“Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate.” Alan D. Wolfelt.
It was, incidentally, Valentine’s weekend when I first came across this quote. Valentine’s day and the first weekend after Marge’s second chemo session. I had never really been in a believer in Valentine’s day (partly because I was always single, bitter and alone, partly because I never understood why we needed a specific day to demonstrate our love for others), but this quote seemed to puncture the heart of the weekend’s activities. I was spending my Valentine’s weekend in the kitchen, doing what I love for the people I love.
During the week Mum is at home by herself and is doing an amazing job of cooking for herself, despite being completely exhausted and suffering from worsening the side-effects of chemo: the treatment has completely robbed her of her energy; nausea has made its triumphant return; and the burning sensation in her stomach has reignited its flame. Yet, despite all of this, she is still managing to eat three good and (mostly) healthy meals a day and I even caught her making bircher muesli for my dad and sister one evening – it seems even chemo cannot dampen a mother’s instinct to care for her family.
However, if I am at home then I can’t help but want to take care of her. For all of my 24 years, she has been the most incredibly doting and selfless mother, always putting us first and doing whatever is in her power to make us happy; I want to do the same. Though I am powerless against the physical effects of her treatment, I am powerful when it comes to improving her mood and making her feel looked after. Cooking and showing my love through food is my contribution to her well-being. So, despite not believing in Valentines day as such, the fact that this ‘day of love’ coincides with a weekend succeeding chemo has definitely given me an extra zeal. This weekend Marge is going to be filled with love, in the form of delicious food.
It is not often that I am in to make lunch, so I wanted to make sure I cooked something special. Yet, as I have already found out, when Marge is feeling her worst, the best approach is to listen to the demands of her stomach and cravings. Today, they commanded fishcakes (a pleasant surprise I have to say). With a simple meal such as this, so much of the love and care put into it is communicated by the aesthetic and finer touches of the dish, those little extras that scream immense affection. Presentation has such a significant affect on appetite – when a dish looks like love and care have been put it into it, the desire to eat it grows. So when the stomach ordered fishcakes, I answered with Tuna Fishcakes Topped with Spinach and Fried Egg, sprinkled with turmeric and chilli – to turn up the heat on Valentine’s weekend. The dish contains lots of protein to build Marge’s strength and is full anti-oxidant rich ingredients so her body is equipped to resist the nasty side-effects as best as it can.
Eggs are an excellent source of quality protein and are one of the few food sources of vitamin D – necessary for healthy bones and teeth. They also contain plenty of antioxidants that help prevent cancer and heart disease, choline and other B-vitamins that support healthy function of nerves and the brain and are thought to balance blood sugar levels.
Spinach is packed with vitamins and minerals and contains more than a dozen different antioxidant flavanoid compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties, protecting against heart disease and helping to neutralise the free radicals that weaken the immune system and are linked to cancer. High in vitamin K, it also helps to protect bones.
Recipe: Tuna Fishcakes Topped with Spinach and Fried Egg.
- 75-100g mashed potato (I had some left over)
- 1/2 tin tuna
- 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
- tbsp flour (plain or gluten-free variety)
- 3 tbsp olive oil plus extra, to drizzle
- 1 clove garlic, sliced
- 2 generous handfuls fresh spinach
- 1 egg
- salt and pepper, to season
- turmeric, to sprinkle
- chilli flakes, to sprinkle
- In a bowl, mix the mashed potato with the tuna and mustard and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Shape into two equally sized patties and coat each side in flour.
- In a frying pan, heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil over a medium heat and fry the patties on each side for about 2-3 minutes until they are golden brown. Remove and set aside.
- Add 1 tbsp more of the oil and add the garlic slices. Fly until lightly golden before adding the spinach, cooking until wilted. Season with salt and pepper.
- Whilst the spinach is wilting, in a separate frying pan add the final tbsp of oil and crack in the egg. Fry for about a minute before putting a lid on top, turning the heat right down and cooking for a further 1-2 minutes (depending on how you like your yolk). This will allow the egg to ‘steam’ cook and stop the underneath of the egg from getting too crispy.
- Serve the spinach on top of one of the fishcakes and the egg on top of the other. Sprinkle with a pinch of turmeric and chilli flakes, a grind of pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.