Friday, April 13, 2007

Ten thoughts

Although I really appreciate good food, it’s usually when someone else has cooked it. Having spent so long away from home over the past week and anticipating a lot more time away in the next two – rubber chicken at business dinners, hospitality at rugby and football (I know, a hard life) you can’t beat home cooking. When it’s our home that means me. Here are my ten favourite things to make. If you ever fancy coming over, let me know your ideas for wine to go with them. Olive magazine is a great inspiration for this kind of thing as it’s aimed at simpletons like me with no time for preparation.

Fish pie
A winter and a summer variant to this, but the trick is to flake the fish and pile in a fist full of prawns, parsley and peas, don’t overdo the pepper.

Thai Chicken curry
A nation that has learned to love curry of the Indian or Pakistani variety hasn’t ever mastered making it at home, if you ask me. Thai is easier, especially as the core paste (red or green) can be bought in a jar – cheating a bit, but the coconut milk, extra red hot chillis, the crunchy vegetables and the gently cooked chicken make it one to experiment with.

Spaghetti Bolognese
The first thing many blokes cook, because it’s so simple and straightforward. Onion, garlic, mince, tin of tomatoes and a sprinkling of herbs. That’s the basic bit, but using Oxo cubes and puree to beef up the beef gives it a thicker flavour. You can use this as the base for lasagne and chilli too. I like red peppers in there for flavour and density.

Sunday roast
Taking over the kitchen for an afternoon and sticking onions and lemons into chickens, sprinkling with herbs from the garden and getting the roast spuds just right. Best veggies in our house are frozen peas, corn on the cob and carrots in marmalade.

Chicken soup
The leftovers of the Sunday lunch can be used to make a great stock when you bung in an onion and some herbs. Warm it up again, bung in a load of noodles and some peas and corn and it’s a Chinese type one. Wack in a jar of crème freche and it’s the Jewish equivalent.

Cheese on toast
Spread the cheese on thick and improve it with Worcestershire sauce or HP. I know it’s not really a recipe but when you can’t beat it for taking the edge off munchies after a long walk.

Full English breakfast
This is actually really hard to do when you most want to do it – ie first thing on Sunday morning when you’re really sleepy. Cumberland sausages are the best, thick smoked bacon and chunky mushrooms. I like white bread dipped in whipped eggs but a guilty pleasure is fried slice soaking up the sausages and bacon fat. A spoonful each of baked beans tops the lot off.

Lancashire hot pot
Chunks of lamb (some on the bone), carrots, and the right blend of thyme and rosemary topped off with thinly cut proper potatoes make this a tricky one to get just right, but as it’s the North’s representative in a new series of the Great British Menu. Serve with red cabbage, but don’t make it, get it out of a jar.

You can overdo paella, but the sheer size of it is brilliant for a feast. Something for everyone, keep it cooking in a massive pan. The mussels are a risk as the rubbery buggers give kids the squits. But chorizo sausages, chunky prawns and chunks of chicken and pepper give it lots of variety.

An American of my acquaintance once bragged that her cheesecake was simply the best. How do you make it, I asked. “Well, you open the packet…”. Truth is I’ve never really cracked cakes yet. But there’s this ace recipe for the Victoria sandwich in Olive this month.

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