Sunday, November 8, 2009
Not so unusually these days, but perhaps still worthy of remark, I do all the cooking in our family (and I do mean all -- I cook evening meals six or seven nights a week, plus lunches at weekends for anyone too idle to make their own). When the kids were younger, this would often mean two meals every night, and occasionally three, as someone had usually decided that day that they didn't like rice / pasta / potatoes any more. As it was a rare meal that pleased more than three out of four, I have learned to cook a last-minute omelette or operate a grill whilst feeding myself with the other hand.
I'm not a good cook, understand, or even particularly enthusiastic; it's just that I can be bothered, and the Prof can't. After over 15 years of family cooking I have evolved a repetitive menu of set meals which I can cook on autopilot and with which, no doubt, I have dulled the palette and gustatory curiosity of my children. I'm as predictable as a school canteen: if it's Friday, it must be toad in the hole. In that respect, I resemble 80% of traditional Mums. Though my own mother was a deeply unenthusiastic cook, who relied on staples like frozen burgers, instant mashed potato and tinned and frozen vegetables to get us through the week. By comparison, I'm Nigel Slater.
Just to, um, vary the blog diet a bit, I thought I'd pass on a store-cupboard recipe I made up years ago in a tight spot, and have cooked ever since. It's called "fishy rice", because that's what it is.
1 tin of mackerel in oil
Long grain white rice (approx. 300 ml by vol. *)
1 heaped teaspoonful of Marigold Swiss Vegetable bouillon powder (accept no substitutes) in 450 ml of boiling water
1 onion, chopped
[optional] 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
half a red pepper, chopped
half a green pepper, chopped
two or three mushrooms, chopped
[optional] a handful of shredded white cabbage, or some frozen peas
Jamaican hot pepper sauce
Salt & pepper
Random herbs (a.k.a "mixed herbs")
* I have found that one of those small Chinese tea bowls contains enough rice for one person, and contains roughly 100 ml, which makes the "one and half times by volume" calculation for the water very easy.
Pour all the oil from the tin of mackerel into a heavy bottomed saucepan. Heat the oil gently, and fry the onion and garlic until soft. Add the random herbs, salt and pepper, and the other vegetables and stir fry until you're bored with it.
Add the mackerel, breaking it up into chunks and stirring it in with your favourite spatula. If it's getting too dry, add a little olive oil. Add the rice, and stir to coat the rice with oil. Add a few good dashes of hot pepper sauce.
Pour in the vegetable stock -- this should make a wonderful sizzling sound. Stir, adding a good squeeze of tomato puree -- about 10 cm from a tube. Bring to the boil, then cover the pan with a square of aluminium foil, and press the pan lid into it to give a good tight seal. Reduce heat to the lowest you can possibly manage, and cook for 20 minutes.
Turn off the heat, and leave to stand for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and foil, stir and serve. It ain't pretty, but if you get it right it's very tasty. The secret ingredient is the oil from the tin, obviously (please don't tell me about mercury poisoning, etc.). I can report that if, under stress, you forget to put the rice in, it tastes quite good anyway with pasta. Serves two greedy adults plus two picky children.