The Cheating Cook

Tonight I had a few leftovers to deal with – a piece of cold poached salmon, about half a tub of cream and a rather tired little bulb of Florence Fennel. Fortunately I also had a pack of ready-made pastry in the fridge, so I made a meltingly delicious quiche. I sauteed the fennel in a little butter and then piled in the salmon with a few garlic chives cut from the garden and some smoked salmon trimmings, seasoned it with lemon zest and pink peppercorns (ready made spice rub) and then in went the custard. I never would have bothered to make something so fiddly on a weekday until I learned to cut a few corners in the kitchen.

 I used to be such a purist; even when Delia Smith published "How to Cheat at Cooking" I was shocked and thought she’d sold her soul. Prepared pastry was the first chink in my armour. I have always been absolutely hopeless at making pastry. It invariably either breaks up or tastes of nothing but flour and water. I discovered I could never make anything as meltingly soft as Jus-Rol and I’m now a convert. Various other short cuts have crept in and, as long as the standard is reasonable and the cost not too excessive, I have no problem with them. When I made everything from scratch I would burn out on a regular basis and live on TV dinners for a week to recover. At least I put something fresh and partly homemade on the table most nights now.

Having the veggie garden does very much affect my approach to cookery because I’ll do anything rather than let a good harvest go to waste. I take pride in finding uses for the most obscure and apparently unattractive crops. So where I do take trouble is with my harvest. If I end up stewing pounds of blackcurrants into coulis or making salad dressing from windfalls, and it takes a while, I’d rather be doing that than letting food go to waste.

When we first started all this, I realised a lot of work would go into the growing but rather overlooked the commitment in time and effort that would go into dealing with the produce. Traditionally, I suppose that would have been the woman’s role. It’s certainly quite satisfying to put up a batch of jams or chutneys if you happen to be in the right mood. What’s a little more challenging is eating beetroots or zucchini for days on end. I do like a little variety and that’s a modern luxury, one our ancestors didn’t have. They were just grateful not to starve. I guess.

As for the verjuice, I made it into salad dressing. I like a tang to my dressings and it was a little mild for me. Though undrinkable as a fruit product, once you get out of that mindset it’s actually quite  subtle as a condiment. My husband, who dislikes vinegar, will really take to it, I expect. So I’ve made the remainder into ice cubes.

I never used to have time to do this stuff when I was writing DW fic. Lack of inspiration does have its advantages, I suppose!

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One thought on “The Cheating Cook

  1. The food sounds lovely. And I wish I had more time to cook, and more people to appreciate the food, because I you make it sound so enriching just to do it. Or it may be I’m projecting: I find food symbolic of every type of nourishment.

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