light tasting (not feeling) and tart, and for me it made the pizza. We both thought that the pizza was heavier on the tummy than expected, which we attributed to the mayo (I might use a light mayo next time).
  • Pizza base and tomato sauce we don’t have a food processor, so our sauce was straight out of the pan and chunky. We loved biting into bits of onion and garlic, and I’m not sure we would put it through a processor now even if we had one.

* For other people’s recipes (books or online), I won’t be putting the specifics of the recipe on here because of copyright reasons and that sort of thing, so click on the link and it will take you to the recipe. If I put the specifics of how I made the dish or meal, it’s my own “invention.”

One of my husband’s main culinary roles in our family is choosing cheese and wine (I do buy cheese, but he chooses the special ones). My idea of cheese is still tainted by years spent eating plastic yellow spreads in the Philippines, and as for wine, I didn’t start drinking until I was well into my 20s.

A block of Grana Padano appeared in the fridge this past weekend after one of his shopping trips – it’s similar to Parmigiano Reggiano, but grainier and a bit stronger. For lunch I had the choice of salmon, smoked salmon, left over pasta, bread, cheese, corriander, capsicums and broccoli. I didn’t want to eat salmon again, and I didn’t have time to go shopping before a Skype call with my family.

Cheese melts are an easy, five-minute meal. To make it a bit more interesting, I caramelised some onions in olive oil and sprinkled some fresh thyme from our “garden” (or our pots on the balcony). The Grana Padano and thyme’s sharpness was nicely complimented by the sweetness of the onions. A quick, tasty and filling treat.

The $2.50 smoked salmon and avocado sushi rolls in Melbourne were my introduction to salmon. It was my favourite way of easing hunger in the middle of the day. These days salmon is frequently on sale (or “action” – pronounced acsyon in French), so the fridge is full of it. Husband and I began the morning on the balcony eating smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on toast, and I ended the day with more of the pink fish.

It was over 30 degrees yesterday, the warmest day in Geneva I’ve ever experienced. I had a Starbucks date with a friend in the late afternoon and walked home. Thursday evening is one I have alone, and I am not often inspired to cook for one. Case in point – for lunch yesterday I had a bowl of muesli, natural yogurt and chopped nectarine (I told myself I had a high protein breakfast).

But cooking for myself is one of the best things I can do to value my life. In one simple action, I tell myself that I’m important, special and worth taking care of. It was past eight in the evening when I got home, so I made a simple dinner.

I fried salmon in butter – one day, I’ll give my opinion about butter and health – and tossed some garlic in with the butter and ate it with broccoli and yellow peppers. The whole meal melted in my mouth (and took less than 10 minutes).

  • Salmon salt both sides with rock salt, pan fry each side in butter for less than two minutes, crush a clove of garlic and toss into the pan. The garlic infuses in the butter, and it made for a nice “sauce” on top of the salmon at the end. The bits of fried garlic made for tasty bites with the salmon, and the rock salt creates a nice salty crunch on the outside of the salmon, which I loved because good food is salty food.
  • Broccoli boil in salted water – I didn’t keep track of the time, but I monitored it carefully because I hate overcooked vegetables.
  • Yellow capsicum (peppers) chopped

The youth hostel served the most basic of mueslis, yogurt and bread for breakfast. My bowl was full of the oat grains and raisins by the time I reached the bread tray. Five slices of brown bread is what I took along with the small packets of Floralip butter. I knew no one in Geneva, and after a few days, I still had no idea what I was doing. The Australian dollar continued to plummet, and I concentrated on spending as little as I could. Included in the price of the hostel was a breakfast, my only guaranteed meal of the day.

Toward the end of the day, I would reach into my handbag for the napkin-wrapped five slices of bread. Plastic knives and forks were part of my improvised travel kit and handy for buttering bread on a bench facing Lake Geneva. (What was I doing sitting outside, at the windy lake, in the middle of winter?)

Every day I asked God to provide me with food. Most evenings all I had were the five slices of bread and butter. Every time nothing came, I sat with the bread and said, “Thank you Father for my daily bread and butter” because it was enough.