Sunday, 8 January 2012

Comfort for the soul

...and for the body.

You know, there's nothing like home cooked food to make you feel good. And, for me at least, nothing like making home cooked food to make me feel good. Honestly, I love it. Cooking really relaxes me. Wait a minute, let me qualify that. Cooking, when there isn't a time pressure really relaxes me. I'm not sure I'd feel the same way if I was having to churn out meal after meal to a schedule, particularly if the diners were fussy or unappreciative. I really do take my hat off to working mums (or dads, for that matter) who manage that particular miracle day in, day out.

But for me, I'm lucky. Generally the only person I have to please is myself - and I'm always appreciative of my efforts! I can pick and choose when I cook, or when I just snack. I can opt to eat in the middle of the day from the canteen at work and just have toast or something similar when I get in at night. My only deadlines are the ones I set myself, and if I'm too tired to cook but am hungry, there's usually something in the freezer that can just be heated up from one of my earlier cooking sessions. (I always make way more than I need with the express intention of freezing the rest for a later date. I know my work/life [im]balance, after all!)

So, last night, after a great day out in Edinburgh exploring what was left of the sales, my relaxation method of choice for a fun Saturday evening was to raid the fridge and get cooking. I confess that I'm not organised enough to plan menus out - unless for special occasions - and my dishes tend to be combinations of what's in the fridge/cupboard and needing to be used up. Years of Protect and Survive from my Mum have left me with a 'nuclear store cupboard' mentality to food shopping, so it's not usually too hard to whip something up from what I can find around and about of an evening.

I'll sometimes buy ingredients with the intention of making a particular dish, but more often I buy things because they look interesting, or I like the taste and know that I'll find something to do with them. As a result, I don't often follow recipes. Generally my dishes are made up, sometimes loosely based on a recipe from a book, but more often just guess work about what flavours and textures will work well together.

Don't get me wrong, I own tons of cookery books, and I love reading them. They generally make my mouth water. I also have a subscription to the ever enticing Delicious magazine. And I wouldn't be without any of them. But they're pretty much just for ideas. My true passion is creating!

And this little lot? Well, it was 2 (3 minus 1 because I had no kidney beans!) and mushroom chilli, and stuffed portobello mushrooms. I ate some of the chilli, which was very good if I say so myself, and the mushrooms have gone into the freezer for another day - probably to be eaten either on their on with a salad of some description, or as a side dish to another main meal. Can't wait!

OK, I did promise the recipes to some friends so here they are - or as close as you get to recipes from me!

Chilli - sweat off some onions and peppers, add chilli flakes and powder, cook off a bit and then add a tin or so of chopped tomatoes (plus any whole ones left in the fridge!). Throw in some quartered button mushrooms and tins of whatever beans you have handy. Cook for about 30 mins to let the juices out and flavours in. My secret additional ingredient for last night was a dash of Jerk Molasses Barbeque sauce, which added a fabulous hint of smokiness. 

A tip from a friend was to make corn bread to go with it. That's a definite for me when the remains come out of the freezer next time!

Stuffed mushrooms - take however many portobello or breakfast mushrooms you have, brush them with olive oil and put in the oven on a baking tray for 4 mins. Meanwhile chop up onions - or in this case, leeks - and sweat in butter. Add garlic if you like, I didn't but I'm sure it would taste good. I had some thyme - which is great with mushrooms - so that went in after the sweating. I also added the stalks from the mushrooms for some extra flavour and to avoid wasting them. Crumble up some cheese, add to the pan together with some breadcrumbs and an egg. Season and then pack on top of the part cooked mushrooms. Put the whole lot back in the oven and cook for another 6 mins or so. Remove, eat, enjoy!

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