I came across a book written by a hospice nurse. For years she had asked the dying whether they had any regrets, and the top five answers were:
I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
I wish that I had let myself be happier.*
I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. **
What's this got to do with food?
Unless some ailment or deficiency***, is causing cravings, then -
If you habitually eat (or drink) too much, or too little, or all the wrong things: you could do worse than looking at the points mentioned above. You might learn something about yourself, now that there is still time to change it.
Veg: spring greens, cabbage, chard, cauli, spinach, salad leaves/lettuce, radish, rocket, asparagus, sorrel, watercress, rhubarb, seakale.
Herbs: chives, parsley, mint, lovage, summer savoury and chervil.
Wild food: broom buds, chives, dandelions, fat hen, hogweed shoots, hop shoots, meadowsweet, sea spinach, sorrel, watercress, wild fennel, wild garlic, wild rocket.
Game: wood pigeon, guinea fowl, rabbit, duck.
Your fishmonger may sell samphire: serve fresh in salads or have as veg with melted butter. Wash thoroughly and don't add salt.
direct: beet, calabrese, carrots (though June sowings get less rootfly), french/runner beans, kohlrabi, lettuce, sweetcorn, swede, spring onions, spinach (beet), courgettes, marrows, (sugar) peas. If pea moth's a problem, wait till mid May.
in seedbed to transplant: leeks, cabbage, cauli, sprouting broccoli (early May), kale.
in trays outdoors: beans, courgettes, cucumbers, melon, pumpkins, pepper, sweetcorn, tomatoes.
plant out: cauli; cucumbers, marrows, pumpkins, tomatoes, squashes late May.
green manure: if you have space, now is the time. For use and benefits see www.bbc.co.uk/gardening/basics/techniques/soil_growgreenmanure1.shtml.
Bee populations and other pollinating insects are in crisis, mainly because of a lack of food and habitat. You can help: three extremely useful plants are borage, lavender (esp. Lavandula x intermedia) and the everlasting wallflower, Erysimum 'Bowles's Mauve'.
WATERCRESS, POTATO and GINGER SOUP
100g watercress stalks and leaves separated, 200g chopped boiled potatoes, butter, 1 chopped onion, 2 chopped garlic cloves, 1½ tsp ground ginger, 1l water/stock, milk, salt, pepper, parsley.
Gently fry onion in butter, don't colour. Add garlic, fry for another minute. Add 1l water/stock, bring to the boil. Add potatoes, chopped cress stalks and ginger. Boil for 3-4 mins. Season, add chopped cress leaves, milk and half the parsley. Cook another minute. Blend, serve with chopped parsley on top
BUTTERED SUMMER VEGETABLES
Instead of cooking veg in a large pan of boiling water, use medium-sized, flat sauté pan with just half a cup of water, a knob of butter and a pinch of salt. Cover, and let the veg half poach and half steam on full boil. To serve, add some chopped herbs and pour over the cooking juices. Perfect for carrots, asparagus, beans, leeks, cabbage or peas.
SPINACH and SOUR CREAM PANCAKES
1 batch pancake batter, 1 1/2 cups fresh spinach, 1/2 cup sour cream, 3 eggs, salt.
Prepare batter. Blend spinach until completely chopped. Stir sour cream into batter, add eggs. Add chopped spinach, stir, bake!
FISH with RHUBARB SAUCE
1lb white fish (whiting, dab, megrim, gurnard, bream), 250g rhubarb in small pieces, some chopped ripe (tinned) tomatoes, 3 tbsp olive oil, 120ml cup water, salt, (ginger).
Cook everything bar the fish together until rhubarb is done. Add cut-up pieces of fish and simmer until ready.
POTATOES SIMPLE but DIFFERENTSmallish floury potatoes, olive oil, rosemary, salt, pepper, paprika powder.
Boil potatoes in their skins, make X cut in the top of each. Gently press each potato with a masher until squished but not obliterated. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, plenty of oil, chopped rosemary and paprika powder. Bake for 25 mins at 230°C.
WATERCRESS and CABBAGE STIR FRY, 4 servings.
1 tblsp butter, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1/2 green cabbage, sliced and diced, 1 large bunch cress, 2 tblsp soy sauce, 1 tblsp toasted sesame oil or toasted chopped hazelnuts.
Saute garlic and cabbage, stirring, for 2 mins. Chop off bottom halves of the cress stalks and set aside for another purpose. Chop leaves and upper stalks. Add cress and soy: cook some more until cress is wilted and the cabbage soft enough. Strew on nuts, take from fire, add sesame oil and serve.
POTATO CRUSTED SPINACH MUSHROOM QUICHE
2 potatoes, 1 diced onion, 1 garlic clove, 320g sliced mushrooms, 170g spinach, 6 eggs, 240ml yoghurt, 240ml grated cheese.
Grate potatoes, pat dry, put in greased dish and pat down to form crust all around the pan and up the sides. Bake 25 mins at 450 degrees, or till brown. Saute mushrooms, onions and garlic till tender, add spinach and cook down. Mix yoghurt, eggs, cheese, salt and pepper. Put veg in the potato mould. Top with egg mix, reduce oven to 350 and bake 25-30 mins.
100g wild garlic leaves, 50g chives, shallot, spring onions or leeks, 50g shelled walnuts, 200 ml olive or sunflower oil, 50-60g finely grated mature hard cheese, ½-1 tsp sea salt.
Discard coarse stalks and place ramsons in food processor along with walnuts, shallot and 150 ml oil. Blitz for a minute until everything is finely chopped. Fold in grated cheese and salt. Put into jars to within 5-7 cm of the top. Press down firmly with the back of a spoon to remove pockets of air, allowing room to swirl remaining oil over the top to seal. When you use the pesto, stir well before spooning out. But make sure the surface of any pesto remaining is completely covered with oil before returning to the fridge.
* This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.
** See http://bronnieware.com/regrets-of-the-dying/
*** See www.buzzle.com/articles/food-cravings-and-what-they-mean.html
NEXT MONTH: CRAVINGS