random photos from barcelona, this summer.
What follows is a collection of highly sentimental statements about the year that’s just ended. You’ve been warned. Please, feel free to skip to the recipe right away
The memory of Maria and me sitting in a hot tub, surrounded by mighty mountains, under a starry sky, is surprisingly clear given the amounts of alcohol consumed as we have welcomed 2014. The buzz in my head was only partially due to the easiness of emptying cans of Sommersby. We spoke of travels and learning the world through cups of coffee and plates of good food, of knowing life by working odd jobs and visiting art galleries. We only speculated about Rome and London. A list of cities to see was drawn up, for enterntainment and exercise in fantasy on my part, and while I can’t find the original to cross off items in a spectacular manner and hang the paper above my bed for motivation, there is a few new maps and public transport systems and exchange rates installed in my brain, all unexpected.
It was a year full of serendipities. Floating in that tub, I had only a rough concept of how to move from a state of lethargy which still sucks me in too often. I collected bits and pieces of ideas spread among my friends, readings, seeings, put some tiny fractions together and, among other puzzles in the making, started this blog which became a catalyst for learning and creating, ensuring me in my interests and giving me a much-needed sense of obligation and goals to pursue. A piece of my writing was published on the other side of the pond. For a month, I was let in to observe and examine a world which I have always found fascinating, and for another month, I got a taste of a life which has so much allure in its realness that on a rare morning I still pick a black dress and wonder about the changes on the menu and number of bookings.
I knew it would be a year of goodbyes, and yet there were some that I had not foreseen. To P and BG, to Leon and Tarzan. It was also a year of refusing to say goodbye, because, as sappy as it sounds, there are people whose back I want to have, and I want them to have mine. And there are hands, at great distance, which I wish I could hold, especially when they are sweaty and a sole concreteness when everything else is spinning. There are words scribbled on a wall of a club which I wish weren’t true. A mix of wildness and dullness has a pull of shocking strenght, but that it’s just one of my many imaginary lives and better left at that. Because I already wish that I had spent more time this year present and sober, and it would have been a jump in the opposite direction.
At the same time, it’s been a year of countless reminders that I have a body. I’ve never had so many cuts, burns and bruises, each filling me with a weird feeling of pride, especially those earned in the kitchen or at work. Never have I covered such distances on a bike, a pastime that has grown into the healhiest of my self-treatments. Nor have I found so much comfort in the presence of someone’s shoulders around me, a power I have always attributed to words and other things of the mind. Those were the scarce moments of just good enough.
As 2015 approaches, I find it even easier to give in to anxiety than normally. There are so many unknowns, especially in the second part of the year. But (this is a note from me on a good day, to me on a bad day) those unknowns are opportunities - if not obligations - to change what I dislike about my current routines. And that’s my wish for the new year, the first six months included.
Now, to the food. This soup is a great thing to have on the menu around this time of year. I can’t imagine anything better than a bowl of hot, thick soup on a cold day, and this one, made of potatoes and leeks, is exceptionally simple and nourishing. It’s one of the only things that can compete agains scrambbled eggs (sorry) when I’m really hangover. It’s pretty much four ingredients (potatoes, leeks, oil, salt), the other ones are optional but ask for absolutely no extra effort. And you’re likely to already have all you need - and if you’re not in the habit of buying leeks, this soup is worth shaking up the routine a little bit.
Potato and Leek Soup
1 tbsp olive oil
2 large leeks (about 4 cm in diameter), white and light green parts only
4 small potatoes
3 cups water
3 bay leaves
5 allspice berries
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp marjoram
1-2 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper, generously
to garnish, optional:
1 tsp oil
a pinch of both sugar and salt
Prepare the leek first. Cut off the dark green tops - you can keep those for stock if you make your own. Place the leek flat on your chopping board and slice in half, not cutting through the root. Turn the leek so that you can slice again and end up with quarters, the root intact - this makes cutting much easier. Check for any remains of dirt around the root, and if you can see any, rinse under cold water. Return the vegetable to your board and chop into 2mm slices or so.
In a medium pot, heat up the oil and add your leeks. Cook over low heat for 10-15 minutes, until the slices begin to stick together and shrink significantly (you’ll end up with about half the initial volume).
While the leek cooks, move on to the potatoes. Rinse them, then peel and cut into 5mm - 1cm cube. It’s more important to keep the pieces uniformly sized than to keep them really small, to allow similar cooking time for everything you put in your pot.
Add the potatoes to the leeks, stir and saute for 3-5 minutes. Add the water and all spices save for the lemon juice. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and cook for 15-20 minutes with the lid on. Then, remove from heat and add the lemon juice, taste and add salt and pepper as you like.
You can blend this soup if you want, but I acutally prefer it with chunks of potato. Since I was, however, cooking for my family, I did blitz the soup into cream and fried some leeks on the side to add texture.
Slice the leek into coins, add to a small pan with the oil, sugar and salt, stir. Let cook over medium-high. When the leek starts to soften, lower the heat and cover with a fitting lid. Cook for 10 minutes, then spoon into bowls of hot soup.