And we're back! Back from the turquoise Caribbean, 30 degree heat, blazing sunshine and ice-cold cocktails. Back from a place where the most stressful decision was whether to go for a sun lounger or a hammock (ans: hammock). Back from sandy toes and sandy everything else, a 20 minute sun-cream application process and a 0 minute hair and makeup routine.
Back to dark mornings and dark evenings, mountains of accumulated work, tasks which people promised faithfully to take care of and then...didn't, late nights and jetlag. Sigh. Can I fly back to Mexico, please?
OK, end of obnoxious whining. To tell you the truth, no homecoming could have lived up to such a holiday. Tulum, Hotel Rosa del Viento, Manuel with the drinks and as little English as we had Spanish, I salute you. It was just...so sunny! And the tostadas and guacamole were so good! And the Mayan ruins were so bizarre! (If your mental image is the Aztec Zone from the Crystal Maze, you're pretty much bang on). It was utter bliss. Even as my tan fades, I'll bask in the memories. We've never had a more relaxing holiday - and god, how we needed it.
Back in the real world, with jetlag (mostly) conquered and all the sand emptied out of the suitcase, it's time to ease back into cooking for myself. And where a bottle of Sol and some prawn tacos might have been the norm in Mexico, back in Blighty it's the weather for soup.
This chowder, from Jamie's 30 Minute Meals, ticked all the boxes. Super quick (as you'd expect), it was easy to prepare and absolutely delicious to eat. Honestly, it's almost annoying how good Jamie Oliver's recipes are. I flick through the book, tsking about how he's overstretching himself by bringing out new books every month and plastering his face all over telly; decide, grudgingly, to give one a go; then realize, without fail, that he's delivered another blinder. Big meaty flavours, quick and easy, satisfyingly chunky. With soup, a fire and Homeland on telly, home is almost as good as holiday. All I need is a cocktail, and at least I know where to get one.
Smoked Haddock, Bacon and Corn Chowder
Adapted from Jamie Oliver's 30 Minute Meals
- 2 rashers of smoked, streaky bacon, finely sliced
- half a bunch of spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
- a fillet of smoked haddock, skin off (try to remove any remaining bones as well)
- 8-10 new potatoes, cut into smallish chunks (cooked are fine, if you have some leftover - we did)
- a big handful of frozen corn.
- 2 bay leaves (he says fresh, we only had dried)
- a few sprigs of fresh thyme
- 500ml chicken stock
- 75ml single cream
Fry the bacon, stirring often, in a large saucepan over a medium heat until golden. Our bacon always gives off loads of fat, so I didn't add any oil, but you can if you like. Add the spring onions and the raw potatoes, if you're using them (if you've got leftover cooked ones, don't add them yet). Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring often.
Add the frozen corn, haddock fillet, bay leaves, thyme, a few good grinds of black pepper and the stock. Put a lid on, and cook for 12 minutes.
After that time, give it all a good stir (the fish will flake apart, but that's fine) and add the cooked potatoes, if that's what you're using. Cook for another few minutes, then add the cream and turn the heat right down. After a minute or so, roughly mash about half of the soup with a potato masher, and stir it through. Serve, eat, enjoy.