This nondescript, slightly dirty and tatty notebook has been with me since I was 18.
When I was 18 I was in a position to buy my own home with, the then, love of my life. We weren’t wealthy but the ’80s was Thatcher’s era and house buying was the thing to do. We both had jobs in the city after our A-levels and you could borrow 4 x your joint salary and the amazingly fabulous rate of 9.8% (!!!).
My mum was quite a pastry chef , she’d loved cake and pudding making and used the richest ingredients to produce the most delicious , stodgy homemade delights. She was also an excellent no-nonsense cook (and still makes the best roast potatoes known to man).
This grubby little book is basically filled with my fave tried and tested recipes that I’ve (mostly) made up myself over the years.
I’m a great one for cooking in the style of Ready Steady Cook (remember that show). Ainsley Harriott would have two contestants invent a dish from a small selection of ingredients that would be ready to serve in 30 minutes. My earlier years cooking was all about quick. My more mature cooking is still about speed but also about limiting the washing up. Mostly it’s about avoiding any waste and making use of everything in the fridge before it goes off.
You will often find me staring into the fridge at 6:30pm thinking “what can I make for dinner” and lifting out an aubergine and a pack of sausages before rushing to Google and typing ‘recipes using aubergine and sausage’. There’s usually plenty of ideas. I’ll then take those suggestions and tweak them into something of my own. I’ll use the recipe to learn a technique or pairing and then do my own thing.
Usually I just improvise and make it up as I go along and when Hubby says “you can make that again” , I have to assure him that I can’t because I didn’t write it down. I would however, be able to come up with something similar.
Occasionally I’ll make a recipe exactly per the page and I usually feel its lacking and make it again with a few ‘intuitive tweeks’ resulting in an improved dish on another occasion.
Once or twice there have been disasters.
The jam making that resulted in the saucepan being binned. No amount of chiselling or industrial tool would remove the baked on sugar/raspberry cement from the base. Then there was the chocolate banana muffins that didn’t rise and were like stones, which I then proceed to make into the base of a trifle (so as not to waste them) assuming the jelly would soften them up , only having to fish out the choc/banana stones and throw them out to the birds who proceeded to turn their nose up at them for 3 days before I gathered them up and threw them in the dustbin.
Anyway I thought it might be nice if every now and then I shared one of the recipes from my little brown book and you might like to try it or tweak it yourselves.
Two things I notice when flicking through it.
- Some of the early recipes are very basic/simple to make indeed
- there are A LOT of cheesecakes
So here we go. the very first recipe I transposed into my book, and one I probably haven’t made since me and my first love split, so maybe 30 years ago. I can’t even remember what it tastes like. Perhaps I’ll give it another outing. If you try it, let me know how it tastes and looks (photos welcome )
Stir Fried Kiwi Chicken
1lb boneless chicken breasts
2 tblsp crushed garlic
2 kiwi fruits
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cornflour
1 tblsp groundnut oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp chilli bean sauce
cut chicken into cubes and toss in the salt and cornfluor
heat the groundnut oil in a wok with the garlic.
Add the chicken and stir fry until cooked (about 5 mins depending on size of chunks)
Add chilli bean sauce, sugar and chopped kiwi – stir for 1 minute
Add sesame oil, stir and serve