Accept no substitutes, except when you do
This weekend, I break some rules, cook pork with lentils, give you an easy autumnal menu and an action plan for pulling it all together. Plus Cole Porter, honestly it’s all going on.
I cook this dish of lentils with hefty chunks of pork all the time, as soon as the mornings become dark, misty, often damp, and the evenings begin to draw in almost as soon as I’m brushing the breadcrumbs off the table from lunch. It is so often what I want. And I almost didn’t share it with you.
This is not because I am a keep-it-to-myself sort of person. You know me better than that. It’s because it contains ingredients that are easy to buy here in France, but sometimes difficult to track down elsewhere. I don’t know why I worry so much. There is a trend now for a certain kind of recipe writing where the more esoteric the ingredients, the better. In some cases, it’s an expression of joy and creativity in discovering new flavours, in others it’s a sort of credentialising, a manifestation of look how sophisticated I am, cooking something you’ve never heard of as though it were beans on toast. Oh, this old thing…And of course, there are millions of people across the world for whom beans on toast is an exotic concept too. It’s all about perspective.
One of the (many) things I loved about living in London was the feeling that it contained the world’s larder, where within walking distance or a short bus ride, I could find pretty much anything I needed. But I knew from decades of writing recipes for magazines that often if an ingredient wasn’t available in Bishop Auckland Sainsbury’s – my parents’ closest supermarket for The Big Shop – or its equivalent, I would get emails, possibly even letters. Of course, it’s easier now that so many ingredients are available mail order online (I particularly love sous-chef.co.uk) but that’s not always convenient if you crave a particular dish right now this minute.
What I am saying is don’t be put off. Squirrel around to find your substitutes. Experiment (Whenever I write that word, I think of the Cole Porter song of the same name, “Be curious, though interfering friends may frown, Get furious at each attempt to hold you down”).
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