I’ve been having more than a few Mexican moments lately with my chocolate and chilli experiments and I’ve also cooked several Mexican meals. The first was for a pot-luck dinner for eight in our house when some of the Boyfriend’s college friends and their wives were about. This was only arranged that morning and when the Boyfriend asked what we should cook, I figured that it was the perfect time to try Nigella’s recipe for Cornbread-Topped Chilli.
I’ve been getting plenty of use out of the Ral Al Hanout that I made fairly recently and it is particularly good with lamb. Of course, being in New Zealand, there’s no shortage of the baa-ing beast although, as the Boyfriend told a former vegetarian friend after one such dinner, we only eat the ugly ones!
As it’s winter at this side of the world – although the temperatures seem to have taken a turn for the better lately – I’ve been cooking lots of soups. I love making anything that just takes 20 minutes of chopping and frying, and then is happy to sit simmering on the cooker for an hour or longer, until it’s done. As a result of my interest in dried peas, beans and lentils, there’s always a cupboard full of various legumes to be incorporated into soup and one of the best soups around can be made with dried green split peas.
I’ve always been a lover of peas, beans and lentils – things that are cheap and can be turned into something delicious without too much effort. But, in Ireland, a hectic schedule prevented me from really getting involved with these in their dried form. Instead I had to content myself with their tinned equivalents which, although not hugely expensive, do prevent you from using them with too much abandon. Since coming to New Zealand, however, and discovering that dried peas, beans and lentils are readily available through the Bin Inn chain and also through the self-serve bins in all supermarkets, I’ve been putting them to good use.
Heading away for a long weekend to a bach (Kiwi for holiday home) by the sea tends to concentrate the mind when it comes to cooking. You know you’ll have to bring all your supplies with you, the local shop will probably be five miles down the road and that you’ll be having to cook on an unfamiliar cooker with unfamiliar, probably unwieldy, equipment.
Last night we had a couple of the boyfriend’s friends staying over, thus giving me an opportunity to cook dinner for more than the usual two people.