I haven’t cooked anything complicated in my kitchen or for this blog. But I’ve definitely made recipes that require me to use a pot, a pan, and sometimes maybe the oven tray—recipes that take an hour or more to prep and execute. Sure, they are simple recipes, but not all of them are quick to make. I’ve said before that sometimes I love making dishes that require me to transfer the food from one container to another, having something rest on the side, then bringing it back to whatever is simmering on the stove a few minutes later—my minuscule kitchen a mess by then, sometimes my bowls—big, medium, and small—all used up.
But when I picked up one of Nigel Slater’s most beloved books, Real Fast Food, I realized that maybe there was another kind of cook in me that I wanted to explore—the less ambitious kind, yet the faster, confident kind that still cares for quality of ingredients and complexity of flavor. Who doesn’t want to still cook well and eat delicious food when they’re lazy, busy, or tired?
When I searched for Slater on YouTube before buying this book and breaking my own vow not to spend another baht on cookbooks till at least March next year, I realized that this “cook who writes” is a master of simplicity. My mouth watered as I watched him in his home with plump tomatoes from his garden in his hands, telling us that he loves to cut the top of the tomatoes off, stuff them with goat cheese, drizzle in some olive oil, and put them in the oven for a few minutes. Sounds so easy, fast, clean, and crazy delicious. Then I saw another video of him making this super-simple stilton puffs that ignited an intense stilton craving in me.
What convinced me to buy the book was the way Slater elevates simple food not by telling you to add fancy ingredients to everyday ingredients, but by providing flavor combinations that you may not have thought of and by showing you that there’s much more potential in a can of tuna than you think. I also love that the recipes are designed for two people—perfect for someone who mostly eats alone like me.
But this sentence in the book intrigues me the most: “I cook in a relaxed way that would probably raise eyebrows with the house-proud or the more efficient of cooks.” Maybe in addition to becoming a confident and creative cook who can make complicated dishes for a big gathering, I should also think of aspiring to become a relaxed cook who’s adept at whipping up something quick and delicious when she’s lazy, busy, or tired. Because when we’re feeling one or all of those three things, we’re also usually very hungry.