Friday morning: changed the cooking plans - parsley pesto, almond and pecorino crackers - according to the news that Peter's shin injury was not, as we'd hoped, trifling. Somehow the infection, now being hit with strong antibiotics, has sent him into the deepest of blue moods, knocked his ordinarily unshakeable confidence askew and if I am to speak truthfully, I find it troubling. Fishing around in the cold depths of the freezer for poultry bones, deposited there after a recent spate of roasted chicken dinners and one rather wonderful self-congratulatory weekend of duck confit, I do what seems to come naturally when one of us - and it has to be said, usually me - is down: start on a large pot of stock, or bone broth as I keep seeing it referred to, a name I find myself quite liking. Some to be sipped by the window at lunch, relieved to know that at least the leg is okay, the rest to be used, as one does, throughout the weekend for mood-enhancing, medicinal cooking.
A pot of broth to play with counts as one of life's little joys. Healing, nourishing. Satisfyingly frugal.
Braised vegetables surely must count as another of life's little joys. It was Nadine Abensur who alerted me to braising as a method most suited to them. Baby carrots and fennel are two vegetables I almost always end up thinking of being favourites of mine because of the way she taught me to cook them; simmered gently in liquid, then finished off over a higher flame, to glaze and catch their edges. Larousse describes braising as a method of,
cooking food in a closed vessel with very little liquid at a low temperature and for a long time
I usually add more liquid and simmer, on the stovetop at least, at a slightly higher pace, but that's experience talking, and the older I get the more I believe that cooking well is all about developing intuition (and not thinking too hard - this part is vital). With a pot of bone broth and a cardboard box of beautiful winter vegetables to use, I braised wedges of fennel and thickly peeled celeriac for Friday night, with wide diagonal slices of leek and celery, a little de-sprouted garlic, a splosh each of mirin, apple cider vinegar and olive oil and enough broth to sit a little over halfway up the sides of the vegetables. Simmered 'til almost soft, lid off, and simmered again until most of the liquid evaporated. Haloumi, crisped in a cast iron pan on the woodstove, and lemon wedges on the side. Eaten at our dining table. Pale green and healing. Would have been gorgeous with vegetable stock, of course it would have been, but those bones and their gelatinous richness lifted it all somewhere higher.
Leftovers got stuffed into baked potatoes with a scrap of sour cream for Saturday. A salad of celery (Tod Davies loves a celery salad as, now, do I) and shredded red cabbage, with whey-pickled (oh, alright, lacto-fermented) ginger, tossed in the basic dressing Kathryn came up with for The Clever Cook. That dressing. So, so good.
The healing continues.