My autumn has been beautiful and difficult. After another house move, I’ve found it hard to settle in and feel at home in my new house. As I sit here in my dining room, next to a big window facing the back garden, I feel like a guest. Almost as if I was staying with friends, for a while. Of all my house moves (all eight of them), this has been the most painful. Leaving my previous house, the one that started out as a home, then turned into an uneasy, temporary-yet-dragged out living arrangement, came with a lot of complications, emotional, practical and economical. Emotional ones most of all, though. As soon as the house move was done, the last of the boxes unpacked, a slimy sense of panic started creeping up inside me. Almost as if my thoughts had waited until I was done with all the practicalities, in a sort of negative Hierarchy of Needs, before assaulting me. I felt uneasy, a lot of the time. At times, I still do, although now I’m used to the signals and I can deal with them. I do things that comfort me, I try to remain rational and positive (and my life is full of positives), I make the most of what I have. I talk about what’s wrong, so it’s less overwhelming. Most of all, I try not to be too hard on myself and I take it easy, knowing that I have everything I need to feel stronger and in control of my own thoughts, again.
In the midst of all this, I have started to think about food again. Cooking, feeding, dining… I’d set them aside for a long time. I would still cook, of course: bringing my own packed lunch to the office, making my own muesli and yogurt, and a handful of other basics. (I realise defining ‘making my own yogurt’ a basic may sound odd to a lot of people. Not to me: homemade yogurt has been a staple in my diet since I was very little. If I ever stop making that, then I’d start to really worry about my own sanity…). Lately, however, I’ve dedicated more time to curating my shopping lists, planning specific recipes ahead and, generally, being enthusiastic about cooking like I hadn’t in a long time. Last Saturday I made pizza for the first time in over a year. Over a year! Before that, I used to make pizza from scratch once or twice a month. Then I made a huge batch of beetroot and haricot stew with preserved lemons. Millie, my starter that’s been sitting in the fridge for a good six months, is now bubbling away and feeding a loaf each weekend. Whilst I slowly take control of what’s happening in the kitchen, again, I leave you with an intensely smoky and colourful soup I made a few weeks ago. There’s a good amount of smoked paprika in, which turns the whole thing into a kind of liquid and healthy chorizo (cue eyes rolling at this obvious exaggeration). No, seriously, the smoky kick takes the sweet-but-bland autumn roots and vegetables to another level. Go try it. It freezes beautifully and if dressed with some peppery olive oil, fancypants smoked salt and toasted slice of sourdough wouldn’t be out of place at your new hipster vegan brunch place in Homerton (not that I’m being stereotypical or anything).
Once all your vegetables are peeled and chopped, put them in a stockpot. Add the canned tomatoes, tomato puree, smoke paprika and chillies. Add enough water to just about cover the vegetables, then cover with a lid and cook on a medium heat until the vegetables can be priced through with a knife. Take away from the heat and blend until smooth (or to your liking!). Taste and season. If the soup is too thick, add a little bit of water. If too liquid, cook on a low heat, lid off, until it reaches your preferred consistency. Serve with a good, peppery extra virgin olive oil.