Here's a question for you: if you had to go into a totally empty kitchen, save for appliances, and cook and serve a lunch for 4 people using only food and equipment that you'd brought with you, how many items would be on your packing list? Remember, you'd have to pack plates, glasses, knives, spices, oil, salt – everything you take for granted in your normal kitchen.
Well, I make it about 47. In fact, 48 if you count the can opener that we forgot. Oh no, actually 49 if you count that pesky second clove of garlic, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. Let's call it a round fifty then, shall we?
The reason why I can come up with such a precise figure is because this is exactly what we did on Sunday. We picked our friends up from the station, we packed everything that we'd need for lunch out of our current kitchen, and then we drove the 500 metres or so to our new house (as yet unoccupied) and made lunch for our friends there. So there you have it – the secret is out. The Cooksister has a new home!
Here's another little secret. In less than a week, I will have been blogging for a terrifying five years. In that time, I have blogged some restaurant meals and some meals cooked in other people's houses, but the vast majority of all the recipes you've seen on Cooksister have been cooked in this kitchen (no, there is no hidden pantry/scullery/trapdoor – that really is all the space I have):
An ancient fridge and a minature electric cooker. So little worktop space it's laughable, not helped by the fact that my spice collection is steadily colonising the available space! One tiny corner cupboard for groceries (hence the heaving shelves!!). Vegetables and pasta crammed into a teensy vegetable rack; one cupboard for plates; and one for pyrex & baking. And that's it!!
Now, having seen the kitchen that I have been too embarrassed to show you all these years, can you imagine how it feels for me to walk into the kitchen below and know that it's mine!
Let's see… we have granite worktops, LOADS of cupboards, a double eye-level oven, a convection microwave, a 5-plate gas hob with an extractor fan, a fridge/freezer, a separate freezer, a dishwasher and… a built-in coffee machine!! It's also HUGE by English standards. Whereas in the current kitchen, people have to sit on the stairs or loiter by the front door if they want to speak to me in the kitchen as there's no space for them to join me, I remarked on Sunday that "hey – there are FOUR people in the kitchen at once – and I can't touch any of them from where I'm standing!!" I keep thinking that I'm dreaming and that I will wake up and find it's all been a figment of my imagination.
And when I'm done enjoying myself cooking in the kitchem I stroll through the door next to the coffee machine to emerge into my new dining room:
I am in love.
So what does one make as an inaugural meal in this fabulous kitchen (bearing in mind the abovementioned feat of having to pack everything you need from your old kitchen)?? Would it be Chateaubriand? Maybe some caviar? A Grand Marinier soufflé?
Umm, no. It was spaghetti Bolognese with bread and a big green salad, of course, followed by a store-cupboard version of my caramelised nectarines and cherries dessert, using canned peach slices and glacé cherries with toasted almonds and whipped cream:
Which brings me to the title of the post. The Bolognese sauce was bubbling away on the stove. The pasta had just gone into the pot. The salad was made. I had sliced up the small foot-long baguette in preparation for making garlic bread when… I realised that I did not have any garlic. I tried to persuade Nick to go and fetch me another one from the old house, but seeing as he had already had to go back and fetch the can opener, no dice. What to do?? Casting a quick, panicky eye around the kitchen I saw the tube of tomato paste and a hunk of cheddar… and suddenly an idea took root: cheesy tomato bread. It went down so well that I think our guests will be specifically requesting it in future.
And remember – you don't have to wait for an emergency – just make some tonight!
TOMATO & CHEESE BREAD (1 small loaf)
1 small par-baked baguette (about a foot long)
2-3 Tbsp softened butter (or olive oil spread)
1 Tbsp concentrated tomato paste
3 Tbsp grated Cheddar cheese (or cheese of your choice)
black pepper to taste
1/2 tsp dried oregano
Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Slice the baguette carefully into 1.5 cm thick slices, being careful not to cut all the way through the bottom of each slice.
In a small bowl, mix together all the remaining ingredients to form a paste. Carefully spread a generous amount of the paste into each cut in the baguette, spreading any leftovers on top of the baguette.
Wrap the baguette in aluminium foil (shiny side in) and bake in the centre of the oven for about 10 minutes or until the butter has completely melted into the bread. Serve hot.
TIPS: If you do have leftover butter, it's delicious on baked potatoes or stirred into pasta, or you can top a hot, grilled steak with a blob.
This bread makes a great braai (BBQ) side dish too.