I am not good at planning ahead. Somehow, next week seems about as far as my thought processes will go (mention of business plans and ‘targets for next year’ send me into a vortex of panic) and I am afraid that this normally applies to food as well. As a result I rarely think about what we are going to have for supper until it is already about half an hour after we should have eaten it – really not good for the digestion….. On the flip side, this does mean that I have become master of the last minute meal.
Normally this is only relevant for whoever happens it be in residence and hungry on the night but, it has, on occasion, verged on a social disaster. The most memorable (and, I think, still my greatest triumph of last minute catering) was some years ago when we managed to forget that we had invited a slightly elderly, but extremely eminent, couple to dinner. Concealing, with some difficulty, the onrush of panic (they did ask if I was feeling alright…) I ushered them into the living room, thrust a bottle of wine, some glasses and some nuts at my partner-in-forgetful-crime and told him to keep them occupied for ten minutes. Trusting soul, he did what he was told – assuming that I was combing the telephone book for a suitable hostelry to which we could whisk them, or from which we could summon supplies. In fact, I was combing the fridge and the larder.
About twelve (well, maybe fifteen…) minutes later they were ushered in to slices of rye bread topped with watercress, sliced pear and Roquefort, toasted under the grill, followed by a cold fish platter (smoked trout [in the fridge], smoked mussels and oysters [from a tin], squid in its ink [also from a tin] and scallops – from the freezer – poached in white wine) with a rocket and spinach salad, followed by a dessert of banana, kiwi fruit and dates poached in brandy with lemon juice……. Eminent guests were delighted – partner-in-forgetful-crime was gobsmacked!!
The trick? A well stocked freezer, larder and fridge and a good panic control system!
However, on a more everyday note – and something that I expect many of you will already use – an all-in-one steamer can also do the trick. Last night’s supper, for example, consisted of four new potatoes, sliced quite thinly, a handful of mange tout, about eight leaves of chard, a large handful of samphire (a bit of treat, that), two fillets of cod from the freezer, two slices of lemon and some salt and pepper. From concept to consumption – fifteen minutes max. Michelin star rating? Around two stars, I’d say. Health rating? Excellent. Time lost from watering garden / watching telly / finishing unfinished article? Mere quarter of an hour. Here you go – try it……
4–6 new potatoes, depending on hunger levels, sliced thinly
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1–2 handful of mange tout or skinny French beans
2 large handfuls of chard, spinach or 6 leave of Cos lettuce, all chopped roughly
2 handfuls of samphire (this is not strictly necessary but did add delicious flavour)
3 fillets or steaks of cod, haddock, pollock, salmon or whatever other fish you fancy, fresh or frozen
2 slices of lemon
a little olive oil
Layer the potatoes in the bottom of the steamer and season generously. Steam briskly for five minutes or until they are nearly cooked.
Add the mange tout or beans, then the leaves and the samphire if you are using it.
Lay the fish fillets on top of the leaves, season again generously and lay the lemon slices on top of the fish.
Replace the lid on the steamer and continue to steam briskly for a further 5–7 minutes – depending on the thickness of the fish and whether it was fresh or frozen.
Scoop out of the steamer onto a plate, drizzle a little olive oil over the vegetables round the fish – and serve!
PS. I realise that I am probably not being quite fair to myself as I do occasionally think far enough ahead to soak beans (flageolets, butter beans, haricot beans) overnight to create those wonderful meat or vegetable based ‘pots’ which last for days and which never get boring as their flavours change as they mature….. But more of that anon – or you could have a quick look at some of the recipes in the meat and veggy sections of our FreeFrom Recipes Matter site.