Comfort Food, screamed the cover of the May issue of Delicious. Dumplings, it said. Bread and Butter Pudding. Slow cooked Lamb and Feta Pie. Rich rice dishes.   Mmmmm, thought the librarycook, and leafing through, found even more deliciousness waiting to be devoured.

But the recipe that really, really appealed was an Iranian dish. Chicken Tahchin. In the magazine photo, it was a deep golden crunchy rice cake, filled with hidden spiced chicken, and served with mint and pomegranate seeds.  The librarycook followed the recipe diligently. She enjoyed the hour’s reading time provided by the need for the chicken to marinate in the fridge. She cooked the rice. She constructed the tahchin, layering the rice with the chicken and barberries (well, cranberries) and then topping the whole thing with the remaining rice, before baking for an hour (or, more reading time).  She let it rest for the specified 10 minutes.

Anxiously, she inverted the whole thing on to a serving platter, aiming at the perfect dismount.  And that’s where this librarycook will end.  Readers will never know if the finished dish closely resembled the photo, or appeared more like some kind of rice-y, chicken-y chaos, albeit a well-flavoured plate of broken dreams.

And what books were being read as the librarycook’s culinary competence slowly crumbled around her?  A new discovery for her – Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic series – ironically, it turns out, as some practical magic might have saved the day.

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