CBA Cooking 1

It occurred to me today while posting on another forum that I don’t really have regular dishes that I make, because one of the things I like most about cooking is the possibility for variety and tailoring what you eat to how you’re feeling. This week, for example, has been all about the asparagus and the role it can take in a fresh, cool but hearty salad. Asparagus and boiled egg on romaine, asparagus and feta in oregano-speckled scrambled eggs, asparagus, peach and goats’ cheese on a bed of sharp chard, rocket and sorrel. In January I would have told you without hesitation that all I planned to eat for the next month was casseroles and things with beans in. Two or three times a week I’d haul out my beloved orange ceramic Le Creuset casserole and absent-mindedly peel and dice swedes, carrots, onions and tatties and pop them in the oven with some cheap lamb, a pint of stock and a splosh of wine. Job done.

But throughout the year there are some things that I throw together when I haven’t been shopping or I can’t be arsed cooking – hence the title of the post. This will be the first in a series of posts about what I eat when I’m busy or tired or understocked or any combination. The first thing that comes to mind is papa wayk’u.

Papa wayk’u is, literally, boiled potatoes. Wayk’uy means ‘to cook’ in Quechua, but its Spanish equivalent is probably ‘cocer’ – to prepare something by boiling something in water. Papa wayk’u is what you eat in the Bolivian countryside to keep you going as a snack or a basic meal and it ranges from the basic to the delicious, when the potatoes have just been plucked from the ground and are boiled over a wood fire right there in the field. Eating an unpeeled potato is completely anathema, so although the potatoes are cooked in their skins one peels the papery peel off with one’s fingers before eating. They’re usually served with hard-boiled eggs and a simple onion salad, k’allu, which is made by slicing onions very thin, washing them in water several times to take away their sting, and combining them with chopped tomatoes, herbs and sometimes soft cheese.

In London I don’t have the patience to make k’allu or to peel the skins off with my fingers – although that is kind of fun – but I still have the habit of eating lovely floury boiled potatoes with my fingers as a snack. I boil an egg in the same pan and assemble odds and bits to go with them – a bit of tomato, an anchovy or two or some slices of hard, tangy sausage. If there’s salad then that goes on the plate too. Then I shake up a basic vinaigrette – 3 parts oil, one part good vinegar, optional squashed garlic clove/mustard/honey/soy sauce/salt – and pour it over the potatoes. Nothing enlivens a boiled potato like the silky tang of oil and good balsamic vinegar.

Then I scoff them up quick and get back to whatever I was doing :-).

Published in: on June 7, 2010 at 3:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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If You Go Down To The Woods Today

My housemate makes a lot of noise.  It’s her job.  Often I am lulled awake by the sound of scales being played on the French horn,  hymns on the piano, lovely Bach or the oddly charming farty sounds of the serpent.  But today in place of many of these came a series of excited monkey squeals. ‘Ooh, ooh, squee!’  she cried, ‘we found chicken-of-the-woods!’

Chicken-of-the-woods has tasty flesh and lives in trees.  So far, so avian.  However, it is a mushroom.  To be precise, Laetiporus sulphureus, an enormous deep yellow fungus that creeps along the shadowy crevices of  trees and drains them of their moisture until the tree eventually dies.  It tends to colonise patches of oak woodland and infest all the trees there.  Luckily, as infestations go, it’s one of the ones you can fry in garlic butter and have for lunch. (more…)