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Hungry ur no? Rustic chips! What's that all about?


Start with an old fashioned chip pan. You know the sort, a biggish saucepan with a wire basket. In it melt beef dripping up to about the half way mark. Set aside to solidify. This is the starting point of my boyhood culinary adventure. I'm about to describe a chip making process like no other.


Place the pan of fat on a high heat. Root around a big bag of spuds, (we're talking a proper big sack, there were 7 of us after all) for a couple of biggish ones. Wash off the mud, there was always mud, peel, then slice into something that resembles chips and let them drop while slicing straight into (actually onto) the not yet melted dripping. Wait ........ eventually you get single cooked chips. And boy were they great especially when topped with a deep fried egg or two and lagged with salt and pepper. Nowadays you get triple cooked, un-peeled, rustic chips, served in a chip basket with lo-salt and a sprinkling of NBC (non brewed condiment). Not real food.


With 5 ravenous boys and a very hard working dad my mum had to be a food hero. I never remember being hungry, underfed or eating food I didn't like (actually I wasn't too keen on the chewy bits in mum's stews). And leftovers didn't exist, neither did choice.

By the time my brothers and I were in our mid teens we could cook a great breakfast and any one of us could cook a full roast dinner for 7. Mum wasn't the best cook, her pasties often stuck, or fell apart but they were always gobbled right up and we loved them.


On and off I've taken my turn in the kitchen although for the last 23 years our food hero has been Tricia. However I do enjoy cooking and we are often found in the kitchen together. This evening we had fillets of fish cooked in white wine and seasoned with chilli flakes, salt and pepper. Served on a bed of roasted veg. Tricia obviously did the cooking while I watched with a vodka and orange aperitif in my hand. Equal division of labour I reckon.


I've always liked my food but just at the moment it's a challenge. My crappy chemo drugs provide me with a nasty taste in my mouth and a very slight background feeling of nausea. It's like that for about the first 4 days in the cycle. It doesn't stop me eating, it just spoils the enjoyment a bit.


Back in the day, BC, when I still ate meat I used to cook a mean steak. This was my method. Take one good quality steak about 20mm / 3/4 inch thick, whatever cut that takes your fancy, coat with a little oil, probably not olive oil, that's for drizzling over your tomatoes and mozzarella, sprinkle with salt and pepper and set aside. Get a heavy dry frying pan hot, we're not making 1960s chips here you just have to wait. When the pan is hot, hot, hot pop in your steak for three minutes. Open all doors and windows because it's going to get smoky. Then turn it over and do it again. Remove the steak from the heat and (good rule here) rest for as long as you cook it. In this case 6 minutes. Result, delicious.



Spending time creating in the kitchen can be satisfying, rewarding, calming but there's nothing better than creating Total Kitchen Chaos TKC (like KFC but without the cardboard) with your kids. We used to have great times making pizzas. I would make and roll out the base. The girls would do the rest. Always a barrel of laughs. Somewhere Lauren has a kids recipe book with the best tomato sauce recipe ever. I need it.

Last year I acquired (legitimately) two wood fired pizza ovens that were no longer used at the Eden Project. One for me and one for my brother Richard. I would have paid for them if they remembered to invoice me. Richard had to have one because he has a half Italian daughter-in-law and a good supply of fuel for me. I feel a garden, wood fired, pizza event, looming. You can't all come at once because Boris says so but I'll supply the hot, wood fired oven. You bring a pizza. What say you?

I now eat a very healthy meat free diet. I'm writing this feeling vaguely sick but clearly as far as I'm concerned, food still conquers all. (And I haven't even mentioned my cakes!)





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