Yesterday a little calm left my life. My clients won't notice the loss, but they will be a little poorer for it.
My beautiful friend, Lady Calm, died yesterday.
She was the one that I would call or text in a panic when I opened a client's fridge and it had the strangest foods or the least amount of food that I'd ever seen. "Lady Calm", I'd say, "I have three mung beans, a banana and a brussel sprout. What on earth am I going to make with that?". You see, I can cook. My clients appreciate the meals that I put in front of them. They are normally good nutritious meals that help build their strength and feed their partners when they return home from work. They are meals that allow my ladies to sleep during the day, knowing that there was one less thing to have to think about. They are meals that show my love for my ladies and their new families and my support in the early days. They are the meals that caused one client's husband to vow to buy an Aga if I would stay (I love Agas - I have no room for one, but in my dream home, there she is. Centre stage!). Sometimes however, I open the fridge and the contents or lack thereof, scare me. Cue Lady Calm.
I remember texting her once, "I can only find chickpeas and an onion". "What spices can you find?" she replied. I remember rummaging around the cupboard looking for more than salt and pepper. There at the back was a mild curry powder, probably long forgotten. It was hidden behind another tin of chickpeas. "Chickpea fritters" she said. And so that was lunch. Chickpea fritters and an incredibly happy client. "Ooh", she said, "I would never have made these. They are lovely!"
Another client had eggs, courgettes and onions. Frittata. Good hot or cold. Another had lamb and apricots. A lamb tagine. Lady Calm had me making pastry out of the plain flour found in one cupboard to make a quiche and a chicken pie with the roast leftovers. She constantly told me that I should carry a little pouch of spices because so many homes had very little. She loved the homes that had well stocked fridges and spice racks (we both screamed with joy at the homes with drawers full of spice). I would make my family staples, jerk chicken, a beef curry. I would make solid family meals. Shepherd's Pie, beef in Guinness (or red wine) casserole, a rich and creamy lasagne. Lady Calm's Lamb Tagine is loved across London. But of course, my ladies never knew about my secret weapon. They had no idea that the contents of their fridge and cupboard had been text across town to my darling friend.
We talked about writing a book, unsure whether to market it at doulas or new mums. Some of Lady Calm's recipes made it home with me. Lamb tagine (which it had never occurred to me to make until that day 4 years ago) is now a family favourite. I am no longer afraid of pastry, cos I make a lovely pastry.
This year, I will make a special batch of marmalade and I will use Lady Calm's recipe. I will share it with you, so that if you fancy making some, you can spread it on your toast and raise your cup to Lady Calm.
Ok so first you have to sterilise the jars by boiling them in water for about 10 mins or heating them in an oven for about 7 mins.
Then take about 4-5 seville oranges (approx 500g in weight) and peel off the zest with a veg peeler. (the bit she missed: when you peel the zest off at the beginning, you cut it into fine strips and toss it into the pan that you have passed the puree mush through.) Then cut them in half and scoop out the pith and flesh, including the pips and juice into a bowl. Then puree the lot with a hand blender (or in a processor) and press it through a sieve into a heavy bottomed pan.
Then add the juice of a lemon into the pan and 1.4litres of water. Bring the pan to the boil and let simmer for about an hour until it has reduced by half. Then add 1.1kg of sugar and stir until it has dissolved. Simmer for 10 -15 mins until a teaspoon of it wrinkles when you drop it onto a cold saucer from the fridge.
Then let it cool down for about 10 mins before pouring it into jars. Voila
This recipe makes about 3 jam jars of marmalade
My life is a little sadder today, but I will celebrate my beautiful friend. She loved a good bottle of red and she loved good food. So, once I am back off call, I am going to take myself to a good restaurant and buy a bloody good meal with a stonking red and I am going to remember my wonderful, vibrant, beautiful friend. I may have lost my secret weapon, but she will always occupy a piece of my heart.