We keep getting in each other’s way in the kitchen. Or, should I say, I keep getting in Mr B’s way. That’s his version of events anyway.
We have decided we should try something new for dinner, using a recipe drawn from one of the many celebrity cook books which adorn our kitchen shelves. Should we visit the court of Queen Delia? Risk an onslaught of four
letter words from Gordon Ramsay? Or should we time ourselves on one of Jamie’s Thirty Minute Meals? (We haven’t ventured to buy the Meals in Fifteen Minutes or whatever it’s called – it generally takes us longer than that to find where
we put the chopping board when we had it last.)
Too many of our cook books appear to be for decoration only. You can tell this by the fact that every page is completely
unblemished by spots of grease, thumb marks, splashes of gravy and the like. In short, never a recipe from therein has been tried, let alone tested. Whereas my old favourite cook book – The Cookery Year, produced by Reader’s Digest, 1973 edition
– looks like a proper cook book. It has pages that stick together and have to be gently prised apart. In particular, pages 164 and 165 (Madras Beef Curry.) A couple of pages on and you come across another, sensationally messy page celebrating
Rice and Pasta dishes – notably, Chicken Pilaf (Page 167.)
Like all the best cook books, when you leaf through it lots of bits of paper fall out. Here’s
a recipe for Honey Cereal Bars. I reckon it must be a recipe from a long-ago school cookery lesson because, here at the end of the instructions, it says: “Think about how this recipe could be adapted to make the cereal bar healthier.” As
if the making and the cooking wasn’t hard work enough.
Here is a recipe for “My Favourite Shepherd’s Pie” taken from Annabel Karmel’s
Meals for Babies and Toddlers. The Eldest of the Darling Daughters swears by Annabel Karmel even though it’s over a decade since her youngest could be described as a toddler. I’m a convert too. Many’s the Annabel Meal we have enjoyed
as a family through the years.
Mr B appears to have been downloading recipes and tucking them into The Cookery Year for here is one for Broiled Swordfish. Attached
to it is an article headed: “Swordfish is a Giant Among Fish.” Apparently, according to the article, it is no longer considered an endangered species, since a successful campaign called “Give the Swordfish a Break.” We haven’t
eaten swordfish since we were on holiday in Portugal in 1993 so I think we have probably given it a sufficiently long break. The date on the bottom of the article is February 2009 and there’s a review of the recipe which begins “The last
time I made swordfish it came out dry and I was so disappointed. This recipe....” Sadly Mr B has not printed out the next page so I guess we’ll never know how the reviewer’s broiled swordfish turned out. I do hate unfinished stories...
At the back of the book is a scrappy piece of paper headed “Chicken......” The rest of the heading is unfortunately unreadable – but underneath I can read
“from Val’s book) so I know this must be my lovely sister-in-law’s delicious chicken, ham and leek pie. There’s also a recipe for Lamb and Potato Bake, which appears to have been torn out from the Daily Mail and an article and
recipe for Key Lime Pie which was our total dietary downfall when we holidayed in America in 1992.
Mr B has his heart set on choosing a recipe from The Hairy Dieters’
Cookbook, which was his birthday present from the Youngest of the Darling Daughters. Mr B has watched the Hairy Ones on TV and is seriously impressed by the way they have kept cooking exciting sounding dishes while losing serious amounts of weight at
the same time. So The Cookery Year (complete with all the bits of paper tucked away inside) goes back on the shelf and we pore over the menu suggestions of the (slim-line) Hairy Duo.
We opt for Spanish-style Chicken Bake which surprises me as chicken is Mr B’s least favourite meat. However it is one of my favourites so I am not going to argue. We had planned to cook together, in the interests of companionship,
but we’ve only got through paragraph 1 when the Youngest of the Darling Daughters rings so Mr B manfully struggles on alone. The Y of the DDs is pleased to hear that he is using the birthday present she gave him. By the time I put down the phone,
almost 40 minutes later, Mr B has completed paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 and our Spanish-style Chicken is well underway.
We awarded our Spanish-style Chicken Bake meal
6 out of 10. It was a little bit dry, to be honest. It made me think, longingly, of Val’s chicken, ham and leek pie which was juicily delicious. More than that, just thinking about that pie made me remember the lovely, warm evening in my
brother and sister-in-law’s beautiful house in Welshpool, listening to our niece playing the piano, laughing over the most hilarious of the past day’s events and planning the next day’s activities.
Don't tell Delia, Jamie, Gordon or the Hairy Pair but to me, food is only ever the accompaniment to the main course - which is, of course, the company...