A long time ago – almost lost in the mists of time – The Other Half gave me a Christmas present of one of those boxed, culinary gifts that adorn the shelves of supermarkets in the festive season.
In this case, it was two small pasta bowls – they’re more like soup bowls, to be honest – with ‘pasta’ written on the side in case you couldn’t work out what to use them for. They came with a couple of packets of spices/herbs and a slender volume of 10 recipes from Gordon Ramsey.
The message was clear: ‘stop boiling pasta to death after we get home from work in an evening when we’re both getting whatever we fancy to eat’. I didn’t attempt to feed The Other Half said ultra-soft pasta, but he hated the smell of it.
The bowls went in one cupboard, the spices another and the book went on a shelf somewhere.
Fast forward a few years, by which time I had started to get interested in food and started to try to learn to cook.
I picked up the little book, found it looked terrifyingly complicated, and put it down again.
A couple more years passed. But this time, when I picked the book up again, it didn’t seem anywhere near as intimidating and I set about trying one of the recipes. It was a velouté sauce to be served with scallops or salmon, and pasta.
This involved a reduction of wine and stock, and things that not long before, I’d have dismissed as beyond me. It was the first time I started to comprehend just what a reduction really achieves. It’s finished with cream to give a lovely, smooth texture.
The velouté (which I did with salmon) was a success. I tried several others over the coming months, including one with bacon lardons, rosemary, asparagus and cannellini beans (this was a breakthrough in terms of persuading The Other Half to eat any pulses) and one involving very lightly curried shallots, julienned carrot and wilted spinach.
And so it was that, last night, I returned to the book for an easy supper.
Did you spot that? Something that was once so scary is now an ‘easy’ supper. It was the velouté, with chopped mushrooms. Lovely.
Looking at the recipe again last night, it struck me just how much my perceptions got in the way of my doing things. The recipe is no simpler now than it ever was, but it requires no fancy skills or equipment. And the result is lovely.
Am I the only one who has become convinced, for whatever reason, that food is just too difficult? I’m glad that I managed to get past that stage, but I very much doubt that I was remotely alone.