I am writing this post in my garden on a warm, sunny afternoon as the UK prepares for a fourth week in lockdown. I am surrounded by birdsong and buzzing insects. The usual distant hum of traffic is absent. Right now, I feel blissfully calm and contented.
I know that I am privileged compared to many. I am fortunate to have a garden to sit in, I do not live in cramped housing or in an abusive relationship, and so far all of my loved ones are safe and well.
For all its horrors, however, the coronavirus pandemic is revealing something profound to us if we care to take notice.
It has revealed to us the utter fragility of our social structures. It has shown us how pompous we have been to think that we are somehow apart from the natural world and able to control it. Through this pandemic, the natural world has bitten back, with a vengeance.
Beyond our newly constrained and confined lives the world we thought we ruled is carrying on happily in our absence. The birds and bees, flora and fauna are thriving without us. Spring has sprung and new life is stirring.
I hope that this pandemic will teach us some humility. For the sake of our own survival as a species we need to understand this painful lesson about our true place in this wonderful world, about the need for us to live our lives in a way that fully respects and reveres this amazing planet and the life it sustains.
How much we ever return to “normal” after this is entirely down to us. We need to be the change we want to see in the world.
Shakshuka is a classic dish which originated many centuries ago in the middle east. Traditionally, it includes tomatoes and peppers, and sometimes meat.
This green shakshuka is a lighter, healthier variation. Try it as a “lockdown lunch”.
I used produce from my own garden – purple sprouting broccoli (and its edible leaves), kale and spinach – but you can substitute any greens and herbs you have to hand. The basic principle to apply here is that ingredients that take longer to cook, such as stems of broccoli, need to go into the pan earliest, while those which need to least time, such as spinach, go in last.
For the herbs, I again used what I had available in my garden – chives, mint, parsley and oregano, but feel free to vary this part of the recipe according to what you have to hand.
250 g mixed green leaves
150 g purple sprouting broccoli
100 g peas (I used frozen)
1 onion, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
generous pinch chilli flakes
½ tsp sea salt
200 ml vegetable stock
2-4 free range, organic eggs
2 tbsp mixed fresh herbs, finely chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
good quality bread or crostini
1. Wash, drain and remove any tough stems from the green-leaved vegetables.
2. Pour the olive oil into a large frying pan or skillet that has a lid. Place over a medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the sliced onion and cook, stirring, for five minutes or until soft and translucent.
3. Add the purple sprouting broccoli and the garlic. Cook, continuing to stir regularly, for a further five minutes then stir in the peas, kale, purple sprouting broccoli leaves, sea salt, cumin, smoked paprika, chilli flakes and stock. Bring to a gentle simmer then place a lid over the pan. Cook for 5 minutes or until the broccoli is just tender. Stir in the spinach and half of the chopped fresh herbs. As soon as the spinach has wilted, after one or two minutes, create “wells” within the mixture and crack an egg into each one. Cover the pan with a lid and cook for a further ten minutes, or until the egg whites have just set but the yolk is still runny. Scatter over the remaining mixed herbs.
4. Serve immediately, accompanied by bread or crostini.