Just a disclaimer to start, cooking is not my strong point. Dinner party guests at my house have been forced to flee to the local Mexican takeaway when the fettucine bore a strong resemblance, and taste, to Glag Glue. I once tried to feed six people with one potato (in my defence it was a big potato). And the first time my then boyfriend (now husband) arrived at my flat for dinner he was greeted by smoke billowing from the front door, “it’s OK, the flames are out” I confidently assured him. Even in later years my cooking did little to improve, “remember when Mum caught the nachos on fire?” is an oft told tale by my children.
But look I’m making an effort to improve, really I am. I saw Gwyneth Paltrow on the Graham Norton Show this year and I was impressed. Firstly, she managed to make Irish comedian Jason Byrne blush when she offered to let him touch her arse and secondly she arrived with a large dish of vegetable paella which looked pretty good.
Now I had my doubts about an actress writing a cookbook – like she didn’t have enough going for her – looks, talent (even got an Oscar to prove it), married a rockstar and now she reckons she can cook! Where’s the justice?
But I did pop out and buy the cookbook, Notes from My Kitchen Table. I loved the stories accompanying her recipes and some of them looked simple enough so I decided I was going to give it a shot. Three days of earth mother type healthy cooking from scratch.
I started with the vegetable stock, throw a lot of vegies in a big pot of water, boil the bejesus out of it and viola flavoured water all ready for my vegetable paella (I told you I thought it looked good). I lost some time earlier in the week trying to find pimenton, OK so all you cooks know it is paprika, I figured it out eventually after trawling every food store in Port Macquarie. Then I had to track down fresh artichokes (who knew they didn’t just come in oil-filled jars?), little shocked by the price $2.49 each. Worked out to be ten bucks for each of us to have one artichoke. But I ploughed on, unfortunately I obviously didn’t leave the artichokes cooking long enough and I don’t think you are meant to eat the outer leaves, chewing through I did get a strong sense that I knew how cows felt chewing their cud. So the family vote – paella was good, ditch the artichokes. Since then I’ve replaced the fresh with the ones that come in the jar – sssshhh don’t tell Gywenth!! But one day I will learn how to cook the fresh ones!
Day two was the ten-hour chook and maple-dijon roasted winter vegetables, family were starting to get slightly impressed.
Day three was fish tacos – I buggered up the beer batter – but everyone gave it the thumbs up regardless.
Since then we’ve also tried the grilled salmon with home-made teriyaki sauce, which was particularly loved and Gwyneth has managed to convert us all to brussel sprouts with a bit of a fry up, splash of olive oil, bit of lemon and a dash of salt.
All in all I’ve figured Gwyneth probably has a bit more time and money than me (I know it comes as a surprise), she probably isn’t worrying about cleaning the house, washing the clothes and getting the school uniforms ironed while devoting three days to shopping, food prep, chopping, stirring, cooking and presenting with a flourish to the family and $2.49 artichokes probably aren’t a stretch.
However, it’s been fun trying new dishes and I find myself turning more and more frequently to her cookbook with it’s beautiful photos, lovely stories and recipes that are starting to become family staples in our nightly dinner.