Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Nigella's mexican lasagne

I once read in a magazine - I forget which one now - a problem on the problem pages that went something like this:

Q. My husband refuses to pick his towel up off the bathroom floor. It drives me demented. How can I punish him?

A. Instead of wanting to punish him, why don't you think to yourself, as you pick the towel up off the bathroom floor, of all the nice things he does for you without you asking? It is little act of devotion like these that keep marriages going.

Here are some of the annoying things that my husband does:

- He doesn't pick up the bathmat off the bathroom floor
- He clears his throat in quite an annoying way
- He steals my car key because he can't be bothered to find his, then accuses me of having used, and lost his key (thus forcing him to use mine).
- He will turn to me and say "Shall I have a shower? Or not?"
- If the TV is on and he wants to say something, rather than finding the remote and pausing the programme he will shout "PAUSE!", which is my cue to find the remote (under his bum, usually) and pause the programme for him so he may deliver his opinion.
- He will suddenly decide that the house is a mess and pick things up randomly (an unopened letter, a pair of flip flops, a baby's toy) and say "What's the story with this? Should it be here?"
- He will walk into his own kitchen and wonder aloud where we keep the knives, forks, salt, pepper, plates and so on

Here are some of the annoying things that I do:

- I pick at my cuticles. Constantly.
- I clear my throat in a nice way. But I do it ALL the time
- I never open my post, particularly anything that looks financial
- I interrupt all the time.
- I give my husband death stares
- I am a sluttish washer-upper
- I call the baby "Kitty-Cookan-TIS"
- I sometimes only empty half of the dishwasher and then wander off to do something else and forget to unload the rest
- I throw money (his) at any problem
- I leave the area around the toaster a mess, attracting ants and wasps.
- I don't make the bed

Here are the nice things that my husband does for me:

- He doesn't make me go and get a job
- He does my tax
- He takes out all the bins and deals with the compost
- He sorts out the cars, the tax for the cars, the maintenence of the cars
- He doesn't make me see people I don't like
- He'll make any phonecall for me that I'm too scared to make
- He cleans all my hair out of the trap in the shower

Here are the nice things that I do for my husband:

- I hang up the bathmat
- I always make sure there is enough deodorant, shampoo, showergel etc in the bathroom
- Ditto for the kitchen
- Ditto stamps, birthday cards and wrapping paper
- I sort out dinner, pretty much every night
- I will fire anyone that he feels too guilty to fire
- I don't give him shit about going out and getting drunk
- I don't give him shit about his swearing or bad taste jokes
- I don't give him shit about doing more childcare

Whenever my husband has done something annoying and I feel enervated, I always run those lists through my head. It's what my marriage balances on, like a fat elephant on a plank of wood on a ballbearing. But a few years ago, I realised that my husband was NOT aware that there was this careful balancing act going on. He did not think, as he ignored my throat-clearing, cuticle-picking, death-staring grotesqueness, that he was simply keeping up his end of the bargain. He believed that he was bearing the brunt of marital irritation, while I sailed through life blithely un-irritated. One day, things exploded in a terrible row about me not making the bed.

I won't lie, there were tears.

Then I explained about the list. About the importance of acts of devotion. And he got it, more or less.

And that's why I'm always sorting out dinner; it's part of the deal. It's why I try to find new things to cook, rather than just doing a roast chicken or pasta over and over again. If it's going to be my area, I might as well having a big repertoire. It makes everything easier.

Which explains why I tried out this Mexican Lasagne, by Nigella. I thought it looked fun although like everything that used canned tomatoes, it ends up tasting a lot like canned tomatoes. But it's a good one to have up your sleeve to pull out when things are getting a bit samey.

This is not Nigella's exact recipe but it is close enough. The exact one can be sourced easily on the internet.

Mexican lasagne
Serves 4 hungry people, or 6 less hungry, with a salad

1 pack flour tortillas
2 cans chopped tomatoes
1 can sweetcorn
1 can black beans
2 red chillies
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
1 small bunch coriander
2 tsp mild chilli powder
1 red pepper, roughly chopped, or a jar of peppers in oil, chopped
two big handfuls cheese - manchengo, monteray jack or cheddar

Preheat oven to 180

1 Chop the onion, garlic, chillies and red peppers and sweat in a pan with some veg oil for about four minutes, then sprinkle over the chilli powder and cook for a further 10 minutes over a low flame. Then add the tomatoes and chopped coriander and simmer for about 10 minutes.

2 In a separate pan put the black beans and the sweetcorn, heat up and mix around.

3 Now layer the tomato sauce, bean mix, grated cheese and flour tortillas (2 per layer) to make up a lasagne. I'll leave you to decide the best way of doing it, but it's good to finish off with a layer of tortillas and then cheese for a bubbly brown top.

4 Bung in the oven for 30 minutes.

You can eat this with yoghurt or guacamole or any other Mexicany-type thing you can think of, while you ponder the secrets of martial bliss.

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