La Cucina Rustica

I think I’m finally getting it.

There were distinct stages in my adult cooking life that I imagine might resonate with other people who have lived away from home, as a student or young professional might.

1) Necessity
2) Sufficiency
3) Exploration

I do think age (maturity) has something to do with it, but I will add that I have personally been influenced to move from Stage 2: Sufficiency to Stage 3: Exploration partly by the constant bombardment from cookery programmes on British telly.

As a young, beardless-and-wispy-mustachioed student I survived on eggs, sausages and chips. Necessity demanded I fuel this internal combustion engine, and therefore by necessity fuel was dumped in.

I then gradually bothered (NOT learnt; I have been cooking since I was a child) to graduate to delicious recipes that would suffice for me; an arsenal that would last a 7-day siege, sufficient to my needs.

But cookery programmes, a genre I used to scorn, have seeped into my conscience. Not, mind you, the stupid reality formats. But travel cookery, starting with the inimitable Keith Floyd, really piqued my curiosity when I saw them presented with a real harmonious view of food-as-culture. I don’t yet claim to know Mediterranean rustic cooking, for example, yet the mention of ‘oregano’ evokes such memories within me of scrambling in the Dolomites that I sense an urge to explore food in this light.

Anyways, my rustic sage and oregano chicken casserole will be ready soon (I get real itchy fingers with oven cooking where I can’t keep poking and fiddling with the dish) so hope you all have a good din din.

Valentine’s at Saray in Chorlton

Had an unusual Valentine’s for a grumpy old so-and-so like me! Quite enjoyable..

When we realised that the Italian place we had our first romantic meal at was booked up to the eyeballs for Valentine’s, The Lady suggested a place based entirely on the goodwill of reviewers on TripAdvisor. I had a less-than-vague memory of walking past this place so many times without noticing it, but as part of our “Let’s-Be-Adventurous” scheme we booked a table.

And now we’re glad we did.

We ordered small lamb kofte, a chicken casserole for The Lady and a mixed grill for me, washed down with a nice Anatolian white wine called Cankaya.

The meat was superb, the chicken melting soft in the casserole, the sauces were full of flavour, the rice was nice and fluffy, the floor was strewn with rose petals, the music was identifiably Turkish but mellow and intriguing, and the service prompt but unobtrusive. We were sat down for two lovely hours.

I will definitely be going back to Saray to try some more dishes; and would happily recommend it to anyone. It feels (is) family-run, with the service and attention to detail that entails but without the shortcomings.