It’s blustery, grey, cold and wet here in the hills today, but I’m quite happy sitting here in front of the fire with a couple of the latest cookbooks in my lap and I thought I might just share them with you.
The first is Sophie Dahl’s latest contribution to our tables, “From Season to Season” (Harper Collins). Once noted for being a “plus size” model, the now svelte Ms Dahl is more known these days as a successful writer, both of novels and cookbooks, this being her second in the latter category. “From Season to Season” is a collection of Sophie Dahl’s favourite dishes, all of which are either her own or passed down from within her family. Sophie describes herself as a “greedy writer who likes to cook” and her recipes are generally quite straightforward with little fussing – exactly my kind of cooking. The book is a seasonal collection of dishes prepared simply, using the fresh produce available for the maximum results – again, exactly the way I like it!
Each season is divided into the three main meals of the day and, as is the case with a great deal of modern western cuisine, there is a good cross-cultural selection to choose from. Thus you could choose to start your day with tapioca and stewed fruit, break for lunch with sheep’s cheese and flaming ouzo and finish the day off with paella. Mind you, If I lunched on ouzo, that would be the finish of my day! Most of the dishes are photographed – beautifully – and many are accompanied by Ms. Dahl’s musings about her food memories and her family. There is nothing in the book that would be too daunting for a beginner to attempt, but they will also appeal to the more accomplished who may be looking for some inspiration.
We sat down to Sophie’s version of her grandmother’s, actress Patricia Neal, signature chicken dish the other night and there was not a murmur of dissent from my lot – a less frequent state of affairs in our house than you might think. This is a comforting and warming dish, perfect for a chilly weekend meal, so hopefully Harper Collins and Sophie Dahl don’t mind if I share just one recipe from the book with you.
Mor Mor’s Chicken
- 1 Tbs olive oil
- 4 skinless chicken breasts, chopped into bite sized bits
- 1 onion, peeled but whole
- 1 bulb of garlic, cut in half
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 pinch herbes de Provence
- 5 cups chicken stock
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 good pinch salt
- 3 cups sliced mushrooms
- 1 1/2 cups frozen peas
- 300 mls cream
- 1 handful each of fresh parsley, tarragon & chervil
- Heat a large flame-proof casserole and brown chicken.
- Add the onion, garlic, bay leaves, herbes de Provence and stock and cook on very low heat until chicken just done, but not overcooked.
- Remove chicken and set aside.
- Remove and discard onion and garlic.
- Bring stock to boil and continue boiling until reduced by half.
- Add wine and mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add the peas and cook a further 4-5 minutes.
- Reduce heat to low and stir in cream and herbs, then return the chicken to the pot and heat through.
- Season and serve – preferably with mashed potatoes.
This next book has been something of a revelation to me. We are blessed to have avoided any food sensitivities and allergies in our family, so I’ve never had to work out how to avoid any particular ingredients except those that individuals find distasteful, but I know that is not the case in many households. “Indulge” (Harper Collins), by Rowie Dillon, is a collection of 100 sweet and savoury gluten-free recipes and, my-oh-my, is it an eye-opener. I had long thought gluten-free food and especially gluten-fee baking was bland and unappealing, but this book soon turns any of that kind of thinking on it’s head.
Rowie Dillon is very well known in the eastern states of Australia for her commercial line of gluten-free goodies which are stocked by some supermarkets and quite a few airlines. She has also been an advisor to food magazines and newspapers and I really like the way she thinks. She can see no reason why gluten-free food should be dull and shares her vision generously with her recipes for such hitherto forbidden treats as quiche, sausage rolls, bruschetta, cakes and tarts. Using substitutes like almond meal, quinoa flour and buckwheat flour this book will really show you how you can indulge, regardless of gluten intolerances.
Once again, I am going to take the liberty of sharing one of these recipes and you might like to knock it up for dessert, after Sophie’s chicken dish above. I made this last weekend and I can promise you that it is seriously, utterly, fabulously wicked and you won’t be sorry you made it.
Decadent Chocolate Mousse Cake
Summary: from “Indulge”
- 340 gms dark chocolate, chopped (I used 70% cocoa solids)
- 225 gms unsalted butter, chopped
- 5 eggs
- 210 gms caster sugar
- 100 mls water
- 250 gms raspberries
- Preheat oven to 120C. Grease and line 20cm round pan.
- Melt the chocolate and the butter together over simmering water, or VERY CAREFULLY in the microwave.
- Beat the eggs and 70 gms sugar together with electric beaters for 8 minutes, or until tripled in volume.
- Combine remaining sugar and water in a pan over medium heat and stir until sugar dissolved.
- Pour into melted chocolate and set aside to cool. If it goes lumpy, give it a stir.
- Fold chocolate mixture into eggs and beat slowly until smooth and combined.
- Pour into prepared tin.
- Place a folded tea towel into a large roasting tin. Place cake tin on top and add enough water to come 3/4 of the way up the side of cake tin.
- Bake for 1 hour, until set. Should be bouncy and firm, but a little sticky.
- Cool in water.
- Turn out when cool and refrigerate to help it set further.
- Decorate with raspberries and serve.