17 March 2016

Notes From The Larder

Let's start with this. Nigel Slater is a fine writer. Many a cookbook suffers from lousy writers. Slater is a cook, not a chef, a point he is quick to make.  He gives you straight forward recipes, not always measured out to the gram.  He tells you if something failed and how he corrected the problem.

Notes From The Larder is a rare case where the American version is nicer than the the British version. In England the book was called Kitchen Diaries II and bore a black and white image of Slater. Perhaps the title change was to try and underplay the idea that it was, indeed, a diary.  Now I love a good diary design, but it is a deal breaker for many. I think some people dislike diary entries because they simply cannot face the face that there is no way in the wold they could keep it up for an entire year or two.  It does seem daunting, I mean, I love to talk about food every day, but keeping track of it in great detail, I too am a bit miffed that Slater is so good at it. 

Really, though, I am happy that Slater is so good at it. He is frank, funny, and his love of food pour out onto the pages. I suppose they also poured out in his "Simple" series of cooking shows that were wildly successful on the BBC. (Alas, we never saw them here in the states, but with all these cooking channels, it would seem that someone would buy them and air them in the wee hours of the morning!)

Here is a recipe from last weeks diary entry.  As you can see, they are diary entries, though not every day is represented. The recipes are a bit more conversational and friendly, rather than listed and mandated. The book has the feel of a early 19th century cookbook rather than the formal, restaurant tome we have grown used to.

Surf and turf

One of the most successful recipes to come out of the “Surf and Turf” program in the Simple Cooking series on BBC1 was the fillets of trout baked with Parma ham. The feedback was heartwarming. Today I make a similar dish with salmon and bacon,mostly because that is what I have brought back from the shops. My bacon is on the thick side, so I stretch the slices out by pressing them down on a chopping board with the flat side of a knife blade before wrapping the salmon in them.

Bacon-wrapped salmon

salmon: two 9-ounce (250g)
steaks or fillets
thinly cut bacon: 4 slices
lemon thyme: a couple of sprigs
a little oil

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Season the fish with black pepper and a very little salt. Wrap each piece in 2 slices of bacon, tucking a sprig of thyme under the bacon. Brush with a little oil and bake for fifteen to twenty minutes, till the fish is cooked through.

For my money, Notes From The Larder has a feel I would like see in more cookbooks, and not just the ones by Slater.

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