Almost my first feeling after I’ve invited someone round for dinner or sent a lot of party invitations out or basically instigated any social occasion is regret: the food I cook will be awful and inedible, they will wildly outstay their welcome and I will not get to bed until 1am, we will have nothing to talk about, the whole affair will be awkward and awful.
Which is why I never see any of my friends. Sorry
, I mean, which is why I never see any of my “friends”, because, not ever seeing anyone means I don’t have many. Any.
But Giles is away again, making a gameshow in Canada, (don’t ask), and I have delivered the manuscript for The Bad Mother, (out in January 2015 so don’t get too excited), so in the evenings I haven’t got much to do these days except sit about feeling guilty and shitty about how much I shouted at bath time.
– – As an addendum to this, my children just fight at the moment. It’s all they do. Whenever Sam comes anywhere near her, Kitty
rains blows down on his head, but rather than keeping his distance, staying out of her way, doing other stuff or hiding behind me, Sam goes looking for it
. He crawls up to her with his mouth open in delight, his eyes bright in anticipation of a fight, pretty much. Then she wallops him over the head with a toy car and he yowls in pain and humiliation, looking to me for – what?? What the fuck, Baby Sam? – stay out of her way you fucking mentalist!! – –
So this week I had my old friend Kate round
for a tonic water
and my other old friend Sarah Langford round
for roast chicken
and a jammy pudding and then when I found myself left with some excellent smoked salmon plus condiments, 3/4 of a cold roast
chicken, a tin of lentils
and the makings of another tremendous pudding, I got carried away and texted Camilla Long.
It was a long shot. It was a Friday night. Camilla is very, very glamorous. But even very glamorous people are sometimes not on holiday in the dog days of summer and also I thought there was an odds-on chance that I would text her and she would not be available for dinner, that she would be out doing something glamorous, and then I could eat an entire 3-course dinner by myself and go to bed at 8.07pm.
But she was available! That’s the thing about glamorous people, they often complain about a lack of invitations because people think “She is too glamorous, there’s no way that she will be free”.
And then I started to worry. O god, I thought. Camilla Long is coming round
and I am giving her leftovers. Fuck! I was wearing jeans and the same sweatshirt that I had worn four days in a row!
I swapped my sweatshirt – marked with abominations sustained during Kitty
’s nursery’s guinea pigs’ little holiday chez Coren – for a Whistles sweater that I have been saving for a special occasion. Then I started rummaging in cupboards for my finest performance crockery. Then, further, I panicked and decided to serve shots of very cold, very expensive vodka with the smoked salmon starter and began to worry that Camilla would arrive in a ball gown expecting to see Giles, Tina Fey, Cara Delevigne and Cary Fukunaga chatting around my dinner table, when it was just me.
I needn’t have worried! Like all incredibly glamorous people, Camilla knows when to dial it down and arrived, thoughtfully, in civvies. “Today has been a total knee-slide,” she announced. I felt great relief that I had put that vodka in the freezer.
One of the leftover dishes that Camilla gamely ate without questioning why the fuck I had cooked it, was a dish of spiced lentils and leftover roast chicken.
I am obsessed with these spiced lentils at the moment, although the original recipe specified an amount of pepper so wild it rendered my initial go at them completely uneatable. But I toned the spice down and now they are brilliant; I do love a dressed-up lentil or a chick pea – they are capable of genuinely being as totally a nice thing as a plate of pasta or rice. These lentils go best with fish or chicken or you could eat them on their own if you were feeling like being a bit of a hippy.
Spiced lentils for 2
1 400g cooked brown lentils, rinsed
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper – this still leaves the lentils with a reasonable kick, so if you are a bit timid spice-wise (and I totally respect that), reduce this to 1/4 tsp
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
4cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
oil or butter for frying – about a tablespoon
1 medium onion, or two small ones. A few shallots would do if that’s all you’ve got or half a massive white onion
1 Toast all the ground spices in a dry frying pan over a low heat for 5 minutes
2 Chop the onion and add it to the toasted spices along with your oil or butter, a generous pinch of salt and the ginger. Cook this gently for 10 minutes.
3 Add the lentils to this mixture and mix round a bit. You will want to serve these with a side of yoghurt or soured cream.
For the roast chicken, I toasted 1/2 tsp each of cumin, ground coriander and turmeric in another dry frying pan, then added a knob of butter and the roast chicken. I fried that together for about five minutes, then added 3 tablespoons of coconut milk.
Camilla and I sat about discussing all our mutual friends, did not scream when she saw a mouse streaking across my living room, and left promptly when a smart car arrived to collect her at 10.15pm saying “I know you like to turn in early.”
I shut the front door after her, sat down on the bottom step of the staircase and wondered how I could be more glamorous. Number 1: stop eating lentils.