A carrier bag preceded Danny’s return from the post run this evening.
“I’ve got two East Anglian pork chops and a Finest sirloin steak. Both were on the CFC for a third of the normal price. So we could have steak and chips this evening.”
His smile was upbeat and encouraging.
I wavered. Hunched over a saucepan of puy lentils I was trying to pull round a new dish that I had started last night. Recently I’ve twigged that loads of our recipes use similar ingredients and although they work well I really needed to hack a different route through the culinary jungle. I was trying to make a low meat dish without tomatoes and sweet peppers
Way outside my comfort zone, I had teamed veal mince with loads of mushrooms, courgettes and Greek basil. I lifted the lid of the slow cooker in the morning and wanted to cry. Vegetables and a bit of mince suspended in unappetising gruel. Even though it tasted a whole lot better than it looked the sauce was thin and shrieked.
“Beware. I’m a budget dish.”
I fiddled around with the dish before I went to work. Danny waived a plaintive sideways thumb, neither up nor down.
During the day I scraped down the metal rails on a balcony, deep in the heart of the country and considered the new dish. If I drained off the gruel – no hanger appeal – I could simmer some puy lentils in this to add a bit more texture to the dish. The rest of the gruel could be dumped or frozen as a mushroomy stock. I had 250ml of cheese sauce left over from the cauliflower cheese that I’d made the night before. Mixing this in might pull everything round as it would add creaminess and body without using cream (moussaka and lasagne were nodding from the sidelines).
Danny had no notion of these desperate plans. He had spent a ragged day feeling like Oliver Twist with the prospect of gruel pie for supper.
So when he proffered his bargains, I rejected them. Explained that I was half way through cooking. That I had plans. Exciting ones. That I didn’t want to start a brand new supper. Secretly, I would have killed for a steak or a pork chop. But I hate wasting food and I just had to try and pull this dish around. I added the cheese sauce, a little lemon juice and some mushroom ketchup. The lentils were tasty and bridged the gap in the ingredients. His hunched shoulders had made me doubly determined to make the new dish sing.
It worked. D loved it.
“I can’t believe that you’ve turned this dish around.”
As it took some time, D is cooking for the next two nights. Tarragon pork chops tomorrow and seared sirloin steak on Friday. With all the trimmings.
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