Monday, 11 November 2013

November 11th - Trial and error and Nigel's Favourite

Dear Nigel,

Today I see you've been experimenting in the kitchen with a kind of homemade teriyaki sauce which you add to a heap of mushrooms and reduce. But it doesn't quite go to plan - 'the flavours are altogether too powerful, too salty, sweet, earthy, almost liquorice-like in style.' You rescue it with a bowl of steamed brown rice which calms the flavours and averts disaster. It happens to all of us, we think we'll add a little bit of this, a little of that, and it doesn't always have the desired effect.

I remember when I was eleven years old and in the Girl Guides doing my cooks badge. I went round to my tester's house with my basket of ingredients and started to make a gingerbread cake and a shepherds' pie. Part way through browning my mince and onions in the pan I thought it might make an interesting addition to the dish if I added some of the ground ginger left over from the gingerbread. I thought it probably needed a fairly hefty helping, and at first I couldn't taste it at all....Luckily my tester decided to mark me on presentation alone, although I think she helped herself to a slice of the gingerbread. So I took my prize accomplishments home and served them up for tea. Strangely enough, I didn't feel very hungry myself that evening, but I watched avidly the reactions of my mum, dad, sister and brother as they sat around the table. Each one was complimentary. No one pulled a face. And they ate it all. Such is family loyalty. I feasted on a tin of biscuits that evening.

Looking through your recipe books at so many tasty little morsels, I often wonder which are your favourite ones. Do they change with the seasons, with the turn of the leaves or the budding of the new on a sunny spring day? I am a huge fan of the simple jacket potato as a simple supper to which I can add numerous toppings depending on the contents of my fridge or what's left over from the day before. You are making 'Baked potatoes, rillettes and rosemary' (page 436), and, although the recipe calls for deli-bought pork rillettes, you are making your own: 'I sometimes think this is my favourite recipe of all. I make the coarse fatty pate from scratch, but they are also good made with shop-bought rillettes too.' You hollow out the potatoes and mash the insides with butter, rosemary which is finely chopped and strands of the pork rillettes. Then a dusting of Parmesan on the top to make a firm crust and 'they are the most humble yet delectable of potatoes.'

At this time of year, when every penny saved is another in the kitty marked "expectations of Christmas by other friends and family members" (which always seems onerous, and makes you want to get on the next boat to Norway without any baggage - human or otherwise) the humble jacket potato goes a long way in the fight to survive. It also cocoons and comforts when you're pretending not to notice the incessant rain outside. Or the fact that your boots are leaking, the drains are blocking up and there are piles of wet leaves trying to get in the back door.


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