enough with the heartbreaking geopolitical situation, let’s talk about food

It’s been a good week foodwise. My secret stash of cassoulet has been replenished, and my copies of Julia Child and Nigella Lawson have arrived. Julia looks pretty intimidating but Nigella is far better than I imagined, since she shares my taste in staple foods: eggs, cream, butter, custard, trifle and roast chicken “with half a lemon shoved up its bottom”. Most of her book How to Eat is aimed at the very specific demographic of tired working-mother journalists of English heritage who need to cook simply but deliciously for their families. That, in case you are wondering, would be me.

The cooking in this marriage reflects many other aspects of the menage. Jeremy cooks steadily and extremely well. I’ll idle around for months at a time then hit the organic grocery store with furious vengeance and try out twenty recipes in ten days. Many will fail but maybe three will go on permanent rotation, meaning Jeremy will add them to his repertoire. Well, it works for me.

This week I started with a couple of hardy perennials – potato and leek soup, plus a zucchini risotto that I’ve taken to making with orzo instead of rice. Mmm. Last night, though, I hadn’t had time to go shopping and the house was swarming with kids, as Cian and Rowan had come to play. I inspected the cupboard and The Joy of Cooking and made rice with coconut milk to serve with sweet corn and peas. It was beyond delicious.

There was enough left at the end that I went a bit mad and stir-fried it in the cast-iron skillet with fresh peaches and raspberries, cinnamon and a dash of Grand Marnier. The raspberries mostly dissolved into the al dente, coconut-scented rice, leaving the golden cubes of peach for extra texture. Served with a blob of vanilla Haagen-Dasz, it was easily the best dessert I’ve ever concocted.

Tonight I stared in even greater horror at a still more depleted fridge and pantry. I had potatoes, sweet corn, eggs, cream, milk and nutmeg, which turned out to be the makings of my first souffle. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it was good enough that Claire sang a song of souffle, and we ate every scrap. I called Jeremy to gloat and he was despondant. “I’d love some lentil soup,” he said sadly.

I hunted through Nigella until I found a lentil soup I could cobble together. I had no leeks, celery or water chestnuts but I did have one potato. I diced it instead of mincing it, added an onion and two carrots, sweated them in butter, threw in a cup of red lentils and added four cups of stock. Turned right down low it bubbled away like lava, only fragrant.

Then Steve Pi turned up, hungry and unable to wait for soup. I threw a frozen baguette in the oven to warm and served it to him with pecorino romano, gruyere, olives and a peach. He devoured with relish everything but a stick of the bread, which I gave to Jeremy on his arrival, along with a bowl of tasty soup. I am a minor kitchen deity: fear me.

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