If you love to cook and love to read about cooking, and you have not read any Nigel Slater, can I politely suggest that you do yourself a favour and get acqainted?
He may not be the most high profile of the UK’s cookery writers, but that is because he does not do half as much TV as he might. And this is a good thing, because his natural medium, where his talent for communication shines brighter than any LED screen, is on the page.
He has been writing for The Observer Newspaper for years and because I am lazy and have never bothered to find out, I kind of know that it is sort of a sister paper to the arguably higher profile Guardian, but I don’t know how or why. What I do know is that he talks about food in a way that makes me want to rush out and buy a chicken, even though I have been vegetarian for over three decades.
I remember years ago only wishing I could afford the £25 luxury of his book Appetite, with its striking hardback orange and brown strips and its layout in food types, rather then the more traditional, entrees, mains, dinner party food, dessert, other-stuff-we-did-not-know-where-to-shove format. In fact, the recipes only start around the p 160 mark, after he has spent a good deal of time demystifying the science of cooking and laying out a stress-free approach to working with ingredients to get the best out of them. The chapters then cover each of the main foods: breads, pasta, fish, poultry, meat, vegetables and he provides a number of great recipes for each and then adds a list of simple tweaks to vary each dish.
He somehow effortlessly communicates enthusiasm without gushing and preparation without sound dry. His recipes are clear, easy to follow – you are warned in advance if something is going to get messy – but it is the no fuss approach that makes them seem so achievable.
I found the book eventually in a secondhand bookshop for £7.50 and was so excited when I did. It is sitting next to me as I type, and the two other books of his that I own, Kitchen Diaries 1 and 2 (which I could afford to buy new when they came out) are on my shelf.
As soon as the weather cools down, my thoughts turn to the kitchen and last night they did with a frenzy. Across a couple of hours I cooked some muesli biscuits, then used the warm oven again to roast a load of vegetables, which I finished off with some goats’ cheese. I also dragged the saddest bag of carrots you could hope to find from the bottom of the fridge – they had been there a few weeks – and made carrot and cumin soup, and in the midst of all this, I knocked up another winter favourite, Nigel Slater’s Mushroom Bourguignon which is not in his book, but a recipe I came across a couple of Xmases ago and served up in 37 degree heat. Let me tell you, it tastes a lot nicer in the cooler months.
Monday has rolled around and still I did not stop. Right now on the kitchen counter a tea brack (auto correct keeps trying to change this word to Barack, how nice for the President!) is cooling – a sure sign that a) autumn weather is upon us and b) all the butter in the house will disappear as my husband loves a slice with tea, thickly slathered with the good stuff. The tea brack is a fruit loaf, and like all things with fruit in, takes an age to bake, so much so that I normally bake two loaves at a time and freeze one. I did not this time, which was dumb as I still have to have the oven on for two hours and I would still be here writing this in my pyjamas, one loaf or two.
So I find myself as I do every time this year excited to be back in the kitchen after the Australian summer heat has kept me in exile, and looking at a fridge full of dishes. Only problem now will be working out how on earth I am going to eat it all.