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.
A couple of weeks ago I made blackberry vinegar, and since then I’ve been looking for just about any excuse to use it.
This is the perfect vehicle for that condiment. It would, I should say, be a glorious dish, even without the vinegar. It’s dark and moody and autumnal, but light enough to eat whilst the weather still occasionally throws an uncomfortably humid day at us. But it is brought to life by the blackberry vinegar: the combination of the crunchy, salty duck skin with the sweetsour, fruity vinegar is perfect.
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.
‘It’s not a salad, Liv’ says Sam for what must be the fifth time this morning. ‘Stop calling it a salad’. Sam has very clear views on what constitutes a salad, and this, he insists on saying grandly and repeatedly, is not it. It is a salad, for what it’s worth, it just uses herbs rather than leaves (although that argument didn’t fly with Sam).
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.
We’ve been decorating a lot recently. Despite moving into the house we now live in in October last year, and endless trips to Homebase, we are still sanding, still painting, and still making trips to the timber yard at 6:30 am. I am not a gracious decorator. I have little to no idea what I’m doing, so await instruction, and then moan about whatever task I’ve been given. The prospect of cooking at the end of these long, sweaty, dusty days is not one I want to entertain.
And when I feel like that, I make these: speedy, spicy, peanut butter noodles.