This recipe first appeared on my Instagram account (for readers clutching this book in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, Instagram is a photograph-sharing network where people mostly show off their dinner and houses that are much larger and cleaner than mine). It was a rough night, in the middle of a tough week, embedded in a hellish year, and I wasn’t cooking.
Overwhelmed by life and sadness, I hadn’t been in my kitchen for days. I needed comfort, and nourishment, and I forced myself to the stove. This revelation may come as something of a surprise, but even I can’t cook sometimes. This did the trick – and you can use a handful of frozen veg in place of chopping anything, if you like.
SERVES 2-4 from 38p each
oil, for frying, 3p (97p/l, Asda)
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped, 4p (20p/bulb, Asda)
1 onion, roughly chopped, 5p (55p/1kg bag, Farm Stores at Asda)
A few handfuls of finely chopped or grated root veg (I like carrot, parsnip, spud, sweet potato – any root will do), 9p each, Asda
1 tsp paprika, 1p (80p/100g, Natco or KTC brand)
150g tofu or 2 white fish fillets, 60p (£1.40/349g,Asda)
1 x 400g tin of beans (baked, kidney, butter, cannellini, chickpeas – any beans), drained, 23p (25p/tin, Smartprice at Asda)
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes, 29p (29p/400g, Smartprice at Asda)
A fistful of kale or spinach, or 120g, 15p (£1.64/1.3kg frozen, Asda)
squeeze of lemon juice, 2p (39p/250ml, Asda)
a pinch of salt and a bit of cracked black pepper
Warm a little oil in a pan over low heat and cook the garlic and onion to soften. Stir, stir, slow and cathartic.
Add the finely chopped or grated root veg and stir some more, then add the paprika and stir in. The stirring is key. It is soothing. It is mindless, not mindful. Sod mindful. My mind is full enough. It is a minefield. Sometimes I want to stir some stuff and stare at my hands or into nothing.
Chuck in some chunks of tofu if you’re veggie/ vegan, or white or tinned fish if you aren’t. Tip in the beans. Whatever beans – add them for goodness. For laziness. For filling comfort . For making it stretch into an extra meal you won’t have to cook. Pour over the tomatoes. The cheaper ones are brilliantly sloppy and liquid and excellent for soups and stews.
Shred some kale in your hands. Rip it the heck up with all the stress and physicality you can muster. Go on. Tear it to shreds. Drop it in. Stir it through, breathe, and stir, and breathe.
Bring to the boil, like your fury, heat it up and watch it roar . . . then reduce it to a simmer. Douse in lemon juice to brighten, add some salt and pepper to amplify the flavours. Spoon it into a bowl.
Sit in your favourite spot.
Hug that bowl to yourself.
Enjoy every mouthful.
You did this.
You made this for yourself out of love.
You are nourishing yourself.
You are smart.
You are kind to yourself.