Every night I fall asleep to the sound of the ocean. Not the real ocean, sadly, just recordings I can stream through YouTube, but it is enough that those recordings were the ocean once, washing gently across some distant shore. It’s either that or a (mild) tropical storm, because the distant rolls of thunder and lashing rain make me feel warm and cosy and far away. White noise in general makes me feel calm in a way that total silence never can. I never sit in totally silent rooms in libraries, for example, it’s just too disconcerting somehow. I like hustle and bustle to remind me there is life outside of my own mind and the object of its immediate focus.

Moments of calm, like deep and restful unmedicated sleep, often prove elusive to me, but their pursuit is a greater priority this New Year than dieting or rushing to the gym. Sleeplessness and anxiety are a vicious cycle because the one aggravates the other indefinitely. View Full Post

In the week before returning to university, I had so much work to do that I decided the best course of action was to do none of it. Better to have a week to properly switch off, rest and relax, than continue to work constantly without achieving much, getting frustrated and bored and tired without being productive. Illogical, yes, and I probably shouldn’t encourage such a lax attitude to work and responsibility, but it works for me.

Instead, I enjoyed lazy days of late starts, big breakfasts, fresh coffee, travel magazines, baking, lounging, wine-drinking, film-watching, and nights of long deep sleeps uninterrupted by alarms.  This tart was a product of that week, and I enjoyed a large slice (or two) whilst watching Casablanca with my mum one evening.

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For such a simple dish with so few ingredients, it is surprisingly hard to make it look appetising. I blame the pesto; I love the stuff, but it has a tendency to be very messy and not co-operate with the camera.

This is essentially a spin-off of pasta primavera. I like the classic dish just fine, but I prefer buckwheat to pasta as it’s wheat-free and gluten-free and therefore leaves me feeling more weightless than pasta does. It’s also just nice to change it up from time to time and incorporate a range of whole-grains into my diet. Plus the entire dish, including the pesto, is vegan, so it’s an easy dinner that’ll please everyone and make you glow with plant goodness (although I reckon it’d be lovely topped with some crumbled feta or creamy goat’s cheese, too, if you’re so inclined.)

“Buckwheat primavera” didn’t have quite the alliterative ring to it, though, so I replaced the Italian word primavera (meaning spring) with the equivalent Russian word, pronounced v-yay-sna, just because it sounded moderately better (and it’s easier to get away with passing this off as a completely made-up dish than claiming it’s a riff on an existing one – even though I pretty much just did that).

Spring is just around the corner, but it’s still cold enough to be wanting big warm bowls of comfort food. I’d say this was a pretty great compromise.

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Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup buckwheat
  • 4 small-medium leeks
  • 1 jar sundried tomatoes (drained weight c. 150g)
  • 400g can of cannellini beans or butter beans
  • 2 cloves garlic

For the pesto (makes one medium jar):

  • 200ml extra-virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 100g pine nuts
  • 60g fresh basil (about two small supermarket packets)

Method:

  1. Chop the leeks and 2 garlic cloves and gently sauté over a medium-low heat in a saucepan with a tablespoon of olive oil, until the leeks are soft and fragrant. Add a tablespoon or two of water to the pan if necessary so that they don’t burn.
  2. Cook the buckwheat according to packet instructions in a large saucepan. This should take 15-20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, make the pesto: add all ingredients to a blender and  blend until completely smooth.
  4. Once the leeks are soft — should be after about 15-20 minutes of cooking — add the tomatoes and beans to the pan and cook for another 5 minutes until they are heated through.
  5. Drain the buckwheat and return it to the saucepan, then tip in the contents of the frying pan and the pesto (you may not need all of it), and mix it all together. Cook on a low heat for a few minutes until heated through. Liberally season with salt and pepper, then serve.