The Missing Ingredient: The Curious Role of Time in Food and Flavour by Jenny Linford, food writer (see? it’s a proper profession), is out in March and I can’t wait to read it. Amazon says it is ‘about what makes good food, and the first book to consider the intrinsic yet often forgotten role of time in creating the flavours and textures we love’.
Jenny Linford sounds like my kind of person - time is often the key recipe ingredient. I honestly don’t get what’s so fantastic about cooking a dish in the shortest possible time. The culprits are Jamie Oliver and his 47-second, or whatever, meals, but also all the recipe repositories, online and otherwise, boasting the three minutes – five ingredients (or the other way round) dishes.
I get it: home late, hungry and tired but cooking is one of the best ways to relax and unwind. Don’t go reducing veal demi-glace on a weeknight but don’t rush. Better eat something tasty at 9 than shovel in rubbish at 7. For instance, penne baked with leeks and mushrooms: and that’s about 10-15 minutes active preparation plus 40 minutes baking time during which you can take a bath. Or pork schnitzels – a bit more involved preparation but hammering down the meat furiously is a great stress release.
Fish on a weekday could be Thai style fish stir fry: use haddock, cod or hake. So it needs to marinade for half an hour, so what? You can load a wash in the machine in the meantime. Alternatively – load some mackerel fillets with olives and capers and bake, wrapped in bacon or pancetta.
A side to a fish dish? Fennel and orange salad for example. And if you’re not fearful of a little dicing and chopping, make a pot of easy ratatouille – the leftovers stored in a plastic container can be eaten the next day for lunch, even cold.
Tomatoes stuffed with breadcrumbs and cheese mix will be delightful with just some crusty bread. Or you could make a tomato Tatin – with shop bought puff pastry; just roast the tomato slices long enough to get rid of the sogginess.
Breakfast shouldn’t be rushed either – I know, I know: that’s easier said, but if you soak your oats overnight, coconut porridge will take only about three minutes to cook on the hob and even less in a microwave. Or you could try breakfast couscous – it is not only super-tasty, but it will also be ready by the time everyone has found their house keys and PE kits…