I am two sorts of cook all at once: fanatical, dedicated, obsessive, and simultaneously extraordinarily lazy. I don’t like prep. I don’t like chopping. I don’t like the boring bits. (I do find it quite meditative, like Proust or deep breathing, but I wouldn’t say I precisely like either.)
I am whole-heartedly devoted to working out the precisely perfect number of garlic cloves to put in a bolognese (many!), and hugely reluctant, like a child doing homework, to actually chop any of them. I am a lazy cook. I am a lazy girl. Left to my own devices I would read and paint and spin all summer, and never do a stroke of work for winter, and I would have to live entirely off salted caramel cookies from the Co-op ( a not entirely unpleasant prospect).
A vast and wonderful part of learning to cook has been learning to accept this laziness; moreover, to work with it, and make laziness my friend, the way that terribly busy and important people say they have to be organised in order to combat their inner slacker. It turns out that chopping a bulb of garlic is very much more pleasant on a lazy Saturday morning in front of Don’t Tell The Bride on iPlayer than it is on a wet Tuesday night after an awfully long day; and that the wet Tuesday night is made infinitely more pleasant by the knowledge that the chopping is all already done. So. This is the secret weapon of lazy cooks everywhere; this is the secret to cooking in the rainy week. It’s hardly even a recipe. Just a set of very simple ideas.
(You can also buy this secret weapon from Waitrose: there it’s called Olio Aglio Peperoncini, and it’s very nice and useful, and quite a lot more expensive than doing it yourself. Plus, you have to find a Waitrose and carry it home.)
The Lazy Girl’s Secret Weapon
Makes enough for five weeknight dinners (Monday through Friday)
One clean small jar, in which to put…
Two shot glasses of extra-virgin olive oil
Two big squiggles of tomato puree
One bulb of fat garlic
A smallish heap of chilli flakes
Six dried chillies
Three-fingered pinch of sea salt
Smallish shake of celery salt, if you like, and you have some knocking about
Three big grinds of black pepper
Wash and dry your jar again. Yes, again. Clean as a whistle. Dry as a bone.
Take your garlic, and mince it pretty finely. All of it. Pop it all in the jar. And your chilli flakes.
And your onion. And your sea-salt. And your celery salt. Chop your dried chillies finely-ish, and bung them in too. Black pepper. Stir vigorously.
Whisk together your tomato puree and one shot of your olive oil, to make a sort of tomato paste. Put that in. Stir it about a bit.
Pour your second shot of olive oil into the jar, to cover. Screw the lid on the jar. Put it in the fridge. That’s it. Fry off a teaspoon or two with your vegetables for anything that calls for a sort of spicy baseline. I usually use it up within about five days, which is handy, because Google says you shouldn’t keep garlic in oil for any longer than this, even in the fridge. Happy cooking, lazies.