An airport meal is a ritual of mine every time I embark on an international trip. I look forward to that time, after all charms and pleas are unleashed on the person behind the check-in desk to let those extra three kilos through without charge. After that, toiletries in plastic snap-lock bags are placed in trays, boots and belts are removed, then awkwardly pulled on again, carry-ons are hauled onto security belts and the whole juggling act is carried out whilst waving the passport and boarding card at officials every step of the way. Finally, when documents are put away carefully and bags are reassembled, there is a simple pleasure in sitting down, catching one’s breath and either hashing out a plan for the trip to come or reflecting on the adventure that was.
I am aware that when it comes to culinary let-downs, airport food is a close second to that on the flying machines themselves. Food in that in-between land is always overpriced, limited in variety and invariably disappointing. Bread that is slightly stale after spending the day in an overly air-conditioned environment. Muffins that are similarly cold and dry. Slices of ham that are dehydrated around the edges. Scrambled eggs that can be lifted en masse from the plate. Sandwiches whose cost might feed a small African nation for a day.
I know all this, yet I always try and make time, between that madness of the security gates and the departure gates, to sit, reflect and have a meal at the airport. On the way to Florence, I sat at Sydney airport and nutted out that feeling I always have when I am starting on a trip. That niggle, like a tiny stone in a shoe, that I have forgotten something. So I sat, stared at the ascending planes, gathered my thoughts, and dissected the niggle. I sipped my medicinal coffee and chewed on my grilled (plastic) cheese sandwich, remembered what I had forgotten and realised with relief that it was something I could live without. Just like that, I tipped the stone out of my shoe.
It’s been a few days of pizza and pasta now, and this at about the point when I begin to crave something of home. To me, Italian food comes only second to Indian food. I love its simplicity- a toothsome pizza base, a well simmered sauce and a handful of basil, and it is at its best. But after a few days, I do crave a vegetable or two, preferably home-cooked in Indian spices. Green beans, stir-fried the South-Indian way or in this simple curry would do just fine. Or this ivy gourd and coconut stir fry. Or these brussel sprouts, rubbed with garam masala and coconut oil, then roasted until they are slightly sweet. Tender but still offering some resistance against eager teeth. Interspersed with chewier coconut. These sprouts would do very well against my current carb overload, but would also make an amazing side dish, or a main meal with a couple of poached eggs on top.
Roasted Garam Masala Brussel Sprouts
Feeds 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side dish
Based on Ina Garten’s recipe in The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.
600g brussel sprouts
1/2 cup shaved coconut (use shredded if you can’t find this)
4 tbsp coconut oil, melted
3 tsp garam masala
1/4-1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp cumin seeds
3/4 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
Cut the stems off the brussel sprouts and cut them in half lengthwise.
In a large roasting pan, toss all the ingredients using your (clean) hands, rubbing the spices into the cut surfaces of the sprouts.
Roast for 35-45 minutes, tossing in the pan every 10 mins, until the sprouts are crisp-edged, tender inside, but still holding together and a little chewy.
Squeeze lime juice generously over it before serving.