Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Lockdown CBe food, part 2

Lockdown recipes (not for mass gatherings) from CBe authors. For Part 1, see here; further episodes will follow. Exact weights and timings not given: most writers appear to cook ‘by eye’.

Here again (see recipe 8), after Stephen Knight’s Schnitzel in the previous post, is a handed-down recipe, this one not from a mother but a grandmother. What survives of us are recipes? Food is a form of love. Or can be, and should be. The photographs circulating this week of school-meal parcels sent out by catering companies express nothing but contempt for those in need: they speak not just of incompetence but of arrogance, greed, corruption, the complete opposite of love. A grace to be said before every meal: Lord, help rid us of this awful, awful government.

Commercial break: the CBe Lockdown Subscription, running since last March, is still available from the website home page. 10 books (+ extras: pamphlets, extra books) for £65 (post free, UK only). In an email today from a subscriber approaching book 10: ‘It’s been one of the best £60s I’ve spent.’


5 Northern Polish Fish and Chips from Natalia Zagorska-Thomas (co-author of Blush): ‘We had this at a fish stand on the side of the road in a small coastal town and it has a life-changing effect. We settled on this version after several tries.’ White fish (haddock as here, or cod or monkfish), oven-cooked potato cubes, boczek wedony (or if you’re not lucky enough to live near a Polish supermarket, pancetta ‘will do at a stretch’), girolle mushrooms fried with half an onion, single cream. Other than a light touch with salt and pepper, no spices. You know when the guard comes into your cell and takes your order for your last meal? This.


6 Rosemary and Sea-salt Flapjacks, a light-bulb idea that came to Carmel Doohan (whose novel Seesaw will be coming from CBe later in the year) as she was ‘walking down Church Street, Stoke Newington, and absently picking a sprig of rosemary as I ate a flapjack’. Oats, butter, brown sugar, golden syrup, sea salt and ‘at least a dozen large sprigs of rosemary’. I think I last ate a flapjack when Margaret Thatcher was prime minister – I get the concept of ‘snacks’, like I get the concept of science fiction, I just haven’t been around them much. I like that these are semi-savoury. Serving suggestion 1: cut in narrow slices and use for a game of Jenga (each player keeps the pieces they successfully remove, but surrenders their loot to the others if they bring the tower down). Serving suggestion 2: on your permitted daily outing for exercise, take a thermos of mulled wine and these.


7 Inauthentic Linguine from Christopher Reid (whose The Song of Lunch was first published by CBe in 2009, before it was filmed and went to Faber) – ‘inauthentic’ because for many Italians your choice of pasta determines your choice of sauce, and any skipping around or fancy stuff can have you ostracised from polite society. Avocado and tomato have long been boon companions in salads, so there’s nothing especially fancy here, but having them cohabit in a hot sauce was new to me. The tomatoes are oven-roasted before being added with the avocado to sizzled spring onions, garlic, ginger, plus chili flakes and fresh oregano. Plus grated pecorino or parmegiano. Simple and carefree and summery – oh I wish, I wish.


8 Grated Potato Pancakes from Roy Watkins (Simple Annals), whose grandma made these in the 1940s: ‘I would be enlisted to gather necessities together and even to join in the hard work of gratering the potatoes. The result was always delicious.’ (Back then, grandma used egg powder from a tin, eggs being severely rationed. Watkins recalls his Uncle Hugh finding a duck egg on the farm where he worked and swapping it for 10 Woodbines on the bus back home; Aunt Mary wasn’t best pleased, ‘and she drove him out to smoke his Woodbines in the back garden’.)

Potatoes, onion, egg, flour, salt and pepper. Wring out excess liquid after grating the potatoes. Watkins: ‘Checking this recipe, we have found that one and a quarter pounds of potatoes gave 5 medium pancakes, all very good. We ate them as a side dish with a duck breast and a cabbage and apple accompaniment.’ I ate mine with a poached egg and Polish sausage, above.

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