Get better for 2019 is a column The Guardian has launched, with readers offering tips on how to get better at stuff – swimming, running, healthy eating – rather than taking up new things in 2019. Brilliant idea: so all of us let’s get better at cooking.
I’d like to improve at less than ordinary – for me – dishes; that means stocking up on sake, mirin, Shaoxin and trying not to drink them. I’d like to cook at least one Ottolenghi recipe for some elaborate, fancy dish, from start to finish and not from his new Ottolenghi: Simple cookbook. I’d like to make a proper, PROPER pad thai even if I need to translate original recipes from Lao. And I’d like to create wonderful salads that don’t feature cooked chicken.
I’ve got a bit of an Ottolenghi recipe under my belt already, which is the dressing for my roasted red pepper salad – try out the salad this week or at least just the dressing. Another one is the unbelievably gorgeous meringue roulade, but that is something not quite suited for austere January. Unless you have a celebration coming.
Arguably, my Thai style cinnamon noodles are pad Thai of sorts, being a/ stir fried noodles and b/ Thai style. But you know what I have in mind: the tofu plus shrimp combo, with tamarind, chili paste and the whole works. Watch this space.
And there are quite a few chickenless salads in my repertoire: chickpea salad with bacon for instance, or the lemongrass fish and samphire one. The latter is worth noting as it’s one of those things that make absolutely stunning starters for a dinner party – if anyone is having them in January.
Salads with fish seem awkward but it’s the best way to use smoked fish, mackerel for instance or Arbroath smokie, and such a good thing to eat. My smokie salad bowl is a vaguely Vietnamese mixture of raw veg and smoked fish over plain rice and it’s absolutely excellent. Or you could try the smoked mackerel and potato salad which can be served warm or cold.
January is traditionally miserable so improve your mood this week with indulgent French onion soup – and it will be sensible in calories if you don’t whack too much cheese and croutons into it. Or cook the lentils and chorizo casserole; make twice as much and freeze the surplus.
For those who want to bake, there are fancy blueberry muffins to try, with frozen blueberries of course. I had to buy fresh raspberries for my Christmas dessert and I’m still shell-shocked at their carbon footprint and their price.
Coming soon: completely astonishing Sicilian pistachio cookies, how to cook the best Mexican rice and rolled and stuffed lamb breast roast. Subscribe to the newsletter to make sure you don’t miss the new recipes! Happy New Year!