Had another wonderful weekend of cooking, largely courtesy of Madhur Jaffray’s World Vegetarian. Each weekend I find myself drawn further and further into cooking, learning from my favourite texts, gradually adding dashes of my own experimentation. Madhur’s book is my current favourite, an unrivalled combination of simplicity with originality. When I cook a new dish I rarely know what to expect, but am almost always pleasantly surprised, overwhelmed even. Two or three vegetables which I have always avoided in the past, combined with the merest hint of spice, perhaps a touch of sugar, three drips of water, suddenly combine to produce unimagined flavours.
The weekend’s culinary climax was on Sunday when, after lunch of Persian egg pie (which in fact transpired to be a delicious thick herb omlette), I spent the afternoon on a variety of Sri Lankan dishes. Sublime flavours, thick spice mixtures buoyed up by cinammon, cardamom and curry leaves, marinaded in coconut milk to give a flavour somewhere between Indian and Thai. Two curries – cashew nut and aubergine – padded out with some gorgously flavoured yellow rice. Luckily I had the foresight to make far too much, and took a 3-layer tiffin carrier down to London and into work with me today. Two days of yum.
I have two other food bibles that keep me going at weekends. The Vegetarian Bistro by Marlena Spieler is a codex of comfort food – lush (if rather complex) French vegetable recipies, each containing several orders of magnitude more butter and cream than is strictly neccesary, perfect for winter entertaining when I feel like serving several bottles of heavy red wine followed by brandy, cigars and collapse/gout. (Incidentally, speaking of French vegetarian food I love the Amazon description for this book “Someone has been butchering people and animals in the West Texas mountains, a senator’s son is missing, and ex-Lieutenant Thomas Mullin, searching for the missing boy, meets events beyond his wildest nightmares” – sounds kinda exciting for a Vegetarian cookbook, although I’m not sure about the butchering people and animals. As long as I don’t have to cook them.)
How to Eat by Nigella Lawson really is as good as everyone says it is. Although not a vegetarian text, there is more than enough inside to make me happy, and when I don’t need a recipe I can just snuggle down and read it for pleasure. Nigella teaches me everything that I should probably have paid more attention to my mum over when I was young. After years of fumbling with disintegrating pastry pieces, Nigella whispers chummily that freezing is the secret, and my pies suddenly have renewed vigour. Funny, I read in the times this morning about Nigella’s husband, John Diamond’s, death, and had wierdly mixed feelings. Y’see, I used to read her opinion pieces in the Evening Standard some 10 years ago and go rather swoony over both the photo at the top of the page and the down-to-earth in-contrast-to-every-other-bloody-newspaper-opinion-columnist opinions. And I felt a bit… sad when she got married. So… nah, ferget about it.