There is a woman in the kitchen. Moonlight sweeps over the kitchen island. If we are to believe the digital clock on the microwave, it is 3:48 am. What is that woman doing in the middle of the night in her underwear and T-shirt?
Look, she pulls open a drawer and takes out a glass jar. She twists the lid off and sticks her nose into the jar. We see her snorting.
The woman takes a second jar and sniffs again. A third. She snips the string of Christmas lights that dangles over the counter. We can now read the labels on the jars in which the woman sticks her nose over and over again. Cumin is there. Oregano. Garam masala. Cinnamon.
Cinnamon? Doesn’t she know that sniffing cinnamon is life-threatening? And by the way, sniffing that nutmeg that she is grating there in her underpants can also make a person very bad. Hey, lady, do you dive into your bed like the weeder again.
That woman, that was me not so long ago. The week before I had tested positive for corona. It all seemed to go well – I was sick with the flu, but above all terribly relieved and grateful that I did not suffer from the infamous, corona-typical loss of smell and taste about which I had read so much. In every app I sent I exulted: ‘I can still smell and taste everything!!’ Until suddenly, on day seven, I smelled and tasted nothing at all. Nothing.
Let me immediately reassure you: your Saturday receptionist now smells and tastes as usual. After a day or three of frantically hanging over those herb and spice jars – I wouldn’t let myself get out of bed at night anymore – if I sniffed very deeply, with my eyes closed, concentrating to the utmost, I could see the warm , earthy, faintly aniseed aroma of cumin distinguished from the spicy, medicinal, almost turpentine-like aroma of oregano. The smell of the medina of Marrakech versus that of a Neapolitan pizzeria.
There are millions of people worldwide who have lost their sense of smell for months or even a year as a result of a corona infection. So that smell break of mine meant nothing at all. And yet I dare to confess here that during those three days I was quite panicked and that I could think of nothing but all the scents I love.
The smell of toasted bread in the early morning. The smell of rice that has just been cooked. The smell of fried onions. The scent of orange blossom in my favorite shower gel. The smell of adolescent sweat when I hug my youngest. The smell of the rose glycerine that my mother has been putting on her hands all her life. The smell of coffee when I kiss my lover just after his second espresso. The smell of spring in the air. What if I could never smell all that again?
I’ve been very lucky. After a week I smelled and tasted almost everything at full strength again. Coffee lasted the longest. And yet something has changed. Now that all those scents are part of my life again, I’m more aware of them than ever. I still occasionally hang over that herb and spice drawer just to open a random jar and stick my nose in it. I just look a little less distraught. Rather blissful. What a privilege to be able to smell.
Fragrant, green, spring-like fish curry (4 people)
Vegetarians can replace the fish in this curry with cubes of tofu.
5 cardamom pods;
¼ tsp fennel seed;
1 onion, peeled and coarsely chopped;
3 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped;
6 cm ginger root, peeled and coarsely chopped;
2 green chiles, with or without seeds, coarsely chopped;
zest and juice of 1 lime + 1 lime in wedges;
50 g (preferably unroasted) cashew nuts;
1 tsp ground coriander;
¼ tsp freshly ground nutmeg;
50 g fresh coriander;
50 g spinach;
10 leaves of fresh mint;
400 ml coconut milk;
600 – 700 g white fish fillet (I used cod);
4 the peanut;
1 tsp cumin seeds;
½ tl garam masala
make first the curry paste. Crush the cardamom pods in a mortar and remove the skins. Add the fennel seeds to the cardamom seeds and grind finely. Place the onion, garlic, ginger, chillies, lime zest, cashew nuts, ground coriander, nutmeg, cardamom with fennel and ¼ tsp salt in the mixing bowl of a food processor and puree.
spade Put the curry paste in a bowl and add the fresh coriander (stems and leaves), spinach, mint leaves and coconut milk to the mixing bowl. Puree to bright green sauce.
cuts the fish into chunks, sprinkle with some salt and sprinkle with the juice of half a lime. Let marinate for 10 minutes.
heat the oil in a wok and fry the cumin seeds for 30 seconds. Add the curry paste. Turn the heat to medium and let the curry paste sauté for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour in the green coconut milk and bring to the boil.
Leg the fish in the sauce and let it cook gently for 4 – 5 minutes. Taste and further season the curry with the garam masala, the rest of the lime juice and, if necessary, salt.
serve with rice, wedges of lime and the kachumber of tomato, cucumber and coconut.
Kachumber of tomato, cucumber and coconut (4 people)
A kachumber is an Indian salad of tomato, cucumber, shallot and coriander and refreshing with a creamy curry. I sometimes add coconut for extra filling and crunch. Many supermarkets sell trays of fresh coconut cubes, but if you feel like it, you can also slaughter a coconut yourself.
100 g to kokosvruchtvlees;
1 large banana shallot or 2 small shallots, sliced into thin half rings;
handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped;
few leaves of fresh mint, finely chopped;
juice of 1 – 2 limes
Halve the cucumber lengthwise, scoop out the seeds. Cut into small cubes, just like the tomatoes. Chop the coconut pieces into coarse shreds.
joint cucumber, tomatoes and coconut together on the cutting board and chop through a few more times.
Doe Place the cucumber, tomato and coconut in a bowl and mix in the shallot, coriander and mint.
make Season the kachumber with a generous amount of lime juice and a pinch of salt.