“It’s a new dawn; it’s a new day; it’s a new life for me, and I’m feeling good.” – Nina Simone
There’s something magical about a new year, isn’t there? It’s like a clean sheet of paper in a new notebook: unsullied by past scribbles and doodles, just waiting for a new story to be written. 2015 was not a great year for me in many ways – I had to have two rounds of surgery to get rid of a cancerous mole; I felt distracted from my blog (some months I only managed 2 posts all month!); and I continued to have lingering aches and pains in the leg that I broke in 2014. But in other ways, the year was filled with wonderful things: I travelled abroad 13 times to places including Israel, Canada, Montenegro and Bulgaria; I presented 2 awesome food photography & styling workshops with my sister-from-another-mother; and I got to spend Christmas with my brother and his family for the first time in over ten years. So I think I came out about even!
But however good or bad the preceding year has been, January always provides an opportunity to look ahead for the next 12 months and to try and to try and figure out what you want to do more of; what you want to do less of; and what you want to do just plain different. I used to be a new year’s resolution fiend, making complicated resolutions and writing them down so that I could check on progress later. Even this radical step, however, did not seem to make me any more inclined to stick with them, so I have laughed that off. Instead, I prefer to set looser goals – more like guiding principles for the year rather than a commitment to fulfil a specific task. I rather like what my sister-from-another-mother Meeta does: she sets goals and then chooses one word that she hopes will define the coming year. She asked me a while back about my goals for 2016 and I think I have finally defined them clearly enough to know whether I am achieving them or not. My word for 2016 (which I hope will both curb my current goldfish-like attention span and help me to attain these goals) is FOCUS, and these are my 3 personal goals:
- Radically cut down on procrastination. I seem to be getting worse and not better with age! I make to do lists and then procrastinate for weeks before tackling the unappetising items. I read e-mails and think I’ll come back to answer them later – and promptly forget. I left a funny-looking mole to slowly grow for 4 years (!) before going to the dermatologist. In 2016 I am going to try and form a new habit of dealing with things (whether they be e-mails, filing or making doctor’s appointments) as they arise, not months down the line.
- Make a final decision on how much of the hardware in my leg to remove (only screws, or screws and rod), have the necessary surgery, and work on what I hope will be my final rehab. I’m tired of the internal debate that I have about pro- and anti-removal – I need finality so that I can stop devoting headspace to it!
- Be kinder to my body with more sleep (nothing under 6 hours, and preferably 7!), more regular weight-bearing exercise (that old chestnut!) and more healthy, nourishing bone-friendly food (even on nights when I don’t feel like cooking). I need to find a way of making exercise a habit this year, and not just on weekends. My old gym is closed indefinitely for renovation, so it’s probably time to join a new one (refer to goal no. 1!). I plan to be around for may years, so best give this body Rolls Royce care!
Also a couple of weeks ago, my dear friend and blogMamma Colleen asked me on Instagram to list 5 things that I wanted to do more of in 2016. It’s taken me a while to come up with a list, but here it is, from the sublime to the ridiculous:
- I want to take more photos of people – my hard drive is full of photos of food but not the people with whom I ate the food. That makes me sad. My hard copy photo albums from the 1980s and 1990s are full of photos of people and not a trace of food, and they are fabulous.
- I want to spend more time keeping in touch with my old pre-internet friends, the people who helped to make me the person I am today. I realised the other day that I had no idea what a dear friend (that I’ve known since I was ten) is doing for a living at the moment – and yet I could tell you all about what various online Facebook or blogging friends had for breakfast that morning. I was mortified. So more Skype calls, more phone calls and more e-mails (more visits might be tricky as none of them live in the UK).
- I want to read more. I used to be a fairly prolific reader and I seem to have fallen out of the habit (I blame my smartphone!) – but having received a Kindle for Christmas, I am on track to rectify the situation. All book recommendations welcome!
- I want to do more decluttering in my house and in my digital life. I have been feeling the effects of stuffocation for a while now and have realised that I can’t properly enjoy or appreciate some of the beautiful things I have because of all the other, not-so-beautiful stuff that clogs up my daily life. It’s a hard process as I am a natural born hoarder to rival any Womble (and Nick is not far behind!), but seeing a clear surface with a single, beautiful item displayed on it makes my heart sing. Similarly, I do not need every photo I have ever taken, and my hard drive is positively groaning under their weight. So 15 minutes of decluttering a day it shall be!
- I want to cook more vegetarian meals. I don’t know why we don’t, really. Both Nick and I love vegetables (he is the only man I know who will whip up a salad as a snack!) and they feature in every meal in our house – but in the weekly routine after work, I easily fall back on my mom’s classic combo of meat/fish with a vegetable and a starch. I want to make more warm salads; more vegetable curries; and more shakshuka-style skillet meals with eggs as the star. Watch this space.
In fact, the recipe below (inspired by one I saw in a friend’s copy of from Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Home Cooking) is the overture in what I hope will be a symphony of these dishes during the course of the coming year. It’s super-easy to make, even when you come home tired after work, and it’s satisfying without being too heavy – you won’t even miss the carbs!
What are your goals and ambitions for 2016? Let me know in the comments!
- 200g young spinach leaves, washed and drained
- Olive oil
- 1 large clove of garlic, minced
- 4 Spring onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
- 150g skinless smoked haddock fillets, cut into 2cm cubes
- 125g crème fraîche
- 1 Tbsp wholegrain mustard
- 2 tsp tarragon (fresh if possible, but dried will also do)
- freshly ground black pepper
- pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
- Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
- In a large frying pan over medium heat, sauté the garlic and 3 of the spring onions until beginning to soften. Add the spinach leaves and continue to cook over medium heat until the leaves are wilted – this should only take 2-3 minutes. Drain the spinach mixture in a sieve to get rid of as much moisture as possible.
- Transfer the spinach and onion mx to an ovenproof skillet and distribute evenly across the base. Scatter the haddock over the spinach.
- In a separate bowl, mix together the crème fraiche, mustard, tarragon and black pepper to taste and smear over the fish and spinach in the skillet. Beware of adding much (if any) salt to the mixture - the fish will have plenty of salt.
- Cover the skillet with a lid or aluminium foil and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes or until bubbling. Remove from the oven, make 4 small wells with the back of a spoon and carefully crack an egg into each.
- Return to the oven, uncovered, and bake until the whites are set and the yolks still runny. Garnish with the remaining spring onion and cayenne pepper (if using) and serve immediately.
If you are a fan of one-pan meals, you might also like
- Meeta’s baked eggs with spiced chickpeas and chard
- Kalyn’s baked eggs skillet with avocado & spicy tomatoes
- Sam’s Shakshuka
- Sarah’s baked eggs with avocado
- Camilla’s chilli SPAM eggs
- Nazima’s one-pot chickpea & potato curry
Let’s keep in touch!
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