Are we too keen on quick and easy?
The new crop of spring cookery books is out and as usual publishers seem to be convinced they’re onto a winner with titles featuring the words ‘quick’, ‘easy’ and ‘simple’. (‘Slimming World’s Extra Easy All-in-One’ must tick every box going.)
It’s the same with cookery mags and even estimable cookery sites such as this one have endless links for 'quick and easy' recipes of every type. The implication being that . . . well . . cooking is really a terrible drag, to be got through, like housework, as quickly as possible.
OK, there are some people who loathe cooking and - to my eternal bewilderment - prefer swabbing their work surfaces, but what are the rest of us saving time for? Ironically, it seems, to watch cookery programmes like Masterchef or Come Dine with Me where contestants take a lot more time and trouble making a meal than the viewers are prepared to.
Simon Hopkinson's Baked pappardelle with pancetta and porcini defers gratification by all of forty minutes - too long to wait?
Maybe we’re just too ambitious: overawed by the clever creations we see on telly we just give up. When I was brought up, my mother - not a great cook, admittedly - had a limited repertoire. Monday and Tuesday used up leftovers from the roast. There would be macaroni cheese another night (my favourite), mince another. If it was Friday we knew it would be fish - grilled plaice usually. It wasn’t too demanding because they were all familiar friends.
TV implies that every meal must be accompanied by a frenzy of chopping, sizzling and flipping but all many recipes need is 10 minutes preparation than an hour or so left to their own devices.
But the array of convenience foods you find in the average supermarket implies we’re not even prepared to do these simple tasks. Vegetables are peeled and cut up for us, cheese ready-grated, bread - of course - pre-sliced. That’s nothing new.
OK it’s not easy to rustle up a family meal night after night when you get home from work, but what’s wrong with cooking ahead for nights you know you’re going to be late? I used to use the freezer constantly when my kids were growing up. (Ed. Have you seen our make and freeze collection?)
And there’s no reason why the load should always fall on one family member. Once kids are older they can help out. Even reluctant cooks should have one speciality they’re prepared to cook once a week. A bit more fun than the cleaning the bathroom rota, surely?
Some dishes are naturally easier - like Nigel Slater's Grilled lamb with feta - and can be tackled by a novice cook.
If you live on your own it’s harder, I realise, but if when your friends come round you put them to work in the kitchen rather than shouldering the load of rustling up a meal single-handed then you don’t have to stick to recipes that can be cooked at speed. Cooking is companionable, as any Italian family will tell you.
So how do you manage juggling work and feeding the family? Do you enjoy spending time in the kitchen or are you a sucker for speedy recipes? Give the rest of us your tips!