An everlasting meal

My favourite cookbooks are those that can be read from cover to cover; that have no photos of the recipes, and certainly no photos of the author gazing soulfully at an artichoke. That have a warm, likeable, distinct voice. And that have recipes that I actually will cook.
I also enjoy the others, and am not immune to a glossy picture or the lure of restaurant kitchens and exotic cuisines. But my favourites a the first bunch, which is to say, Tamar Adler's "An everlasting meal" is so much up my street that it might as well say Mile-end avenue on the cover.

The tone of the book is very relaxed. What's with all this quest for perfection, she asks? How is it that people who never cook suddenly decide that they have  to make a lasagna to rival a Bolognese grandmother's? What happened to learning to walk before wanting to fly? Why don't you just put a pot of water to boil and leave the yard long ingredient lists and the must have equipment for later? You can make a lovely dinner just by boiling some vegetables and pasta and drizzling the whole thing with olive oil and dusting with parmesan. Forget about perfection and complication, just eat. Isn't boiled broccoli wonderful?

Each chapter deals with a main ingredient, like eggs, meat, beans or bread. The level of complication escalates somewhat, but not much. The triumph of the book, to me, is that it is full of very basic things that novices will find eye opening, but will also give experienced cooks gentle nudges into things they might have forgotten, and new projects to try out, and scores of things they didn´t know. And both will benefit from the tone, the spirit of the thing, which is about simple enjoyment of good things we can make ourselves without much fuss.

It can be a little precious at times, and there is, of course, a tad of unavoidable farmer's market smugness, but much less than in any of this epidemic of seasonal-local cookbooks. There are no lists of ingredients or equipment, the recipes are mostly from a basic Italian-French canon, and they are not quirky or new. There is none of this "my salsa verde" nonsense. There is just a description of how salsa verde will make everything around it so good that you simply must make a batch, right this instant, and before you know it you are hunting in the back of the fridge for that jar of capers.

I could go on and on. The section called how to stride ahead has revolutionized my kitchen these past two weeks. There are so many ideas tossed about dealing with leftovers that I feel I must read the whole thing again. There is much eloquent writing about bean broth that I must investigate. Et cetera.
Just have a look at the website, read the excerpts and see if we don't agree.


I want to write a long post, or two, about cookbooks, but I can´t, just yet. There is a list of deadlines to be met, one after the other; laundry baskets stare me in the face; and my children have taken to impromptu wrestling matches.
So I will just say: "An everlasting meal". It´s a really great book; beautiful, a good read and chock-full of stuff you´ll actually cook over and over.
 You can see for yourselves by downloading part of the first chapter to your e-reader or iPad.
A full review later in the week, promise. In the meantime, watch the videos on the site.


Secret ingredients

A month is a long time to be away from home. We´re picking up the routine right where we left it off, and it´s all good. The kids are off to nursery, their father to the office, and I´m left at home to field rapid deadlines and long dragging books. 
And back in my very own kitchen. It´s lovely to sit down to a meal you´ve had nothing to do with, day after day, and so comfortable., but any lingering lazy sighs are quickly stifled at the pleasure of finding all my favourite pots and pans and wooden spoons, ready to be played with.
Still it is dead of winter, and days are short and so cold, and one can become a tad weary of a diet of parsnips and broccoli. So I brought over a secret ingredient from Spain: ham bones.

Why not actual ham, you say? Well, indulgent fatty products are not very January, are they? After a month of non-stop pigging out it´s time for the whole grain and the green vegetable. Spare, stripped down food, thrifty and healthy.

And a ham bone, even a pedigree ibérico de bellota ham bone, is still a bone, and you can´t get more austere than that. It can only be used for broths and bean soups, but is guaranteed to lift them and give them a luxurious, velvety depth.

Here´s an old  post about chicken soup, and here´s one about bean soups you can use them in. 
That, with some bread and a few tangerines, is all that´s needed to get you through the beak midwinter.


Buen Gusto

 It´s been a wonderful long month, and we´ve managed to dodge the shortest, nastiest dark days of the polar winter, but at last we must leave.
My farewell meal was not cocido, or boquerones, or bocata de calamares. Instead, we went to my favorite Chinese restaurant, Buen Gusto.
Ever been irritated by a blogger who snaps pictures of the food as it cools? Try having dinner with me…I draw very fast, and don´t have to worry about lighting, or a flash, but still.