Image via WikipediaVioletta has been a good friend ever since we first bought the house here.
She is a home economics teacher at the local college and, having grown up on a farm, what she doesn't know about what to eat and how to cook it isn't worth worrying about.
We meet up once a week for cooking sessions....the chaps drink beer on the balcony while we get down to a bottle of wine in the kitchen and we take it in turns to cook from our own repetoires.....I've learned a lot!
Apart from traditional Costa Rican food Violetta is also good at preparing something quick and tasty when coming home from work, a meal she can cook while sorting out the kids, the dogs, the housework and the endless stream of visitors.....
So....Violetta's lasagne.....qantities for four people, but not many measurements.
Use pre-cooked lasagne, or boil up the normal sort.
Poach two chicken breasts in water to cover. Don't use salt.
In the blender put a big bunch of leaf coriander, a big red sweet pepper, de-seeded and chopped, two large cloves of garlic and 250 ml - a small pot -of cream. Blend.
Remove cooked chicken breast and cut into chunks. Keep water.
Add the blender mixture to the water in the pan and whisk in one packet of cream of mushroom soup.....the normal type, nothing fancy with ceps or whatever.
Cook it until it thickens and then make up your lasagne.
Layer the pasta, the chicken and sauce and top with grated cheese.
I haven't used a packet soup for years and I suppose I could use just plain cornflour...but why be snobby?
And it works with fish and shellfish too.
I need godsends like this because England's cricketers are playing Australia for the Ashes and, thanks to the vagaries of time zones and people living in places where water goes down the plughole the wrong way round, commentary on the match starts at about five thirty in the afternoon so a meal has to be on the table at about eight o'clock...during the lunch interval in Australia......and be disposed of and washed up in forty minutes, ready for commentary on the next session.
I have been informed by Higher Authority that sandwiches are not acceptable, and that soup is also off the menu....as is a leftover balti reheated in the microwave.
Normal service is what is required.
Proper freshly cooked food to be eaten with proper utensils.
I entered a demurrer, claiming that all of the above have proved to be acceptable in other circumstances, but Higher Authority was having none of it.
I feel that suchlike sanctions would not have been imposed if England were playing South Africa...indeed, it would have been two chairs in front of the computer and a drip set up for intravenous orange juice mixed with Complan.... but as they're not, the hunt has been on for something I can make ahead and then dash to the kitchen between overs to shove in an oven, as anything involving grills and gas burners is out of the question.
And let nobody mention salad.
If there is anything for generating last minute work and a ton of washing up it is a proper salad.
I have pointed out that were we to install a Wifi modem I could get a new laptop and listen to the cricket anywhere in the house and garden...thus increasing productivity and permitting use of grills and gas burners.
Higher Authority has pointed wordlessly to advertisements for laptops - about twice the price they are in Europe - and has further indicated that as I was such a smart alec as to work out how to get a free proxy IP address...so that the BBC, who are providing commentary, believe my computer to be freezing its widgets off in that sceptred isle of mainland Britain instead of sunning itself in a banana republic in Central America...I can use that formidable brain power to producing Proper Food at a Proper Time.
So, I need twenty five recipes for things to be shoved in ovens to get me through the five days of five Test Matches.
I refuse to contemplate meals during the Twenty - Twenty matches or the One Day Internationals until closer to the time.
Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof for the moment, thank you, though I have severe doubts about the morrow taking thought of things of itself, and the problem will have to be faced in due course.
Rice as biryani and pilau...
Beans....with pork skins spiced with ground cloves and pepper...
Beans with smoked Bath Chap.
Flemish stew...beef with red wine, mustard, jam, juniper berries and cloves.
Brother in law's Australian Irish stew as made ...memorably.....in Costa Rica with beef, all sorts of unknown tubers like tiquisque, nampi and yucca (cassava), but cutting down considerably on the whole bottle of chilero sauce which is what made it memorable to all who sampled its red hot delights.
People still talk about it.....through the holes in their cheeks.
Violetta's 'lomo'...marinaded meat stuffed with rice, vegetables and hard boiled eggs.....
But that's not even half of what is needed!
Is it worth it, one asks? Could one not miss some minutes of play in order to grill some fish, or make a stir fry?
Yes it is and no, one could not.
First and foremost, the game is wonderful, combining physical skill with mental agility.
I have loved it since first being introduced to it at school.
It has its own folklore, its own life...and this is echoed in the commentary on Test Match Special on the BBC where journalists and ex players describe every ball that is played in the light of their own experience, pull each other's leg, eat cake donated by the worshipping fans of the programme....and indulge in gossip.
Test Match Special is the Womens' Institute for men.
It beats 'The Archers' into a cocked hat.
And I'm blowed if I'm going to miss one minute of it messing off to grill fish....I know that as soon as I turn my back a wicket will fall, or a catch will be dropped, or someone will spill the beans on what happened on the tour of India all those years ago...and I'll have missed it.
Luckily, Violetta is coming round tomorrow....with more good ideas for winning the Ashes.