Today’s post is by the one and only Mountaineering Man, who has recently found himself in charge of the cooking at Casa la MM and An American in Ireland.

MM Cooking Between the living room and the hallway, in our apartment, there is a small, clean but intimidating room. Intimidating in parts, mind you. Not the bins or the dishwasher. Or the fridge.

But our kitchen is full of cupboards, cubby holes crammed with pots, strainer things, many, many bowls (large and small, and in between). Sharp knives abound.

And that’s before I get to the entire drawer full of exotic mashers and dicers, prong-type things and ladles. Way, way too much stuff for me to ever use, even in a lifetime of cooking. That’s about as much as I knew about our kitchen.

Until this week.

Clare is working a new contract at present, so our previous dinner arrangement has been turned on its head. Instead of dutifully turning up each evening to some seriously good  dishes – listed here in other posts – circumstances have now pushed me in front of the cooker.

A declaration – I used to cook before.

MM paper Strictly single-guy fare. Straight-up, rapid and simple and back out of that room so fast. No Michelin stars- but no trips to A&E either. It had been a while since I’ve tried it.

Not wishing to sprint before I could stumble I knew that I had to stick to what I knew. But not before I stuck to what Clare knew. Rigidly.

On the first day of the new arrangement she left ingredients, implements and a step-by-step guide to making salmon and bulgur wheat. I followed it, and pulled it off.

Good, but any chump can read and check a watch, and can differentiate salmon from a stock cube. It was good, but it lacked kudos.

I had to step up for day two. No clinging to Clare’s apron strings.

So, with my best Heston game face I strode into the kitchen, having set the mood by cranking up some Neil Young in the living room. The menu’s below – so there’s no need for a step-by-step.

But here’s some observations, from the hob’s mouth:

– Cutting onions is a pain. There’s a start-up somewhere right now planning to slice and vacuum pack them for sale, trust me. [Editor’s note: Hon, that happened ages ago and you can purchase them sliced or chopped or minced, vacuum packed, at shops everywhere].

– Don’t mop your brow after chopping a chili, even if you’ve washed your hands.

– The hob fan always drowns out the inspirational background rock music. Oddly enough the designers never considered this vital fact.

– The last five minutes are always the craziest. Who could have known that straining basmati rice while looking over your shoulder at a hot pan could be so stressful?

But I made it. Flailing across the finish line, I was squeezing the lemon onto the pan (the icing on the cake, or the coup de grace, depending on your point of view) as An American In Ireland walked in.

She smiled. She took a picture. And when she sat down she even cleaned her plate.

I may just do it again.

MM’s Lemon/Garlic/Chili Chicken with Wholegrain Basmati

MM meal

Add 1.5 cups of basmati rice to four cups of boiling water and a stock cube. Simmer for 25 mins and then strain. Put back into the pot and cover to keep warm.

Slice up two largish onions, put in large saute pan with olive oil, cook at lowish heat for 10 mins.

Slice up two large chicken breasts, add to onions, season, cook for 6-8 mins.

Chop up 4-5 cloves of garlic, one whole chili, add to pan, cook for additional 5 mins.

Add in a quarter cup of sweet corn, 5-6 tablespoons of soy sauce, two teaspoonfuls of sugar. Stir it up.

Drain rice and serve chicken over the lot.