One of my major perks, on days I work from home, is having the opportunity to make myself something really good for lunch. If those days also happen to feature me making chicken stock or reconstituting a big bag of dried pulses – these things happen in the kitchen without me having to think about them – there’s more of a treat in store. A couple of scoops of chicken stock get siphoned off to make a gutsy noodle broth, infused with slivers of ginger, garlic and chilli and eaten with relish. Freshly cooked butter beans can easily find themselves tossed with a sundried tomato dressing and some of the left-over roast pumpkin from last night’s dinner.
Category: Lovely Lunches
The veggie garden is looking a little sad at this stage in the year. Just a few scraggly kale plants, as-yet-unformed purple sprouting broccoli – but we still have some leeks, when we remember to cook them! We’ve recently been having a cold snap so I’ve been making lots of soups and, one day when I happened to remember that we still had to use up the leeks in the garden and actually had some potatoes in the house, I made a version of Clothilde’s minimalist Leek and Potato Soup, which she in turn had adapted from Sophie Brissaud‘s recipe. As I was just after a stock-making session, I used chicken stock as well as water in the soup for more depth of flavour, and finished it off with dollops of ever-present yoghurt. This is very much an approximation of the recipe – I just didn’t want to get out the weighing scales!
This is the most useful recipe to have in your repertoire. I use it – sometimes with the addition of broccoli, chorizo, bacon or chilli – with gnocchi, pasta, cannelloni and polenta, as a topping for pizza and even when baking pancakes. If you can track down some decent Italian plum tomatoes, it’s all the better for that; if you can’t, just keep tasting and adjusting the flavour with sugar if it’s too bitter, red wine or balsamic vinegar if it’s too sweet, tomato purée if it needs more body, water if it’s too thick. If you have fresh basil, add it at the end to lift the flavour of sauce. I often use thyme – fresh if I have it but sometimes dried – if I want the sauce to have a herby tinge.
When the weather is good no one wants to spend time in the kitchen and, when the Boyfriend arrived home from the supermarket the other day with a large box of button mushrooms, I didn’t much feel like frying them or using them in an omelette strognoff or making a mushroom stroganoff or risotto or any one of the thousand and one things I use mushrooms for. I normally prefer the meatier, large flat Portobello mushrooms but, after spending the weeks in Morocco poring over Claudia Roden’s salad recipes in A New Book of Middle Eastern Food, I had an idea for these styrofoam buttons.
When the days get brighter and longer, a girl’s thoughts turn to salad lunches. Based about 15 minutes walk away from any shops or cafés and blessed/cursed with a sloppy canteen, I bring my lunch to work year-round. Brown Bread and a fridge in the office are my lifesavers – the bread for toasting in the canteen and the fridge to store endless blocks of cheese for my normal lunch. Sometimes food bloggers eat boring food too! With the arrival of the summer, however, I start wanting a little more variety, particularly as the canteen is closed at the moment so I have no access to my toaster.
In London there is a wonderful shop called Books for Cooks. A bookshop, filled with – what else – cookbooks, it is situated at 4 Blenheim Crescent in Notting Hill and is the kind of place that Sunday supplements wax lyrical about. As does anyone who visits the shop. It is small, not so very wide, and has bookshelves from floor to ceiling, crammed with hundreds upon hundreds books of amazing dishes, foods, ingredients, people. There is a cosy, albeit battered, couch in the middle of the floor, right between a piled-high table and a low shelf – just the place to sit and leaf through one of the many books that will take you on a journey to far off lands or reveal more about your own culinary surroundings. All this, and I haven’t yet got to the best bit.