No reason

Don’t you think there’s something wonderful about smoke from a chimney? I never drew a house without a smoking chimney when I was little. Nor does my daughter now.

It says it all, says enough. That there’s life in that house there. Maybe a fireside with a real fire. Toasty toes in scratchy socks. Things drying. A stew on the hob. It’s cold outside, but not in that house with smoke from its chimney.  

D took two days off work. Just like that, no reason. That’s the best reason of all; when it’s time taken just be to be at home doing something something, nothing nothing.

We went for walks and fed the ducks and had a pizza by the river. We read books, toes touching. We took the training-wheels off Chotto-Ma’s bike and watched her wobble and tip. It’s funny how her nervousness made her hum all the way, the tune rising sharply in pitch every time she tipped.

It was kind of wonderful. Like smoke from a chimney, with a stew cooking under it.


Adzuki beans, carrots & chorizo stew

1 1/2 cups adzuki beans
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 onion, sliced
4-5 carrots, diced in circles
4-5 inches chorizo, diced in circles
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cumin powder
Some feta, crumbled
Olive oil
Salt

Soak the beans overnight. Boil the next morning with bay leaves, garlic, tomato and salt.The beans should be simmered till soft.
Heat olive oil in a pan with a lid, and saute the onions, carrots and chorizo.
Add the boiled beans, pepper and cumin. Add more salt if needed and let is simmer till the carrots are cooked.
Take it off the heat. Let it cool a little and sprinkle the crumbled feta on top. Drizzle with olive oil.

We had ours with couscous.

Dances and details

Of all the framed art on our walls, there’s one that I love the most. It’s a black and white photograph of a couple dancing on the streets of Paris, next to the Seine. Paul Almasy’s Rock ‘n Roll sur les Quais de Paris is a happy twirl, frozen in time. I never tire of looking at it.

It reminds me of my first dance with D, fifteen years ago. (Fifteen?!) Just as we gingerly, awkwardly stepped on to the dance floor, the song changed, and we were stuck with Elton John singing Sacrifice. Now we’re stuck with it for posterity. Thankfully, the song faded quickly as other details became sharper. The checks on his shirt, the faint smell of aftershave, our hands unsure about where to rest, a sweet nervousness.

The photograph also reminds me of the time I was pregnant with Chotto-ma. Every afternoon, I would put on some music, and dance. I would hold my tummy tight, and sway, and feel her move and flip inside me. We would dance together for hours, just the two of us. It was a quiet, intense kind of happiness.

There are times when the rhythm of a moment is just right. It’s details, irreplaceable.

Every time I look at the photograph, I notice something new. A detail I hadn’t seen before. The first time our neighbour’s little girl walked into the house, she looked at the print and said, I love the old bricks on that bridge. She didn’t mention the dance, not even the flick of the pretty skirt. But the quiet bricks in the back.

Details.

To me, they make all the difference. In life. In art. In food. In a pot of rice, some adzuki beans can be that detail. In a tuna kebab, a handful of freshly chopped coriander can be that detail.

Adzuki-Bean Rice with Tuna Kebabs

The Adzuki-Bean Rice

Ingredients

1 1/2 cup adzuki beans
4 cups cooked rice that have been in the fridge overnight
1 large tomato, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
A handful of chopped coriander leaves
1 tsp black peppercorns, crushed
1 tsp garam masala
1 bay leaf
1 tbs olive oil, or a blob of butter.
Salt

Soak the adzuki beans in water, overnight. Next morning, discard the water and wash the beans.
Boil 4 cups of water. To the water, add the beans and all other ingredients, except the rice.
Cook on medium heat till beans are done, adding more water if needed. Once the beans are cooked, dry up any remaining water by increasing the heat.
Now mix in the cold rice, with the olive oil or butter. Adjust seasoning.
Heat once before serving.

The Tuna Kebabs

Ingredients

2 cans tuna, drained dry
1 green chilli, chopped
2 tbs crushed roasted peanuts
1 cup chopped coriander
1 tbs grated lemon zest
1 egg
1 cup bread crumbs

Mix all the ingredients. Form flat, round dics. Pan fry till golden brown.
Serve immediately with the rice.