For the past wee while I’ve been daring to cook with the kitchen door open. This may not seem a big deal to you, but as Edinburgh winters tend to be of the cold, low, steel-sky variety, punctuated by not infrequent temper tantrums of bracing, leaf swirling wind, door propping in March is of note.
I do open it out on occasion, despite howling , tree-bending gales, and still, stubborn mizzle (our word for the Very British combination of mist and drizzle), but this is mainly due to my habit of leaving the grill unattended: our smoke alarm gets a workout, and our neighbours possibly wish we were paleo.
Andrew and I are probably the only people around who eschew the fripperies of a toaster, preferring to toast bread under an oven grill/broiler – with the added thrill of cheating the smoke alarm. But still, it is an excuse for fresh air, and spying on the birds coming down for the little treats I leave. Not burnt bread, you understand.
I had the door open whilst making up this colourful, easy supper dish a a couple of weeks ago. The pasta was roaring away in salted boiling water, and the oven was exhaling the last of its heat – post-squash and flower sprout roasting – when I spied my two favourite visitors, a pair of crows. Walking around rather imperiously, these two were pecking the drive for seeds I had left. What surprised me was – and this is why crows are just about my favourite birds – one had a scrap of sturdy paper and was using it as a shovel to push the tiny sesame and millet seeds into a pile for both coal-black birds to better enjoy. I was utterly enchanted.
I love having the company of others while I cook – but not human company; or not often. With humans you need to tidy as you go, keep up a steady flow of lucid, polite conversation (i.e. not swearing as you slice your finger yet again on your adults-only, Zwilling chef’s knife), share your wine, and not stop every five seconds to snap a picture. Fellow bloggers will know what I mean. 🙂
No, I prefer my cat sleeping companionably nearby on ‘his’ Lloyd Loom chair, or seeing the blue tits, blackbirds and crows peck around on the drive for tidbits, with the occasional heron on the neighbour’s roof, spying on the fish in her meshed – but still tempting – pond. I also keep an eye out for bees that need reviving (I am a bee whisperer). Radio is okay, but the chatter of birds and the sound of the breeze in the trees is quite enough company for me.
What or who do you like to keep you company while you cook? Do you use a grill instead of a toaster (please, someone else tell me they do too!)
Black Bean, Flower Sprout and Squash Pasta
I have used brown rice noodles but I also like black bean pasta (roasted cauliflower and white beans would be good here), quinoa pasta and good old durum wheat pasta too. Use what you like and in the amounts that suit you. Same goes for the veg. I like to stir in the torn mozzarella balls so that they melt into the pasta but use homemade cashew ricotta or a bought vegan cheese if you like.
This is more of an assembly job than recipe, so don’t take too much care fussing with precise measurements. xx
150g pasta of choice
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided use + extra for serving if you like (smoked olive oil is great for a finishing touch)
200g flower sprouts, ends nipped off and halved lengthways if large OR broccoli florets and stem
1/2 small-medium butternut squash or other winter squash, peeled and cubed
200g cooked, rinsed black beans OR any other beans you fancy
50g pumpkin seeds
1 red chilli
Handful of basil leaves
6-9 mozzarella pearls (very small balls) – two for each person
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F.
2. Toss the kale flowers or broccoli in 1 tablespoon of the oil and lay on a baking tray. Do the same with the squash cubes and lay on a separate tray. Pop the squash in the heated oven and bake for 25 minutes; add the tray of flower sprouts when there is 15 minutes remaining. When there are eight minutes remaining, scoot the squash over a bit to give a little room then sprinkle the pumpkin seeds onto the tray.
3. While the vegetables are nearly finished roasting, boil the pasta and, in a separate small pan, heat the black beans through, adding a little oil if necessary. Shred the basil, halve the lime and chop the chilli.
4. Drain the pasta – saving a little pasta water – pop it back into the pan, tear in the mozzarella and add in all of the ingredients plus 2 tablespoons of hot cooking water, giving it all a good squoosh of lime juice to brighten the flavours. Season as you wish and eat immediately.