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{14/01/2013}   Ready Steady Cook – how dinner worked out well

sweet potato, chorizo and tomato lasagneLast night I had an unexpected “Ill be round in a couple of hours” call from Chris.  I had been a bit lazy about food preparation and had decided pasta with tomatoes would pretty much be my dinner.  At the thought of a dinner guest, particularly one who views dinner without meat as merely being a starter, I took the Ready Steady Cook challenge.  It started with two thirds of a hoof-shape of chorizo, a sweet potato, a small tub of pancetta chunks and a packet of haloumi.  This is not the first time I have given myself such a challenge and, particularly last night, I love it!

I decided I would make a kind of lasagne cross aubergine/tomato/parmesan bake (melanzane alla parmigiana of sorts, if you want to sound flash!).  Basically, layers.  I used a recipe book to get an idea of cooking times and for bechamel sauce.  I even decided that I would make some lasagne sheets.  Oh, yes, I made the pasta.  And it didn’t actually take that long and wasn’t challenging.

Chris had bought a huge milk carton, far bigger than I usually have and more than I can usually use.  I also pretty much always have eggs in the house.  Likewise, tinned tomatoes, flour and onions.

So I made a tomato, pancetta, onion and garlic mix that I cooked down to an almost sticky sauce, bechamel sauce, sheets of lasagne (I have made them before but I was extraordinarily proud of myself for making it without planning to), roasted sweet potato slices (cooked largely in the oil from the slices of chorizo I had heated in the baking tray beforehand – also very puffed up about that genius idea!) and the chorizo.  I layered bechamel-pasta-tomato-sweet potato-chorizo-pasta-bechamel-tomato-sweet potato-chorizo-pasta-bechamel-haloumi.  Oh yes.  And it ended up tasting fantastic and not looking at all like something I’d done on the quick and just left in the oven for 40 minutes, removing it just as Chris arrived.

I enjoy cooking anyway but last night I had had no real interest in creating something interesting or beyond the realms of very quick and simple, then having an additional reason to cook a decent meal, ie Chris coming over, I got to it and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  It really didn’t seem to take long to prepare either, or maybe that was because I was enjoying myself so much.  I am thinking of doing the Ready Steady Cook style of dinner more regularly.  However, I do appreciate that I was lucky to have all the ingredients I needed once I had decided I wanted to do something like a lasagne.  It would, for example, have been very annoying if I then realised I had no eggs or not enough milk.

One of my new year resolutions is to waste less food and doing this kind of meal is a brilliant way of using things up and it also makes me feel like I have cooking skills beyond either following a recipe or doing something tried, tested and loved.  Unless I’m doing something like a pasta dish or a roast that I often make, I use recipes a fair bit.  Of course I alter them according to ingredients I have and like but largely I do follow recipes.  Going off recipe is fun, challenging and can (not always, I know!) result in a different and interesting meal.  Hurrah for haloumi on top of a lasagne (it loses a lot of its saltiness) though I would rather a vegetable that wasn’t sweet as the sweet potato did make it a little sweeter than I would like.  But, it was layered a treat (no slop!) and tasted great.

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