I don’t know if it was the three weeks we spent in a country where people live with relatively little means, options are always limited and contact with the outside world is scarce, or the shock of coming back home and immediately being bombarded with information, images, opinions and, perhaps most of all, choices, but it suddenly feels like my life is just a little too crowded.
For a couple of years now, I’ve been looking for ways to simplify my life. I’ve purged my closet and limited my social media presence to just one platform. I’ve given up on hobbies that required more energy than they gave me and I started a bullet journal to keep track of my ideas, inspirations and to-do’s. All of this has helped me live a more intentional life, for sure, but it’s starting to dawn on me that it’s not yet making me live a more simple one. Since coming back from Cuba, that is, I’ve become aware of exactly how often in my daily life I feel rushed and overwhelmed. Not to a breaking point, but just enough to keep me from finding true calmness, contentment and pride in the many things I have and accomplish.
This past weekend, I decided that I should make a proper effort not to rush anything. There was a bunch of stuff I wanted to do and while I felt completely ill-prepared for most of those things, I vowed that I wouldn’t spend my time trying to plan and control everything. Instead, I tried to tackle one thing at a time, to do it consciously and to do it from start to finish, not worrying about my timing or the second thing before the first one was completely wrapped up. In doing so, I noticed how the quality of my work improved, how much more confident I felt in it and how little stress remained afterwards. I noticed how much more accepting I was towards the things that didn’t go exactly as I’d hoped and how much more open I felt to everything and everyone around me.
It seems so silly and obvious now that I’m writing this down, but this is something that I’ve struggled with for a long time and that I’m sure I will continue to struggle with in the future. But at least I’m starting to realize that simplification is not something I can impose from the outside - it’s not a question of purging stuff or finding the most efficient organizational system. I am the one rushing myself. I am the one constantly reminding myself of all the things I want to do, need to do, should do - of all the things I want to remember, need to remember and really shouldn’t forget. If I want to simplify my life, this is where I’ll have to start. Slowing myself down. Perhaps also slowing down this blog a little ... not to a halt, but just to a pace that feels more natural and organic - a pace that allows me to focus on the quality and enjoyment that I'm striving for.
Now, I know a recipe with 4 different elements and a title as long as this one may not scream 'simplification', but I can assure you that this dish really does fit the bill. Every element comes together in a few simple steps, there are no crazy ingredients or techniques and practically everything can be prepared in advance. It's all just one simple and delicious celebration of summer.
• The chamomile honey should be left to infuse for at least one week, preferably two. After straining and when stored in a clean, tightly covered jar, it should keep indefinitely. If you forgot to prepare the infused honey, use regular honey in a pinch, or opt for a quick infusion. This involves slowly heating the honey with the chamomile to a temperature of about 85˚C, letting it steep for 30 minutes to a couple of hours and then straining it. Keep in mind that the honey won't store quite as long, though, and that it should be used within 1 or 2 weeks.
• Both the dukkah and the mascarpone whipped cream can be prepared in advance. Store the dukkah in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a couple of days and store the mascarpone whipped cream in the refrigerator for up to 3 hours before serving. Leftover dukkah can be used to top off ice cream sundaes, yoghurt or smoothie bowls.
• If you want to serve this dish for breakfast, use Greek yoghurt instead of the mascarpone whipped cream. In a dessert, vanilla ice cream works great, too.
Grilled Peaches w/ Mascarpone Whipped Cream, Sweet Dukkah & Chamomile Honey
serves 2 to 4
for the chamomile honey
200 ml mild honey
2 tbsp dried chamomile flowers
for the dukkah
2 tbsp (ca. 30 gr) almonds
1 tbsp (ca. 8 gr) sesame seeds
1-2 cardamom pods
3/8 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
for the mascarpone whipped cream
25 gr granulated sugar
125 gr mascarpone, cold
125 gr heavy cream, cold
for the peaches
2 large peaches, ripe but still relatively firm
for the chamomile honey (prepare 1-2 weeks in advance)
1. In a clean, glass jar, combine honey and chamomile. Use a plastic or wooden spoon to stir them together, making sure the chamomile flowers are fully coated in honey. Seal and store in a cool dark place for 1 to 2 weeks. When the chamomile flowers come floating to the top of the jar, put it upside down. Continue doing so for the rest of the infusion period.
2. After 1 to 2 weeks, strain the honey into another clean jar and discard the chamomile flowers.
for the dukkah
1. In a dry skillet over high heat, toast the almonds and cardamom pods, 5-10 minutes, until toasted and fragrant. Swirl the pan around often so as to avoid burning. Set aside to cool.
2. In the same skillet, toast the sesame seeds until they start to pop and dance around in the pan. Set aside to cool.
3. Remove the husks from the toasted cardamom pods and, using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, grind the seeds. Finely chop the toasted almonds.
4. Combine chopped almonds, toasted sesame seeds, ground cardamom, cinnamon and salt.
for the mascarpone whipped cream
1. In a medium bowl, combine sugar and mascarpone. Stir to loosen the mascarpone a bit.
2. Add heavy cream and, using a handheld electric mixer (or in a freestanding mixer with the whisk attachment) beat until soft peaks form. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
1. Preheat a grill pan over high heat, or make sure the barbecue is lighted and ready to go.
2. Halve the peaches, remove the stone and rub them with the tiniest bit of olive oil.
3. Place peaches on the grill, cut side down and allow to bake for a couple of minutes, until the surface is charred and lightly caramelized.
4. Serve 1 or 2 peach halves with a scoop of mascarpone whipped cream. Finish with honey and sweet dukkah.