Candlelit cooking with couscous

It was going to be peppers stuffed with the diced leftover lamb leg. I hadn’t got any further than that, although I had thought of using one of the mangoes that had been knocking around the kitchen for a couple of weeks.

And then, for the ninth time in a month, there was an actual power cut (as opposed to a glitch that tripped our sockets circuit breaker, which had happened nine times already that day). And the power stayed off, and stayed off … meaning I couldn’t use the oven to roast the stuffed peppers. The oven is not on the circuit that keeps tripping, so up until that point I wasn’t too bothered about not being able to make dinner.

The very nice lady on the phone said the engineers would arrive at the substation around 18.30, and it would take a few hours of troubleshooting because they had been told not, this time, simply to replace the fuse and leave again. The special piece of equipment they’d installed a couple of weeks ago that was supposed to automatically reset our substation, or leech electricity from its neighbours in a worst-case scenario, had apparently failed. It was quite amusing listening to her mounting horror as she worked her way through the litany of failures the Old Barracks substation has suffered in the last few weeks.

Chopping by candlelight

In any event, it was clear I wouldn’t be roasting any peppers.

Fortunately we do have a a gas hob, and so by a blend of oil lamp and candlelight and camping light I was able to do something with the lamb, the mango, and yes, the peppers.

First I put a pan of water on to boil so I could make the couscous. Then I chopped garlic, and fried it in olive oil in a wok, along with a small chilli pepper retrieved hastily by torchlight from the Chest Freezer of Capacity(TM). While that was sizzling I made the couscous according to the packet: 160g couscous plus 200 ml boiling water, but also a pinch of salt and a sprinkle of smoked paprika.

Oil and gas and couscous

To the wok I added the diced lamb, a couple of small, yellow sweet peppers, and a couple of slightly unripe tomatoes from our greenhouse—all chopped.

When the couscous was done I stirred in the chopped mango, and let Joshua chomp the stone. I served the lamb mix on the couscous, and we ate it by oil and candlelight.

Then Jenny had to go and be interviewed for the BBC: we set up her laptop and a camping light and ensured we were getting a good signal through her iPhone, but the power was back on by the time of the interview.

And it turned out that the engineers, being special flying squad nighttime emergency covering all of the local area (almost literally fly-by-night) responder types, did just replace the fuse again and leave. But the very nice Rosie on the phone promised that someone would be back to get to the root of the electrical problems here.