Friday, 9 August 2019

July's Cookery Book

July's cookery book, Nigel Slater's Greenfeast: Spring/Summer, was one of those perfect moments of right book, right time. It was a gift from my mum (we are both big fans of Nigel, cooking, and cookery books) and, once the summer holidays had started, I found the time both to read and cook from this book. 

It's wonderful, of course, as are all Nigel Slater's books. Small, thick and heavy with a shocking-pink and gold fabric jacket design, it's an eye-catching little book. Recipe titles are brief and list-like ("halloumi, mint, aubergine", for example) but fortunately almost every recipe has an accompanying photo and poetic sub-heading ("Smoky flavours. Silky aubergine. Crisp crumbs.") so you get some kind of idea of what it is you are actually cooking, rather than a helpful shopping list. All recipes are vegetarian. Chapter headings are organised by how you cook and serve the food: In a Pan, In the Hand, On a Plate, on the Grill etc, with a puddings chapter at the end. 

His recipes are so perfectly seasonal and his writing is as descriptive and evocative as ever, but this is probably not a recipe book I will use for a busy Tuesday night when I need to feed everyone quickly and easily before Cubs, say. A lot of the recipes here feel like side-dishes, which is in no-way a criticism, but you would need to cook two or three different things so that there would be something that everyone liked on the table. Or, if it's a busy school night with lots of activities, you could just do a quorn chilli or bolognese which is what I would do. 

That said, everything I tried from this book was wonderful.

First, on a very hot day last week, deep in the middle of the heatwave, I made "Halloumi, Melon, Chilli" for lunch. I adore halloumi and could happily eat it most days, but I wouldn't have thought of putting it with melon.

You make a salsa of chopped watermelon, cantaloupe, tomatoes, spring onions, coriander and chilli and then put it in the fridge then, while it's chilling, griddle the halloumi - I bought one that had chilli in it. The recipe calls for a fried slice of ciabatta too but I couldn't face that, so I left it out. Then you simply assemble the salsa and cheese and eat, enjoying the contrast of icy, sweet fruit and hot, spicy cheese. 

Total hot-weather lunch perfection: filling but not heavy, although next time I'd maybe do more tomato and less melon, as those melons were syrupy sweet. 

There have been quite a few times over the last couple of weeks where the children have, for whatever reason, eaten earlier and separately to us, giving me the perfect opportunity to cook something just for John and I. "Peas, Parpadelle, Parmesan" was a quick and easy winner of a dish and definitely something I'd cook again.

Ideally you'd use fresh peas here but we used frozen. You boil the pasta and, while it's cooking, simmer the peas in stock. When they're cooked, reserve a few then blitz the rest with a little stock until you have a smooth sauce. Once the pasta is cooked and drained you mix in the pureed pea sauce and top with chunks of soft, mild, creamy goats cheese and a few peas. It was amazing. All of the flavours distinct but working with each other, and the robust pasta shape stopping is all becoming soft and sloppy.

Another quick and easy meal for two was these stuffed peppers - I know it looks like a lot, but they were very small peppers. 

You mix together pesto, feta, tomatoes and olives - such summery flavours! - then dollop a spoonful into each pepper before baking for half an hour. I cooked some bulgar wheat too, to put on the side as we were hungry.

"Rice, Broad Beans, Asparagus" next. People seem to really love or hate broad beans, I've found - I am in the love camp. I think they are delicious and could just eat them as they are, picking at them. This is a kind of pilaf, a mixture of seasoned rice and vegetables, but without the creamy cheesiness of a risotto. You cook the rice with herbs, spices and bay leaves, while steaming the asparagus and broad beans. Then you are supposed to whip up 200 g butter (yes, that's nearly a full block) with chopped herbs to serve on top. Now, I like butter, but I just couldn't bring myself to use that much so I mixed about a quarter of that with chopped chives, parsley and mint which we stirred through the rice and vegetables. You need the herb butter, otherwise you have a fairly dull dish of rice and veg, and the herbs lift the whole thing while the butter makes every mouthful taste, well, better.

Finally, dessert, in which I tried - unsuccessfully - to get other people in this house to share  my love of Summer Pudding. Traditionally eaten cold, it is white bread soaked with cooked summer berries and served with cream and I made it last summer to a luke-warm reception, to put it mildly. This recipe, "Currants, Gin, Bread", is a cooked version. 

You simmer with sugar the blackcurrants, redcurrants and raspberries as you usually would, then pour the liquid mixture over an oven dish filled with stale white bread torn into chunks. (You are supposed to add gin to the cooked berries but I didn't want to.) After baking for half an hour, you have a kind of mixture between a fruit crumble and a bread pudding, which you serve with cream. Everyone except me agreed that a summer fruit crumble would have been nicer, so I ate mine and put the rest in the freezer, individually portioned for when I feel like a bit of summer pudding. 

But an all-round lovely book, which I thoroughly enjoyed cooking from, and I am already excited for the publication of the autumn/winter version in October. Thank you mum. :-)


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  2. It's a lovely book isn't it, I had it from the library briefly until someone else ordered it. And very good to see Nigel doing his bit for meat-free living. Your recipes all look delicious. I often open his 'Tender' books when I've got a glut of something I've grown to see what he would do with it. It's figs at the moment, yikes. But of course he has lots of lovely ideas, all very poetically described. CJ xx

  3. Love all of Nigel's stuff - and especially broad beans.

    BTW you can delete the first comment on this post from "lillian nikky". It is a scam. I speak a bit of Swedish, so basically don't have anything to do with it.

  4. I really enjoy your recipe book posts and this moth you have tried some wonderful ones. the one with the melon made my mouth water reading it.

  5. Must say, Gillian, they all look delicious. Who would've thought about putting melon with halloumi?

  6. No matter what it is, as long as it is green, I am almost certainly guaranteed to love it!
    I am not that much of a halloumi fan, maybe I was served the wrong type a few times as I mostly remember it being of a rubbery texture. But nearly all cheeses go well with melon, such as feta and watermelon, rucola and roast pine nuts combined for a refreshing summer salad, either eaten just with bread or along some meat from the grill.

  7. My kind of cooking - enjoy! Andy and I have had a week without children (guide camp etc. ) so we have eaten caulifower dahl, minestrone soup and a lot of egg. It was a vegetarian heavy week because we have been building 10 hours a day and I needed something to cook in a one pot casserole pan on a hob without a fridge. No cookbook needed on a building site - just food. Jo xxx


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