If there is one thing any blogger dreads, it's those two words - writer's block. I don't know if its post-holiday blues, but I've struggled to even sit in front of the computer, let alone process any pictures, or read or write. Most of the time its easier to pull the covers over my head and stay in bed. The smartphone doesn't help... it just means access to emails and papers, and harder to write on it, so its an easy way out... albeit one that doesn't help in the long term, as it merely enables the wallowing. And I can keep pretending that I am working, with the odd status update on Facebook, or a Twitter message... or an Instagram post. I am fooling no one though, because I am not actually writing.
It shouldn't be so hard. I assumed that when I got back from India, I'd be brimming over with ideas and that words would flow out of me in this easy, effortless stream. I assumed I'd be refreshed and head back with a clear head, with my life in order, with enthusiasm for writing up and testing all the recipes I brought back with me.
Instead, each day has been a drag. Its a struggle to get out of bed in the mornings. Only the fact that my kid needs to be packed off to school gets me up. Jet lag didn't help. I didn't have any on the way in to India, so I naively thought that I'd be fine getting back - I wasn't. It took me a week to get over it, and all I want to do is sleep, sleep and sleep some more.
How do I get over it?
Frankly, I don't know. I just don't. When words are your living, losing them creates a massive hole in your world. How I am going to patch it, I honestly don't know. What I am going to selfishly ask, is for your support, as I fight my way out of this. It feels like a fight, and I don't want to give it up. I love doing what I do, and I love my readers, and it feels like I am letting you down by not posting every week. I am sorry, and I am going to ask you to bear with me while I get my head straight and my inspiration, passion and drive back. I am reading and rereading this Food Bloggers of Canada post, and I am hoping that following its advice will bring me back, refreshed and ready to rock again.
In the meantime, here's a recipe my mom and I worked on when I was still in India. I was lucky to do a lot in India this trip. One of my highlights was my visit to the coffee and spice estates in Chikmaglur. We drove up there with my friend Neil. Chikmaglur is gorgeous, and when I get my mojo back I will write a lot about that beautiful part of my state, one of India's best kept secrets.
One of the things, weirdly, that this little town is famous for, is their mutton. When I say mutton, I use it interchangeably with goat, as that is how Indians would use the term. In this recipe, its aged sheep, rather than goat, though you can also substitute goat for mutton. Good mutton is not always easily available in India, and lamb is very rare in the South, where we prefer the stronger taste of goat/ mutton.
On the way in, Neil told me that there were a couple of excellent butchers we should stop at. I was quite excited, because I've heard so much about the famous mutton, and I was keen to see a butcher in action. I'll be honest, I did get a bit squeamish when I saw the actual slaughter, and ended up hiding in the car for a bit, but once that was done, Neil and I picked up some excellent meat.
Mom was pretty happy when I got back with the meat, along with fresh local spices, including local black pepper, that I picked up from the estates. We batted ideas back and forth about what to do with our chops, and I thought that they would be delicious browned, then braised in a spicy sauce. Mom and I then worked out quantities and recipes, and we ended up with these absolutely delicious, fork tender chops, deeply and darkly spiced and so evocative of Indian cooking at its best. My sister, who can be quite fussy about her food, also loved this dish, and between the family, we demolished them pretty fast.
1 kilo mutton chops (ask the butcher to scrape the bones for you)
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon, or to taste, salt
2 - 3 tablespoons unscented oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 cup hot chicken or beef stock or hot water
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup plain yogurt
Wash and dry the mutton chops. Mix together the ingredients for the marinade and rub into the chops. Marinate for at least 4 hours, overnight, if possible.
Bring back the chops to room temperature, if refrigerated.
Heat the oil in a heavy based pot, and brown the chops in batches. Remove to a large plate.
Add the onion to the pot, and fry for a few minutes, scraping up any caramelised meat. Add the ginger and garlic, and fry for an additional minute. Add the tomatoes and garam masala, and fry together on a low heat until the masala comes together in a sticky mass, about 10 - 15 minutes.Add the stock and let it come to a low simmer.
Add the browned chops into the sauce, pouring in any meat juices that may have accumulated. Season with a little salt and pepper. Cover and braise the chops on a low heat for about 1 - 11/2 hours, stirring every so often, until the meat is fork tender. Top up with a little extra stock or water, if required, to make a thick, clingy sauce.
Taste and adjust seasoning. Stir in the yogurt, and serve hot with rice or roti.