I like to go out for dinner on a Monday night, just to take the edge of the jolt of starting yet another week; to distract myself from the uncomfortable feeling that a thousand previous weeks have begun with precisely the same sense of repetition, and will continue to do so, ad infinitum, like a mirror reflecting into another mirror. This feeling of Monday, of another week beginning, another week having slipped by, is not really grounded in reality, because of course our lives do change — that is the only certainty. But it is, perhaps, a sign that one is stagnating, or has been in the same place, doing the same thing, for too long.
Luckily, it's Friday, which means I have more of a 'Hey! Everything's gonna be just fine... How you doin'?' kind of feeling. Also, I had a wonderful evening last night, at home.
We moved house a few months ago, and only in the last few weeks have we started to emerge from the chaos into a semblance of what our lives were like before. The first two months have been buried deep in the recesses of my subconscious (living in the lounge with all one’s earthly belongings piled up high next to your mattress-on-the-floor bed because the builder — who promised he would be finished before one moved in — is still busy with the bedroom floors, will do that). In the last few weeks, though, my dream kitchen has been taking shape.
So last night we put on some Brian Ferry, opened a bottle (and then another) of wine, and toasted our shelving and each other as I concocted this dish from a hurried sweep through Woolies on the way home: artichokes, chickpeas, spinach, chilli and eggs. It's my take on a recipe I found on The Wednesday Chef blog.
It is a gem of a dish — but it's one of those which, when you see the ingredients, you either get or you don't. Those who think a meal is not complete without meat probably won't get it. But if you're the kind of person who understands why someone might feel compelled to write a poem about an artichoke, then you will get it. It's not showy, and not exactly exploding with umami, but it is delicious and satisfying. Served with some toasted, buttery sourdough bread... Well, try it.
400g baby spinach
2 x 400g cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Juice of one large lemon
1 red chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped
4 large poached (or soft boiled) eggs
Generous glug (about 4 tbsp) best-quality extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Add water to a pot (large enough to contain the artichokes) until half full, and bring to the boil. Add the spinach and cook for five minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon (reserving the cooking liquid) and plunge into ice-cold water to halt the cooking process. Drain and squeeze out the excess with your hands, then lay on a cloth or paper towel.
2. Add the artichokes to the large pot and top up with water to just cover if necessary. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer and cover for 10 to 15 minutes, until the stems are tender and yield easily when you insert a fork.
3. Remove with a slotted spoon and plunge into cold water as before. When the artichokes have cooled, remove all the tough outer leaves and trim the stalks. Cut in half and removed the fury inner choke with a pairing knife (or you could read more sensible advice here). Cut in half again, so you're left with quarters.
4. Combine all the ingredients (except the eggs) in a large bowl and mix well. Divide between bowls, plop a poached (or soft boiled) egg on top, serve with buttery slices of toasted sourdough — and call it supper.