Recipes from food stylist Nicolas Ghirlando: Fish fingers to Friday nights.

Figment of the imagination


The sky was yellow, a Saharan dust covering London. A strange light and a weak red sun poking through. Perhaps this was a new and rather full-on marketing push for the new Bladerunner film, or maybe we are hurtling toward apocalypse now. I met a friend for supper that evening and the gloom meant we all scuttled indoors a little quicker than usual. We eat steak tartare, prepared tableside by a crisp black and white linen-ed and desiccated waiter then hurried back to our homes.

Summer is now well on it’s way to the other side of the world and autumn has properly pulled the duvet over us. Soon, the woolly hats and gloves will be on and we can be justified in not leaving the house until March.

It’s a strange feeling, the desire to go to bed at six in the evening and the sure mistake of the alarm going off at what seems like the middle of the night. The clocks will soon change, giving us a little more light in the early morning for about a week before we sink ankle deep into winter. I hope the farmers are grateful as we all finish our afternoons with night vision goggles on, stepping over the bodies of run-over school children.

There are still some green leaves clinging desperately onto the branches of the tree today as I look outside the sitting room window. Most of the other branches around are bare and I swear I just saw a pigeon with a scarf on. But as civilisation comes to an end around us and turnips are the only thing that will still grow, I still insist on serving a green salad at almost every meal. The children have a bowl of it tossed with mustardy vinaigrette to eat before I give them their supper. We don’t live in an American restaurant, it just keeps them quiet for a bit and they wolf it down. I should stop wearing a frilly apron and serving them bottomless mugs of coffee though.

This week saw me grate half a clove of garlic into my usual dressing. This is what is passing for excitement in our house at the moment. We are all pretty tired now, and half term hasn’t come soon enough. The children need a rest and we are grateful for the change of pace it brings. Although we now find ourselves, with unbelievable inconvenience, having to feed them three meals a day plus occasional snacks and seek out entertainment.

This Sunday morning though, the children let us sleep until quarter to nine before waking us up to complain of hunger. They then retired to their room to tidy their drawers for two hours, as if possessed by Mary Poppins. Ours was not to reason why, so I read the paper alone in peace while Bee read her book in bed drinking tea. Unsettling.

But by the time evenings come around and the children are in bed, supper sometimes seems a huge effort. It’s more often than not something I can throw into one pan and leave to do it’s thing, such as the hearty haricot and chorizo stew we had early in the week. or a tray of chipped sweet potato, sprinkled liberally with garam masala and chilli flakes, roasted in the oven with a couple of bream, olive oil, fat garlic cloves and cherry tomatoes that had started to explode in the heat.

One night, I found a bag of figs, now perfectly ripe (one overly so and destined for the bin), some very ripe Rocamadour goat’s cheese that you could smell from France and some slices of a sourdough loaf. A little honey, olive oil, salt and pepper and a pinch of fresh parsley was enough to satisfy the evening hunger. Simple, good ingredients made something far more than the some of their parts and figs, well they are practically the flavour of Christmas aren’t they?

This week:
Watched
: Finally getting around to Fargo season three. Perfectly wintery, and the Minnesota accent is so great.
Read: Still reading Middlemarch. And I fear I shall be for some time yet. Lincoln in the Bardo sits on my bedside table and the pile of books I want to read is growing longer than there are years left to read them.
Listened to: The Omen on Radio 4 iPlayer. A perfect example of an epic child’s tantrum.
Eat: Steak Tartare in 1980s Toremolinos, or rather La Barca, Lower Marsh. Methi chicken at Lahore Karahi in Tooting. Pakistani canteen food better than most, quick, friendly and a great place to top up the spice levels. They promise a “genuine spicy taste”, so you’d hope they deliver. And they do.

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