Buñuelos for All Saints

Sitemeter informs me that only 15% of my hits come from Spain, so I thought it´d be nice to write a little ethnographic post, in the manner of the Discovery channel, so that you´d know what goes on here for Halloween.

We call it Todos los santos, or All Saints. And it´s all about honouring your dear and departed, so cementeries are chock-full of visitors. Nothing like Mexico, don´t be imagining any graveside picnics. People take flowers, and clean up the gravestones, lest the neighbours ( or the departed ) think them slatternly, but that´s it.

The food is eaten at home, buñuelos de viento, a fried dough with a sweet filling, being very typical. You can find them all year round in some places, but huesos de santo are strictly seasonal. This delicacy are little tubes or marzipan with various fillings, and look quite pretty.

I don´t really know much about All Saint´s day, to tell you the truth. I´ve never been to visit the graves of any family member, and I´ve never had a hueso de santo, so if I complain about people embracing the Jamie Lee Curtis version of Halloween, I don´t do so from a deep-seated love of our own tradition, but because I´m grouchy.
I just think it´s silly to have left out the trick or treating, which, along with Disney´s Sleepy Hollow, seems to me the best part about the thing. They´ve just concentrated on dressing up like extras of Thriller, but hey, whatever rocks your boat, and I suppose that´s fun, even without the sweets.

To keep the thing on a Spanish tune, I´ll give you a recipe for salty buñuelos. I never make it, myself, since you know I don´t fry , but everyone loves them, so I give it out a lot, in the hope that somebody will make them, and invite me over.

For a kitchen soundtrack, I suggest Mozart´s Don Giovanni. It´s appropriate, having a back-from-the-dead dinner guest, and is a version of the play old fashioned theaters always run for All Saints, Don Juan Tenorio.

(salt cod fritters)

serves 4. If people hover around you while you cook, nothing will get to the table, because they are very very good straight from the pan while you blow on your fingers.

250 gr. Salt cod, soaked and desalted,cut in little pieces, like a chocolate chip. You can also use raw prawns.
1 bottle beer ( you won´t need it all, so make sure it´s chilled and you can enjoy drinking it)
250 gr. flour
1 tsp. baking powder or soda
salt, maybe,depending on the saltiness of the fish
1 egg
1 clove garlic, chopped
chopped parsley
chopped onion ( I often leave it out)

Mix the flour, baking soda, egg, parsley and garlic. Add the fish. Mix well, make sure there are no lumps. If it´s too thick, add a glug of beer. You´re after a honey-ish consistency, thick but pourable.

Fry in small batches in hot olive oil, until they´re puffed up and golden. The oil has to be hot, or they won´t puff up. They cook very quickly.

J likes to drizzle them with honey. I go for that really delicious sweet/sour/hot Thai sauce in the big bottles.


My Magic Pudding Moment

Do you know The Magic Pudding, that treasure of a children´s book? It´s an Australian classic, and one of my most ever favourite books. It lives on the shelf beside my bed.
That´s where I keep a stash of books I love more than the others. So that if I can´t go to sleep , or wake up in a frazzled state of mind, or have the flu, I just have to reach out to feel jes´ fine.

So anyway, this magic pudding is the sweetest book you´ll ever read, about a set of carachters with names like Bunyip Bluegum, and Watkin Wombat. Don´t you want to read it already? And when you know that it´s about a Magic Pudding that´s a pie, except when it´s something else, like a steak, or a jam donut, or an apple dumpling, or whatever its owner wants it to be? And it never runs out? See, I can tell you´re amazoning the thing like crazy already.

All this is by way of introducing what I like to thing as My Magic Pudding Moment. Last week I received a parcel from Australia, from Neil of Food for thought . We´d done a little transaction you may know about soon, concerning some changes to Neil´s blog, and this was my material reward.

My very own food blogger parcel, and a magic pudding of sorts. For a few days now we´ve been dipping into it and drawing out something wonderful and different each time.

First to fall, spectacularly, torn apart by various overexcited family members, where a chocolate Torcik wafer cake, and Sliwki, chocolate coated prunes (a lot of the stuff is Polish, courtesy of Neil´s wife). Then there were the oh-so-moreish tins of Watrobki Tybne, cod liver in oil (absolutely, one just isn´t enough). There are a bunch on instant soups and sauces that I haven´t tried yet, and some lovely blueberry jam. A packet of Australian spices, and some wattle seed, which I´m finding very fascinating. The bottle of Tokay I haven´t opened yet, even though there were strong suggestions that we all toast Australians in general and all Neil´s family in particular. I´m saving that for a special moment, and for now we´ll stick to the various flavours of tea, also in the parcel.
The beautiful tea towel with Mae Gibbs illustrations has pride of place in the kitchen , and I´ve been studying Bill´s kitchen closely. It´s a great book, and I can tell it´s going to jump straight into the list of favourites.

There´s also Tasmanian honey, which I requested after reading Jenjen´s post , and some Red gum honey, which Neil prefers. I´ve tried both, on toast with butter, two mornings in a row, and can´t make up my mind.

Unlike the Magic Pudding, it will run out, eventually, but still, it´s quite magical, in its way, the whole blog thing.
Thanks so so much, Neil, and I´m really lookign forward to your revamped blog.


A shortcut to mushrooms

I have so many posts due. I have been tagged by Julie for this lovely meme . Then, there are my experiments with Justin Quek´s ´s book, and my new found love of all things Thermomix. I have a new machine in the kitchen. And most exciting of all, yesterday I received a parcel from Australia.
Just too many things. So for now, I´ll go with the shortest path.

It´s been raining hard for over a week. Some people complain; some, like J, skip about like spring lambs on crack; and some, like me, wait it out with a rug around their knees and a firm hold on the remote.

One thing you´ll never hear me complainin of is what has to be the best possible offshoot of rain.

My neighbourhood market isn´t one of the luxurious ones, and doesn´t have much expensive stuff, but one stall stocks mushrooms in season. It´s right by the door, so I can´t help but stop, every time, just for a handful.

Yesterday they had four types of wild mushroom to choose from. I went with these, níscalos, or lactarius deliciosus, which sounds like dog latin but is the real thing, I promise. They´re the most popular wild mushroom in Spain, easy to spot nestling under a pine tree, all sunny bright orange, and impossible to mix up with poisonous varieties. Not that I go mushroom picking, having far too much respect for my liver ( no Gin&Tonic jokes, if you please).

There are many ways to do these, but I like to sautée them in a little olive oil, and sprinkle them with Maldon salt. They can´t be beat that way. No garlic, no parsley, no eggs, just that crunchy floppy woodsy golden marvel. Make sure you don´t crowd the pan, and don´t shake them about too much at first, so they have time to brown a little. Oh, and I´ve read in several very authoritative places that it´s fine, you can wash mushrooms. They´re all water anyway, it´s all an urban myth about their becoming waterlogged. No more of that nasty crunching teeth on gravel.

If you can´t be bothered to stay in now that the sun is finally out, go to El Cisne Azul, c/ Gravina. It looks grubby, but has the best selection I know, and they grill them to perfection, alongside an egg yolk. Very fascinating. Be sure to rob a couple of banks on the way, though. They don´t take credit cards, and they ain´t cheap.


Nothing lost in translation.

I´ve spent all day traslating some abstruse scientific-legal text for J, who´s doing some course, and has no time. Since I know nothing about science, less about law, and so can´t understand a single word of what I´m reading in Spanish, my rendering into English will be pretty disastrous. I guess.

It´s got me thinking that maybe the translators of cookbooks aren´t incompetent. Maybe they´re just very busy, and farm out the stuff to their poor wives, and here we all are, screaming in frustration every time we read something like chile de bonete escocés.

Which brings us to today´s topic, another book review, of a Spanish book, which makes it all so easy. No having to guess just which cut of meat they mean, or where to find what spices. No fruitless search for rhubarb, no hassle over pomengranate molasses.

I´ve illustrated it myself, and that´s always fun. Every time I´m wandering aimlessly and end up, somehow, in the cookbook section of Fnac, I can spend a profitable five minutes rearranging the stuff so that my books are all over the place. I´m so popular with the sales workforce.

The book is Cocinar con Thermomix. It´s written by Gabriela Llamas, who is, among other things, my aunt. And if this looks like nepotism, I promise you, it´s nothing but demographics. I have so many aunts it was just a question of time before one of them wrote a book. But this aunt happens to really know her business, and she´s made a book that will make a big splash, I bet.

It´s meant to complement the users´manual that comes with the Thermomix , so I´m not sure just how wide the audience is for it. It´s selling very well, and is already on the second printing, so I guess more than one would think. Thermomix is very popular in Spain.
As a machine it´s not heartstoppingly beautiful, like the KitchenAid, but it has a lot more uses. You can live a long and happy life without it, but once you´ve tried it, you´re hooked forver. I love mine so much, it´s embarrassing.

You see, the Th. is not very cool. It´s the height of boring bourgois-ness, and associated with the most retro kind of food. The sales pitch, too, is straight out of the Sixties, very redolent of Tupperware parties, with demonstration parties and all. The manual that comes with it is full of fascinating nuggets of information, but they have to be weeded out from pages and pages dedicated to piped canapes decorated with capers. It´s not so chic, no matter how many chefs, Adriá included, reputedly use them in their kitchens.

This book is meant to dispel all that. Forget the goshawful photos, bring on the sleek, suave, sophisticated illustrations ( well, whadyawant me to say?). Never mind the recipes for salmon roulades and "exotic pineapple". Yep, it´s a prawn cocktail inside a hollowed pineapple, what else?
Welcome instead the satay sauce, the roast tomato crumble and the gazpacho jelly.

Th. users are divided into the ones who slavishly follow recipes and cook everything with it, and foodie types, who make flavoured hollandaises and weird chutneys. Both types will find plenty to suit them, and more.The recipes are fun, varied, a good mix of good old fashioned Spanish stuff and more exotic fare, and they work.

I thoroughly recommend the book . I have no royalties on this one, mind, so it all springs from the goodness of my heart, in an effort to improve your lives.

Cocinar con Thermomix. Gabriela Llamas. El Pais Aguilar. ISBN84-03-50411-X . 21€ (ouch!)


Justin Quek´s new book

My favourite celebrity couple used to be Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, but they have fallen from grace. The new couple on my personal pedestal are Aun and S., of Chubby Hubby.
Sure, Tim and Susan are pretty cool, and commited, and I liked the age difference, and the films they do. But do they cook? Do they have a gorgeous blog that makes me want to apply for Singaporean citizenship every week? Have they sent me a beautiful book to review? The answers are ; Maybe, I don´t think so, and Hell, no!

When Aun asked me if I´d like to receive a copy of Justin Quek, passion and inspiration, I instantly yelled YES (does anyone ever say no to something like that?). But then a few doubts started to worry me. It´s a chef´s book. I love chef´s books, but they´re the ultimate food porn. If I cook maybe 20% of Nigella´s recipes, but my coffee table copy of Ferrán Adrià´s testament is still untouched, what can I do with something as slick and sophisticated as this promised to be?

So after the first initial bubbling over excitement on opening the package ( very cool Singaporean packaging. Seriously, I´m emigrating the minute I can) I started on the book with some trepidation.

Aun said it´s meant for easy entertainment, but I hadn´t believed him for a second.It may be easy for some, but I still can´t crack eggs without getting bits of shell everywhere.
But you know what? I needen´t have worried. It really is well thought out, and seriously meant for home cooks. Sure, home cooks who like spending time in the kitchen making lobster bisque herb soufflé, so no dumbing down, but you know what I mean. There´s not a single syphon in the whole thing, and whatever is foamed is foamed with a good old stick blender.

The greatest thing is that it´s a memoir, too. A very heartfelt one, that explains everything about the evolution of Justin Quek , how his art developed. Passion and inspiration is about right. And he comes accross as such a nice guy, too. By the end, your stomach will be growling, but mostly you´ll just want to give him a great hug.

The text is great, the photos are beautiful, and the whole thing is just perfect, that rare breed, a gorgeous-looking coffee-table book that will more than likely end up splattered in sauce while you cook from it.
It´s sitting here beside me now, bristing with post-its, but it´s already begun some kitchen duty, and you´ll be hearing more about it soon.

I don´t know when it´ll be available in Spain, but they had it in Books for cooks in London, so not long, I hope.


Rainy day soup

Well, what do you know. When I left the country a week ago it was sunny and mild. People thronged to the beaches, and you could find peaches in the market.
Five days later I came back to a different place. Mists and mellow fruitfulness seem to have swept the board.
I´d go out with a wicker basket and stock up on pumpkins and ceps, except that it´s raining pretty hard, and I can´t be bothered. I can´t even be bothered to go to my mother´s for lunch, even if tortilla de patatas is promised. I´ll stay in. A quick rummage in my freezer has given me a spicy tomato soup.
Just the thing to eat hunkered deep in the sofa, while I watch "The searchers". Nothing like a golden orange western and soup to neutralize the blue rain outside.
I can´t remember very well what there was in it, or I´d give the recipe. I suspect it´s a basic elemental onion-garlic then cumin and coriander, then a couple of carrots and a tin of tomatoes plus stock and a dried chili. Maybe thickened with some rice, and blitzed to a creamy consistency.
And if not, that´d be a good soup too.


More London adventures

I go to the UK quite a lot. More than to any other foreign country, and plenty more than to many places in Spain. So I think I know it pretty well. But of course I don´t.
This time round, I decided to go to places I´d never seen before. It meant that I couldn´t see  my favourite picture in the whole world, or watch the street hockey in Kensington Gardens. But I saw Highgate cementery, a romantic place, straight out of Edgar Allan Poe. Primrose Hill, which is so pretty and perfect and untouched by any sort of commercial chain that you begin to wonder if you´ll bump into the complete cast of "Love, actually". Hampstead Heath, which is beautiful but freaked me out. I didn´t see one single person in the course of a twenty minute walk, and that´s pretty spooky in a city of many millions.

I won´t pretend, though. When I´m in England it´s the bookshops that lure me in. Especially the second hand ones. I can (and do) spend hours rifling through old stuff, completely lost to the world, loving the musty smell and the quiet.

I like new books very well, too, and there´s no lack of choice there, either. A particulary dangerous place is  Books for cooks . I managed to come out with only three volumes in my hand, which is not so much restrained as downright puritanical. It must be the Plymouth air.

I bought "The Alice B. Toklas cookbook". I´ve heard so much about it, and it looks like something I´ll enjoy a lot, wether I cook from it or not.

"Don´t sweat the aubergine" is a whole book of tips and explanations about techniques. It may sound dull, but I don´t think it is. I hope not, anyway. I havent´realy had time to look at them properly.

The third is called "No place like home". I know nothing of the author, Rowlye Leigh, but he has a chatty, no nonsense air about him. The recipes I probably have already, since they´re basic things, but I love the layout. It´s beautifully illustrated with drawings by Lucinda Rogers.

Just opposite Books for cooks is The Spice Shop. It smells heavenly, is wonderfully stocked, and beautifully decorated it.
I managed to flummox them completely by asking for the one single thing they didn´t have "bak kut teh". It´s an ingredient for a duck soup from  Justin Quek´s amazing book, of which more shortly. I´ll have to do it without this mysterious aromatic.

Nearby was the hummingbird bakery. That´s a dangerous place, too. I wanted everything. In th end, I was saved by the amount of choice. It was impossible to choose, so I settled for the nearest morsel, a pink cupcake. I was so happy on the way back, hugging my new books and wondering if I had icing on the tip of my nose.



I´m a bit aghast at the amount of emails on my inbox, and the millions of deadlines I have to meet for Friday. So before I´m sucked into the maelstrom, I just want to say I´ve had a great time. Unlimited supplies of salt and vinegar crisps, double decker buses, and a Hockney exhibition, who could ask for more?
There have also been pints and shooting pool, walks by the sea, lots of browsing in second hand bookshops, and yes, fish and chips. Dinner with friends, crab cakes, sausages for breakfast, and delicious crispy apples munched in the park. I really don´t know why England has such a bad reputation when it comes to food.
More tomorrow,


Hold the sea bass

We´re flying off tonight.
Nopisto informs me that I´d better not be expecting much from the seafood in Plymouth. Never mind. I never make it to the good restaurants when I´m England. I´m too much in love with their bread.
I start off with toast for breakfast, and a couple of sausages with jam, to be on the safe side, because tourism really takes it out of you.
I´m pretty quick to adapt to local times, and am ravenous by one. Sandwich shops lure me in with their mindboggling array of fillings and breads and pasties. And by five o´clock, well, it would be flying in the face of providence not to have a couple of finger sandwiches and a scone, right?
So who cares about fish restaurants? I won´t be wanting seared scallops on a bed of mesclun. I´ll settle for fish and chips, lots of malt vinegar, sitting on the pier. And maybe a couple of apples, and a Double Decker bar.

I´m back on Wednesday, but maybe I´ll be able to dash off a quick post at some point.


Restaurant recommendation

Let me say, first off, that I have no idea what the food is like in this place. I think it´s probably quite ok, in a cafeteria style ham and egg sandwich way.
Not that it matters. The view´s the thing. If you can get one of the tables by the windows, you won´t care much if it´s ashes and soap on your plate.

Madrid isn´t one of your famously picture pretty cities. I think that´s mostly because it´s hard to get a clean view. You´re always on the ground, looking up at buildings that are too close. Of course, you can cross the so-called river and get a fine view of the Palace, and there´s las Vistillas, and the stunning mirador de Moncloa. But you have to go out of your way for them.

This is right in the hub of the action.
Next time you´re on Gran Vía being jostled to death while you queue for cinema tickets, or wait for a cab, wheighed down by your shopping, remember me. Stop complaining about the noise, the traffic and the fumes, and go up to the cafetería in the Corte Inglés de Callao.
You´ll have a clear view of the whole southern skyline, a roof over your head, and coffee. It will make you appreciate the beauties of Madrid.
I think so , anyway.


Biscuits as madeleines

Whenever my father talks about his grandmother´s house in Las Arenas, his eyes mist over slightly. Ours tend to glaze over. Sometimes there´s even an eye-roll, and an impatient supressed groan.

The stories are all about a lost world of nannies in starched aprons overseeing millions of cousins playing cowboys and indians. Of my grandmother´s Balenciaga frocks, of slow dancing to Françoise Hardy, and everything smelling of beeswax.
All very nice, no doubt, but too Natalie Wood-ish for me. Lacking in drama and verve, you could say.Plus, we´ve heard it a few times by now.

My interest only perked up when food was mentioned. Surprised? No? Ok, so the food my father most talked about was something called "bísquetes". He´d smile when he talked about them, freshly made, somewhere between bread and cakes, hot for teatime. It was rumoured that one of my aunts had the recipe, but she never actually gave it when asked.
The house is now a hotel, the dresses are in a museum, the bísquetes seemed to be lost to history, and that was that. Life goes on.

Then the internet came. And with it, food blogs.
I usually read them in the morning, when my brain is still a little foggy. One day the Amateur gourmet was going on about some biscuits, and Atlanta. I struggled to understand.
I learnt to speak English in England, you see, and there a biscuit is crisp and thin, and may or may not be  dunked in tea. This thing of the A.G. seemed different, and yet somehow familiar.
I read on, and then it hit me. Bísquetes! Of course! Biscuits, pronounced with a Basque accent. Wonderful.
I tried them at the earliest opportunity, and folks, the smile on my father´s face...These celestial little biscuits have now more than made up for all the eye-rolling and the "oh, God, not another Ariatza story". I rule.

Apart from bringing back my father´s childhood, in a Proust-sur-Bidasoa way, it´s been a life changing recipe. I make them all the time. As Laurie Colwin says, everyone who walks into a kitchen should know how to bake a biscuit. They´re so good and so easy and so versatile. You´ll end up memorizing it and it will pay you back a thousand times. Apart from tea and breakfast, they´re also great with soup, or for pies. They´re the perfect thing to make when you´re a house guest. The ingredients are probably to hand, and you´ll get so many kudos for producing these babies.

The recipe is  here , with pics and Adam´s deathless prose. I, myself, use one cup mixed yogurt and milk, and two tsp baking powder. No processor needed, either. You can also use this other one, from Laurie Colwin´s  More home cooking . These will be more crunchy, and better suited to rolling out and cutting into shapes, or using as a pastry case.


Away again

I´m going to England on Friday.
I end up going at some point every year, for some reason or other, and I love it.
This time José going to show me around Plymouth for the first leg of the trip. I´ve never been so far west, and he promises me I´ll swoon several times over the fish, the crabs, and maybe the natural beauties of Dartmoor.
After that, I´ll go to London. I was there in March this year, but only had time for a beautiful walk before J whisked me off to Oxford. He hates big cities, what can you do?
This time, I´ll leave him in Plymouth, and I´ll be free to roam around tranquilamente.
I mean to see both Hockney exhibitions, and to have a grand old time at the so amazing Books for Cooks. Other than that, I´m free as a bird, so if anyone wants to suggest things I shouldn´t miss, I´ll be very much obliged.


Sushi per tutti

José has been away over a week, working in England.
I´ve been pretty busy and had lots of things to do, so it hasn´t all been moping around waiting for him. My subconscious mind thought otherwise, though. I´ve been listening to Madama Butterfly non-stop for days. At first I thought this was just one of those things, but thinking on it a little more, it became obvious why it was Butterfly and not some other opera.
The abandoned wife thing, you see, waiting by the window for the errant husband to come back. I have a very dramatic subconscious, it would seem.
J is back tonight. Since the subconscious has done the leap from me to the Japanese theme, now, naturally, it´s jumped to sushi.
J´ll probably be too tired to want to go out tonight, but I´m already dreaming of the big tray I´ll have tomorrow for lunch.
 Kawara is my favourite Japanese restaurant in Madrid. It´s unfussy and unpretentious and unexpensive, unlike most of the others, and just the place for a relaxed Sunday lunch. My favourite is really the bento weekday lunch special, but there´s no way I´m waiting so long.


Balsamic rage

Last week José asked for fried eggs with chanquetes in a very basic elemental place in Sevilla. The egg came dribbled all over with balsamic glaze.
J, a calm fellow, just shrugged and dunked his bread in the yolk.
I am all rage, and strong arms had to forcibly restrain me from throwing those eggs at the cook´s head. I´d ordered the rice, it wasn´t my problem, but really, in what stupid parallel universe does anyone think a fried egg is improved by a brown squiggle?

This has got to stop. I will now be beaten into submission by this stupid fad. I´ve had it.

Listen: balsamic vinegar is not a neutral ingredient. As well as acidity, it has a bunch of other flavours (wine vinegar, grape must, sulphites E22o, caramel colouring E150D, anyone?).
It should not be thrown about any old how. It can be a wonderful product, but it can also be pretty intrusive and pointless. If I had my way, I´d forbid the wanton use of this substance to all except
A. Italians. they invented the thing, they know what to do with it
B. good chefs. Ditto about knowing

I also think it´s fine to carry a small quantity for personal use at home.

Otherwise, people opperating bars or restaurants, de-glue your hand from the neck of that bottle with the Duke of Modena on it. Morever, don´t, I repeat, DO NOT, reduce it to a syrup and doodle on plates.
If you´re artistic, or think you may be, ask for help. There are other substances for you to try out, like charcoal and paper. Hopefully, you won´t expect us to eat those.

The worst thing is, we have excellent vinegars here. We should be selling them to the world, bottled prettily and labelled with the Countess of Chinchón, or whatever, and spending the hard cash on Ferraris. Instead, where are we? Buying stupid cheap balsamic from those clever fellows in Modena, who already have too many Ferraris anyway.

So listen, keep to Sherry vinegar. It´s the best we have to offer, and understandably, it´s the one best suited to traditional Spanish cuuisine. Anything else is pure daftness.
If you must waive your kids´ college education and spend millions on cute little bottles, then go for PX vinegar. It´s Made from Pedro Ximénez, a generous dessert wine made from raisins. It´s good, it´s pretty, it´s expensive, it´s sweet and heady and I daresay it may even reduce marvelously well. Just the thing for you arty types.

And now, enough ranting. I´ll give you my recipe for a killer vinaigrette, so we can all compare notes.
If anyone makes this with so much as a drop of balsamic, I´ll combust, die, become a ghost, and hide in your store cupboard, howling forever. Be warned.

Take an empty, clean jam jar. Put a heaped teaspoonful of Dijon mustard, and another one of honey. Mix well, maybe even put it a few seconds in the microwave. Add vinegar, the good stuff, from Jerez, to double the volume of mustard and honey. Add salt. Be generous. Now add olive oil, also the good stuff, to double the volume of vinegar.
Add a good pinch of cumin (this is optinal, but excellent if you´re serving your salad with cheese) and a couple of spoonfuls of water.
Screw the jar tight, and juggle it vigorously until it looks creamy and perfect.
This vinaigrette will keep for weeks in the fridge, and will truly make your salad preparations a thing of minutes.


Heartburn: the book, the movie, the carbonara

I don´t know if you´ve read Heartburn , but if you haven´t, do, because it´s a very funny book about a cookbook writer. The thing is chock full of food, and even has a few recipes. It was written before the Craze That Swept The World, and isn´t self-conscious in its foodiness.
Plus, it has the über foodline "pesto is the quiche of the eighties", later used in When Harry met Sally, to great effect.

I´ve had the book for ages, but it wasn´t until I came across a reference to the film in Nigella´s Feast that I even knew the film existed. A quick Imdb search, and I saw that it was made by Mike Nichols 1985 with Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep, music by Carly Simon. I was intrigued. Why wasn´t it more famous? Was it one of those overlooked masterpieces, like Love in the afternoon, or Soapdish? Or one of those good-on-paper, bad-in-bed star vehicles like About a boy?

It´s neither. An ok film, but nowhere near the book. It has carbonara, though, which the book doesn´t.

The first time they sleep together, Meryl cooks spagetti carbonara and takes it, in the pan, with two forks, to Jack, who´s still in bed. He wiggles his eyebrows in that wicked way of his, and she says, very indignant, "Usually I never cook on the first date, you know"

In her recipe for carbonara, Nigella writes about this scene, and then blithely gushes about " a panful of hot pasta, to be taken back to bed and sharingly slurped". Which is all very well, but I´m too bourgeois not to worry about my nice sheets. And judging from the mess José makes eating at a normal table, I shudder to think what he might do in bed with a bowl of pasta. We wouldn´t be married now, so it´s good news that I don´t cook on a first date, either.

I´ll spare you the writing of another carbonara recipe. You probably have one you like already, right? If not, here´s one . I do it like that, minus the garlic, and adding a splash of vermouth to the bacon and then reducing it to a fatty caramelized jus.

You don´t have to eat this in bed, of course, but it does lend itself to lazy times. I suggest the sofa, deep bowls, and maybe even Heartburn, the movie, which won´t distract you from the pasta.