Sunday, 13 December 2015

Plenty More Where That Came From....

One thing I quite like about a number of recipe books, apart from the actual recipes, is discovering something about the people behind them.  Some cook books do contain quite a lot of biographical details, whereas others leave the reader/cook with just little hints here and there between the glossy pictures of food. I'm curious to know where the inspiration comes from and, being a bit of a nosy individual, I like to know where the inspiration comes through.  Yotam Ottolenghi is a case in point - he can take a simple ingredient, consider the uses of that ingredient in different cultures, getting excited by the range of possibilities, and from there creates some wonderful dishes.

Admittedly, while having an awareness of Yotam's writing for a number of years, I was slow to try out some of his recipes - it took a couple of friends to recommend a black pepper tofu recipe to me that made up my mind to buy "Plenty". Even then, this was not a book I regularly cooked from - Yotam has had some criticism from readers of his weekly columns for The Guardian for his long lists of ingredients, some of which can be a little harder to source in certain parts of the country, outwith that there London place! I can understand that some people would find that off-putting, but it doesn't necessarily translate into something that takes an age to prepare.  I was surprised to find out that, once Yotam was invited to write a weekly column, he panicked that he would never have enough recipes to manage more than a few weeks. The weeks turned into months, then years of various recipes much to his amazement. Other books followed too, including "Plenty More" which I just had to buy - the biggest surprise about Yotam is that he is not a vegetarian, but someone who understands flavours and that cooking and eating should be pleasurable. In recent weeks I've cooked  his aubergine pahi - a Sri Lankan dry curry - , leek fritters, which I served with roasted squash with sweet spices, lime and green chilli (but without the yoghurty dressing), ultimate winter couscous, mushroom ragout, aubergine, walnut and miso with udon noodles - for all the ingredients I have, I had never used miso until a few months ago - don't think I will be without it now. And I have to say they all tasted good.
Yes, Plenty More cost me plenty less.....

Someone else who has a repertoire of fabulous recipes is Denis Cotter of Café Paradiso in Cork. His recipes might look to have quite a few components, which I suppose, they do, as well as the name of each dish telling you exactly what it is - pistachio, green chilli and yoghurt kofta with kale in a fresh tomato-coconut sauce and cardamom-lime pancakes; pan-fried couscous cake of red onion, feta cheese and pinenuts with green olive tapenade and spiced roast peppers with spinach; honey-roasted butternut with avocado-lime salsa, and green curry of cauliflower and beans to name a few. You probably don't need to scan the list of ingredients to see what you need - just look at the heading. Again, some wonderful, tasty dishes have come out of his books Café Paradiso and Paradiso Seasons particularly, when he cooked in the restaurant with his wife, Wild Garlic Gooseberries....and Me when he was going through a foraging stage and made me question whether I really wanted to try nettles, coming back with the comforting dishes (and a new woman in his life) with For the Love of Food foraging.  As I said, finding out about the foodie between the pages.
Looking in good nick all things considered.
So, while I write this, I'm wondering which book will be the source of my tea tonight - I am veering towards Denis as I do have a dinky butternut squash sitting in the veg rack which will do two just nicely.

I have, of course, done a little baking again recently and finished decorating the Christmas cakes. I can remember, back in the mists of time, when December was a fairly relaxing time, where I didn't have much on between work other than a few opportunities to imbibe and make cakes!  These days I seem to have had a few races lined up and have committed myself (or perhaps should be committed) to running every day this month, by agreeing to take part in Marcothon . As I run most days, I'm not phased by getting some miles in, but knowing there are days where I'm only going to be able to run early in the morning (as well as having to ignore horrible weather forecasts), it has proved tough some days to not throw in the towel.  So, a nice warm kitchen is always appealing and, hosting an event last Sunday where I knew there would be cake-loving runners, I had an excuse to bake one or two things.
Poppy seed and lemon cake, plus Sachertorte with popping candy that may not have popped....
Fancy biscuits....don't mind if I do!
Once back home on Sunday afternoon, I bottled up the bramble gin I have had steeping since September. I have a good book on bottling, pickling and preserving - funnily enough, that's what it is called - by Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz, which I have used for several years now when making jam and marmalade, plus the odd chutney. I went through years of looking at the alcohol section in the book, telling myself that I must try making something with alcohol - maybe next year - just to forget all over again, until last year, when I tried bramble gin and wondered why it had taken so long for me to get round to it. Such a lovely drink for over the festive period, that I would have being mad not to make it again.

I also fed the Christmas cakes with brandy, before giving them a layer of marzipan - I marked the marzipan on the chocolate fruit with a "c" so I wouldn't get it muddled up - needed have bothered, it weighs somewhat more that the other cake of similar proportions! Yesterday I put a layer of icing on all the cakes and made the decorations, leaving them to dry overnight - finishing them off this morning before I headed out to a freezing cross-country.
Wonder how many calories there are.....
Getting there...

Deciding to not make them all the same theme.
Ended up with that affliction of multi-coloured hands.
So now, I've just got to work out what I'm making for Christmas dinner an I'm good to go!!

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