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UCL's Wilkins Portico:  unrelated to Suffolk bus stops, but who could resist?

UCL’s Wilkins Portico: unrelated to Suffolk bus stops, but who could resist?

I’m not convinced that a recipe for an omelette should be preluded by a musing on bus stops and illustrated with photos of an autumnal UCL campus, but I’m doing it anyway.

It’s odd to think about all of the bus stops I’ve stood at during my life. The first one of my adolescence wasn’t so much a designated shelter as a strip of grass outside Bungay cemetery’s back gates. The first day of walking through the graveyard to that grassy bank corresponded with the first day of Year Seven. My sister and I were all top buttons, freshly packed rucksacks and punctuality. On Friday of that week we were staring at the rear end of the yellow double decker as it rolled away, into the Suffolk countryside. The first in a continuing trail of missed buses.

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Every time we moved to various locations in Bungay and its environs, we had to adapt to a new bus stop. This makes memories of waiting at different shelters, pavements, or posts stuck into grassy verges, a useful way of tracking my teenage years (we moved house with considerable frequency). The sixth form years, characterised by such examples of teenage rebellion as wearing a slightly too short skirt and ballet pumps in winter, are inexplicably linked with complaining about the early morning cold. That was an uninspiring bus stop – a signless, shelterless, corner of pavement in the snoozing hub of a nondescript Suffolk village.  We had to climb a hill to get to it, which invariably meant trying to run in said short skirt and missing the hourly bus on a weekly basis.

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Then I came to London and bus stops took over. Waiting for the H91 lacks the romance of those daily rituals of expectation; usually spent stroking the resident bus stop cat, or conjuring chants to bring the rounded top of the double decker into sight on particularly bitter days. Here it’s such a lonely pursuit: people pooling towards the edge of the pavement, desperate to be crammed into a stopping and starting, tutting and groaning, Central London bus. But still, a bus stop is a bus stop and nothing if not a promise of reaching some final destination: a comfort in itself.

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This all has nothing to do with omelettes, but unfortunately, little does in life. If it makes a difference, I did cook this after a bus journey home from work experience at a food mag last week (more on that later). Ricotta is my new favourite thing. A generous spoonful added to whisked eggs, then cooked in an omelette with mushrooms and thyme is absurdly good. It might not look pretty, but it’s delicious, comforting and vaguely autumnal: generally always a good thing.

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mushroom, spinach and ricotta omelette 

Ingredients (serves one)

  • 3 eggs
  • knob of butter
  • olive oil
  •  a handful of mushrooms, sliced
  • a couple of handfuls of spinach
  • 1 tablespoon ricotta
  •  spinach
  • a few sprigs of thyme
  • parmesan (optional)
  • salt and pepper

Method

  • Whisk the eggs with the ricotta and thyme leaves; season well with salt and pepper.
  • Heat the butter with a generous glug of olive oil and fry the mushrooms for three minutes
  • Stir in the spinach leaves and some more butter for luck.
  • Pour in the egg and ricotta mixture and reduce heat to medium
  • Stir with a spatula until the eggs begin to thicken, then move the mixture towards the sides of the frying pan (actually, just watch this. Thanks, Julia.)
  • Grate parmesan over the omelette and turn out onto a plate.