Talking about cooking bores me. Cooking shows bore me. Cooking bores bore me. But, quietly, I like cooking. In world where personal peace eludes me, cooking delivers something akin to contentment. This is, I might add, cooking without agenda and without deadline. There’s no, ‘Oh God they’re arriving in 20 minutes which means the marinade won’t take’. It’s more that the mundane acts of picking bits of onion up off the floor, digging around in the cupboard for cumin, boiling the kettle for stock releases part of my brain and allows it to fly. To wander. Exercise doesn’t do this because I am pounding. Meditating just involves trying not to think (I know it is more nuanced than that but I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT) and, although I do much of my thinking in the bath, it is more processing stuff than just allowing the old grey matter to do what it will.
Cooking is a kind of focussed pottering in that there is a low-pressure end goal, you are in your house, you have a glass of something and maybe some music but really you are on a kind of pleasant autopilot. Chilli, vast salads, chicken stews; that kind of stuff.
So my brain takes a stroll, no one bothers me, the stress gets sluiced away in the dripping of olive oil and the slicing of celery and I am left with something delicious at the end of it. Something that doesn’t need analysing or discussing. Just some nice bowls of food that I feel absolutely no desire to ever Instagram.
- Beef mince (not too lean – don’t be a dick about this)
- Onions – one or two – chopped however you like it (I like it rough)
- Garlic – crush it, slice it or chuck it in whole because I read somewhere that this makes your breath smell less vile
- Cumin – don’t leave this out – it’s the thing that stops this being weird bolognese
- Hot chilli powder
- Plain flour – couple of large, level spoons I suppose
- Tomato puree – always seems to be half a tube whatever I’m making
- Two tins of chopped tomatoes (none of that ‘flavoured with herbs’ abomination)
- Beef stock (obviously I use cubes)
- Red wine
- Bay leaf
- Red kidney beans
- Creme fraiche (low fat is fine)
- Grated cheddar (low fat is not fine)
Cook the mince and onions till the first is brown and the latter are a bit see through. Add garlic, cumin, chilli powder: two teaspoons for hot to serve six but I always under-chilli and then add tabasco later. Sprinkle flour and stir. Add tomato puree and tinned tomatoes and red wine and bubble for a min then add stock and bay leaf. Now oregano but be stingy with it as it tends to take over; so not more than a teaspoonful. Here come the kidney beans. At some point you will presumably have salted and peppered. Now loosely cover and simmer super-gently for at least 40 minutes. You will think that it’s never going to thicken. It will – that’s the point of the flour. Dollop into bowls and add a teaspoon of creme fraiche and a handful of grated cheddar. Drink rest of red wine and have a very long bath with Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine.