One household, unalike in dignity: tales of cooking with the Freeborn siblings

For those of you who don’t know me personally, let me reveal to you that I have a brother. His name is Fred, he lives in Cornwall, and although you might be able to pick us out as related if you squint (we’re both sort of blonde, noisy, relatively compact in size and have the same light blue eyes) we couldn’t be more different in the way we go about our lives.

For example, he has a stable, well-paid job in insurance and I am a freelance writer. I’ve got a clever sounding degree, but he knows many more useful things than I do, such as what goes on inside a light switch and which type of oil you should feed a car to make it work. But nowhere – except possibly for our definitions of what constitutes ‘tidy’ – are we more at odds than in the culinary department. 

Now, don’t get me wrong here – he’s a very good cook, making everything from curries, to chillis, to risotto from scratch. But his approach to cooking and food shopping is so wildly different to mine that it’s startling to think we’ve emerged from the same tangle of DNA.  

Enter: the Fredsheet

(Guess which one of us is the tidy sibling.)

Yes, those are his lunches mapped out just there next to his dinners. Chicken wraps Monday through Thursday, and a little salami sandwich on Friday, as a treat. He also knows where and when he’s eating out that week because most of his friends are also 9-5 folks – so into the spreadsheet it goes. Unsurprisingly at this level of organisation, Fred plans his food shops in advance and goes for a big one every two weeks, having taken stock of what he’s already got in the cupboards. He even writes down which aisles to visit first in order to spend as little time, and therefore money, in the supermarket as possible. 

My approach, in comparison, is positively toddler-like. I cook and eat whimsically, according to whether Mercury is in gatorade because the thought of traditional meal planning feels gnawingly oppressive to me. My impulsive cooking habits still occasionally mean that it’s tinned mackerel on toast for dinner, but equally I’ll spend an hour or two coaxing some egg-and-flour based play-dough through a pasta machine to produce some silky homemade pappardelle, with which to soak up a 6 hour slow-cooked beef and red wine ragu. It depends on the planets, usually – or the reduced section.

And of supermarkets generally: readers will be unsurprised to learn that in stark contrast to Fred’s military shopping regime, for me time ceases to have meaning behind the sliding glass doors of Lidl. I can fondle and caress various ingredients, daydreaming about my imaginary cafe menus until the tannoy announces that it’s time for everyone to go home, please and thank you. 

I assume most people will fall into the middle of the Fred vs Fliss continuum, because I think most people are either not slightly dotty food writers with too much time on their hands, but neither are they reformed pyromaniacs who get up at 6am on a Saturday to avoid the crowds at B&Q*. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from writing this post, it’s that most people, I think, are more normal than Freeborns.

But really, in terms of saving money and time and still eating well, there’s a clear winner between the siblings: it’s Fred who should have been running Student Cuisine for the Gloomy Teen all along, even though he made the wise decision not to saddle himself with a hilarious amount of debt aged 18. As such, here is one of his batch cook recipes, which I have been privy to – it’s a rather nice veggie curry. I’m sure you can substitute halloumi for paneer for a slightly more Indian take on things.

It’s not edited much by me, to give a flavour for Fred’s relatively direct way of doing things, but do note that the last time he made this for me, he threatened to put enough chilli in it to “blow your arsehole straight off its hinges.” This is his mild version.

Fred’s big halloumi and aubergine curry

Serves 6-8 with rice

  • 2 X Aubergines
  • 2 X Blocks of halloumi
  • 1 X Large packet of spinach
  • 3 X Tins Chopped Toms
  • 2 X Onions
  • Garlic – Fucking [sic] loads
  • 1 TBSP Garam masala
  • 2 TSP Cumin
  • 1 bunch coriander 🌿 (fresh)
  • 1 TBSP Curry powder
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Oil

Slice the aubergine 🍆 salt the slices each side and leave to absorb

Chop and fry the onion and garlic until soft.
Add tomatoes and leave simmer.

Meanwhile make a spice mix of the spices and curry powder.

Chop the salted aubergine into bite size chunks and toss them in the spice mix making sure they’re well coated.

Fry the aubergine in olive oil until soft and cooked – add to the tomato mix

Cube the halloumi and again coat in spice mix and fry in the same pan you fried the aubergine until crisp and cooked.

Add to curry, then add spinach until it wilts.

Simmer for a few minutes and season to taste with salt and pepper.

*I admit that this makes my brother sound slightly humourless but he is nothing of the sort; in fact, I long to be as funny in writing as he is in person. I have never seen him take much seriously, bar his job and his food spreadsheet. Shame he’s stopped setting stuff on fire, really. 

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