Monday, 15 July 2013

Book review with a bit of a recipe! 'One - A cook and her cupboard' by Florence Knight.

I pretty much fell for this book from the opening introduction as Florence Knight (next big thing in celebrity chefdom?) describes the kitchen cupboards in her childhood home. Ingredients stacked 'Jenga-like' ready to topple at any given moment, ketchup bottles with crusty tops!  Sound familiar?  It certainly is to me; if my over-sized bag of kashmiri chillies fall out one more time as my wife reaches for something then this may be my last blog!  At one point she bought me a huge plastic storage box to keep my spices in but they somehow always migrate back to the cupboard above the chopping board! (Sorry, Mandy!)

The most striking thing about this book for me is not the lovely and simple recipes, beautiful photographs, or even the wonderful little tips in the introduction to each recipe, (By the way, I am eternally grateful for the tip in the Panzanella recipe for soaking the red onions in water to remove some of the raw edge and strength.  I love raw red onion but don't particularly enjoy tasting it for the next 2 days, or being scared to have a conversation with anybody for fear of gassing them!)  but it is the overwhelming feeling of a true love for food, cooking and the happiness it can bring both from nostalgia and from just eating tasty food.

Florence Knight's passion leaps out from the page.  She writes so simply yet so eloquently.  She is a great storyteller and there is a sense of a real narrative throughout the book rather than just a collection of recipes.  The introduction to each chapter maintains this narrative and draws you in to the next set of recipes all featuring 'one' common ingredient.  Ingredients chosen for a chapter are varied from Olive Oil "the be all and end all", to that bottle of crusty ketchup!

Reading this book just makes you feel better, and makes you want to spend all of your money on the best ingredients money can buy!  The simplicity of these dishes leaves no place to hide so quality ingredients are essential.

As you may have gathered by now, I really like this book!  It's rare that I buy a recipe book and want to cook so many of the recipes, and that is the greatest compliment I could give to any cookbook.
I was pressed for time (as ever) at tea time tonight (dinner for you southern folk! ;-))  so I decided to try the recipe for Pork Chop & Vinegar.  As ever, the introduction has handy tips such as gently render the thick fat of the pork chop first to crisp up the fat.

Another game of Jenga!

This recipe should have taken no time:  Fry the chops, make a sauce with red onion, red wine vinegar, cream, butter and pink peppercorns.  The pink peppercorns were the stumbling block!  I reached into the 'cupboard above the chopping board' to find 'mixed peppercorns'.  Did I just use them?  Of course not, I emptied the contents into a bowl and painstakingly removed a tsp full of red from the green, white and black that were in abundance!

In search of perfection!

When it finally arrived, the dish had a comforting quality from all of the butter and just the right acidity from the vinegar to lighten it up for a warm evening.  Simple ingredients, simple techniques, hugely satisfying food!  This recipe isn't the most attractive to look at (not in my hands anyway - I haven't quite graduated to the 'elegant simplicity' I think Florence describes as her aim in presentation!).

There isn't a photograph of this one in the book so not sure how it compares (unfavourably I imagine!)

Buy this book, it deserves to be read!  You'll feel better, I promise!  In describing her experiences with food, Florence says "It was fun and it was about sharing and most of all it was about coming together, being one".  I was hoping that I would be able to say that our family came together 'as one' to enjoy this meal tonight.  However, Sam took one look at it, decided he "not like it" and I ended up making him a bowl of Weetabix!  Can't win 'em all!

Twitter - @FoodandFrets

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