Welcome to the Cookery Calendar Challenge for September; running a little late this month, but just the same format as usual, which, if you would like to join the challenge this month, you will find on the Cookery Calendar Challenge page.
My chosen book for August was Nigel Slater's 'Real Food', a nice hardback copy bought for a song in our local branch of W.H. Smith.
Nigel Slater's writing is just fabulous, and it is for this flowing, gentle, insightful prose that I love his books. I have almost never cooked from any of the (many) Nigel Slater books I own, though I have read and been inspired by them all. His writing is poetic, but never pretentious. In Nigel Slater's books, it is ok to have a big, fat, baked potato for dinner, or a mushroom sandwich, or sausages.
Real Food is divided into chunky chapters; Potatoes; Chicken, Sausages, Garlic, Bread, Cheese, Ice Cream, and Chocolate.
In each chapter, Nigel introduces the main ingredient in his thoughtful, informal style, and then presents some suggestions, and recipes, to bring out the best in each. He advocates quality, sustainability, and provenance, but not in a hectoring fashion. He somehow inspires the reader to want to eat only the best quality produce that we can afford, and then do comparatively little to it.
In this vein, my first selected dish was baked potatoes.
I have a great fondness for baked potatoes, as they were always regarded as a winter treat when I was growing up. Not the potatoes themselves (not even in the north of Scotland, in the 1970's, was life that hard), but the baking of them. My parents ran a series of small fishing hotels in the highlands, so our ovens in the summer were used for preparing meals for the guests who stayed at the hotel. To take up oven space, and time, with some big fat spuds was not really an option in the summer. However, in the winter months, the gigantic Aga with its huge ovens was all ours, as was the massive kitchen table, which again, we couldn't really use in the summer , but in the winter months, it was this table we sat around, where did our homework, ate our meals, drew, read, argued and played with my baby brother in his high chair. During those winter months, we felt like a 'normal family', whatever our idea of that was, and Mum cooked us mince and tatties, or macaroni cheese, and lots of other homely dishes that we didn't eat in the summer. In the summer months, our dinners were a derivation of whatever was being served to the guests, or just a quick snack rustled from the larder.
In the cold winter months (and they really were cold), baked potatoes, fat, floury, roasting hot, with creamy white insides giving forth hissing clouds of steam when cut open, slathered in butter, lots of salt, and perhaps some grated cheese, made a perfect dinner.
My own dear family however, has never shared the same nostalgic feelings about baked potatoes, and there is an inevitable collective groan when they are presented for dinner.
Even with Nigel's encouraging words in my ear, the baked potato dinner was not seen in the 'enough's as good as a feast' category by the family, and as I didn't have Nigel's confidence, to serve simply with some tasty cheese and lots of butter and salt, I reverted to form, and over compensated for the plainness by providing, or rather over-providing, fillings, salads, toppings and relishes. Thus a simple, economical dinner, became a pricey, slightly wasteful dinner, with lots of little dribs and drabs of fillings left over. I bet if Nigel had been on spud duty my carnivores would have had a different attitude...
On to dish number two, and this time it was a simple roast chicken. I cook roast chicken quite a lot for the family, and this time I went for the best (or almost the best, it was only a week night after all), and roasted it, served it with new potatoes, cut into chunks, and roasted red onions. It was rather a small chicken, as only Derek and Jacob were eating it. Being a veggie, I don't eat chicken, and Isaac doesn't really like chicken unless it is enjoying at least a nodding acquaintance with some breadcrumb coating.
I thought the little dish looked rather pretty and appetising, and the carnivores enjoyed it. I must confess I can never face retrieving every last morsel of meat from the bones of the chicken, so once the meal is over, the carcass is swiftly disposed of into the food waste bin. Though not a squeamish vegetarian, denuding a chicken carcass is beyond me.
I really like 'Real Food'. Like an inspiring teacher at school, who somehow teaches you without your ever noticing, Nigel helps you make the right decisions in the kitchen and cook with calm ease, which is what we all want on a week night when we just want to feed the family decent food with not too much fuss.
My chosen book for September is 'How I Cook' by Skye Gyngell. I picked up this lovely hardback in the charity shop recently, drawn to its pleasing size, the very charming photograph of slightly tarnished silver cutlery on the front, and the double ribbon marker. Yes I really am that shallow.
If you joined me last month, thank you. If you would like to join the challenge this month, this is what to do:
The challenge is simple: the first week of every month, select a cookery book from your shelf, and cook two new recipes from it. The recipes can be for any meal. Cakes and bakes are excluded, but puddings are included. Don't worry about photographs; if you haven't taken a photograph of the dish, post a photograph of the recipe book you used. Similarly, you are welcome to share a recipe if you wish, but there is no pressure to do so. This project is more about the process of reconnecting with your cookery book collection, than about recipe sharing or food photography. At the beginning of the following month, blog about the recipes you have used, and announce your chosen cookery book for the month ahead. This is an ongoing project, it's never too late to get involved, and everyone is very welcome.
I would appreciate a link back to this Cookery Calendar Challenge post in your post. Grab the Cookery Calendar Challenge badge to display on your blog too, if you like (just copy and paste the code on to your dashboard to display). You can also join via Instagram using hashtag #cookerycalendarchallenge (you will find me on Instagram @penny.homemadeheart )