Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Therapeutic Cooking

After many weeks of posting absolutely nothing on this blog I have today decided to get my a*se into gear and do some writing. On opening up the blog I found this part-written post dating from the beginning of April- the opening words sum up my reasons for not posting of late!

Work at the moment is a complete nightmare. I have been in the same job for nine years now ("time to move on", the voice in my head says - "yeah brilliant, pick a recession to come up with that idea voice!!" I reply) and I have never known it so busy (and irritating) - hence the absence of recent posts on here. So, last weekend (when I was not reading documents) I felt the need to cook. What I had in mind was some kind of cooking that was gentle and comforting. Something that bubbled and simmered and that needed the odd poke or stir every now and again - something, in short, that would counterbalance the frenetic pace of work. I originally thought of something like pasta e fagioli and so made a simmering, bubbling (tick) chicken stock on Saturday evening in readiness for the main event on Sunday. I also soaked several handfuls of dried Borlotti beans in water overnight. The beans had been picked up in a Co-op supermarket in a little town in Italy which I visited last autumn (the town you understand - even I am not deranged enough to travel that far specifically to visit a supermarket - well, not a Co-op one anyway). For some reason I took great pleasure in the fact that the beans had been bought whilst on holiday in Italy (tick) - that is my kind of holiday shopping.

The following day, after a busy morning and early afternoon out and about, I returned home to begin cooking. The afternoon did not get off to the best start when Manchester United came back from a goal down to beat Aston Villa 3-2 thereby leapfrogging my team Liverpool to the top of the Premier League - there is a reason why that team are called the Red Devils! (The previous sentences are about football, not cooking, in case anybody from overseas is confused).

Putting the football behind me, I headed for the kitchen for the usual survey of the fridge and storecupboard. My friend Louise had bought me three fat tomato and basil Italian sausages from her favourite Italian deli - Gazzano's in Clerkenwell - and so I decided to skin and crumble them and use them as the base of a sausage and bean stew - a dish that, for me, ticks all the boxes.

I set the beans to boil for an hour and, while they were cooking, I made a sofritto of onions, carrots and celery (see the favourite chicken soup posting earlier on this blog) to which, after about an hour of combining TV viewing and the odd stir (tick), I added the raw sausagemeat and cooked it for a further 15 minutes or so. I then added the cooked beans, a tin of chopped tomatoes and several ladles of the chicken stock. A further hour of simmering (tick), with the lid off the pan, and the addition of some black pepper and broken up penne pasta about 15 minutes from the end, resulted in a thick stew with a pronounced flavour of the (rather small amounts of) Italian sausage.

I served the stew with some sea salt, chopped basil and grated parmesan sprinkled over the top and let the flavours carry me away from the pressures of work and back to Tuscany.

The stew was even better the next day - which was fortunate given that it was Monday and time to head back to the office!

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