Again, it’s been a while, very sorry. I’ve been blaming my lack of activity on here on another writers’ block, but in reality I’ve been far too busy lying in as late as possible and playing on my retro PS2 that I managed to get working the other day (I’ve been alternating Crash Bandicoot and the Lord of the Rings game fyi). And besides, I think I deserve a holiday from the hardships of writing a leisurely blog about food and general life, the typing is very taxing on my fingers.
I have actually been doing other things besides gaming and sleeping; I recently went to Puglia in the South of Italy (THE food capital of Italy) for a week, and so it would seem natural to do a blog post telling you about the phenomenal seafood and fresh pasta and superior ice cream and fruit etc., but I’m not going to. I hate it when people write on their fantastic holidays that I didn’t go on. Call me childish, but it’s boring. Unless you went somewhere genuinely interesting/unusual, chances are I don’t really want to see your holiday snaps that badly. Instead I’m going to write on my general musings of the morning, and on this particular morning I’m musing on the boundaries of friendship (whilst showing a few holiday snaps because I can’t resist).
So there are lots of different levels of friend-ness in life; there are the people you give the eyebrow raise/slight nod to when you walk past them (either because you sit near each other in lectures every day and so have a mutual ‘I know you but I don’t know you’ understanding or because you only met when you were a bit drunk and so can’t be 100% certain of their name); there are the people you walk past and say a quick ‘hi how are you’ but have walked past before they have a chance to say anything more than ‘hi I’m good how are-‘; there are the actual friends that you meet up with and occasionally invite back to yours but still engage in niceties like offering them a drink and letting them sit on your side of the sofa; and there are the actual friend friends that arrive unannounced to your house and plough through the packet of crisps in your cupboard, whilst telling you that your parents are having a fab time on a holiday you weren’t even aware they were on (for my best friend Mirri’s 18th I was considering getting a house key cut for her so I didn’t even have to bother getting up to open the door for her). So what really defines who becomes a friend and who becomes a friend friend?
This was what I was wondering this morning, and I think the answer is in the list of established givens. We all have one – a little subconscious list of conventions that (even if your friends don’t agree on them) once established, allow your friends to become your friend friends. Here’s a couple on mine in the order of what came to mind first:
- Farting is funny and should be acknowledged, it is not taboo
- In fact, all bodily functions should be considered as entertaining rather than embarrassing. We all do them, so let’s not pretend no one heard that cheeky fart during dinner.
- Shotgun rules don’t just apply for front seat, they apply for almost everything in life, and contesting them will result in an argument
- I’m a spot squeezer, not a spot leaver
- Feminism and other such heated topics can be discussed lightheartedly/ occasionally have the piss taken out of them because it is a given that we should all accept that everyone is equal and life should never be too serious.
- Food stuck in teeth/around mouth should always be acknowledged and guidance should be given to get it out. There’s no time for politeness or subtlety when I have half my dinner smeared on my face.
- The above also applies to a runny nose
- If you have a dog, we aren’t friend friends until you’ve introduced me to it, and I’ve had a chance to spoon with it on the floor.
- If we’re both hungover/tired/just no in the mood to socially interact, it’s perfectly okay to sit together in silence without having to fill the air with conversation that we both don’t want to engage in. The occasional sharing of a funny youtube video popping up on your Facebook feed is all that is needed in times like these.
- Spatial awareness becomes non-existent.
- You will probably receive a call or text from me when something good, bad, sad, exciting, extraordinary, ordinary and relatively mundane happens in my life. You don’t need to acknowledge them, you just have to accept that it’s going to happen regularly.
So that’s just a few things that I think anyone well acquainted with me ought to know; looking at it now I’ve realised that this isn’t really a list of conventions that I like to establish with my closest friends – it’s just a list of why I’m still a child. At least I can be sure my friends are children too.
So anyway, since I did actually go to Italy I thought I’d include a recipe I cooked for everyone whilst up there – it has no claims to authenticity or anything, I just cooked things that made the most of the amazing fresh produce they have down there; a spicy chorizo and seafood tomato stew. In Italy I served it with a side of fresh pasta tossed in local olive oil and some crusty bread, but when recreating it at home I stirred through some butterbeans, roasted red pepper and courgette; both work well, but since I did the latter more recently I’ll give the recipe for that (also makes it gluten free for people doing all that). I’m pretty much completely guessing the quantities of seafood – add more types of seafood if you want more, take away some if you want less. You’ve been eating throughout your life, so you can judge for yourselves.
Chorizo, mixed seafood and butterbean stew for 6
600g tomatoes – any type
3 or 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary, chopped finely
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
200g chorizo, chopped (I bought quite a spicy chorizo but if you prefer it milder then go for that)
500g mussels out of their shells
1 octopus (obviously a lot easier/cheaper to get in Italy but I strongly recommend)
300g shell-on tiger prawns
2 courgettes, sliced
2 red bell peppers
2 drained cans of butterbeans
A pinch of sugar
- Turn the oven onto 220 degrees. Halve the peppers and place the halves skin-side up on a baking tray. Drizzle with oil and roast until charred – no longer than 20 minutes. Once slightly cooled, chop into large chunks.
- Heat a bit of oil in a frying pan or griddle on high, and add the chopped courgette. Fry in batches until nicely charred and soft. Set aside with the pepper.
- Add the tomatoes to a large pan with about 1cm water and put on medium heat. Put a lid on and simmer the tomatoes down until squishy. Add a pinch of salt and some of the rosemary before taking off the heat and blending either in a blender or with a stick blender. Keep it slightly chunky if you prefer, or blend until smooth.
- If using an octopus, prepare and cut into whole tentacles – we had no clue how to prepare a fresh octopus, so we used this tutorial. Do it, it’s fun.
- Add the chorizo to a large, cold saucepan/cassarole dish and put on medium/high heat. When the chorizo has starting sizzling and releasing oil, add the onion and cook the onion in the oil for a few minutes, before adding the garlic. Cook this for a further few minutes until softened.
- Add the sugo (Italian name for the tomato sauce) and season to taste, adding some sugar to sweeten. Add the octopus tentacles if using, and simmer on low for half an hour until the tentacles are soft.
- About 5 minutes before serving, add the rest of the seafood along with the courgette, pepper and butterbeans. Stir and cover, letting it simmer for a further 5 minutes or until the prawns are pink and cooked through.
- Serve in big bowls with a liberal sprinkling of parmesan and cracked black pepper.