Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Nigella's mexican lasagne

I once read in a magazine - I forget which one now - a problem on the problem pages that went something like this:

Q. My husband refuses to pick his towel up off the bathroom floor. It drives me demented. How can I punish him?

A. Instead of wanting to punish him, why don't you think to yourself, as you pick the towel up off the bathroom floor, of all the nice things he does for you without you asking? It is little act of devotion like these that keep marriages going.

Here are some of the annoying things that my husband does:

- He doesn't pick up the bathmat off the bathroom floor
- He clears his throat in quite an annoying way
- He steals my car key because he can't be bothered to find his, then accuses me of having used, and lost his key (thus forcing him to use mine).
- He will turn to me and say "Shall I have a shower? Or not?"
- If the TV is on and he wants to say something, rather than finding the remote and pausing the programme he will shout "PAUSE!", which is my cue to find the remote (under his bum, usually) and pause the programme for him so he may deliver his opinion.
- He will suddenly decide that the house is a mess and pick things up randomly (an unopened letter, a pair of flip flops, a baby's toy) and say "What's the story with this? Should it be here?"
- He will walk into his own kitchen and wonder aloud where we keep the knives, forks, salt, pepper, plates and so on

Here are some of the annoying things that I do:

- I pick at my cuticles. Constantly.
- I clear my throat in a nice way. But I do it ALL the time
- I never open my post, particularly anything that looks financial
- I interrupt all the time.
- I give my husband death stares
- I am a sluttish washer-upper
- I call the baby "Kitty-Cookan-TIS"
- I sometimes only empty half of the dishwasher and then wander off to do something else and forget to unload the rest
- I throw money (his) at any problem
- I leave the area around the toaster a mess, attracting ants and wasps.
- I don't make the bed

Here are the nice things that my husband does for me:

- He doesn't make me go and get a job
- He does my tax
- He takes out all the bins and deals with the compost
- He sorts out the cars, the tax for the cars, the maintenence of the cars
- He doesn't make me see people I don't like
- He'll make any phonecall for me that I'm too scared to make
- He cleans all my hair out of the trap in the shower

Here are the nice things that I do for my husband:

- I hang up the bathmat
- I always make sure there is enough deodorant, shampoo, showergel etc in the bathroom
- Ditto for the kitchen
- Ditto stamps, birthday cards and wrapping paper
- I sort out dinner, pretty much every night
- I will fire anyone that he feels too guilty to fire
- I don't give him shit about going out and getting drunk
- I don't give him shit about his swearing or bad taste jokes
- I don't give him shit about doing more childcare

Whenever my husband has done something annoying and I feel enervated, I always run those lists through my head. It's what my marriage balances on, like a fat elephant on a plank of wood on a ballbearing. But a few years ago, I realised that my husband was NOT aware that there was this careful balancing act going on. He did not think, as he ignored my throat-clearing, cuticle-picking, death-staring grotesqueness, that he was simply keeping up his end of the bargain. He believed that he was bearing the brunt of marital irritation, while I sailed through life blithely un-irritated. One day, things exploded in a terrible row about me not making the bed.

I won't lie, there were tears.

Then I explained about the list. About the importance of acts of devotion. And he got it, more or less.

And that's why I'm always sorting out dinner; it's part of the deal. It's why I try to find new things to cook, rather than just doing a roast chicken or pasta over and over again. If it's going to be my area, I might as well having a big repertoire. It makes everything easier.

Which explains why I tried out this Mexican Lasagne, by Nigella. I thought it looked fun although like everything that used canned tomatoes, it ends up tasting a lot like canned tomatoes. But it's a good one to have up your sleeve to pull out when things are getting a bit samey.

This is not Nigella's exact recipe but it is close enough. The exact one can be sourced easily on the internet.

Mexican lasagne
Serves 4 hungry people, or 6 less hungry, with a salad

1 pack flour tortillas
2 cans chopped tomatoes
1 can sweetcorn
1 can black beans
2 red chillies
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
1 small bunch coriander
2 tsp mild chilli powder
1 red pepper, roughly chopped, or a jar of peppers in oil, chopped
two big handfuls cheese - manchengo, monteray jack or cheddar

Preheat oven to 180

1 Chop the onion, garlic, chillies and red peppers and sweat in a pan with some veg oil for about four minutes, then sprinkle over the chilli powder and cook for a further 10 minutes over a low flame. Then add the tomatoes and chopped coriander and simmer for about 10 minutes.

2 In a separate pan put the black beans and the sweetcorn, heat up and mix around.

3 Now layer the tomato sauce, bean mix, grated cheese and flour tortillas (2 per layer) to make up a lasagne. I'll leave you to decide the best way of doing it, but it's good to finish off with a layer of tortillas and then cheese for a bubbly brown top.

4 Bung in the oven for 30 minutes.

You can eat this with yoghurt or guacamole or any other Mexicany-type thing you can think of, while you ponder the secrets of martial bliss.

action shot


  1. You've just talked me down from a rant concerning leaving the dish cloth languishing in fetid water EVERYTIME the other half goes near the sink. Thanks for that. And the curry.

  2. Life is a compromise, all the way through. I'm sure you and Giles get on well enough. Kitty looks good, was she in her walker?

    Oddly, the word verification is - hating

  3. 1) Lasagne looks lovely- though will omit black beans as to me they taste like tobacco.

    2)Having someone to make phone calls you're too scared to make sounds like the best.thing.ever. I need to get myself someone like that.

    3)Giles has people he can fire? You get to fire people? So many questions...

    Love the blog- even all subscribed by email and eveything.

  4. I always love your brilliant blog, but I enjoyed this post PARTICULARLY!! So true, so funny. And I am SO delighted that someone else manages the birthday card admin in exchange for cuticle picking freedom! I must print this off so I can reference it in future arguments...

  5. I simply adore your writing. A lot.

  6. I forgive my husband almost anything for not making me work in an office anymore. He's officially God in our house for this reason.

  7. YES YES YES about lists and balancing acts. I don't take the bins out or deal with spiders. He doesn't have to remember when the towel in the downstairs loo was last washed or transfer the birthdays on the calendar from one year to the next. All about balance.

  8. I do this with my husband but in an unconscious way and haven't quite thought about it as a balancing elephant!

    BTW intrigued to know how can you be too scared to make a phone call and yet be able to fire people?

  9. My variant on this approach:
    whenever I am about to throw a strop because of my husband's inability to put the lid back on the storage baskets in the bathroom for example, I think well if he wasnt't here it wouldn't happen and I am glad he is here, so I will take a deep breath and not go bismarck....this time

  10. yet still you married each other... if you can get this far and always remember the list, you'll do well i'm sure... what's re assuring is that we all seem exactly the same... thank the lord!

  11. Think if I promise to be nicer and keep a tidier house I might convince my Native man to let me not go back to the office either? I'm LIKING this idea... but will need to be taught how to clean....

    Hilarious post as ever Esther

  12. This post is top quality.
    You know what it's all a massive game of give & take with a few tears shed along the way.
    But, tears are there so are mood swings,dictated by our peculiar womenly hormones.
    My son = stable
    My daughters= moody
    Lasagne = comfort food and shows you care x

  13. See, maybe I am a bit like Giles. In my mind I do all the good things and my partner just makes my life difficult. I'm glad you've written this post as it's made me stop to think... there must be something he's good at.. surely? ;-)

  14. Nigella used to be really quite subtle, in the How to Eat years, but then her people got her to wear fuchsia cashmere and a cone bra and it's been all Malibu and cream cheese ever since. Sigh.

    I though I should make my own list - apparently my boyfriend is a saint, apart from his inability to find anything if it's even in the slightest bit occluded by anything else. But the fact that I'm an utter cow if tired/hungry/cold might just balance that out.

  15. I had Just decided to make this for parental dinner this evening when your email arrived in my inbox - it is clearly a sign. Had it recently at a friend's and it was actually very tasty and felt healthy whilst not Too vegetabley.

    Following it with chocolate mousse (wanted a recipe for one with chilli in but couldn't find a decent looking one online, any recommendations?)

  16. I haven't got one to hand, but what you can do is replace normal cooking chocolate in any old mousse recipe with chilli chocolate - most posh chocolate brands do one these days


  17. This post is so very true! (I don't know about the Nigella thing; I've tried only one of her recipes!)

    It's all about being a team and playing to each member's strengths/weaknesses and likes/dislikes.

  18. Love this post. I've been getting pretty eggy about having to make the other half's lunch and doing all his washing recently, as well as cooking and cleaning etc,(we've just moved in together) so when I saw your post I thought, 'right, calm down, make a list'. ALL I can think of is how great I am and how rubbish he is. Help!
    Oh and I only recently found your blog - totally love it. Although, from posts I've read going back, I have no faith in your technical ability Esther, and didn't believe that the whole follow be email thing actually worked. But I now realise that you just don't write enough entries to satisfy my new addiction to your blog! x

  19. I love your lists - they made me realise that my husband and I actually have very similar ones - maybe that's the secret to our nearly 18 years of happy marriage.

    Top of my list is that he also hasn't made me go out and find a job (even though our children are almost grown ups now!) - top of his list is probably the fact that I can find just about anything that is "lost" by him or our 2 boys.

    Love your writting x

  20. I do love people who can see their own shortcomings as well as those of others! Mine is that I always pick the totally wrong moment to talk about stuff (eg: 6.30am to discuss why he hasn't made a decision on which fitted wardrobes to go for) and then get really annoyed when I get the wall of silence in return.

    Is it just me tho or has Nigella lost her touch? I think the comment about fuschia cashmere may be spot on. How to Eat was the high point for me. I shall try this tho and see as I do dinner in our house.

  21. But did it taste good? I'm always coming across this recipe and umming and aaahing over it...

  22. Hi Esther! Great blog post! The lists were very funny to read through. Can I just ask, what do you mean by you're a 'sluttish washer-upper'? :) I know what washer-upper means, meaning that you do the washing up, but sluttish?

    P.S. Love the 'action shot' of Kitty. x

  23. Lovely. Well, not the mexican lasagne, I don't fancy that ... but I love your writing, I think the format of your posts would make a great cookery book. Recipes mixed with life lessons/philosophy/anecdotal stories/the world according to Esther. Keep it up!

    Also - Kitty is such a cutie! x

  24. Yes please write a book - discovered your blog yesterday and then proceeded to ignore the children for an hour whilst I read all your previous posts. I particularly love your fabulous swearing (and your hair). I also like Giles but imagine he might be somewhat undomesticated.

  25. Martin - well now that's a thing I've sort of dodged. It tasted ok, but I probably wouldn't cook it again. I don't know why. It was FINE, but not very... exciting I suppose. The tortillas work very well as ersatz lasagne sheets, though - they retain their ballast better than pasta. If I was going to make something like this again, I would do it with beef chilli. It's those damned canned tomatoes - they make everything taste the same.

    ... and Rachel - Giles is actually very domesticated, I make him out not to be but actually he's terrific at looking after a house. I just do it with a bit more style.

    ... and Supersizer - sluttish means a bit sloppy and messy. If you are a "slut" you are untidy and a bit unhygienic so "sluttish" washing up is a bit rubbishy and half-done.

    Esther x

  26. Every day my husband comes home and removes his socks and just throws them on the floor. Wherever he happens to sit down. This means I find them everywhere. I've resorted to stuffing them in his work trouser pockets and man bag so he keeps pulling them out during really important meetings. I apparently make the kitchen look like a bomb site all the time. Your baby is well cute.

  27. Love the random action shot at the end. Agree about the lists, life is balance. Not sure about the lasagne.

  28. I'd love to know what 'martial bliss' looks like!

  29. I think... I'll give it a whirl! I've got vegetarian relatives coming round for tea soon and I've been feeding them Linda McCartney sausages for YEARS. So it's definitely time for something a bit different *cue Jaws music*

    Cute baby!

    And thanks for replying!

  30. Thanks for the reply Esther! :) I had a feeling that was what it meant. x

  31. Really loved this post- super funny and super ACCURATE! Also love the photo of Kitty. Haven't commented in a while as being pregnant (!) means not being interested in food much, but I always come back here.

    Unrelated, but also really enjoyed your article in the new EL. Apparently I can look either "grumpy" or "aloof". Ahem. So I sometimes over-compensate with manic smiling. Result = not v. attractive.

    Veronica x

  32. I've read, but never commented on, your blog from the beginning.
    This is the post that broke the commenting drought (that, and possibly maybe some Sunday-birthday-caused-drinking-times).

    Fcking awesome. Well done. x

  33. Love your blog, am an avid reader since your other half posted the link on his twitter a while back.

    Tried this and loved it, another one for my repertoire too! Thanks xxx

  34. I've just blogged my version of this, having come back to read this post so many times over the last couple of years. Thank you for always providing such interesting thoughts to read and be inspired by.