I wonder what it says about my demographic that nearly everyone I know is embroiled in self-deprivation of one kind or another this month.
Sugar, coffee, alcohol, credit cards, television, sloth – all of these, and more, are being abandoned with Lenten fervour in favour of a brisk and tidy start to the new year.
And although I am no stranger to the New Year’s detox, I also have to tell you that I am not completely sold on the concept. I am all for a fresh start, and yes, December’s excesses do take their toll, but I can’t help feeling that we owe ourselves a little more kindness at this point in the calendar.
A gentler beginning.
I think we should all be slinking through the rest of this month (and much of the next one as well) with a piece of runny cheese and a glass or two of wine – and just possibly a spontaneous shopping trip – at the ready, both to acknowledge the utter joy that the holidays brought and to shore us up until the evenings are a little brighter, the Mondays a little less blue.
I am not really one for resolutions – I cannot be relied upon to keep them, ever, and I feel that there is enough opportunity for falling short of one’s own expectations in the day to day life of any mother – but if I were to make just one this year, it would involve neither the clenched teeth of self-denial nor the fleeting comforts of extreme gluttony.
If I were to make a wish for all of us this year, I’d say let this be the year that we find and take comfort in the middle ground.
Elusive and lovely as a sliver of winter sunshine.
Happy new year!
January’s Healthy Lunch
I made this a few days after finishing my January detox, and the sweet, smoky, salty pancetta was enough to make me swoon with delight. The rest is pretty healthy. If you cook the barley ahead of time, it all comes together fairly quickly, but if you start with raw barley you need to give yourselves about an hour’s lead time.
5c cooked barley (about 350g raw, cooked according to package directions)
150g cubed pancetta
5 sticks celery, thinly sliced crosswise
2 cloves garlic, chopped not too finely
1c roasted almonds, coarsely chopped
roughly 1/3c olive oil
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 tbsp dijon mustard
sea salt and pepper to taste
If barley is fridge-cold, leave it sitting out to get the chill out before putting the rest of it together. If the barley is still warm from cooking, all the better.
Cook pancetta in a cast iron or other heavy skillet, over medium heat, until just beginning to crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to a bowl and set aside. Drain all but 2 tbsp of fat from the pan, and reserve.
Return pan to heat and add garlic and celery. Saute, stirring occasionally until garlic is very fragrant and celery has lost most, but not all, of its crunch.
Meanwhile, Pour reserved pancetta fat into a glass measuring cup, and top up with olive oil to reach a scant half cup. Whisk in vinegar and dijon to emulsify.
Place barley in a large bowl and toss with almonds, pancetta, celery, and garlic. Add vinaigrette and toss well to combine. (At this point, if you were more organized than I, you might chop some italian parsley and stir it in before serving)
Serves 4 as a hearty main course, with enough leftover that you can sneak spoonfuls from the bowl for the rest of the afternoon or 6-8 as a side dish.