One more black coffee

Play in background while reading: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJ5Ub8j0CpA

Mirko sat, staring through the trees, willing for the answer to come to him from the leaves in the wind. Nothing made sense, nobody was saying what was really on their mind. He sighed. He breathed in deeply and held his breath til his body shook. Still nothing came to him.

One more coffee, he thought to himself, that will work. A butterfly made a delicate flighty dance towards him as he was about to get up. He changed his mind and stayed where he was to watch it. It was a beautiful yellow with beige and black spots, not too small or too large -just right.

Mirko stretched out his arm and the butterfly obliged. He mixed a sugar cube into his small glass of water and poured a drop in to the saucer of his Turkish coffee cup. The butterfly walked down Mirko’s arm and perched on the end of his finger which sat in the sugary water. A delicate proboscis reached out trustingly. Once it had finished it, the butterfly made its way back up Mirko’s arm and settled on his shoulder. It made him smile.

He got up and stepped in to his compact kitchenette and reached for the coffee pot. There was enough left for one more. He poured the dark rich treacle in to his small cup and slipped in a sugar cube, stirring gently with a small silver spoon. Mirko looked at his shoulder, the butterfly had gone. He shrugged.

The phone rang in the flat. Maybe that was her. Perhaps she had an answer. He stepped in to his living room and answered the call. He listened to the words, quietly spoken, serious and without hope. It was over, she said. It was as he suspected, another man. He put the phone down and went back to the balcony , collecting his cigarettes on the way.

As he sat  down on his chair in the corner, he noticed something in his coffee. At first he thought the butterfly had fallen in. But no. Instead it had left an imprint of its image on the surface of the dark coffee, a kind of thank you, a note of friendship. Mirko nodded to himself, appreciating the symbol, the gesture, and wondering how it was that animals could be so thoughtful and appreciative, and humans not. He sighed and took a sip, staring back out across the trees.

Gibanica

There is no set recipe for this dish, it’s all down to how you like it.

Firstly let me explain something about gibanica (gib-an-it-sa). It isn’t eaten as a main course or a starter. It’s rarely eaten with anything else, although it seems some like it with a bit of sour cream. It’s normally served all by itself, either straight after the main course at a slava or other big sit-down meal; or  just with a coffee, followed by a piece of walnut torte or figs and yoghurt.

I didn’t like it as a child – or rather it didn’t like me -eggs and cheese didn’t agree with me. I make it now and then, when the mood takes me. And each one is different.

What you need:

1 large round enamel tevsija. You don’t have one? Then any good-size oven dish will do – a deep one.

1 packet of fresh Greek or Turkish filo pastry – but you will only need to use half the sheets.

Alternately make your own filo! Just a good plain flour, warm water and olive oil – plus patience and working by the feel of the dough. I used to make it with my mother and stretch it over the dining table.

http://fahriyeskitchen.blogspot.com/2010/01/making-your-own-filo-pastry-yufka-at.html

Anyway, let’s carry on.

Pre-heat the oven to pretty hot.

Take a large bowl and in it crack 8 medium-size eggs

Whisk them and add a little salt.

Add approx 250g of butter or margarine or olive spread

Add 250g of cream cheese  low or full-fat

Grate approx 300g of a white crumbly cheese like wensleydale into the bowl

Add around 500ml of milk semi-skimmed or skimmed

Now gently break up the butter and cream cheese in the mixture,whilst stirring round the crumbly cheese and milk. What you should have is a lumpy mixture, not too runny. Taste it, it should be slightly salty.

Oil the base of your oven dish and take two sheets of filo. Place them in the bottom all scrunched up like a range of mountains with peaks. Ladle over some of the mixture.

Put on the next two sheets in the same manner and repeat the ladling. Eight sheets are usually enough. The last two go on top -all the mixture should underneath them.

Take a sheet of greaseproof paper and place on top. Sometimes I line the dish with paper as well.

Pop the gibanica in the oven for 30 minutes. It should rise. Take away the paper for the last 10 minutes to let it brown. The gibanica is normally done after 40 minutes -give it another five if you are not convinced.

I like my gibanica warm, some prefer it straight out of the oven, others stone-cold. Keep it in the fridge and it will last up to three days.

How much should you eat in one sitting? My advice is be sensible -it’s very filling even if you use all low-fat, skimmed-milk ingredients. I’m happy to have a piece for lunch followed by some fruit. A slice at breakfast? Yes, very decadent! It’s a great dish for guests when you’re not in a cake mood and you are savoury (like me) rather than sweet. Enjoy.

Foraging through the human mind

I believe quite firmly, that humans and fungi have a lot in common. Delving deeply into my current writing project and taking time to savour the personalities of my characters; I can enjoy the subtle flavours of each as it develops.

The last two years I have ripped my way through nanowrimo, in sixth gear letting my mind do its thing, bringing in people from the subconscious and adding them to the pot of plot soup.

Not this year, there’s a sense of darkness and deepness that is foraging for fungi in the woods -further in like Red Riding Hood, secretly willing the wolf to appear.

As my life reveals over recent months the devious, selfish and festering minds of unfulfilled adults -reaching a maturity of age, yet not of soul -my heart grows cold towards them. They have become fly-infested mushrooms. There’s not much can be done about their existence, but it is a shame to think that a person can get so far in life and then go off.

The thing about fungi is you can’t always tell what’s edible and exactly at what point.

I’ve been foraging in the past -as a child with an Austrian woman who was a keen gardener and gatherer -she knew where to look for food in city parks and woods. She would explain very carefully to me how fungi worked under ground, how beautiful they were above (sometimes) and how dangerous they could be. Like people, she said.

“Mushrooms are like people, all kinds everywhere around you. They are at their best for a short time then they grow dark and deadly and fall apart. These purple ones are pretty, but they will make you sick. And you know the big red one is bad and you shouldn’t touch it.” she once told me.

She carried on,”This one is strong, growing out of the tree and this one here hiding under the bracken is playful -a big round ball begging to be kicked so it can spread its spores further. These are good to eat -at the right time of course.”

“Then there are the small ones, oh so similar to each other with inky caps or orange tendrils -it takes an expert to decide which are good for you and which will make you hallucinate”

And so the world of fungus has influenced my writing this season, quite aptly. Mushroom soup is my favourite, as are people despite the rot that sometimes sets in -I’ll never be turned off my soup.

Extract from The Edge (unedited)

As the pot of water bubbled on the stove, he turned down the heat and spooned in a large mound of finely ground coffee beans. Dark and rich, the smell was always comforting. He stirred whilst bringing the pot back to the boil. The coffee was ready – strong and dark and thick. There was a set of small cups and saucers on the shelf above the stove. Mirko took one down and placed it on the table, along with the coffee pot and a bowl of sugar cubes. He took a shot glass from the corner cupboard and pulled out a bottle of grape spirit. The table was almost set for the morning ritual,just the ashtray was missing.

Once everything was in place, Mirko opened the doors to the balcony and sat on the chair soaking in the heat of the morning sun. He loved mornings, especially when he was alone with time to think and not being hassled to have his breakfast. Coffee and spirit was a good breakfast he thought to himself. The sun shone into his dark eyes, darker than the black coffee by his side. Nothing penetrated his eyes, they were almost black. His face was slender, and his nose long and thin with curled nostrils that gave him a dismissive air.

He lit his cigarette and inhaled through his curly nostrils, sucking his cheeks in then releasing the smoke through his mouth. It felt good. It took the edge off a bad night’s sleep.

I think he’s the strong, edible kind…we’ll see.

http://youtu.be/KkcBuUlgOTI