This is yet another of Hugh F-W's recipes, looking promising before cooking above, then ready to eat below. Opinion here was divided between the "I think there are better things to do with asparagus" and the "it makes a change from steaming them with Jersey Royals ...". I was firmly in the 'for' camp.
Buffalo mozzarella, a sprinkling of grated Parmesan, some softened onions, and the finer spears from a small bunch of asparagus. (And if you have the book, I can also recommend the kale and onion pizza on p. 186.)
In terms of value for money - cost per recipe used - Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Veg Every Day
is worth every penny. I've lost count of the number of dishes from it which have become part of our regular repertoire, and we're still finding new ones to try. Last night's supper was a warm salad of green beans, new potatoes and olives, a simple, speedy collation of vegetables, very summery, very fresh, very tasty, and with enough left over for my lunch today.
If books on food history and baking are more to your taste, then look out for Great British Bakes: Forgotten treasures for modern bakers by Mary-Anne Boermans which is to be published in November. Many of us know Mary-Anne as one of the finalists in the 2011 series of The Great British Bake-Off, and in her new book she presents "tempting delights such as Gamrie Knotties, Marlborough Pudding and Almond Flory, and reveals the stories behind the
bakes, such as the fruit-laden Wood Street Cake Lady Anne
Murray purchased for the 14-year-old Duke of York (the future
James II) after his escape from St James’s Palace in 1648, or the
crisp gingerbread Parliament Cakes, named for the politicians and
notable gentlemen of 18th-century Edinburgh who came to Mrs
Flockhart’s tavern on the Potterow to partake of her fine fare".
I made red pepper and rosemary spread (recipe here*), to have with toasted sourdough bread at lunch - it is very good indeed, and I'll certainly make it again, next time with a spot of olive oil added and maybe a tiny bit more salt.
*To roast the peppers I give them about five minutes, skin side down on the Aga boiling plate, and they are ready to peel straightaway - easily done with a sharp knife, and no need for plastic bags, etc.
Asked to buy some greenery for stir-frying, Mr. C. came home from the shop with these 'Flower Sprouts'. It turns out they are a cabbage-y, sprout-y sort of thing, firm of texture and nutty to taste, and stir-fried with sesame seeds and sugar snap peas, they went down very well here, so much so that I've had repeat requests for them - and they've ousted tatsoi & co.
If you happen to have a copy of POLPO: A Venetian Cookbook (Of Sorts)
by Russell Norman - Waterstones Book of the Year - then do try the Mozzarella Pizzaiola, the recipe for which is on p. 217. If you don't have the book, then roast some good tomatoes (I used plum) with olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar and oregano or thyme, and when they are done serve them with a ball of (buffalo) mozzarella per person, some greenery, and a drizzle of olive oil. The Italian flatbread they are sitting on was my addition, and gave the dish a bit more substance, but with or without that it's excellent and so easy.
My copy arrived this morning, so over lunch I have been savouring Charlie Lee-Potter's article on perfect pairings of books and food, a piece on mindful eating, a feature on food writer Elisabeth Luard's other career as an artist (she combines the two roles to great effect - look here, for example), a glimpse of Ben Pentreath's kitchens, and an article by The Foodie Bugle's editor Silvana de Soissons on the laundering of kitchen linens in Britain from the 16th. to the 19th. centuries - and there's so much more!
This magazine is a real thing of beauty, and I'm very glad to have discovered it.
"I like my marmalade to shine in the morning sun. A bright, jewel-like mixture with thin strands of peel ... the point of this golden jam is its bittersweet quality. It's a wake-up call in a jar."
That's Nigel Slater (The Kitchen Diaries II again), and it was his recipe I used for marmalade-making over the weekend. On Saturday I peeled all the fruit* and shredded it quite finely, added the juice, pulp, seeds in a muslin bag, and water and left it to stand overnight. Yesterday the mixture was simmered until the peel was soft and translucent, then the sugar was added and the boiling commenced, and the fragrance alone was worth the effort. The taste is vibrant without being bitter, and the balance of tart to sweet is just right.
I am pleased with my "pots of bright, shining happiness", as NS calls them.
*1.3kg. Seville oranges, 2 sweet oranges, 2 lemons, a few pieces of stem ginger.
Beans: black eyed, black turtle, butter, haricot, lima, pinto, red kidney, rose cocoa, alubia and
mung. Celadon green and mussel shell blue, nail varnish red and pearl grey - it seems a shame to cook them and lose those lovely colours, but stirred into a roasted tomato sauce with some chilli added, their taste was as good as their looks.
If last night's Lucy Worsley programme, Food In England: The Lost World of Dorothy Hartley appealed, here's a book which may bring your interest up to the present day - The Last Food of England by Marwood Yeatman (currently cheaper here). In it the author credits Dorothy Hartley as one of his mentors, and he goes on: "Hartley's honest and affectionate Food In England is an education - leading you out to seek and find. It was published within years of Elizabeth David's French Provincial Cooking, gaining a fraction of the recognition. It was not a book of its time, but a book for all time ...
Dorothy Hartley has not left the rest of us with much to say about country cooking or the chance of saying it any better."
Nevertheless, Marwood Yeatman does a fine job, travelling the country to meet "the bacon curers, seine fishermen, hunter gatherers, tripe dressers [and the like], and find historic breeds of livestock, home-made butter, medieval pears, summer truffles, discovering that far from being dead and buried, the food of England is a living subculture".
I'm glad I tried Charlie's Pumpkin and Spelt Risotto as it's excellent. I had only whole spelt (not pearled as specified) so I had to improvise a bit as it needs longer cooking, but otherwise I did as Charlie instructs and we all loved the result.
It's a very forgiving way to make a risotto, and produces one with masses of flavour and good texture - we're on for a repeat performance soon.
If you have a bag of spelt flour in the cupboard, you might like to try this cake or a loaf (there's an even quicker recipe here, above the cake).
Recipe here (my variations: dried cranberries instead of the apricots, as that was what was in the cupboard, and being low on maple syrup I topped it up with agave nectar). Testers' comments: "scrummy", "so good", "better bake another batch just to make sure ...".