If I absolutely have to, I will cook recipes with great, long lists of ingredients that require great, long trips to assorted shops.
But most of the time, I cannot be arsed. I want to cook, not go to bloody Mordor, and that requires recipes that give me maximum bang for at most 10 ingredients. Shepherds Pie. Risotto. That sort of thing. My recipes for Domestic Sluttery all seem to be along the “mum recipe” or “sod this, add condiments” line. A rut? You don’t say.
On Sunday night I cooked Maria Elia’s Slow-Roasted Paprika Chicken with Butternut Squash, Smashed Butter Beans and Tomatoes which I’d read about on Pip Cooks The Books ages ago, and looked simple and delicious. And oh dear God, it was. Apart from having to spatchcock the chicken. I swear: after the harrowing nightmare of figuring out which way is best to wrench a chicken’s bones off, I am writing to the Girl Guides to suggest that modern cookery techniques replace semaphore in Brownies.
I cooked it for the chap and I, after a lazy, lovely weekend away after I’d returned from holiday with my family. Rather unfairly, I gave him the cookbook and got him to choose, but it was great for me as cookery roulette is always fun unless you’re playing it with something absurd like Heston.
The chicken, beans and all, was absolutely delicious – the fridge still smells marvellous every time I open it. You should totally make it, although don’t bother spatchcocking, unless you just want an excuse to say that completely brilliant word out loud over and over again.
Having spent the best part of a fortnight having all my food made for me (hark at she!) I was rather dying to cook again. And just as two weeks in the cattery seemed to have broken Ambridge’s bad habits, it had melted away my own rut. So I asked my Twitter pals for their favourite max 10 ingredients recipes, and cracked on with something new.
Ruth Lewy, ex-Times now Guardian, made a convincing play for Spice Whole Roasted Cauliflower. I mean, just look at it. Wow.
And I had almost all the ingredients already – double wow. You basically mix up a load of spices into yoghurt, slather it on a whole cauliflower and bang it in the oven for 40 minutes before leaving it to cool and then slicing it up. I bookmarked the rest of the recipe suggestions for future weeks – gratins! Fish! Salmon! Eggs! Things with loads of chillis! – and toddled off to Waitrose. I’m lucky I got to have dinner at all, as I nearly left all my shopping at work. I’d like to say this was the first time, but no.
As I tend to follow recipes with the blind acceptance of a particularly stupid lamb, I didn’t twig that two tablespoons of chilli powder might make it on the spicy side – luckily, the second Twitter dish I chose to make was a cooling dip. (With more yoghurt! Yoghurt for everyone!) Anyway, the spicy fluff veg was wonderful. Exactly the sort of thing I never usually cook because I’m suspicious of both cauliflower and cumin, and both obviously feature heavily.
This is the magical dip! Or rather, it is Shayma Saadat’s magical dip, and if you haven’t yet read her beautiful blog The Spice Spoon then you are in for a glorious afternoon indeed. Part memoir, part mesmerising food writing, part gorgeous photography, it’s one of the most restful yet entertaining ways to spend time.
Shayma suggested her recent omelette recipe, and to my complete chagrin, I had to fess up to never having cooked her recipes. In fact, the thought had never crossed my mind: Shayma is hugely skilled at plucking gorgeous food out of nowhere, using exotic herbs and spices, obviously, and I had long catalogued them as look – hungrily – but don’t touch.
Her Borani Esfanaaj–Yoghurt and Spinach Dip in the Persian Manner changed my mind. I was already getting greek yoghurt for the cauliflower – may as well get loads more and do a gorgeous dip as well. I LOVE DIP. God I love dip. Dip dip dip dip help me dup.
As well as yoghurt, you do a load of blanched spinach – I had to look up what blanching was, so sorry – crushed walnuts, olive oil, garlic and dried mint. Naturally, I forgot to get the dried mint, but the Turkish Food Centre on Camberwell New Road had it, and gave me a lovely place to wander around while I listened to Helen being a colossal drip on The Archers.
Shayma’s stories are always engrossing, and the one accompanying the borani is incredibly bittersweet. An aching, sad wonder inspired by recent killings in Lahore, where she was born, which moves into a piece remembering Mader, her paternal grandmother, who died 20 years ago around this time, and with whom she lived for two years in her teens. I completely recommend reading it anyway, and the rest of her site which is filled with beautiful things and considered, lovely writing.
I use the word lovely too much.
Also lovely, is Eating With My Fingers, written by a Twitter friend’s girlfriend, and which is just one of the most beautifully-written things I’ve ever put in my eyes.
A combination of recipes (mostly) and chat (some) all influenced by the writer’s anxiety disorder. As someone who still uses trips to Waitrose to get through particularly boring fits of anxiety when they ship up unannounced, it chimes with me a lot – particularly the sidebar of recipes for when you’re feeling good, bad, or just horrid. I’m afraid that, for me, it’s then that I fall into the comforting clutches of the cookie the size of my hand rather than cooking, but I’m very glad that Ella can cook because looking at the pictures and reading her witchy, magical prose is simultaneously uplifting, inspiring and hunger-inducing.