There's a reason that this blog is primarily about baking. I like baking, and I like to think I am reasonably good at baking. People liked the baked goods enough that they wanted the recipes and pictures, and I complied. Occasionally, though, I get tired of eating scrambled eggs, spinach and yogurt for every meal. Thing is, I really don't love cooking. For the longest time, cooking even … intimidated me. Baking requires a recipe that you can't really diverge much from – or it won't turn out. Cooking is all about the taste buds and creativity, and I just don't have that kind of culinary passion bouncing around in my head. And food is not that interesting to me. If there were a pill to take that supplied all nutritional needs and wiped away the feeling of hunger, I would have a lifetime prescription.
That said, sometimes, I have ingredients leftover from baking or have cheese – or other "real food" – from when guests have visited (I do have to cook when people visit. I can't force my spartan and unappetizing eating habits on others, not in good conscience). I don't want to waste the stuff, so I figure out some way to use it. Today I had a few sheets of lasagna, two cans of almost-expired tuna, a lot of sour cream and some nice strong, hard cheese.
I made a concoction. This is what my mom and I call it when we throw random things together to make a meal. This time it felt really dubious and random indeed. When someone asks, "What's for dinner?", I would reply with false confidence, "A concoction!" (The confused and frightened look inevitably appears on dinner guest's/roommate's/partner's face.) It is not quite true to say that everything I attempt to cook ends up being a "concoction" although my lack of interest in cooking, generally speaking, makes me feel a bit like a bumbling fool with a knife and saucepan. This internal sense of not belonging in the kitchen for cooking purposes automatically creates this "concoction complex".
Over the years, I have noticed, though, that it's getting a lot easier. I don't agonize or have to read recipes just to figure out what I should do… and then make detailed grocery lists and spend hours prepping things. Even my concoctions in the old days, haphazard though they were, were something like carefully planned messes. I usually spent a lot of time prepping and at some point "pulling an Erika" (which would involve spilling something or staining the countertop with a lot of turmeric powder or splashing a bunch of milk all over the kitchen or something requiring immediate clean-up and uncounted minutes or half-hours of unbargained-for "prep" time. Needless to say, then, cooking always felt like a production that went on all day. I could not even begin to imagine the seemingly effortless and well-timed preparation of the cooking my grandmother and my mother had done all their lives.
Yet, as stated, it has grown easier – and it's like I have preached since the beginning to people who exclaim that they doubt they can ever bake something – it is all about practice. You start doing it, and doing it regularly, and the next thing you know, you stop "pulling an Erika" every time, you become more efficient at chopping vegetables, you can imagine how things might taste together, you can plan something and at least hope for the best.
My concoction du jour, then, is a curry tuna lasagna. It served its purpose.
And here, like most of my cooking recipes, is a half-assed, approximate "recipe" for how I got to the finish line:
Curry tuna lasagna recipe
Preheat oven to 180C
About nine uncooked lasagna sheets (I used the small rectangular ones from Barilla; US lasagna noodles are totally different – but building a lasagna is not brain surgery)
2 tablespoons butter
2-3 chopped onions
1 can chopped tomatoes (I used a container that held about 400g)
half teaspoon cinnamon
a teaspoon of powdered vegetable soup bouillon (you could use a smashed bouillon cube)
1/4 teaspoon paprike
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 cloves crushed garlic
salt and pepper
Two cans of drained tuna (water packed)
Melt butter in a saucepan over a medium heat and lightly fry onions for a few minutes, then add garlic and cinnamon. After another moment, add crumbled stock cube, paprika, curry powder, vinegar and chopped tomatoes.
Add drained tuna and heat. Set aside while preparing the cheese sauce.
1 to 1.5 cups milk
1 cup sour cream
salt and pepper
125g grated mature cheese
Melt butter over a medium heat, whisk in flour and cook 1 minute. Reduce heat and gradually stir in milk. Bring to boil, stirring constantly. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper and stir in sour cream and cheese.
To prepare this concoction:
Grease a baking pan. Place a layer of lasagna in the bottom. Spread a third of the tuna sauce over the lasagna and cover with half the cheese sauce. Repeat two more times.
Bake for 40 minutes.