There are seven members of the Bibliofemme bookclub and, every month, one of us hosts a meeting where we discuss the book distributed at the previous meeting. As I had picked the last book – Witi Ihimaera’s The Whale Rider – all the Femmes were coming round to mine on Saturday and, in a change from our normal night-time get-together, we were meeting at 12pm. Normally we just have nibbles and wine – having taken a vow when the club started not to have anyone slaving over a hot stove – but I couldn’t resist the chance to try out some brunch recipes. Although, having carelessly tossed off an invitation to brunch to six people (normally seven but the Artist couldn’t make it back from London), those recipes seemed to be rather difficult to come by.
With a subtitle that says, “Big-time home cooking for family and friends” you can’t say that you haven’t been warned. Tom Douglas, with his wife Jackie Cross, is the owner of several restaurants in Seattle one of which, Etta’s Seafood, I’ve heard about for years from a friend that worked there some time ago. As is evident from the cover photograph, he’s a big man with a big appetite – the kind of chef that, in short, you’d trust to cook you dinner or to tell you how to cook your own dinner. Don’t go looking for any nouvelle cuisine in this book ‘cos you ain’t gonna find it. What you will find, however, are plenty of recipes that will make you want to march right into that kitchen of yours and start cooking for crowds.
Dal – also known as Dhal – is one of my favourite comforting winter meals. On a cold evening when you’ve got wet through on the walk home and don’t feel like leaving the house again, it is enormously reassuring to find that there’s a packet of red split lentils and some spices in the press and a few onions and garlic looking lonely in the vegetable rack. There are as many recipes for dal as there are vegetarians in the world so if you don’t have the exact ingredients mentioned below, don’t worry. The split lentils, onions and garlic are absolutes but you can play around with all the rest.
After mourning the lack of good pumpkin in Ireland, I’ve discovered an alternative option – squash! Now, there’s a terminology question here. What is the difference between squash and pumpkins? I think it was Stephanie Alexander’s Cook’s Companion that made the point that all squash in Australia (and New Zealand) are called pumpkins. My own understanding of the difference between the two is that a pumpkin is a rounded vegetable, like that used by Cinderella to get to the prince’s ball, while a squash can often be a different shape. That’s no hard and fast rule, however!
Before I started reading/reviewing these books, Anne Willan was unfamiliar to me but, as soon as they arrived, her name started to crop up in my reading with increasing regularity. An American by way of Yorkshire, Willan established La Varenne, the prestigious Burgundy-based French cooking school, in 1975. For those who haven’t the time or money to study with her, she has also written an impressive number of cookbooks, ranging from Dorling Kindersley’s Perfect series (Perfect Chicken Dishes, Perfect Chocolate Deserts, Perfect Appetizers etc), last year’s useful A Cook’s Book of Quick Fixes to the more personal in From My Chateau Kitchen.
Last week we were going to one of the semi-regular dinner parties hosted by our friend the Tax Advisor. The Tax Advisor loves to host – but he doesn’t cook. For years now he has been hosting these dinner parties in his city centre apartment while the other guests come bearing food and dishes and, on several occasions, spare chairs!For the first dinner in his new flat, there were eight guests. This time there was no point in bringing spare chairs as the Tax Advisor doesn’t have a table. Or many plates. Or any serving spoons. Or a sharp knife. So, faced with such a lack of utensils, I decided to cook the dish that I was going to bring for dinner at home the night before. As a couple of the guests are vegetarian, it gave me an opportunity to work on one of my favourite meatless recipes from last year – Chickpea and Tomato Curry.
When I started Bibliocook in New Zealand almost a year ago, there weren’t that many NZ food blogs. Barbara at Auckland’s Winos and Foodies was in contact early on and I’ve since enjoyed reading her posts about Real Mexican Hot Chocolate, pumpkins, wine and books – I have to especially credit her with introducing me to remarkable Australian chef Gay Bilson. On one of my regular wanders over to Winos and Foodies I suddenly realised that there was a list of new food blogs on her side nav. After spending a couple of hours wandering around their sites, I now introduce you to foodies in NZ…