Chocolate and Carbonara

This weekend I had the chance to cook a meal with my goddaughter.  Earlier this year I gave her a copy of Jamie’s 15minute meals and since then we have two family dinner dates. She choses the recipe then we set about shopping and cooking together then the whole family gather round the table in the kitchen to enjoy the results. Don’t be fooled by the 15 minutes (or the 30 minutes for that matter!) but I don’t think that’s Jamie’s point. I really appreciate his emphasis on enjoying the cooking and eating experience and of that being in the context of family and community…. and it’s precisely that which means that they take longer than 15 minutes! In fact I would suggest that if it takes the prescribed length of time it means that you haven’t spent by far the required time in laughter or talking that’s needed to make the meal a truly fabulous experience!

It’s the end of the roller hockey season (for a few weeks at least) which meant that we had more time to kill and spent a happy 40 minutes or so sipping hot chocolate (unthinkable to have one without cream on top!) at Costa. Our supermarket bags beside us, we whiled away the time chatting about school and GCSEs and pranks to play on teachers – nothing much changes from generation to generation I feel! Then back home and still a bit of time to kill we giggled through the first half hour of Jonny English (I have to say that I did most of the laughing!) before heading off to the kitchen. On the menu was Chorizo Carbonara and salad followed by Jamie’s cinnamon peaches with custard and crushed shortbread crumble. Half the fun is improvising and making stuff up as you go along – like how much squeezy lemon constitutes the juice of half a lemon, guessing together and hoping for the best.

Last time we made hamburgers with a snazzy coleslaw salad followed by Jamie’s Eton Mess, also a heap of fun. But I hope you get it, what makes the food so good and enjoyable is the fun and chatter and spending time with friends in the whole process. I have been out of the country for most of my goddaughter’s life and so I am really enjoying being around a bit more and creating the space to get to know her. I love that God made food, and he made making it and eating it so enjoyable, he made it about celebration in its simplest and purest sense – a celebration of life, of friends, of tastes and colour, of God’s creativity, and the creativity of men and women made in his image; a celebration of time spent with each other. Thanks for your help Jamie!

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stop and smell the roses

IMG_1125The Jamie journey has lost a bit of steam recently I am sad to say. The first couple of weeks of 2013 have passed at a full and furious pace, leaving little time to stop and smell the roses … or cook nice meals just because. This sad state of affairs has got me thinking though…

A week ago I started getting sick and while I continued trying to keep ‘business as usual’, I found fighting the virus irritating, like trying to run 400m sprint with a 20Kg rucksack on my back! Then the snow came, along with some friendly advice to take a bit of a rest … leading to me working from home on Friday. As the weekend has unfolded, the reality of the snow and its impact on our move-ability has settled and I have found it in myself to slow down, go with the flow, let my body heal and life happen.

All this has got me thinking about why I work so hard. Why I often don’t allow myself to enjoy life, but rather feel myself bowed under the weight of many things, often pushing my soul and body their limits. My housemates and I watched ‘The Kid’ last night, a movie in which Russ Duritz, played by Bruce Willis, is forced to get in touch with his childhood and as a result becomes more of the man he was always made to be. I have recently embarked on a series of counselling sessions which is enabling me to go on a similar journey. I have to say I am really looking forward to discovering the things ‘little me’ wants me to know and learn, and I have a sneaking suspicion that I will enjoy life (and work) a lot more as a result … and probably cook more Jamie meals!

Its three weeks since the last one we had. It was lamb with a vegetable platter, chanti graIMG_1123vy and mint sauce followed by the most refreshing Eton mess I have every had the pleasure of experiencing!! We had the meal on the last Sunday of the year, as our house Christmas meal, Anika had arrived home from Aus about 24hours before, so this was the meal during which we all exchanged presents. The whole process of these meals is special, from the household deciding which one to do, to the shopping, then Anika reads out the instructions as I bumble along following them while we chat. Then there’s laying the table, lighting the candles, gathering everyone who is eating, taking the pics and finally, enjoying a meal with friends. Oh yeah, its nice!

Salmon Fishing and Mango Sorbet

I have just come to the end of a pleasant glass of chilled white wine. Looking back over the day – our last in the office for 2012 – the inescapable theme has been one of creativity. Planning and designing brand new training for the field, articulating the beginnings of a strategy for arts and media in our work, interviewing for the next issue of Beyond the Horizon – and that was all before midday! And finally my third Jamie meal!

Asparagus and bean lasagne, Tuscan salad and mango sorbet …. hmmm! So one of the main lesson’s I am learning is ‘trust Jamie!’. Trust is an issue for me, I am beginning to realise just how much. So far I have cooked his crispy salmon meal and the pork chops. Half way through preparing the yummy mustard potatoes that go with the chops, I decided I knew better. “Why would you boil potatoes in a microwave? we have plenty of time, I’ll do it on the stove!”. A few minutes later I read on and realised that he wanted me to bake them in the microwave, not boil them. I apologised humbly and changed my ways. The potatoes were GREAT!  I left out  the anchovies – “yuck, who would cook with them!!!”. I chopped the peppers, chillies and other yummy stuff, and threw them into the rise …. then realised I was supposed to mix the rice with them and the dressing on the board – like he said! It would have been much nicer that way too!

peaches and custard following pork chops - a hit!

peaches and custard following pork chops – a hit!

So this time I got the anchovies and the capers – neither of which I think much of. I used the fennel seeds and grated the lemon zest, rather than just squirt in some juice from the bottle. And surprisingly the flavours were fabulous! The bitter salty anchovie slap was nowhere in sight. I reckon its more like the effect of putting salt in a dish, you dont taste the salt itself but it makes a huge difference to the flavour. I didn’t have enough asparagus, I made up too much stock so had to reduce the mixture by simmering. I forgot to buy fresh lasagne, panicked because of time and tried cooking the sheets in water, they all stuck together and I ended up throwing a chunk out. Here’s another thing –  I thought  it would be light on for filler as a result, but it turned out OK… I think I am less ‘hungry’ with these meals because the richness and flavours satisfy in a different but real way. Interesting!

Thanks to my lasagne experiment and having to reduce the mixture it took over an hour rather than 30 minutes get everything ready!! I am not sure which meal I will take on next, but I know that the more I trust Jamie, the better it will be for everyone!!

fruits of the forrest presse

fruits of the forrest presse

We ate at the table with candles and nice crockery, chilled wine and gentle chatter. Skye had two friends over from London. It was a lovely, if late evening rounded off by ‘Salmon fishing in the Yemen’ we had the mango sorbet as we watched; I have to say that went down very well!

Cooking with Jamie…. on your marks, get set….

So here’s the plan, there are 50 meals in Jamie’s book. I don’t want to try them all, that would just be insane and I do have other things to manage in life….. but I will be in my new home for just 4 more months… so I could aim for three a month, that’s 9 meals!! Next thing is to decide which meals to do… I will need to make them gluten free for Skyebee or cook an alternative… I am also on a tight budget…. if you have a copy of the book, check out the contents page and if you’d like to, suggest a meal for me to try.

I am quite excited about this project, as I explained in an earlier post, this is my way of welcoming home a part of me that has been buried for a few years, the part that loves to create and particularly enjoys sharing a meal with friends. I enjoy cooking, usually I am a bit of a free spirit, I generally use recipes as a rough guide or starting point, so I am looking forward to finding out how things are actually supposed to be done!! Life has become very full in recent years and months and  perhaps because its quick and easy, I find myself cooking a lot of the same things over and over again, one of the things in my mind when I spotted the cookbook was the desire to expand again and get creative!

So here we go, next week I hope to have my first meal to report on….  yey!