I don’t claim to be anything more than a food enthusiast. I love eating good food and I attempt to cook it. There are two types of food however which rises above all the others in terms of how it makes me feel: My food, and the food of my childhood.
Everyone remembers the roast chicken their Mum used to make, and the scones they had every Sunday. I’m here to remind everyone that ingredients and cuisine back then wasn’t anything exceptional. The thing about them is that you were brought up on them – they are imprinted on your brain as the best – probably because you were told and also because it was the benchmark for everything else. The newly hatched chick imprints on their mum not because its the best chicken in the world but because from that day on the nearest thing to them becomes the default Mum. My best memories of childhood food was of the recipes that came out for special occasions – a corned beef pie, Yorkshire puddings, ginger cake, date slice and pavlova. Everything else was fuel.
And then there is my food. Everything I create is great to me. Even the cakes that don’t rise, the bread that’s not quite cooked in the middle, the lamb that’s too rare and the crumble that’s just not crumbly enough. I think about the time and processing – the love that has gone into it all. My food isn’t going to win any awards but it is real, repeatable and it has heart.
With this in mind we said goodbye to my daughter recently as she headed off to France and decided to cook pasta together. Top chefs happily say that it’s just not worth the effort to make your own and that dried pasta is pretty good. Getting the pasta machine out though is a bit of fun and even at our age cooking together is fun. I bought a ciabatta flour to make some accompanying bread and added some chopped green olive which added flavour without liquid. This worked really well and was so simple. The preparation involves mixing it thoroughly – I used a machine – resting the sticky dough for ten minutes and then proving for 30 minutes. The dough is still incredibly difficult to handle. I made a significant mistake in releasing the expanded dough from its loaf tin and the light sticky stuff is really difficult to get back into any form. I ended up with a very roughly ciabatta-shaped ‘pile’ and from then on the baking went well. It had good texture and a good crust.
I made a courgette sauce by first roasting quartered courgette slices in an air fryer until they were shrunken and slightly browned. I then made a basic sauce by frying two shallots, a red reseeded chilli, and two garlic cloves in butter and olive oil until soft. I added a good glug of white wine and the juice of half a lemon, seasoned well and added a touch of agave to just take the edge off the lemon.
My daughter made tagliatelle using three eggs, pasta flour, olive oil and a touch of water. She rolled the sheets down to number two and let them dry out slightly by handing them over a towel rail (great improvisation). I think this stage is quite important because it makes the pasta – especially the thinner pasta – go through the cutter better. In the event it cut into strips beautifully and didn’t stick together. The end result was easily as good as any bought pasta I have had.
With a dash of Parmesan on top we had a great farewell meal. Certainly half-decent restaurant standard, definitely not award-winning, but memorably Ours.