To those of you who have sent me lunch box ideas, thank you very much. Indeed, thanks to all of you who send recipes, thoughts, suggestions in. The thing is that I tend not to plan what I’m cooking, but more deal with what I’ve got to hand, so I’m a bit crap at actually going out and shopping for the recipes you have sent me, all of which sound delicious – Fred’s coronation partridge, Adam’s chicken with sherry and cream (must try asap, sounds right up my street), and Jack’s squirrel in breadcrumbs. Time will come when I’ll try these things (well, maybe not the squirrel).
I did, however, try one recipe given to me by a girl on my course, Eve, for Ackee and Salt fish. Apparently this is the quintessential Jamaican dish, and so I spent a frankly nightmarish hour in Tesco extra trying to rootle out these ingredients. If you’re familiar with French, or indeed Eastern European cookery, salt fish shouldn’t be too controversial a notion. The Russians eat the stuff as it comes, cardiac-arrestingly brackish and verging on the inedible, washed down with vodka. The French are rather more delicate with their morue – salt cod – gently poaching it in milk and herbs before mixing it with mashed potato to make a brandade.
The Jamaican method is somewhere in between the two, retaining the essence of the salt fish rather more than the French, but not erring into the ghoulish chewing on something that looks more like a giant’s crusty sock than something one would want to eat that the Russians go for. You boil the salt fish in water, drain, cool and remove skin and bone. Chop up some onions, chilli and tomatoes and soften in oil for ten minutes. Ackee is a fruit that comes in a tin, which looks somewhere in between cod’s roe and rooster’s testicles (if you have ever seen rooster’s testicles) but tastes rather better. Anyway, you drain this, chuck it in with the vegetables, simmer for 10 minutes with the fish and serve with rice. It was pretty good – I was pleasantly surprised – but with a blizzard blowing outside it just didn’t feel right. Maybe I’ll give it a proper write up when I give it proper attention. I fear I let it down, so wouldn’t want to pass this on.
Meantime, it’s about time I posted another lunchbox. Yesterday I sat hungry in a language class, ruminating over what I might have for lunch. The fridge at home was bare, and seeing as I only had half an hour for lunch, resigned myself to forking out £5 for a sandwich. Remembering, however, the half carton of chopped tomatoes in the fridge and the tin of butterbeans in the cupboard, I came upon the most frugal, quickest, yet most delicious of lunches. Soup is a great lunchbox fallback – improves when made ahead, and can be quite easily popped in the microwave.
Tomato and butterbean soup
200g good chopped tomatoes
1 tin of butter beans
Pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
Small handful of parsley, chopped
A little grated parmesan
Good olive oil
Salt, pepper and sugar
Heat a little oil in a saucepan. Pour in the tomatoes, drain the butterbeans and add to the pan with the chilli flakes if using. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Serve with a sprinkle of parsley, parmesan, and a drizzle of good olive oil.
PS – if you have a must-do recipe, take a picture of it and email it to me – firstname.lastname@example.org – and I’ll put it up, I promise.