It's funny how resilient, how resourceful the human spirit becomes when it's stripped to the core. I discovered this when my father fell critically ill while on a work trip to Mexico in the spring of last year. After a stint at the ICU, he wasn't getting any better and was promptly flown to Washington DC for further treatment and surgery. Meanwhile on the other side of the world, my mother, sisters and I rushed over (well, if you can call a 2-day long flight 'rushing over') to be with him.
We ended up staying for about a month while he recuperated but in our hurry to get there, brought only the bare essentials. It's a bit like that question people often ask that makes you pause and ponder before you reply, which is - if you were stranded on an island and could bring only 3 things, what would you take with you? We had less than 24 hours to pack, so apart from the necessary travel documents and phone, I brought only a small pair of scissors, undergarments, a pair of jeans and a bare-shimmer lip gloss. What that says about me, I'm really not sure. When I'm alone, I travel extremely light. Of course, I returned home with 6 rather huge suitcases but that's another story altogether. Okay, it was the sales and I couldn't resist!
We were blessed in that we had plenty of visitors and kind people who dropped by my father's hospital room. Some of them were instrumental in saving his life, like the doctors, nurses and technicians. Others were family friends who resided in and around DC and they came everyday, bless their souls. Never empty-handed, they always brought us home-cooked meals because they knew we were in no state to cook (or even think about eating, for that matter) that first distraught week or two.
Our apartment was in Virginia, where we had a an airy and fully-equipped kitchen. Now, I'm not the best cook in the world, so I left most of the main meals to my mother. Baking is more my forte and whenever I want to relax and bring about that zen feeling, I bake. However, I didn't have any of my baking tools with me so I stared longingly at the oven until one day, this lovely lady gifted us with some delicious mango and raspberry muffins that were an instant hit at the hospital. I got the recipe off her and was immensely pleased to learn that I would require only a bowl, spoon, disposable muffin trays and an oven to make these delightful treats! Essentially, all the ingredients go into one bowl, given a light stir and the batter is all ready for baking.
From the very start, I wanted to thank all our wonderful visitors and caregivers at the hospital so one of the first things I did was bake and brought the treats into the ward to share around. These muffins have now become my go to recipe for when I need a quick pick-me-and-others-up.
When we moved into our new home last week, my kitchen equipment were all over the place...in boxes, on the floor, on the counter, some in the new house, others in the old house still. The whole process of moving was quite overwhelming to say the least because we did it 'manually', by ourselves. No professional movers, no trailers were employed in the process. Why? Because our new house is located right next door. Not even 30 yards away and it hardly seemed worth it to involve a mass of other people. On hindsight, it was a crazy decision and at the end of many a day we collapsed with exhaustion on the bed, sofa, or even the floor (me).
Well, we are settling in slowly and since I've mentioned this several times, I am now pleased to introduce you my new red kitchen. The one inspired by my first post on the very day I decided to launch this blog. The best thing about it is that there's a space where I can put up my cookbooks! Maybe it's just me, but I get ecstatic by little, thoughtful things like that.
Dear readers and friends...meet my Red Kitchen.
I like how everything has its own space...including my cookbooks and huge snack jars!
And it doesn't hurt to have a view like this into our garden, pool and....old house next door.
In the midst of all the chaos going on in the house, these muffins were created. They went into the oven and baked in no time at all with not a single whisk unpacked and out of the boxes yet. Instead of collapsing on the sofa at the end of that day, I actually sat down on the kitchen patio with a cup of tea and ate a few of these moist, fruity muffins whilst feeling ridiculously happy.
My greatest lesson during that month away last year is that when my life is simpler, when I have very little, I am still capable of producing and giving out great joy with whatever I have. And in case you have the urge to turn your nose up at these humble muffins, they actually landed me an invitation to attend a gathering of movers and shakers in DC to watch Barack Obama speak. I mean, who knew? :-)
One Bowl Mango and Raspberry Muffins
2 cups self-raising flour, sifted
¾ cups caster sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
¾ cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup ripe mango flesh
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup frozen raspberries, thawed slightly
1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Place the flour in a bowl and with a spoon, gently stir in all the ingredients except the raspberries in the order stated above, ie. sugar followed by salt, egg, milk, vanilla, mango and oil. Stir until the batter has absorbed most of the oil, maybe 8-10 turns at the end. Do not overstir or the muffins will be hard.
2. Add a heaped teaspoon of batter into a muffin cup. Place about a teaspoon of raspberry on it. Top with more batter up to ¾ of the muffin cup. Bake for 15-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the muffin comes out clean. Let cool slightly before serving.