Conventional or dysfunctional?

It seems to me that there are two types of freelancer. One recreates conventional work life, up early and at a desk in a tidy office with a daily to do list they work through with vigour, pausing for coffee, lunch and a cup of tea, and ending the day with a sense of satisfaction – and another to do list for tomorrow.

The other, incapable of routine, thrives on anxiety-filled adrenaline rushes, lurching from one crisis to another, perhaps never having time to get dressed or doing so just in time to dash to meet a client, grabbing a mouthful of something, anything, before dashing down the stairs while trying to insert an earring with one hand and groping for the keys with the other, diary and notebook crammed under their arm as their mobile phone goes off, its sound alerting them to the fact that the phone is not in their bag but at the top of the stairs …

The first sets realistic goals. The second … well, that’s me.

It started well, my Tuesday. I had all the ingredients in the flat and, as I’d worked on Sunday, I felt entitled to a spot of mid-morning de-stressing in the kitchen. Radio on. One saucepan simmering away, another sweating gently. Grater, peeler, squeezer, Sabatier, whizzer – and then it was in the fridge, chilling and firming and very pleased with it I was.

Then came the whirlwind. The draft of a new website to be amended, another to be adjusted, a client on the phone with a crisis and that was lunch. A fistful of walnuts followed by an unadorned oatcake. Hardly merits a mention and certainly not a photograph.

And Wednesday? I spent it largely away from my desk, waiting for a client to be free – a cup of coffee in, sadly, a chain coffee shop, sipped quickly while clutching my mobile phone so I could be up and off whenever she called.

Today, the paté as firm as it was ever going to get and with no unexpected client demands, I had lunch.

Conventionally late (Red lentil paté)

150g red lentils

1 English onion

1 large carrot

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp ground coriander

1 inch ginger, grated

3 cloves of roasted garlic

1 lime, zested then squeezed

Olive oil

Himalayan salt

  1. Cook the lentils (I find they take much less time than it says on the packet; watch them as the mushier they are, the soggier your paté will be). Drain them well.
  2. Grate the carrot and ginger.
  3. Chop the onion and fry it gently in the olive oil, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t catch but allowing it to caramelise a little (which adds a depth of flavour) while it softens.
  4. Add the cayenne pepper, cumin and coriander and stir for a minute or so while the flavours develop.
  5. Fold in the carrot and ginger, mixing them gently with the spices. Let them soften in their juices, stirring from time to time as the liquid reduces, intensifying its flavour.
  6. When it is almost dry, add the lentils, roasted garlic, lime zest, a squeeze of lime (less than half a lime unless it is small and unjuicy – you want it to lift the flavours, rather than to stand out). Add salt to taste.
  7. Transfer to a food mixer and pulse a few times scraping the sides down between pulses – it should retain some texture, with flecks of carrot showing through; if you blend it too vigorously it will turn to an unappetising sludge.
  8. Scoop into ramekins, or an oblong container lined with foil so you can remove the paté once it has cooled and firmed up before slicing it (though slicing is overestimating what is possible with such a soft mixture).
  9. Serve as you wish (I ate it with two oatcakes and some rocket, rather a lot of rocket it appears, tossed in walnut oil).

A healthy lunch - or an excuse for oatcakes?

The carrot is the unsung hero of this paté, adding colour, texture and a hint of sweetness that slinks through the spices.

Having recently discovered that I’m yeast and wheat intolerant (I always wondered why I felt so weird after eating bread, which was only ever an excuse for butter) I’ve been on an oatcake hunt. Nairn’s rough oatcakes are pretty good but the very best are made by the Maclean’s Hebridean Bakery. Smaller (about the diameter of a round tea bag) and thicker (half a centimetre, I guess – and I’m not getting out the ruler), they have masses of extra crunch and a deep, rounded flavour. I buy the wheat free version (green packets, rather than red). Though not cheap, they are far more satisfying so I find my hands dipping into the packet less often. (I think this is a classic case of believing my own propaganda. A packet doesn’t last as long as it should.)

No prizes for guessing where I buy them. When I moaned recently because there were none on his shelves, Dan (that would be Dan Mortimer of Mortimer & Bennett) explained that deliveries are dependent on space being free on the ferry from Benbecula, where the Maclean’s bakery is. I think that’s probably another corn on my carbon footprint – but it’s a family-run, independent business: two brothers and the best Scottish oatmeal. Environment v ethics. You decide.

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