So a couple of weeks ago I learned that, apparently, most people, and even most people who cook and who like to cook, have a repertoire of nine meals that they then do on rotation. (I think that's actually seven 'mains' plus a further two 'lunches' for the weekend.) Which came as something of a shock, actually - while I'm aware of the notion of Sunday being roast beef, Monday roast chicken, Tuesday pizza or salad, and so on, I hadn't grasped that it was the usual state of affairs.
Anyway, as a result of this, I found myself wondering: if I had to choose nine meals, and only nine meals, to be the only foods for the rest of time, what would those nine be? It's certainly a toughie!
(Technically, I suppose you can have other foods when eating out/getting takeaway. Equally, technically, it should probably be the seven/two split I mentioned above. But I'm ignoring that!)
Anyway, in no particular order, here's my nine. For this afternoon, at least!
Okay, I said "in no particular order", but the truth is that this is #1 on the list. This was actually one of the first things I learned to cook, and is actually also one of the few things I couldn't put together while living in Yeovil, which merely added to the allure.
My original recipe was based around Dolmio's red and white lasagne sauces, and added onion, tomato and mushroom to the filling. I rather enjoyed it, but due to Lady Chocolat's anti-mushroom agenda it was first modified and then abandoned. I've since tried Jamie's version from his "Ministry of Food", which was good but wasn't better enough to justify the effort. My current version is Lorraine Pascale's from her "Home Cooking Made Easy". And, coincidentally, that's tonight's dinner.
To be honest, I could probably eat pizza every day, as it's almost a genre to itself rather than just a single meal. However, the version I cook has the dough courtesy of Paul Hollywood's "Bread", the sauce from the "Great British Bake-off Winter Collection", and a topping of pepperoni (the knig of pizza toppings), onion, green pepper, goat's cheese, and mozzerella. Which is probably slightly excessive, but I like it.
Scots are, of course, well known for our fusion food (chips and curry sauce being one of the earliest examples of the field), and so this combination of an Italian pasta dish with a Spanish spicy sausage is perfect for us.
Or something. It actually comes from "River Cottage Every Day", and has the two great advantages of being both dead quick and easy, and also very tasty. Which is a good combination to have!
Lamb Rogan Josh
Moving away from Italy entirely, we have my favourite curry. At present, I'm still using the curry paste from Pataks, though this may change at some point. Anyway, it's an easy meal to make, if not a quick one, and doesn't seem ever to go wrong, though it would, of course, depend on the quality of the meat.
One of the advantages of being on holiday is that I get to restock the freezer, and yesterday I started by cooking this for dinner. Yum!
No list of favourites would be complete without a roast, and if I've only got room for one then this is the one I choose. I typically roast the chicken with thyme and a lemon inserted into the cavity, and serve it with roast potatoes and roast carrots (though sometimes I do the carrots with orange juice, baked in a bag). It always makes those Sundays when I make it feel that bit better, though I then feel sorry for the rest of the days which don't get to have food of the same calibre.
Likewise, I couldn't not have a burger on the list, and while I've had some very nice lamb burgers and even some venison burgers, my favourite is the classic beef burger. I make these with ground Jacob's Cream Crackers (odd, I know, but it works), onion, parsley, garlic, and Worcestershire Sauce, bound together with egg. That said, I think I'm about to experiment with these, probably dropping the egg and crackers and trying a more classic "all beef" burger - apparently, burger technology has advanced in the past few years, and so one must keep up with the times!
Steak and Chips
Another classic, I usually do a sirloin (though ribeyes are also nice) seasoned with salt, pepper, and paprika, cooked to a medium level, and then serve with red pepper, red chilli, and creme fraiche. Oh, and a slice of lemon for squeezing - Jamie does like his lemon!
The chips are done in my deep fryer, cooked skins-on, and parboiled first. After a dozen attempts, I'm finally more or less happy I've cracked it!
Another quick and easy meal, but one that never fails to satisfy, the recipe for these was originally from Lorraine Pascale's "Fast, Fresh, and Easy Food", but has gradually migrated. I actually still use her condiments unchanged: soured cream with chives, cherry tomato salsa, and guacamole. But the spice mix varies each time, based on what I think of adding at the time.
And Finally... Chilli Con Carne
Shockingly, this almost didn't make it into the list: my first draft of this post had a different last entry. It wasn't until I realised I didn't have anything from the Hairy Bikers that I remembered that this should definitely be here. (I guess that's the problem with a list of just nine entries: there's always that horrible risk of forgetting something vital - you lose the path not taken.)
The recipe I use for this these days comes from the "Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight", though I replace the kidney beans with cannellini beans. This means that, in addition to being the best recipe I've found for chilli, it's also the healthiest. Another win-win!
And that's the list.
Well, for this afternoon, at least. Though it does mean missing out on prawns with spaghetti, on chicken fried rice, on meatballs, meatloaf, on Christmas dinner, haggis, all the wonders of Belgian cuisine...
No, it's too painful. I'll need to start over.
Anyway, that's my list. Anyone care to offer yours?