It’s been a bit of a steep learning curve. Where I’d happily subsist for months on fennel fronds, cold prawns, smoked trout, a glass of wine and the occasional bowl of mushroom risotto for extra squish, it seems this doesn’t quite cut the mustard for the men-folk
I plead ignorance. I didn’t grow up with brothers. My experience cooking for lads before The Hungry One included one sterling night where I was told (very nicely and with a smile) that he didn’t really want any more of my ‘yuppie shit food…. so can we please order pizza?’.
We learn by trying.
So this is what I’ve learned thus far about boy food.
It helps if it’s hot. That’s both temperature and with a little kick of spice. It helps if there’s lots of it. Apparently fennel does not fill a hole.
Real boy food needs a little bit of crunch. The gentle ooze of cheese or egg is a winning factor. Bacon and egg rolls with chilli relish. Chicken burgers – with hot sauce. Anything involving the belly of a pig. All of these will tame The Hungry One.
Another genus of calming food seems to be Mexican. Not some dreckish slush of refried beans and corn chips tainted orange by a in a pale derivative powdered cheese- though, in all honesty, I’m sure if my hungry one was ravenous enough that would suffice.
At ours these days it’s all about frijoles. Mexican black beans. We’ve long moved past the days where red kidney beans were the bulk to his burrito.
Small, rustic and hearty- cooked with the gentle burn of chipotle chilli, some dried oregano and some onions they’re a hero to a hungry man. High on protein, flavour and filling too.
They’re great friends with coriander, tomato, onion, garlic, mild cheese, tortillas, strips of chicken, chunks of chorizo and beef mince.
If I can find the ones in tins, or I’ve made some in bulk and they’re squatting in the freezer, I can have something on the table in ten minutes. Which if you’re around a very very hungry one, is a handy thing indeed.
This is how they were on the table at ours last week.
Black bean enchiladas for a very hungry one
2 tins of black beans, drained, or 200 grams of uncooked black beans*
Half a red onion
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon fresh coriander
Two handfuls of Mozzarella cheese (Nb, a dry mozzarella is quite good. I even keep an evil bag of shredded mozzarella in the freezer for emergency situations like this).
Tin of tinned tomatoes, or extra punnet of cherry tomatoes
Half a punnet of cherry tomatoes
Avocado for guacamole
NB, if you’re using uncooked black beans it’s not a bad idea to soak them before you use them.
*Best practice would be to soak them overnight before using them (though the likelihood of me ever remembering to soak something overnight before is about as likely as me blow drying my hair or putting sweatshirt on the right way out) Instead I use a quick soak method- I cover them with water, boil them for two minutes and then turn the heat off and let them sit in that water for two hours. Then I drain them, cover with fresh water and keep cooking them for about two hours.
**Chipotle chillis are amazing if you can get them. Using them involves getting rid of the seeds and dry toasting them in a pan, then covering them with boiling water for about 15 minutes. Then you blend the drained chillis so you have this fantastic smokey spicy paste. You can get them whole through Herbies at online places like this or you can buy them already ground in a powder.
How we roll
1. The beans get slowly simmered until they’re soft in water to cover. Or if I’m using tinned ones I rinse off some of the dreckish water. I sautee half a red onion in some oil with a good tablespoon of the chipotle puree (or a heaped teaspoon of dried chipotle powder). I also add a teaspoon of ground coriander, ground cumin and dried oregano and a tablespoon of finely chopped coriander stems.
2. In go the beans and a good pinch of salt. It all gets muddled together.
3. The beans should be slightly gloopy and with a good base not of spice. If it’s not spicy enough add some cayenne pepper. If it’s too dry, add a little water. If it’s too bland, add a little more salt or chipotle paste.
4. Turning it all into enchiladas just involve coating the bottom of a lasagne tin with some tomato puree (I like to keep it fresh by blitzing up cherry tomatoes, but that’s just me. It’s also because I currently hate my can opener after it cut me so I’m avoiding it as much as I can).
5. Then you take a large tortilla. It gets a good dollop of beans in the middle (about four heaped tablespoons). I then put a handful of cheese on top and fold the two sides over. I leave the top open, because it’s going to be eaten with a fork and you want the ends to get crispy. You don’t need to wrap it up like a present. The seam goes at the bottom where the tomato will help glue it closed.
Then it’s just about putting some halved cherry tomatoes and another handful of cheese over the top. It goes in a 180 degree oven for about 15 minutes (presuming the beans are already hot). You just want the cheese to melt and the tortillas to get crispy.
Serve with some guacamole and a salsa of chopped tomato, coriander and diced red onion.
It’s not the prettiest thing in the world, but it seems prettiness doesn’t play that much of a role in boy food.
Add a cold beer and The Hungry One is content.
Any other good boy-food ideas gratefully received.