Tuesday, 22 January 2013

January 22nd - A coy admission and a little history tour.

Dear Nigel,

Has the nation ground to a halt of late? To listen to the comments on Twitter  anyone would think so. The other half of the nation that isn't sledging and taking photographs of silly things seems to be glued to a certain bake-off on the tele. So its probably time I came clean.... You know that tinsy little Christmas series that most of the nation and every avid Nigel Slater fan was watching around Christmastime? and the October series that half the recipes here are based on?, and the one before that?...errrr, well, I wasn't there. I love the books, I dream the recipes - I just don't watch the tele. Sorry. Obviously a major clanger, but hey, I don't need to know what the inside of your kitchen looks like or which brand of stove you favour - everything I need is all there in the writing. So I hope you'll forgive me.

I do remember watching some of the very early series in possibly the early 90's? a certain slightly awkward young man on channel 4, and my earliest, well-thumbed cookbooks of yours certainly seem to date from around that time. So we go back, you and I, nearly twenty years, and there are still recipes in 'Real good food' and 'Real fast food'  that I turn to regularly for something quick and tasty for everyday - like sausages with apples and cider, or thyme and bacon dumplings to have with a rich chicken soup. Fashions may come and go but good food will always be in fashion.

So now we've got that one out of the way, let's have a look at what you're making today. First, may I say what a pleasing revelation the poached apples with ginger and anise was. I made them again today because my feet were freezing in their two pairs of socks and wellies and I needed something to drive out the pain. It's great because there's always a half-open jar of Buderim knocking about at the back of the fridge, and I could see its uses with all kinds of baked apples and apple things. We need things with a bit of a kick in this weather.

Tonight's dinner is a fish pie:'Gurnard, basil and potato pie' (pg 40). Of the fish you say, it's 'a bit of an ugly bugger but with a reasonable flavour.' I'm not sure what my little man in the market will have in the back of his van but '..similar white fish' will do. This is a comfort food baked in cream with slices of lightly browned potato on top. Fish pie is popular here too. I like your shortcut for a midweek, time-poor dip when all your stomach wants is food and now. You blitz breadcrumbs and herbs in the food processor for a crust, saving flaky, undulating pastry for a more leisurely weekend's relaxation.

Of course you have completely failed to note that half the women in this country are probably on a post-Christmas diet of some sort out of a guilt complex and the need to be able to do the zip on their jeans up once more. 'Quick, mildly spiced beef'', another contender for a midweek supper, also has a goodly helping of double cream and wholegrain mustard (one of my favourite combinations) added. But heck, whose counting calories at the moment? Is it my imagination or is there a conspiratorial silence about new year's diet resolutions this year. I don't see too many gym bunnies pounding the streets in the packed ice and cakes are disappearing as fast as calorie-counted ready meals in the shopping isles. Of course it could be that the way to have your cake and eat it, or not (if you see what I mean) is to watch it being made on a bake-off, salivate a bit and then turn the tele off feeling pleasantly full. Some of us prefer to get down and dirty and throw flour all round the kitchen for kicks.

Now here's a recipe to intrigue: 'Baked quince with orange and mascarpone ginger crunch' (page 37). This is another ingredient that has suffered from being badly dealt with by me in the past and therefore resigned to obscurity. Tough little buggers as I remember them and too much hard work for a disappointingly-flavoured result. But baking, letting the casserole do the hard work...and 'there is orange in there too, vanilla in its sticky pod and a single cinnamon stick.' OK, you have me hooked, Waitrose here I come.


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