Thursday, 3 September 2009

Rice, spinach, bacon and onion

Some meals are carefully planned in advance, shopping lists written, ingredients bought, anticipated before and lingered over afterwards. Other times things - work, seeing friends, studying, boring domestic chores - get in the way and you have to feed yourself from what you have already languishing in the fridge.

Not that this is a worse way to feed yourself. I think one of the most important aspects of cooking is learning how to make a meal from what you have, rather than being only being able to follow a recipe and having to go to the shop if you're missing an ingredient. When you cook from what you have to hand you experiment, try things you wouldn't otherwise, and discover new combinations. It's cooking off piste, maybe scarier to begin with but ultimately much more satisfying.

I find it helps that I tend to cook like this for myself or maybe one other person. Cooking alone I don't feel the pressure to come up with something with a wide appeal, I can make some variation on fried vegetables with fish sauce again, or whatever suits my mood. (However, I don't understand why everyone doesn't love fried cabbage, especially with chilli, garlic and fish sauce. Their loss, I suppose.)

This concoction was the result of what I could find in the fridge and that fact that I had some spinach that needed using up. I was particularly pleased by the colour combination here: the bronzed pink of the lardons, the green of the spinach and the violet of the onions. All quantities are, as ever, approximate - use what looks right to you, or what you happen to have to hand. If I'd had either I might have added a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts or a poached egg

100g chopped smoked bacon or lardons
olive oil
1 red onion
1 small bag of washed baby spinach - about two large handfuls

Fry the lardons in a teaspoon of oil until they're browned then add a sliced red onion and turn the heat down. Leave it to soften, stirring every now and then and adding a drop of water if it looks like it might stick. When the onion is sweet and transluscent throw in the spinach and stir until it has wilted. Serve over rice with a teaspoon of butter stirred through it. Makes enough for one greedy person.

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