Finally, I almost have my kitchen back. I feel like during Christmas, we give our kitchens over to a higher power: one who insists that we fill our fridges with enough prosecco to see us through a nuclear winter, that everything is spiked with brandy, and followed with a chaser of cheese. We didn’t even host Christmas this year: we were away for Christmas-proper and bookended it with visiting various friends and relatives. There is, really, no excuse, for such a high proportion of festive leftovers. And yet, for the last week, I’ve found soggy mince pies everywhere, and brandy butter I don’t remember buying.
My salad-for-supper obsession continues apace. Partly because I seem to have about a hundred odd items in the freezer, that I froze in good faith far too long ago, and now need to find a way of using. Enter the salad, the perfect vehicle for a mismatch hotchpotch of freezer tombola. I love chicken livers, and they’re perfect flash fried with a splash of sherry vinegar; and the croutons and lardons turns this into a handsome supper.
When Sam and I first started dating, I would occasionally make him neat, thoughtful packed lunches as an act of love. They invariably involved expensive ingredients, or time consuming preparation: smoked salmon, or proper homemade chutneys. I composed salads that would make a grown man cry, with mackerel and beetroot and horseradish, or tiny potatoes, with dill and creme fraiche and gherkins. He would probably have been as happy with a haphazard cheese and salad sandwich as anything else, but for me it was a way to send him off to work with affection. Fast forward four years and he now survives on a combination of leftovers and sandwiches he hastily makes himself. Until now.
I bought a huge punnet of nectarines this week. One of those punnets that is designed to ‘ripen in the fruit bowl’, which sounds, when you’re in the cold aisle of a supermarket, like a dream: you will have soft fruit gradually ripening as the week progresses, for you to pluck at whim, your kitchen gently scented by the heady, sweet, honeyed perfume. Imagine Eden with formica kitchen units, and you’re approaching what I envisaged in the fruit aisle.
It must have been twenty years ago that I first tried mussels on holiday, but I’m not sure I’ve ever been able to shake off the sophistication I felt when eating moules mariniére for the first time.
This week has not gone to plan. There wasn’t even a particularly clear plan from which it could veer, but veer it did, when I found myself on Tuesday morning stuck on the floor of my landing having slipped a disc.
My childhood was littered with quiche. Mostly quiche lorraine, from Marks and Spencer, served with baked beans and chips. It was my mother’s ultimate comfort supper and I was, without fail, a little brat about it. I was adamant that I didn’t like quiche, despite demolishing it whenever it was put in front of me.
Last night, I spent an unwilling half an hour playing freezer Tetris, trying to fit more lamb’s liver than I’d like to say around boxes of mini Magnums and bags of chicken stock. So when it came to supper, I wasn’t prepared to give my time to standing over a stove. Enter: perfect sausage pasta.
This is my ultimate everything-will-be-ok supper. Something I make when I’m feeling sad or scared or just a bit hopeless. It revives, it reassures. It’s aromatic, and sweet and sour from the tamarind, and it is comforting without being heavy and stodgy. It’s everything you need on a dreary almost-summer Tuesday evening.
There is a time and a place for slow food, and Tuesday evening is neither the time nor the place.