Earlier, I stumbled in from a trek in the rain, sans umbrella, to find the nearest post box (which, I will add, was about a half hour trip – do we just not need post boxes anymore these days? I bought a packet of stamps back in March and have only used two of them. It’s sad to think it’s a dying form of communication, I’m much more excited to receive a letter than an email, even if it is just a bill or a policy agreement). I was cold, bedraggled, and sporting some smeared, rain-splattered glasses. All I wanted was to curl up on Calum’s fantastically soft L-shaped sofa (and claim the much-coveted corner while he’s out at work) with a cup of tea and hot buttered toast, then rant about how much I agree with the donkey-carrot ideology – you can inspire yourself to get a job done if you’ve got a treat waiting at the other end – ‘As soon as I’m home, I will be warm, I can watch a film, I can eat some more of that amazing marmalade, ooh and a cup of tea, a big fat cup of tea…’ but I’m also well-aware that my last two blog posts have been about me eating a lot of bread products with jam and drinking tea so I will stop there (but will no doubt return to this topic soon).
Instead, I will focus on another favourite. My boyfriend, Calum and I have an excellent repertoire when it comes to our evening meals. One of the things that attracted me when we started dating was his love of seafood, a rare and precious find I assure you! We were on our bashful second date, and I was pretending to read the menu in Tampopo while desperately thinking of something witty to say, when Calum suggested we order a couple of starters to share – prawn tempura and pork dumplings. My heart jumped in shock. He likes prawns?! And pork?! After those few shared bites of prawn dipped in sweet chilli sauce, my crush had doubled and resorted me to incoherence.
Luckily I managed to regain some understandable speech, although it took me about a year, and when I visited him in Manchester we continued to bond over our shared love of eating. Calum is a ‘carbnivore’ – he loves meat and carbs. Curries with rice; barbecues laden with chicken, steaks, sausages accompanied by salty sweet potato chips; toad in the hole; roast lamb with roast potatoes and lashings of gravy; as long as those two food groups are on the plate he is content. This was epitomised by my birthday dinner a year ago. In the stifling warm haze of the restaurant and the abundant glow of wine, we shyly conversed as if we were back at Tampopo. The arrival of our food brought a momentary silence as we let our eyes feast upon our decadent platefuls, groaning in meat and golden chips. Calum’s excited exclamation of, ‘Oh yes!’ drew my eyes off my steak to look at his juicy stack of ribs, vast and grinning like a Cheshire cat, in imitation of his consumer’s own. He rubbed his hands together in anticipation, warning me he was not about to waste cutlery. The animal instinct was rearing inside him and shortly he was tearing off hunks of meat with his hands, barbecue sauce sticking to his fingers and lips, either wiped with a smeared napkin or licked away by an eager tongue.
Although we love meals at restaurants – a fond memory of watching him stuff a whole slice of Meatfeast pizza into his mouth on a romantic date to Pizza Hut comes to mind – we love cooking together. I still see our dinners as opportunities for gastronomic experimenting – what can we add to our repertoire this week? Each dinner is delicious and we head to the table with two plates piled with food (alarmingly I always manage to eat as much as he does, maybe more, should I be worried…).
Throughout the past two and a half years we have gained some consistent favourites. For example, gooey macaroni cheese with pancetta lardons baked under the grill until piping hot and bubbling, steak marinated in ginger, garlic and chilli then sliced up over steaming noodles drizzled in soy sauce and chopped spring onions, and of course, paella – or our version of it, packed with prawns, mussels and squid, sweet peppers and spicy chorizo sausage.
Tonight is time for experimentation. Calum has been having a love-affair with lamb for the past month, managing to consume two roasts in two weeks. Not that I would say no to roast, who would, but I love cooking new recipes and it’s probably time to shunt that stubborn roast lamb out of the flat with my shoulder.
Lamb is still on the menu (to keep him quiet) however, it is in a kebab form, marinated with a couple of shakes of cumin, two finely chopped cloves of garlic, some sprigs of dill, and the juice and zest of a lemon. As lamb is a young animal all the cuts should be tender, therefore we used diced leg meat and seared in a hot pan for about two minutes on each side, allowing the exposed meat to caramelise to a deep brown and the centres to remain juicy and lightly pink. Accompanying these are simply roasted new potatoes and vegetables, and creamy Greek yoghurt, seasoned with salt, dill and lemon juice.
Side by side we sit chomping the zingy lamb chunks, companionably eating a portion for four people. Once we’ve finished Calum slides a chocolate slathered Gü cheesecake from the fridge and cuts us large slabs. Comatose and chocolate-stained, we then collapse onto the sofa cradling our stomachs and groaning as we watch Jude Law coolly caper as a sniper in ‘Enemy at the Gates’. Cooking together, eating together, groaning quietly together. What could be more romantic?