If being off your food is a pretty reliable indicator of someone’s general state of health, then how bad a sign is that in a foodie?
It’s not likely that you’re going to be thinking of homemade truffles when you’re full of the snuffles.
This is Friday and I’m sitting at home with the remains of a stinking cold – the third of the winter, for goodness sake – and which has been at its worst under cover of dark, keeping me awake with a hacking cough for several nights.
I have had no appetite either for eating or considering food.
But finally, like a long overdue spring, the first signs of revival are appearing.
And so I’m going to try to concentrate my mind on the very limited culinary highlights from the beginning of the week – before a can of Heinz macaroni cheese was all I fancied or all I could be arsed to prepare.
Last Sunday involved the complexity of organising an evening meal to be ready when The Other Half arrived back from a Rugby League match up north.
I opted for a first effort at a poule au pot, which I could allow to simmer away merrily until TOH had arrived home.
This is one of those classic French peasant dishes – and like so much peasant cuisine, there as many ways to make it as there are people who’ve made it.
I knew of one recipe in a book on the shelf, and checked that and several others before simply combining them all in my head and cooking without a book.
So the chicken – a small, organic one – was browned in some butter in a large pot and then removed. Chopped carrots, celery and onion followed to soften and brown a tad.
Then the bird went back in, with bouquet garni, the vegetables, a couple of glasses of white wine and about the same of water. I stuck the lid on and left it. It needs around 40 minutes to an hour, so with that in mind, add some peeled, small potatoes when you’re about 30 minutes from the end (potatoes always take longer to cook in stock/wine than in plain, boiling water).
When it’s cooked and you’re almost ready to serve, take out the bird and leave to rest in a warm place before carving, and whisk some beurre manié (half plain flour, half softened butter, blended) into the liquid, bit by bit, to thicken. Check the seasoning.
The Other Half was impressed: it’s soothing, gentle food, and very pleasant for all that. And very easy.
There was plenty left, but my efforts a couple of days later (when the cold had fully descended) to add rice and a tin of cannellini beans to that while it re-heated didn’t really work.
The only other things that are worth mentioning in a week that, otherwise, has been a culinary desert, are Raymond Blanc’s lamb’s liver and Nigel Slater’s sausages.
For the former, take some floury potatoes and peel and dice them. Blanch for 30 seconds, then drain and dry thoroughly.
Chop some flat leaf parsley, a little shallot and garlic, and mix together for a persillade.
Sauté the potatoes in a little oil for around four to fives minutes. Then sauté the sliced liver in a little butter for 30 seconds to a minute on each side.
Serve dressed with the persillade. This is lovely – and again, so easy and indeed, so cheap.
Slater’s take on bangers and mash involves mixing chopped parsley with mash – after cooking the sausages long and slow in a lidded pan, on a low heat and with just the minimum of added fat to stop them sticking.
It works very well – sausages are a sort of bugbear of mine: I seem to get them right sometimes and then wrong at others, without always feeling clear about what went right or wrong. This time, I took the lid off the pan late on, turned up the heat and gave them just a bit more colour. They were fine.
Instead of a potato mash, I did swede and carrot – adding parsley at the end – and served everything with slow-cooked, sliced red onions. By that time, you’ve got three portions of your five a day – which can’t be bad!
And that, I’m afraid, has been pretty much it for an entire culinary week. Things, as someone once sang, can only get better.
And if they don't, I'll take out a super injunction against anyone saying I've ever claimed to be at least a half-way reasonable cook (sometimes)!