Parental Advisory. I am an adult Irish male and I like to swear, I am not as sweary as Gordon but I swear. It releases stress and eases tension and, in my opinion, adds a dash of colour to any language. My writing is aimed at adults, not children. If you are likely to be offended by the occasional profanity then go read Delia.
First things first.
To steal from the late Douglas Adams ‘DON’T PANIC.’
Cooking is not difficult.
Cooking for yourself and others is a skill you learn with practice, like driving. Michael Schumacher didn’t spring from his mother’s womb with a racing helmet on, he had to learn how to drive. It can take patience and perseverance but with a little effort, everyone can cook. Learning how how to peel and chop an onion is just about the most difficult skill you need to acquire, the rest of it is just knowledge and practice. ‘Oh, but I can’t boil an egg,’ you say, ‘I’d burn water,’ you say, bollocks, I say. You are only incapable of cooking if you choose to be incapable of cooking.
Of course the environment you were brought up in has a huge effect on how you approach food preparation yourself. If you grew up in an affluent home with parents who had the time, interest and money to prepare diverse and healthy food then you were very lucky. If you paid attention you have a head start in the kitchen, or you may have had no interest and left home with no idea how to feed yourself! You could be one of the unlucky ones who were dragged up in an underprivileged household where you survived on microwave chips and cheap chicken nuggets. Most of us fall somewhere in between.
It’s not all about economics though, there are plenty of wealthy people who ‘couldn’t boil an egg’ and would starve to death if they couldn’t eat out, and there are plenty of poor people who manage to eat well on a very tight budget. You have a choice.
The food and recipes I’ll be writing about here are meant to be cheap and cheerful. Decent, tasty food that won’t break the bank. I don’t have a lot of money, but I am not usually completely broke either and the food I prepare reflects that. I sometimes will splash out on some expensive folly for dinner but mostly I find the amount of money I spend on food does not correlate to how satisfying it is. A meal that cost a quid can be just as tasty as one that cost 20.
Having said that, I don’t count pennies in any of the recipes I list. If you are seriously broke and have to be hyper aware of where every red cent goes in your budget then scoot on over to Cooking on a Bootstrap by Jack Monroe. Jack is an incredibly talented cook and the recipes you’ll find there are easy and down to earth and delicious.
I am also writing with the beginner or self-confessed incompetent in mind. You might be a student who has never had to fend for themselves, you might be a busy parent with little time to think about something new for dinner, you might be a 20 or 30 something that has basic skills but ends up buying supermarket ready meals coz you can’t be bothered to cook for yourself, or you might be a retired person that has only ever made meat and two veg and a Sunday roast and are ready to try something a little more adventurous in the kitchen now you have the time. Whoever you are I hope you find something you like here. In every recipe I try and make the ingredients and preparation steps as simple and understandable as possible.
One of my pets hates, and believe me I have many of them, is when I am browsing through a cookbook and I realise I have absolutely no idea what the author is talking about. It’s not so much my own ignorance that annoys me as the assumption by the writer that I obviously already have the knowledge and skill set to be able to follow them. Here, I am assuming nothing and explaining everything. This might bore some people and indeed there will be nothing new at all in here for some of you but hey, them’s the breaks.
I live alone, through choice. I like living alone. I like the freedom to do whatever I like whenever I like. I have been in various house sharing situations and relationships over the years but as I barrel towards old age I have come to the realisation that I am happier on my my own. The reason I mention my living circumstances is because most of the recipes here are for one or two people. Preparing food just for yourself can seem like a total chore or a total bore and I do frequently decide against cooking and order in a pizza or go to the chipper or eat a supermarket ready meal. There’s nothing wrong with that, just not every bloody day. That’s plain unhealthy, for body, mind and soul.
I inherited a copy of Delia Smith’s ‘One is Fun!’ which is obviously aimed at tragic singletons like myself but I found the very title so horrifically optimistic that I have barely looked at it since the day I got it. I must pull it down off the shelf and have a browse as I am sure there must be some gems in there. Delia knows her shit. The greatly missed lady who owned it was a good friend and an excellent cook who fed me some of the best meals I have ever had. I am sure she was given it by one of her children as she did have a tendency to ‘forget’ to cook for herself and would instead survive on bread and butter and fine wine.
As I pull this book from the shelf and leaf through its not well thumbed pages, I can tell she didn’t look at it much herself. On the inside cover there is a scribbled note jotting down the times and dates of The Threepenny Opera and some other plays. There must have been a theatre festival on and she obviously had better things to do than be patronised by a woman in a frilly white blouse! Classy old bird that she was. Maybe I will leave this book aside a while longer.
I enjoy cooking, I enjoy the planning, such as it is, I enjoy shopping for the ingredients should I need to, I enjoy trying new recipes, though that can be a little nerve wracking, so I understand how you are feeling if the whole cooking thing is new to you. I enjoy the preparation and the actual cooking bit and I enjoy eating, unless I have made a complete balls of it of course. Most of all, I enjoy having my friends around and feeding them some half decent food and chatting and drinking too much wine. ‘Having the bants’ as the young folk might say. Food is an essential part of living, you really can’t do without it, so you may as well learn to enjoy it.
All measurements are in metric because I can’t be bothered to convert them and as revenge for all the American recipes I have abandoned because I definitely cannot be bothered trying to figure out what a stick of butter or a quiver of flour is.