I love Nigel Slater. Not least because he's a good cook, not least because he's from the same neck of the woods as me and used to pass my childhood home on his school bus every day (according to his autobiography, Toast), but mainly because he cooks like I do and now he's got a programme all to his lovely self passing on all his brilliant tips.
He's not a slavishly follow a recipe man, just as I'm not that sort of woman. Who ever has all the ingredients to exactly follow a recipe? I don't and I'm sure most other people don't either. He cooks instinctively: What's in the garden? What's in the fridge? What's about to go off? What's just perfect for now? And then he wings it.
Tonight I wung it as usual. I was faced with a hungry man who wanted 'chicken, but tender' on a plate, and two equally hungry children, one of which has been clamouring for mashed potato for weeks. I ignored the latter (she hadn't been digging new steps in the garden) and I made up a chicken thing using a punnet of chicken thighs from (dratted) Tesco, the tail end of a chorizo from Narberth's glorious Spanish deli Ultracomeda, a couple of fabulous onions (proper boo-hooers these) and some nice maincrop spuds. Into the mix went some black olives and a jolly good glug of Taffy Apples cider, made in Wales and absolutely delicious (though it pains me to admit liking Welsh cider, being a Worcesetershire girl.) I remembered the lovely Nige and headed out into the garden for its contribution: A big handful of broadleaved thyme seemed to fit the bill.
I sizzled the chorizo, then added the chopped onions and cubed spuds. The thighs were already skinless and boneless so I snipped those into cubes with a pair of kitchen scissors (I find that much easier than using a knife) and added those to the pan. I then shared the Taffy Apples between the pan, the hungry husband and me (it was a 500 ml bottle), popped in the olives and the thyme and slapped on a lid. It was done, I decided, when the chicken was tender and the potatoes had gone soft and thickened the sauce a bit. I peppered it, but not salt as the chorizo is quite salty already.
While the chicken thing simmered I tackled a bowlful of mixed plums (Victoria, greengage, damson) that was slowly turning to honeyed mush. These I halved and tossed in a pan for a while with a tablespoon of butter and two of caster sugar. Result: thick, sweet, chunky plum sauce the colour of unicorns' eyes (which is a deep ruby red, by the way).
The chicken thing was lovely in bowls with steamed broccoli, the plums were beautiful as well as delicious with vanilla ice cream.
It was a simple, cheap, autumnal supper. I think the lovely Nigel would have been proud of me!