friends.. what are they for?

the true essence of Italian cooking is making the most of whatever ingredients the place where you live offers you, in a simple, imaginative way. i happen to live in Brighton now, which means that my favourite butcher is 1067 km away.
On the other hand, the freshest, juiciest mackerels are just a short walk to the fishermen's hut on Hove seafront.
i have also developed an enthusiastic curiosity for thai food...
my cooking has changed since I moved here, i like to experiment more, to put two and two together and come up with a big, tasty, five.

I prepared this black soup for four hungry friends who one day volunteered to be fed the results of one of my experiments. I used:

a few courgettes, the smaller the better
some asparagus (is there a plural?), the thinner the better
one tin of coconut milk, the thicker the better
one kilo of mussels
the ink of two squids (or three sachets of squid ink)

a litre of endless chicken stock*
whole garlic cloves
grated ginger
crushed chili pepper
olive oil

*it is sort of acceptable to use vegetarian stock powder provided that is flavoured with galangal, bay leaves, lemon grass etc.. before using it for the soup.

after the tedious but rewarding cleaning of the mussels i briefly steam the asparagus until tender but still "al dente". Ginger, garlic ad chili pepper are flavouring the oil in the cast iron pot . i add the vegs and let them soak up all the nice flavours. i try to be patient here because i want my vegetables to really soak up the flavours. now the coconut milk for a little extra soaking. now the stock. whille i wait for the concoction to boil, i open the mussels in a separate pan. i don't want the courgettes to overcook (do i?) so i doublecheck the soup: as soon as it starts boiling i reduce it to a simmer, and add the shelled mussels and the squid ink.
two more minutes and it's ready.
black steamy fishy, silky...

my friends tell me they like it a lot.

that's what friends are for.

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