Things of Beauty Part One: Heart Shaped Dish

I’m really lucky – I have a number of things in my kitchen that make me happy just to look at, never mind use. I’d like to share them with the world at large, and I’ll start with the most recent addition.

This first tale is one of the love between a girl and her casserole dish. It’s mainly one way love, in fairness, and when I say love, that doesn’t stop me from putting it in the oven. I’d like to assure you that this is not my usual behaviour when I decide I love something. I digress… This is also in part a tale of woe, separation and loss. Bet you weren’t expecting that? But don’t worry, it’s ultimately a tale of reunion and joy. Let’s begin.

For Christmas, my mum and dad bought me this:


I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s a thing of beauty, and I loved it at first sight. I imagined myself presenting it at tables of impressed friends and lifting the lid to reveal culinary delights that would have them exclaiming ‘how simply marvellous!’ and other such flattering phrases that one would more commonly hear in a British public information film from the forties.

I soon used it to make a giant dish of nachos, which were unarguably delicious, and stayed lovely and warm because of the close fitting lid. I was delighted. A few days later, even though using it to cook for one wasn’t really an efficient use of its grandeur, I decided to use it to make myself a mediterranean style chicken casserole. Unfortunately, as I was busy fawning over its form, I had neglected to check its approved functions. I placed the dish directly on the hob, and was rewarded moments later with a neighbour-frightening bang and a broken dish. To say I was distraught is barely an exaggeration. Woe was me!

I really was gutted, and needless to say have ordered myself a replacement, which arrived today. I love it all over again and can’t wait to start using it but will be keeping it away from the hob. 

In tribute to the dish, here is the recipe for the first thing I made in it, before I broke it…


For the Salsa

  • One small or half a large red onion
  • One decent sized clove of garlic
  • Small amount of oil for cooking – a mild olive oil, sunflower, vegetable, whatever sort of all-purpose oil you normally use
  • One or two chilis to your preference – seeds in or out, it’s all one to me
  • One red, one green and one yellow pepper
  • Four large tomatoes
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chili flakes, paprika or Tabasco (or a combination of these) to taste

Chop the onion, crush the garlic and cook together in a little oil for a few minutes until the onion is transparent. Slice the chilis into rounds (with or without seeds) and add to the pot, and cook for a further minute or two. Be careful, if the chili catches your throat you can end up coughing and spluttering like an asthmatic pug. Chop the tomatoes and add to the pan, cook down for a further minute or two, stirring well. Chop the peppers and add to the pan, then turn off and remove from the heat – you want the peppers to stay crunchy, and they’ll be going in the oven so you don’t really want to cook them right now. Stir in a dash of lemon juice and a healthy pinch of salt and pepper and taste. Remember that the chili flavour will develop a bit as the salsa cools, then add whatever you’re using to add heat to taste. Remember that you’ll be adding some cooling ingredients to the nachos so you can make the salsa a bit spicy. Or not, if you don’t want to. 

For the Guacamole 

  • One good sized, ripe avocado. It is important that it is ripe
  • One large tomato
  • Natural yoghurt
  • Lime juice
  • Garlic and coriander seasoning (I use this one I haven’t used this site before and other websites are very much available. Also, try to get some with a later expiry date)
  • Jalapeno Tabasco sauce (specifically jalapeno as I love the sweet flavour)
  • Paprika
  • Salt and pepper

Peel and stone the avocado then scoop out all the flesh into a bowl that will give you room to manoeuvre. Roughly mash the avocado with a fork. If it isn’t ripe enough you can use a blender but be careful not to over-blend, you don’t want avocado mousse. Add three or four tablespoons of yoghurt (that’s a guess, add enough to bulk up the guacamole but not enough to take over the flavour), then chop the tomato into fairly small chunks and stir it all together. Add a good dash of lime juice, half a teaspoon of garlic and coriander mix, a pinch of paprika, a few drops of Tabasco and a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix well, and taste. Be careful with the spices – you can always add more, but can’t take it out unless that happens to be your super power, in which case you’re probably pretty annoyed that you don’t have a better super power. Be especially careful with the paprika, as it will change the colour of the guacamole if you add too much, and the Tabasco as you just want a gentle kick to complement the salsa. Mess around with the flavours until you’re happy. Once the guacamole is made, put the stone into the bowl as this is supposed to keep the colour fresh. I haven’t done any clinical trials on this though, so probably best to make it immediately before serving.

OK – now put it all together. I like to layer them up, so that you don’t have tortillas at the bottom that are all lonely and plain. Put half the bag of chips in a suitably deep dish, then cover with a generous helping of salsa without drowning them. Add a layer of grated cheese (no particular kind, whatever you like) and then start again; chips, salsa, cheese. Put the dish in the oven to melt the cheese, 150 C is probably enough and it will probably take 10 – 20 minutes (yep, more vagaries and guesswork). Cover the top of the nachos with spoonfuls of guacamole and sour cream, creme fraiche or yoghurt depending on how calorie conscious you’re being and serve with extra guacamole and sour cream (or equivalent) on the side, you’ll need it once you’ve munched the stuff on top. They’re really, really ace even if I do say so myself. Not exactly a gourmet dish but hope I might have given a couple of different ideas about how to put it together.

Tunes: could it be anything else but Heart Shaped Box? Yes, it could. This song from Ren and Stimpy sums up my feelings on getting delivery of my replacement dish: 

Movie: Die Hard. Bear with me. Like the nachos, Die Hard is cheesy, is a bit violent (like the salsa), a bit cool (like the guacamole) and ultimately satisfying. It’s easy to follow, like the recipe above, and you can crunch the nachos as loud as you like cos you won’t miss a thing by way of plot. I’d like to say that the movie also has layers but the similarity ends there.


About Rock Salt

Seasoning while rocking out since 1983. View all posts by Rock Salt

2 responses to “Things of Beauty Part One: Heart Shaped Dish

  • Red

    I was going to try your guacamole, to go with today’s home baked spicy tortilla chips and yesterday’s left over veggie chilli, until I noticed the controversial ommission of sour cream. So, I’m sticking with tried and tested Oxfam Vegetarian Cookbook 1997 Calender version. (Back in 1997, I actually was vegetarian.)

    • rocksaltuk

      Ooooh home baked, eh? Fancy! I will contest your guacamole recipe though; you don’t need sour cream for two reasons. One, you are serving sour cream separately with the nachos, to get your fill of the fat laden wonder, and to contrast with the spicy salsa and slightly sharp guacamole. Two, the yoghurt lets the flavour of the avocado come through more strongly because you use less of it to get the right consistency. Take that, Oxfam recipe book! You may do more for charity, but you’ll never beat my guacamole.

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