I had a New Year's Eve revelation about microwave curries, specifically Marks & Spark's butter chicken which is totally enjoyable in the right context, and the value (emotional, really) of instant food and it is something I'm going to be exploring more in 2016. Epiphanies aside though, I cook a lot and mostly from scratch (pasta and the like aside because, personally, I think making your own pasta is for suckers and hobby cooks. If you've got a free afternoon and nothing else to do then, sure, but it is never worth the time/effort of a week night).
I love cooking and thinking about food but it is time-consuming and I go through dry spells where I can't find things I want to cook or nothing is as good as I hope will be or it is all just uninspiring and tedious. Luckily though, I've been on a hot streak recently and I've made and eaten lots of great things. For other regular home cooks and my own memories here are some hits:
- Roasted sausage, chard and cannellini beans (Food52): I made this with cavolo nero and real English sausages (what even are chicken sausages, America?? how?) and it was so easy. No pre-cooking, just toss and cook. Protein, carb and veg in a single bowl with jazzy flavours. 1 tin beans, 1 pack of cavolo nero and 1 pack of sausages (6) served two hungry people with no leftovers as a main.
- Beef chilli with bourbon, beer and black beans (Nigella Lawson): Not necessarily #authentic but yummy and straightforward. Black beans are amazing. I always make Heston's slaw where slaw is called for - it is very moreish.
- Lemon and aubergine risotto (Ottolenghi): I've made this many times as a risotto and as a soup both are good although they really benefit from an open flame which I don't have access to in the flat. Reliably enjoyable.
- Roasted squash cobbler (Claire Ptak): I wouldn't recommend starting this recipe at 9.15 on a Tuesday night because it is a bit time consuming but it is good and the biscuits are actually crazy easy. I always forget how quick biscuits are to make. I should make them more often.
- Oxtail ragu with leeks and lemons over pappardelle (Ottolenghi): Man, this is great! I used shin because I couldn't get hold of oxtail and it was awesome. It felt super weird making a beef stew (basically) with white wine and lemon but it really really works. The pecorino on top makes it. The leek and chorizo pie in this column is amazing too in a really rich, luxurious way. Ottolenghi leek week forever. Leeks forever. So good.
- Roasted pork belly with miso butternut squash and apple and walnut salsa (Nopi): Ok, I didn't make this, R did and it was a lot of work but DAMN it is good. The flavours complement each other perfectly. This is why you make all the sides and trimmings of an expert - they are more than the sum of their parts and their parts are superlative to begin with.
- 'Boston' baked beans (ME): I decided to make Boston baked beans (or my idea of Boston baked beans - I've never been to Boston, I don't know if I've ever even really eaten 'Boston baked beans' before) on a whim and I couldn't find a recipe that did exactly what I wanted so I made one up and it was AWESOME. Easy, delicious, amazing for after work. The fanciest instant food ever.
Chuck's Pretend Boston Baked Beans
- 1 tin cannellini beans (I realised afterwards that baked beans are normally haricots but whatever)
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 pack of lardons/sliced bacon (I wouldn't waste pancetta here but do as you wish)
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp black treacle (in place of molasses)
- 1 tin chopped tomatoes
- Cheeeeese, maybe a nice moderately mature Cheddar?
- (Baked potatoes)
- Preheat the oven to 200-220oC.
- Stick the onions, lardons and spices in a roasting tin and cook until the onions soften and the bacon has browned. 10 minutes?
- Stir the mustard and treacle through the onions.
- Throw in the beans and tomatoes and mix it all up.
- Bake until the tomato sauce thickens and is all dark and sticky and irresistible.
- Dollop out some beans into ovenproof cookware, top with cheese and stick back in the oven until the cheese has melted and everything is bubbling.
- Add a baked potato and call it a meal.
- Wrap yourself in a nice blanket and re-watch The Office US.
So there you go. Some food. Clearly winter is the time for beans and squashes. Yum.