My (not so) little (not so) Paris Kitchen

The other night I was pleasantly marvelling over Rachel Khoo's ability to extract utility from every square centimetre of her genuinely small culinary space (you can’t spin a salad in there) when lovely wife piped up, suggesting that perhaps it had been selected using the magic of television in the same way as Jamies 30 Minute Meals and lets not even consider the cooking arena in Olivers Twist which only aired years after it was made and seemed like a bizarre Star Wars style prequel with Jamie as a young man living under a fluorescent arch

Rachel Khoo is this year’s revelation for me, cooking with delicious simplicity, just as Lorraine Pascal did last year apart from the frightening Sausage rolls big night out (she could have used sausage meat, bratwurst, nuremberger, even frankfurters but she chose Pepperami; it’s a bit of an animal but which bit ?)  These are so wrong but thanks for the 6 hour roast pork shoulder; which is our new Christmas dinner as it’s easy to cook whilst drinking. Both of them help erase the memory of the Purple Ronnie Miss Dahl horror.

Anyway I explained to lovely wife that Ms Khoo’s seems to be cooking in her own kitchen, as she instinctively knows where all the gear is hidden (every nook and cranny is accessorised) and who would choose to cook voluntarily in an upright dayglo coffin even if its in Paris ?

Her refreshing space restrictions make me feel like I’m cooking in this 

 [I don’t need matches to light my burners, I’ve got a clicky !!) and her cooking arena is a pleasant antidote to celebrity chef kitchen palaces with Victorian mansion scale kitchen gardens. Nigel Slater, Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson; fair play to all of them for what they’ve achieved but it’s hard for me to relate as my kitchen is thin, cluttered and full of children and the garden doesn’t have a pineapple pit or look like the Lost Gardens of Heligan. I’ve got a bit of scraggy thyme (all twig), a bay tree (invaluable for stock, any pulse cooked in pressure cooker, also meat sauces and stews), some Lemon Balm which I’ve never used (I would love some recipe suggestions) and a rosemary bush out front which I suspect is covered in dog wee.  She’s cooking simple, tasty, interesting food using average, assorted (and sometimes antique) utensils which is what most of us do and have in our kitchen. No uber-spanky six hob treble-ovens stuffed with copper pans and garnished with golden egg slicers, just a 2 gas ring, a box of matches and something which looks like a caravan oven.

She is extremely fortunate to live in Paris as the ingredients are majestic (although someone once said to me that Paris would be a fantastic city…..if only it wasn’t full of Parisiens) and the specialist shops abound; from chocolate to cheese I am almost licking the telly. How jealous I felt when she made fig and chicken liver salad and talked of gobbling the whole bag of figs on the way home; where can we get really good ripe figs ? I just don’t see them in this country. Or the Poulet de Landes  which I’d never heard of (and which was selected in preference to Poulet de Bresse) with which she made lavender honey lemon roast chicken.

Next week she’s doing lentil and goats cheese salad; I think goats cheese may be her elixir of flavour, what pancetta is to Jamie Oliver, as she seems to bung it in everything.

I couldn’t wait for next week so I made my own salad; Puy Lentil (500g), beetroot (5 small pre-cooked), roast red pepper (2 big ones from a jar), parsley (a small handful) and Spicy Bodega olives (1 tub), feta (100g) crumbled.

Cook the lentils to taste with a chopped onion and tomato. Whilst warm season with salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon Chop everything else to your liking and fold in, crumble the feta by hand (really satisfying but makes your fingers stink) and eat with both gusto and crusty white. I finely chopped and topped my portion(s) with the whole chilli and the jalapeno slices pulled out of the Spicy olives as a) the kids are still sensitive to chilli and b) I like the mouth surfing kick. I trawled my spice drawer/mess (needs organising) and dug up Za’atar so that went in as well.