WTF is two months old today and I have learnt an awful lot in that time, an awful lot about how easy it can be to eat well every day and how a little bit of planning can turn a chore into a pleasure. Last night, for example, I was very late home from work and the local supermarket was shut. I sat on the tube wondering if I had anything fresh in the fridge and then I remembered that I had an as yet untouched crop of rocket and Little Gem lettuce on my terrace. With some caramelised onion à la Delia, a bit of goat’s cheese and a pair of scissors, I turned the leaves into a really good salad without any shopping.
The benefits of growing something for myself, though not technically connected to this website, have been my first lesson. I am not one of life’s gardeners, and most plants die in my care (or lack of it) but I was determined to try and grow something this year in my little bit of outdoor space. So far I have thyme, rocket and mint, some nascent tomatoes and radishes, a few lettuces and some sorrel. The coriander has already died but for once that’s because my cats have rather, er, taken to it. And, god, what a revelation it is to have fresh herbs within reach. It’s cheaper and it means even the simplest of food, like a salad or an omelette, can be made a bit more exciting with the addition of a handful of basil or some thyme leaves.
That’s lesson number one. Lesson number two is that by learning to make a sauce, or a chutney, not only do I save money by turning the contents of my fridge and cupboards (eggs, cheese, pasta) into something yummy with very little expense but also I am less likely to wonder what the… to eat every time I head home. Adding chilli jam and a handful of rocket to bread and cheese, a spoonful of salsa verde and tapenade to meat and fish or some homemade herb pesto to gnocchi is dead easy and the sauces usually take ten or twenty minutes to make and cost a lot less than the shop equivalents.
Lesson number three is less is definitely more. I never thought that chicken cooked without oil could taste so delicious but chicken confit is now a regular in my kitchen and I can’t wait to try the fish equivalent on some guests, to see if they love it as much as me. Also, the more I cook for this, the more I realise that the best solutions for after-work food are the simplest; letting go of the very British meat and two-veg notion, or even the idea that you need meat or fish for an evening meal makes life a lot easier. One-pot dishes, salads, meals that are constructed around a couple of ingredients are faster but also much easier to remember, to shop for and therefore to add to a repertoire.
Lesson number four is that updating a website five days a week is really hard work but brilliant fun and I’m determined to keep going. Thank heavens the cats wake me at 5.30…
Anyway, enough of this. Here’s today’s recipe which I think would make a great sandwich filling too.
Caramelised onion, rocket and goat’s cheese salad
For each person you will need:
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
olive oil, a couple of tablespoons (about 30ml)
brown sugar, a teaspoon
sea salt and black pepper
onions, 2 small red or white (or a mixture of red and white)
balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon
rocket, a large handful
lettuce leaves (I used a head of Little Gem), a large handful
mild, soft goat’s cheese, 50g
fresh thyme, a sprig or two
1. Rinse the lettuce and rocket leaves and leave to drain.
2. Peel and chop the onions and take the thyme leaves off the stalk.
3. Heat the olive oil in a pan with a lid and then add the chopped onions. Cover and cook for about five minutes to soften then add the sugar, 2 teaspoons of water and the thyme. Cover again and cook over a low heat for about 20-30 minutes.
4. When the onions are done, add the vinegar, stir and leave to one side to cool slightly.
5. Meanwhile put the lettuce and rocket on a plate, then cut the goat’s cheese into thin slices and add to the salad.
6. When the onions are just warm or cool, add them to the salad either on top of the cheese or in the middle and use the onion juices as a dressing.