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Mindful menus

08 March 2013


A FEW people have kindly written to tell me of their interest in the series about mindfulness (Faith, 15, 22 February, 1 March), and it is the mindful approach to eating which is usually the eye-opening discovery in a mindfulness course.

Take one raisin, find a quiet place, and eat it as slowly and as interestedly as you can. Make its acquaintance before you even put it in your mouth. Discover what it is like to have it in your mouth without chewing it. What happens when you bite on it? How will you choose to eat your next meal?

In a Lent season 30 years ago, I had my first encounter with the astonishing richness of home-made bread, and good butter, and apples, all else having gone at breakfast and lunch. It was, of course, a taste sensation: every apple its own sweet eccentric character, every slice of bread and butter aromatic and rich. With not a lot to eat, and more time to savour it, and hunger as the best sauce, every meal was the rich food that Isaiah's God promises us.

Lent is traditionally a time to eat detoxing greens. If you are using a restricted range of ingredients, perhaps it is a good time to discover new flavours and aromatics.

Try this St Clement's salad dressing with an un-Lenten garnish of cocoa nibs - another superfood, so they say.

2 lemons and a large orange
a couple of spring onions, chopped
284ml (½ pt) olive oil
cocoa nibs

Squeeze the citrus juices into a blender with the onions and season. Add the oil slowly. Adjust the seasoning, and dress a large green salad, adding a sprinkling of cocoa nibs.

Fish is traditional Lenten fare, and you might like to try a Vanilla marinade for whatever fish fillet you have handy:

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon French mustard
½ teaspoon honey
1-2 teaspoons vanilla paste
1 spring onion
a handful of fresh herbs (or a  teaspoon of mixed dried herbs)

Whizz all the ingredients in a blender, and adjust the balance of flavours according to your taste. Cut your fish into portions, and pour some of the marinade over them. Allow them to sit for a few minutes, and then gently sauté them in a non-stick frying pan, turning them over once as the marinade starts to get sticky. When the fish is cooked through, heat any remaining marinade as a sauce.

If you have vanilla extract, a Lent lunch tomato soup can be beautifully warmed with it. Make a tomato soup in the usual way, beginning by gently frying an onion and garlic in olive oil, then adding a little celery and carrot. Add a couple of tins of tomatoes, and an equal quantity of stock. When the vegetables are tender, add a teaspoonful of vanilla extract, fresh basil and parsley, and seasoning before liquidising.

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