“You can’t go swimming for at least an hour after lunch, otherwise you’ll get cramp and drown!”
“While you are living under my roof, you’ll abide by my rules.”
“You’re going out wearing that? You’ll catch your death of cold!”
“I didn’t ask you how it got there, I asked you to pick it up.”
“If you don’t finish your vegetables, you can’t have dessert”.
“If God had intended us to have holes in our ears, he would have put them there.”
Aaah, mothers. You have to love them. It seems that generations tick over, fashions come and go, science progresses… and yet mothers are still dishing out the same phrases that they did a decade, or two, or five ago. From bizarre old-wives tales like the famous instant cramp if you entered a swimming pool with as much as an undigested pea in your tummy; to the phrases that brook no argument, it seems that generations of mothers have always and will continue to recycle the same set of motherly wisdom, rules and values to successive generations of their offspring. Kind of comforting, isn’t it?
One of my mother’s favourites was: “I don’t care if all your friends are doing it – it they jumped off a cliff would you jump after them?”. My mom hauled this one out for every occasion, from the probably appropriate (why I could not get in a car and go on a date with an 18-year old bot they did not know) to the totally ludicrous (why at age 14 I could not go to the movies without parental supervision!). She was not interested in my arguments that all my friends went to the movies without their parents and to date, none of them had actually been attacked in the back row by a sociopath in the sleepy seaside city where I grew up. The wisdom of the crowd simply held no persuasion for her, and it frustrated me no end.
These days, of course, I get to make my own decisions on whether to follow the crowd or strike out on my own. And it’s fair to say that in many aspects of my life, I haven’t really followed the path that people might have expected. Nobody guessed I would leave my beloved hometown and move to London. Nobody thought I’d run off on a Friday afternoon and get married in a registry, almost 18 months before my “official” white frocked wedding. And nobody thought a lifelong exercise-avoider would, at age 37, decide to learn to ski. But there are some things in life where it is sensible to follow the crowd and tread the well-trodden path. There is a reason why everybody serves tomatoes with basil and mozzarella; or lamb with rosemary; or apples with cinnamon – these are combinations that have been proved over and over again to simply work. And I always say that there is no sense in reinventing the wheel: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
And that’s all the apology you’re going to get from me for posting something today that you have probably seen in some form or another on a number of other blogs. Blood oranges are hot news at the moment – and with good reason. Not only are they mesmerizingly beautiful, with their seemingly random arrangement of cells, shaded from hot orange to blood red, but their season is also heartbreakingly brief. I seldom get to see them in supermarkets here in London, but a couple of weeks ago I was thrilled to find them in our local Sainsbury’s. And before I’d even left the produce section I knew what they would become: blood orange and fennel salad. There’s not much I can say about it, other than that the combination of crisp, faintly aniseedy fennel and sweet, juicy blood oranges is quite sublime and a classic combination with good reason. The addition of a good homemade vinaigrette dressing and toasted pistachios creates a plate of taste and colour that’s hard to beat.
BLOOD ORANGE, FENNEL & PISTACHIO SALAD (serves 2)
1 large bulb of fennel
2 blood oranges
a handful of pistachios, shelled
FOR THE DRESSING:
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
1 tsp runny honey
Salt and black pepper
Wash and dry the fennel bulb. Slice off the stalk and any fronds and reserve the fronds for garnish. Slice in half from top to bottom, then place each half cut side down on a chopping board and slice thinly lengthwise.
Carefully peel the blood orange, removing as much of the white pith as possible, then segment it. If it is firm, you could simply remove the membrane around each segment with your fingers. If the segments are as ripe and juicy as mine, use a very sharp knife to cut in between the membrane and the segments, then remove the segment from the membrane and slice the pith off the rounded end of the segment.
Place the pistachios in a small non-stick frying pan and toast over medium heat, tossing occasionally. Then they are beginning to brown and smel toasty, they are done. Watch them closely as they can burn easily!
Mix the salad dressing ingredients in a glass bottle with a lid and shake vigorously till everything is blended. Toss the fennel, orange segments and dressing together in a bowl, sprinkle with the pistachios, garnish with small pieces of the reserved fennel fronds and serve immediately.
Note: The dressing recipe will make more than you need – store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.