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.

We ate fish once a day when I was growing up. It was the cheapest form of protein available in rural Philippines, and we ate the whole thing, fried from head to tail. I hated it (except the eyes, the rubbery texture was great). A few years ago fish became palatable to me and now it is an enjoyable treat.

Salmon was on sale at Coop, my local grocery story,  and we had all the ingredients for a nectarine salsa in the fridge. Salsas of any variety are a favourite of mine. The sweet, cold crunch of this one contrasts nicely with the warm, firm salmon.

Chopping the ingredients took longer than cooking this meal. Total time was probably 15 minutes. I can’t remember where I got the salsa recipe from, so I would add the ingredients slowly and taste as you go.

  • Salsa nectarines, red capsicum, red onion, corriander (or cilantro), lime juice, salt, possibly sugar and fish sauce (I can’t remember now!). Chop. Refrigerate.
  • Salmon this recipe calls for a corn salsa with the salmon. I didn’t have corn, and I was aching for a fruit salsa. This meal tasted great, but I would still cook the salmon slightly differently to go with the salsa, probably less herbs, and cook it simply in butter or olive oil with salt and pepper. Don’t over cook your salmon – let each side have two minutes in a warm pan for it to stay moist and a bit undone in the middle.
  • Cous cous one cup cous cous, one cup vegetable stock. Sit for five minutes.