Her and Me

Moussaka 009
Photo by Matt Russell, Styling by Kitty Coles

One of the strangest things about writing a cookbook is that when you cook from it, it is as if the person who wrote the recipes is someone else. And actually, they ARE someone else. The 'me' who wrote and adapted and tested the recipes in THE SECRET OF COOKING is a different person from the 'me' who now cooks from the book. My tastes and ideas about cooking change all the time. More to the point, so do the contents of my fridge.

I recently had the strange experience of cooking the Courgette (Zucchini) and Lemon Moussaka from my book. I say Moussaka but I am really playing fast and loose with the term because it contains no aubergine and no meat. But it's a very comforting and easy dish of roasted courgettes with slices of boiled potatoes and roasted fennel or onions (or both) with a lemony bechamel and basil and lots of Parmesan. It's a great thing to make when you are in the mood for lasagne but want something simpler (and/or gluten free if you use gf flour). Everyone seems to love eating it and it arrives out of the oven burnished and bubbling.

This time, I didn't have quite the right ingredients and I kept finding myself talking to the 'Her' who had written the book. 'She wants me to use whole milk but I only have semi-skimmed', I informed my son. 'I don't think she will like it'. And then: 'I wonder if She will mind if I roast a few tomatoes to use them up alongside the onions'.

It brought home to me how crazy it can be that we give the imagined judgement of recipe writers so much power and ourselves so little (even if we actually ARE the person who wrote the recipe). But we are the ones who are actually getting dinner on the table and we should give ourselves more credit for it even when - or especially when - we are improvising from ingredients which are not quite 'right', whatever that means.

P.S. the roasted tomatoes were a good addition. And the semi-skimmed bechamel was fine (though She is right - it's richer and nicer with whole). And it was still burnished and bubbling.