I discovered baeckeoffe when I lived in Strasbourg for a year and, whereas other students headed mostly for Paris or the south, I headed east, not because I was particularly imaginative but because I had friends there. It did my French accent the world of good, spending so much time actually talking French rather than speaking English to all the other year-abroad students, but during the long and very, very cold winter I often wondered what on earth I’d done. It started snowing in December and didn’t stop, really, till February. Which explains why Alsace which, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful regions of France with some of the best wines, is also home to some of the greatest comfort food in the world: onion tarts like flammekueche, wonderful pastries like kouglof, and stews, like this, that can keep out several feet of snow. Continue reading
I love a winter salad; I particularly love a winter salad that makes the most of a vegetable that was once, at least in the UK, only known for its affinity with cheese but, these days, is very much lauded beyond that. You now find cauliflower served as steaks, raw in tabbouleh and, like this, roasted and tossed in a very classic Ottolenghi style.
What I particularly like about using such a robust vegetable in salad is that, unlike more delicate ingredients like chicory or greens, leftover dressed cauliflower is usually still wonderful and not in the least bit soggy the next day. So make a bit extra, and take it into work. Easy and delicious, this will brighten your day whatever the (right now, very wet) weather. Continue reading
Cheese, she says. I can hear the sighs from here. But cheese isn’t all the hard stuff, only produced by those wearing hairnets and plastic shoes. It can also be the likes of this labne, or ricotta, or paneer, soft cheeses that can be made with the minimum of equipment, fuss and expense. You need a little bit of space, and some muslin or a very clean tea towel because most require some form of dairy to be left to drain or sit for a few hours but, if I can make it in my one-metre-square alcove, then this is something anyone can do. Continue reading
Every so often a cookbook comes along that blows me away. And, being a publishing type, to blow me away it has to tick a lot more boxes than the recipe one. Apart from at least five things I want to cook, I also want, in no particular order: tactile, heavyweight paper; exceptionally simple design that is perfectly in tune with the content; photography that reminds me how much can be done with light, glass and ingredients and lots and lots of expensive extras. A ribbon, or two, a cloth binding, preferably only on a bit of the book, and elegant endpapers.
Finding all of these on one book, especially a cookery book, is rare. You may have noticed that publishing, book publishing that is, has been having a bit of a tough time recently and in tough times the pretty bits, that spot UV on the cover, the extra ribbon, the four-colour endpapers, well they all go. Which is a bit of a vicious circle: books start to look less attractive, not such good value and the customer starts to either a) buy them from Amazon (the lesser of two evils) or b) stop buying them altogether (the greater). So when a book appears that turns this pattern on its head, on all counts, and shouts ‘look at me, look at how beautiful I am, look at how brilliantly packaged all this fabulous information is’, well then I feel the need to share it and tell you all to go out and buy it. Continue reading
Oh, corn on the cob; is it the cheapest, most delicious thing ever? On a recent trip to the States I was surprised, since it was September, not to see any either on menus or for sale by the road and, when I got back and saw it was 4 for a £1 at my local greengrocer’s, I suddenly wondered why I didn’t eat it more often.
As a child, there was probably no ‘tea’ that would make me happier than a pile of halved cobs, slathered in butter. And not only are they easy and cheap, but also, for a freelancer at home, they make a fast and simple lunch, with nary a scrap of effort. Usually, I eat them with just melted butter and, erm, a dash of HP sauce but this week, in my new-found enthusiasm, I decided to try something else, Mexican corn on the cob, a recipe I initially found in the Primrose Bakery book. Continue reading
Have you made any bread yet? Did I tempt you with the slow-rise, no-work bread or the quick-turn-around-in-a-bowl soda bread? No? Then how about something in-between, my final offering: spelt bread.
Spelt is a type of wheat, the ancestor of the wheat most of us eat now, and it is becoming more popular as some consider it easier to digest. This is not scientifically proven, but it is definitely a commonly-held belief. In bread-making terms, it’s great because a loaf made with spelt flour proves and rises much more quickly than one made with conventional wheat flour. So if you don’t want to try a slow-rise bread, and want something faster but more ‘bready’ and, frankly, longer-lasting/better for sandwiches, than soda bread, I’d recommend this. Continue reading
I absolutely hate waste, so half my miniscule fridge is full of scraps of this and that which I can’t bear to chuck. Until now, I rarely managed to use many of them up before the inevitable rot set in but, at last, someone has written the essential book for the thrifty, the resourceful, the scrape-the-mould-off-rather-than-throw-it-away people like me.
Love your Leftovers, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, came out last week and it will soon be followed by a BBC1 programme, presented by HFW, about waste. It may not sound very sexy but, to me, knowing how to use up leftovers is an essential part of cooking well. I have to declare an interest – I worked as a kitchen porter on the book, which basically means eight hours of washing-up and rushing to the corner shop a day (breaking my arm on one of those rushes just tells you how devoted I am…) – but I wouldn’t have done so if I hadn’t thought the book and the recipes would be a joy to work with. And they were. Continue reading