We all know that preparing food is time-consuming, and even the foodiest among us foodies occasionally just long to be cooked for. At the end of a long day of trying to translate what a chef has in his head into an inspiringly described menu, or 3 hours of concentrated tasting of (albeit exquisite) teas, sometimes the last thing I want to do is to come home and start cooking.
Last weekend we were invited to have dinner with friends who were high-fliers in the world of ceramics. Everyone I know seems to be a foodie these days, but these people were not. They like good food, but do not obsess about it. So sensibly, a culinary angel is employed to fill their fridge and cook and leave food, just to reheat and serve. This person does not just cook traditional dishes, but will produce replicas of recipes from Jamie Oliver, Yotam Ottolenghi or any cookbook that is thrust in front of her.
My working life does not quite justify this kind of help, and most of the time I find cooking an antidote and relaxation to the working day. But I do plan to have some homemade staples in the fridge that I can pull out and finish effortlessly. So, at the weekend I have a cook-in session. Below is what I made today, to last most of the week.
Last night I soaked 500g of dried chick peas (with a tblspn of bicarbonate of soda) and this morning, after draining and rinsing, cooked them till completely soft with a little more bicarbonate (about 1 hour). Out of half of this I made hummus from an Ottolenghi recipe from his book “Plenty”, put half of this hummus in a bowl and topped it with rose harissa and Dana Elemara’s amazingly nutty argan oil, for immediate consumption. The rest of it was frozen. (Fine if you add some more lemon juice and stir after defrosting)
Slightly less than half of the remaining chick peas went to making a thick vegetable, tomato stew with pesto. Again, half was frozen for another day (or week).
While all this was cooking on top of the stove, the oven was roasting a colourful mixture of butternut squash, sweet potato, red onions, red pepper, raw beetroot (cut small), unpeeled garlic cloves and rosemary.
My mother also has an angel cook. Pat comes to her house 4 times a week and produces delicious home-cooked food that my elderly mother hasn’t got the stamina to make for herself. It is through Pat that I learned how to make perfect baked apples, which never explode, nor are complicated by adding too many ingredients. The secret is simply plenty of demerara sugar (no butter, no cinnamon, no raisins) into the cavities of Bramley apples, put into a medium oven for about 45 minutes, covered lightly with foil. I do add orange zest and juice which is allowable, and doesn’t mask the appleness. Today I used blood oranges, and they add their own special flavour.
Baked apples are wonderful things, which keep well for days in the fridge. You can reheat or have them cold. They are easily digestible at the end of a late evening meal. Just add some light textured creme fraiche.
You can tell I’m not a great meat eater. I’m not a vegetarian but I tend to eat meat or fish with my vegetables, rather than the other way round. No recipes here, but I think that the hardest thing, when you’re tired, is to think of what to have. But now, all I have to do this week when I get home, is perhaps to fry some halloumi cheese to go with the roast vegetables, bake a potato and fill it with hummus, or maybe bake a piece of fish. Happy eating.