The Monday five o’clock deadline looms large. I am in my study. The computer screen stays blank to mock me. I play with my pencil, sharpening it, soon there’ll be nothing left. I reread several false starts and the writer in me agrees with the reader - those story lines are going nowhere.
I open to another blank page in my bespoke writing book, but nothing comes. I caress the blank sheet of paper hoping to feel some energy from the virgin page but I am spent.
I abandon pen and paper altogether and make my way to a familiar place, my kitchen. Here, surely I can fashion something to reinstate faith in my creativity. But the fridge yields nothing. The irony is not lost on my battered spirit.
At last, I turn to my late winter garden. Even here, the relentless rain means an offering of dismal choices. The earth, like me, is craving for the sun – for plump tomatoes, fat olives, sprightly lemons.
But, I see the first of my little peas, so small and sweet in a shiny green coat. My neighbour's dear hens are made of sterner stuff than me and reward my trust with warm goodness, smacking of the soil.
Good cooking, like good writing, is the result of a balance between frugality and generosity. I pick some tarragon for my eggs and peas.
Such is the tentative harvest of the cold months and I am grateful. I return with my meagre bounty to the warmth of my kitchen.
I love the rituals of preparing dinner – of cleaning, setting the table, folding the napkins. Like writing, there are small disciplines, almost like a dance - we pause, we glide, we embellish.
And so, like Elizabeth David before me, I am content with an omelette and a glass of wine for dinner.
Restored, I feel I can broach the fragile, emotional distance between the kitchen and the study and write again. At last, I’ve got a few ideas that might work.
A simple omelette for one
2-3 eggs, depending on their size and your hunger
pinch sea salt
freshly ground white pepper
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh herbs - tarragon but parsley or chives would do nicely too
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter, 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Crack eggs into a medium bowl. Add salt and pepper. Whisk with a fork until well combined but not foamy. Mix in herbs.
Place a well seasoned skillet (or a small, 18-20 cm, nonstick frypan) over high heat. Melt the butter with the oil.
Pour in egg mixture and immediately reduce the heat to medium. With the back of a fork or a heatproof rubber spatula, allow the eggs to gently set. This takes only a few seconds. Meanwhile, draw in the edges of the omelette, tipping the pan to allow the uncooked egg to flow to the edges. Don't over cook the eggs, they should still be on the edge of "runny ness"
Tilt the skillet and flip the omelette over onto itself. Use your fork or spatula, if necessary, to complete folding in half. Flip the omelette onto your plate. Pour the wine.
In a small saucepan, heat up a very small amount of butter with extra virgin olive oil. Gently fry some cubes of fatty speck until crisp. If you like, you can add half a small onion, chopped finely. Cook this gently until it is translucent but not coloured in the slightest. Add a handful or two of podded peas. If the peas are tiny, freshly picked like mine, then there is no need to blanch them. Cook until the peas are tender. Season with white pepper and salt. I like to add a tiny amount of grated nutmeg.