Do you have this cookbook? If not, you seriously need to get it.
I love it so much that even though I've owned it almost a year, I am reluctant to officially finish it because then I'll never again be able to read it for the first time. So I skip over a page here and there, just so I can leave myself something to look forward to.
"Whatever is she rattling on about? It's a bloody cookbook, for Heaven's sake."
In the vein of MFK Fisher, Elizabeth David and Laurie Colwin, Slater's recipes provide the framework to delve into a rhapsodical exploration of food, friends and the art of eating.
It's culinary literature.
Keep reading. You'll see.
Nigel Slater espouses one grand theme in this book: "Right food, right place, right time." As he puts it, "I do believe that a cold Saturday in January is a good time to make gingerbread. It is when I made it and we had a good time with it. It felt right. So I offer it to you as a suggestion, just as I offer a cheesecake at Easter, a curry for a cold night in April and a pale gooseberry fool for a June afternoon. It is about seasonality, certainly, but also about going with the flow, cooking with the natural rhythm of the earth."
For a year, he kept a detailed journal of more or less everything he cooked and ate. The photos included were shot at his home in "real time", so if the entry says April 2nd or October 9th, that is when it was shot.
The art direction in the book is pulse-quickening. Here's the splendidly pink spread detailing all the recipes for the month of May...
Don't they all look so enticing?
Mint tea and a lemon-frosted pistachio cake
"Friends for tea, and it's the most magical of days, a cool summer afternoon in the garden, all full-blown roses and cucumber sandwiches. Today's cake is not a light-as-a-feather-sponge but a moist affair, dense with pistachios and ground almonds. I flavor it gently with rosewater but this is not essential."
(Excuse my trilobyte. He assisted me in weighing down the page.)
Chickpeas with harissa, basil and ham
"There is the constant patter of rain on the kitchen roof and the gentle rattle and putter of a pan of simmering chickpeas. I don't always cook these hazel-nut sized legumes from scratch...I guess I just wanted to smell them cooking today -- a mealy, nutty smell that must have filled Middle Eastern kitchens from time immemorial."
Baked salmon and a black-currant trifle
"Dinner for six. I sometimes feel like a cooking machine. To follow [the meal], we had a trifle so divine I wish I had made two, the last one to eat alone, in my bathrobe at breakfast."
(Nigel's delightful trifle)
A chunky, inelegant dish of baked lamb
"So much food is so exquisitely contrived that the 'chunky, rustic-looking' dish, inelegant and apparently thrown together, is something of a rare treat. This is the food I long for whenever I am presented with a fashionable chef's twee plateful of contorted food drizzled with a ring of 'jus.'
(Baked lamb with tomatoes and rosemary)
Next week, when my son's annual school fundraiser is over and my life will be my own again, I will be sitting in my back garden, Campari and soda within reach, this book in my lap.
If you want to know more about Nigel Slater, he has a gorgeous website. Click HERE.