Thursday, July 05, 2007


I got myself a new cookery book the other day. It's called Just like mother used to make and it's by a guy called Tom Norrington-Davies. On the back are a couple of quotes from reviews, and the one from The Times says that "the recipes are simple to follow and comfortingly delicious to eat." Marvellous, thunked Mary. This is the book I need.

Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear.

I should have looked at the name, really. This book is written by a man, who has access to many varied London shops, and above all, can afford a dishwasher. This is speculation, of course, but if he washes all his own dishes I will be very surprised.

I'm on page 82 now and I am stunned with the amount of faffery this guy suggests. It's the sort of cooking that's probably fun a couple of times a week if you're the sort of person who enjoys cooking and gets a kick out of accomplishing a meal (and you have a dishwasher).

A particular area where Tom and I have fallen out is over the issue of soup. He describes several "comfort soups" which according to him are "low maintenance" and "great food for those times when we are under the weather." Under the weather, that's me, let's take a look. Tomato soup, great.

First, he wants me to peel and chop onions, garlic (actually this should be "bruised" whatever the hell that means), a leek, and some carrots. Washing-up count so far, at least one sharp knife and chopping board, and a bowl to put the chopped veg in, plus it's taken me four hours due to keeping needing to sit down, the odds are I've cut my fingers, and we've not even got to the recipe instructions yet. You're then meant to stand at the cooker for ten minutes "keeping an eye on" the veg while they sweat in a little oil in a covered saucepan (washing-up count: saucepan, lid, wooden spoon). Next, we add some sugar and some tinned tomatoes (tinned? Tom, I'm shocked, you mean I don't have to grow them myself?), whack the heat up, and stand at the cooker for at least five minutes, "stirring constantly". Add some water (he prefers stock but he can stick that up his jumper) and allow to simmer, uncovered, for about an hour, because I always wanted to turn my flat into a tomato-scented sauna. Finally, we chuck it through the blender (washing up count: one blender which he doesn't tell you must be washed before the soup sets on the blades - handwashing blenders is Not Good) and add milk, salt and faff to taste. Serve (washing up count: bowl, spoon, and he also wants nice fresh bread but we're just not going to go there).

Total washing-up: two bowls, one spoon, one wooden spoon, blender, saucepan and lid, sharp knife(s), chopping board(s), and I bet the work surfaces and cooker hob got splattered too.

Tom. Mate. If you ever feel really under the weather, here's what you do.

Get the bowl you intend to eat from, the spoon you intend to eat with, a tin-opener (I know you have one because of those tinned tomatoes) and a can of Heinz Cream of Tomato soup. Open the can and empty it into the bowl. Put the bowl into the microwave and nuke it for one minute. During this minute, assuming you recycle, peel the label off the can and rinse the can under the tap before chucking it in the appropriate bin. Rinse the tin-opener too and leave it on the draining board to air-dry. Get the soup from the microwave, stir it with the spoon, and then put it back in for another minute. Have a little sit-down. The microwave will beep but don't get excited, just in your own time get up and get the soup. The bowl will be hot, be careful. Give it another stir and eat. If it makes you feel better you can put a sprig of freshly plucked basil on top, or an artistic little swirl of cream.

Total washing-up: one bowl, one spoon.

I'm not even going to talk about what he expects me to do about mashed potatoes. Still, I have another 106 pages to read and hopefully there will be some genuinely simple and easy thing that I can serve up with microwave mash and instant gravy.

I don't want to be a domestic goddess, I just want simple easy food!


Carie @ Space for the Butterflies said...

I strongly suspect Tom did not wash up for his mother either; and she probably had a maid/dailyhelp who did it all for her. For soup I think there's a reason God invented (a) Heinz and (b) the Covent Garden Soup Co. Cooking which requires effort should be saved for fun things. Like cake.

PS (and at the risk of turning this into an overly long comment) have you tried rissotto? Chop onion (sorry), crush garlic, fry a little bit (but can happily be abandonned given the odd swirl of the wooden spoon), add rice, stock cube and boiling water, put lid on pan, and abandon over low heat for 5-10mins depending on your definition of low - dee-lish. Add chilli flakes or herbs at the rice stage for a variation.

Good luck with the rest of the book

Mary said...

Mmmm, cake. I love cake. I especially love the type of cake that involves creaming together butter and sugar - I can do that sat down with the bowl in my lap, and I can sample as much of it as I like :) I shall keep an eye out for this Covent Garden Soup Co stuff as well.

I don't think I've ever eaten rissotto, actually. I'll have to order it in a restaurant some time so I can get an idea of what it's supposed to be like. It sounds like the sort of thing that would work well as a Mary/Steve double-act.

On a reasonably good day I will happily attempt the chopping of an onion, it is kind of a necessity in many dishes. It was the "under the weather" bit that got me. When you feel crap and are a hair's breadth away from falling over it is no time to be waving knives and pans about.

Hey, I wonder if I could "chop" stuff by throwing it in the blender?

Oh, and make your comments as long as you like. God knows I do. Comments are fun :)

Anonymous said...

Best cookbook I've ever seen is the one my mum bought my brother when he moved out: "Student Grub" by Jan Arkless.

Cusp said...

We got that book from the library --- if you got yours from there too it may even be the same copy, as we're both in Suffolk [look for food splashes on p.34 ;-)].

There are lovely pictures that evoke all sorts of warm memories but, like you say, hardly labour saving.

When I was first ill I could barely reach the kitchen let alone do anything in it and yet all sorts of people kept telling me about how I needed home cooked nutritious food. Like you I chose the easiest option for me e.g. I existed on Heinz or Baxters soups and rice cakes.

Pass the book to your Mum and ask her if she'll make something she (supposedly !) uesd to make ;-)

The Goldfish said...

I was going to make the suggestion Peter made. Student cookbooks frequently work on the principle that you have very few pots, pans and utensils, and generally can't be arsed to do more than the bare minimum. As a result, they're pretty fatigue-friendly recipes.

Anonymous said...

"Hey, I wonder if I could "chop" stuff by throwing it in the blender?"

Sure you could! Much the easiest way, and no additional washing-up if you are going to need the blender anyway.

Mary said...

I have a student cookbook at Steve's house, and it is very handy. I think I was hoping that this one would be on similar lines but a bit less obsessed with curries, alcohol, and ZOMGhangover breakfasts. You're all right though, it's a very useful format.

The blender is also at Steve's. Mwahahahahaha.

Anonymous said...

risotto = rice with bits in for colour/texture/taste (in the stevie book o' recipes, anyway)
blender's still safe and sound. I've also finally found a fibreglasser of note to help play with the bodywork on your scooter.
in unrelated requests, does anyone know where you can buy *bigger* blender spinny-bits from?
/looks slightly innocent...

Mary said...

Stevie, I love you dearly, please do not put spinning blades on my scooter Thankyou.

Maggie said...

LOL Mary, I see you Ben-Hur like on your chariot (or are you too young and me too old?) hurtling through the shops scything off anyone who gets in your way at the knees!

I have to say I really recommend dishwashers. I wanted one for YEARS, but John kept saying he liked (???!!!) washing dishes.

But when we had the new boiler our mate Herby said a narrow one would fit under the boiler. And it does. And it makes life so much easier. John still gets his fill of washing up ;-) as we have some mugs and old china that shouldn't go through the dishwasher. But it's more like 5 minutes rather than half an hour.

When I win a million on the lottery I'll treat you to one. Truly, they are wonderful. Even John is glad we've got it now (about a hundred !s at this point - he's not a machine person)

Sorry, blathering, had a hard day.

All the best from Liverpool

Mary said...

Maggie, I fear you have identified precisely what Steven has in mind. Alas, I know my luck. I would get off the scooter to stand and reach for a tin of Heinz Tomato Soup and before you know it I'd have fallen over and cut my own head off.

I must be becoming a little bit domesticated - I have a desire to own household appliances.

Anonymous said...

Hello Mary! Ages since I've been able to comment, so back a bit ... I'm glad the DLA stuff is retreating into manageability.

As far as cooking goes - I go for student-style myself. Pasta and veg is quite good; you can boil them both in the same pan at the same time, then just drizzle some oil or butter or whatever over for a bit of flavour (or ketchup if you like it) and eat it out of the pan. Washing up count: one pan, one spoon. One knife if you actually bothered to cut the veg, but I usually wash that up while the pasta is boiling. You can exchange the pasta for rice and vary the vegetables. And there you have my diet; it's balanced, it's healthy, it's home cooked, and it's very very easy.

If you're feeling up to a bit more, chuck a tin of chopped tomatoes, a tin of chopped mushrooms and some olives in with your rice (really there should be some onion fried up first, but if you can't manage it's fine without) and put some cheddar cheese on top (you can get this pre-grated). This recipe started out as a more complicated family favourite but over the years I've cut several corners. Again, this can be eaten out of the pan, or if you make more, it's good cold. Just try not to burn the rice because cleaning burned rice off a pan is a bit of a bother.

Supermouse said...

/Real/ ME/CFS recipes:

Nuke sweetcorn, or frozen green beans, with a little butter, a little water and some cajun spices (optional). Serve with a tin of mackerel, sardines or even tinned ham.

Nuke sugar snap peas with a little water for about a minute and eat as a snack. Getting those five-a-day can be hard but this is quick and tasty.

Add frozen vegetables to cous cous with a spoon full of butter and a chicken stock cube. Add boiling water to cover. Stir and nuke for one minute. Leave to sit. If it's not done, add more water if needed, stir again and nuke some more.

For slightly better days when you can chop a handful of veg:

Roughly chop some fresh veg, dump a fresh mackerel on top, add almost any spices you like and bake at a medium heat until done. 'Italian' mackerel has italian seasoning, black pepper, a little lazy garlic and the veg are peppers and courgette and whatever else that doesn't take finicky preparation. Mackerel's very forgiving. You can use salmon instead.

Or add the chopped veg to some oil in a small casserole, add a teaspoon of mustard, half a stock cube and any herbs or spices that seem nice, drop a lump of meat on the top, put the lid on and bake for half an hour to an hour on high then as long as you like on low or 's'. You don't usually need added water. For some reason it tastes horrible in a slow cooker but great from an oven. It doesn't need onion - onion's 'difficult' to chop so I tend to throw in lumps of leek and some 'very easy' garlic or garlic paste instead.

I did use to boil chicken thighs to death with pasta and a stock cube, then chuck the thighs in the oven with honey on the top, add veg to the pasta and cook it down slowly to make a tasty glop to go with the chicken, but it can be too much for an MEish day because of stirring the pasta. Haut cuisine it isn't.