Monday, 21 May 2018

Delia's peppers

I am an admirer of Delia Smith. Unlike others, she has never gone out of fashion. Unlike others, she does not sneer at her readers. She is not the type who would waltz smugly into the dining room to the awe of her guests, having spontaneously whipped up some delicious concoction having found the ingredients in some corner of a hidden market. No: for her, I suspect, preparation is key; and while I doubt she needs to use a recipe book much of the time, she would do so - unlike others - without embarrassment. Her recipes work (by which I mean she puts in enough detail for anyone making the thing for the first time not to have to guess) and she should undoubtedly be included in the line of writers in this country who have been responsible for social change in the art of cookery: Mrs Beeton, Elizabeth David and Jamie Oliver are others.

Both my mother, my grandmother and even my grandfather (only an occasional cook) were keen on Delia; her Complete Cookery Course a well-stained volume in their kitchens. But one aspect of her writing used to irritate to the extent that it became quite a good parkour game: find a recipe of hers which is not one of her “favourites”...

This comes from her “Summer Cooking”. I do not have it in front of me so I may not be as precise as its author usually is, but it is a forgiving recipe.

Red peppers (at least half per person).
Salted anchovy fillets (at least two per person).
Cherry tomatoes (at least three per person) - or, if fresh tomatoes not available, a tin of chopped Italian tomatoes.
Plenty of olive oil.

Halve and seed the peppers and place the halves on a baking tray.

Halve the cherry tomatoes and stuff them into the peppers. If you are using the chopped Italian tomatoes, add them, including the juice.

Chop the anchovy fillets and top the tomatoes with them.

Fill the peppers to the brim with olive oil.

Bake. Then refrigerate. Eat.

I think these should be served fridge-cold. As Delia herself might say, nice for a starter or a collection of starters on a summer’s day.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Hungarian sausage

My mother once came to visit me when I was at boarding school in Canterbury in the nineteen eighties. I seem to recall that she had come with my grandparents who took us out for lunch. After they had departed, my mother stayed and took me shopping. I do not recall where we went but I can remember one of the things she bought me: a large Hungarian sausage: red, coarse, studded with garlic and peppercorns and full of paprika. I think I ate it in one sitting after Mum had left; that I still recall it, thirty years later, is a testament to its quality. Ever since, I have been trying to find something similar, but have never succeeded. The Hungarian sausages I have encountered since have been disappointing: too salty or too greasy, like the worst kind of Danish salami. One day, though, I will find what I am looking for.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Swedish meatballs

The Swedes know how to make tender little meatballs. And they do not require a sauce. A freshly-cooked meatball, studded with onion fragments, neither dry nor soggy, is a delight. Astrid Lindgren’s hero, Karlssoj, a man with a built-in helicopter propeller,  is fond of them and persuades his friend Milo to go downstairs and fetch some for him. Milo’s mother, busy frying them in the kitchen downstairs, obliges. But she is not best pleased when she discovers that Karlsson has not eaten them but has used some of them to decorate a toy brick tower.

I discovered recently that Swedish meatballs originated in Turkey. The Swedish King, Charles XII, brought home the recipe from Turkey in the early eighteenth century.

Sunday, 13 May 2018


“The Dwarf had splendid ideas about cookery. Each apple (they still had a few of these) was wrapped up in bear’s meat - as if it was to be apple dumpling with meat instead of pastry, only much thicker - and spiked on a sharp stick and then roasted. And the juice of the apple worked all through the meat, like apple sauce with roast pork. Bear that has lived too much on other animals is not very nice, but bear that has had plenty of honey and fruit is excellent, and this turned out to be that sort of bear. It was a truly glorious meal.”

From C S Lewis’s Prince Caspian

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Cherries in chocolate

Fresh cherries, dipped in plain chocolate, still with their stems on, make a spectacular after dinner comestible. Somehow, they have never quite worked for me. The chocolate is too thick in parts, and the cherries make the chocolate wet-tasting.

Although not homemade, I prefer Mon Cheris which, despite their French name, come from Germany. They are wrapped in pink foil, rectangular and should, in my view, be fridge cold. The chocolate cracks; the liqueur floods out and you chew the cherry. A feast for Christmas Day to be enjoyed while opening presents. And one should not drive afterwards.

I am always willing to try alternatives, but my opinion is that nothing beats a Mon Cheri. There is the Marks & Spencer’s cherry liqueur: beautifully wrapped in red foil, looking rounder and redder than Mon Cheris, but lacking in flavour or texture. Many years ago, before I even discovered Mon Cheris, my favourite chocolate of all was the Liquid Cherry, to be found in a box of Black Magic.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

C’est à Balaruc

The first meal on holiday is always memorable, no matter how ordinary. Lucy and I stopped on the way from the airport in our hire car at the hypermarket at Balaruc for a big shop. The dangers of doing such a shop on an empty stomach are well-known. So we had a quick lunch, sitting outside, in the simple adjoining restaurant.

Being France, it had to be three courses. I had Museau Vinaigrette to start, slightly unsure what it was, but having a feeling - these were pre-smartphone days - that it was a meaty terrine of some sort. So it proved: boned pig cheek to be precise, as I discovered much later.

I cannot recall what was to follow - steak frites followed by Glace? - but it set us up well for the delights of wandering round the hypermarket. Though it didn’t stop us from buying far too much.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Yellow food

Joan Aiken has an unusual way with food. In The Whispering Mountain, she tells of a sinister Marquess who only eats yellow food. “Alack, more yellow comestibles”, sighs one of the characters.  This is what is on the menu: curried eggs, chicken with saffron, smoked haddock with mustard sauce, peaches, bananas, and yellow plums...