Coming home from holiday is pretty much always a comedown, but coming home from a glorious fortnight in the south of France – where my greatest concerns were being too hot and struggling to decide which flavour Magnum to opt for – to a sodden Cheshire where trenchfoot and arks are weighing heavily on my mind, it’s harder than ever.
We were in France to celebrate the marriage of one of my dearest friends and her lovely Aussie beau.
My friend and I met, in dire circumstances, almost exactly 20 years ago on the steps of ‘Tripode A’ – a building that would have stood out in its bleakness in East Germany, and into which we had just moved.
Times were tough, but with my new pal, who was as funny and kind and cool and foxy and clever then as she is now, life was immeasurably better. We’ve never lived even in the same country since those three months in Toulouse, two decades ago, and our lives have followed different trajectories (hers a marginally more glamorous route, one might say), but we have remained firm friends throughout everything life has thrown our way and I was thrilled and honoured to be a bridesmaid and to be able to share such a special occasion with her.
The whole things was as splendid as could be. We were completely spoiled, staying for a long weekend in the most beautiful house (Domaine de Roucayrols in Lavaur, close to Toulouse, if you’re in the market for a French leave of your own); spending time getting to know the most lovely people, relaxing in the sun: it was heavenly, truly one of the nicest weekends I have ever spent.
The wedding day itself was gorgeous, full of love and laughs and family and friends. And a croquembouche. And lashings of champagne. We danced till 4am. It was fabulous.
After the wedding we headed off for fun in the less glamorous, but still exceptionally pleasant setting of a campsite in the Dordogne. Serendipitously, the other bridesmaid and I – quite unknowingly – of all the squillions of French campsites, had booked to go to the very same place, and we spent a week of fun with this gorgeous new friend and her brilliant family.
Today, as I performed a tour of rainy Sainsbury’s in an attempt to locate uniform in ages 7 and 10 (actually only two stores, but it seemed more) – those sundrenched days in the south of France seemed a very long time ago. I briefly considered whipping up something delightfully French to recreate these past glories and raise spirits, but I was too sodden and despondent for anything much, and my pantry was looking strikingly minimalist, so I went with an old fave.
Super speedy salmon pasta
Like pretty much everything that emenates from my kitchen, this salmon and pasta concoction is a bit rough looking, but it’s tasty and filling and speedy and seems to tick most of the major food groups needed to stave off malnutrition. I wheel this out most weeks and it always goes down well.
This is my go-to, on those days when I need to have something in the little badgers’ pieholes within 10 minutes flat, shoehorned in between Rounders Club and Rainbows. I use frozen salmon – but you could substitute with cooked chicken, tinned tuna or ham. Or, frankly anything you can find lurking, more or less in date, that your audience is likely to eat. Many of my meals begin from this point, a little like ‘Ready, Steady, Cook’ but with reliably unpromising ingredients.
I’m generally feeding two, so my measures reflect this, but obvs scale up or down dependent on your numbers and appetites. I use skinless salmon fillets, but if you can find only those with the skin on, it’s easiest to cook the fillet in a frying pan as the pasta boils, and flake it in at the end. It creates another pan to wash, but need not slow down teatime.
- Enough pasta to feed your diners
- 1 salmon fillet per two children
- Handful each of frozen sweetcorn and peas. If you have broccoli, this also works well, but you will need to add it 1 minute after adding the fish.
- Cream cheese
- Fill a large pan with a kettleful of hot water and bring back to the boil.
- Add in pasta and set timer for 3 minutes.
- Add frozen fish fillets to the water and set timer for 4 minutes
- Add in a handful each of sweetcorn and peas and set the timer for 3 minutes.
- Check everything’s cooked and drain.
- Return to the pan and stir in a couple of generous spoonfuls of cream cheese. Add more if it seems appropriate.
Thanks to the splendid Niall Flynn for the nice photos. The ropey ones are all my own work.