Cooking For the Downhearted

The very best thing for those afflicted by grief or depression is, of course, a piece of warm melba toast (flatten bread slightly with rolling pin before toasting, or, if ironing, use your iron to compress and brown the slice of bread) with a bit of butter and a slathering of sweetened condensed milk. Yup, that’s what I said. Just try it once, with a nice cup of tea.

If more than toast is required think soft and warm. A bowl of  beef stew and a hunk of soft warmed bread or some soup therapy, like my leek and potato get well soup. Or this:

Whole Wheat Noodles with Chicken, Pine Nuts, Raisins and Rosemary and this time I added some chanterelle mushrooms. A little bit fancy pants, yes.

1) Cook a chicken, or some of its parts. I roasted one this time (375 for 70 minutes), but sometimes I just poach a couple of breasts.

See, another person writing this recipe might say “1 and 1/2 Cups Cooked chicken, shredded.” and that person would be exactly right. But I just can’t help myself. The pieces should be medium sized – either cut up or just torn with the fingers. And, if you do cook a whole chicken, just use half of it – one breast, one wing, one leg, and keep the other half for the next recipe that begins with “1 1/2 Cups Cooked Chicken”.

2) Put a big pot of water on with plenty of salt for the pasta. Fresh tagliatelli is lovely. Macaroni is a little smile. Whole wheat spaghetti will shore up the downcast. Do what you do – make lots for leftovers, I’d say.

3) Meanwhile, heat some chicken stock in a large pan. I found that with the whole wheat pasta I needed more. Start with 3 cups and you can add more at any point. I used about 5 cups and a 375g box of spaghetti which fed five with some left over.

I would just like to get a bit of business out of the way. I have a large nonstick wok with a handle and this I use every day at almost every meal. So when I say a big pan, I am referring to this. Use the thing you have which is most like it.

3b) To the warming stock add some dried mushrooms (if you’re using them) and a scant tablespoon of dried rosemary.

4) Toast a 1/2 cup of pine nuts in a small dry frying pan. Ignore everything else for the 5 minutes it will take to do this lest you burn them. Focus. Pine nuts are costly. Set aside.

5) After simmering for about 15 minutes the stock will be somewhat reduced and concentrated and the mushrooms will be soft. Add a 1/2 cup of golden raisins and the chicken and cook the pasta. When the pasta is done add it to the sauce, with either some more stock or some of the pasta water as needed. Toss it well, perhaps with a bit of chopped parsley and serve with parmasan and sympathy.


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