Friday, 26 February 2010


Cooking for Mama

I don't remember my mother cooking much when we were little (edit: I remember she would make spaghetti bolognaise, but being a lifelong vegetarian I never tasted it). She would make meals, put them together and heat them up - but I have a nostalgic yearning to have acquired culinary skill watching my mama, helping measure out ingredients, getting under her feet, watching a creation rise in the oven and enjoying the fruits (or pies, cakes and desserts) of our labour together round the table.

Every recipe I have ever attempted has been since I left home, so when my mama comes for tea I wanted to present her with a table laden with homecooked goodness.

I cooked a simple chilli - frying onions, garlic, button mushrooms, red pepper, chopped tomatoes and kidney beans - with just the right ratio of spice to juice - I even cooked V his own version, with just a pinch of cumin, and was rewarded with big smiles.

One of my favourite meals ever is chilli with a slow-baked potato (crispy skins and not a microwave in sight) but I thought I'd try something a little different.


I am reading Nigella Lawson's 'Forever Summer' at the moment - I know you're not supposed to read a cookbook, especially not as bedtime reading, but I found the introduction to '...Domestic Goddess' such a good influence on my work in progress writing project.

Somewhere between roast and baked these Swedish potatoes style just looked so...  lovely and golden, I had to try them.


1. If you’re using the larger potatoes, preheat the oven to 210°C/gas mark 7; for roasting new potatoes, preheat to 200°C/gas mark 6. Put each potato, in turn, in the bowl of a wooden spoon, like you would carry an egg in an egg-and-spoon race, and cut across at about 3mm intervals. When you’ve cut them all, put the baking tin on the hob with the butter and oil and heat up till sizzling. Turn the potatoes well, putting them in upside down (ie, cut side down) first, then the right side up, and spoon the fat over them.

2. Sprinkle each potato well with salt and put in the oven: cook the large potatoes for about an hour and 10 minutes, testing to see whether the flesh is soft (you may need another 10 minutes for this); 40 minutes should be fine for the new potatoes. Transfer to a warmed plate, and serve.

Recipe & Pic via Nigella Lawson

I'm not usually one to question authority (of course, that is a lie, but not when it comes to Nigella) but I would cook the potatoes for longer - much longer - like an hour at least. Or next time I might par-boil them for a couple of minutes first. The edges were lovely, but as you get to the inner folds they were a little underdone. I couldn't wait any longer, but if I had I know that these would not have lasted even half the time they did.

I served the chilli straight from the pot, (somewhat undercooked) potatoes, fat bowls of salad, rice, and extra mature cheddar.

Oh, and homemade guacamole (which in our house we call guac-a-mock - because we are mentally disturbed):

Mild chillies
Lemon Juice
3 Avocadoes

      - pulse in blender and store in an airtight container - simples

I love to serve food in individual bowls and let people help themselves - something about ladling thick chilli and mounds of steaming rice (or any other food for that matter) feels so hearty, warming and simply family.

p.s. leftover chilli is so good I have had it twice today!


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