Sometimes cooking is about creativity, about the joy of an afternoon stretching out in front of you with a fiddly baking project or multi-course meal to lose yourself in.
Most of the time though, it’s about leaning on those simple things you can make with your eyes shut. The reliable boiled eggs, the tins of beans, the cups of tea and packets of hobnobs, and the dinners that are guaranteed to hit the spot.
This has been a week for easy, tasty, tick every box and be on the table in half an hour dinners. A box of mushrooms found their way onto toast, sautéed with lots of garlic, the end of the cream and a handful of spinach “for health”. A head of broccoli became a swift spaghetti with anchovies and lemon.
To see out the week, I’ve been craving the sweet tang of what we used to call “sticky chicken” growing up – the catch all for anything vaguely resembling barbecue sauce that you can pour over a tray of chicken pieces and let the oven do the hard work for you.
I love those sweet marinades that make the best of your store cupboard, from a ketchup-spiked brown sugar number to something lighter with soy, citrus and honey. This version – with lots of freshly squeezed orange, fish sauce, star anise, maple syrup and dark soy – will have you scraping every last gnarly bit from the pan. I'm thinking of chucking it over wings to have with drinks as a Christmas party nibble.
You could serve this with something like potato wedges and a spicy, creamy coleslaw, in which case an even stickier sauce could be a very good thing, so you might want to consider reducing the juices left in the roasting tin.
I like serving this with fluffy basmati, so tend to leave the liquor as it is so there’s plenty to be absorbed by the grains of rice. I’ll spoon puddles of sauce over bowls of rice, top with the chicken, plenty of onions, a wedge of lime and a little mound of fresh coriander.