Store cupboard standbys

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Trust me to invite people over when we haven’t done the shopping this week.

We’ve got friends over for dinner tonight. What am I? A masochist?

Periodically at Montcocher, we decide to have an ‘eat the store cupboard’ week. This is a week when we try not to buy anything at all from the supermarket but instead clear out the fridge, freezer and store cupboard. Very sensible, then, to decide to have new friends over for the very first time at the end of such a week, when we’re practically down to dog biscuits and mustard. 

It’s not as if the house isn’t also looking like a pile of shite, after a long winter of woodburning. There is dog mud right round the sofa and cat mud on every bleeding surface (we had a major storm last night and the cats have trodden it in everywhere). So why do I add to my woes by having to whip up a three-course meal from stuff we just happen to have in?

Still, necessity is the mother of invention, they say, and I’m quite pleased with the menu I’ve managed to cobble together for tonight. 

* Vodka-tonics or a red pineau (all we’ve got in – all the Xmas booze is gone, most of it courtesy of just one of our guests). 

* Starter: meli-melo of lardons, roquefort, dates, cornichons, salad, chutney, celeri remoulade and crab apple jelly in a chilli dressing. This is a sure sign that we’ve run out of crisps. Also ham, smoked salmon, prawn crackers…

* Main course: Thai coconut chicken and chickpeas, marinated in garlic, black pepper and olive oil, with turmeric, nuoc nam and cinnamon. Fried rice with red pepper and onion. Steamed green beans. Frankly, it’s either that or spuds. Or the dead rabbit that’s in the freezer and which I don’t have time to defrost. Or pasta. Mostly, pasta. I can stretch the two fillets of chicken to four of us by using masses of chickpeas. 

* Dessert: red wine and vodka syllabub with cinnamon almond praline topping and lavender shortbread. Syllabub, along with sack posset, is becoming my go-to dessert these days, working on the dictum that even if the rest of the meal’s shite, a good dessert is all people will remember.

Actually, I think more people would make syllabubs if they knew just how easy they are – you just whip together generous quantities of cream, sugar and alcohol until it goes fluffy, spoon it into a glass, stick something in it like a cinnamon stick, a twist of lemon or a bay leaf (today it’s bayleaves on account of, I’ve GOT bayleaves) and leave it in a cool place overnight. The sugary creamy topping separates from the liquid base, and I’m serving it in some purple glasses that look kinda pretty.

I didn’t have any sherry, madeira or port to make it with, so I just used red wine and extra sugar, then added a bit of vodka. I also didn’t have quite enough cream to fill up the glasses, so I made some almond praline this morning to top them off, and I made the shortbread after lunch today – they all went very flat, so they’re more like biscotti really, which is probably better. 

* Coffee with pistachio halva. I knew that halva would come in handy at some point. I always buy it when Lidl gets it in, as it’s the only sweet thing the DH doesn’t like enough to raid the cupboard. Halva, like fruit cheese, lends a slight touch of exoticism to coffee, though – and it’s been one of my standbys since I was a student. 

Right, only hoovering, floor washing, dusting and cleaning the loo to do before they get here…



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