Nigel and Jamie and all the others claim there’s never an excuse for not cooking, but I’d love to be a fly on the wall of their kitchen when they’re unwrapping the pizza or piercing in several places the film that covers the curry. I could paint a false picture of domestic perfection in this blog, idealistic, but untrue. That’s never been the intention. From the start, the point of this exercise has been to document the food that Matt and I cook for our families as a record for our kids to refer to when they want a taste of home. Sometimes that taste of home will be gourmet, and sometimes it won’t.
I’ve had a busy weekend with about a thousand miles of driving and a lot of late nights. I’ve been away from home and when I got back I was tired. Despite this, last night, even though I had a gig to go to (and that’s after the thousand mile driving and five shows in three nights), before leaving I threw together a beef cannelloni and a vegetarian pasta bake. The throwing of the beef cannelloni was made a lot easier by the fact that I’d made and frozen a huge batch of ragu a few days earlier, so I only needed to rustle up a bechamel sauce and assemble the dish.
Today things unfolded differently. A trip to the countryside with Nikki and the girls took longer than we expected and realising we were all hungry I mooted the idea of chips, from a chip shop. There were no dissenters. But it was Monday and there weren’t any chip shops open. The idea had been seeded though, and after a number of failed attempts to find an open chippy we realised it was getting late. I had things to do, everyone else had things to do, so we swung by sainsburys and bought oven chips.
I find oven chips are woefully bland, unless they’re the pre-seasoned ‘coated’ type and then they’re woefully over-flavoured. So here’s what I do to make them nicer.
I get the oven and the trays HOT. The chips go into a big bowl and I flick over a generous glug of olive oil, salt, lots of black pepper, and paprika. They’re tossed around and then spread out on the trays. I’ll move them around as often as possible too and the real trick is to not cook too many at once or they’ll just steam and won’t crisp up. Once they’re done I squash a clove of garlic and toss them around with it. Then I take the garlic out and throw it away. It’s done the job.
We took sheets of newspaper, lined them with squares of greaseproof paper, poured the chips on, sprinkled them generously with salt and malt vinegar and then wrapped them up. We had home-made garlic mayonnaise on the side – the kids had ketchup too, but I didn’t.
I’ve done a similar thing before when Jem had a glut of friends round and they were all hungry. Chips done just like this, oven ready breaded white fish just cooked as per the instructions on the box, tinned mushy peas with a bit of mint jelly stirred through them, and home-assembled tartare sauce (mayonnaise with chopped gherkin, capers and red onion). All this wrapped up in a page of the gutter press. You can carry them upstairs in a big pile. This was about three years ago and his friends still talk about it.