JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Nigel Slater's Real Fast Food + lentil stew

Would you like me to give you a recipe book?

There are too many recipe books in this house, so I'm giving some of the surplus away to readers of this blog, one by one, to ease the pain. Last week, I asked who would like my spare copy of Jane Grigson's Fish Book. I'm giving it to Helen at A Forkful of Spaghetti, a new London-based blog. It was really hard to decide (although not quite as hard as deciding on this week's book), and in the end I thought I'd give it to someone in England, because I thought people from other places might have trouble sourcing some of the fish, and you know how we're all locavores now.

This is what Helen said:

When I was 'getting into' food in my late teens, I used to read Jane's columns and recipes in the Observer from time to time until she died. I always liked her clear style of writing, and her evident enthusiasm for food - and her equal enthusiasm for sharing her amazing knowledge.

For reasons I can't now remember properly, I never got around to buying any of her books - I think it's probably because I was moving around a lot in those days, and was trying to keep my 'baggage' to a minimum.

All these years on, and speaking as someone who adores fish, it's fantastic to see fish making a 'comeback', championed as it now is by the new breed of celebrity food writers, such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

But Jane got there first, didn't she? Quite simply, I would love this book because I love fish, and even now, I can't think of many people who wrote better on the subject than Jane. Since I don't have any of her books, this would fill a very shameful gap on my kitchen shelf!

This week's book is another duplicate - and I'm horribly afraid that every single one of you already has a copy, because it's a real classic, hugely popular, and this particular copy was a magazine giveaway. I can't do better than to quote from the blurb on the back:

Real Fast Food contains over 350 recipes and suggestions which show that food in a hurry can be creative, delicious and nourishing ... all the dishes can be ready to eat in 30 minutes or under - less time than it takes to heat up a ready-made supermarket supper.

Real Fast Food was Nigel Slater's first book, a huge bestseller despite the lack of pictures. It's hard to remember now what a sensation it caused in 1992, because it was so influential. I'm not very keen on Slater's later books, but this one is fantastically useful: there are everyday ingredients (no problem about things in cans), there are endless variations on a number of themes (eggs, canned fish, bread etc), there's a strong can-do feel about it, you don't have to be an expert to make a good supper out of what there is in the fridge.

This is what I'm going to cook for lunch (p 207):

Lentils with tomatoes

100g brown lentils
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 chopped onion
1 chopped fresh red chilli pepper
400g tin plum tomatoes

Wash the lentils in a sieve under running water. Cook them with the bay leaf and a tablespoon of the oil in boiling salted water for 15 minutes. Drain them in a colander.

Meanwhile, fry the onion in the remaining oil for about 5-7 minutes, until soft and golden. Add the chilli and cook for a further minute or two. Add the drained lentils and the tomatoes with all their juice, salt and pepper. Simmer gently for 10 minutes and serve hot.

Once associated with slow-cooking, the lentil, which cooks to perfection in 15-20 minutes and sometimes less, is good snack material. Sometimes I boil them with a bay leaf and a little oil, then just drain them and smother in soft butter and black pepper. How to feel indulgent on 30p

That last paragraph is typical: first a recipe, then a fuss-free way to vary it.

So, if there's anyone out there who doesn't have a copy of this excellent book, email me (joannacary AT ukonline DOT co DOT uk) and let me know why you'd like it, and I'll pick a winner, and post it off. All I'd like you to do in return is write a post about the book, linking back here.

Related posts:
Would you like me to give you a recipe book?
Pasta with braised lentils
Lentil soup with ruby chard
Beetroot and lentils
Lentil salad with homemade cheese


Anke said...

OMG, Nigel Slater is my favorite cook EVER. I'll write you the longest email :-)

Kayte said...

Congratulations, Helen, on the fish book! I am way jealous!

Again, Joanna, what fun for you to do this on your blog.