It's 12.15pm. Time to put down my pen and go for lunch. Oh, all right, time to turn off the PC and go for lunch. It's the going for lunch bit that's important. I pause for a moment and feel sorry for all those poor sods whose lunch is a soggy sandwich and a packet of crisps at their desk.
I open the fridge. A loaf of semi-stale bread. Some mortadella that bears the unmistakable imprint of my daughter having got to it first. A tub of ricotta with blooms of mould here and there. The remains of a bit of Parmesan that's so hard it's almost impossible even to grate.
Right. OK. We can do better than that. Use your imagination. You're the cook. You'll think of something. But what's this? The remains of a packet of sausages. A couple of rashers of bacon. Something stirs at the back of my mind. Lunchtime on Ithaca. Mountains of pen-thin chips fried gold in olive oil and sewn with scraps of bacon and nuggets of nutty sausage. That'll do. The work of 15 or 20 minutes at most. Therapy really. All it needs is a green salad and an apple for pudding. Lunchtimes needn't be so bad, after all. Come to think of it, I could eat it all over again in the evening, too.
Now, where are the potatoes? There are some, aren't there?
Recipes serve four (solitary saddoes like me can just reduce the quantities).
Golden fried potatoes with bacon and sausages
500g chipolatas (or Italian luganica or Greek sausages)
400g pancetta (or unsmoked bacon), cut as thinly as possible
500ml olive oil
Salt and pepper
Cut the sausages into 5cm lengths, and grill or fry until brown and crunchy. Grill or fry the pancetta until nice and crisp. Cut the potatoes into thin chips (ie, french fry size).
Bring the oil to smoking temperature in a large pan, then throw in the chips and fry until golden and crisp. You may have to cook them in batches. When cooked, scoop out the chips and drain on kitchen towel. Mix in the bacon and sausage, and pile on to a large warm plate. Season and serve.
Cannellini bean and bacon soup
A lovely, gentle, comforting, easygoing stomach-soother. The secret is in mashing some of the cooked beans and stirring them back into the soup. This thickens the soup and lends it a creamy consistency. Turn it into a vegetarian dish by using vegetable stock and mushrooms instead of chicken stock and bacon.
200g dried cannellini beans (or three tins)
4 slices thick-cut smoked bacon (or pancetta)
120ml extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
1 litre chicken stock (or 500ml if using a tinned one)
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
If using dried beans, soak them overnight. Next day, bring a large pot of unsalted water to the boil, add the beans and boil until almost soft - around one to one and a half hours. Drain. If you are using tinned, there is no need for any of this. Just open the can and drain.
Cut the bacon into bits about half as thick as your little finger. Put half the oil into a saucepan, and over a gentle heat fry the the onion and celery until soft but not coloured. Add the beans and stock, bring to a simmer and cook until the beans are edibly soft. Meanwhile, fry the bacon until the fat runs out.
Once the beans are cooked, spoon out two tablespoonfuls of beans and about 200ml of liquid and whizz together in a blender or food processor (or put through a mouli) until you have a smooth, thick cream. Stir this back into the pot, along with the bacon and parsley, then season. When you serve up, dribble (not drizzle) the rest of the oil over the soup.
Beef skirt with anchovy, celery and caper dressing
You'll have to buy your skirt at a butcher's - it's far too cheap and interesting a cut to get a place in the supermarket cold cabinet. It's as tough as you might expect for the money, but it is twice as tasty as fillet and a tenth of the price. I also think it makes the best steak sarnie. Being cheap, naturally there is a little preparation, but seeing as this only involves bashing it with a mallet, it could even be viewed as therapy.
I've suggested a dressing just in case you want to doll it up a bit, but all it really needs is bread, mustard, salt and pepper. The dressing's not all that different from the one that went with the sardine and courgette dish the other week, but the addition of anchovies brings it into line with the meat.
For the dressing:
2 dssp capers (preferably salted)
2 anchovy fillets
Leaves from a head of celery
85ml extra-virgin olive oil
For the beef:
600g beef skirt
Salt and pepper
First make the dressing. Rinse the salt off the capers. Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor, and blitz until more or less smooth - it doesn't matter if there are a few lumps. Spread a thin layer of dressing on to the skirt when it is on the bread.
Cut the skirt into eight, then bash each piece with a tenderising mallet so that it flattens out. This helps to break down the connective tissue. It also makes the steaks go further. Heat a griddle pan until smoking (or a frying pan with just a little oil). Place the individual thin steaks in it - you will have to cook them in batches - and cook for a minute. Turn over and cook for another minute. Season and serve on a good, thick slice of bread slathered in mustard.