Plus One strikes back

Last updated 12:05 10/08/2012

Living with me must have its tribulations. I am obsessive. Food is only one of my many obsessions - I am equally obsessed with music, and rugby, and Dunlop Volleys, and Usain Bolt, and swimming and... you get the idea.

Plus1To this end, my partner (referred to, at her request, in this forum, as Plus One - a silly in-joke with a musician friend, i.e. "Jeremy Taylor plus one" on the door list) very rarely gets the chance to cook. Obviously, she doesn't necessarily mind - I do make a lot of effort in the kitchen, and she gets to eat the fruits of my labours.

It does mean, however, that she is at the mercy of whatever want to cook, which means lately a lot of Indian food. It means that she doesn't get to have mashed potatoes as often as she would like, and that any sort of baking is unlikely (because I am breathtakingly crap at it).

Over the weekend, though, Plus One has taken back control of the kitchen. She has had a few days off, and has decided to get cooking. How do I feel about this? Threatened? Put out? Worried that what she will dish up will be bad? Or, worse yet, good? Pah. Not at all - I am absolutely rapt by the thought of what may appear for dinner. Even if it does mean I am on dishes (she's nowhere near as messy in the kitchen as I am, anyway...)

When I get home on Friday evening, there are warm and welcoming aromas wafting from the kitchen. "Yum," I say "smells good - what's for dinner?!"

P1 is, it must be said, looking a bit flustered.

Plus2"I dunno. I've roasted some pumpkin and fried some red onions, and there's some puff pastry and some feta, so I guess we're having some kind of tart."

She has also, worryingly, thawed some frozen peas, which she is also threatening to add to the tart. Now, I need to approach this situation with an uncharacteristic delicacy - I don't want to dissuade P1 from cooking, but neither do I want her to put peas on the tart.

So, with some delicate manoeuvring, I offer to help - not take over, mind. There will be no peas on the pumpkin, feta and caramelised onion tart after all. Charitably, I turn the thawed peas into a dip with the aid of the stick blender, lemon juice and oil, and a chunk of feta - absolutely delicious, and incredibly easy.

The tart, too, is absolutely cracking, it must be said.

The following day, she is warming to her new role as chief cook in the house. She is getting more confident, and more ambitious. We are both big fans of the two Yotam Ottolenghi cookbooks (Ottolenghi and Plenty) at Omni HQ, and I have been eyeing up the broccoli and gorgonzola pie that features in the Plenty cookbook. I am at work that day, and, when I get home - there it is. The Pie. Huzzah!

She has really excelled herself here. The only sticking point is that, in the absence of Gorgonzola, and with On Trays already closed, she has substituted a Danish blue cheese that is maybe a little "bitey" in combination with the wholegrain mustard and other ingredients, but it is still an excellent pie. And I appreciate the effort that has gone into it. So much so that I chime in with an accompanying pear and rocket salad with a balsamic dressing, in a totally "not taking over" kind of way.

Plus3The following day I have an afternoon rehearsal, so, again, won't be around to cook dinner. P1 actually leads a charge round the supermarket (and sundry Petone food shops) to pick up ingredients for dinner - a free-range chook, coriander, wild red rice and bok choy. I can sense she is warming to the task, in a way you don't, really, when you're just going to be eating the meal, rather than cooking it.

When I return, there is a whole bunch of stuff on the go - the chicken has been marinating in a mixture of garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, star anise, coriander root and brown sugar, there are candied yams in the oven, as well as chopped bok choy and some of the wild rice. There is also a surprise - P1 has fashioned a pavlova using a recipe from - shame of all shames - Stephanie Alexander's Australian cooking bible The Cook's Companion! Oy vey!

Okay, so she is cooking the chicken in stock, like I do, and I do step in to brown the bird under the grill and cook the bok choy, but this is a real breakthrough. Without significant interference from me, she has made excellent food three days running - there have even been leftovers, which I also love, which we have only just polished off. The pavlova didn't last quite so long, I'm afraid...

Bravo, Plus One - you have done us both proud, and I am more than happy to loose my vice-like grip over cooking duties any time you see fit. Your ability to actually follow recipes means you are potentially a much better cook than me, and the biggest breakthrough has been in your trusting your own palate well enough to give recipes a tweak if you think they need it.

My question today goes out to those who live in a household where one of you does most of the cooking - how would you feel about your non-cooking significant other taking control in the kitchen? Happy? Threatened? Has it happened with successful results, or was it a disaster?

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Busymum   #1   12:22 pm Aug 10 2012

I'm the cook in our household. Mostly I don't mind, but it gets to be a chore sometimes (especially as the kids are still aquiring a taste for more interesting flavours).

Lately my other half has started leaving work a little earlier, and I have a weekly menu plan on the fridge. So he can get things started if he is home before me.

What a revelation! He is actually atarting to cook things, not just putting the oven on for when I get home! I usually finish off whatever he has started, but it is so much easier.

I love that he is trying (he is _so_ not a cook, but his efforts to date have been wonderful - possibly because I didn't have to cook so much myself). And we get to eat a bit earlier, which always helps when the we are all tired after a hard day.

Catherine   #2   12:46 pm Aug 10 2012

I am horribly anal about food. It's my one and only flaw, but it is a great one.

The last time I left my partner in charge of making the meal (pancakes - what could possibly go wrong?) I couldn't eat the finished dish, and had to leave him minorly offended. Lucky he has a sense of humour about it though, we still laugh about it sometimes today, the legendary pancake incident of 2011...

Never again.

FDO   #3   12:59 pm Aug 10 2012

Strictly 50/50, unless one of isn't working. Which is excellent as you don't have to cook every night (we also do 1-3 nights a week out or takeaways). I interfere more. And we both think ourselves the better spag bol cook!

CP   #4   01:01 pm Aug 10 2012

Would not worry me in the slightest if someone else put their had up. I love cooking, so I don't mind that it's me who does 99% of of it. Unfortunately nobody else in this household shares the love for cooking, they just love to eat......

Agnes   #5   01:27 pm Aug 10 2012

My kitchen is my castle. I cook dinner for my partner and I most nights because I do the household shopping. So I tend to cook stir-frys on week nights, the only pet peeve he dislikes is that he detests brown rice (and I am trying to eat a little healthier) so I have to cook myself a batch of brown rice and him a batch of plain long grain rice to serve with my stir-fry.

The only time he has tried to cook for both of us is on my birthday, which is steak, potato gratin, but I help out with the salad because he doesn't understand how to construct a nice tasty healthy salad... But fortunately he can cook a good medium rare steak, nicely seared on both sides and evenly too!

Gee   #6   01:49 pm Aug 10 2012

I would die of lazy pleasure if my plus one had enthusiasm for cooking. Nutritious + tasty aren't in his planning capabilities. I end up taking over after repetitively being shouted questions from the kitchen, there's only soo many times you can shout back, "read the packet!" and "remember what I how I showed you last time?!"

wife1   #7   01:57 pm Aug 10 2012

I do most of the cooking in our house, with my children occasionally cooking the odd meal. My husband is proud of his ability in the kitchen but if he cooks, no one eats. His idea of a great meal is ready to cook chicken with stuffing, cooked in a baking bag, with packet gravy and frozen mixed veg. He's so good at it that he doesn't need to go to cooking classes to find out how to cook anything else. At least he admits that I'm a better cook than he is... The teenagers are looking at going flatting soon and are keen to improve their skills, so at least I have help some nights.

Cat   #8   02:01 pm Aug 10 2012

I love cooking and trying new receipe's so I cook/bake all the time, the extent of bf's cooking is a toasted sandwich or eggs on toast.

I probably cook at least 2 separate dinners twice a week, he eats red meat & I don't so for example last night I made him a lasagne and then made myself a vege/noodle stir fry, I just do fairly quick & easy dishes when I do this otherwise it can get abit much as I found out while once trying to juggle a homemade curry for him & vege patties & salad for me and have them ready at the same time lol We both eat salmon/fish so when I cook those I often try a new receipe and it's nice cooking the one meal for us both.

JCC   #9   03:51 pm Aug 10 2012

Mr JCC has very little self confidence in the meal-cooking department. He loves to bake because of the precise instructions (beat for 3 minutes etc) and has an insanely sweet tooth, but doesn't cope with actual meals well. I try and encourage where i can, because even though i love cooking, sometimes i just can't be bothered, and takeaways are not kind on the wallet (or arteries!).And there's only so many dinners of toast you can or should have in your life! :)

Linda   #10   06:31 pm Aug 10 2012

So good to return from my weekly visit to a friend late pm, to come home to an open bottle of "The Ned", cheese platter and marinated pork bones sizzling in the oven! A truly indulgent Friday platter and not nearly as much trouble as some meals you have described! Maybe not a weightwatcher's delight, but what the heck!! Keep up the good work U 2!!! Linda

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