By which I mean a gift that is lovely and also a gift from someone who is lovely. When the human ray of sunshine that is Nathalie Marquez Courtney said that she had bought me a cookbook that she was going to pop in the post for me, well, I couldn't have possibly guessed that it was going to be such a surprise and delight. What did she get me only the energetic and inspiring Ms Marmite Lover's new book, Supper Club! There is nothing quite like a parcel at the door that you haven't paid for and you hadn't quite anticipated. And the lovely thought that went into it, a very sweet note with it too. See, I have a million, billion cookbooks and I can never justify buying another, so when I get one as a present it is cause for much celebration, not to mention a few sessions with a load of sticky tabs and a shopping list. Essentially this book is a guide to running your own underground supper club, but even if you don't have inclinations in that direction there is still plenty to get you cooking, be it for dinner á deux, a bit of a get-together, or a simple solo effort. There are even some truly glorious themed menus, including a diabetes and/or cardiac arrest inducing Elvis menu. It's charming and personable and utterly usable - if you're like me and you need to justify each and every cookbook that you add to your collection then you'll find plenty of reasons to put this one on the shelf alongside the rest of them.
I was going through a particularly hectic spell when I got this book, so unfortunately I couldn't plan an epic cooking session. I zoned in on something that not only wasn't labour intensive, but also wouldn't require a trip to the shop. Bingo: Mujadara, a hearty buttery, lentil-loaded, riced-up Lebanese dish that requires minimal, if any, grocery shopping. Perfect for when both time and money are in short supply.
Oh the smell of onions cooking in butter; it's so very very French. And inviting. It's the most filling of smells. 50g butter, one diced onion, if you can bear to tear yourself away from that gorgeous smell please do so when the onion has soften and has begun to carmelise.
This recipe calls for puy lentils - I just used regular green lentils that were in the press crying out to be eaten. 125g lentils in 1 litre water, simmered for 20 minutes.
After those 20 minutes, in goes 250g basmati rice along with the onions. Making sure that water levels are topped up nicely, that cooks on a low heat until the rice and lentils are nicely done, which I would put at about another 20 minutes. When it is cooked it comes off the heat and gets one tablespoon of olive oil.
Gauging how many minutes to fully-cooked your main concoction is, get working on the garnish: more melted butter again, in with a thinly-sliced (er, depending on your definition of thin, which in this instance tallies with my levels of lazy) onion. Once it has softened up the heat gets higher and the onion is carmelised.
And so that storecupboard superstar that has been cooking up for the past 40 minutes is topped with those carmelised onions, a big creamy dollop of Greek yogurt and some chopped parsley. Not the most glamorous-looking concoction, but boy does it satisfy.