Nigel, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love your appetite-stimulating writing, your easy recipes, your ability to always show me something interesting to do with kitchen constants like cauliflower, onions or lentils. I love your weekly column in the Observer and I love the Observer Food Monthly magazine (which, while living in NZ, I had sent out to me by my long-suffering mother!). I love your books, right from the copy of Real Fast Food that I got when in college, through entertaining from Real Food and Appetite while in my first job, The Kitchen Diaries that I recommended to many Urru customers, bookclub choice Toast and, now, to Tender.
This is the soup that I cooked at the Glenroe Ladies’ Club demonstration – it is something that I make regularly as it has a great flavour, doesn’t take long and is really good for freezing. The smoked paprika is fabulous with it, giving a real depth to the soup. Perfect for warming your hands while you sip it out of a large mug.
The vegetable garden suffered this year. Not only was the weather appalling but the Husband, lulled into a false sense of security by our bunny-killing machine (aka Puddy Cat), took down the rabbit-proof fence – the week before the cat up and died on us. It didn’t take long before the rabbits realised that our newly planted leeks, beans and kale were an all-you-can-eat buffet. The only things that survived were a few plants of perpetual spinach, some Swiss chard – and, thankfully, the squash.
It’s not exactly salad time yet but, when a gloriously sunny Sunday coincided with the local point-to-point races and the family coming round for a pre-race lunch, I couldn’t resist poking out an old bag of puy lentils (still working my way through two kitchen’s-worth of ingredients!) to combine with the last of our Ushiki Kuri squash.
The Boyfriend and I are about to head off to Morocco in a week’s time so I thought I should use up my last year’s supply of Moroccan spice blend Ras al hanout on a meal for the Writer – who brought me my first taste of spices from Morocco – and her husband. I decided to make my favourite Moroccan Lamb Tagine and, to accompany it, thought that I’d jazz up my usual plain couscous a little.
Ever since I’ve discovered the glories of butternut squash, there’s rarely a week goes by without it being added to a dish or several. As with pumpkin, I tend to use more Middle Eastern or Indian flavours in my squash dishes – cumin and coriander seeds are particular favourites – but, as it’s been a while since we’ve had a curry, I turned to the January edition of delicious. magazine for a recipe with more Asian leanings.
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!
Derry woman and Sunday Telegraph food writer Diana Henry has again come up trumps with her latest book, Roast Figs, Sugar Snow. Her first cookbook, Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons, focused on the tastes and enchantments of the Middle East, Mediterranean and North Africa. With praise from Claudia Roden and its appearance twice on the Glenfiddich award shortlist, it became an instant classic.