Have you ever wondered what the famous cooks of the world eat at home? Do they really spend hours every day preparing food on the lines of their recipes or, like you and me, do they sometimes snuggle down happily to a boiled egg and toast? Now, let us be honest. I am an unrepentant foodie and I suspect I spend more time than most deciding what I am going to eat, shopping for the ingredients and then preparing the dish of choice. I am eternally combing magazines and newspapers for new recipes, even though my kitchen shelves groan under the weight of cookery books of all descriptions. When travelling abroad, there is nothing I like more than visiting the local shops and supermarkets on the hunt for new and interesting ingredients and, when the humour is on me, I can happily spend hours in the kitchen preparing food.
As I have told you before, I live alone. That would present particular problems in determining what to eat, were it not for the freezer. When so moved, I cook large quantities of whatever and pack it into small, plastic containers before storing them in serried ranks in the drawers of my upright freezer. I also always have items like fresh vegetables, steaks, chops or fish fillets to hand. Indeed, my eldest son has been known to say that I am in eternal readiness to withstand a prolonged siege! Be that as it may, the biggest decision of my day centres on the choice of food for the evening meal. In making that all-important decision, I exclude all instant or processed food. It is not that I am disdainful of such fare; it is simply the case – and I often feel disgruntled about this – that I have never found a fast or pre-prepared product that I actually liked. Thus, the option facing me is either to cook some meat or fish from the fridge or freezer together with a starch and vegetables or, to consume one of my own frozen meals. However, very occasionally, I simply do not feel like cooking and then, if I am also not particularly hungry, I eat nothing at all. This is what I call my favourite supper and I jest not. If you cook for yourself every day, it is strangely liberating simply to forego all food and pass an evening without it. Apart from giving you an extra hour or so – remember there is a fallout in the form of no wash up – a mini-fast also gives one’s digestive system a rest and purges the body a little for twelve hours or so. This must be to one’s good. Do try it sometime. You will find it works.
But what happens if I don’t feel like cooking and am hungry? No, I don’t rush out to the nearest restaurant. I might have an omelette and salad, but just recently, I have been having bean soup with a large wedge of my own bread, followed by fried eggs. I am a devotee of the humble egg (particularly when it comes from a happy run-around hen, as do mine for most of the year) and especially in its fried form. For a change, try frying your eggs in butter or in olive oil with a generous quantity of freshly ground pepper on top. If you have not been there before, a culinary experience awaits you! But what of the bean soup? It, of course, comes out of the freezer and all I have to do is heat it, something I can just about manage to pull off when in non-cooking mode. Now that the chill of autumn is tightening its grip, I felt this would be a good time to share with you my recipe for this tasty and nutritious dish.
500g butter beans
2 onions chopped
2 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 large lemon, juiced
4 tbsp olive oil
A large bunch of parsley, chopped
2l strong vegetable or beef stock*
Freshly ground black pepper and salt
*I sometimes use ham water if I have any. Alternatively, I recommend Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon
Steep the beans in water overnight and then cook them in a generous amount of water for about an hour or until they are soft. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saucepan and throw in the chopped onions, potatoes and carrot. Sweat for about 20 minutes and then stir in the cumin. Add the beans and stock and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Throw in the chopped parsley and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper and simmer for a few more minutes or until the vegetables are thoroughly cooked. Allow to cool a little and then blend until smooth. (I have only recently acquired a hand blender and what a boon this piece of equipment is for making soups; my life has been transformed.) I like to serve with a little virgin olive oil drizzled on top.