Sunday, October 29, 2006


A weekend of monumental roasts, marking the official if not experiential onset of winter. And the almost final part of my kitchen is in place – the shelf, oh the fucking shelf – and so far bearing the weight of my dried herbs and spices. The bitter irony of it, of course, is that in the 5 or 6 weeks since my condiments have been stowed in a deep plastic container on top of the chest of drawers in the living room, I have barely had to make the treacherous trip across Lego, banana and plastic shopping items to get them. Bar the odd dried chilli I just haven’t needed them. The same was true for the week I had no fucking kitchen at all. We ate very well, roasts mainly.

This weekend was no exception. My single trip outside this house since I left the Office via the Green Man on Friday evening was to the airport shop for some meat and fish. It is best this way at the moment. A weighty chuck of cod fillet and a juicy-looking rolled- shoulder of Gloucestershire Old Spot came back home with me and I set about clearing the latest items on what seems to be an everlasting household to-do list. Cleaning fridges, rationalizing sheds, taking stock of your dry-store, spend more time with the kids, have more sex with the Wife, …, you know, that sort of thing.

The day disappeared before long, but this meal wasn’t going to take much time. I wanted a rich tomato stew to go with the fish so I sweated off the usuals in my casserole and then melted down a frozen lump of fish stock. It smelled fucking awesome, some chilli and garlic in there too. And once that had started to boil I tipped in the remains of a carton of passata that had been sitting in the fridge for the last 10 days. A handful of olives and left to simmer for half an hour or so. Meanwhile I sliced and scored the cod and fried it skin-side down on a hot, all-metal pan to crisp up before throwing it in the oven to roast with a handful of sliced fennel and some butter; put some rice on; and steamed some spinach and chard. A quick scrub of the mussels and into the stew with them for five minutes. Parsley to serve. Amazing.

And tonight, some of the tastiest pork I have ever had. It must have been one fucking happy pig, that’s for sure. I propped up the dark-flesh joint with a pile of peeled coxes, thyme, sage, garlic, smoked bacon, and a thick slice of orange; and rubbed lots of coarsely ground sea salt deep into the sharp cuts in the rind. In to the oven for a good hour and 15 minutes, carefully building up gravy in the pan by occasionally deglazing with some balsamic, water, and/or red wine.

The result, passed just once into a very thin roux made with cornfour and finished off with small cubes of ice cold unsalted butter, was as good as a gravy will get. No, of course it didn’t have the breadth of flavour that a good stock would deliver. But the taste and consistency were up there with the best of them. And the meat had turned out to be cooked perfectly, slightly rare in the centre but crispy on top. It was the best pork I remember eating, and helped along with some slow-roasted Jerusalem artichokes and fennel (done in butter with a little brown sugar towards the end) and some braised kale.

We gorged our fat faces on the plentiful meat and gravy. It was to witness gluttony, but happiness too. We are maxed out in terms of sleeplessness and trying to keep up with Hyperlife.

And the best part of this has been the lack of any Sundays in this room. I stood there n front of the last remaining folders of newsprint and plastic scattered redundantly across the dirty lino floor of my local shop, and I thought to myself: “no, I have had enough of this routine”. The nights are fair drawing in now, Christmas is in the air, and I have a pot of cinnamon-, star-anise-, orange- and clove-infused veg stock sitting on my stove about to chill down over night in preparation for a pumpkin soup. I smell the spirits.

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