This morning, after a long, long time, maybe years, I did something that I used to do a lot of. I snuck downstairs while D and Chotto-ma were still sleeping, and sat by myself, while the sun slowly stretched and woke up. I sat on the big armchair, feet tucked under myself, with my cup of Darjeeling tea, and listened to Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby singing Gone Fishin’. It’s such a Sunday song; though I didn’t play it because it was Sunday. In fact, that song could turn any day into a Sunday. It has such a beautiful lack of purpose. Such unapologetic laziness. You must be cursing me for doing this to you on a Monday morning. For lulling you back into the weekend when you’ve got so much work waiting for you. Am I slowing you down? Well, good.
I’m going fishing. No, not literally. It’s too cold for that. But that phrase, for me, sums up an entire state of being. Fishing is never really about the fish, is it? It’s about sitting in your own company. And, while you sit with yourself and wait for nothing in particular, little thoughts come and bite on the hook in your head. Gone fishin’. Yes, I did do a bit of that this weekend.
We also went for a long drive, through early morning winter light. You know, the kind of light that circles the tops of naked, leaf-less trees in pale gold haloes. On either side of our wheels were frosty silver fields. In between the gold on top and the silver below, were red-browns of the trees. And suddenly, rows of bare branches with apples. The car drove through a Wyeth watercolour.
We stopped many times. For hot, spiced mulled wine. For a walk by the river. For a warm, buttery pub lunch. And for a Christmas tree.
When we reached home, the sky was as dark as it was when I’d woken up in the morning to sit by myself. And we were hungry again. Hungry, with cold noses, and cold fingers.
I made a warm dessert, and spooned it into three little bowls. It isn’t a ‘real’ dessert – it’s too simple, too healthy to be called that. But it’s an old favourite – and there’s nothing quite like it.
Chhana & demerara
Chhana is a cottage cheese, which is very popular in Bengal, India. It’s soft and fluffy, with a hint of lemon. Eat it warm, and sprinkled with brown sugar. You can also try chhana drizzled with honey, or maple syrup. Be generous with your sprinkles and your drizzles. That’s the only way you can turn your day into Sunday.
For the chhana:
2 fresh lemons, juiced
4 pints milk (semi-skimmed, or whole)
For the sweet topping:
Demerara sugar, to sprinkle liberally
1 tsp lemon zest, freshly grated
Pour milk in a pan and bring to the boil. Keep the lemon juice handy. As soon as the milk begins to rise,lower heat, and pour in half of the lemon juice. Stir. The milk will begin to curdle instantly. Keep adding a bit of lemon juice, till all the milk has curdled into cheese. You should be left with the white cheese floating in a pale green water, also called whey.
Sieve the whey away, till you’re just left with the cottage cheese. Serve the hot, soft chhana, or cottage cheese, in bowls. Sprinkle with lots of brown sugar, and a pinch of lemon zest.