I am a tired person these days. It's because I think about this blog a lot. I think about what I can do on it. I think about whether other people are thinking about it, loving it as much as I do. I stay up late writing stuff. I write stuff early in the morning. I'm not sure if it's the sort of thing you're supposed to admit, but it's true. When I finally go to bed at night, instead of relaxing into a powerful sleep, my silly brain is all "meeean now's my chance to brainstorm! Get it? I'm a brain! Time to plan a squillion smurfillion things...to stay awake and think. Hard." My kingdom for a more cooperative brain! (Or as some dry fellow once said, "if I only had a brain!") (Also I had a late night last night at a party for cool lady Kim's birthday. Double tiredness! But this was the good kind at least.)
Conversely, I'll often arrive at needing to make dinner, one of my favourite times of the day, and my brain'll be all "umm...there's cookbooks everywhere, and yet...I can't even?" However this week, despite not sleeping all that much and having a brain whittled down to a nub, I somehow managed to get some spontaneous inspiration happening. So I made sure I remembered what I did. I don't have the monopoly on tiredness, needing to eat and wanting something delicious all at the same time, and these two hasty dinners I made recently might work for you too.
Spicy Tomatoes and Chickpeas with Coconut Milk.
Fun because: three cans of stuff = dinner. And it takes all of seven minutes and costs hardly anything.
Pasta with Bacon, Pears, Pecans, Rocket
Fun because: you can change heaps of the ingredients for other things you have.
Spicy Chickpeas with Tomatoes and Coconut Milk
1 can tomatoes
1 can chickpeas
1 can coconut milk
1 teaspoon each of the following: cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cinnamon, nigella seeds...oh, whatever you like, really, but that's a good mix)
1 tablespoon chilli sauce
Optional - to garnish - plain yoghurt, coriander, more coriander seeds.
Disclosure: my canned tomatoes were the cherry kind, and my chickpeas were "brun" because I go in for fancy stuff like that, but the plainest of plain stuff will be great too.
Slice up the onion, and fry it in a little oil over a good fierce heat till browned. Tip in the drained chickpeas, the tomatoes (with their juice), the spices, and the chilli sauce and let it come to the boil. Simmer away, stirring, for a couple of minutes, then pour in as much coconut milk as you like, stir, and remove from the heat. Divide between two bowls, and top with whatever garnish you fancy.
We got delicious, quilt-sized garlic naans from Aaina (at 255 Cuba Street) and they were perfect for absorbing up this soupy spicy mess and making it feel like a feast. The mild coconut milk seeps into the spiced up tomatoes, the sturdy chickpeas give it some body - add a little chilli sauce and it's gonna rock your pants. It's vegan till you add the yoghurt - which isn't even necessary, you could just drizzle over whatever's clung to the coconut milk can - completely gluten free too.
Pasta with Bacon, Pears, Pecans and Rocket
This was inspired by a recipe of Al Brown's in the latest Cuisine magazine. I admit, I tried getting in touch with my deeply Germanic roots by making Spaetzle, a kind of pasta dish that I love but have only ever had made for me. The recipe didn't quite work for me...like the pasta ended up delicious but the dough was like the strongest adhesive and wouldn't go through the colander like it should and was a big complicated messy mess. I recommend you just use regular pasta.
100g streaky bacon, cut into small squares.
1 pear, cored and sliced.
Handful of rocket
Handful of pecans
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, and cook your pasta till...it's cooked. Meanwhile, heat up a little butter in a saucepan and fry your bacon till nearly crisp, then add the pear slices. Let them get a good amount of heat on each side so they colour up a bit, then tip it all onto a plate and cover with tinfoil to keep warm. Hot trick: tip it onto your plate so you get extra bacony-flavour goodness when it's all served up. In that same pan, quickly toast the pecans. Drain the pasta thoroughly, add it to the pan along with the bacon and the pears, stir it all together, and divide between two plates. Cover with rocket and thyme leaves and serve.
It's one of those dinners that might not look like much - almost like a bunch of different garnishes all piled on top of each other, masquerading as a proper meal. But hear me out. You've got the salty, butter-fried crisp bacon, the caramelised and juicily sweet pears, and toasty, softly crunchy pecans all twirled into your pasta. Cover it in a peppery tangle of rocket, both virtuous and visually sprucing and a few sprigs of thyme just because, and it's honestly tastebud magic right there.
Apart from how spectacularly excellent it tastes, it's also versatile as: use whatever pasta you like, for a start, or even something like leftover boiled potatoes that have been fried in butter. The bacon's optional, the pecans - they aren't always cheap - could be walnuts or almonds or even sunflower or pumpkin seeds. Rocket could be swapped for spinach or any other green stuff you fancy, the pear could be a green apple...see?
Despite my brain being like a crumbly old Ryvita, it has been a fantastic weekend - lurking with friends old and new, drinking tea and cider and vodka, making up ice cream, practicing cornrowing Tim's hair so he can look like Ron Swanson for Halloween (I'm going to be Elphabaaaa!) reading in the sun, admiring Snacks the goldfish, that kind of thing. The kind of weekend you wish it could be every weekend...
...it's also now time to get started on fulfilling the tasks on my List which I haven't really properly finalised yet (maybe I should add "finish list" to my list?)
Title via: there are literally zillions of awesome versions of The Lady Is A Tramp, but the most recent to take my fancy is a duet by Lady Gaga and Tony Bennet - am not a fan of her music or anything but she's incredible in this.
Wooden Shjips, Lazy Bones. Rather like it.
Not Fade Away - it owes more than a little to Bo Diddly with that rhythm, which is possibly why it's one of my favourites by the sadly shortlived (of both career and life) Buddy Holly.
Next time: I still have that idea for the pear sorbet sitting there, but as I ended up using one of the pear's in that pasta, it's looking less likely it'll be happening right away. However, I have made my first hummingbird cake - I haven't tasted it yet but all the ingredients sound amahzing on paper at least.