Cooking serves multiple purposes for me – a creative outlet, an injection of variety into my life and a self-esteem booster, but it’s most surprisingly enjoyable purpose at the moment is putting a big smile on Husband’s face.  It helps that he enjoys eating and meal time; he also has a love for new dishes, flavours and foods. The dishes I create are as much a result of his love for me as they are my own handiwork.

The following statements sound dramatic, but they are true. My journey in the kitchen represents the core issues I struggled (and struggle) with for most of my life. Acute doubts about my capabilities, fear of what others think of me, paralysis from the previous two that lead to inaction (and chocolate chip pancakes for dinner). Anyone who has a history of debilitating fears know that there is no magic bullet, but there is always a way forward. Being loved through it and out of it both by God and by people – my husband being the main one now – is the the deepest way I found of dealing with the painful places in the heart and mind.

My daily offerings in the kitchen are a small picture of that process. With every tomato sliced, salad made, chicken cooked through and seasoned well, I tell myself that I’m going to make it even as I hear in my heart God telling me that I can do all things because of Jesus. Love changes us in a way that nothing else does because true love shows us the truth about who God is, who we are and what our lives can be.

A long preamble to say that I am generally confident in the kitchen now except for one kind of food – Sri Lankan. This is also the only kind of food special requested by Husband in the past eight weeks of marriage. Most meals I make stand alone in my mind. Not Sri Lankan food. In my mind, it is compared to my grandmothers, my mothers, aunties, cousins, second cousins, etc. I forget that Husband compares it to no one else’s curry. One day I will do the same.

This is one of the few recipes so far that contains more specialized ingredients, so it is a tiny bit trickier. Cooking it is not complicated, but the right ingredients are important.

  • Chicken curry  sautee in oil onions, garlic, curry leaves*, pandan**,  ground cumin and mustard seeds. Add the chicken pieces (I used drumsticks and thighs – I prefer chicken with bones in a curry than chopped up chicken breast). Mix together thoroughly. Add curry powder***. Add coconut milk and a bit of water. Squeeze a bit of lime juice in as well. Let it simmer on a low to medium flame for a little while for the flavour to soak through and for the chicken to cook. I kept an eye on it and kept adding water or coconut milk as the liquid dried up. Check the taste periodically to see if it needs more curry powder and also salt.

* I bought the curry leaves in a local Asian store.

** I have no idea what this is in English – Pandan is the Filipino word for it (we had a plant growing in our yard when we lived there). In Tamil – or Sinhala, really, I have no idea – it’s rampe.

*** I bought a Jaffna curry powder at the Asian store, and there was plenty of spice in it that I didn’t put any chili powder in. The curry powder you use will significantly influence the kind of curry flavour the dish has. Curry powder is NOT the yellow stuff you can buy in most grocery stores. That’s not a real curry – not to me anyway. If you want to make your own, roast cumin and coriander seeds together and then grind it in a food processor.

During my university days, the following foods filled my cupboards: pancake mix, frozen vegetables (rarely), ramen noodles, ham, chocolate chips (for the pancakes), frozen chicken (every few months) and eggs. I still indulge in the breakfast-for-dinner idea, but it’s no longer chocolate chip pancakes smothered in syrup. Usually it’s muesli and yogurt.

Eggs are still a staple in my refrigerator. I love them. Any time of day, cooked any way. Eggs are also one of the ingredients with which I do a lot of experimenting, which is what happened with this asian scrambled egg. It’s a basic scrambled egg but cooked with typically South Asian spices and a bit of coconut milk – smooth, full of spices, the coriander adds a bit of bite at the finish. I love eating avocado with eggs for breakfast; it’s like a bland, silky and creamy complement to the flavourful eggs.

  • Asian eggs beat four eggs with some coconut milk (the more you put, it will make it quite sweet, so start with only a bit). In a pan with butter, sautee some onions and garlic, add ground coriander and cumin seeds. Once there there is a fragrant, spicy aroma coming out of the pan, add the egg. Cook it slowly on a low flame – this is the key to a good consistency – and don’t push it too much. Use a wooden spatula to gently move it around every now and then. After you’ve cooked it to your preferred consistency – I don’t like mine well done – turn off the flame. Add salt and pepper and a few coriander leaves. Cut avocado and put salt and pepper on that as well.

Traveling seems like an adventurous, exotic thing to do, and there are many moments when that is true. But the part about traveling that becomes a weight is the lack of stability, fleeting relationships (unless of course you marry one of those initially fleeting relationships) and living out of a suitcase. Normal becomes keeping track of boarding passes, learning how to read Russian and using a squatting toilet. This time last year I was spending my final days in Sri Lanka before getting ready for one final adventure – spending 24 hours in the Kuala Lumpur budget airline airport (including sleeping on a bench outside with my luggage).

Today going to the grocery store is normal. Cooking, planting herbs, looking for recipes are the tasks that fill my time. All parts of me missed these basic tasks, the simple ways in which they enrich my life and encourage me for the future.

This salad is a European summer staple that I first tasted in Northwest Arkansas in the home of my history professor. It takes less than five minutes to prepare. Just as I don’t have many words for how much I appreciate the simplicity of my new life in Geneva, I don’t have much to say for how much I love this salad and for the joy it brings to my taste buds, stomach and heart.

  • Salad slice a ripe tomato, slice fresh mozzarella slices, stack on top of each other. Typically the mozzarella is on top, but the tomato was smaller than the cheese yesterday, so I reversed it. Put a basil leaf on top of each stack, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Salt and pepper.

The basil in this photo is from our “garden,” and it has been alive for more than five weeks, the longest plant I have ever kept alive.

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.”