Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Lockdown CBe food, part 3

Recipes from CBe authors, part 3 of a series. Parts 1 and 2 are the previous posts.

9 Crêpes filled with Spinach and Goat’s Cheese from Wiesiek Powaga (translator of Killing Auntie by Andrzej Bursa and In Sarah’s House by Stefan Grabinski, the latter out of print). Make the crêpes (flour, eggs, milk, water; or you can buy them ready-made, I’m told). The filling: spinach (lots of it, the big-leafed kind, not ‘baby’ spinach) blanched and chopped, goat’s cheese mixed with yogurt, garlic. Roll the crêpes into ‘pipes’ and fry gently in olive oil and butter. Adjustments: I put mine in the oven rather than re-frying. And, stupidly, I forgot all about the yogurt (but was generous with the goat’s cheese). (People do forget things in the kitchen, where it’s easy to get distracted. I once went to a supper where the host forgot to serve the soup; we eventually had it after the pudding.)

10< Highland Pie from J. O. Morgan (Natural Mechanical; Long Cuts; At Maldon; other titles from Cape). A version of shepherd’s pie or cottage pie but the shepherd and his cottage are Scottish so the meat element is haggis. Shop-bought haggis (vegetarian versions available), microwaved as the label tells you (10 minutes-ish), topped with mashed veg (here, potatoes, carrots, parsnips), plus optional grated cheese, then into the oven ‘for an unspecified time’, maybe half an hour. Haggis is fine but I still suspect that as with any food that insists on a certain day of the year (haggis on Burns Night, 25 January; turkey on Christmas Day), most people don’t much bother with it otherwise.

11 Lemon Pudding from Jack Robinson (An Overcoat; Robinson; Good Morning, Mr Crusoe). At last, a pudding. The recipe for this in Carol Shields’s The Stone Diaries (page 353: ‘Aunt Daisy’s Lemon Pudding’) is exactly as cooked by my mother; I was surprised to see my mother’s recipe in a novel, then realised that this has been cooked for generations by all mothers in the Western world, and this was Shields’s point. Butter, sugar, eggs, flour, lemon zest and juice, milk. In the oven for 40 minutes, during which it which it separates into cake-ish on top and something much more slippery underneath. Plus single cream to serve.

12 Polenta from Elise Valmorbida (whose novel The TV President was published by CBe in 2008, now out of print, and who introduced the screenplay Saxon, CBe, 2008; Faber published her novel The Madonna of the Mountains in 2018). Polenta: ‘The smell is nostalgia, so it is the past, but it is also hunger, so it is the future.’ A bit of a fudge here: Elise uses coarse-ground cornmeal, slowly raining it into a very big pan of boiling roiling water until the consistency feels right, stirring all the time over low heat until the polenta starts detaching from the sides of the pan, ‘usually in 40 minutes to an hour’. Elise has strong arms. Pour ‘with an energetic shove’ onto a large wooden board and let settle ‘into a nice soft round form, ready to cut’. I’m lazier: fine-ground polenta so less stirring; I mix in milk and/or cream and parmesan and a few chili flakes, and I’m happy with a sludge (think lava flow) rather than anything cut-able. Elise’s grandmother won’t speak to me. Here, with a sauce of broccoli and mushrooms; olive oil drizzled over, and lots of lemon juice.

Can we pack in another one? Remember rush hour on the Tube when passengers were packed in like sardines?

13 Sardine Butter from Paul Bailey (Inheritance). From a writer who at Christmas cooked a partridge inside a pheasant inside a duck inside a capon, layered with two kinds of stuffing, this may appear a little ridiculous. But it has pedigree: included in a book of recipes by Marcel Boulestin in the 1930s, it was thoroughly approved by Elizabeth David. It’s probably not original to Boulestin: for as long as sardines have been sold in cans people have likely been doing this to them – mashing them to a paste with an equivalent weight of good unsalted butter, adding a little seasoning, keeping them in a jar in the fridge and spreading them on hot bread when hungry. Before mashing, take off the skin (if you want to) and pick out the bones (unless you are Scott, the boy I sat next to at school in the 1960s who ate his breakfast kippers bones and all, not just the tiny ones but the thick one down the middle).

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