One is the Loneliest Number (Part Two)

True story: I walked past Jay Rayner the other day whilst house hunting around Herne Hill.

It was the weekend of the Lambeth County Fair in Brockwell Park. I’m sure it was much to his displeasure that we did not engage in conversation as he headed east and I west to Britxon, ships passing in silence on this scorching hot day. It looked like he had put on a little weight since I had last seen him on the telebox but was still striding onwards with relish, curly black locks soaring majestically behind him.

Definitely would have made a good Death Eater

I don’t cite that he had put on a little weight as a criticism. I’m dead impressed that someone in his profession doesn’t need to be carted around like Pearl the Vampire from the original Blade movie. I would certainly need to be.  Although I suppose Peter Griffin look-a-like Charle Campion is on a slippery slope.

Sorry for the low-blow Chazzer

Anyway the point to this being that seeing Jay Rayner reminded me that since my first entry into this article series, I read a great piece by him in the Guardian about the pleasures of cooking for yourself entitled Cooking for one: it’s food with someone you really loveI’d recommend reading the whole thing but wanted to highlight this part:

‘Don’t get me wrong: I like cooking for other people (and if any of my family are reading this, really darlings, nothing gives me more joy than keeping you fed). But cooking only for yourself, well now, that’s the real deal. I am always baffled when anyone announces they don’t bother bashing the pans about if they are the only person who needs to eat. My conclusion is they’re not greedy enough. Cook for others and, however appreciative, there will always be something they don’t like…Cooking for yourself is…a culinary event without compromise.’

And with that endorsement under our belt, we push on!

One-pot Chicken Pilaf

Speed: 25 minutes
Cost: £7 approx
Taste/variety of ingredients: Pretty uninspiring stuff, but was good to have chicken thighs instead of breast whilst the other half was out for dinner (yes, chicken thighs are a new addition to the malleable blacklist).
Leftovers: Another portion, tucked neatly between 2 eggs and an Innocent smoothie the fridge.

Link to recipe in title above. Fairly average tasting although weirdly got better as it cooled down. I wonder if leaving the lid on at the end for a bit once the spinach has been added to let the flavours stew in together would have brought it together more.

Could also definitely have done with some lemon juice, coriander and a dollop of creme fraiche stirred in at the end. Did liven up with a good dose of cayenne pepper which helped. Still good amount of veg and protein for a very quick, inexpensive and easy dish.

Sri Lankan & Spanish Omelette

Speed: 12 minutes
Cost: £9 approx
Taste/variety of ingredients: Yes, it’s an omelette, but its the best omelette I have ever made and possibly consumed. Details below.
Leftovers: None

All the ingredients below featured but it was the mix of good quality chorizo (Bath Pig) and green chili that really made it sing. I’m sure most of you are familiar with the contents of a Spanish omelette (potato, onions) but we got quite hooked on Sri Lankan omelettes during our hols last year. Its basically just a thin omelette with tons of chili. Beaut.

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Raita Here, Raita Now

Apologies to the owners of the two pairs of phantom hands

Apologies to the owners of the two pairs of the hash-tagging phantom hands

‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a tipsy man in possession of a good hunger, must be in want of a curry.’

Amen.

I had started to rack up an increasing food debt with a few friends of mine so I decided to wipe the slate clean and have an Indian themed bash. Amongst these friends (above) lurks a vegetarian and I had been somewhat nervous about how to cater for a majority of carnivores with him in the midst. My main issue was that my go-to dishes for entertaining normally involve a massive hunk of meat with trimmings bringing up the rear.

I’ll admit in my weaker moments planning this evening,  part of me wanted to fob him off with a Linda McCartney Bean Burger and be done with it. However, as he had put on two stellar Mexican evenings round his in quick succession, I thought I had better step up. And what better cuisine to step up with than Indian; the home of vegetarianism. So here’s what I did:

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Starter

Poppadoms with homemade raita, homemade piccalilli and mango chutney

Piccalilli presence - raised a few conservative eyebrows

Piccalilli presence – raised a few conservative eyebrows

Raita - simples

Raita – simples

Main

Roasted Veg Vindaloo with Curried Chicken Skewers

Dry Chili Paneer

Mushroom Bhaiji

Homemade Naan Breads with mango and raisins (not exact recipe on link but more or less, real one in Bread)

Basmati rice

Paneer - didn't quite soak up the flavours as I'd hoped

Paneer – didn’t quite soak up the flavours as I’d hoped

But came out OK I suppose (for a veggie dish)

But came out OK I suppose (for a veggie dish)

 

Mushroom Bhaji - suprising star of the show

Mushroom Bhaji – surprising star of the show

Dessert

Haagen-Dazs (apparently all that was left at Sainsbury’s on the way up…but at 1 a.m. was pretty decent)

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The food got demolished which is always a good sign. Unbelievably the whole meal only cost £52. It fed 8 but could have stretched to more.* No wonder people decide to be veggie!

Post-dinner it was into the lounge for a heated game of Trivial Pursuit (won by yours truly and the veggie, our erudite pairing seeing off two other teams of three). The question that swung it: who was Darth Maple?

Then as the evening wound down we tried to make a cocktail out of what remained in the fridge and our eclectic collection of half-drunk spirit bottles. Three different rums, concentrated lemon juice, soda water, caster sugar and a huge amount of mint might have tasted good at the time, but it made the tidying up the next morning a Herculean task.

*George – if you’re reading I am truly sorry.