Oh my dear readers, what a poor friend I have been!
Whilst birds perched the frosty branches, round breasts fluffed, beaks touching. As flowers were bought in service stations, heart shaped cakes baked, romantic candle-lit suppers booked and eaten, eyes gazed into, hopes raised, hearts filled, heads laid to rest, the better to dream. I was nursing a cup of beef broth and a tender body, on my way back to health.
A couple of nights before Valentine's eve a nasty Norovirus landed me a sucker punch - right in the gut.
After a long, long night that ended with nothing but moths left in my tummy, I lay and regretted my lost Valentine celebration. Prosecco waited in a cupboard, all fresh bread and biscuit bubbles, a lovely piece of steak at the farm. The liveliest mixture of winter leaves and tender herbs ached to mop up those beefy, buttered juices. Yet I was unable to contemplate even reading a book. Radio four soothed me back to sleep again, whilst my immune system regrouped.
When I ventured out of the bedroom, as wobbly as a new calf, I knew instantly what my body needed. First fresh ginger tea with honey and later some chicken broth. The next day my heart longed for something deeply flavoured, clean tasting and fragrant with star anise. I set a beef broth to simmer with cinnamon, cloves, ginger and garlic, repaired to the sofa under a Jacob fleece and the house sang with savoury.
Broth is healing for all tummies, but especially good for anyone who has just had a bug. I make this broth, strain it and then pick off the meat, add some diced carrot, finely chopped leek, finely chopped garlic and maybe a little winter squash and cook for another hour or so. You can also add a few fresh peas or a little handful of fresh coriander or basil. Start with the broth and then graduate to eating a few of the vegetables with the broth and finally a little of the well cooked meat.
Healing Beef Broth
A couple of pieces of beef shin - with bone preferably - about 500-700g. Add a marrow bone if you have one.
1 red onion (or brown skin)
6 cloves garlic
1 stick celery or a thick slice of celeriac
3 thick slices of ginger - err on the generous side
2 whole cloves
a cinnamon stick
3 star anise
sea salt to taste
Throw everything into a large pot and cover with water. Bring to the boil and skim off most of the scum that rises. Turn down to a low simmer, clap a lid on and allow to simmer for at least three hours, taste and add salt to your liking. Allow everything to cool and then strain. Pick the meat off and reserve, adding back in to the stock when you are a little better.
For anyone in London at the end of March, this Wise Traditions conference sounds amazing. I'll be there in spirit, but I can't be there in body.