It was an uninspiring paper on The Crusades that saw the eclipse of my student status. I stepped out of the exam hall, onto Tottenham Court Road – the sun shining, everybody a little sticky and tired – and it was all over. We were suddenly free from revision and dissertation and weeks of being unnaturally conscious of the time. There was Pimms and cheap wine in Gordon Square – it was just the happiest of evenings.
But with the dismal turn of the weather, that elation collapsed into listlessness. Bloody typical. I appear to have discovered a puritanical side of myself that I didn’t realise existed: I’m unable to properly enjoy myself until I know that everybody I care about has finished exams too. Urgh, empathy, such a kill-joy. So the past week or so has been very odd: A touch of guilt at being free, accompanied by the usual post-exam cocktail of waking up in a cold sweat on a regular basis; wondering aimlessly around supermarkets; reading the trashiest novel possible (currently, Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep); and generally being unsure what to do with myself.
I did have a fantastic few days in Norfolk/Suffolk though. On a typically grim day my fellow East Anglian uni friend took us on a magical mystery tour of North Norfolk. Having a natural preference for the gentrified civility of the Suffolk coastline, it was nice to have my predilection challenged. In Burnham Market (sometime home of Johnny Depp and Amanda Holden) we ate brownies in a hailstorm. There are worse places to be than bundled together in a parked car whilst the weather does its best to entertain. Holkham Bay is a swathe of duck egg blue water and pale sand, topped with sky. So much sky.
Lunch was a superb salt beef ciabatta with celeriac relish from Wiveton Hall Cafe. It’s very much a farm-to-plate sort of place, surrounded by fields and serving organic elderflower presse. All very lovely, all very grownup.
I’ve also drawn up some graduate-life resolutions. They include the usual things of exercising more, eating less chocolate, becoming an informed and interesting individual who can offer her own intellectually sound opinion on the Euro debate (because apparently education failed me on that level), and blogging more.
I’ve at least made a start on the latter and have taken part in Dom’s Random Recipe Challenge. He gave us the task of sifting through all of our useless/boring/disgustingly health-conscious cookery books. Seeing as my selection of books in London is relatively limited, this proved to be tricky. Eventually I plumped for the one and only book that I thought might deserve the chop: The Food of Spain & Portugal by Elisabeth Luard. Thankfully, the random recipe I fell upon has saved it from the charity shop bin bag. The dish was Fava e funcho (Fennel and broad beans). The beans have to be braised with cubes of streaky bacon, spring onion and slices of fennel until they burst in the sweet, salty fat. I ate them with grilled mackerel and they instantly took me back to Italy, where peas could be cooked slowly for 40 minutes without being deemed overcooked.They just become joyously sweet.
Fava e Funcho (Fennel and broad beans), from The Food of Spain and Portugal by Elisabeth Luard
- 450g broad beans
- 2 fennel bulbs, including the young fronds
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 thick slive of streaky bacon, diced
- 1 large bunch of spring onions, trimmed and chopped
- Shell the beans (or, if they’re out of season or you can’t find them, buy them frozen)
- Heat the olive oil in a shallow casserole, add the bacon and spring onions, stir over the heat for a few minutes, then add the vegetables, except for the fennel frons.
- Season, bring to the boil, then turn down the heat. Cover loosely and simmergently for 20-40 minutes, adding a few drops of water as needed. Finally, stir in the chopped fennel fronds.