Cooking; Rough and Smoothed

Regular readers may know my love of food, typified by my Magical Listicle Tours and my sappy fiancée piece. It’s not all cakes and going to restaurants, though.

In keeping with my part lifestyle, part philosophy, part travel, part whatever, blog – today I want to give you some of the hints and tricks that keep me in fine form. There is no magic, here, just some particular tastes. Home cooked food is one of those things that belongs in everyone’s priority lists. The value of cooking your own food is incalculable. It can be great for fostering friendships and building loving relationships. So here are a few of my favourites, with links to where I got them, or how I developed them.

it’s important to remember when dealing with all these recipes to make them your own. If you really love garlic, multiply it. Got a sweet tooth, bang in more sugar. If you’ve got a craving for salt, by all means, don’t let me or the recipes stop you. You are the master of your own plate!


The link above goes to Smitten Kitchen, a wonderful food blog with tons of recipes. Here’s one I’ve made and which has become part of my repertoire. Shakshuka is amazing and all it takes is oil, onion, garlic, a tin of tomatoes, some spices (cumin and paprika), and eggs. The link above tells you a fuller method than this, and they suggest parsely and feta cheese to put on top. This dish was prepared minimally using the items listed above though and was delicious. Adding at least a teaspoon of sugar to the tomatoes is probably a good idea as tinned tomatoes sometimes lack that crucial pop.

It takes about 20 minutes. Definitely something for lovers or singles looking to impress their date by cooking. It is vegetarian but not vegan. The sauce itself is lovely though and I’m sure creative vegans can make it work.

Coq au Vin

Know what? I’m not going to sugarcoat this one with food photography. This dish is chicken and red wine. It’s amazing how a French name can make terrifying what is actually pretty pedestrian and essentially peasant food. This one is butter, shallots, garlic, bacon, thyme, mushrooms, wine, chicken stock, balsamic vinegar, chicken on the bone cut up into 8 pieces, parsley and black pepper.

But you know what it actually is? Chicken and wine. The other stuff is extra. The recipe they give in the above link is delicious and I recommend you follow it, but don’t sweat the parsley. It tastes great otherwise.

This is an example of one of those dishes which is within the grasp of everyone as it is just throwing stuff together in a pot in the vaguely right order. The only thing it really needs is time. (1hr)

The recipe calls for good wine, but I’m almost certain that’s a con. Save the good wine for drinking and just toss in a full-bodied Bulgarian merlot, or something red with undertones. No need to throw the baby away with the bath water.

This one is good for families, probably better for those with adult children instead of actual babies, but I don’t think cooked wine has much of an impact as far as alcohol goes. It won’t exactly get your kids half cut. In addition, also a great dish to impress that special someone on a special or normal night.

Romance has never been so easy. Chicken + Wine = Delicious.

My Tomato Sauce

So here’s something original. Before I begin, full credit goes to my mum for introducing this to me, my brother for giving me a couple pro-pointers, and the Edinburgh friends who gave me constructive feedback behind my back that all my cooking tastes the same. Believe me, if you could make something like this you’d probably also get obsessed. And so we begin.

– Tinned tomato, chopped or peeled depends on preference
– Salt and Pepper to taste
– Sugar, two teaspoons
– Oregano, probably a couple teaspoons.
– Cumin for earthiness, probably a teaspoon
– Paprika for fire, probably a teaspoon and a half
– Garlic, as much as you can bear, crushed.
– An onion, mid-sized chopped small is good.
– Vinegar, a few drops.
– Balsamic vinegar, a few fewer drops

You may have noticed that this is the least precise recipe in the world. Truth be told, this recipe has a history and needs to be learned and personalised. Sometimes you’ll eat with a spice addict, looking at you Kari, add a couple blasts of chilli powder. Some people don’t like garlic, and you’ll need to chop it smaller or take it out entirely. Some people can’t stand the earthiness of cumin so you need to use it sparingly.

The point is, I can’t tell the future. I tend to freepour all of the above ingredients from their powdered sachets, minus the garlic and onions which I chop then fry. It’s all to taste, because life is to taste.

Cleaning Up

I hate cleaning up, but sometimes it’s necessary. It’s good manners for the eater to clean up for the cook. So, this is an acknowledgements section to all the people who’ve given me their skills, and whom I could not attribute above. My dad for his mean omlettes, strongly advise everyone to learn omlettes as they are very quick, easy, and nutritious. My dear friend Cat for her butterfly chicken recipe, essentially you butterfly chicken (chop it along the middle and open it), cram it with cheese, then close it. Roisin for telling me some of the tips to veganise dishes (not veganised here as I don’t know all the ingredients). And my fiancée (with two e’s) who cooks at least half of the meals and smiles approvingly at the other half.