Supper clubs are great – until it’s your turn to cook…
Being added to a WhatsApp group called What’s For Dinner? along with another friend was a surprise to Mina, but Hazel always acted quickly and decisively.
Mina knew she could remove herself without hard feeling, but she was intrigued.
I’m fed up of spag bol, Hazel said. Let’s share recipes.
Mina’s speciality was chicken curry with a jarred sauce. Which wasn’t cheating, as such…
Some new ideas wouldn’t hurt.
Hazel suggested on the group that they share cooking too.
One big casserole once every couple of weeks between us? What’s not to like? Be nice to eat together, too.
Hazel was persuasive. After some negotiation and talk of sharing pans, they all agreed.
Hazel said she’d go first. The idea was definitely in the spirit of friendship, economical and time-saving too.
They were good at sharing the load, Mina’s friends. Lifts, shoulders to cry on; the works. They were brilliant when Dave left a year ago.
“Right, Mina, get your glad rags on, we’re going out.”
Hazel and the others had appeared one Friday night when Dave had the kids, insisting she don her best top and heels.
They’d ended up in Raj’s, Mina crying into her onion bhajis, the others encouraging her to share.
Raj had been attentive, but not intrusive. He was good like that.
His food was excellent too. Delicately spiced, flavoursome and delicious.
Thinking about his food was getting her nowhere. Today was Mina’s turn to cook.
“How do I do it?” Mina asked her reflection in the kitchen window. Every recipe she looked at had loads of ingredients. The one she was looking at now had ten. Ten! Including several she’d need to buy.
If she did locate them in a cupboard, they’d be years out of date.
She didn’t want Chief Poisoner on her CV.
She would have to do it. It was part of the deal. She and the kids had benefited from delicious meals.
Anya and Hari had gone all Oliver Twist when Hazel produced beef stroganoff, asking for more. It was embarrassing, but Hazel had been pleased they weren’t fussy eaters.
Back to the recipe…
- Garam masala
- Ground coriander
Mina was a “will tuna go with peas and Cheddar?” cook, rather than someone who read recipes, bought ingredients and cooked slowly while the kids finished homework at the dining room table.
She tended to throw something together, one eye on the clock so Anya wasn’t late for youth club, or Hari didn’t miss his guitar session, calling the kids who were ensconced in their bedrooms, when it was ready.
Slow cooking it wasn’t – even at the weekends. On a Saturday night when she’d been on her feet all day at the salon, it was just as likely they’d get a takeaway from Raj’s as something home-made.
“Well, it’s homemade from Raj’s,” she convinced herself. He and another chef cooked in an open-plan kitchen in his tiny restaurant.
Her eyes strayed back to the takeaway menu. Chicken methi was Mina’s favourite.
She glanced at the clock. It was almost noon. She’d need to get a wriggle on – they’d be around by five pm.
She screenshotted the ten-ingredient recipe, grabbed some shopping bags and headed out.
By five, a tumble of teens and friends turned up to eat.
A pot was bubbling on the hob, bread warming in the oven, rice nearly done.
“That smells good,” Hazel said.
“Chicken methi,” Mina said.
Hazel raised an eyebrow.
“Chicken methi like Raj makes?”
“Yes,” said Mina. “Grub’s up,” she called, changing the subject.
Hazel grinned and gave Mina an I know your secret wink.
“Great curry, Mum,” Hari and Anya said, wolfing it down along with the others, no questions asked.
Once dinner was done and everyone had helped with the washing-up and left, Mina sat down to message Raj.
That was delicious, thank you, she typed. When are you free for that haircut? I must return the favour.
Glad it went down well, he replied. How about Sunday?
This Sunday was good; the kids were with Dave.
Raj had been a great teacher, helping her cook her favourite dish.
“Sorry, no,” he’d said earlier, when she tried to order a takeaway. “That’s cheating, and expensive.”
Instead he’d scribbled some notes on a scrap of paper and handed it over.
“Buy these ingredients and I’ll teach you. Lunchtimes are quiet.”
When she got back to the restaurant he took her through the recipe step by step.
The end result was aromatic and looked good too.
A bit like Raj, she thought as he gave her a cheeky wink and a brief hug before she left.
She began typing.
Sunday’s great. 11.30? I’ll do lunch too, if you like. I cook a mean chicken methi, now I know how.
She clicked send, and he replied with a thumbs-up moments later.
Lunch with Raj and chicken methi were all the ingredients she needed for a very nice Sunday, she thought, smiling.
Our My Weekly Favourites series of short fiction from our archives continues on Mondays and Thursdays. Look out for the next one.