‘Cooking is easy,’ people are forever telling me, usually with the authority of a papal edict. ‘It’s really quick.’ But is it?
I’ll tell you what the problem is. You glance at a “fabulous, four-ingredient recipe” in a duffers’ book and pop to the supermarket. Easy peasy. But then gas marks are introduced, along with exasperating buzz words such as “leave to simmer”, “garnish with”, and “add a splash of herb-infused vinegar to taste”. Is it just me, or does the project now look steeper than a Dutch staircase?
These cookbook blighters talk of paprika as though it’s a common household spice; as though twiddles of thyme are within easy reach; as though there ought to be saucepans in the kitchen. Tsk. There then follows a good deal of hand-wringing, which elicits subsidiary questions such as, ‘Does the curry house deliver?’
But this is ridiculous. If we pick up the phone again, we’re back to Gas Mark One. How hard can cooking really be? Despite the memory of an attempted lasagne lodging in my heart like a splinter, I stepped portentously into the kitchen.
Step 1: Don an apron – we’d hate to get sauce on those form-fitting tweeds. Step 2: Pour a pint of red wine. Step 3: Have the fire brigade on standby. Step 4: Don’t trust all this 11-min nonsense for pasta – whack it in for 15, just to be sure.
What do we need? Chicken breasts, red pesto, pine nuts, pasta and mushrooms – enough for three dinners. Oh, and olive oil. Buy a washed salad and a few cherry tomatoes if you’re feeling flush. Hold off on your second pint of red at this stage, though – there’s dangerous stuff with heat on the horizon.
Start boiling the pasta. Hello, we’re cooking! Roast the pine nuts in a pan (dry without oil) and put them in a bowl. Fry the chicken in a little oil for five minutes, add the mushrooms (ooh, they get smaller), and add red pesto. Drain the pasta, chuck the chicken delicacy on top and stir. Hey presto.
Ah, the pine nuts. They might be for the salad or they might not, I can’t remember. Doesn’t really matter – throw them in as well, they taste nice. Move over, Delia Smith, eh – with my minimalist approach, I might attempt a halloumi and grape salad at Easter.
I’ll leave you all with a final cooking tip: you can’t substitute pine nuts with pumpkin seeds. I got into trouble for that once..