I threw my head into cooking.
To focus my mind elsewhere, away from some of the life things happening which I can't control and which are not about me, but which have thrown me off course, and to make the waiting for answers a little less laboured. Cooking focuses me. It calms me. It brings me back to what is important - sustaining - giving energy and strength through dishes made well and cooked with love.
One of my Finding Joy pieces was to find new things to cook - simple recipes, complex recipes, adding to staples, or one off pieces just for the sake of it. While I may have fallen short of 2 new dishes each week, I've not done too badly.
i  After a very delicious brunch at Di's house a short while ago on a whirlwind trip to Melbourne, I decided that I really did have to get my act together and make home made baked beans. Such a simple, hearty, tasty dish, it seemed silly to be buying baked beans in tins when a homemade batch would be such a decadent version, and much better for us. I looked to Apples For Jam for inspiration, and then imporovised a great deal when a third of the ingredients weren't in my cupboards. The result was trully good. Deep tomato rich beans speckled with ham and basic herbs. Add in fried haloumi and fresh sourdough and it's a definite new staple.
ii  Max wanted chocolate muffins. So sifting through another firm favourite cookbook, I decided to make chocolate olive oil muffins. I made them to the letter. And I'll leave this by saying for my tastes, and Max's tastes, chocolate and olive oil don't mix. They weren't that great, so we wont be making them again, but I am glad we tried them. I find this book a little hit and miss [I think I've said that before as well] - when you get a good recipe it's magic, but there's a few in there which don't work as well.
iii  I fell in love with tea smoked dishes in of all places, London. The Providores did an excellent tea smoked salmon for breakfast and it was a staple weekend order for me. Smoking meats of any kind is something I've been wanting to try for a long time so when a recent episode of Masterchef had a tea smoked duck recipe.... I knew we had to have it for dinner one night. Last week I did the tea smoked duck, but with ginger soba noodles and bok choy. The smoking part was easy, and so damn effective, although the house really smelt of smoked tea for a good day afterwards. I would most definately do this again - the bonus being that Max and Pia both ate the duck and said it was nice, although Max quite rightly suggested perhaps I didn't kill ducks for his dinner anymore because it upset him.
iv  It's always dangerous at our house when a new issue of Gourmet Traveller pops through our letter box. My eyes glass over and lists get made very quickly. I sat in full list contemplation mode through the week, having fallen very much in lust with the Triple Chocolate Praline Tart on the cover [set aside an entire afternoon though - the pastry needs to set for two lots of hour long periods, and the chocolate mixtures both need about an hour each to set in the freezer and longer in the fridge so it's time indication is a little misleading]. Can I just say - this is the most splendid chocolate tart. So incredibly rich. So decadent in the intense amounts of chocolate needed. And the time involved in making:resting:resting again:baking:setting:setting again etc made eating it all the more luxurious. A definite make for a dinner party, and I'm almost sad I didn't think to invite anyone over to help eat it. There's still more left if anyone wants to volunteer. And I made a pumpkin curry as a main, also from the same issue - another one I'd probably skip making again. It seemed bland to us, and almost like it was missing an essential ingredient to give it that 'pop'.
And now I turn my attention to a mandarin tree starting to turn colour, and wondering what I might do with a large quantity of manadarins - or at least the ones we can't eat oursleves. I had thought of making mandarin curd, and there's manadarin jam as well - anyone got any good ideas to share?