There are good weeks and there are bad weeks. I had such high hopes for this week of plums. And so, from a poppy seed to the size of soft fruit, I’m now harbouring something inside big enough to build a little cubby for itself and hopefully strong enough to not worry about every day. Well done little ‘un.

By the time the week 12-13 of growing a melon rolls around you become used to most things. The sneaking fingers of nausea if you dally too long between meals. The rollicking involuntary grimaces which pop up when you wander past an Indian restaurant or Afghani grill. The spots (but seriously, when do I get my glow?).

This was to be the week where I buckled down to work. No more gadding about the world. There’s an Oscars feast to produce and a backlog of grand things from South America to share. There’s a book launch to think about and taxes to finish.

These were some things I didn’t count on.

1) Five days pocked with endless phone calls to try and reunite us with suitcases that didn’t follow after flying into Heathrow during snow. Apologies to any who witnessed my twitter-tantrums at British Airways and Iberia during that time. They were not my finest hours.

2) Waking one morning to find this site, and its six years of content, from reminiscing about Tuesday night dinners at Dad’s back in 2007, to Oscars fests, a Slow Carb cook books, 52 city guides, Royal Wedding feasts , Granny’s menu straight from 1937, reviews of 16 of the world’s best restaurants and 12 weeks of growing a sprout hacked and deleted by someone on a whim, just because they could. It’s a strange powerlessness to realise everything you’ve laboured over is gone, its fate left to two kindly developers in Pune to try and salvage.

3) Being struck with a grim gastro virus that goes by the cheery name of ‘Noro’ that crippled more than a few  London hospitals. I had jokingly noted a while ago that in our three years in this city I hadn’t ticked off the bucket list essential of emptying my insides on the pavement outside a pub on Borough High Street at 11.45 pm on a Friday night. I now can. To inherit a stomach flu just days after the worst trickles of morning sickness subsided seemed like the universe was displaying a dark sense of humour.

Hence, I’m learning to let go. I can’t always be captain. Sometimes I’m just a passenger and sometimes, the seas spit back. I may be able to wheedle customer service operators into delivering lost luggage, but there’s plenty more I can’t control. This was my epiphany on the cold tiles of the bathroom floor at 4.48 am. I promise it felt more profound at the time.

And so, all I have is a recipe for times like this. It’s for when there’s a creeping exhaustion that nips at your bones and tugs you under into heavy lidded sleep at 9.15 pm, in front of the television. It’s for when you can’t pick up the phone, because you don’t want to utter any more things down a line that aren’t positive. It’s for when you’re left to nod sagely and acknowledge that yes, like celebrity deaths, crummy luck does tend to come in threes.

And it’s for when you can only really bear to think about toast for tea.

Yet don’t cast these tartines straight into the confines of a sad and lazy dinner box. They would also be sprightly for brunch, perhaps coupled on a table with the asparagus toasts I so lovingly wrote about back in June last year.

Add a salad of bitter green leaves, shaved fennel, toasted almonds and some pecorino and you’ve got a lunch spread, right there.

What they do is prove how much joy can come from the melding of three good things. Plums, for one are an under rated, but joyous stone fruit- thin skinned and balancing on the precipice of sweet and tart. Tomatoes are another saviour – as long as they’re blushingly ripe, are a gift from the ground. Put together, they work. It’s a clue that comes from the colours. So often fruits and vegetables painted in similar hues are secret friends; banana and passionfruit, peas and courgette, beetroot and cabbage. It’s a lesson I gleaned last year after reading Alain Passard’s ‘The Art of Cooking with Vegetables’ (a beautiful book if ever there was one).

This principle also applies to the ruby skinned plums and tomatoes. What they call for is something to gild them to toasted bread so the slices don’t skip about like errant roof tiles. If you’re eating goat’s curd, then it would be perfect. If not, some safer cream cheese would also work. Add a festooning of green herbs, mint, basil or tarragon over the top, a sound amount of seasoning and a drizzle of olive oil.

When things are the pits, sometimes all it can take is for three good things to help right the world again (as well as boundless gratitude to two very wise fellows in the subcontinent who brought your first baby back to you).

Plum and Tomato Tartines

Serves 1-2 (though very easily doubles, triples etc for a crowd)


2 slices of sourdough, or good quality bread
1 plum, stoned and cut into thin slices
1 ripe tomato, cut into thin slices
1.5 tablespoons of goat cheese or cream cheese
Salt and pepper
4 mint leaves, thinly sliced (can substitute for basil or tarragon)
olive oil for drizzling

Here’s how we roll
1) Toast the bread slices either under the grill or on a ridged griddle pan.

2) Top the slices with a generous smush of the goat curd or cream cheese.

3) Layer the slices of tomato and plum like alternating tiles on top of the cheese.

4) Season well with salt and pepper, add the ribbons of mint and drizzle with a little olive oil.