Thursday, 13 October 2011

Sherry and tonic

The more I think about it, the more I think that maybe not doing much cooking recently is only partly to do with anxiety and more to do with the fact that I've run out of things to cook. It's just good old-fashioned lack of inspiration.

Among duty cooks, (i.e. the person in the household who does dinner on dreary weeknights - as opposed to performance cooks, who do nothing for months and then roast beef for 18 for Sunday lunch), this is known as "cooking fatigue". If left unchecked it can go on indefinitely and result in you alternating roast chicken with spaghetti bolognese for 16 years. At which point your children leave home and you eat soup and cheese every night for the next twenty years. Then you go into an old people's home. And I'll leave it there.

My husband has been away filming for the last few days and I traditionally like to welcome him home from these trips away with something nice for dinner. I say I LIKE to welcome him home with something nice for dinner but usually what happens is he comes home to find Kitty with a cold and the kitchen full of fruit flies.

So this time round I want to nail it. But what, what, what to cook? I can't do fish, because there isn't a fishmonger within my reach who has the correct green cred for my husband. Roast chicken is just a massive cop-out, we're always eating bloody curry, ditto my two vegetarian recipes. My latest "special" (yet easy/impressive) thing is slow-roast pork belly, but we've had that about three times in the last month.

While I mull it over, I may help myself to a sherry and tonic, which is my new favourite drink. It's closely related to the Seventies cocktail-hour favourite, white port and tonic, but sherry works just as well.

Next-eldest sister introduced me to this and we've been drinking it ever since. It's milder and sort of fruitier than a gin and tonic, it's a thirst-quencher, it's festive and doesn't get you instantly hammered [insert weary thing about how marvellous getting very hammered very quickly is here].

As documented, I can't drink these days - I just can't do it. And when I say "drink" I mean drink a lot - (and by a lot I mean so that you say slightly ill-advised things at the time, wake up to pee and take nurofen in the night and then feel a bit green the next day). It's a thing I've decided that I used to do when I didn't have anything else to do. Next-eldest said to me once "You can do it all - you can work and have children and go out. But you have to sacrifice getting pissed."

But once Kitty's a-bed and whatever scrabbled-together dinner we're having is on the go it does seem a shame not to have a weeny drinky. And this is the answer.

It's also a terrific, unusual and very practical thing to offer as a cocktail for a party because it looks nice - fizzy tumblers of pale drinky with clattering ice. If you want to be really fucking classy, add a strip of lemon peel.

You can use any sherry you like, fino or manzanilla. (I'm pretty sure they sell all sorts in Waitrose. Only Schwepps Indian tonic water will do.) If you once had fino sherry and found it to taste like pencil shavings, give this a go anyway because the tonic takes the edge off. And if you don't like tonic, well - I give up.

This post was brought to you by the letters S and C and dedicated to my friend Emelie Frid (@emfrid), who loves sherry and who has been having a shit time because her baby isn't well.

By the way, I wish I had post-natal depression, as some of you have thoughtfully pointed out. But alas, I've always been a jumble of nerves for as long as I can remember. I'm feeling much better now, as it happens, and think back to the dark days of the last fortnight with amusement, wondering if maybe I imagined the whole thing.

But I won't think about it too hard. It will only make me anxious.


  1. If you can find it in one of her books (I did a cursory search on Google to no avail) Delia Smith has a recipe for a very nice greek beef casserole which you serve with shit loads of feta cheese and it's just divine.

    Do that. Or your version of it.

  2. Mmmm - white port and tonic is delicious with mint and ice. If you're after a good husband-friendly supper which can be made even when in a foul mood (as I usually am) - then Jamie's sausage and cherry tomato bake is easy peasy, can be made in 2 secs flat while the baby is watching Night Garden at 11am and then sit in its tin in the oven until you wack it in at 7.30 or whatever. Just with bread or on its own it delicious!

    L xx

  3. Oooh. Sherry and tonic isn't one I've heard of, it sounds delicious.

    Get a massive bone-in rib eye steak, salad and boulangere potatoes? Spuds can be done in advance and steak just needs searing and finishing off in the oven.

  4. You inspired me to sort out my recipe file after your last post. A million recipes I'll never even think about trying...including pork belly. It seems too complicated. But I'll keep the recipes anyway.



  5. I'm with Lizzie! Fire up the grill, and cook steaks. Grill some vegs, too, and serve with salad. Men always love burnt meat!


  6. Yay, glad you are feeling better, please keep cooking otherwise I can't steal your ideas and thus my menu planning turns to shite too... Xxxx

  7. Red wine and sausage risotto - was always my first cooking for a man dinner - always worked :) Can be found on the waitrose website. Even better it gives you the excuse to open a bottle of wine (and drink the rest). Drizzle with balsamic vinegar just before eating.

  8. How unexpected - that sounds good!

    Nigella's coq au riesling is quite popular in our house when I really can't be fucked cooking but something tasty and a bit special is in order.

  9. Esther would you write a baby book please? I'm pregnant and reading loads of books, and your blog is the only thing I'm reading that I can truly believe is not all lies. Don't get me wrong, I still want the baby, but I think it helps to be prepared by someone who tells the honest to goodness truth about how it is going to be. The sherry and tonic recipe could go in it.

  10. Esther,

    This is my favorite comfort food recipe. Simple to make and the Zinfandel w/ the sugar makes a tasty sauce. I usually braise it much longer than directed.

  11. Having offspring turns your life upside-down, even if you're the calmest person out!
    So worry not, you're being totally normal...whatever that is!!

    Keep writing, and enjoy the cooking-it will show in the eating. Ispiration IS the hardest bit.

  12. so what did you cook for Giles in the end?

  13. He only just came back last night but there is a goulash on the oven for tonight. And I made him egg sandwiches for lunch today. Further, kitty hasn't got a cold and I squashed most of the fruit flies yesterday. So I'm feeling like a pretty boss wife right now.

  14. 13 comments and no-one has said "Fever Tree tonic"? I am shocked.

  15. Lidl sell good tonic - 6x500ml bottles for £1.49 and no sweetener. Schweppes is full of chemical weirdness and goes flat almost as soon as you open the fucking bottle.