Cooking to the clock - not for me. I can rarely put a meal on the table at the time I've estimated to allow everyone else to get on with other things. All these challenges - Masterchef, BakeOff - where you have to produce your finest in a set amount of time? Putting aside the fact that I don't generally watch them and don't really approve of them, I could NEVER do that. I'd be completely rubbish. May be that's why I don't approve. But I digress.
You'll remember, perhaps, my fling with Jamie Oliver and his 30 Minute Meals? Definitely stressful, even if the dinner that resulted was rather delicious - and (here's the crux of it) NOT AN ENJOYABLE EXPERIENCE AT ALL. Flinging stuff around, feeling up against it. Cooking is something I genuinely use to relax. It sounds so trite, but all that chopping, stirring, tasting - I love it. But the more time pressure there is on me to get food on the table, the less I enjoy it.
I have, in fact, been feeling very much up against it recently in various elements of life. Combine that with my ridiculous need to cook proper food for the kids (and the Husband, although he's away this week) every night, relaxation or not, and it's not a happy picture. In my last menu planning session, I turned, for inspiration, to Nigella Express. I haven't paid that much attention to Express apart from a rather fabulous cheesecake offering that's graced a number of our smarter occasions in the last few years. Pollo Alla Cacciatora caught my eye (it's on page 296 of my version), and onto the meal plan it went. When you're feeling under pressure, and Nigella says you can have "tea on the table from scratch in comfortably under half an hour" well - it's almost irresistible.
Of course, I had failed to have on hand some of the ingredients that meant the meal could in fact achieve that golden 30 minutes, and I added in some extras, but, as Nigella says, the fact that this is an old recipe "grants a certain amount of licence". Anyway, it was delicious. I'm sure the hunter would have approved. I hope Nigella would too. And it did only take a smidge longer than 30 mins...
Pollo Alla Cacciatora
1 fat clove of garlic, peeled & finely chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and quite finely chopped
100g pancetta cubes
1 sprig of rosemary, leaves only, finely chopped
500g chicken thigh fillets, cut into 3-4 pieces
salt & pepper
125ml red wine
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp sugar
6 chestnut mushrooms, sliced
1 x 400g cannellini beans
Add a slug of olive oil (about a tablespoon's worth) to a large frying pan, and add the chopped onions and garlic.
Sweat the onions gently for 5 mins or so then add the pancetta and rosemary and cook for another 5 minutes.
Add the chicken and sprinkle a couple of pinches of salt and grinds of pepper, then tip in the wine and bring it up to a bubble. Bubble for a couple of minutes then add the tomatoes, bay leaves and sugar.
Add the sliced mushrooms to the pan.
Turn down the heat and simmer for a good 20 minutes or so till the chicken is cooked.
Drain the cannellini beans and stir into the sauce. Leave for a couple of minutes to heat up