The cold weather has got me dreaming of warm, exotic places. Wouldn’t it be nice to be in a bikini on a beach right now? On second thoughts, not a bikini, it’s far too soon after Christmas for that. A summer dress maybe? I have chronic wanderlust as it is, but cold weather and tough work always intensifies it.
These thoughts, in turn, led me to reminisce about that time I took a trip to California back in November just because. Variety might well be the spice of life, but spontaneity is the sugar. Every now and then I like to do something impulsive, impetuous, radical, maybe even stupid. It keeps life sweet, you know?
Actually, it wasn’t entirely random; my dad was going out there on business as he does every year. When I was a little girl it was my least favourite week of the year; I used to cry as he got in the taxi to the airport and stood with my brothers waving sorrowfully from the window. A whole week is a dreadfully long time for a child. The day he came home would be the best, not only because he brought us presents (though that helped!) but because I could rest easy in the knowledge that I needn’t go through the misery of his absence again for a whole year.
When I was older I used to beg him to take me with him. Of course, it was always out of the question, but I bugged him nonetheless. Finally, in November 2014, age 19, I saw the opportunity I had been waiting for. I was studying on the East Coast so I was basically close — it seemed too good to miss. I informed him I would be joining him (he didn’t really have a choice in the matter) and promptly booked my flight. It was -5 degrees in New York and snowing; 6 hours later I was in a t-shirt and palm tree print shorts. He may not have appreciated the invasion into his business trip – I tried not to be too much of a room hog – but I had the best five days sightseeing, sunsoaking and keeping up with work in cool cafes.
Of course, I don’t have the means to be that kind of spontaneous too often (and I probably would have been kicked out of college if I regularly skipped a week of classes just like that). And on the whole, I like to be organised and have everything all planned out and on paper, but sometimes I think we just need that kind of excitement in our lives. Wake up tomorrow morning and do something crazy. Be brave. Be bold. Bring some sunshine into your life. You won’t regret it.
Chances are, taking a random crazy trip isn’t realistic (if it is, lucky you!) but there are other ways of putting sugar and spice into life. Send a letter to an old friend you’d like to rekindle contact with; take up a new hobby; get involved in something you believe in but have never been very active about. It is still January after all; if ever there was a time to do it, it’s now. As for the warmth and sunshine, this mild, flavoursome curry really does warm you up inside. That, at least, is achievable.
-1 large red onion, finely chopped
-2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
-2 tsps ground cumin
-2 tsps turmeric
-2 tsps mild curry powder
-1 tsp ground coriander
-1/2 tsp garam masala
-500ml vegetable stock
-5 tbsps coconut cream
– 3 small sweet potatoes, chopped into 1-inch cubes (I didn’t bother peeling mine because I’m lazy but it’s probably best to)
-1 cup dried red split lentils
-3 large handfuls chopped fresh coriander
-to serve: sprinkling of coconut flakes (optional) and wholegrain of choice (in the photos I had it with buckwheat; I also like it with brown rice)
1. Heat a tbsp of extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil over a medium heat and, once hot, toss in the onion and garlic. Cook over a medium-low heat for 5-10 minutes, adding a tbsp of water if it starts to burn.
2. Once the onions are starting to caramelise nicely, toss in the spices, sweet potatoes and lentils, and stir for a minute or two so that everything is coated.
3. Add the stock and coconut cream and simmer gently for 20-25 minutes until the sweet potatoes are soft. Adjust the spice to suit your taste.
4. Serve over buckwheat or brown rice and add the fresh coriander on top of each portion just before serving. I added coconut flakes to mine too, which I highly recommend.