Archives for posts with tag: Nigel Slater

In summer there are many, and varied, delights to be found in and alongside the rivers of England.

I couldn’t help thinking about all the centuries of history that came before us as we cruised up and down the Lee Navigation and then up the River Thames. That it is likely that dugout canoes from the Bronze Age and Saxon barges once plied the River Lea and that Viking raiders slipped up the river in their longboats to pillage villages.

The Thames has been described as ‘liquid history’. There is evidence of human habitation on the banks of the Thames dating back to Neolithic times.  Bronze Age settlements and artefacts have been discovered along the banks of the river, while the Romans recognised the river’s strategic and economic importance.

These rivers carried armies and freight as well as being a source of food and water.

As delightful as it was to contemplate the centuries, no, millennia, that preceded Narrowboat Patience on these venerable waterways, my interest was less in marshaling my army of one up and down the river to capture a village and more in the food I might find along the way.

I came upon supermarkets galore and pubs aplenty but the truth is, I was really in search of  something just a bit more thrilling.

I’ve had  fun in the past collecting berries on the banks of the River Nene and making a delicious jelly, but it was too early in the year for berries. I wondered if we might find fields of wild garlic as we have also done in the past, but I remembered that that was in April, and this was June.

Then one day while while impatiently waiting for a lock to fill, I admired the profusion of wild flowers on the bank. There were starry elderflowers, bright yellow dandelions, creamy nettle buds and droopy purple comfrey flowers. DSCF0969 I wondered whether to pick some nettle leaves to make tea but I had no gloves and didn’t feel like risking the mean sting of the innocuous-looking serrated leaves. I thought about the medicinal value of comfrey, aka knit-bone, and remembered drinking comfrey tea with my sister, Penny, when she broke her neck.

I know you can eat dandelions but I have never done so and as much as I looked at them and admired their sunny beauty, I wasn’t entirely sure about turning them into a meal. I knew of course one could make elderflower cordial so I thought that might be an idea. And I had in the past made borage fritters. Was borage not some sort of relative of comfrey? Could I make comfrey fritters?

The lock filled, I opened the gates, Richard expertly piloted the boat in. I closed the gates and opened the paddles so that the lock would empty and abandoning my army of one in the lock, I made a mad dash back to the elder and comfrey plants and quickly gathered leaves and flowers.

Supper was sorted. A botanical fritto misto.

IMG_6105After a quick goole search I consulted Neil Cooks Grigson for his Comfrey Leaf Fritters and Nigel Slater for his elderflower fritter recipe. I used the Nigel Slater batter recipe pretty much as it was but added a teaspoon of my friend togarashi to the mix. And to serve I drizzled the fritters with a syrup made of elderflower cordial seasoned with togarashi. A delicious sweet and spicy supper which was enjoyed by my army of one — and me, of course.

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I am guilty of getting obsessed with some things culinary – recipes by a certain chef, for example Nigel Slater, a favourite dish like posset or fruit curds, a place to shop like the Oxford Covered Market, an ingredient along the lines of lamb shoulder, rhubarb, lemons or star anise…

Today I got to satisfy a couple of my current obsessions in one fell swoop and in so doing created a simple supper for a group of friends.

It all started at the Oxford Covered Market a few days ago. I was dawdling though the market marveling at the array of food shops – fishmonger to cheese shop,

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butcher to coffee shop,

Italian delicatessen to green grocer

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– when my eye settled on a couple of boxes of rhubarb.

There was no way I’d be going home without a bag of rhubarb. The question was which of the two types would it be? The one lot were elegant thin prettily pink sticks from the Wye Valley at £6.95 and the others were from Yorkshire – heftier, darker, more sculptural stems adorned with lovely leafy fronds. Price £4.95 per kilo. Impossible to choose.

‘They’ll be sweeter, won’t they?’ said the greengrocer of the delicate pink ones, and I suspected he was right.  But what if the less beautiful, cheaper ones actually had a better flavour? I mean it’s not all about sweetness with rhubarb, is it?

After spending an agonizing few minutes weighing my options,I decided I had better have some of each. I’d do a taste test.

As I was paying for the rhubarb the greengrocer asked rather tentatively ‘Have you bought rhubarb before, then?’

‘Yes,’ I said, ‘but not from you.’

‘It’s quite old fashioned isn’t it? Generally, it’s older people who buy it.’  Hmmm, well what exactly did he mean, I thought indignantly.

But all I said was, ‘Really?’ And then he came out with a real shocker.

‘To be honest, I’ve never cooked it myself… What are you going to do with it?’ He sold the stuff — how was it possible that he’d never cooked it? Somehow, though, his ignorance gave me all the assurance he lacked. This is what I told him:

‘I’m going to slow-roast a shoulder of lamb on a bed of rhubarb and then make a rhubarb posset for dessert.’ The thought of making two batches of the same thing merely to test which of the varieties of rhubarb was the better seemed like a very shoddy one indeed and I jettisoned it without a qualm.

The greengrocer was suitably impressed, and I marched out of the Covered Market with my double pack of rhubarb, and a steely determination to prove that it’s not something that the old, but rather the adventurous, use to create a memorable dish.

Back at our temporary residence in Cumnor, just west of Oxford, I dug out (on the internet) a couple of old favourites: Nigel Slater’s recipe for lamb cutlets cooked with rhubarb  and his rhubarb posset.  Then I dashed down the road to Michael Cain & Family Butchers to buy a free range lamb shoulder.

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Rhubarb Posset

I changed Nigel’s recipe slightly and oven roasted the rhubarb with a stick of cinnamon, three fresh bay leaves, the rind of a lemon, 10 black peppercorns and a cup of water.  Then once the rhubarb was cooked I reduced the reserved liquid by boiling it with the the bay leaves, cinnamon, peppercorns and lemon rind for ten minutes.

Slow cooked lamb shoulder

I rubbed the lamb with seven spice power, chili flakes, salt and pepper and placed it on the bed of chopped onion, rhubarb, celery and a small handful of star anise in the base of a heavy ovenproof dish. I roasted it covered for about five hours at 140 C.  Serve with a gravy made from the vegetables.All you need to go with this is a simple green salad and maybe potatoes.  Or celeriac purée à la Nigel Slater.

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Serendipity struck this week when I made the trip to the Hospice book shop to try to buy a book voucher for the winning writer of one of the Allaboutwriting 150 word writing challenges.

Cosmopolitan C00kbook Phillippa Cheifitz

I have been dipping into my rather dog eared copy of The Cosmopolitan Cookbook by Phillippa Cheifitz quite often lately and it’s been pretty annoying to have to re-order the pages each time I’ve wanted to find a trusted old recipe. In fact I have been thinking of contacting the publishers to say ‘Why don’t you reprint this book since there are a couple of generations of cooks out there that would probably love to have it on their shelves?’.

The recipes in the book, as well as on the torn-out magazine pages I have been hoarding, have been very much part of my cooking life for almost 30 years. The book, I believe, is a classic – delicious recipes, simple clean layout and stunning photographs.

I have never been a ‘Cosmo’ kind of a girl but I used to buy the magazine every month without fail just for  Phillippa Cheifitz’s recipes. As Jane Raphaely, the publisher, says in her forward, ‘We don’t live to eat – we love to eat and the results are the most delectable food ever featured in a magazine. Our secret ingredient is the cook.’ She was right.

Having been unlucky with the purchase of the gift voucher I thought I’d have a quick look at the cooking section and was bowled over to find an unused copy of The Cosmopolitan Cookbook. Naturally I snapped it up immediately along with Nigel Slater’s Eating for England and James Beard’s Beard on Food.  All three for the very reasonable price of R55.

Beard on Food, Eating for England, The Cosmopolitan Cookbook

So what are my top ten recipes from The Cosmopolitan Cookbook?

  1. I have to start with the Homemade Pasta recipe which, along with a pasta machine  I received as a wedding present, inspired me to make my own pasta for many years.
  2. Caviar and Cream Sauce  to serve with pasta. You’d be hard pressed to lay your hands on a more luxurious yet quick-and-easy recipe. It even found its way onto my hiking foods menu when my younger sister and I made it on day one of the eight day 120km Namib Naukluft hiking trail. The pop of the caviar (actually Danish lumpfish roe) in your mouth, with the acidy lemon, silky creamy pasta and spicy black pepper is just about as perfect a combination of flavours and textures as can be imagined. I’ll sneak in the Fresh Tomato and Anchovy Sauce here too. This incredibly flavoursome sauce once eaten at dinner parties by my friends and me now finds its way into school lunch boxes.
  3. The Mexican recipes –  Guacamole, Tortillas, Chilli Con Carne, Salsa and Frozen Margarita – have been made to death and in great quantities over the years and served on all occasions from tequila-fuelled dinner parties to school night suppers. These days, though, Woolworths is part of the process with their pre-packaged tortillas. Good or bad? I’m not sure.
  4. Rose Petal Tart, so beautiful and perfect, was made by a friend for my wedding. I must make that again! The Strawberry Tart is also beautiful and perfect.
  5. Janssen’s Temptation – served with a green salad for the most perfect week-night supper.
  6. Fig and Ricotta Mould – a staple of my younger sister’s repertoire and a perfect way to end any meal.
  7. Tropical Crayfish Cocktail. An exquisite combination of avo, papino and shellfish with a lightly curried dressing topped with crunchy nuts and fresh coriander  first made by my older sister but now a firm family favourite. The dressing is delicious and I use it all the time on a variety of salads, most recently on a chicken and prickly pear salad.
  8. Croquembouche – the spectacular French dessert I once made for a friend’s wedding. Although we filled the profiteroles with chocolate mousse and not custard.
  9. The Baked Orange Chicken has been a thirty year stalwart, present from carefree single days through to family weekday suppers.
  10. The fillet recipes with both green and black peppercorns and the various mushroom sauce recipes are the inspiration for many a steak supper.

That’s my top ten from the book  and if I had to go through the magazine clippings the list could easily treble. I’ll leave that for another day. It is a little worrying though that this list is very weddingy. What is this –  a Cosmo girl kind of a thing?

Tropical Crayfish Cocktail Phillippa Cheifitz

Just to prove I’m no typical Cosmo girl here is a list of Cosmo girl attributes with their matching recipes:

  • Fun – Frozen Margarita
  • Fearless – Croquembouche
  • Female – Rose Petal Tart

Oops, well maybe it’s not so bad to be a Cosmo girl after all.

Petal Tart Phillippa Cheifitz

P.S – If you are tempted to buy the book – just Google it – there are a number of copies available online. and for tons of Phillippa Cheifitz’s more recent recipes have a look at Woolworths Taste magazine.